It is beyond doubts that travelling is a great source of learning and it helps in opening up the soul for bigger and greater experiences. So, it is an absolute necessity that we do not engage ourselves in just the touristy stuff but also try to do something more.
What can it be? What more can one do while travelling?
Well, experiential travelling is one thing that not only gives us a break from our mundane everyday lives but also brings unto us a life-changing experience.Experiential travel is a form of tourism in which people focus on experiencing a country, city or particular place by connecting to its history, people, and culture.
Another exciting and different form of travelling is eco-tourism. It is nature-inspired tourism, that largely supports the conservation of the environment while creating economic opportunities for local people. India over the past two decades has witnessed tremendous growth in ecotourism. Listed below are the names of some of the startups that have ventured into this arena and have strived to bring a sustainable and development based tourism experience to their consumers:
Desia Eco Tourism Camp
Yugabrata Kar’s Desia is an attempt at not just encouraging the tribal youth in the environmentally rich Koraput valley of Odisha to make their ancestral and traditional way of living, the source of their livelihood but also creating employment for them.
They work as operating staff, the camp also functions as a marketplace for these tribes living below the poverty line to generate income by sale of handicrafts.
The tourists get to enjoy the serenity of nature as well as learn about the traditional lifestyles of the tribals. They interact with each other, exchange stories and also visit the nearby tourist places.
The site, with its two cottages, is a blend of Indian décor with modern amenities and is a modest one. An art camp and jewelry-making workshops are some of the other initiatives hosted by local women.
Founded in 2004 by Ishita Khanna in Spiti Valley, it is an organization that promotes responsible and sustainable ecotourism with an approach that simultaneously tackles economic empowerment with conservation and sustainable development. It made the concept of homestays popular and made people aware of the revenues it can fetch.
To help the locals with their agriculture, the organization introduced artificial glaciers in the region and built check dams where water can be slowed down just enough to freeze, which then melts just in time for spring. It has so far built 10 check dams, which have proved to be successful.
Ecosphere has also given a boost to the local arts and crafts trained them by strengthening their practices and introducing modern techniques. Travellers now spend time with local communities to learn these techniques. 80% of the valley’s villages are covered by Ecosphere and the entire community is benefitting due to its efforts.
It was founded in 2016 by Vandana Vijay after she left her job at Facebook. The startup attempts to create aesthetic, unconventional and authentic tours. Offbeat Tracks aims to promote eco-tourism among local and rural communities in the Himalayas, advancing the concept of sustainable and experience-based travel, and creating rural microentrepreneurs through the concept of homestays and local experiences.
Sujata and Anurag Goel had set up the Mojo Plantation in Kodagu district of Karnataka way back in 1994. This was their hiatus from the humdrum of the city life. On the plantation is a Rainforest Retreat, a unique eco-tourism project that enables tourists to experience the harmony of living with nature. The Retreat provides a platform for an exchange of information, farming practices, research programmes, with like-minded people, farmers, and students from India as well as from other countries.
Their major goal is to promote the importance of organic farming in and around the area.
Nirvana Nomads is an alternate travel outfit based in Bengaluru, conceptualised and designed for “funky, offbeat, responsible and low-cost” travel experiences. Its aim is to offer offbeat weekend travels around Bengaluru for those that are interested in doing much more than the usual touristy pilgrimage.
They focus much more about people, conversations, cultural immersions, learning something new through travels rather than visiting a popular destination.
Besides this, they organise several offline events like talks and dinners that bring people closer to one another outside the virtual world.
The Blue Yonder
In 2004 Gopinath Parayil set up The Blue Yonder (TBY) as a social enterprise focusing on responsible tourism in a small Kerala village.
It is now an example of how a social enterprise can focus on a specific geography and bring about long-lasting social impact by using tourism as a tool for sustainable development.
It began on the river Nila (Bharathapuzha), which had dried up. By reinvesting revenues into community development initiatives the fate of river Nila was reversed by the organisation.
TBY offers unique holiday experiences in Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Rajasthan, Kerala, and Karnataka through its three main themes of people, culture, and wilderness. Outside of India, they customize travel trips to countries like Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Bangladesh, South Africa and Nepal.
TBY goes beyond the call of duty by helping its employees earn a dual income. For example, a plumber or an electrician working for TBY earns extra revenue by being a singer in one of the village music groups in the evening. Such a model protects them from the economic problems that go hand-in-hand with seasonal travel.
So, next time you think of travelling and coming back with a life-changing experience, think about these options.