Life becomes easy when you find an interesting way to discover yourself. In case you are wondering what we are talking about, you should ask a woman with itchy feet. Yes, it is true that all who wander are not aimless.
In an exclusive interview with Life Beyond Numbers, the founder of the WOW Club, Sumitra Senapaty, says, “I started Women on Wanderlust (WOW) Club so that the women can get plenty of “Me Time” away from home while traveling”
This 58-year-old woman from Karnataka, who is a mother of two, says that she was quite introvert when young, but traveling around the world has changed her in numerous ways and helped her to grow as a person. Sumitra says that it is beautiful to get connected to so many people and make new friends.
Apart from being an English Literature graduate from Delhi University, she’s also a student of the Institute of Hotel Management, New Delhi and a travel writer too.
What inspired the WOW Club?
It was in 2005 when Sumitra realized that there were no women travel groups and that is how the WOW Club started. My father had a transferable job so we never stayed in one place. While pursuing my studies in hotel management, I came to know about hospitality. It is after this that I decided to plan something like this.
“I thought that a women-only travel club will help them to escape a dull and busy life and women can relax and do whatever they feel like doing.” Adding to this Sumitra says, “ I hate the idea of people visiting too many places in a day and then come back home tired and stressed. This is not how this travel club works. We keep enough time for shopping as well or if you want to rest and do nothing on a particular day.”
There are few signature trips and Sumitra is part of about 5-7 trips a year. “While in New Zealand, I was on a solo trip and I realized how important it is to travel alone. You gain so much confidence by doing so.”
Why this WOW for Women?
It might sound sexist, but if you look at average Indian women, they are trapped in daily chores while their husbands are off to jet-setting business trips. Sumitra thought that women needed to relax and leave behind this monotonous routine, and believe that self-care is not selfish.
“Women need a lot of hand-holding and we help them complete travel related procedures when they connect us. I have seen women who have never been to an airport or are not aware of immigration policies. So, I talk to these women a lot, they know that nobody will bang down the phone or feel irritated. Therefore, we provide a complete travel package,” she says.
It is not that the women who travel with this group are lonely, sad and depressed. 90% of women who travel with them are happy and 60% are married as well. Apart from that, young girls also join the group because they are quite eager to explore new places.
When you mix with people from diverse backgrounds, communities, the power of acceptance and cooperation grows. Being a part of a travel group helps them to bond with new people. “It gives these women a chance to be a part of the social circle, apart from family members and colleagues.”
“A woman should open doors and step out of their inhibitions. We take care of their small needs. I think traveling is an inherent quality in women than men,” says Sumitra.
The women travel buff group is dearly known as WOW Family and the person who coordinates with them or guides them during the trip are called WOW Buddies.
There is a lot of energy and enthusiasm invested when one decides to travel and therefore, “I ask women to show their best behavior, cooperate while they are in the group. People from all sort of culture and background come here, therefore, if you observe or interact in the group, you get to know a lot of things about them and understand them better,” she says.
The travel club ensures that these women find comfort in these journeys and feel good because that’s the idea of this journey, to take a break from the busy routine and live life to the fullest. Even if women want to go with a friend, they make arrangements. It is not like, you have to wait until the group is formed. So, you can choose whatever you want.
Is WOW Budget-Friendly?
From 2005 to 2018- this travel club has conducted around 3000 trips. They have a flexible budget which makes it easy for women to choose from- say for Antarctica, it is 8.5 lakhs and for Hampi, it is 29,000. About 4000 women travelers have been or still are a part of the WOW club.
From Ladakh to Kerala, Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Australia, France, Switzerland, Italy, Thailand, Mauritius, Malaysia, Dubai, Singapore, Europe, South Korea– you name it! – This list is endless.
They also publish their upcoming tour details on their websites to keep their members updated about the trips. One might join an existing tour or ask the club to customize their tour plan.
The WOW Club also ensures the safety of these women and probably that tops their priority list, so that a woman who has never been on such trips can feel safe. “We book hotels in the tourist-friendly places in the center of the city so it is easy for them to relax or go shopping if they want to. Also, we hire a local guide so that we know about the history of the place.”
On asking Sumitra, if she wanted to step back from this initiative, she says, “Developing and working on a new idea is not easy. There are challenges that we need to overcome. In the beginning, I had doubts whether it will survive or not, because, women discussed and planned about going to trips and never came back. But, then slowly the idea of traveling with women only travel groups gained acceptance and now almost everyone is familiar with the kind of work we do.”
Her profession requires endurance, determination, and enthusiasm and over the years, she has managed it beautifully. Sumitra says, she wanted to provide these women with a universal cosmopolitan platform and the interesting part is all of them are united by a single reason – their love for traveling.
“Try traveling once on your own! It is an addiction you will never want to get rid of. It enriches you and makes you confident over a period of time, and many become friends for life,” she adds.