Appooppanthaadi team during their trips.
Travel is one word that buzzed on the internet throughout this year. We have seen society’s attitude towards travelling change. Malayalis, chiefly the young crowd, have begun to embrace the idea of travelling to rejuvenate themselves. It has become a part of lifestyle. Thanks to social media and online travel groups and discussion forums for boosting this trend. We have witnessed many young Malayalis, irrespective of gender, going out and exploring new places. The bullet rides have continued the stride, the young crowd still dreams of vrooming to Leh-Ladakh.
It seems the emergence of online travel groups has connected like-minded people and made travel more responsible. It paved way for healthy discussions.
The travel communities extended their activities to other areas. Rides to conserve nature and for social causes have become a norm.
The year 2017 has also been one of women travelers, both solo and group. Ladies-only groups have flourished. Women, at least a section, realised the need to get out of their comfort zones and discover new sights.
‘Travel blurs borders’
A travel group like ours doesn’t need an office space. I have a page online where I update upcoming events; those who are interested either contact me or register for the event and I get in touch with them.
Things have changed a lot from the time I launched this group one-and-a-half years ago. Insecurity was an issue then. People were apprehensive about travelling with people they met online. That has changed considerably.
It works like this. Once the registration closes, I create an open group for members, which serves as a platform for members to get familiar. By the time the trip starts, the members will have an idea about each other.
These journeys blur borders and bring new angles to one’s life. When we began the group, we got an enquiry from Nagaland, but she could not join South Indian trips. She had been waiting for our Tawang trip. After the trip, she became a fan of Dulquer Salmaan and watched Neelakasham Pachakadal Chuvanna Bhoomi and Solo with subtitles.
I prefer taking travelers to less-explored places and give them a beautiful experience. Many women have started coming out for trips, seeing the photos and videos we share. So far, I have travelled with more than 600 women and I am sure that the trip has changed their lives.
(Sajna runs Appooppanthaadi, a ladies only travel group)
The best launchpad
We are entirely dependent on the internet. From researching about the destination to booking hotels and finding the route, everything is done online. During the trip, Google Maps would be our navigator. One can travel without the aid of internet, but it won’t be that easy.
The online space, which is the best launchpad for a beginner, helps us reach our target audience and improve our content. We started the page in 2016. We cannot single out the moment when we decided to start this. We have been travelling and taking videos. One day, we decided to give this idea a shot.
Initially, we did the shooting with available cameras. Gradually, we realised the areas where we needed to improve from the audience response and began to invest in that. This venture has widened our knowledge level too because we began doing research about a place — aspects like history, food, architecture and culture — before visiting it.
Recently, we started a WhatsApp group as an idea-sharing platform. We wish to expand our activities and increase the quality of our product in the coming year. We are planning to cover more areas in the US and outside, and focus on branding.
(Riya and Sanjay, the Malayali trip couple explores destinations in the US)
‘One can find unique travel experiences online’
Since Sanchari is a public group, it has more than 4 lakh members now. Every day we get 600 to 700 requests to join the group, which shows the increase in people’s desire to travel.
The demand has become so much that recently we started a forum for travel discussions. If you have any query about a place, you can post it there. Others who know about it will navigate you. This is how it works. Travelogues and photos posts in groups like Sanchari play a crucial role in encouraging people to travel. It is because it reaches a wide audience. If the travelogue is really good, it would get a fair reach in the group.
Another advantage of online travel groups is that one could find unique travel experiences there as it has members with various tastes. For instance, recently, one of our members travelled to Leh from Kozhikode on Deo scooter, which was quite different .
We started Sanchari in 2014 with 18 admins. It became popular in the last two years. Now, we have units in all districts in Kerala. A lot of activities, are being done in each unit. We have a few units outside the state and country.
(Arjun Asok is one admin of Sanchari)