Travel solo, they said. Put your world in a suitcase and explore the world; there is nothing more empowering, they said. But no one told us about the grim realities underlining the joys of Instagram-worthy escapades. Especially when you happen to be a woman, solo, and in a foreign land.
Studies have shown that solo travelling is skyrocketing in popularity worldwide, capturing the attention of young souls with promises of adventure and exploration unbound. A Forbes report even suggests that more than 60 percent of American travellers have embarked on a solo adventure. If they haven’t already been on one, the plan is surely on their mind. And of this lot of love-to-travel-on-my-own, women seem to comprise a great portion.
One in every five women, in fact, is believed to have travelled solo.
But there is just one minor (major) glitch. As attractive and alluring to any world-weary soul the words – travel and solo – might sound, there are a considerable amount of concerns that put a dampener on the whole thing. Mainly safety and security.
With headlines raging every day about heinous crimes against women across the globe, how safe is it really to let your hair down and take on the world? The answer edges around a low probability – difficult but not completely undoable. A scope of possibility that has most likely propelled entrepreneurs like Rashmi Chadha to action.
Having been through her own share of hiccups in life, the Delhi-based woman entrepreneur has taken it upon herself to make solo travel in India a piece of cake. Her startup, Wovoyage is a one-stop platform for women travellers globally, providing women-friendly accommodation, transportation, group departures, and guided/private tours.
“The concept is to empower solo female travellers and to bring together female guides, drivers and entrepreneurs. We are a travel tech platform created to make women travel easier and better,” says the founder.
Turning bitter experiences into something beautiful
They say, we are a sum collective of our experiences. This is particularly true in Rashmi’s case. The thirty-something entrepreneur has seen tragedy early in her life. She lost her mother, Sunita Chadha, in a road rage incident; she was shot point-blank when she tried to intervene and rescue a girl from a car full of rowdies.
While the incident stirred national news – Rashmi and her family recently tried to reopen the case – it also, at the same time, left a deep impact on her mind. In ways that she couldn’t have possibly deciphered at the time, the tragedy prompted her in the direction of working towards women’s safety. Of course, the love for traveling – a passion that she says she inherited from her mother – also made its presence felt, shaping the journey for Rashmi along the way.
But difficult times have their own way of creeping up when you are least expecting them. In 2008, Rashmi was in a major road accident, one that confined her to the ICU for 12 days.
After a long recovery period, however, when Rashmi was finally in a position to move around, even travel, her first instinct was to get on the move. During this time, she regularly used to perform seva at the Manikaran Gurudwara in Himachal Pradesh. She would even work at an NGO shortly, accompanying foreigners on their travels, gathering precious experiences that would lead to the launch of wovoyage in 2016.
Making magic happen, one trip at a time
It’s been around three years since the inception, and wovoyage has already undertaken hundreds of successful trips. The women-centric travel platform also has two physical centres: one in Delhi, and another in Tokyo, Japan.
This is besides the tech-driven innovations that Rashmi has been incorporating into the operations of her business. Recently, the wovoyage app, a women-friendly travel app, was rolled out, taking one more step towards making travel safe and secure for women (and even for senior citizens and couples).
While the growth so far and the expansion plans are undoubtedly commendable, what really catches the eye is the magic that Rashmi is making happen behind the scenes. Each trip planned by wovoyage has a story in the making. Only sometimes it leads to the charming palaces and temple towns of Pushkar, in Ajmer district of Rajasthan. And on other occasions, these trips initiate those rare occasions where sisters –Alison from Australia and Geraldine from Canada – reunite, making these experiences all the more memorable.