Travelling has always come naturally to humans. Living the nomadic hunter-gatherers' life and moving about has been in our genes since time immemorial. Over the years, the idea of travel has been grossly romanticised to fit that picture-perfect moment that can go up on social media for the rest of the world to see. In following the trend, we humans have forgotten the true meaning of travel, which is to explore, learn, and connect with nature.
To remind people of what travel truly stands for and create awareness by bringing stories on sustainable and responsible travelling in India to the forefront, Shoshin Tribe, a travel start-up, began their initiative Odyssey Travel Scholarship 2022, in partnership with goSTOPS, a backpacker hostel brand. As part of this unique all-expense-paid travel scholarship, six individuals from different walks of life were selected to feed their souls by approaching travel in its truest form. "This is a great initiative. Learning how to travel sustainably is important in today's time. Through this initiative, we learned how to do that and also got the opportunity to hear the unheard voices and their stories," said Athulya Jeevi, an aspiring architectural historian from Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala.
Athulya accompanied Ananya R, a self-published author from Bengaluru; Parag Satardekar, a Mumbaikar passionate about teaching and travelling; Aprajita Singh, a food nerd and a cooking expert from Guwahati; Srijandeep Singh, a filmmaker from Raipur and Naval Chouhan, a professional photographer from Ahmedabad. Picked from over 400 applications, the selected 'tribers' set out on their 35-day expedition where they travelled sustainably by carrying minimum luggage, no plastic bottles, staying with local families, carrying out clean up drives and using local modes of transport.
Commencing from Delhi on April 10, the 'tribers' went on to cover destinations such as Patiala, Amritsar, Mcleodganj, Dehradun, Mussoorie, Rishikesh, and some unexplored villages of Devalsari and Rakhigarhi. According to Parag, every place they visited challenged them in different ways, and even though sometimes they felt tired, the challenges were worth it. The trip included recreational and experiential activities such as village walks, Triund Hike with Waste Warriors, Tibetan Tours and visits to culturally rich attractions like Golden Temple, Wagha Border, Historic Harappan era excavation site Rakhigarhi, Norbulingka and Female Buddha Monastery, etc. "We know the places and have read their history, but seeing them for real and learning about them one-on-one is a different experience altogether," said Ananya.
The 'tribers' dug deep into the depths of each city they visited and learned about the local communities and their culture by connecting and engaging with them authentically through insightful conversations. "This trip has helped me evolve emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and physically, and pushed me out of my comfort zone," said Aprajita. According to Naval, the educational expedition has been a "life-changing experience" for them which they got the opportunity to document through travel vlogs, videos, posts and other pieces of content. Recently, Pawasna Sharma from Gangtok and Ayush Khushwah from Jabalpur, joined the tribe as wild card entries for the last week of the trip and got to explore their last stop; Rishikesh.
Shoshin Tribe was started in the middle of the pandemic in January 2021 with a vision to create awareness around sustainable and responsible tourism in India. According to Himanshu Shekhar, founder of Shoshin Tribe, "The idea is to understand how travelling helps people to learn and grow, and how one can give back to the community by travelling sustainably," which is what the start-up has done with the Odyssey Travel Scholarship 2022. "The whole trip has been an experiential journey from Rakhigarhi to Mcleodganj, and there was always something new to learn everywhere," said Srijandeep.
Priyambada Nath, Head of Marketing, goSTOPS said, "Climate change, eco-conscious, sustainability, waste-management are some of the buzzwords that we hear in our conversations without really understanding them in depth. As a growing organisation in the travel sector, we are aware of the carbon-footprints and waste that is generated by travel. We are also aware that the modern economy thrives on tourism. At the same time, it is important to understand that we can travel sustainably. Using local transport, walking wherever possible, carrying a water bottle and toiletries are a few steps that we all can take willingly to travel sustainably. The idea behind launching this travel scholarship was to spread this message of minimising and using resources prudently. All the 'tribers' during the course of this initiative met different people working towards various important causes and this journey was an eyeopener for all of us."