What could be a better embodiment of a constant traveller than the Indian milkweed, which goes along wherever the wind takes it?
An ‘appooppanthaadi’ as they call it in Malayalam, is a fascinating little thing that has caught the fancy of generations of kids and adults, for its implausible ability to surface at the unlikeliest of places. And as far as tracing the journey of these little seed carrier is concerned, it is as good as a lost cause.
How amazing would it be if one could travel with carefree abandon like the humble appooppanthaadi and soar away to places lesser known to quench the wanderlust within?
It has never been a better time for those bitten by the travel bug, as more and more people are packing their bags and exploring new places, either in packs or solo. However, concerns such as cost and safety aspects deter many from travelling in India, especially women.
One all-women travel group based in Thiruvananthapuram is removing all such misgivings and is helping women fulfil their travelling goals fearlessly and that too, on a light budget!
Taking the moniker of fuzzy seed carrier, Appooppanthaadi is the brainchild of Sajna Ali, whose own thirst for travelling and exploring lesser-known places gave birth to the venture.
A software engineer by profession, Sajna has been single-handedly organising all-women tours across the country for the last two years and has led a diverse crew of women to lesser-explored destinations from Gandikota, Nilambur, St. Mary’s Island, Yellappetty, Chitharal, Meeshapulimala and Dhanushkodi in the south to far-flung places like Valley of Flowers in Uttarakhand and Tawang, Nagaland.
“Travelling had always been something that I wanted to pursue but more often than not, trips planned with friends never worked out as someone or the other would always back out at the last moment. This futile dependence on others on repeated occasions further cemented my desire to head out on my own, and nothing was more exhilarating for me to finally realise that you don’t really need anyone to travel when you have made up your mind,” says Sajna to The Better India.
The next four years, she went to a lot of places without burning a hole in her pocket and started posting her travel exploits on a blog, and that is when requests to join Sajna on her next trip started swarming in.
“Most of these were from women, who really wanted to travel but had some reason or the other holding them back. That’s when the idea of an all-women travel group cropped up, through which women could not just travel to new, unexplored vistas but also feel liberated through the experience,” Sajna explains.
A one-day trip to Rosemala in Kollam district was the starting point. Although close to 20-22 women had initially shown interest, only eight women turned up, but it was an immensely exhilarating trip for everyone. Slowly, word of mouth began working in favour of Sajna, who found a lot of women approaching her for trips after finding great reviews from friends who had travelled with Appooppanthaadi.
Since then, Sajna has organised 76 trips with over 750 women, amid which one of the travellers included a 65-year-old lady who showed no qualms to trek all the way atop a hill.
“When people showcase apprehension about age and health being a factor, I take this lady’s example. If she can do it, each one of us can do it too. I am just providing a means for every woman out there to let go of her inhibitions and travel intrepidly,” she adds.
One thing that Sajna specifies is that none of the trips organised by Appooppanthaadi is fancy or luxury-laced. “From vehicles to accommodation and food, everything is extremely budget-friendly. For a true-blue traveller, it’s all about the experience, which can be attained even through most frugal arrangements, and that has been my objective right from the start,” she says.
With an active Facebook page and WhatsApp group notifying members about each upcoming trip, Sajna has been the solo force holding the reins of Appooppanthaadi.
“At this point, there is an upcoming trip almost every weekend. From posting an event and preparing its itinerary to arranging accommodation, food and vehicles, I take care of all the responsibilities. As for the posters for each trip, there are three ‘appooppanthaadis’ in the group who have been helping me out,” she laughs.
While one-day trips typically take Sajna half a day to make arrangements, preparations for long trips spanning between 4-9 days take 1 or 2 days to plan. As these trips began to consume a significant portion of her time, Sajna decided to quit her corporate job in Technopark and invest all her time for Appooppanthaadi six months ago.
Initially, her parents were slightly apprehensive about a single woman handling such great responsibilities.
But as time passed by, she found full support from them. In fact, it had been quite gratifying for Sajna when she could finally convince her mother to be part of one of the tours last month.
Providing women with a chance to explore boundlessly without being lumbered down by inner fears or doubts, what Sajna feels is the takeaway for these travellers is the collective growth along with many friendships forged on the way.
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“I have always felt that travelling has this innate quality of empowering oneself. Plus these trips have been a learning curve for everyone, including me. After returning, many professed their gratitude and that they found a renewed sense of freedom that was missing in their lives. And all of us have remained in touch,” Sajna proudly adds.
At present, Appooppanthaadi’s tours are contained within the country, but Sajna intends to chalk down international destinations soon.
“Even here, what I’m looking at are places that are not run over by regular tourists. It is a project that I’m working on and hopefully by the end of this year, we shall head abroad soon,” she adds.
Giving wings to countless women to chase wanderlust like the carefree milkweed, Appooppanthaadi is quietly yet strongly nullifying the idea that travelling in India for women is impossible.
To know more about Appooppanthaadi, you can check the Facebook page. For further queries and interests related to upcoming tours, you can call or WhatsApp at 09633779640.