The average Indian traveller is the kind that either travels to his hometown or to a religious place. Or at least, that’s the myth. However, White Collar Hippie (WCH) believes that there’s more to the travelling Indian. A website that invites all and sundry to come travel with them and also be “surprised, humbled and transformed”, WCH isn’t your typical travel website that hooks you up with hotels and lists the usual travel sites. Instead, it offers you a choice of pre-arranged trips that centre around an activity intrinsic to the region. For instance, a three-day surfing camp near Manipal in Karnataka, a five-day photography expedition in Hampi and a 10-day camp-travel-trek through the Andamans. Interested yet?
Started one and a half years ago, the idea behind creating WCH was to give people the chance to explore themselves as they explore on their trip. Says co-founder Vikrant Chhedda, “The kind of trips that I had taken and the experiences I had changed how I looked at life and it was the same with my partner Sachin. That was what we wanted to share through White Collar Hippie.”
Vikrant, who also runs an environment management company, and Sachin Parikh who’s from an IT background, form part of the core team of six who run White Collar Hippie, aside their daily jobs and lives. As the name suggests, the trips aren’t meant for those who don’t want to get their hands and feet dirty, but aren’t particularly the budgeted kind. “People usually look for a luxury experience and just want to have fun or they back-pack and don’t really need much. But there’s a large mid-section which doesn’t mind the back-packing but need the security of some planning. That’s the tier of travellers we were looking at,” tells Vikrant, adding, “Our trips are not luxury-based but are more about self-exploration, adventure and the local experience.”
The Travel Bug
So far, WCH has covered Ladakh, Karnataka, Andamans, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh. “The Photodiarist which was a photography expedition to Hampi was about the landscape. While some might see the play of the shadow over stone, some one else might see the sculptures coming to life,” explains Vikrant. Their trip to Kerala was another ball game. “Most of our trips are about trying to see how societies have evolved. Kerala was interesting in that sense as we could see how architecture had reflected the society. Did you know that the first mosque built outside the Islam world was in Kerala and that it looked like a temple?” he quizzes, sharing just a snippet of the discoveries they’d made through their journey.
What makes trips with the WCH that much more alluring is the amount of interaction there is between the traveller and the travelled. With accommodation mostly being home stays or camping, Vikrant says that the trips are character driven. “A place has to have aesthetics. But it also has to be interesting in a weird way or quirky way. For if it’s just sight seeing, you look at it, say ‘Oh wow’, and then what do you do?”
Spreading the bug
WCH is soon planning to branch out into junior and corporate expeditions and not just travel groups. Quite passionate about “starting them young”, the 31-year old says, “The children’s programme needn’t just be a camp with an itinerary of activities. It will be designed to complement their class. We’ve tried to incorporate experiences from people who’ve done things differently, like Prahlad Kakkar, Luke Kenny, the Asia head of Microsoft, and so on.” With carefully tucked away lessons on science, the environment, sportsmanship, etc, the experience will be about getting them to engage with their surroundings. “I remember the first time I went to the US was when I was 16. More than the trip to Disneyland and the other exciting things, what stuck in my head was the trip to the laundromat; putting in the quarter and washing my own clothes. An activity like that, say taking the kids down to the river to wash their own clothes will be exciting for them. Teach them that they can’t use chemical detergents because the river might be a drinking source for animals and people. So what can they use instead -- lime or other fruits -- all of these combine with many aspects of their academic curriculum.”
For corporates as well, activities to build team spirit, eliminate negative competition and so on can be slipped in. Says Vikrant, “When you’re trekking as a group and there’s that one person who’s struggling to keep up, besides cheering them on and going on about how they can do it, you can just slow your pace down and lag behind. Just the fact there is someone else behind them will push them to the end.”
Right bug, right place
So while you can just sign up for a trip that’s already been elaborately planned, what do the White Collar Hippies do when they want to take a new trip? “Choosing a location and finalising details usually takes about two trips or so. Many of our trips are also curated by people who are very passionate about the region or the activity. For instance, our trip to Ladakh will be lead by a local from there. He’s studied social science at Tata Institute of Social Science and knows the cultural difference. For the trip to Andamans, our team lead is a horticulturalist,” explains Vikrant. But it isn’t just choosing the right person, a lot of research and logistics go into planning the trip. “The Andamans trip has been the toughest to finalise because of restricted access and infrastructure. We wanted to arrange a cycling tour, but there weren’t any available on the island we were looking at. It took us three months to get everything in place. Which is why our trips tend to be more expensive.”
The Hippie line
With many people who want to travel but just don’t how to discover new places or don’t find the right company, Vikrant says WCH is meant to break that barrier and get more people moving. “Many people don’t travel because their friends can’t make it or security issues for women. We want to change that. The experience is completely different if you travel alone then one other person. With the trips being tailored specifically, be it the Band on Bus or the Photodiarist, it means you will get to meet like-minded people. Also, travellers are also usually a happier lot, and seeing as much as you can outside your boundary just makes you more socially sensitive.”
So if a trip to Rajasthan has been on your bucket list or becoming a certified scuba diver was your new year resolution or the music festival scene was something you always wanted to experience, then check out whitecollarhippie.com.