In my experience of last 3 years this industry has been an eye-opener in every context, it has given me so much insight about the ground reality of how things function in cities and villages.
It made me accept that Travel is not glamorous, it is about feeling a connection with a city, with the sunset, with people you meet. You feel alive when you travel despite all the hardships at personal front.To all those girls who are afraid to take the risk not knowing where will they land, trust your potential, muster courage. You have it all that is needed in a successful person at work front and as a human for a better world.
Thank you Sanjeeta Agrawal and Delhi UrbanAdventures for holding this session. Here is the detailed interview for you.
You are an inspiration to a lot of people and females particularly..Our viewers would like to know more about you, how did you start your journey?
It all started with that one gutsy decision of booking my bus tickets for my first solo trip to Gokarna in 2016 while I was in Bangalore working happily in a fashion e-commerce startup. I did travel before that as well with my friends which was fun but as they say ‘one decision can change your life’, that decision was travelling solo. I felt an excitement, a rush in challenging people when they say ‘Girls shouldn’t travel solo’, it was a revitalising experience for me and I wanted every girl with wanderlust to know this. After Gokarna the travel bug bit me so hard that every second weekend I was in a different southern city like Varkala, Alleppey, Pondi, Coorg, Pune and so on and I used to find joy in documenting my adventure and during this while only, one of my friend who is currently a Tour leader as well in the same company introduced me to Intrepid and it was hiring Female Tour Leaders, it was a risk switching the industry but it all worked out in the end.
Nowadays, people follow social media influencers and their trends..What do you think is the actual responsibility of an influencer??
Influencers are the new trendsetters. Gone are the days when people used to follow celebrities for inspiration be it fitness, travel, beauty and so on. Responsibility is a big word, the job of an influencer is to stay true to their audience and to themselves. In case of travel influencers, I feel instead of popular destinations, unexplored places, more local places or practises can be talked about and along with sharing history, things to do in a city they must also share about the things that can go wrong and keep your audience aware so there is less difference between expectations and reality.
I don't want to touch the political or social angle of responsibility but I feel every person in the travel and tourism industry has a responsibility towards the environment. Its not just about delivering content but also how we travel, so spreading awareness in people about travel is not always glamorous, how can you travel in eco-friendly manner, even if it's a small thing like carrying your own bag or straw or bottle, like talking about subjects of animal cruelty.
We have collected certain questions from the audience
Here's our question
How to get hold of Work Life Balance when on Job. Managing personal life during the season.?
The nature of the job is such that it doesn't require us to be busy throughout the whole year but when it requires us to be busy, it's quite tight and less space. So we have to prepare in advance if anything is required at the family front or something we need to think about 2-3 months in advance to prepare for it. After spending time on the trip when I come back home I spend quality time with my family. With the use of technology, it is easier to keep in regular touch with friends and family. I plan in advance if there is a day or two off between trips. A major part of work life balance is also to make sure while working I am not indulging in anything that could be hampering my health so I make small decisions while on trips with regard to my eating and sleeping habits or taking out time to meditate and for Yoga.
What is the most challenging situation you have experienced in tour leading till now?
Sometimes things don’t go as you have planned because there are some external factors as well. One of the biggest challenging situations that I have faced till now was also a major learning experience for me. You can not always control what is happening outside of you but you can always control how you respond to it. Once I was on a trip and the external environment quickly changed because of a political decision and the effect was felt country wise and even on my trip, it was on the verge of converting into a dangerous situation and I found myself quite anxious and nervous too but in time I could control my nerve and realised the importance of doing effective communication. I did not lose my calm, I was constantly in touch with my superiors in office and the local authority throughout. I took the responsibility of my passengers and tried to pass on the calmness to everyone. So you have to accept that in travel industry not everything will go according to your plans but in situations like this your emotional intelligence plays a vital role.
Being a female tour leader in a male dominated industry have you faced any discrimination or backlash from anyone be it from the industry itself or the people around you while leading tours?
Of Course we live in a patriarchal society so discrimination is there but I would also like to point out there are positives about it. Females are considered a pushover and people assume that she wouldn’t know anything, let me tell her where to take your passengers, what to tell them and all. This would never happen to a male tour guide. No one would offer a suggestion to a male Tour guide about all these.
But there have been some positives to it as well. When the local people see females leading tourists, their first impression is someone soft which influences their gratitude and manner as well, in some villages people have been very welcoming. Sometimes it works to our benefit also when the passengers find their comfort in being led by a female Tour Guide so they can ask questions that they are otherwise shy to ask from male guides.
What are the steps according to you can the tourism industry take to minimise the gap between male v female participation in Tour leading particularly?
Well for starters, targeting the mindset of people who believe ‘Girls are not meant for the field’ and tourism is not their cup of tea. There is a clear cut difference between a male and a female biologically but that does not mean that their potential to perform is any less. Giving equal chances to female guides and training them for every challenge.
But I feel females don’t find it lucrative in terms of social security when it comes to being at the ground level of the tourism industry. And also to have a stable career, field job is not considered a good option and then there is social aspect associated to it, “I remember my father rejecting this job for me saying ‘who will marry you if we tell them you are a Tour Guide”, so it's a deep rooted thinking that needs to be worked on. A society which needs initial investment so it is welcoming.
I believe Intrepid is doing a wonderful job by breaking the stigma related to the potential of females in Tour leading, not just in India but in other countries as well. I was fortunate enough to meet other female leaders while travelling to Sri Lanka and Egypt.
How can we effectively manage content creation while travelling? How can we ensure that we are not losing out on the experience because we spent too much time just documenting it and not being there in the moment?
I get what the essence of the question is but it all depends on what we love doing and how we travel. I love to travel by creating content and it comes easy to me, like creating videos or taking pictures and knowing where to do what, I don't really have to choose between being in the moment or clicking a picture. When I click a picture I am in the moment and I am capturing it and I put a lot of emotions into it and not just my technical abilities.
When it comes to ease of content creation it depends on what types of person are you and what type of trip you are doing, so if you are doing a solo trip you have a lot of time to experiment with angles but when you are in a group, you have to plan what type of content are you creating and utilise those free 5 minutes between explanations. So I don't feel bad about having not to choose between creating content or being in the moment.
There are a lot of girls out there who don't pursue their passion because of societal pressure..What message would you like to send out to all those who feel hesitant?
At the end, you would be flipping the chapters of your life, no one else will. Be wise, do not come under the pressure of someone else, You have to think about yourself, the pressure that we feel is also somewhere in our mind, so we have to fight that, fight with our inner doubt. Ultimately your own happiness matters, no one else will work for your happiness you have to. If you think doing this thing will give you happiness then do it, don’t wait for anyone to give you happiness. This is the time to go for it. Follow your passion and muster courage.
In our Buddhism we say, “Your life opens in proportion to your courage”, so when it comes to societal pressure, do have courage to take that decision for yourself and follow your heart. If I had buckled under pressure, I wouldn't be having this session with you. Give an honest try even if you fail, at least you won't have regrets.