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Darshika Jones From Intrepid Travel On How Their Women-Only Expeditions Are Changing The Way We See The World

  • IWB Post
  •  April 19, 2019

Travelling for some is an escape, for others, it’s a spiritual experience. It can mean a million different things to different people depending on their experiences, thoughts, emotions etc. And it isn’t easy, it involves putting yourself in strange places amongst unknown people and taking yourself out of your comfort zone, especially if you’re planning to travel alone. But in today’s digital age, travelling has become a trend and this has encouraged so many individuals to have the courage and take the first step.

One company that aims to help these travellers live their dreams and have the best experience possible is the Intrepid Group. One of the few carbon-neutral businesses, Intrepid has made efforts to push for gender equality and inclusivity.

Recently, Intrepid Travel launched Women-Only Expeditions to countries like Iran, Jordan, India, Kenya, Turkey, and Nepal. The intent behind these tours was to ensure that travellers could enjoy experiences that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to due to cultural restrictions. Generally, travellers miss out on experiencing the local culture completely and these expeditions offer women the chance to learn about the lifestyles and customs of the country from the local women firsthand.

In a recent interview with IWB, Darshika Jones, who is the Regional Director for North America at Intrepid, talks about travelling while being culturally sensitive and gaining first-hand experiences that provide an honest and raw insight into the lives of women in these countries.

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Here are the excerpts:

On the website, it is mentioned that expeditions are organized to countries like Jordan, Morocco, and Iran. How important is it to learn about the lives of women in these countries from their perspective?

Responsible, ethical travel has the unique ability to teach, shape and mould us into global citizens, with an appreciation for different cultures and people from the world. Like all our tours, the Women’s Expeditions harness the power of responsible travel and offer a unique experience – specifically for women. The purpose of these tours is to connect women from different walks of life; the tours open conversations and provide access for women to learn from each other. When travellers open themselves to immerse in the lives of other women, they realize that although we may be different, we all are connected. There’s genuine empowerment in changing the lives of our travellers and local women—who, in turn, will change our world—through a style of travel that is run by women, for women.

What facet of the country can these local women show that wouldn’t be seen otherwise?

 Travellers will gain access to the lives of local women that they would, in a mixed gender group, be unable to experience. In Iran, watch as women take off their hijabs and spend time at a beauty salon; in Turkey, spend time at a woman-run earring co-op supporting Syrian refugees, which is paving the way for new lives in the country; join a group of Moroccan women at a traditional hammam, bathing as you overhear the daily chatter; or, spend time in Kenya with East Africa’s first female overland truck driver, learning about her passion for tackling a male-dominated industry and paving new roads in the region.

Interacting with these women from a culture foreign to us creates a different sort of connection. Could you share with us the opinions that women on the expeditions might have shared with you? 

As travellers, if you’ve spent time with others and immersed in new cultures, you’ve felt the innate power of connection and its ability to change your perspective of the world. The Women’s Expeditions gather women from across the globe and encourage global female empowerment – using this connection to generate an uprising in female support. Going from four limited-edition tours to over 30 in a year, the success of the range is spoken through the demand. Our travellers have expressed what we know to be true: these tours are life-changing because they uniquely showcase the lives of women in their respective countries and provide access that would otherwise not be available.

The line between culture appropriation and culture appreciation is an extremely thin one. How do you differentiate between the two?

The purpose of these tours isn’t for women to adapt to the lifestyles of other women, but to appreciate them and to learn from them. It’s not about being a tourist—snapping a picture and leaving, or mimicking different cultures—rather it’s an experience that challenges and changes you, it shapes you to have a great appreciation of the culture you’ve immersed in – and that’s truly what it means to be a global traveller. When you visit these countries as a woman, you don’t pretend to be them but instead, you recognize your differences and your similarities and what you can learn from them and what they can learn from you; that’s true appreciation.

How are these expeditions providing women with freedoms that aren’t typically available to them? 

All locally-run and operated, these tours ensure that travellers’ money is going directly into the hands of women, their families and their businesses. Economically and socially, these tours provide support for women, who live in cultures that are traditionally more conservative.

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Tell us more about the culture of resistance among the women in these countries?

The uprising of female empowerment isn’t secluded to one country; we’ve seen it in North America and we’re also celebrating it in countries like Morocco and India. All around the world, women are understanding and fighting for their rights. In these countries, it’s no different. We’re honoured to offer a platform for women to live out their passions, to find encouragement from our global team of 2,000 employees and to experience security through our business.

How can one travel while being sensitive to the culture of the place they’re visiting?

As much as you want to visit a destination, local people are equally as proud to share it with you. However, when you visit a destination it’s imperative to leave it as you found it. Spend time with people, shop and travel locally, bring reusable water bottles and bags, avoid the tourist traps and chain hotels; instead, experience the country like a local would. What we do best at Intrepid Travel is offer local, experience-rich travel adventures. Every one of our tours is led by a local leader, who knows the destination like the back of their hand and can educate our travellers on the cultural and social norms so that everyone can travel in a respectful manner.

One of the major concerns of women while travelling is safety. How are these tours providing safety for the women who choose to go on these expeditions? 

Intrepid owns and operates all of its tours through its own network of local operations offices. Having this network allows us to provide local expertise and have eyes on the ground that provide us with the opportunity to instantly respond to any issues, or amend and reroute tours accordingly. By travelling with a trusted tour operator in a small group setting, female travellers have the security of a group of travel companions to lean on, in addition to their tour leader that can advise them how to best explore a destination in a safe manner.

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