Spirit of India

Trekking with the traveling sisters of India

Justin Solomon and Kate Springer, CNNPublished 8th August 2018
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(CNN) — Ten years ago, sisters Prachi and Himadri Garg set off on a spontaneous adventure. They left their home in Delhi and hopped on a bus, paying no mind to where it was going.
Neither had a mobile phone, let alone Google Maps.
Eight hours later, they found themselves in Shimla, in northern India, where the breathtaking mountain scenery would change their lives.
Now known as the GhoomoPhiro sisters -- ghoomo phiro means "to roam" in Hindi -- Prachi and Himadri transformed their penchant for adventure into a dream job.
The pair organizes women-only adventures and corporate team-building events.
"People near and dear to us, they started saying to me: 'Do you have wheels on your feet or what?'" Prachi Garg tells CNN Travel.
"Because every time we speak to you, you're somewhere in the other places traveling."

Born with it

Ghoomophiro Sisters, India
The GhoomoPhiro sisters at a jungle lodge in Bandhavgarh National Park.
Himadri Garg
That first trip to Shimla sparked a fire under their feet.
Based in Delhi, the sisters began planning regular weekend trips to trek across India's hidden corners, from empty waterfalls to wildlife sanctuaries, green hillsides and stony quarries.
"I think I have travel in my genes. Travel calms me down -- it makes me, whenever I'm a little stressed out in Delhi, pack my bags and just go," says Prachi.
"Thankfully it has happened in such a way that I always find a solution to my problems when I'm traveling and backpacking."
Over the past decade, they've also had more than a few stress-inducing adventures.
A few years ago, Prachi found herself stuck in an avalanche while trekking in Himalayas. Another time, the sisters found themselves lost in Himalayan National Park in a monsoon, praying they'd survive till morning.
But while many might swear off traveling, the traveling sisters just became more addicted.
"Solo traveling at times is important. It gives you opportunity to interact with new people, with nature, and take time for introspection," says Prachi.
"Travel teaches you many things -- you become humble, a sense of gratitude flows ..."

Exploring India

Ghoomophiro Sisters, India
Prachi learns to weave bamboo with the Bedar tribe in Karnataka.
Himadri Garg
A massive country with over 4,671 miles of coastline and 29 diverse states, India is an adventurer's paradise.
The sisters are determined to elevate the lesser known sides of India, particularly in the northern region.
They call Delhi their home base, organizing frequent excursions to Mussoorie -- about six hours to the north.
A former British hilltown, the city is known as the Queen of the Hills -- an apt moniker, given it's the gateway to the mighty Himalayas.
Just 10 kilometers from the main road, Prachi says you can find a quiet sanctuary of trees and hills, of birds chirping and fresh streams.
And farther afield, there's trekking, skiing, river rafting, bungee jumping and more.
That's just in the north.
"Whenever someone tells me that they're traveling abroad, my next question is: 'What is it they're going for?' When I tell them that the exact same experience is available in India, they look at me very surprised." says Prachi.
"They are not even aware that there are so many places to explore in India."

On the job

Ghoomophiro Sisters, India
The sisters relax in the ruins of Hampi, a UNESCO-listed heritage site in Karnataka, India.
Himadri Garg
Tours run by the sisters include trekking trips to the Himalayas, overnight camping adventures in the jungles of Kanha National Park, rafting excursions on the Ganges River... The list goes on.
Their goal? To showcase India's amazing scenery and empower women to travel alone, without their families.
"Solo traveling at times is important. It gives you opportunity to interact with new people, with nature, and take time for introspection," says Prachi.
"As a woman, I am also doing something for other women... bringing them out of their comfort zones and taking the next steps."
Many first-time solo travelers feel anxious before a trip, but Prachi says they take extra precautions to encourage participation.
"I understand that as Indians, most of us, we have an apprehension with respect to security issues, which is why we have tried to incorporate a lot of female companionship," says Prachi.
"For example, we try to make sure all of our guides and drivers are female to give some assurance that they will be on a safe journey."

A new normal

Ghoomophiro Sisters, India
The sisters lead a group trip to Pangong Tso Lake in the Ladakh region.
Himadri Garg
In India, a group of women travelers is not a common sight.
Despite operating in a society with largely traditional social constructs, Prachi says their parents encouraged them to be strong and open-minded.
"Our parents always inspired us to get out of the box and try new things," says Prachi. "My friends used to complain that my parents would let us travel solo -- and why not theirs?"
Through GhoomoPhiro, Prachi and her sister are also trying to pass on the message to other women that there's more to life than work or traditional family roles.
"There are times when you crave some 'me' time -- it's then that you pack your bags and travel," says Prachi.
"You just need to take that first step and then everything will be easy -- just go out and travel, be yourself, the world is waiting for you."