Driven by Wanderlust

Leaving behind their lucrative careers to pursue their passion, two friends — interior designer Jamila Kapasi and electronics engineer Reetu Yadav — realised their love for the outdoors and adventure and started The Great Escape, a start-up to organise group outdoor trips.

 “Our mission is to promote outdoor activities among women,” they profess.

Jamila Kapsi during an expedition

Narrating how their adventures started, Jamila says, “We met on the Har Ki Dun trek in Uttarakhand around three years ago. Both of us were trekking on our own with a few friends, carrying our own tents and equipment. We immediately connected and started trekking to the valley together. And although we lost contact with each other, an year later, the idea of an adventure travel startup popped up in Reetu’s head. She approached me with her idea at a time when I myself was looking for an opportunity to make a mark in the outdoors.”

Having a clear objective and a plan with which to pull it off, Jamila, feels that every travel outing should involve research and exploration. “We travel to experience the unknown, explore a place, know its culture and history, to interact with people and be part of their festivals and stay at their homes,” she explains.

Having grown up watching Discovery, Animal Planet and Steve Irwin’s Crocodile Hunter, Jamila shares that she has always been extremely fascinated with wildlife and adventure. “As I kid, I thought that I’d have to travel abroad to get into activities like camping and trekking. But now, I know India is one of the best places for adventure,” says Jamila, who admits that for a woman, it is extremely challenging to create a niche in the outdoor adventure market and be taken seriously.

“Mountaineering is considered a man’s domain and we have to put in a lot of added effort to prove our mettle. The surprise on people’s faces when they see us scale mountains with ease as we carry a heavy backpack while leading a group speaks a lot about the mindset of the people,” says Jamila, co-founder of The Great Escape travel.

Recalling one of their toughest and scariest experiences, she says, “I was stuck in Manali during the North India riots of August 25, 2017. I had come back to Manali after completing the Hampta pass and the Spiti Valley homestay trek and was about to leave for Dehradun the same day to take a team for the Valley of Flowers trek in Uttarakhand. I was absolutely unaware of the riots taking place in most of North India, and only realised when I went to the bus stop that all buses were cancelled for the next three days due to the riots.”

Memorable experienceFor both of us, our favorite trip would be to Bhutan which we did last year in May. The only thing we booked in advance was our to and fro transport while we figured out the rest along the way. Keeping the true essence of backpacking in mind, we covered more than 100kilometres on foot during our entire travel,exploring new valleys along the way. We met a lot of locals, stayed with them and learnt about Bhutan culture from them — Jamila

A way of lifeTravel is not just a vacation but a way of life for us. It gives the right perspective to life. It makes us more aware socially and responsible towards people and places around us. Traveling is all about being at home in new locations, meeting strangers who become friends — Reetu Yadav

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