Zipping across borders

Overland tours, where one drives through nooks and crannies, are a great way to absorb the soul of any country. Sujal Patwardhan and Medha Joseph  would attest to this since they run Embarq, an overland touring company set up in 2016 which also does bespoke tours. It was a road trip the duo undertook from India to Morocco that set the ball rolling for the women to quit their corporate careers and pursue their love for travelling. Since then, they have taken road trips to countries like Scotland, Spain, New Zealand, and traversed across the  Silk Route and the Baltics.

Sujal remembers the memorable Morocco trip when they drove for 57 days across 15 countries and three continents to reach their destination. “When we planned the Morocco trip in 2015, we were faced with a challenging situation. We were supposed to cross the Nepal border into China when the unfortunate earthquake occurred. The epicenter of the quake was the border, so we had to re-plan our routes and also apply for permits to go through the Myanmar border. This required us to advance our travel dates and also reschedule our work lives.”

Sujal and Medha personally recce all the new routes. Right now they are planning an All India Women’s Drive  — India to Thailand (which includes cars and a motorcycle) from October 20 to November 4, starting from Guwahati and ending in Bangkok — covering a total distance of 2,800 km. This will be a pioneering trip as it’s the first all women trip, conceptualised and planned by women.

Medha affirms that road trips are exciting and adventurous. Like any other travel plan, road trips also need some prep-work and planning. She elaborates, “The type of vehicle, the route that will be followed, weather conditions, fuel availability, are a few essential things you need to know and plan beforehand to enjoy the road trip. Overland road trips involve a lot of paperwork and permits and information regarding the same is not available easily.”

She adds that road trips are a lot of fun if you plan them right but lack of time at hand often discourages people from opting for it. Sujal chips in, “And that is why we recommend relying on experts who have experience in organising such overland expeditions and driving extensively in various countries to offer a refined experience.”

An increasing number of women are breaking free from the shackles of societal pressures that have bound them so far and trying a hand at driving trips that are arduous yet fun. Be it solo travel, inland travel or road trips, women are embracing it all. Sujal states, “More and more women from all walks of life not only drive as a means to commute but enjoy road-tripping.”

But the biggest challenge for women is still safety. Medha agrees, but adds, “In today’s digital age it’s very convenient to access information and plan better, stay connected and be safe. This encourages them to travel more often.”

So what interests does the duo have besides travelling? Prior to co-founding Embarq, Sujal was the Vice President at a Mumbai-based investment bank and had worked in the field of Human Resources for 14 years. Sujal shares, “When I’m not driving, I’m watching films. I also love gorging on biryani and have an amazing collection of wristwatches. I simply love having them,” she reveals.

And before making travel her full-time career, Medha, who drives a Toyota Land Cruiser, worked as a finance professional for 11 years. And when she is not traveling, you will find her immersed in a David Baldacci book or painting a canvas.

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