The Mompreneur Whose 4 Year Old Has Run Out Of Pages In His Passport
Last week, as I was browsing through some articles, I came across an alarming number- only 14.7% of women in Urban India are part of the workforce! I would never have guessed, it was that low. However, I can’t say that I was entirely shocked either. I’ve seen so many of my very talented women friends-doctors, engineers, MBA’s, CA’s give up their careers and not get back to work and it hurt me. It got me thinking about my own journey as a Mompreneur- I am a Chemical Engineer and an MBA (Marketing), and previously worked as a consultant with McKinsey and then Landmark Hospitality in Dubai. When I moved back to India seven years ago in 2010, there were two things on my mind- firstly, I really wanted to do something I was passionate about and that didn’t need any major capital expenditure and secondly, I wanted the flexibility to work on my own time.
That’s how I started off with L’escapades Boutique Travels with nothing more than my passion for exotic destinations, my own exciting travel experiences, and my laptop. Our main focus is on creating custom boutique holidays for our discerning clients who don’t believe in the run-of-the mill “package holidays” or “tours”.
When I started, I knew nothing about how the travel industry works, pricing, margins, terminology-nothing at all. “Start-Up” wasn’t as glamorous a word a few years ago as it is now. But, I am really lucky to have some very enterprising friends and mentors who motivated me and still do!
By the time I had my child in 2012, I had learnt a fair bit, developed my contacts, attended trade shows and settled into this business. My maternity leave was 3 days long! On the 4th day after my delivery I got a worried call from a client, he asked me why I hadn't cashed the cheque he issued the previous week. “Well, I just got back from the hospital after delivering a baby!”, I said. He was shocked, because I had been working all through my pregnancy until the week before and now just after the delivery!
The day I got back from my one month at my mom’s home, my baby sitter, whom I had hired to help me with my baby, quit! So there I was- me, my one month old child and a house that was still being done up because my son was born three weeks early! That’s it- somehow I learnt being a mom, managing my business, the house, all of it! It’s not easy, being a full time mom and managing the house and, the business. But, I wouldn't do it any other way.
For the first year and a half I barely travelled with my child, but when he was about 2, I found the courage to embark on an adventurous trip to see the Northern lights. In a remote village in Finland at -18 degrees Centigrade, as a concerned first time parent, I kept asking him if he was okay every few minutes. He said to me finally “Mumma I’m fine, this is my best holiday ever!” That was it, probably when I realised that I can still pursue my passion for traveling, and have the most important person in my life be a part of it and enjoy it as much as I do. Later on that trip, we rode a husky sleigh, met reindeer, stayed in an Igloo, went hunting for the Northern lights- it was one of the most memorable times in my life!
We travelled to many more countries together, just the two of us and in a way, we’ve grown together. One random night after an exciting day exploring this not very well known garden in Singapore, I thought of creating Where is K? to inspire more parents to travel to exciting and offbeat destinations with kids and not be limited by the traditional “kid-friendly” concept of travel. It’s been a year since then and last year we had some amazing experiences.
From skiing at the snow festival in Hokkaido, Japan to cruising across the magnificent Lake Skadar in Montenegro. From Island hopping in Seychelles and Maldives, to a ride on Thomas, the heritage steam train in Southampton. Eating authentic Cannoli in Amalfi, Italy, to feasting on string hoppers in Sri Lanka. A mud bath in Nha trang Vietnam to an infinity pool on a private island with Blue whales in the Bay. Our first snorkelling experience in the South Male atoll to an epic 9-hour Eurail ride through Austria and Switzerland. A bumpy backseat Vespa ride on Easyriders Dalat to cruising into the island of Sveti Stefan for a gourmet meal-words, can't begin to explain what K has experienced!
He has just run out of pages in his first passport, and for us each stamp has so many memories attached to it! I think these immersive experiences help children understand cultures different from their own and really broaden their perspective!
I've often been asked about how K manages to go all over the world and if these places are "kid-friendly" Here are my three-bits on this...
What I've realised is kids are far more adaptable than adults will ever be! For a kid who's lived in the scorching Mumbai heat, there's nothing kid friendly about a trip to the Arctic circle or living by a frozen lake in a national park in Japan, but both these have been K's favourite holidays! Of course, do your research, be well prepared with the appropriate gear for the season and then stop worrying- your kids will surprise you!
Sure they love play areas but they are so much happier outdoors-wherever it may be! Anywhere you go, there will always be things for them to do, and if not it encourages them to entertain themselves with whatever they have! So just take the plunge and watch them create magic with one car and twigs, sand, stones and everything else.
Most importantly what I've realised is that people all over will help you out, and even be shocked when they realise you're travelling with a toddler (a woman with a toddler backpacking across Europe-yes we did that this summer!) Most people have been really helpful with everything from carrying strollers to helping with entertaining K while I eat, shop, get a spa treatment, go for meetings, do site visits.They recommend places where I could take K and locals know best so trust them (maybe not all but most!) so believe in the goodness of people- yes it does exist-I've seen it!
So, with a well researched itinerary, I think you can take the kids almost everywhere! I think once my clients are given these options, and they know my own travel experiences, they are happy to experiment and go outside their comfort zone.
It’s been an amazing journey and this is just the beginning. Honestly, my work has helped me immensely. Life isn't easy for a working woman! As Indra Nooyi says Women can’t have it all, we have to make tough choices everyday. It’s not been the easiest journey either but I have no regrets! I want to see that percentage of working women change! I want women to know that it doesn't always have to be one or the other between kids and a career.
One thing that I know will make a big difference is mindset! Women need to help each other more, pull each other up instead of tearing each other down!
I wake up everyday completely passionate about my life and work and can’t wait to explore more of this world with my little travel companion!