Published: 24th March 2018
Travelling around the world in life-changing ways with Kerala group Sanchari
Sanchari not only organises trips but also allows its members to experience helping and nurturing the environment as well as local lifestyles
Want to join a Facebook group made up of people who share the love of travelling and want to share it with the world? Check out Sanchari. This group leaves its mark on every new place they visit by nurturing the environment or improving the lives of the locals. Founding member of the group, Anoop Das, manages to paint a perfect picture of how travelling can be more than a luxury. Excerpts:
How was Sanchari formed and how did it bring different people together?
When social media first became a part of our lives, there were many online groups and spaces to hang out. But Sanchari first came into being in a world where people who loved very specific things could find each other on Facebook. So, we decided to create a platform and a space for people who loved to travel and explore different things. The most important concept that brought us together was the concept of travelling with nature. To this day, that is the concept that unites the members of Sanchari. It was launched on Facebook on November 15, 2014 for people from various fields and walks of life to share important experiences from their journeys.
What does the structure of the group look like? How do different people contribute to the process?
Although the group's journey began online, it was one that brought people from different parts of Kerala together. Even people from different parts of the country and the world became a part of the process. This eventually evolved into something beyond an online forum where people would actively travel with each other. Today, our main aim has grown into organising various types of journeys, which strongly support concepts like forest cover protection and environmental protection, and emphasising on concepts like road safety. We have different units in different regions that work online and offline in association with government agencies. People contribute to the whole process by sharing their personal experiences on the road, thereby paving the way for others like them to learn and experience the same. It's a huge encouragement for people who want to travel; they find an opportunity to read and learn about the things that they are passionate about.
The climb: The group helps and supports local communities
What does the idea of travelling mean to you? Could you share what you love about it the most?
Every journey is a new experience. More than just going in and out of a new place, it allows us to look deeper into a new society and ultimately, ourselves. It is about the people we meet and what they help us learn. Personally, what changed for me (and most of us who are a part of it), after the formation of Sanchari, was that travelling became more than just visiting a place; it was also about conserving it for the people who will visit it in the future. More than just learning about what we can do, this group has been a lesson about learning what we cannot do to the places that have been gifted to us. Even the smallest of journeys are filled with more values than landmarks. I follow the Malayalam saying that ‘What we see is beautiful, but what we are yet to see is even more beautiful’. The most remote of places have more to teach us than any book we can lay our hands on.
You have combined your love for travelling with social work. Could you explain the various projects you have been involved in?
Simply put, it was a desire to use the vision obtained from seeing new places and applying it to seeing people across the world who deserve recognition and help. The more you travel, the more you realise that you haven't really seen anything at all. We first dipped our feet into charity because of the experiences and realisations of various members of what our role ought to be in society. An extremely important part of what we do is charity. The concept of travel extends to visiting orphanages and spending time with the children there. Our unit in the UAE also has a programme in which our members work with people who live in labour camps across the country by providing iftar meals to over 2,000 people. We have built libraries in villages and wells for the people in Thar Desert, Rajasthan.
The structure of the group is a loose one. There is no one person who makes decisions for us. There are various panel members who work on behalf of all of us
Anoop Das, Administrator, Sanchari
How do you manage to incorporate social causes into what you do and how has it changed the concept of a journey for you?
As far as social causes are concerned, there are various organisations who meet with us and discuss the various ways in which we can truly give back. We regularly conduct meetings and discussions where we evaluate the causes with which we must align ourselves. For example, in Muthanga, Wayanad, there was an instance of people killing wild animals because of their attacks. We organised a programme called 'Thaan Oruvan' with the youth of the region to curb such violence. Similarly, in Pampadum Shola National Park, we were part of a protection and restoration drive for rare plants and vegetation.
What new projects are you involved in today? Could you paint a picture of how you coordinate and plan them?
We are in the third stage of our project 'Notebook' for which we have partnered with Technopark through which we support underprivileged children by providing them with basic stationery like books and pencils. This is spread across units from Thiruvananthapuram to Kasargod. Each of them are supported by local leaders who form specific action teams. Last year, we won the Kerala State Tourism Award for our contributions.
Long trails: Sanchari has various subgroups and organisations within it
How are you trying to incorporate values like sustainable tourism into what you do?
Sanchari has always aimed to be one with nature. We make it an important guideline for anyone within our community to not impact the land on which we travel in any negative way. During Sabarimala season, our units in the concerned area make it a point to clean the area and the forests nearby by ridding it of any plastics or harmful substances.
Travelling is often seen as a rich person's hobby. What advice would you give to young and ordinary individuals with wanderlust?
The way in which people travel has changed so much in the past few years. Yes, travelling was a rich person's hobby back in the day. These days, I believe that it is possible for people to travel without a single rupee. There is a member of Sanchari, Yohan, who has proved this through his own example. He had travelled across India for 200 days without spending any money. Finance stops being an element when you have your priorities straight.