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Gentlemen, not allowed - Midday Mumbai

By: Kasmin Fernandes, Date:  2009-05-02, Place: Mumbai

A new women-only travel club offers safe and organised-to-the-T solo trips to exotic locales. Freedom from pesky boyfriends and leash-yielding family is but a beautiful bonus

The chicks call it a dream trip, one where a scruffy tour operator doesn't herd you like the sheep you are shown from your stuffy bus window an hour later, grazing at a meadow. It's one where everything is organised right down to the last bottle of water, where you can chat about anything from how the menstruation cycle decides to follow you on every trip like a shadow, to what it's like using an open-air loo. No daddys, bros and boyfriends to yank you back by the collar when you feel the irrepressible urge to take off on a shopping detour.

Founder Piya Bose says Girls on the Go (GOG), a company that organises women-only tours, has been a hit with Mumbai women since it launched last October because "they have different needs with regard to what they want to experience at a new place and how they want to go about experiencing it." It's especially attractive for women who want to travel alone, and might have trouble convincing family to allow them to pick up that haversack and leave.

The former corporate lawyer launched GOG following her own experiences. "I rarely saw any solo women travellers, and even when I did, they were usually accompanied by family members who imposed restrictions that took away half the fun of travelling," Piya says.

Lawyer Sheetal Kumar who went on a Ladakh trip with GOG said they were split into groups of five, and travelled by car throughout. They shuffled between cars, so that by the end of the trip, everyone knew each other. "I continue to be in touch with fellow travellers.Piya knew the ins and outs of every location and since she is an experienced solo traveller herself, she understood exactly what we wanted," says Sheetal.

Piya's travelling craze started at 16 while she was on a year-long Rotary Exchange Programme in Brazil. While she kayaked in the heart of Foz do Iguacu, the widest waterfall in the world, and trekked through the jungles of South America, she decided to take off to explore Europe and USA. It was while on a trip to Ladakh that she decided to chuck law and turn her passion for travelling into a career.

GOG designs flexible itineraries after taking age groups and fitness levels into consideration. So, even if you are in your sixties, you can sign up. "We usually get women in their 30s and 40s, but we've gone on trips with women aged 18 to 65," says Piya, whose future plans include trips abroad and group backpacking sojourns.