A 25-year-old’s quest for sustainable tourism with local flavours
Bengaluru-based Shreyas Danappa had a sheltered upbringing, and he had not travelled at all until he joined college. Before his final year, in 2017, Shreyas went on a solo trip to Himachal Pradesh, Kashmir, and Ladakh.
He had found the feeling of independence through travelling. And, there was no stopping for him.
The following year, after his graduation, 25-year-old Shreyas took a year-long break to travel across India—from Bengaluru to Sikkim to Nepal and the rest of the country—on his motorbike.
“I was hoping for this ‘gap year’ trip to satiate me enough to get back into the rat race, but it never happened. On the contrary, I got more addicted to travelling,” Shreyas tells SocialStory.
To sustain his travel dreams, he tried his luck with gigs related to travelling, including freelance content writing, running a homestay in Sikkim, teaching English to the monks at the monastery, etc.
In fact, Shreyas also got into the content creation space and was operating a travel-related YouTube channel. Although he did not enjoy making content, he wanted to share his passion for travel with others.
In 2021, Shreyas launched Map My Stories—a community-centric, immersive travel experience project—where he curates sustainable travel solutions from his personal travels.
Roads less travelled
An avid solo traveller, Shreyas would visit remote villages and spend weeks to months, completely immersing himself in the place and building connections and networks in these areas.
These travel experiences, along with the warm hospitality he received in these villages, helped him curate mindful experiential journeys to make travel more transformational and socially responsible and would also support local communities.
“Not everyone has the luxury of time to spend in remote villages. I tailor personal experiences to a concise itinerary. My clients will experience the same thing I experienced but in a pocket duration. I curate [these travels] in such a way that there is a bit of nature, culture, etc.,” the first-time entrepreneur says.
Recently, Shreyas collaborated with some of Sikkim’s indigenous artists to curate a travel programme, where he took his clients to North Sikkim and engaged with the locals.
“We learnt Monastic painting techniques from a local artist. We renovated a portion of a 19th-century old Buddhist Monastery, learnt to make bamboo mugs from an indigenous craftsman by using locally sourced raw materials, brewed local beer made from foraged produce, and jammed to music with an indigenous band,” he shares.
Another time, Shreyas curated a trip to Arunachal Pradesh, an adventure into the wild- which included visiting places near the Indo-China border, learning bamboo rafting, etc.
The wanderer turned entrepreneur chooses less explored and less ‘touristy’ locations. The trips are planned in a community-centric way, where locals, including guides, homestay owners, artists, musicians, etc., are supported.
Shreyas tries to find local talent and put them on the itinerary, which acts as an alternative source of income for the locals. “It won't be intrusive and rather immersive,” he says.
At present, Shreyas runs Map My Stories by himself. He took his first set of travellers in March 2022 to North Sikkim and has taken three groups in the following months. He will be taking them to Arunachal Pradesh, too, this year.
Shreyas says he is very selective about who gets to join the journey. He prefers to have travellers who are more eco-conscious and are respectful towards the local cultures and customs.
According to him, a mainstream tourist would not be usually interested in Map My Stories curated itinerary as it acts “like a filter”.
Secondly, it asks clients to explain the purpose of their travel and what they are expecting in the registration form.
“I select my clients based on these factors, which act as networking opportunities for travellers to meet interesting folks in their journey. There should be like-mindedness between them,” says Shreyas.
Each package costs an average of Rs 33,000, comprising a group of four to six people for about seven days with support from local guides. He says that each traveller can explore the places individually while having the comfort of like-minded people.
This year, he has curated one travel each for the month of October and November.
Shreyas wishes to take his travellers abroad too. However, he is waiting to explore them all firsthand before adding them to the Map My Stories website. He also plans to build a team of passionate travellers, who can lead journeys.
Edited by Suman Singh