Trippy tales: Meet these two superwomen who organise caravan rentals for travellers
Meet Sanjna Hangal and Vathsala Rangegowda, two travel enthusiasts who, back in their college days, would bunk classes and hit the roads around Mysuru. Without the help of a GPS, they would explore unknown routes to satiate their thirst for adventure. As time passed, their lives took different routes and both of them drifted apart.
But when they suddenly met again in Europe, they took a caravan trip across Sweden, lived like locals, parked in random places, cooked where they wished to and lived an absolute nomadic life. When they returned to India, they wondered, “Why don’t we do a caravan trip in India?”
Their search for rented caravans in India began, but in vain. “The rentals were 15k per day. Although they were huge caravans, they had a cook, a cleaner, a driver. We felt there was no sense of adventure if we hired such caravans!” recollects Vathsala.
That’s exactly when the idea of Trippy Wheels struck them. “We thought - why not start a caravan rental in India as there’s nobody doing that. Moreover, we both wanted to travel in caravans across India. That’s how the concept of Trippy Wheels travel company started taking shape,” explains Sanjna.
Girls in a man’s world
‘Into the Wild’ was the first caravan the duo launched, which was a 9-seater whose exterior was artistically done (overnight) by Baadal Nanjundaswamy, artist known for his street art and 3D paintings and his moon-pothole video. But until it was finally done, the two women faced several challenges.
“The first month of execution was full of rejections. Our own families were sceptical about us venturing into the automotive industry as women,” recounts Vathsala.
“Even after watching umpteen videos about what goes into making a caravan and becoming familiar with the ins and outs of its manufacture, we were told to “get our men” at the hardware shops in Shivajinagar to help us. We were stared at, disbelieved, questioned, denied help but we wouldn’t give up!” adds Sanjna.
Finally, a mechanic allowed them to enter his shop, after a week of persistent waiting. He allowed the ladies to explain why they were there and what they wanted. But the struggles didn’t end there. The vendors working with them kept changing. Their caravan disappeared once. “Of course, we found out later that the vendor had no workshop of his own, therefore, his location kept changing,” says Vathsala.
The next set of challenges was the absence of predefined rules and regulations for this caravan venture.
“There were no specific caravan parking areas in the law, no caravan rules and nothing else when we began. So, where to begin and how to plan were the biggest questions,” says Vathsala. “We began travelling for a stretch of 20 days, lived in rural areas, tied up with local home-stays, came up with certain routes, safe parking areas etc,” explains Sanjna.
Their persistent efforts got even the RTO thinking about new rules for this new caravanning culture.
After facing many challenges, Sanjna and Vathsala founded Trippy Wheels, a caravan rental company, in 2017. It claims to be the sole company the country that offers affordable rentals for caravan trips.
“Our motto is to provide people an experience of caravan travel which is why our rentals are affordable and we don’t provide itineraries,” points out Sanjna. Their rentals vary from Rs. 5000 to Rs. 8000 per day, based on the number of people it can accommodate. A trip navigator always accompanies the travellers.
Caravanning makes it possible to slow down and briefly experience nomadic life. The caravan culture makes room for and offers the freedom to stop where one wants to. It also gives travellers the opportunity to be able to explore unknown places, the flexibility of staying indoors, camping outside or choosing an accommodation elsewhere. With comfortable beds, camping equipment, and kitchenette materials, a caravan becomes a nomadic traveller’s home. Except the provision of toilets, the caravan has it all.
Planning the Unplanned
On one hand, the idea of itinerary-less trips is what most travel enthusiasts seem to be seeking these days. On the other hand, the idea of itinerary-less trips puts some travellers in utter discomfort.
Sanjna throws light on this. “People are so used to spoon-feeding-tourists that they don’t know what to do without a plan and without someone telling them what to do at every step. To help people get accustomed to the new way of travelling, we formed a lot of tie-ups, starting with Coorg and Chikmagalur. It took us a while to educate people on the purpose of caravan trips as against regular travel options," she says.
While caravan trips look tailor-made for millennials, they turned out to be a major hit among the older age groups too. The cost of the caravans can range anywhere from Rs 8,000 to Rs 12,000 a day but they have special deals at different seasons.
“An aged man took his physically disabled wife on a caravan trip because of the comfort (kitchenette and beds) it provided. He told us how he couldn’t have done it on any other mode of transport,” says Vathsala.
From shocking incidents to pleasant surprises, Sanjna and Vathsala have seen it all. Just like a journey on road, their journey of Trippy Wheels so far has been filled with bumpy paths, crossroads, edges and even dead-ends.
But with their hearts on the wheels of their business, there’s no stopping them and there’s no looking back.