From a Village in Kerala to the Arctic, Geethu Mohandas takes Responsible Tourism Seriously

Fjallraven Polar is an international polar expedition where a group of 20 ordinary individuals are selected from across the globe to venture into 300 kilometres of Arctic wilderness. Expenses for the expedition are covered by Fjallraven, a trekking equipment manufacturing company.

Geethu thanks her parents for being supportive in her wishes to travel.

“I never had to ask for permission from them to travel. They don’t question me or constantly check on me, if and when I travel.

All they ask is if I am safe. My father has brought me up to be independent,” she says.

Live, Love, Travel 

“I always scored well; so my teachers did not complain. I had more opportunity to travel then as well.

I started a Nature Club at college too, and conducted photo exhibitions, cleaning programmes etc., which gave me experience for travel and organising group trips.

This boredom led Geethu to start ‘Let’s Go For a Camp’ – a travel community to promote responsible tourism in India. Since then, the group has conducted more than 100 such camps in India and three abroad too.

Encouraging More Women to Travel

Having experienced the many wonders of travel herself, Geethu wanted to encourage more Indian women to embrace travelling, and started organising women’s-only tours too.

In April 2019, she went to Ladakh with a group of 14 women, staying with villagers and experiencing their food and culture. With the positive feedback, Geethu soon did another trip – this time with a group of seven women.

She says she plans these trips in such a way that they also benefit the local community, who often go unnoticed by the hordes of travellers visiting the place every year, in rentals and food.

The Next Big Trip

Out of the thousands of candidates from across countries, 11 were handpicked through a panel, and another 11 through online voting. The latter involved dividing the world into 10 zones and selecting individuals who got the highest number of votes from each zone.

She recounts that she even got phone calls from other candidates asking her to back out of the competition.

Even her Facebook posts were spammed by people promoting a male aspirant from Kerala and making like “Women can’t survive in Arctic’s low temperatures”. Or “Travels are meant for men”.

Now she is getting ready for the biggest adventure of her life so far.

On March 30, she will begin the expedition with 21 other individuals, all of them on dog-drawn sledges. The 300-km journey is set to end on April 6.

Camera: Rukmanda Raja