Paul Theroux once said "Tourists don't know where they've been. Travellers don't know where they're going". The difference between a tourist and a traveller, with some due snobbery on behalf of the latter, has been an oft debated subject, but it essentially defines true travel as something wilder, more unpredictable than what one finds in sanitised, packaged tour ads. Travel, in this sense, would be perhaps an Arctic expedition, getting as close to the North Pole as humanly possible, or roaming the rainforests of Columbia in search of the once lost city of Machu Picchu.
Organising such travel experiences is Vikrant Nath, a PR and event manager, who would rather be known as an "intrepid backpacker since 1982". "I used to run an adventure travel operation back then, but gave it up because I was getting too old for that kind of thing. Those were the days when the government allowed a stipend of $500 per day for foreign travellers, that too once in two years. But I travelled extensively, visiting all kinds of countries and meeting all sorts of people. Now that I've reached a point in my life that I don't have to work every day to put food on the table, I thought I could use my own experience and contacts to 'curate' exclusive tours of this sort," he explains.
Under the banner of Travel Quotient, Nath has so far crafted three 'experiences' – an Arctic expedition, the first of which is leaving this February, one to Machu Picchu in the summer and yet another to the rough, Central Asian state of Mongolia towards the end of the year. Also in the pipeline are a trip to the Balkans and an organised tour of Croatia by a writer based there. "But I will have to take these trips personally before I add them to our roster", he explains.
Under the banner of Travel Quotient, Nath has so far crafted three ‘experiences’ – an Arctic expedition, one to Machu Picchu and another to Mongolia.
The 'experiences' include visiting husky farms and tending to them in Norway, living in igloo hotels, sleeping on hammocks in the jungles of Columbia, and roaming the dry, arid lands of Mongolia with nomadic tribes. "This stuff is not to be found on your smartphones or any guides. And I wouldn't have been able to do this if I hadn't seen it all before," he points out.
"The average Indian's travel trajectory includes south-east Asia, Europe, US, the Middle East, maybe Africa for the bolder ones, often in that order. With these tours, I wish to push them, and myself, over this threshold," he says, adding that his market is the 40+, well-settled, well-travelled aspirant. Nath adds that the groups will always be an intimate one – with not more than 6-8 people per journey, preferably unrelated. "But I make sure that we have some chemistry going between the co-travellers through meetups before leaving," he says. At almost Rs. 4 lakh for a 10-day trip to the Arctic, or $5000 for the one to Columbia, these aren't exactly cheap, but he promises an experience of a lifetime.