Alternate travel enterprise founded by Antara Chatterjee curates responsible and memorable holidays for those looking to make a difference.
Antara Chatterjee had no idea that travel could be both fun and impactful until she met someone who had travelled abroad to volunteer for a couple of months. The details of this experience intrigued Antara, prompting her to explore voluntourism options in India. She found that there were very few suitable locations and what were currently available was unaffordable to many.
Despite these, Antara decided to go ahead with her dream. She left her marketing job at the TATA Group and ventured into a new domain, launching little local in 2015.
Little local is a voluntourism platform that works with on-ground partners, local bodies and NGOs, to create travel experiences that create a positive impact on communities.
Holiday with diverse experiences
Little local curates unique experiences for people who are looking at meaningful ways to spend their holidays. This can be done in different ways. Spending time in a homestay, going on a trek or taking part in local activities will enable people in a particular community to create additional sources of livelihood. You can also experience local festivities and immerse yourself in food and culture of that particular place. You can also do your own bit by volunteering your time and skill with local communities and organisations.
With voluntourism gaining acceptance among individuals and groups in India, little local is all set to add more destinations to its list. Currently, the company has nine projects running in Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Ladakh. Their aim is also to offer more choices in terms of destinations and duration of stay.
We had a hospitality expert who finished her two-week stint but continued working on the training manuals, long after she went home. Another fell in love with the mountains, came back to stay for a whole month, and has now made Himachal her second home. During the demonetisation period, one of our travellers helped homestay hosts set up Paytm. She also helped them out with the paperwork, accompanying them to the bank, etc., says Antara.
She continues: “There are other interesting stories; a couple who wanted a homestay and cultural experience as part of their honeymoon, an Australian family who spent two weeks with us as part of their six-month sabbatical, and many more.”
The on-ground partners have been working in their regions for years, and are well-connected to the local community. They identify focus areas, ongoing initiatives that could benefit from external participation, or simply, local experiences that would be interesting for travellers. They then partner with little local to a programme around it. The various programs are listed on the website.
The initiative was bootstrapped with very little funding. Communication has mostly been through word-of-mouth and social media. For those interested, little local has some interesting packages for the upcoming week-long Dussehra celebrations in Himachal Pradesh, that promises to be a unique experience.
Impacting people as much as they impact you
“We’ve been lucky to enable some beautiful and inspiring travel experiences. Often, the interaction between the travellers and the locals has gone beyond that of a host and guest, leading to lasting friendships,” she adds.
Antara hopes that these interactions will lead to a long-term change in the travel experience. It will also sensitise travellers to different cultures, people and their problems, thereby inspiring change.
When you take more than you leave behind
Travelling is the soul’s urge to awaken a hidden dimension of life. When we travel – a part of that place, people and environment stay on as memories. Voluntourism brings about development in the well-being of destinations visited and provides the volunteer with positive experiences to make a real and tangible difference.
Our travellers have shared stories, traded recipes, used dry pit toilets, dressed up in traditional attire, gate crashed weddings, participated inlocal festivals and returned with memories and friends to last a lifetime. And while these may not seem a lot in isolation, they will hopefully be steps to a larger change, towards a more responsible way of travel, Antara adds.