Wanderwomen: This Kochi-based women’s travel group is embracing sisterhood and friendship, one trip at a time

Weekend getaways and quick staycations offered by Mzafiri enable women to break daily routines, and embark on a journey of self-discovery.


Published Aug 05, 2023 | 11:00 AMUpdatedAug 22, 2023 | 10:23 AM

Mzafiri keeps each trip intimate with a maximum of 13 participants, including the founders. To date, they have organised nine trips, comprising eight local trips to scenic locations in Kerala and Kerala border.

“Mzafiri is a variant of the word ‘Msafiri’, meaning traveller in Swahili, and that’s exactly what we are — travellers at heart,” says Sangamittra Asok, co-founder of Mzafiri, a women-only travel group. It all started when Sangamittra, a content producer, and Navya Chandran, a college professor — both travel enthusiasts based in Kochi — met on Instagram and started taking trips together.

What initially began as a delightful friendship between the duo quickly transformed into something more after a few weekend getaways across Kerala.

“Soon, other women — cousins, friends, friends of friends — began to show interest, and we embraced the ‘more the merrier’ spirit. In January 2020, we organised a small trial trip to Wayanad with only five participants,” reminisces Sangamittra.

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Why a travel group only for women? 

Navya (L) and Sangamittra (Supplied)

Navya (L), Sangamittra (R) (Supplied)

Shortly after, they ventured on a weekend trip to Yellapetty, a charming village on the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border, with 11 participants. “We loved immersing ourselves in nature’s lap and being city birds set loose in the wild,” she adds.

However, the pandemic paused their endeavours. Eventually, they recommenced their activities by organising a staycation at the enchanting Vembanad Lake in Vaikom, Kerala, in July 2022.

“Many women have to fight to indulge in simple pleasures like travelling on their own or with the company they choose. We also see women putting each other down, enforcing patriarchal norms on each other, and wanted to rewrite this existing narrative. As a team, we aspired to provide a space for women to break free from anything that hinders their thirst for exploration,” Sangamittra shares.

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Passion project to build bonds

Mzafiri keeps each trip intimate with a maximum of 13 participants, including the founders. To date, they have organised nine trips, comprising eight local trips to scenic locations in Kerala and the Kerala border, and an excursion to South Goa.

Sunrise Point, Vagamon. (Supplied)

Sunrise Point, Vagamon. (Supplied)

They have expanded their membership to around 100 participants now, with 25-30 active members. These diverse women, ranging from their early 20s to 60s, belong to various backgrounds — students, working professionals, homemakers, and even retirees.

For Sangamittra and Navya, Mzafiri isn’t a business venture. They ensure that every trip is budget-friendly without compromising on the quality of experiences, offering safe, secure, and hygienic accommodations. The budget for each trip ranges from ₹2,500 to ₹5,000, including travel expenses. Any variations would depend on the duration of trip, which can be either 24 hours or 48 hours.

“We choose accommodations owned by friends or acquaintances. I have an MBA degree in Travel and Tourism, which has connected me with people who own resorts, stays, and camps. This assures us of a certain level of quality,” Sangamittra laughs.

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Not all trips have to be adventurous

“We are drawn to serene, idyllic destinations, and we typically reach them by bus or train. From living in dorms along the coasts of Varkala to waking up in tents at enchanting places like Kolukkumalai, a quaint hamlet in Tamil Nadu, and relaxing in picturesque homestays in Idukki district, our journeys have been enriched with unforgettable experiences,” informs Sangamittra.

Aside from exploring the beauty of nature, Mzafiri trips go beyond traditional tourism, often encompassing cultural experiences, kayaking, and trekking. Women and children find joy in the simple pleasures of singing, dancing, and heartfelt conversations.

“A trip doesn’t have to operate on a tight schedule to be memorable, and being active is not always physical in nature. Finding calm and peace is paramount. We make sure that the vibe of the place is in harmony with the group, so that everybody feels comfortable,” Sangamittra says.

Travel therapy

The magic of Mzafiri lies not only in the destinations that the group visits, but in the bonds they create. The participants find themselves opening up and sharing not just happiness but also their worries and grief. According to Sangamittra, it’s almost like therapy, a safe space where thoughts flow freely without judgement.

“During conversations, many women often open up about deeply personal issues. In these instances, other members offer support, finding solutions to everyday problems together,” says Sangamittra.

Along the way, members also learn to accept one another’s quirks and differences.

For instance, “witnessing a woman enjoy a shot of vodka in the early hours may seem peculiar to some. But for others, it’s simply a normal way to unwind. The key lies in respecting each other’s choices and honouring individuality within the group”, Sangamittra emphasises.

“I had always been in search of a women-friendly travel group through which I could both indulge in fun activities and sight-seeing at the same time. When I found Mzafiri in 2020, these criteria were met,” says Mary Zareah, author of Vodka Sambar, a book about family, friendships, and travel.

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Honouring nature and each other

“We are dedicated to being responsible travellers, showing reverence for nature and supporting local businesses. As we sometimes travel with children, we have strict rules against littering and plastic use. This sets a good example for the younger generation,” says Sangamittra.

Respecting others and the environment is number one on the list for Sangamittra and Navya. They seek to maintain a friendly and inclusive space, both among fellow travellers and strangers they encounter. For instance, we seek prior consent before sharing photos or videos of fellow travellers online.

“Mzafiri is one of the best things to have happened to me,” says Hitha Basil. She works as Project Managing Officer at TCS, Kochi, and has been a part of Mzafiri since its inception.

“I was looking for a travel group that I vibed with. But, I could not find one until I met Sangamittra at a Zumba class. I joined a few ‘Mzafiris’ on a trip to Munnar and it was everything I could have hoped for. As they say, the journey is more important than the destination. I would say, the company matters too!” she adds.

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Eternal wanderlust

As they value the choices and preferences of their members, the duo takes a considerate approach when planning their trips. They recognise that some members may feel uncomfortable with the presence of children on certain trips.

“Before including any participant with a child, we seek explicit consent from all members involved. The parent and child are acquainted with all aspects of the trip,” says Sangamittra.

Sangamittra and Navya have big plans including international trips. Their next “local” trip, however, is a getaway to the backwaters of Alappuzha, planned for 19 August 2023.

“Mzafiri will always be a space — to escape, to be your authentic self, and to forge friendships that last a lifetime,” Sangamittra concludes with a smile.