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I stuck my head out of the window, hoping the wind would help dry off the sweat running down the sides of my face. It was a sweltering hot March day. The 6-hour bus ride from Velas to Mumbai felt like torture at that point, but the two days I had taken off to see the annual turtle hatching ritual were entirely worth it. It was not just the spectacle of watching the hatchlings inch towards the water that was memorable, it was also the first time I had taken a trip by myself after our daughter was born. The small discomforts paled in comparison to the joy I experienced in pandering to my own wishes, a small ask which had become more difficult given the many demands on my time.

Increasingly, mothers are taking off on trips, either by themselves, with friends or as part of organized groups. From wanting to relax and unwind to taking a break from the everyday routine, exploring areas of niche interest and investing time in self-development, the reasons are varied and the benefits many. Ranging from day trips to week-long holidays, “momcations" seem to be here to stay.

Ashish Dhruva, vice-president of travel portal Cleartrip, says: “Check Instagram and you will see over 50,000 posts with the hashtag ‘momcation’. Mothers across age groups are travelling more than ever before. Such breaks allow them to break away from the stress of their demanding routine, rejuvenate themselves and get some ‘me time’ that’s hard to come by. It is reflective of not just the evolving social norms but also of how the perception of travel has shifted over the years as a priority, rather than a mere functional need of going from one place to the other. Women travellers comprise more than one-third of the total bookings on our site. Of these, almost 60% of women travellers are in the age group of 25-45."

Ravneet Bawa, a marketing consultant for tech startups from Mumbai and mother of an eight-year-old girl, takes a trip by herself or with friends at least once or twice a year. Her work requires her to travel, and whenever possible, she extends her trip by a day or two to explore the destination she’s in. “Travel for self is very empowering. You can visit museums you want to, stay in a hostel, eat in cafés and read a book quietly, visit a bar and meet new people—things that are easier to do when you are travelling on your own," she says. Having travelled to places like Nagaland, Hampi and Kochi in India, and Prague, Vienna, Budapest and Amsterdam abroad, she firmly believes that travel aids her personal development, which in turn affects her work in many intangible ways. “As a mother you get used to always seeing yourself in the context of your family. Travelling on your own helps bolster your confidence as you are pushed beyond your comfort zone," she adds.

For nursery school founder Shetal Patel from Mysuru, a mother of two young adults, travel is deeply introspective. She makes it a point to go on a holiday once a year and of all the places she has been to, her favourite and most challenging was trekking up to the Everest Base Camp. “Trips like these give you a chance to be with yourself and hence understand yourself better, both your likes and dislikes. For me these vacations act as tiny pills of rejuvenation," she says. Travelling can help put a lot of things in perspective and offers a chance to view things from a distance. “Spending time away also reinforces the importance of having a home and family to come back to," she adds.

Shetal Patel trekking to the Everest Base Camp
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Shetal Patel trekking to the Everest Base Camp

From conventional package trips to cruises and even self-driving holidays, women are opting for a variety of travel experiences. “We have witnessed increased searches and bookings by women travellers, including mothers, on our platform. With more women becoming financially independent and income levels rising, both domestic and international travel have become very accessible. In this quarter itself, we have witnessed a 78% growth in the number of women travellers wanting to go on driving holidays not just in India but also abroad," says Sunil Gupta, managing director and chief executive officer of car rental company Avis India.

As interest in cruise holidays continues to rise, Varun Chadha, CEO of TIRUN, the Indian representative of Royal Caribbean Cruises, says that a significant part of the demand comprises women. The state-of-the-art studio cabins, which specifically cater to solo voyagers, are finding many takers.

For Mumbai blogger and influencer Prerna Sinha, travel is a priority. Mother of two boys, she takes at least two trips a year and one of them is usually an adventure holiday. From hiking in Iceland’s Thingvellir National Park and chasing the Northern Lights in Sweden to trekking up to the Everest Base Camp and Mount Kilimanjaro, she says travel helps her maintain her sanity and gives her something to look forward to. “Travel gives me a short escape and is a breather from my demanding life. Most women, especially those who aren’t working, feel a void in their lives with the passing of time. While husbands climb the corporate ladder and have less time, and children grow up and have an independent life, many women do not know what to do with all the free time they have. So, it’s important to find that one thing that you feel most passionate about. For me, it’s travel that keeps me going."

For mothers, taking time off comes with its own challenges. Having an understanding and supportive family is absolutely essential. “Once I was going on a trek and my mom was going to come to take care of my kids, but last minute she couldn’t, so my father took leave from work. Between my father-in-law and him, they managed the kids for a good 12 days," recalls Sinha.

Counselling psychologist Diana Monteiro from Hyderabad says: “Often, being a mom, wife, daughter-in-law, etc., takes over a woman’s sense of self, and she isn’t even aware of her own needs. So if a woman starts acknowledging her needs and takes time to fulfil them, she will benefit greatly. If travel is important to her, she should pursue it. A happy mom means a happy family, so mothers who take care of their needs also teach their children, especially female children, that you do not have to give up your sense of self to have a family."

Initially, Bawa was apprehensive about how her young daughter would react to her travelling for work and otherwise. All her doubts were laid to rest when her daughter gave her travelling a thumbs up in a Mother’s Day video where she said, “What I like most about my mom is all the stories she tells me after she comes back from her travels".

Dubai-based Chaitali Patel writes about the arts, history and culture.

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