The compelling quote – “The mountains are calling, and I must go” – by naturalist and preservationist John Muir widely used by travel enthusiasts nearly sums up Vandana Vijay’s entrepreneurial journey of kicking usual career options and starting her own travel company ‘Offbeat Tracks’.
Vandana’s reflection on Muir’s quote is more precise to its context than how it is referred to these days, because her firm focuses on sustainable travel across India, works with various rural communities, and integrates with locals from the region.
After working for three years in Facebook, Vandana realised that corporate job was not her cup of tea, and decided to start Offbeat Tracks in 2016 driven by wanderlust and passion for mountains and the Himalayas.
Being the daughter of an army officer, Vandana had opportunities to travel in the Himalayan region, the Northeast part of India, and Jammu & Kashmir.
The turning point in Vandana’s life came in 2014 when the nature-lover volunteered with an NGO in Ladakh, where she spent two weeks working with local people and understanding their hardships.
She would trek to remote villages, and learn more about the native culture and their indigenous method of problem-solving. Through travel, Vandana aims to showcase the diversity of Indian culture and leave a social impact by promoting local businesses and sustainability.
Offbeat Tracks’ initial journey began with places Vandana was wholly acquainted with, such as Ladakh, and Kashmir, where she has established a network with different communities.
Now, the travel firm covers some of the unique locations, including Bhutan, Nagaland, and Changtang in Ladakh.
“Be a responsible traveler” is Vandana’s message for travel enthusiasts. She adds that “Travellers should choose local homestays as far as possible, and try local cuisine. Be extremely responsible with your cash, travel slowly, and come back with the richness of culture and diversity.”
For budding entrepreneurs, Vandana’s mantra is: “To have a clear mindset and identify your market idea. Don’t settle when hurdles come. Take rejections with your chin up and work hard towards your dream.”
Apart from her interest in travel, Vandana also holds a badge of honor in her academics. In 2009, she topped the Combined Defence Services (CDS) Exam, which is conducted by the Union Public Service Commission for recruitment of Commissioned Officers in the Indian Military Academy, Officers Training Academy, Indian Naval Academy, and Indian Air Force Academy. However, due to personal reasons, she chose not to pursue her career in that field.