With disposable income growth in India, self-drive holidays have been gaining popularity while giving freedom to travellers in exploring offbeat destinations. It also adds a new perspective when it comes to self-exploration. While self-drive holidays have always been popular overseas, young travellers in our country prefer a flexible travel lifestyle and desire experiential travel.
In India, this trend was in its infancy till a few years back but now road trips are a rage among travellers. Realising the potential of cross-border expeditions and self-drive trips, two young entrepreneurs left their fancy jobs and started a journey to explore the world. Sanjay Madan and Tushar Agarwal founded Adventures Overland in 2012 as a niche travel company which offers first-of-its-kind self-driving expeditions across six continents while also operating cross- border and fly-and-drive excursions in India.
Till now, the company has organised over 100 expeditions in 80 countries, and over 1,000 guests have travelled with Adventures Overland. In August 2022, Adventures Overland announced the first ongoing funding closing, putting the company’s valuation at over USD 10 million. The funding will be deployed towards taking the brand footprints across the globe.
The company in the coming years wants to focus on strengthening its customer base further and while taking avid travellers to more offbeat locations, facilitating their dream journeys., Adventures Overland plans to open offices in six continents and organise 1000+ trips globally over the next three years.
The team launched the ground-breaking cross-continent bus journey from India to London, popularly known as ‘Bus to London’. Inspired by their restless curiosity about the world and their passion for service, they are ready and waiting to start writing a unique travel story. Read more to know about their journey. Here are excerpts from the conversation:
ETTravelWorld (ETTW): Tell us about your journey of cross-border expeditions and the story behind the inception of Adventures Overland?
Tushar Agarwal (TA): We set off on a world road trip in 2012, covering 90,000 km across 50 countries, setting one Guinness World Record and 15 in the Limca Book of Records. ‘The Great Indian World Trip’ was a journey that turned our dream of driving all around the world into a reality. We spent two years planning the journey, and despite failing to secure enough money, we decided to go ahead. Incredibly, help kept coming along the way and bit by bit, and we continued progressing after 15 months; we culminated our drive through 6 continents! This journey was filmed, and ‘The Great Indian World Trip’ was aired on the TLC channel and is currently streaming on Discovery+.
We have always been passionate about travel, and soon after this trip, we set up Adventures Overland and organised our maiden commercial trip to Ladakh in the Himalayas. Through Adventures Overland, we wish to fulfil peoples’ dreams of exploring the world.
ETTW: How popular are road journeys in India among discerning travellers? What kind of clientele and audience express more interest?
TA: Driving holidays have been popular for a few decades now in India. However, self-drive in convoy style across multiple countries such as our Road to London trip is new and gaining popularity. We have a strong base of repeat customers, which indicates an ongoing demand for the kind of packages we devise and the customer service we offer throughout the journey.
Our customers are High Networth Individuals (HNIs), discerning individuals interested in driving to the remotest destinations in the world and travel enthusiasts willing to take the road less travelled. We see solo to group travellers and couples to families participating in our cross-border excursions beating the weather odds and traversing rugged terrains. Our customised tours, fixed departures & epic journeys will target the masses.
ETTW: After the success of the ‘Road to London’, which other expeditions are you planning?
TA: ‘Road to London 2022’, Adventures Overland’s flagship trip recently culminated its fourth season, which took avid road trippers on a 15,000 km cross-border journey from Iran to London via Turkey, Eastern Europe, the Baltics, and Scandinavia, including Nord Kapp, the northernmost tip of Norway and mainland Europe. The convoy comprised ten cars; 21 travel enthusiasts in their late 20’s to 60’s made this epic journey via 20 countries.
We have quite a few journeys planned, the forthcoming being one to Jordan. Our guided, small-group self-drive trips allow travellers to experience new destinations while driving in convoys. Travellers can enjoy the Jordan expedition without worrying about breakdowns, language barriers and navigating rugged terrain. Our Boundless Brazil Drive to the world’s fifth-largest country, will take travellers through Brazil’s cosmopolitan cities, glamorous beaches, and tropical rain forests.
Yet another exciting expedition planned is to Laos. This will be followed by the expedition to Iceland.
Pre-Covid, we used to do 9-10 trips in a year with 25 people in a single trip whereas post-Covid, we have already one 25 trips in 2022 with each trip consists of 30-35 people. So, now people are more open and thrilled for new experience and we are receiving more inquiries than ever.
ETTW: What is the average time, cost and logistics required for travellers to complete the road trip expedition?
TA: We offer luxurious niche packages, which include taking care of the accommodation, meals, vehicles and their upkeep, visa formalities, safety, and other travel nuances. There are basically three types of trips we offer- Cross border journey, Fly & Drive Trips, domestic expeditions. The cost of each trip is decided keeping in mind all the factors, with the goal that the traveller enjoys carefree travel and truly makes lasting memories while on board with us. The package cost for our recently culminated ‘Road to London’ expedition was INR 22,00,000 +5 per cent GST per person. The forthcoming trips are priced at INR 2,95,000 + 5 per cent GST per person for Laos and INR 4,50 000 + 5 per cent GST per person for Iceland, and an EMI option is also available for each package.
Talking about the time duration, travelling overseas across borders involves lengthy periods; the traveller needs to be well-rested to enjoy the attractions and cuisines and take time to absorb the local culture. To add, we ensure that the travellers have enough time to enjoy off-roading while driving in Land Rover Defenders or Ford Raptors. Also, we offer customised packages nationally and internationally for travellers looking for shorter trips.
ETTW: What is your view on the rise of adventure and experiential tourism in India in recent times especially after the world saw the Covid-19 pandemic?
TA: The pandemic not only forcefully put a halt to the world, but it also pushed people to hit the reset button. Post the pandemic, the vacationer has a different set of expectations from their travel plans. Instead of well-planned guided tours, they are keen to explore on their own. Their actions are based on the impulse to delve beyond the surface and experience the region, its culture, and its cuisine.
This stems from the fact that we are entering the YOLO economy. You only live once and make the most of it! Today’s traveller is burned out and flush with savings and is in search of a post-pandemic adventure. The unending bucket list has also given rise to experiential travel as there is no bigger joy than striking off a particular travel trend from the list. However, just striking out items from the list is not enough for tourists today. The traveller is keen to seek out experiences that will enhance, expand, and rejuvenate them as a person.