I had the pleasure of experiencing a 15-night “Discover India” tour hosted by National Geographic Journeys with G Adventures.

We adopt a unique mindset, avoiding showcasing poverty. Instead, our goal is to highlight the positive changes and opportunities emerging, reflecting the evolving landscape of India and the possibilities..

As part of my series about “discovering hidden wellness destinations,” I had the pleasure of experiencing a 15-night “Discover India” tour hosted by National Geographic Journeys with G Adventures.

National Geographic Journeys with G Adventures is a collection of unique tours designed to take you deeper into the cultures and habitats of the places we explore. They offer more inclusions, greater hands-on exploration, interactions with local experts, and the freedom to roam, all within the structure and security of traveling in a small group.

G Adventures is a travel company, but they are also a social enterprise that has been pioneering community tourism since the day they were founded back in 1990. G Adventures’ tours, constructed through meaningful relationships with local communities, directly benefit the people and places they visit. It includes G Adventures’ employees, supplier and agent partners, small business owners, customers, social followers, travelers, and media. All of this adds up to G Adventures’ simple but powerful mission: to change the world just by helping people have the time of their life.

Embarking on a 15-day tour across the diverse landscapes of India with seven fellow travelers, I found myself grappling with the concept of separateness. Oxford Dictionary defines it as “the fact of being not joined or connected to something / somebody else.” Yet, as I traversed eight different regions, India unfolded before me in breathtaking beauty and profound simplicity, creating a juxtaposition that resonated deeply within my soul.

My ancestral roots are not foreign to this land, yet the cultural disparities were glaring. The chaos of the streets, adorned with the sights, sounds, and aromas unique to this region, seemed a world apart from the orderliness of my home in the United States. It was easy for me to succumb to the “me” versus “them” mindset, but India had profound lessons to teach me about the true interconnectedness of the human experience.

Guiding our journey was Anurag Singh Shekhawat, our fearless CEO (Chief Experience Officer), whose refined expertise and genuine kindness illuminated a path forward from the bustling and chaotic streets of Delhi to the serene riverbanks of the holy Ganges in Varanasi.

In Delhi, I discovered the beauty of contrasts, where the modern harmonized with the ancient. Varanasi, with its spiritual ghats and ethereal boat rides, taught me the power of reflection and the significance of absorbing the spiritual energy that enveloped us. Notably, Sarnath in Varanasi, the sacred site of Lord Buddha’s first sermon, added yet another profound layer.

Lucknow unfolded its culinary treasures, a feast for the senses, with the exquisite and eclectic spices that happily danced on my palate. Each bite felt like a journey through time. The Taj Mahal in Agra left me awe-struck, and Ranthambore National Park, with its indigenous tigers, showcased the untamed beauty and the noble purpose of why this natural sanctuary was constructed in the first place.

Jaipur, commonly known as the Pink City, welcomed me with open arms, while the echoes of its regal history resonated through the Amber Fort. Pushkar’s spiritual aura and Udaipur’s lakeside serenity spoke of tranquility amidst chaos. Udaipur’s City Palace and Jagdish Temple stood as architectural marvels, reminding me of the blend between human creation and the natural world.

In the end, the mix of regionally-inspired accommodations, ranging from medium-tier to bungalows, along with the exquisite craftsmanship, textiles, and handmade art, offered a glimpse into the diverse lifestyles of the region. My 15-day “Discover India” voyage through eight regions reminded me to cherish every moment, for in our life stories, every chapter, like the diverse landscapes encountered during my journey, adds profound depth if we just let it in.

The following is an interview conducted with G Adventures Regional Operations Manager of South Asia, Sorab Jassawalla.

Thank you so much for joining us, Sorab! Can you share the vision and mission behind National Geographic Journeys with G Adventures, particularly concerning providing unique travel experiences?

If you look internally, G Adventures has been globally functional. For us, it’s crucial not to offer run-of-the-mill tours; we strongly adhere to our core values.

We’re passionate about changing lives through travel and creating a community. It’s not just G Adventures entering a place with a great itinerary to make money. We focus on the community’s benefits from our visits, aiming to provide not just employment but opportunities for locals. In some cases, an opportunity may be a simple interaction, yet it creates an unforgettable experience for people to cherish for life.

Our focus is on creating something enriching for passengers, CEOs (Chief Experience Officers), and the communities we touch, along with our partners wherever we go.

G Adventure travel often involves connecting with local cultures. How does your team ensure authentic and meaningful interactions with the communities you visit, especially in India?

Around a decade ago, approximately 15 or 16 years back, our focus shifted from being a global leader to regional CEOs. Initially, we prioritized employing locals to connect with their country and culture authentically. These CEOs take pride in showcasing their culture and transferring their day-to-day experiences to our tours, ensuring our guests have an authentic experience of the places they visit.

When we partner with organizations like Salaam Balak Trust, we adopt a unique mindset, avoiding showcasing poverty. Instead, our goal is to highlight the positive changes and opportunities emerging, reflecting the evolving landscape of India and the possibilities for local kids.

A notable initiative is the “Kitchen with the Cause” project, part of the G Value Fund inspired by Bruce Poon Tip’s book “Looptail.” The royalties from the book support local projects, addressing service gaps and providing alternative incomes to help CEOs advance in their careers.

Our CEOs identified the need for post-walk activities for kids involved with Salaam Balak Trust, leading to the inception of “Kitchen with the Cause.” This project, incorporated into our itineraries, aims to provide opportunities for those interested in hospitality, overcoming paperwork barriers.

Regarding collaborations with Planeterra, we have an Asia Connect representative coordinating with various global projects. Annually, we review opportunities to include new projects in our itineraries, allowing guests to enjoy diverse and unique experiences during their tours.

National Geographic Journeys with G Adventures emphasizes responsible tourism. Could you elaborate on the sustainable practices integrated into your itineraries and the impact you aim to achieve in the destinations you explore? 

In our region, we prioritize avoiding chain hotels whenever possible. Instead, we focus on owner-driven properties to ensure that a significant portion of the economy stays within the country, aligning with our Ripple score philosophy. We also emphasize supplier compliance, not only in terms of health and safety but also pollution control, especially with regard to vehicles.

To promote sustainability, we encourage hoteliers to invest in alternative and clean energy sources. For example, we advocate for the use of solar heaters for water, acknowledging the challenges they may pose in delivering hot water to rooms efficiently. Despite these challenges, it remains a sustainable practice we actively endorse.

In collaborations with organizations like Women with Wheels (formerly Women on Wheels), they operate a fleet of CNG cabs, running on compressed natural gas, making them more environmentally friendly. Though these vehicles may have limited luggage space due to the gas tank, our guests typically understand and cooperate.

When selecting smaller destinations, we aim for interactions rather than exhibitions. We steer away from putting people on display, emphasizing that our guests are walking through life, not a museum of natural history. This approach reflects our commitment to responsible tourism and the unique experiences we strive to offer.

G Adventures is renowned for its immersive approach to adventure. How do you curate experiences that go beyond the ordinary and truly immerse travelers in the destinations they visit?

To achieve this, we have a comprehensive team, each department functioning as a crucial cog in the gear. The product team collaborates with suppliers to identify market demand and fresh ideas. This information is then discussed with the ops team to evaluate feasibility and explore optional activities that can elevate the itinerary.

Frequent discussions with our CEOs contribute valuable insights, seeking their suggestions to enhance the guest experience. After finalizing the plan, a team of two or three individuals typically conducts a reconnaissance, engaging with suppliers, local agents, and hoteliers to explore possible add-ons. These enhancements can range from simple experiences like having a cup of tea in a village to more elaborate encounters.

For instance, consider the talk with Durga Singh ji in Jaipur about nature. Durga Singh ji, a respected figure in tourism, not only guides tourists but also conducts free training sessions during the off-season, aiming to share knowledge and present the country positively. We actively seek authentic individuals like him who are willing to share their experiences, adding that extra layer to the travel experience and fostering a genuine connection with the destination.

India is a vast and diverse country. How do you go about selecting destinations and activities that showcase the breadth of experiences available to adventure travelers?

To begin with, the selection process must align with the economic viability for the company. The revenue management team plays a crucial role in assessing current trends, identifying areas of excitement, and evaluating the potential for expansion or the creation of entirely new products. Once these considerations are in place, the gears begin to fall into position, with each department finding its role in the overall process.

Adventure travel often attracts a specific type of traveler. What kind of adventurer is your target audience, and how do you tailor your offerings to meet their expectations and preferences?

This question might be better suited for our sales team, but from our perspective, our travelers seek experiences beyond the ordinary. Many have either traveled with G Adventures before or heard about us through recommendations, understanding that our tours go beyond the typical checkbox itinerary. We continually challenge ourselves to add new and unique experiences to our programs.

Starting with our CEOs, a title coined by Bruce, they are crucial to our success as the face of our company. We prioritize their training and selection processes because they play a pivotal role in delivering the experience. Guests anticipate a certain standard, knowing that our leaders are not just tour guides but Chief Experience Officers who embody our core values.

Our CEOs are trained to breathe purpose and adhere to our standards, creating a distinctive experience. This focus on training and commitment to core values sets us apart, and our clients’ expectations align with these high standards. Being associated with National Geographic adds global recognition, emphasizing not only quality but also cultural awareness and historical insights.

Our tours are not sanitized; we encourage authentic experiences. Rather than confining guests to air-conditioned buses and rooms, we let them explore freely, fostering genuine connections with the destinations. This authenticity aligns with the expectations of our customers who seek a real and immersive experience.

National Geographic Journeys with G Adventures is known for its expert guides, known as chief experience officers. Could you tell us more about the qualifications and expertise your guides bring to the table, enhancing the overall experience for travelers? 

Unlike many travel companies in India that prioritize paperwork, focusing on licenses for guides in monuments, we emphasize skill and ability. We believe in providing a true authentic experience, even if it means investing a little extra in local guide fees. Our approach ensures that our guests receive a diverse and enriched experience.

While we do look for a certain level of communication skills and passion for travel, we prioritize qualities that contribute to the authentic experience our CEOs can provide. We seek individuals who are genuinely enthusiastic about exploring and have a deep connection to our core values. Rather than expecting them to memorize core values for interviews, we want them to genuinely believe in our mission and approach.

Our ideal CEOs demonstrate passion, drive, and honesty. We aim to avoid individuals solely focused on maximizing profits within a set timeframe, pushing tourists into numerous shops. Our emphasis lies in creating meaningful experiences, and we believe that hiring guides who share our values contributes significantly to achieving this goal.

How do you use your success to bring goodness to the world? 

Globally, G Adventures endeavors to make a positive impact on the communities and places we visit, fostering the creation of communities within communities. Our approach extends to the team of suppliers we work with in India, forming a community where collaboration is valued over competition. Unlike scenarios where suppliers might view each other as competitors, our suppliers often work in harmony, ensuring a seamless chain of operations.

This collaborative ethos not only benefits our operations but also sets an example for positive working relationships. Even when faced with challenges, our suppliers coordinate effectively, ensuring a smooth flow of services. This collaborative spirit is a testament to our commitment to making a positive difference wherever we go.

How can I readers find out more about National Geographic Journeys with G Adventures? 

You can visit our website at gadventures.com and discover our many tours all around the world or visit us on social media @gadventures.

This was very inspiring, Sorab. Thank you so much for joining us!


  • Savio P. Clemente

    TEDx Speaker, Media Journalist, Board Certified Wellness Coach, Best-Selling Author & Cancer Survivor

    Savio P. Clemente, TEDx speaker and Stage 3 cancer survivor, infuses transformative insights into every article. His journey battling cancer fuels a mission to empower survivors and industry leaders towards living a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle. As a Board-Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), Savio guides readers to embrace self-discovery and rewrite narratives by loving their inner stranger, as outlined in his acclaimed TEDx talk: "7 Minutes to Wellness: How to Love Your Inner Stranger." Through his best-selling book and impactful work as a media journalist — covering inspirational stories of resilience and exploring wellness trends — Savio has collaborated with notable celebrities and TV personalities, bringing his insights to diverse audiences and touching countless lives. His philosophy, "to know thyself is to heal thyself," resonates in every piece.