I’m always amazed when I meet someone and come to realize that by some gravitational force, we connect seamlessly, nearly effortlessly. It is times like these that I am reminded that chance encounters are almost never by accident. I had one of these chance encounters the day I received a call from Maria Shepherd, the Travel Wallah.
Maria had been shopping at Whole Foods and had happened across one of our new Preserve Brand handmade journals in the store. She looked up the company on Facebook and called us to see if she could buy more. Seeing that we lived in the same town, and had children of similar ages, and seeing that we discovered that we were both working moms running entrepreneurial ventures, we decided coffee was in our future, so we made a date at our local Starbucks.
As it turns out, Maria and I had more in common than either of us realized. Aside from raising families, living in the same town and spending our time working on our businesses, we realized that we were both heavily involved in India. Preserve Brands working with handmade paper artisans there since 2001 and Maria, creating a business to design and promote unique private tours for small groups throughout India.
As we sat on the bench outside Starbucks that warm summer day, we were delighted to experience the comfort of our local community and get to know one another. It was easy conversation about our kids, India, traveling and life! We just clicked. As I learned about Maria’s goals and dreams for her business, I was struck by this magnificent woman with vision. She decided to call both herself and her business The Travel Wallah, and that is precisely what and who she is.
The word Wallah, or -wala (wali fem.), comes from the Hindi suffix meaning “one in charge.” Like its Hindi counterpart, “wallah” is commonly used in combination with other nouns.
In Maria’s use, she is a Travel Wallah as she is involved in the business of creating ‘travel experiences’ and seems to have been born to do this job.
I learned about Maria’s love of traveling and her desire to create beautiful memories for adventurous travelers who liked to visit far flung locales. India was on her horizon and she was in process planning an upcoming trip that was to commence in just a few short weeks. Her itinerary seemed nothing short of exciting.
The ironic part about my new friend was that I have had a thirty year and ongoing relationship with India. My mentors were Indian academics, I built companies with them and then my own, and I had a special relationship with the country and had traveled there many many times over 30 years. India had a special place in my heart. It was a part of me.
And yet, Maria knew India in a way I didn’t. She traveled and toured India as an adventurer (where I had traveled it on business), taking time to see, hear and taste the culture in a way I could not really explain (nor could not experience on a work trip). I found her travels fascinating and that is why I wanted to write about it here.
Maria takes months planning her tours. She has experienced partners in India who help her handle each and every detail from food to location to hotels and sightseeing. Her partners accompany her on every leg of her tour providing service excellence. What she promises is unforgettable heartfelt memories, what she delivers is no short of a miracle. India; just the name says adventure and yet she plans for grace.
If you have been to India you will appreciate the following experiences, but if you have never been, I hope to entice you to think about visiting and who better than to visit with Maria herself. For more information on Maria’s tours, please visit her website; https://www.travelwallah.org and sign up for her email list or look into her upcoming Winter 2019 Tour planned for Northern India and Bhutan. It promises to be an unforgettable adventure. Also take a look at the trip she just returned from to see what one of her tours feels like. This past summer, she toured South India visiting fishing villages, temples and markets in Chennai and Pondicherry, Madurai, one of the oldest cities in India known as the soul of India, the beautiful lush Munnar where her group took a ‘lip smacking cooking class’ with Nimi Lip, one of India’s most amazing chefs and world renown Indian food blogger! To buy copies of her world renown cookbooks and learn about her award winning Indian recipes, visit http://nimisrecipes.com/my-cookbook. Her itinerary was amazing and there was just so much more! A trip with the Travel Wallah seems like pure delight and despite my many trips to India, I may be signing up for this bespoke experience that I believe may be second to none! As if the itinerary is not exciting enough, the Travel Wallah, Maria herself, is the epitome of class, elegance, humor, wit and passion (what more could you ask of a Travel Wallah) and I believe her purpose in life is to create one of a kind experiences and memories that last a lifetime. Sign me up.
The Travel Wallah, Maria Shepherd
Preserve Brands Handmade Paper at Whole Foods
Preserve helps support and create work for Artisans in India
Preserve Journal with Maria’s Map for her tour through South India
Itinerary made by The Travel Wallah on India’s Handmade Paper
Small Group Tour Participants
Camels in India
Women in Field
Sunset over the fields
Shopping with very large totes
Group Photo under waterfall
Beautiful Indian Spices
Mahabalipuram Shore Temple
Visit to Veerni School for Girls
Dhobi Wallah, ironing and cleaning clothes
Herd of Camels
Your tour guide, Maria Shepherd, The Travel Wallah, visit her at www.travelwallah.org
Visit Whole Foods Woburn, MA for Preserve Brands Journals
“Not all those who wander are lost.”