Touch of Spirit Tours, India
Mela, the founder of Touch of Spirit Tours, tells us about her journey to starting a tour company:
1. What’s your background?
I have a bachelor degree in business and have worked as an accountant for most of my working life. I taught business subjects at a TAFE college for six years. During this time I also experienced and practiced modalities in health, wellbeing and spiritual growth. Travel became a strong interest for me. I started organising and running tours in India in 2006.
2. Why did you start Touch of Spirit Tours?
I visited India for the first time in 2004 and fell in love with it. It affected me at a very deep level, it made me question my life and what I was doing. It made me want to be a better person! I thought that if India could have such an effect on me that perhaps it could help others as well. Also, I loved travel and found that I was quite good at planning trips (I traveled with friends to Greece in 2002 and did all the research and planning for that trip).
3. How did you come up with the itineraries?
Through research, both online and through personal travel experience. Meeting local people and visiting many places. Each time I visit India, I add a few new destinations with a view to possibly include these in future tours. I have come across or been led to some amazing ‘out-of-way places’ that have inspired me or touched my heart that I want to share with others eg. an orphanage/school that is tucked away among villages in Tamil Nadu.
The work that these Hindu nuns do to help the orphans feel at home and to help all of the school children to develop into good and useful society members is amazing. It is very inspiring for visitors to see this and to interact with the children and speak with the nuns. We visit a number of inspiring and heartwarming places that are not on the normal tourist path.
I have been an advocate of natural health and good balanced nutrition for a long time and was drawn to ayurveda and natural health. India is the home of ayurveda and so it becomes a natural inclusion in the itineraries. I have tried many healing modalities and have had ayurvedic consultations here. I believe that the more people are educated about nutrition and what is good for their particular body type, they will lead a much better and more personally empowered life.
4. How did you source the people to help you implement the itineraries (the health professionals, etc)?
As mentioned in the previous answer, I have had consultations with an ayurvedic practitioner here. I found Peter Malakoff, the Touch of Spirit Tours Ayurvedic Practitioner, to be very intelligent and communicative and very passionate about ayurveda. We went on to discuss the possibility of him taking part in the tours.
I met our textile expert, Sunita (who lives in Mumbai), in Melbourne in 2010 and immediately loved the hand embroidery on her lovely range of clothing. We became friends and soon the ‘Beauty Unwound’ textile tour was born. The other people I have met or known for many years through my interest in natural health and personal development or my partner Denise Donovan has known them and recommended them to me. Denise also has a strong interest in health and well being.
5. Why India?
For so many reasons! Here is a quote that I wrote a number of years ago – “The experience of traveling in India is one of amazement, wonder, and complete aliveness. What I love the most is that each time I go to India, I leave a better person – more humble, patient, grateful and compassionate. India helps me become a freer thinker and more in-tune with myself and others’. Beautiful India!”
The culture here is extremely different to anywhere else, it is colourful, lively, chaotic, spiritual, confusing, sometimes frustrating, exciting and very good fun. The people are very warm and welcoming and there is a very big sense of acceptance in the people so that even the very poor will arise each day and not only ‘get on with their lives’ but enjoy themselves rather than sitting around with a ‘poor me’ attitude. I find India to be very inspiring and a wonderful backdrop for personal change to take place.
6. How can travellers get involved in community activities?
With our volunteer program people can undertake a variety of useful tasks like building, painting, gardening, teaching english, teaching health and sanitation, etc. If people do not have the time for this, but would like to help in some way, they can make direct contributions to some of the inspiring institutions that we visit, or sponsor an orphan.
7. Are there ways that travellers can stay engaged with the communities once the tour is over?
See previous answer. Sponsoring a child is a good way to continue engagement, there can be correspondence with the child. Some people have done some
8. What sort of travellers are these tours attracting? (a particular demographic, gender, age?)
Our youngest has been 14 and oldest 88! Mainly the age is between 25 and 7o. Our early tours were in the older age bracket but we are now attracting younger participants. We usually attract people who want authentic experiences of the culture, not just sightseeing. Also, we attract people who want to enhance or transform their lives.
9. Do you have any recommendations for visitors who are first timers to India?
Main advice – come with an open heart and an open mind and expect to be surprised and inspired. Leave all other expectations behind.
10. And for old hands? Anything you would recommend for them that they may not know about?
Old hands have been before but I think that they will still be very enriched on our tours and will see and experience something new and different so I would say to them also ‘expect to be surprised and inspired’.
11. Will you expand into other countries or stick with India?
India will always be the main country but we are also looking at expanding Sri Lanka, Nepal and Tibet.
12.What is your big dream for the business?
My big dream for the business is to grow and to expand into the world arena as this will mean that we have reached many people and have helped to enhance the lives of many.