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ATMA Journeys will launch their debut tour to Maharashtra, India, in January 2018. To mark the occasion, and salute its roots in ATMA Cycles, guests on the tour will take part in the presentation of 50 new bicycles to local schoolgirls in need. An avid cyclist, founder of ATMA Journeys Alex Carpenter says he was inspired by the work done by US based entrepreneur Blake Mycoskie. “I knew I wanted to start a bike company in a similar fashion to TOM’s shoes and so I started researching what that could look like.”

After seeing a paper from the University of Connecticut that stated that the availability of bicycles to school girls in India had the potential to increase overall attendance by 30 per cent, he knew where his bicycles should go. Fifty per cent of young women in India do not gain a secondary education. One of the major reasons is the distance that many young woman are required to travel in order to reach a school. Thus ATMA Cycles was born.

However, as his business grew Alex noticed another issue facing communities in India. According to the United Nations Environment Program, just $5 out of every $100 spent by a tourist stays in the country they visit. Indian newspapers reported that approximately 8.9 million foreign tourists visited India in 2016 and Alex knew that much of the money was not reaching the communities of India. Thus ATMA Journeys was born.

ATMA Journeys guiding value is to only run a tour if it will have a positive impact on the community it visits and the environment as a whole. An Australian not for profit small group tour company, the tours are created in partnership with local social enterprises from around the world. This ensures that guests get to experience the countries they visit from a local’s perspective whilst knowing that all profit from the tours goes back to the local communities and the inspiring work of existing social enterprises. Alex adds, “When you travel with the community you are visiting, you are no longer an outsider but a welcomed guest.”

The first Journey offers the opportunity for travellers to immerse themselves in the colour and culture of Maharashtra, India. Starting in Mumbai and travelling out to Mhaswad, the tour includes a visit to Mann Deshi Bank, ATMA’s social enterprise partner in India, to present the 50 bicycles to local schoolgirls. This trip features a chance to meet the nomadic shepherds (recently featured on BBC documentary Wonders of the Monsoon) before setting out to explore the stunning Western Ghats Mountain Range.

Based from a gorgeous organic farmhouse, guests have the opportunity to engage in activities at their leisure including Yoga in the mountains, treks to Dhobi waterfall, and white water rafting. The group is accompanied by a local travelling chef who not only cooks each meal but is also on hand to teach guests how to cook their favourites so that the spirit of India stays with them long after they’ve returned home. This 10 day trip is $2890 per person with first departure on January 27, 2018.

Visit atmajourneys.org for more information.