There are many times when we interact with a company and every thing goes as expected. You make your selection, money changes hands, you take your commodity or experience, and then move on. Those experiences seldom stick in your head unless one of two things happen, the experience is supremely extraordinary or things go terribly awry. Think about it, how many times have you told a story about that restaurant that screwed up your steak 3 times versus all the average acceptable meals you’ve had where you didn’t utter a peep about it? Or the opposite, how many times have you told the tale of that super salesperson that remembered your name, and your kid’s name when you went back the store a second time. Occasionally though, there’s a third circumstance that occurs which trumps both of these. When something goes terribly wrong that was out of everyone’s control and the company goes above and beyond their scope not only to fix it, but to delight you. This is the tale of such a company in a place notorious for scamming foreigners and taking advantage of tourists. This is a tale of delight. This is the tale of Great Wide Open adventure travel in India.
This story begins several months before our actual arrival in India. Before we get into it I think you should know a little more about me and my background. I have been working in retail and customer service since I was 16. Which means as of this writing I had 17 years of retail and customer service experience where I was General Manager of multi-million dollar showrooms, an active sales trainer, and head of a customer relations department for a major computer company. My point is, if there’s one thing I know it’s great service. The flip-side of this is that I have crazy high expectations and I’m a difficult customer to please.
We first found Great Wide Open and saw that they offered a mix of outdoor and adventure packages for all over India. Now, Lauren and I absolutely love the outdoors and adventure, but we had a problem. We weren’t going to India for fun, we were going for a wedding. This meant a couple things were in our way: Our timing sucked because it was the off season, we had very little time to venture off because of our familial commitments, and we had a ton of extra wedding clothes to lug around with us. Definitely not the ideal scenario for trying to hike and backpack through the back country. Either way, we got into contact with Ashish from Great Wide Open and gave him all our details and he came back with the perfect itinerary for us. We’d spend a few days up north in the foothills of the Himalayas, with comfortable lodging for all of our stuff, and we’d have hikes and day-trips set up with local guides. Sounded perfect.
Then we got to India and everything that could possibly go wrong, did. It started with the weather. The daytime highs were hovering around the melt your face off temperature of 115 degrees, definitely not hiking conditions. Then the monsoons decided to come about 15 days early and dump rain all over the country. Then Northern India (where we were going) suffered from the worst mudslides seen in years. We’re talking thousands of people trapped, roads washing out, and emergency crews everywhere kind of mudslides. With all of these turns there were emails, phone calls, and text messages to Ashish. Each one was answered promptly, professionally, and with some kind of solution. I was impressed. Then about three days before we were supposed to go up north, things got worse. We got sick. I don’t mean that amateur runny nose stuff either, I mean OMFG I didn’t know my stomach had that much stuff in it sick! So I reached out to Ashish again and told him the news, Lauren and I had decided to cancel our trip up north, stay in Delhi, and ride out the rest of our India trip on the porcelain throne.
This is where Ashish went from average dude to an amazing customer wowing business owner. The day after I tell Ashish to cancel the whole thing, he calls me up. He then proceeds to tell me that he remembered me mentioning a trip to Agra to see the Taj Mahal and knew I hadn’t arranged it yet. So what did he do? Ashish offered to arrange the entire trip for me with a private car & driver with a tour. Why’s this so special? Pretty simple, Great Wide Open doesn’t offer tour packages to the Taj Mahal and they don’t offer tour packages to any tourist sites, and they don’t even offer tour packages to that part of the country! With most companies, once you go outside their realm of services they usually just walk away. Not Great Wide Open, they went above and beyond and set up an amazing experience for us when it wasn’t in their business model or scope to do so. That’s impressive to me. That get’s in my head and doesn’t leave. That’s an experience that I will never forget. Most importantly though, that’s why you should highly consider Great Wide Open if you are planning a trip to India! Because I can say with confidence they will do whatever they can to take care of you and make sure your experience is amazing.
So now that you know why Great Wide Open is so awesome, here’s an idea of some of the really cool trips they offer that you should check out. One of their coolest trips is called the Dream Ride. On this adventure you spend 15 days on the road touring through the back country of Punjab, Haryana, and Himachal on desolate tracks where you can sate even the strongest wanderlust. If climbing and altitude are your thing then check out the Stok Kangri Expedition which takes you through some of the most popular hiking points in the Indian Himalayas. For a truly outrageous adventure the Trek to Mt Kanamo is a mountain climb that starts at over 13,000 feet in elevation and takes you to the summit of the mountain at over 19,500 feet! If you are looking for something more relaxing or moderate Great Wide Open can help you there as well. Their Corbett on Foot treck takes you through the foothills of the Himalayas and lets you enjoy the beautiful low-altitude surroundings.