3 Names Any Adventure Traveller Should Know Of In this Digital Age
Ankita Kumar, 27
Swimming with manta rays in Nusa Lembongan, Indonesia, backpacking through South America, and cruising through Alappuzha in South India are just some of the adventures Ankita Kumar has posted about on her travel blog MonkeyInc. As most good things start out, becoming a blogger just “happened” to Ankita. Speaking to me from the Ziro Music Festival in Arunachal Pradesh, she reminisces, “I think it all started with my Vietnam adventure about three years ago. Nobody was free to come with me at the time. It ended up being a solo trip and since then, I prefer to travel by myself.”
Convinced to blog about her experiences by some very supportive friends, Ankita set up MonkeyInc from scratch in 2016. Although she has a social media following to reckon with, her Instagram posts are restricted to her globetrotting experiences. She dislikes oversharing, and no personal images make it to her feed. On the go alone, she relies on kind strangers to take pictures of her.
Previously a screenwriter and director, Ankita shifted her focus to jet-setting about a year ago. Cold emails to marketing heads seemed to work, and her first professional gig took her to South America in 2017. “I was on an assignment with a watch brand. They gave me about eight timepieces and I took pictures with them at Machu Picchu and in the Bolivian salt flats,” gushes Ankita. “I did a random trek to Ausangate with my guide. We’d spend hours in the hot springs facing the Andes and go trekking around bright blue lagoons. We spotted alpacas everywhere. It was just magic.”
With a fair amount of time spent on the road, there are bound to be glitches, but like a true nomad, these incidents don’t discourage her. “There have been instances where I lost my purse, missed buses and ran after them in the middle of Vietnam, but I wouldn’t say they were bad experiences. Well, sometimes there can be some shady men!” Ankita adequately sums up her unsavoury experiences.
Explorers like herself have paved the way for many others to indulge their travel bug. “It’s nice to see this new culture developing. As a generation, we want to break out of regular schedules. We’re very uncomfortable with staying put and I think that’s great,” she signs off.
Tarpan Patel, 37
He’s travelled the world to get a better understanding of what his Jaipur home-stays should offer. Like Paulo Coelho’s alchemist, Tarpan Patel chanced upon the answer after much research and deliberation. “I wanted to make the experience better for other people,” explains Tarpan. I went to some extraordinary places in Italy, Spain and the UK, and resided in homestays. I felt that all of them lacked one thing — art. That’s where I come in.”
His homes are unique spaces, filled with art and design. The effort that Tarpan puts into the interiors’ aesthetic is unparalleled. “Nearly everything in my B&B is handcrafted, including the beds and the lamps. I’m a trained artist and sculptor (he has a master’s from Chelsea College of Art and Design), so it’s very important for me to render a personal touch to all that there is in my home,” Tarpan explains. “Art need not have a purpose. You may find a very old mirror or a non-functional side table in my home. There is also an element of discomfort. But that is art. It makes you adjust to the thoughts of the artist.”
Tarpan currently has eight properties listed on Airbnb in Jaipur and a ninth one is coming up soon. His mother plays a huge part in helping him manage the travellers. “She might have a glass of cold milk sent over if a couple with a child is staying with us. These are small things but they make a huge difference,” he says. That personalisation is what sets him apart. “Merely fulfilling the criteria set by Airbnb doesn’t make you an excellent host. The guests should feel like you went one step further to make them comfortable. I make a customised guidebook of places I have handpicked for them to visit. I’ll tell them where they can try laal maas. I’ll point them to Jawahar Kala Kendra and Patrika Gate since people also want to see contemporary architecture,” he shares.
International travellers without an agenda intrigue him the most. “I often have foreign guests who make a profound impact on how I think. They have left everything at a very young age — an amazing job, a good apartment — to travel,” Tarpan exclaims. “Indians are less adjusting, but we have the highest number of young people in the world, most of whom are open to experimenting. They don’t just want to travel, but to experience adventure or a music festival while they’re on the road. And that’s a good sign.”
Vikrant Chheda, 36
Some might catch the travel bug themselves. Some might get it from childhood trips taken with the family. For White Collar Hippie’s (WCH) Vikrant Chheda, it was the latter. “My dad isn’t into planned travel. We’d be very happy to explore places on our own. The whole idea of discovering something new was always there — if you keep looking, you will find fascinating things. The real experience will be in people’s homes and interacting with the locals,” he opines.
White Collar Hippie, a company that facilitates travel, believes in providing fulfilling experiences and interactions. “It started as a passion project by a friend (who is no longer a part of WCH) and me in 2012. We realised that the trips we had taken made the biggest impact on our lives. Travel is a great medium for change — internal and external. Those were the kind of journeys we wanted to design for people. Indians didn’t travel enough and we wanted to change that,” he elaborates.
In the beginning, WCH did a lot of test runs with friends. Their first professional gig was an excursion for moms and kids to Mumbai’s Sanjay Gandhi National Park. They soon graduated to longer trips. Currently, their most sought-after destinations include Hampi, Ladakh, and Benares.
And what does this visionary think of the way that Indians travel? “There’s a certain compulsion to always move in hordes. Group travel is annoying, mainly because we tend to get loud and obnoxious when we are all together. As a culture we don’t encourage travelling solo and exploring at a younger age, which needs to happen more,” emphasises Vikrant. “Now, there are so many tools at one’s disposal that people are taking off on their own. Social media has catalysed this change. People see how others are experiencing places and it makes them want that for themselves,” he adds.
On the chief hippie’s bucket list is Colombia in South America. He says, “It’s because of the writer, (Gabriel Garcia) Marquez. His stories make me want to explore the region.”