Young travel enthusiasts are proving that it’s absolutely practical, totally doable and thoroughly enjoyable to explore the world with near-empty pockets, and earn on the go.
The song of the road is a siren call for the human heart. And the strong lure of travel is irresistible for the spirit that seeks to wander, explore and experience the world. Seeking careers that help one travel the world is pretty much passé now. Travel in itself is emerging as a profession.
Following their heart’s desire, millennials are no longer bothered by the must-achieves of life — a job, steady income, house, bank balance... Nothing can stop the millennial bitten by the travel bug. Not even near empty pockets.
Millennials are no longer waiting for the right time and the right amount of savings to travel the world. These young travel enthusiasts are proving that it’s absolutely practical, totally doable and thoroughly enjoyable to explore the world — and make a life and living of it. There are many different ways in which they are travelling and shrinking the planet — one step at a time.
The slow traveller
While some travellers with a long bucket-list would love to explore the entire planet as soon as possible, some like to savour and stretch each moment — as one who lives like a local also saves like a local.
Deepti Asthana, a solo traveller and photographer, says, “Staying in a place for a longer period of time works for me because one gets cheaper accommodation rates. Also, more than staying in hotels, I try to collaborate with homestays or try renting a place for a month rather than a few days. It gives me enough time to figure out the place and explore the best options in that place for me. That is very pocket-friendly as well. Also, one can use local transport instead of hiring taxis.”
Photography, covering local stories and exploring interesting aspects of a place drive most of her trips. “When you’re paying a monthly rent of just around Rs 2,500, then there’s that much more to spare for food, travel and other expenses. I work as a freelancer, so there are ways of earning money as and when you travel,” she explains.
Not all photographers and travel bloggers get to enjoy sponsored trips often. Divyakshi Gupta, another solo traveller and travel blogger, loves to opt for volunteer work. Giving it her vote, she says, “It’s a great opportunity to travel and earn. Once I was part of a campaign called ‘Doors of India’ for Tata Steel, which involved travelling to different parts of the country and discovering stories behind iconic doors of India. I was given the south zone and for 10 days I explored different doors. I ticked so many places off my bucket list, and also earned well!” Joining such projects is a good way to travel and earn, suggests Divyakshi.
Commitment is a key element of working on such projects since the travel is marked by what one has to deliver. Such trips also offer free accommodation. “One cuts down on time that one usually spends on social media and have real interactions with the locals. There were days when I got no sleep. So there are sacrifices involved, but it’s worth it,” she adds.
When she’s not on a commercial assignment and travelling on her own, budget is something she keeps a sharp eye on. “I book tickets when the sales are on. For instance, my tickets for a Ladakh trip next June are already booked. I believe one can travel cheap and spend more on the destination. Homestays are a great option in India, and they are also very unique as they haven’t been explored much,” she explains.
The gap-year advocate
While volunteer work might not pay too well, there are other short-term employment opportunities too. Mike Bohm wanted to visit India after hearing and reading much about it. “But the travel fares are insane. So during my gap year, I decided to apply and teach German in India. While that meant I could be in India for an entire year, it also meant that I had to stay most part of it in Delhi. But thanks to the job I got in Delhi, I explored as much as I could and also had a steady income. I explored the country on weekends, sometimes combining that with office leave,” he says.
While Mike could not see the entire country, he was able to explore twenty Indian states. “There are obvious restrictions that come along with this kind of travelling but I think it’s a great way to explore a country. Not to add that I also made amazing friends at the company I worked in. It was not only my collegues but also my students. Thanks to one of them, I got to attend a traditional north Indian wedding, what other kind of travelling would have offered me a chance as wonderful as this?” he says cheerfully.
However, he wishes to come back and explore the remaining states without the constraints of a job demands. “I am sure even if I start a full time job, I will definitely take long sabbaticals and more gap years in the future. I am glad to be alive on this beautiful planet.”
The low-maintenance somnophile
It might sound bizarre at some level, but there are some crazy, enthusiastic travellers out there who will sleep anywhere. They save on accommodation expenditure by sleeping in their cars. All one needs is to be well prepared and find a safe place to park the car. But how does this work exactly?
Twenty three-year-old travel enthusiast Baneet Chhabra shares one of his experiences, “Last August I went on a road trip from Delhi to Maharashtra. Spread over 10 days, we had multiple destinations to cover. My friend and I slept in the car for six nights. We followed a simple routine. After 9 pm every evening, we would give ourselves an hour to find a suitable place to park the car and turn in. The spot had to be safe, along with a bathroom facility. This could be petrol pumps, dhabas on highways which have footfall all night, or even parking areas of hotels or guest houses.”
Some pre-planning is a must for this. “Keep enough drinking water, a bed sheet, a pillow or neck rest. Sleeping in the car reduced my travel cost by almost 40 per cent per day. However, I don’t prefer this when I’m travelling with my female friends,” says Baneet.
The brave adventure-seeker
Neha Tiwari, founder of Women Beyond Boundaries, has slept in her car more times than she can recall. A true global citizen, she has travelled extensively in India as well as remote foreign towns. Her latest adventure took her to Siberia’s road stretch between Yakutsk and Magadan which is considered one of the most dangerous roads in the world. She also covered the entire stretch from Delhi to London and back.
The young explorer says, “I mostly travel in my SUV. There is minimum expense on food. A big part of the budget goes in repairing the vehicle and diesel. Apart from that there is no major expense. What I do is overland driving. It is not a road trip, it’s an expedition and it’s pretty intense. However. I wouldn’t advise everyone to embark on something like this.”
She adds, “I do not spend too much. I have a fixed budget and I spend most of my time on the road. Sometimes I even sleep in the vehicle if I fail to find accommodation. Travel inside India is even more budget-friendly and can be done easily. This kind of traveling has many advantages as well, you get a sense of freedom that is unique.”
And for those who cannot drive long distances, there are cheap air tickets and a world of hidden deals — one just needs to have a nose for these. Aprajita Bhargava, who runs her blog Pack N Ride, has been travelling for the past six years and most of her trips are solo travels. She advises, “Flight tickets can burn a hole in our tiny budgets, but not if we know how and when to book. Make sure it is not the weekend or any other holiday when you are booking the tickets, that is when the rates are the highest. Mid-week like Tuesdays and Wednesdays offer cheapest rates. Early mornings flights are always expensive. Night time is the best time to avail cheapest flight offers.”
It’s a smart move to seek out the best accommodation deals, she suggests. “Many people shy away from dorm rooms and hostels. We want the luxury of our private rooms with all the amenities. Well, being a tourist you can do that, but being a real traveller, you may want to cut down on super expensive premium rooms. I remember in 2012, I booked myself a 10-day stay in a hostel in Goa. And guess what, it was `300 a night in a dorm room, with air conditioner, and an attached bathroom. And it was surprising how I was the only Indian there! Staying there gave me friends for life from across the world, we all shared our insane travel experiences, we cooked together, went hiking together, and that is when I saw the Goa that I never did when I stayed in my private hotel room. Hostels are not just a great way of saving money, but they offer you a travelling experience which a hotel room just cannot provide,” she says.
The social mingler
When all deals fail, it is friendships that saves the day for these wandering millennials. Siddharth Subramanian, a freelance documentary filmmaker and avid traveler, believes in making friends everywhere he goes. Not only does it cut down travel cost, but it also helps one have fascinating experiences and explore unknown and under-explored facets of a place.
Once a conversation with a local on his way from Delhi to Cochin made him end up staying in a dharamshala for as low as Rs 100 a night, instead of the 1,000 bucks he had estimated as his cost of stay for the night. Additionally, through an acquaintance in Coonoor in Bengaluru, the 27-year-old even got a paid project to work on. He shares, “Travelling while keeping a fixed cost in mind can get you multiple experiences which you cherish your entire life. When you intentionally try to spend less, you are forced to think of ways of making do which can get you out of your comfort zone. Money makes one cautious. So, not having it or spending less is not a bad idea.”
Sharing about his Coonoor project he says, “A friend of mine in Bengaluru has a house in Coonoor. He knew that I’m a videographer, so he invited me to Coonoor, where I wouldn’t have to spend on accommodation, food or travel. I just had to make a documentary on his mother’s NGO which works towards convincing local farmers to shift from chemical farming to organic farming. And he paid me for it! Additionally, I also got to live in Coonoor, which is a pretty expensive city.”
The staunch believer
But what does one do if one wants to explore places so remote that you have no contacts there? You trust in the goodness of human beings! Ravinder Singh from Delhi is a solo traveller who believes in the power of the self, but more than that he believes in humanity. “When I started out on my travels across India, I hardly had any money. I just knew that I would sleep in gurudwaras and eat there as well, as these are mostly free. However, as I started my journey, I realised how good people are. There are some amazing souls out there who help you out of the blue.”
Refusing to categorise this sort of travelling as beg-packing, he says, “Begging is too strong a word. I never beg. However, people have been more generous than I first expected. I am a strong believer in humanity.”
Ravinder has covered the entire country on foot, and is now walking through the beautiful landscapes of Bhutan. His first walk retraced Mahatma Gandhi’s Dandi March. “Trust is the key word here. Not only has my life changed during this course of walking, but I have also discovered on this journey that there are numerous ways to be.” The young traveller aspires to walk many more countries in the years to come. He has also given a serious thought to travelling by bus. “Maybe in the near future I will travel by bus taking with me all those who want to explore and live life differently,” he says.