Abhinav Chandel left his job and decided to dedicate all his time to his two passions — travel and photography. Today, after four years, he is a successful full-time traveller who has found the perfect balance between work and passion.
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference
Very seldom do we come across someone following that road described by Robert Frost in his poem The Road Not Taken — the road with no footprints to guide you and the road that is waiting to be explored. But writer, traveller, photographer, and Instagrammer, Abhinav Chandel is someone who after having gone down that path can tell you it’s totally worth it. Currently based out of McLeod Ganj, Himachal Pradesh (gasp!), Abhinav is a full-time traveller and photographer who lives to follow his passion.
He has been travelling across the country for the past four years, clicking beautiful pictures, writing travelogues and connecting with the world through Instagram.
Growing up in Kashipur, a small town in Uttarakhand, Abhinav too had dreamt of becoming a successful IT engineer one day. He didn’t chase that dream but is now spending his life following a new one — of exploring the world. He tries to find work that allows him to engage in his passion without having to compromise. This way he has found the perfect balance between the work he does to earn money and his passion for solo travelling, writing, and photography.
The Better India caught up with Abhinav and asked him a few questions about his life, experiences and inspiration. This is what he had to say:
About the time when the travel bug bit him:
My first solo trip was to Nainital in 2012. I was 23 years old at the time and was living in Delhi. It inspired me to take up to travelling over the weekends. Somewhere around the end of September 2012, I decided to leave for Mussoorie one morning at 4 am. I had decided to quit my job that midnight and was convinced that this is what I wanted to do — to live a life full of travels. Today, I don’t have a travel bucket list other than a wish to visit Ireland someday. There have been times when I woke up in the morning and took the first bus to somewhere. I love exploring, so I don’t care which place I end up exploring!
On how he funds his travel plans:
It was quite difficult to fund my travels in the beginning. I had to save a lot and go on extreme budget-friendly trips. Once, I ended up going to Rajasthan for a week and spending only Rs 2,700. The trip involved sleeping at railway stations to save money. These days I look for sponsors, which means doing some work in return for the money I receive. Or I approach travel companies by writing to them and work with them while travelling. Sometimes I just use my social media reach to find like-minded people who wouldn’t mind hosting me or showing me around.
From the past 4 years, I have done a lot of things to earn money without compromising on my travel plans! Here’s the list:
- I have done freelance itinerary planning for a travel company, which operated for India.
- I spent some time singing in a cafe with a friend in McLeod Ganj to earn money.
- I worked with a few local resort, doing photography for them and handling their social media accounts.
- I’ve sold postcards and large prints made out of my travel pictures at small exhibitions in different cafes.
- I recently completed a travelling assignment in Spiti, where I stayed for two months covering the place by writing and clicking pictures for a travel company.
- I also earn through my Instagram account via brand collaborations. These collaborations have made me financially stable and have helped me become a better traveller.
- Currently, I’m working as a freelance consultant for a McLeod Ganj-based travel company. I curate various offbeat travel ideas and help them with their social media content.
On the beautiful places that have inspired him:
I love Ladakh. I went there for the first time in September of 2013 with just Rs 1,700 in my pocket. I didn’t have Internet connection back then. I freelanced to earn a little but I could not make enough money for the return journey to Delhi. I lived there like a local, made friends, learned more about travelling and life. It was my friends in Ladakh who lent me money for my return trip. It is a place that has taught me a lot.
After spending two months in Spiti, I’ve fallen in love with the landscape there too and also the beautiful people of that region.
On his experiences of travelling in remote parts of India:
The more remote a part is, the better people you’ll find there. In Ladakh, it was my friends who helped me by giving me some money for my return journey. Also while living in McLeod Ganj, I keep visiting many unexplored villages in the region. One of my favourite villages is Garli. I never had to pay for food or stay in Garli. The locals have always taken care of me. It was there that I met Mr. Atul Lal, a man left his corporate life and came back to his roots to work with villagers to generate employment. I also met Satish in Kareri village area of Kangra district, who despite facing financial issues, runs a library for kids from nearby villages.
On the joys of travelling solo:
I think travelling alone has made me the person I am today. I’ve become more confident — thanks to all the challenges I’ve overcome on my journeys. I have become a better person after meeting hundreds of people who had such fascinating stories to tell about life’s struggles. It has helped me in becoming a better writer and photographer by giving me a unique perspective, but most importantly, it has given me thousands of friends from all around the world.
I think the best thing about travelling solo is that you end up spending most of the time with yourself and you think about things you’d otherwise discard in a busy life. I’d say, travelling solo makes you a patient and sorted person. By travelling solo, you also end up exploring more because no one is dragging you somewhere else. You get to see places in your own way.
To all those who wish to travel solo, I’d say do it now! Be open to new experiences and people. This is the only time when you get to live your life in your own way, at a place where no one will know about you! So take advantage of it. Also be alert because you will have to become your own best friend and guardian in the end. But it’s all worth it.
On the numerous challenges he has faced:
I travelled to Meghalaya while I was still living in Delhi. It took me 72 hours to reach Shillong because I didn’t have a ticket. I had to travel through the country to reach there and at one point I found myself stranded in the notorious Chambal region at around 3-4 am. Other than that, there have been times when I ended up exhausting all my money during some trips and barely made it back home. But I’ve learned new lessons about human kindness during all these times, thanks to all the people who’ve helped me.
To know more about Abhinav Chandel and to see his work, visit his Instagram account here.