3.2 million square kilometers – That’s the total area our country covers. We have mountains, beaches, deserts, glaciers, deltas, islands and so much more packed in one single country, and yet for most of us, the dream vacation is a trip to a foreign country.
Even though we are gradually finding out more and more about the hidden gems of India (thanks to some passionate travellers and the internet), we still have a long way to go in realising how much we are missing out on.
Right now (when the story was written), there are two explorers who left their stable jobs and decided to work on their passion project. A project that includes covering all twenty-nine states and seven union territories of India in hundred days, a project called Roamanchak.
Pardeep Rana and Priyanka Mhatre have an interesting story to tell. The duo started Roamanchak a while back and have already embarked on their first journey. They say, “Our concept is to explore less explored places, culture, food and people.”
Before we begin the story, let’s give you some idea of what the two are doing right now (when the interview was conducted) – They travel, capture different moments through their videos and photographs, handle all the editing and manage all of their social media handles – all this while they are on a tight 100 day schedule to cover 29 states.
Pardeep belongs to a small village in Himachal Pradesh. He says, “I grew up in the beautiful range of Dhauladhar Mountains where I did my schooling and then moved to Punjab for my graduation. I came to Mumbai for my post-graduation in Biotechnology. ”
Priyanka was born in Mumbai but spent most of her childhood in the Middle East (Oman and Dubai). She adds, “That’s probably where I get my passion for travel. My father has been an avid traveller and he made sure we went somewhere every weekend.”
Pardeep came to Mumbai to pursue his post grad in biotechnology, worked as a research scientist on breast cancer for two years and then made a decision that changed his life, “I always knew that if destiny brought me to the city of dreams then there might be something else in store for me. There was a moment when I had two career choices, one option was a PhD in Germany and other was to do an internship in a media company without pay.”
He took the risk, “left my job to explore the hidden side of me. I was always very fond of media and modelling but never had the guts to do something in that field. So when I got an opportunity to enter a media company, I didn’t think twice and chose the unpaid internship over a paid PhD in Germany.”
Within six months of working with cameras, editing software, writing scripts and managing social media, he got a job offer from Reliance Jio studios. “I worked there for 3 years until Roamanchak came into my life and I decided to do something big.”
Priyanka returned to India in 2006 for her higher education, did her bachelors in Bangalore and worked in JPMorgan for a few years. “Media has always attracted me, so I decided to do my MBA. Post that, I joined Jio Studios in 2014 as a Manager when the department was going through a change. They were getting into the content creation space which turned out to be the perfect opportunity to explore aspects of filmmaking, which has been a dream of mine.”
She says she got the passion to travel around from her family, “My parents and sister are true travellers in the sense that they all love to explore the natural, cultural and historical aspects of a place.”
The two creatively gifted people used the right logic when it came to planning this project, “We knew even if we were to travel for a year we would not be able to see the whole country. So we had to set a time limit.”
The film 100 Days was another factor that inspired the time limit, “It was playing on TV, and seemed like a divine intervention. So, we decided to travel for 100 days.”
They decided to challenge their skills by choosing vlogs as the format to document their journey, “It’s always a better option to represent anything in AV format because this is the format which human brain can register very easily in their memory.”
Pardeep adds, “My personal experience- I have read about our history in books but when I actually visited those places, it was another level of an unforgettable experience.”
Shooting videos, travelling, editing, managing their schedule and social media handles can be exhausting. How are they doing it?
“We were prepared in the beginning only. We knew it was not going to be an easy job. Research, plan, travel, shoot, edit and then social media, everything can go for a toss at any point in time. But one thing we were sure about was that we will always have a positive attitude towards our work, no matter what happens.”
They travel mostly during the night to save time, “so, we can shoot during the day. We edit our videos at nights whether we are in a hotel, bus, train, cab or in a truck.”
When the interview was conducted, the two were in Khajuraho, “Tomorrow we are leaving for Varanasi. It has been 80 days now and we have covered 20 states. ”
When you head over to their pages (after you have read their complete story), you’ll watch short films on certain places most of us may not even have heard of before. “We knew our country has so much to offer in term of amazing locations, culture, inspiring people, food and we are witnessing all of that now.” They researched on several online travel magazines/portals, “we spoke to the locals about locations that were relatively unseen. Also, we added places that we always wanted to see (without the criteria of unseen)” and that’s how they chose the places we get to see in their vlogs.
They were avid travellers even before they began their dream venture.
Pardeep: Yes, I got zeal for traveling from my mother. As I have mentioned before, I belong to a very small village so my mother never got the chance to travel far from our home but she always dreamt of exploring world. She used to share her dreams with me and I never realized when her dreams became mine. Till now I have travelled in more than 10 countries but all of them were for work. I could never enjoy the stay or feel the vibes of any country while I travelled. I reached a point where I decided to quit my job and travel on my terms. It wasn’t easy to start from scratch but this time I was even more confident and positive towards life. Roamanchak is not a project or a company for us it is our courage, our hope and our ability to challenge life on the way to our destination.
Priyanka: The idea of exploring different lands, cultures, food, and history has always intrigued me. This was further fueled by my parents who are travelers. I believe travel teaches you so much that even a book could never do. Both of us were struggling to find the happiness we were looking for in our work. Roamanchak was born out of that struggle to find meaning in our lives. I don’t think I have met anyone that has not said this ‘I wish I could quit my job and travel‘. We had always said that we wanted to see the world but before that, we wanted to see our own country. This is how the Roamanchak journey started
There’s a new trend among the people of our generation – Leaving the high-paying, lucrative jobs and focussing on our dream ventures. One can argue that the basic cost of living keeps increasing and so does our dependency on money. So, why are so many youngsters leaving such jobs to pursue their passions?
They say, “Maybe right now, more than money, satisfaction is more important in any kind of work you do. These days life has become so hectic and everyone is running fast to leave others behind.”
“After a point, you do get tired of this kind of lifestyle. Today everyone is more open to exploring things. A number of youngsters have followed their heart and stepped into unconventional jobs.”
Whatever the reason may be, “it’s good that people are following their hearts.”
We said it before, we’ll say it again, India is a beautiful country complimented with a variety of cultural and natural resources. So shouldn’t our citizens plan their dream vacations within India instead of paying buttloads of moolah on travelling abroad?
Pardeep says, “That is our main objective of covering India first. Outbound travel is increasing because other countries are promoting themselves more in India. A true traveller is the one who knows his/her own country first and then explores the world. There is so much in India that has not been promoted by our government. It’s our experience that North East is a part of India which is very beautiful but unfortunately neglected.”
“We visited locations like Loktak and Rihdil Lake and they left us speechless. We need to promote our places, culture, and history among the new generation and it’s our small initiative where we are trying our best to bring the ‘Incredible India’ in front of everyone.”
Priyanka adds, “I remember reading about this place called Yana Rocks in Karnataka. I was shocked that inspite of living in Karnataka for 7 years, I had no clue about this place.”
“As we started researching, we realized we did not know our country at all. It was strange that being a traveller, I was not aware of such places. I believe the problem lies in the way most people look at our country. The Western countries seem to be better in all of the ways and India is looked at with scepticism. Most people do not realize the how rich our history was, how intelligent our ancestors were, how culturally diverse our country is, how diverse and stunning our topography is. Also, most of the places don’t seem to be promoting themselves. Through our project, we wish to inform and educate people about such places in our country.”
Let’s talk about certain unexplored and unappreciated states of India – The states of North-East.
They share their views with us, “This is really sad that such beautiful places and vibrant culture has not been promoted and appreciated by us. North-East seems to be under-appreciated by most of the country.”
“When we were talking about Hornbill festival in Nagaland, our friends asked us ‘Where is this place?’ We were not surprised because most people do not know that all the states in there are culturally different from each other. Some of the best-kept secrets of the natural world can be found there like the longest caves in India or the crystal clear waters of Dawki or the floating islands (Phumdis) of Manipur.”
The world and most people of India have certain assumptions about travelling within the country. Would you listen to those who made them based on the stories they heard or read? Or would you prefer to read about the two people who actually did it?
“It is really safe and easy. We have not got any issue or trouble in our 80 days exploring 20 states of India. Yes, small misunderstandings are bound to happen when you don’t know the local languages. But apart from that we never had any issue while travelling.”
Let’s discuss the budget, “Budget-wise …it’s not difficult. We travelled using local transport, stayed in a homestay, tried local food and best experience we had while interacting with so many people of a different culture with a different point of views and thought process.”
If you have any queries about travelling on a budget, both are happy to answer all your questions, “If someone wants help with the budget then contact Roamanchak coz if I tell you here, you won’t believe us. But all we can say is if we can afford all of this then anyone can.”
Indians are also concerned about safety. Most of us can never even manage to travel on our own because our loved ones are worried about the dangers of wandering around in India. “You can see our videos of each state. Till now we have not felt any threat or faced any trouble. Yes, we were scared at many places, we got into fights also, but nothing happened. Our positive attitude towards life might have helped us only meet good people.”
Pardeep says, “Once I lost my iPhone (which had all the data of our shoot) in train and then Warangal Railway Police helped me to get it back from the next station. So many incidents like this where we only came across good people and helping souls.”
They also say that it isn’t easy to travel when you don’t know the language or the region, “but the digital space has been our best guide be it Google Maps, tourism websites, IRCTC, blogs etc. All have been of great help and when any of these do not work locals are more than happy to guide you.”
They also wrote about the treatment they received from our fellow Indians:
Pardeep: I have received only love from so many people. Even when I made some mistakes, people treated me like a kid. Example: I was shooting in Hampi and there was a security lady who stopped me from shooting inside the temple. I smiled at her and stopped shooting. I don’t know why but after some time she came to me and asked me “Did you eat food? You are looking so tired?” There were maternal that I cannot not explain in words. I smiled again and started chit-chatting with her for a while. I am blessed to have so much love in my life and I always thank my angels for this.
Priyanka: For the most part people have been very helpful and kind. Throughout the journey, we kept meeting a different kind of people who shared their culture and knowledge with us. One instance that I remember is when we had visited the Mary Kom Boxing Academy. We reached on a Sunday when the academy was shut and apart from a few students walking around nobody was there. We spoke to the students who suggested we speak to the coach who was present there. He heared us out and then called his students (who were wearing all the gear) only for us. So we could shoot them practicing. We have seen so many acts of kindness and love that today we have a Roamanchak family across the country and we are adding to that list every day.
Their best stay, till now, was in a Kumarakom houseboat in Kerala. “Siji and Honey (Owners/ Husband and wife). The best host till now we have met on our journey.”
“I admire Mr. Siji who is supporting his wife in the business and helping her to grow in life. We had a great time with them on their Houseboat while exploring the back-waters in Kerala.”
Being content developers, they agree that the focus of online content has shifted from quality to quantity. Our audience also tends to ignore the creators who really deserve our attention. This has pushed many vloggers to come up with content that is more probable to go viral online (irrespective of the message the video sends) “We totally agree with you. But you cannot change the mindset of people overnight. You have control only over you. And your work and execution of things define you. We believe in doing good work and leave it on the universe.”
Pardeep says, “I believe in goodwill and after travelling so many states, I feel you should not expect anything from anyone. Accept everything and everyone with open arms and smiling heart.” Priyanka adds, “The aspect of travel makes you start appreciating the things and people around you. I have learned not to be sceptical of everyone around me. Not all strangers are bad some turn out to amazing souls.”
The most underrated destination for travellers, “We think its Yana Rocks. Just wait for our video, it will blow your mind.”
This is 100-day trip is just one project, “You cannot cover the entire country even in a year. But yes! After 100 days we would love to cover the festivals of each state and their culture. Also, we are content creators so we expect to create better content when it comes to travel.”
They are optimistic about their future, “now, it’s just the two of us and shooting on phone and doing everything by ourselves. Our content is being appreciated by Facebook India now, imagine if we have high-end equipment and team to create content, what kind magic we will create.”
And finally, to our aspiring travellers or those who are still struggling with the notion of planning a weekend getaway, they share this message, “just be proud of our country. We have got the best culture, history and some beautiful destinations. A journey one must take in their life to see the vastness of our land, to understand the wealth of knowledge, to admire the artistic beauty and to see the oldest living civilization in the world.”
That was the story of two passionate explorers who are working hard to show us the true beauty of our nation. So spare some time and appreciate what they are doing.
*All pictures and videos belong to Roamanchak.