one minute you are sitting in your office cubicle and in the next, you are teleported to the serene Hampta Pass in the Himalayas. No, we are not talking about some wacky sci-fi movie. This is what a few hugely popular ‘Insta-travellers’, or travel bloggers on Instagram, can do for you. In these troubled times, when actual travel is difficult, their Instagram pages have been viewed millions of times. Thanks to them, the most beautiful beach resorts, wildlife sanctuaries and picture-perfect hill-stations are just a click away.
Akshaya S.’s Instagram page, ‘The Careless Indian Traveler’, for example, is full of travel stories from Europe, the UAE, Italy, Spain and more. “I had no skills at all,” she says. “My father gave me a camera four years ago. But I did not know how to use it, so I left it at home and went to Singapore to do my master’s. Afterwards, my best friend taught me some of its basic settings and I was good to go.” An engineer during weekdays and a wanderer on weekends, the 28-year-old is fiercely independent and is inclined towards budget travel. “I was very particular that I would travel with my own money and not depend on my parents,” she says. “So I look at cheap bus or flight tickets, pick up my camera and just take off.”
Abhimanyu Dalal, 25, uses photography skills to make his page come alive. “You can click some amazing photographs on your phone,” he says. “You just need to know how to do it properly.” His Instagram page, ‘Outside My Rucksack’, has over 25,000 followers. Initially, travel was a form of escapism for him. “I never used to travel a lot as a child but in my final year of engineering, I was in a bad place and wanted a break,” he says. “It was a trip to Spiti Valley in Himachal Pradesh that changed my life.” The travel bug bit him so hard that he spent all his savings on buying trekking gear.
One of the highlights of his account is the 15-second reels that he puts up with good mood music. From crossing the river at Kheerganga to the enjoying the meadows near Bhrigu Lake in Himachal Pradesh and visiting the world’s highest post office in Hikkim, his short videos are fascinating. “The first photograph that blew up on social media was one from my trek to Kedarkantha, Uttarakhand. I was tired and dehydrated, but that caught the attention of many. The Instagram page was initially my personal account before I changed it to ‘Outside My Rucksack’ in 2018,” he says. “People might not remember my name, but they do remember a good Instagram page.”
Samuel Soundararaj agrees. “A good photograph always has an impact on the viewer,” he says. His Instagram page, ‘Window Into My Vision’, is a treat for all nature lovers. He started his journey 17 years ago with his grandfather’s old Yashica film camera. “I was about 11 at the time and we used to go on an annual family trip. I always watched my father take a lot of photographs and eventually I picked it up,” he says. Now a businessman, Samuel lives in Kotagiri—the third largest hill station in the Nilgiris. He says he does a lot of business travel, and each time he tries to squeeze in time to explore non-touristy places. “I want to introduce people, even the locals, to places one can visit and things one can do during short or long trips,” he says.
However, travel blogging and photography are not all fun and easy. Each traveller has to face her own devils. For Akshaya, the challenge is mostly in being a woman. During international trips, she has often faced sexism and racism. “Some people think that just because you are brown and have black hair, you are uncultured and poor,” she says. Samuel, on the other hand, has to contend with the language barrier. “I speak only English and Tamil, and sometimes that is not enough to fully experience a place and its people,” he says. “I also have asthma and travelling alone can be risky at times. But I have trained myself to be careful over the years.”
All three of them are sure of one thing—that they want to make the travel experience as authentic as possible for their viewers. “We work on capturing the beauty of a place in such a way that the viewer gets its essence,” says Samuel. After all, our desire to travel is not selfish; it lies deep in the human psyche, dating as far back as when nomadic tribes explored the world for new resources.