An understanding and helpful travel partner can make any journey an absolute joy. And luckily, travel blogger Sukruti Gandham has found her travel buddy for life — Mishka, her dog. She shares her road-tripping stories with us. By Priyanka Chakrabarti

1. What does traveling mean to you?

There is nothing more satisfying or exhilarating than exploring a new city, a new place, a new culture or meeting new people. Traveling started as a means of escaping the mundane routine but now it has become the way of life. Being a single Indian girl, I found freedom and independence in traveling; it made me the strong, confident and passionate person that I am today. It has shaped my life and I use it as a means to hopefully inspire other women to demand their freedom and independence.

2. How did you start your blog?

Over the past few years, I drew a lot of inspiration from the travel blogger community. Everyday on Instagram, I would vicariously live through the journeys of travelers to exotic places — whether it was a romantic getaway or a bunch of friends exploring the local cuisine or perhaps, seeing history of architecture through the lens of someone; but I noticed a serious lack of content that single Indian girls like me who enjoyed traveling could relate to. I am not an Instagram sensation or a celebrity, but I felt like I was someone who people could connect with and maybe wonder, “Well if she can do it, then I definitely can.”

3. What kind of a traveller are you?

I think I have multiple personalities as a traveler. A part of me enjoys the unknown, not planning, hoping to get lost. I would get on the next train or drive in the direction that seems promising or walk in alleys expecting to discover hidden mysteries. But then there is the other part that meticulously plans a trip down to the hour, listing and organising all the places I want to visit, all the restaurants and bars I want to try.

4. How is it travelling with a pet in India?

Traveling with a pet anywhere is challenging. There are a lot of limitations and restrictions; we aren’t allowed to enter a lot of places; finding accommodation within a certain budget can be exhausting, even identifying modes of transportation is painstakingly tedious. But having said that, things are definitely changing because a majority of my travels are a road trip in my car. My dog and I have the flexibility to go where and when I want. Many of the hotels are now supportive and encouraging pet-friendly vacations. One of the biggest advantages for travelers like me is the Indian Railways, that is pet-friendly with certain stipulations. Traveling with Mishka (my dog) is pure joy, and specifically traveling in India, she gives me a sense of security and a feeling of always being protected.

5. Did you face any challenges?

Whether it is road tripping in the US, backpacking in Europe or mini getaways in India — before any trip, I mentally prepare myself for any sort of adversary. I have never faced any hiccups, but I guess my only constant challenge is wishing for more time and money to experience and see everything.

6. Can you share a memorable anecdote from your travels with your puppy?

Mishka and I recently had a memorable experience. We went to to Alwar, Rajasthan. We happened to be at a farm and were walking through the fields when we came upon a flock of goats and of course, Mishka’s curiosity got the best of her and she started chasing the baby goats. It was hilarious watching them interact as she looked like one of them. She seemed so confident bullying the little goats, making them run around but it was priceless to see the shift in the dynamics when the mother goat decided her babies weren’t to be chased and started chasing Mishka instead.

7. What is your blogging process like?

Immediately after a trip I like penning down the activities and places chronologically. I go through my camera roll to best support my journey through visuals and provide detailed suggestions and opinions. For me a trip and a blog should be a holistic content, inclusive of transportation, recommend places to stay, sightseeing, activities and of course, suggestions for food and culture outlets.

8. Since when did you get interested in travel writing?

Roughly around three years ago I started traveling extensively. For a brief period I lived in Spain and in Dominican Republic; and, once I was back in New York, I was visiting all these amazing cities and wanted to record every detail so that I don’t forget these memories as I grow older. Since then I have been writing about my travels.

9. What does it take to be a travel blogger today?

In today’s digitally engaged world, a travel blogger for me is someone who can inspire even a single person to get off their phone and want to physically and mentally experience and be a part of the blogger’s journey. It doesn’t take much to post a photo with a “wanderlust” caption, but a travel blogger’s passion essentially should motivate someone to start a journey of their own.

10. How old were you when the travel bug bit you?

I have been traveling ever since I was one; every few months we would go on a family trip. The craze has always been there, thanks to my parents. But it was only after I visited Colombia for a cultural immersion programme that I started making extensive itineraries and putting pins on maps. I must have been 17 then.

11. How has traveling inspired your creativity?

Being from a digital marketing and branding background, I need to be a step ahead of the trend, and traveling gives me the creative freedom to explore and incorporate different styles, perceptions and themes that take root in a design concept for a certain brand. It helps me create content for a specific target audience and what better way to visit and understand the culture first-hand to give an authentic representation.

Having lived and starting my career in New York, I was accustomed to creating very professional and crisp designs for corporates, but once I moved to India and travelled to various cities I was able to understand how brands function here and what their requirements are and how they should be portrayed through designs and content. Traveling gave me a brand new perspective.

12. Do you remember your first holiday?

My parents were particular about taking at least one trip in a year, be it domestic or international. One of the first holidays I remember was a Euro tour to France, Italy, UK and the Vatican. It was a guided tour with other Indian families. I remember being the only kid among couples on their honeymoon. It was my first-time seeing people from different ethnicity and eating cuisines I had never heard of before.

13. What has been your best 2018 holiday?

The highlight of 2018 for me was Mishka (my dog) and my 40-day road trip in the US. Driving from New York to Seattle, crossing the Northern States, along the West Coast, then crossing the Southern States and along the East Coast back to New York. I had never been on the road for this long and it was Mishka’s first real road trip. I was able to cover nearly 12,000 miles visiting 25 out of the 50 states. It was a great bonding experience with Mishka, she was just 5-6 months old and was the best companion I could have asked for. It was everything I hoped for and more, we got lost, swam in a lake, went skinny dipping in the freezing ocean, saw several beautiful sunsets, met a lot of people, tried new cuisines, got stuck in a thunderstorm and in a tornado! Honestly, I wish it never ended.

14. If you could pack only five things for a vacation, what would they be?

My suitcase or backpack always have these five essential items — a pair of jeans, a jacket, sanitary pads, my Polaroids and doggie treats.

15. Do you believe in the concept of slow travel?

If time and budget weren’t a constraint, I would slow travel my way through the world. Each trip, each city requires proper time and for me it isn’t about checking off the must-see attractions, but to be a part of the daily hustle for at least a couple of days to really understand the city.

16. What’s your take on conscious traveling?

It’s essential for everyone to make certain changes in their lifestyle for a better and safe tomorrow. It is a collective process and it is a conscious decision everyone must make. As travelers, we don’t focus on green-traveling as we give importance to limitations like budget and optimised vacation experiences. I wish there was more awareness and guidance about traveling consciously. During my travels I try my best to use public transportation or walking to explore; I avoid purchasing one-time use products and carry essentials like my toiletries with me and live in hostels so as to reduce my carbon footprint.

17. Do you think solo traveling is more enriching than traveling with a group of people?

Both experiences are so vividly different and enriching in their own ways. Personally, I find solo travels to be a little more liberating. I have learnt and engaged a lot more in my solo travels than I ever could being in a group. I have learnt to be independent, embraced freedom, explored my choices, seeked happiness in my own company, and prioritised on my well being and self-care.

18. Which are your favorite cities around the world?

I lived in Spain for a few months and it was one of the best times of my life. The country and its people are rich in history and the weather is perfect all year around. Barcelona, Seville, Cordoba and Granada undoubtedly are very close to my heart.

19. A destination that you want to visit this year?

Currently I have a destination planned for each month. The one I am super excited for is a 15-day road trip from Delhi to Diu with halts in Ajmer, Gandhinagar and on the return visit Jaisalmer, Bikaner and Jodhpur.

20. Who is your favorite travel buddy apart from your baby, of course?

I am very comfortable and rather prefer traveling alone. But if I had to pick a travel partner apart from my dog it would be my mom. She is the most accommodating and flexible companion. It also helps that we both enjoy doing similar activities and she is great at planning. For every family vacation, we blindly leave it up to her for making all the necessary arrangements.

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