“I travel a lot, and work in my free time.”
Yes, read that again! After all, isn’t working a lot and traveling in your free time the norm? Well, not for Tarang Mohnot (@tarangmohnot), an avid traveler and writer! Perhaps you’re also tempted to live that life too? We know you are! But is it all rosy? How did she get into this life a lot of us seek, and few of us ever find?
“It was never a single moment of realization,” says Tarang, “but rather after observing seniors from college graduating, getting jobs and settling into the usual 9-5 lifestyle. Looking at that, I knew that I could never, ever do something like that! So I thought, ‘Why not figure something out where working would be more of a side gig and traveling a priority?’
I’ve managed to develop my freelance network that allows me to work just about 3-4 hours a day and dedicate the rest of my time to travel. I believe that anyone can do it, it’s just that you’ve to identify the skills that would help you lead that lifestyle. Talking to like-minded people, reading up relevant blogs, I’ve been able to carve out this lifestyle for myself!”
The many, many travel influencers on Instagram might make you feel a bit bad about your life. “Man, my life is so boring, just look at them, always traveling!”, “that place looks just heavenly!”, you may think. That’s an illusion that Tarang, through her posts and especially her captions, wishes to break. Tarang believes that you don’t have to always portray yourself as happy and living the perfect life on social media.
“It was back when I was planning a trip to Himachal when I was following this travel blogger on Instagram. Looking at his posts I was like ‘Wow, I'm really excited to see this place, it looks beautiful!”. But when I reached that place, it looked way different than in the pics. In a way, I felt quite betrayed.
I know how many people go through mental health and self-esteem issues after someone apparently living the ‘perfect life’ - it happened to me too and I know how awful that feeling is. So when someone looks at my Instagram, I want them to know both the good and the bad. I feel that I shouldn’t be responsible for someone following me feeling that way. So I eventually started writing a lot on my posts and painting the real picture.”
Tarang is based out of Mumbai, but for the past few months, she’s been staying in Goa (yes, the very place where most of our plans don’t work out!), and has been to a number of places in India and abroad. But what she wants the most is a life in and around the Himalayas. Getting there the first was almost a matter of chance and grit, and as Bob Ross puts it, there are no mistakes, just happy accidents!
“The first time I went to the Himalayas was something that happened very randomly,” says Tarang, “a college friend and I were supposed to go to the Dharamshala International Film Festival in 2017. We had everything planned and in place, but she had to back out at the very last minute. I didn’t want to cancel, so I decided to go anyway.
To my surprise, my first solo trip in India turned out to be one of my best trips to date because I made a ton of friends, and also my boyfriend at the moment, whom I’ve been with over three years, was someone I met there.”
It wasn’t just the people that sealed Tarang’s affection for the Himalayas. Life in the mountains means a whole set of different challenges and troubles. And all these troubles helped forget her own.
“In Goa, I’m so accustomed to having a two-wheeler and going anywhere I want on it - meet a friend, to eat, or buy groceries, but it’s not as simple when you’re in the mountains. Life is definitely more difficult there, but I’ve learned to appreciate it. I mean, when it’s cold, it’s FREEZING, so your priority is to just survive! And that helps me forget any other issues that may have been plaguing my mind otherwise!
That was a good reason for me to revisit the Himalayas and the different regions of Himachal and weirdly enough, the more I visited, the desire to go there again only got stronger! Most importantly, it’s the people I’ve met - the locals and travelers alike - that keeps drawing me back to the mountains!”
Considering Tarang’s preference to live among the toughest terrain in the Himalayas, the Spiti Valley has obviously caught her fancy. Traveling on a big budget wasn’t something Tarang has ever been keen on. But the hospitality of the people there more than made up for it when she visited Spiti.
“The people in Spiti have been the most hospitable. I believe it’s because the place is still so isolated! When I went there a few years back, there was no network, the place seemed cut off from the rest of the world. Probably that’s what makes the people as kind as they are. Also, they’re excited about the prospect of seeing travelers and try to make us as comfortable as possible!
Whenever I’ve had to ask locals for directions, they even stood and waited to ensure that I didn't go off the wrong path. I mean, who does that? Even when they invite you home for a cup of chai, they’ll strike up a conversation about who you are, what you’re doing in Spiti, and where you’re going. It’s such a bittersweet feeling because I’ve never felt unsafe in Himachal. It’s sad that being safe is such a huge deal, but that’s just how it is.”
Traveling on a low budget has its challenges, sure, but how much that can inspire you to improvise is amazing. Tarang learned that when in Spiti, when she had to hitchhike her way around Spiti Valley to manage expenses. It was liberating to Tarang and made her feel powerful, and all of this wouldn’t have been possible had she been on a bigger budget!
“My boyfriend and I took the bus to Spiti. But on the way back, we decided to hitchhike. Our homestay owner directed us to a place from where you could hitch a ride; we were nervous, we had a lot of time on our hands, but not a lot of money. So we waited for a ride.” Tarang says.
This is the part that influencers never usually talk about. Waiting. A LOT of waiting. There were times when Tarang had to wait for a couple of hours just to get a ride. But once she got the hang of it, this became her preferred way of getting around in the Himachal!
“We went in cars, tractors, rode pillion with a group of motorcycle riders from Kolkata. We got to learn a lot of stories from them and the locals that we wouldn’t have heard otherwise!
A local once gave us a ride in his jeep and he was working for the snow leopard conservation in Spiti. He regaled us with stories about how he and his team worked to conserve the animals and their habitat. Such great stories! And even if you try to pay or offer them something in return, they’ll always refuse. ‘Just get in, we’re happy to have you around,’ they’ll say!”
“Where to go next?” is a question that’s always on Tarang’s mind. We had to get in touch with her before she left the sun-kissed beaches of Goa. So we felt that this question was important to ask - “Where are you traveling to now, Tarang?”
“I’m traveling with one of my friends to Himachal.” (No surprises there!)
“Where exactly in Himachal?”
“I’m not 100% sure yet, but we’ll find something along the way!”
“Safety unfortunately is always going to be a concern. But that shouldn’t stop you from going on a particular trip. After all, I’m not safe in my own house or in my own city! Don’t start solo traveling or hitchhiking right from the get go - take a small trip with your friends. Eventually, you’ll reach a point where you’re like ‘Wow, I can take care of myself’.
It may be cliche, but always trust your instincts! That has always worked for me.”
“People always ask how I manage financially as I’m constantly traveling. They don’t see that I always travel in public transport and I’m always looking for the cheapest accommodation possible. Sure, there are some compromises like there’s no AC or the view isn’t exactly the best.
Of course, I’m not saying that you can go absolutely wherever you want without money. But money shouldn’t be the final deciding factor. If you have 5000 rupees, you can go on a three-day trip close to home!”
“You wait till you’re 30 or until you’ve got enough savings to travel. Or you could just go in your 20s. Whatever floats your boat, but I believe the experiences you have in your 20s won’t be the same if you’re in your 30s and the other way round. If you have the chance, just set out!”
Make sure that you follow Tarang on Instagram (@tarangmohnot) to get a glimpse into her travels, candid captions, and also some soul-soothing poems! It’ll inspire you to travel, sure, but it’ll also inspire you to slow down, stop and smell the roses, and enjoy the little things in life!