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Life Of A Travel Photographer- An Interview with Anuket Shukla

Life Of A Travel Photographer- An Interview with Anuket Shukla

Have you ever dared to plunge into uncertainty of the future to live the life of your dreams? I wonder how to answer a simple question, “when was the last time you did something for the first time?” makes most of us uncomfortable. But not for Anuket Shukla, who is a travel photographer, an avid traveller and the proud host of HOTs Hostel in Uttarakhand. He has defied the norms of society to choose what he loved. 

Today we have brought his life story to instil a dose of motivation in you. You would often spot travel photographs of Anuket featuring on remarkable Instagram pages like Trell community, Nat Geo., EUttaranchal, Travel Real India, Tripoto community, Colours of India, Wanderers of India, Historytv18 India. 

Unlike many of us, he broke the notions of society at a very young age. He was just 16 when he went for his first solo trip, and since then there is no looking back. In a pursuit to chase his dreams, he dropped out of engineering college and shifted to Uttarakhand to pursue his dream to become a travel photographer. He was a member of the team that runs the first hiking hostel of India in Jeolikote. And all this at a young of 18, when most of us were still figuring out life goals. 

Eventually, he established a hostel and cafe for travellers in Kasar as well as a travel company, called Explorer, that takes people for expeditions across North India.

With a highly engaging audience across social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook, Anuket is giving us travel inspiration every day. As a travel photographer, he likes to capture the essence of places through his lens.

We met Anuket through a mutual friend in Kasar. Anuket being such a jolly and kind person instantly gelled up with us. Not only us but a lot of travellers can vouch for his expertise as a travel photographer and traveller. This week we connected with Anuket to know more about his journey.

Travel Photographer
(C)- Unsplash- It takes courage to listen to your heart and follow your passion.

Tell Us About Yourself.

I am just another guy next door with big dreams and a universe of thoughts in his mind. I have a keen interest in exploring the world to understand the untold stories behind it. You would often find me chatting with local people about their tradition and cultures. I believe the real sense of travel lies not in seeing what is in front of our eyes but digging the history of the place.

Other than that, as a travel photographer, I have a great interest in nature photography, wildlife conservation and offbeat travel. Moreover, I am the host of HOTs hostel in Kasar Devi, Uttarakhand. I also own a travel agency, called Explorer.  

What Inspired You To Travel And Become A Travel Photographer?

I was no geeky boy during my childhood, but I loved watching Discovery, NatGeo channels. The enormous coverage of wildlife and nature by the travellers and explorers shown on the television fascinated me.

I used to keep a diary where I would jot down all my dream destinations, not only this I researched about those places to write down relevant information about them.

I went for my first solo trip when I was just 16 years old. A famous travel agency meant for motorbike riders called Devils on Wheels were arranging a trip to Munisyari in Uttarakhand. I did not know how to ride a motorbike back then. But I felt the urge to see Munsiyari, it was beautiful and still is. Munisyari was not a popular destination. I did a lot of research for the trip. 

Of course, my family would have never allowed me to go for a solo trip. I cooked a story in front of my family and planned the trip on my own with pocket money. I was very nervous when I left the house alone for the first time with a backpack on my shoulders.

But the strangers I met throughout the journey welcomed me with open arms. I was awestruck by the magnificent Himalayas, and I still feel the same way. So yeah, the beauty of the Himalayas and warmth of strangers inspired me to travel. I like to capture the essence of the places through my photography. 

You Are The Host Of HOTs Hostel In Kasar, Uttarakhand. Tell Us More About The Property.

Firstly, I would elaborate on the meaning of HOTs viz., Heart of Travellers. It is a place that welcomes travellers and backpackers with an open heart. The magnificent views of the Himalayas from the property make it unique. Not many people know this place called Kasar near Almora. Undoubtedly, it is an offbeat place, and that is the reason you will find solo travellers and adventure seekers from across the globe at our hostel. 

HOTs is a backpackers’ hostel chain inaugurated in the year 2017 by Harshit and Vivek. So far it has hostels in three locations of Uttarakhand, Kasar, Jeolikote and Binsar Valley. I joined the chain later as a volunteer and went on to become the host for the property in Kasar. 

In Kasar, mostly, the travellers come down in search of peace once they have explored other places. Kasar is a perfect place if you are looking for solitude. 

Our mission is to build an atmosphere for travel photographers, artists and backpackers where they can relax, interact and network with each other. We conduct various events throughout the year, where these people get an opportunity to showcase their art and talent. 

What Is The One Important Life Lesson That Travel Has Taught You?

Not only one, but travel has taught many lessons in life. Altogether it has helped me to shape myself into a wiser human. And I believe the magnum of learning keeps on increasing as you continue to travel.

When you meet people from various cultural backgrounds across the globe, you will be surprised to know how people perceive life in different ways. Travel compels you to see things under a new perception that you never thought exists. 

Another major lesson is to live in the moment. Over the years, my encounter with unexpected circumstances while travelling has taught me to enjoy the present to the fullest.

Now I believe in cherishing what I have rather than complaining about what I do not have. Travel taught me a key lesson of pointing out less and appreciating more.  

You Have Beautiful Instagram Profiles. It Takes A Lot Of Hard Work To Keep Your Audience Engaged With Quality Content. Any Tips For Aspiring Travel Photographers And Bloggers?

 Firstly, thank you for your appreciation. I feel that if you really want to grow on Instagram as a travel photographer, then do not look for Instagram worthy aesthetic frames. The thought of being judged by the audience is the biggest pulldown. Be creative and focus on your niche. Look for frames that depict emotions, and tell stories about the particular place. Then come consistency and quality. Do not post ten photos a day for the sake of likes and followers. Ensure that you are using relevant hashtags, and it is good to fix a time for your posts. 

I post only one picture a day on Instagram, but it speaks volumes of my quality work and creativity. Do not fall for number games. In the long run, content is more important. 

There is a massive talent present on Instagram. I consider it a great place to learn and interact with fellow travel photographers and bloggers. 

A Guy Gazing at Tiger Hill Monastery in Bhutan
Anuket's Instagram Profiles look like canvas of beautiful landscapes and portraits.

What Is Your Style Of Travelling?

I do not plan out a lot before hitting the roads. My style of travelling is quite versatile. It depends mostly on my mood. So far, I have travelled solo a lot, and I would always prefer travelling solo only if my bank balance allows me to. Solo travel gives you a sense of freedom and an opportunity to make a lot of new friends.

At the same time, it burns a hole in your pocket. I am fortunate to have met a fellow traveller who was also a solo traveller, and now we are great travel partners. 

I believe in slow travel, like going to a place, staying there for a month at least. It allows you to grasp the beauty of the local cultures in depth.

The whole purpose of my trip is to understand the roots of the place I am visiting. I do not travel only to click pictures. 

Which Has Been Your Most Memorable Trip So Far?

After quitting engineering, I went for a solo trip to Spiti. Back then, Spiti was not as popular and accessible as it is today. I stayed in the no-network zone for more than two months. Indeed, it was the most memorable excursion of my life. I have closely seen the lives of people living in one of the world’s most remote villages. They are living happily in harsh conditions and are an inspiration for people like us who are privileged yet unhappy most of the time.

The geography of Spiti is mindblowing. I cycled across a few parts of Spiti, it pushed me to reconnoitre my body limits. It’s no overstatement to say that Spiti is out of this world.

Travel Photographer Clicking a Photograph in Spiti
Anuket travelled extensively across Spiti. He considers Spiti as one the most picturesque places.

Nowadays, There Is Heavy Competition Among Travel Photographers And Bloggers. Any Suggestions For The Newbies?

There is always going to be competition in every field of our lives. As I already said, you have to focus on yourself and not being distracted with what others have achieved.

For someone starting fresh as a travel photographer, I would suggest to recognise their forte and be very specific about it. Connect with people and work hard to establish themself. One has to be very patient because earning an engaging audience is a slow process.  

What Do You Consider As Your Biggest Achievement?

I think I have not achieved anything extremely extraordinary yet. But yes, there have been a lot of milestones along my learning curve that fills me with pride. I Plunged into the travel and hospitality field at a young age without much knowledge.

But through my hard work, I have established myself in the community of travellers. I have earned the love and respect among the travellers. It is absolutely thrilling for me when travellers leave behind great reviews for my hospitality. 

In a way, I can say Kasar is my biggest achievement. This place gave me fame, love and respect that I never expected I would receive in an unknown land. 

Travel And Hospitality Is One Of The Worst Affected Industries During The Pandemic. The Post-COVID World Would Have A Different Meaning For Travelling. What Are Your Opinions?

I think the post-COVID world would shift the priorities of the travellers to safety and hygiene before anything else. On the other hand, the property owners have to keep a double check on safety standards.

We are gearing up for changes like no buffet system, booking with 50% capacity in the dorms, limited kitchen accessibility, outdoor events only. At every step, we have to ensure the safety of our staff as well as guests. We have put signboards for the travellers to follow new protocols for hygiene and cleanliness. 

It has been a tough year so far as the lockdown was imposed right at the beginning of tourist season. We have not earned much in the last 4-5 months.

The situation is still not under control, but we are grateful that the Government has allowed the tourism industry to operate as per the terms and conditions. Now, we are expecting to get ourselves back on track once Monsoon season ends in Uttarakhand.

Recommend Some Of Your Favourite Places to Explore.

Since International trips are not possible at the moment, I would recommend some gorgeous places within India for the travellers. These places are a blissful solitude.

  • Gulling village, Spiti.
  • Deewar Island Goa.
  • Uttarakhand: Mana village, Jalna, Shyama, and Munsiyari.
  • Sikkim: Yuksom and Okhrey.
  • Himachal Pradesh: Naggar Town, Mashobra, Chamba Valley.

 

Follow Anuket on Instagram at Anuket Explore and Explorer Explore.

All images are owned by Anuket Shukla

Tanushekha Agnihottri

We have always been taught to complete graduation, get a job, get married, have kids and do exactly what everyone else is doing. But I'm on a quest to explore what lies beyond this vicious cycle of life. And nothing could be better than traveling to perceive a whole new meaning of life. I hope my stories will inspire you to chase all your long lost dreams.

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