By Jagmeeta Thind Joy
For pet owners, taking a vacation is perhaps the hardest thing to do. The thought of leaving your furry friends at a hostel or with a caretaker is heart-breaking. Getting extended family or friends to babysit your pet is never easy either. It’s only recently that a handful of hotels and homestays have begun to host pets with their owners. But there’s still a long way to go.
No one knows that better than Tanveer Taj and Priyanka Jena. The Mumbai-based couple took their two dogs Frodo, a golden retriever and Cruise, a Labrador on a unique four-month long road trip across India. “I and my partner, Priyanka, are both travel and adventure enthusiasts and we had been taking short trips out of Mumbai with our dogs since they were puppies but this was really ambitious,” admits Tanveer, an avid biker, writer and photographer.
It took them more than a year to plan their trip including finances and work. The goal, admit the two, was to experience the diversity of India on the road with their pets. “Winter is indeed the best time to experience India,” says Tanveer. Packed in a Mahindra SUV, the four started their journey on December 7 last year from Mumbai. They drove along the coastal route all the way to the Northeast, north India and back to Mumbai via Rajasthan and Gujarat. “We covered all terrains – from beaches to mountains, rainforests to the desert. On our way from Manali, we also made a stopover in Chandigarh where we had a tough time finding a pet-friendly place to stay,” informs Tanveer who feels many hotels declare themselves as pet-friendly on online hotel booking websites but in reality things are very different.
“Finding pet friendly accommodation was the toughest in urban areas and big cities. It was much easier in small towns and villages. They were open to sharing a meal with us with our dogs and always curious to know about our journey,” says Tanveer who fondly remembers how the two dogs reacted to snow for the first time. “They went crazy playing around and it was really heart-warming. India is truly diverse and beautiful,” the two tell us. A state that left them pleasantly surprised for not just the beautiful landscape but warm hospitality was Meghalaya. However, Uttar Pradesh gets a thumbs down for being tough and unpleasant.
Incidentally, the couple also shared and documented their journey on their YouTube channel ‘Wheels and Tails’ as well on their Instagram accounts. “Being four months on the road, covering more than 12,500 kms is not easy but it was full of adventure and fun. We wanted to share that with everyone,” says Tanveer who is currently in talks with a leading online media service provider to stream their journey as a web-series. “Since we have been inundated with queries especially from pet owners like ourselves, we would be compiling all our notes on how to travel with your pets, the places to stay, the routes to take et al and sharing it online,” Tanveer tells us.
Now back in Mumbai, the four are slowly getting back to their daily routines. “We used to drive four to five hours every day taking a break every hour for the dogs. Both Frodo and Cruise are hating being on the leash again,” quips Tanveer. Little do they know that their owners are already planning another mega trip. “We are looking at Southeast Asia, hopefully soon,” signs off Tanveer.
(This story first appeared in The Indian Express on May 5, 2019)