After finishing a huge part of his education in Nigeria, Thommen Jose, Travel Blogger at Wanderink, came to India to complete his high school. After earning a Master’s Degree in Communications and Journalism, Thommen went on to join The Week as a sub-editor. Having much experience under his belt as a Copy Editor and a Creative Director with various ad agencies, Thommen decided to start his own venture, out of sheer love for travel.
Thommen’s interest lies in offbeat travel and that is reflected in his travel stories. He has authored two travel guidebooks, one on Agra and the other on Chattisgarh. Currently settled in New Delhi, he has played an integral role as Co-Founder and Managing Trustee of the NGO, LIFE – Livelihood Initiative for Empowerment, operating in the space of skilling, and placements.
Thommen also proudly wears up his sleeve the achievement of being a Communications Consultant and Filmmaker with Upwardbound Communications. One of his best works can be witnessed in the writing and direction for a Travel Channel which includes a 13-episode series on Nepal, a 10-part series on Tibet and a 7-part series on the Hornbill Festival of Nagaland.
Let’s get to know more about Thommen over a cup of Coffee with Stayzilla.
DESIGN CREDITS: ARAVIND AZHAGAPPA
Traveller | Adventurer| Blogger at Wanderink
Author of Two Road Trip Guidebooks | Agra | Chattisgarh
Mentions | Hello Travel| Indiblogger
Former Sub-Editor | The Week
Communications Consultant | Filmmaker | Upward Bound
Co – Founder of NGO – LIFE, New Delhi
Contributions | The New Indian Express | Sunday Express | Yahoo! Travel
Coffee With Stayzilla: A Conversation With Thommen Jose
1. What is the story behind Wanderink? What was your inspiration?
Wanderink was born when I was bivouacking amidst the dunes of the Jaisalmer desert around five years ago. It was primarily to write about all those remote places and remarkable people I came across during the course of my work travels as a communications consultant for the development sector. Wanderink, my blog has a weekly update; not always places or people, but also random and ramble. The better stories have found their way into The New Indian Express, Sunday Express, Gay Travel, Romar Traveler, Yahoo! Travel, and Transitions Abroad. (These are the ones that pay; Wanderink stories are taken up by numerous other platforms that do not too – the promise of a beer I find lucre enough.)
2. With your interest in Ecotourism, is there anything you do on your travels or in your everyday life to try to minimize your impact on the environment?
Thank you very much for asking this question. In fact, I have been planning a whole post on this – what all we as travellers can do to minimise our impact while travelling. Let me gist out the main ones:
I do not buy bottled water when I travel; I carry my own bottle, a Laken. This I fill up whenever I get the opportunity. Thankfully most public spaces today, for example, the ISBT Bus Station in Delhi, have dispensers of purified, cool water. And once you are out of town, say in Himachal suburbs, you can very well fill water from roadside taps.
The plastic and other wastes we see scattered over railway tracks are mostly the handiwork of the railway staff only. This is so heartrending especially when we pass by, say, Ratnagiri. Well, it’s heartbreaking anywhere for that matter. So, during short train rides, I do not eat the food they supply on board; like the Shatabdi. During longer ones, I have even gone to the point of making do with fruits – though this might not be a sustainable practice for the real long hauls. This gets worse on flights – where they serve minuscule quantities forcing one to produce more plastic waste. Many times, I have pretended to be asleep so I don’t have to eat. But being so nice, they bring your food the moment they see you with open eyes. It becomes sort of difficult to explain then.
3. What has travel taught you? What is that one big lesson you have learned from your experiences?
While working on my guidebook, ‘Experience Chhattisgarh on the Road’, I self-drove the length and breadth of Chhattisgarh over 40 days. Now the only thing for many when they hear ‘Chhattisgarh’ is Maoism, terrorism, kidnapping and murder. I was also warned by many including those with the state tourism board to stay away from many areas deemed risky. Of course, I ventured into all these places, normally off-piste for the regular traveller. Not only did they reveal many unseen and unheard of gems which I covered for my guidebook, I also met many people who were considered Maoists; called ‘reds’ and ‘uncles’ in local parlance. But let me tell you, not once were I subject to any feeling of fear or dread – and I had merrily lost my way in wildlife sanctuaries in the dead of night. These branded ones are people like you and me, who eke out a living and who do not wish to create any problems of their own volition. But they are dragged into all these muck because their own backyard is imperilled. I betted on gamecock fighting in real Maoist strongholds; while many spies and informers – from both sides – very innocuously interrogated me. The only thing is you be nice to everyone. Smile a lot and do not get drunk and create a ruckus in public and haat areas. Heck, you might get loved even! To make a long one short, travel taught me to be never, never be prejudiced against people. To travel with an open mind. And to not take too hard the ‘tips’ given by ‘experts’ and ‘insiders.’
4. Which one would you choose and why?
Treehouse | Jungle House | Boat House | Hill top House | Beach House | Tent | Skyscraper
Been in all, love them all. But one? It’d be boat house then. Have a lot of fond memories of boat houses/house boats. And will be making more too.
5. What is your most memorable holiday stay experience other than a hotel or a resort?
I was shooting the Hornbill Festival in Kohima in Nagaland. After the first day’s shoot, I realized that my crew and I didn’t have any accommodation. All the hotels were full. Out of nowhere, I met this guy, Kizo (who actually came after me to return a pen I dropped) who offered me and my crew the use of his house – bang in the middle of Kohima town! I wrote about him on my blog and I have been a big advocate of homestays ever since.
I also co-wrote a homestay guidebook for the Times Group where I totally meant every word of praise I showered on these properties. Besides I am also working on a site – Travellerhome currently as a link on Wanderink – whose tagline is ‘Where you stay is what you see.’ This I believe is absolutely true. And nowhere like homestays where you get access and information to the real underbellies of a place. And this is from experience.
Thommen’s Coffee With Stayzilla was filled with interesting and real-time travel tales. He has given us a vast insight into the life of an Indian traveller and has absolutely blown us away with his vivid travel anecdotes.