For Aakanksha Monga, content creation comes second and love for travel always comes first
Image: Madhu Kapparath
As a six-year-old, Aakanksha Monga took a trip to Paro in Bhutan with her parents and was mesmerised. “I remember exploring the town and enjoying every bit of it,” says the 24-year-old. Besides, hailing from an army family, travelling and exploring new places were almost second nature for her considering that when she was growing up she would call a new city her home every two years.
But when it came to solo travel or travel with friends, it was simply a no-no, the restrictions mostly because she was a girl. An economics graduate from Delhi’s Hindu College, she recollects how she once asked her parents if she could go on a trip with her college friends and was firmly told ‘no’. “This was my trigger. I wanted to travel, and hated to be put into this box of societal restrictions,” says Monga, who, with more than a million followers over Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, and LinkedIn, is today among the fastest growing travel influencers in the country.
It started in 2020, when, soon after college, she set off on a trip to Udaipur using the money she had saved up on internships. Inspired by the content creators she followed, she shared the photographs and videos she took and realised it was something she enjoyed.
But Monga also knew financial independence and travel go hand-in-hand. In September 2020, she joined Bain & Company as a consultant and worked there for one-and-a-half years. Post her stint there, Monga worked as a creator manager associate at LinkedIn. All through, however, she continued her travel expeditions until in 2022, she quit her job to become a full-time content creator. “As a kid I loved to do different things and I felt that content creation allows me to do so much more. I shoot videos, edit them, experiment, write scripts for them – I think that’s why I was so drawn to it,” she says, adding, “I realised that having a nine-to-five job was one way to be, but it’s not the only way.”
Like all youngsters starting off on their own, Monga too had doubts before quitting her job. But, after her first few travel experiences, which she documented and put out, she realised this was what made her happy and she wanted to put her all into it.
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It wasn’t an easy ride. Before she became a big name in the travel influencer world, she would make cold calls to hotels and hostels to let her stay to experience a certain place and in return she would help with its promotion, PR, and guest management. Even managing her expenses, itinerary, and creating content all by herself proved to be a challenge that she gradually learnt to excel in, and now has a team to help her. “I had made up my mind. I just told myself one thing—if I take the risk and succeed, the upside of travelling the world and having location independence is so much bigger,” she says.
Social media itself was not a bed of roses. When she had gained some recognition, she would often receive comments like “solo travel for women is difficult”; “you can only do this till the time you’re not married”; or even “she must have a rich dad”; “she can’t do it all on her own, she hides her team to gain popularity alone” etc. But she tried to focus on the positive. “Very often I get messages from women expressing their love for me and my content. They see it as an encouragement to step out and travel on their own.” This is what, Monga says, she considers one of her biggest achievements and is incredibly happy about it. Another achievement Monga considers important is having created a community of followers on Instagram that has an equal representation of men and women.
Currently based out of Pune, Monga has more than 25 countries ticked off her travel bucket list, with Indonesia and Norway being her favourite destinations.
Monga says the aim of her content is two-fold: One, she wants to help people travel better, and second, help budding creators create better content. With the competition in travel content creators increasing by the day, Monga tries to stand out with her content by inspiring, entertaining or educating people. “It’s very important for me that if someone is spending even one minute on my video, they should take away something valuable from it,” she says. She tries to do this by not only documenting the landscapes and beauty of locations but also making her followers know about the communities in the area, inventions/innovations that the country’s people are using, interesting people she meets, cheapest flights to get there, affordable stays, besides the usual best food, cafes, and bars. She has also devised and introduced one of India’s first travel-hacks courses on her website TravelAMore, which has been well-received.Monga has more than 25 countries ticked off her travel bucket list, with Indonesia and Norway being her favourite destinations
Having garnered so many followers in the online space, Monga has become a favourite among brands, and so the economical fuel behind Monga’s travel expeditions mostly comes from brand collaborations and promotions. In the past, she has partnered with brands such as Nykaa, Visa, Niyo Global etc. She has also collaborated with the Switzerland Tourism Board, the German Tourism Board, and the Hong Kong Tourism Board. “I try to work with brands that I personally use, and most importantly, I check whether or not the brands’ values are in line with my values.” Monga has also recently been signed by Intel as their flagship travel creator.
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According to brand-thinker and practitioner Harish Bijoor, travel is the new passion. People have a renewed will and want to travel, thanks to social media and travel influencers. Brands too are harping on this very visual medium and are using travel influencers for promotion. “A travel content influencer is the next big thing. I expect a lot of brand money flowing in this new route,” adds Bijoor.
But Monga stresses that for her content creation always comes second and travel comes first. She believes that people are nothing but a sum of their experiences, and calls herself a storyteller and adventurer. “My love affair with travel began at the age of six. Now, I’m hopping planes, buses, rickshaws, and tiny taxis to explore the world with my backpack, an open heart, and a yearning soul for adventure and connections that matter.”