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Exclusive: Indian Couple Talks About Their 120-Day Adventure Trip With Their Pet Dogs, Living Life Off The Leash!

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After Dil Chahta Hai, ZNMD and YJHD, we all have harboured this dream of taking a trip with our best friends that is full of adventure and memorable moments. But haven’t you heard? A dog is a man’s best friend. So I’m pretty sure there are plenty of you who want to travel around the world, but with your furry friend by your side. And it must shatter your heart to say goodbye to those faces when you’re leaving. It’s natural to think that travelling with your pets could be difficult, for them and/or for you. But who said anything about it being impossible, eh? In fact, that’s one downer of a myth that pet parents and travel vloggers Priyanka Jena and Tanveer Taj, of Wheels & Tails fame, are happy to bust, through their new travel show with Sony BBC Earth. Life Off The Leash, which premiered on May 31, 2021, is a travelogue of this couple that embarked on a 120-day epic road trip spanning 12000 kms and 20 states of India, with their pets—two adorable doggos called Frodo, a Golden Retriever, and Cruise, a Labrador!

It’s incredible, isn’t it? A road trip that’s almost four months long sounds lots of fun, but it can be taxing even for the hoomans. Imagine adding pets to the equation! When I heard about it, my mind instantly began listing the sheer prep they’d have to do, starting with finding pet-friendly accommodation. It made me wonder how pet-friendly India really was in terms of road tripping, and whether this really was doable on a budget. And most importantly, would those two doggo babies be down for this pawty!

Luckily, I got a chance to talk about it with the pet parents themselves! Priyanka and Tanveer, dog parents to Frodo and Cruise, spoke to me about how this whole trip was ideated, planned for, executed and then turned into a show for Sony BBC Earth. What’s more, if you’re a dog parent, or are considering travelling with your pet but worried about the ifs and buts, these two might just change your mind about letting your pets live life off the leash!

How Tanveer and Priyanka met Frodo and Cruise, and each other….

I was instantly curious about the names of the two doggos so I had to ask! Was one of the parents a Lord Of The Rings fan? Turns out, Tanveer was indeed one. Originally from Muscat, Tanveer migrated to India around 2011. He always wanted a dog, and at the first chance he got, he adopted a puppy and named him Frodo (because Gandalf didn’t sound much like a dog’s name)! Tanveer’s second love was travelling, on his motorcycle, and he soon came to realise that being a pet parent was quite the responsibility to juggle with that passion. He began taking short trips with Frodo and that’s how their adventures began!

Priyanka, an adventure sports junkie, met Tanveer (and Frodo) when he moved to Mumbai five years ago for work and they bonded over their mutual love for travel. She was thrilled when she heard about Tanveer and Frodo’s adventures, because she wanted to have some of her own. That’s when little Cruise, a Labrador, came into her life! Priyanka’s father, who builds ships for a living, named the little fella, which is quite perfect since Priyanka always hoped her dog would be a water baby, like her.

Soon enough, this pawsome foursome began taking little trips in and around Maharashtra. When their social media began buzzing with comments and love on their pawsome escapdes, they decided to chronicle their travels with their four-legged friends on an Instagram account called Wheels & Tails.

 

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The idea of an epic road-trip that turned into a travel show, Life Off The Leash

Says Tanveer, “The idea came to us while sitting in a restaurant for dinner. I was telling Priyanka that I really love the mountains and want to take Frodo to Himachal one day to make him experience them. In turn, she told me that she is a diver and has always wanted to take Cruise kayaking. So that’s how, that very night, we began listing all the places we wanted to go, and all the things we wanted to experience there with our dogs. The next day, we began plotting our chosen destinations on Google Maps and realised that there was quite a lot of distance to be covered, since it was all spread across the country. And that’s when Priyanka suggested, ‘Why don’t we do one big trip covering all these destinations?'”

The duo worked out that the trip would take around three and half months. Of course, it wouldn’t be easy to plan, and even harder to undertake. Apart from all the preparations they’d have to do, there was also the matter of finances. That’s when Priyanka and Tanveer started working backwards, doing their research, trying to find sponsors, gathering resources and most importantly, trying to do it all on a budget so they could travel more.

The thing about planning is that it’s never enough and you might be stuck in that stage forever. As time went by, their dream trip just wasn’t kickstarting. Tanveer recalls the moment it all changed, “One day, Priyanka said, ‘You know what? If we keep thinking about it, it’ll just be another one of those plans that don’t take off. No matter what happens, December 7, 2018, we leave for this trip.”

And they did! A 120-day cross-country trip that they didn’t just enjoy with Frodo and Cruise, but also captured every beautiful moment of. The trip wrapped up in 2019, and in 2020, the couple was approached by Sony BBC Earth for a travel show based off the footage they’d shot. That’s how Life Off The Leash happened!

Also Read: Meet Ajanta Mahapatra, A ‘Female Traveller’ Who Has Visited Over 68 Countries Around The World. She’s Living The Life

On the most important thing pet parents need to do when travelling with dogs…

Both Priyanka and Tanveer emphasise on one crucial thing to do when embarking on a trip with your pets—be prepared and organised. The couple, having taken shorter trips with Frodo and Cruise before, could foresee most of the issues that they might have. For starters, while they knew both dogs were comfy with car rides, this wasn’t going to be your usual duration of a car journey. Furthermore, since the dogs were going to be off their leashes for a lot of it, there could be chances of them eating something wrong, getting hurt or getting into fights with other dogs.

“We did a short course with our vet that could come in handy,” Tanveer revealed. “I don’t want to give out any spoilers but there were a lot of issues we faced. And we did overcome those. But at that moment, it was stressful. So we were really grateful that we had that information in our heads to act quickly and resolve the situation.”

Says Priyanka, “We were carrying 90 kgs of dog food with us! But the thing is, Frodo and Cruise don’t really eat packaged dog food, they’ve grown up on fresh, home food, and we were apprehensive about putting them on it for all meals. So before the trip, we had to get them used to packaged food. In fact, at one point, we even ran out of dog food and had to have it sent over to us in Himachal!”

 

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What Life Off The Leash is going to be like?

The show contains snippets from their extensive journey, so people like you and I can see for ourselves what their experience of travelling with Frodo and Cruise was like! It’s going to be lots of cute moments, each more adorable than the other, but also plenty of ‘how tos’ and challenges that they spoke about above.

Speaking about what their day-to-day was like, Priyanka says, “It’s different; your routine is different. Ours was basically waking up, cleaning our car while having chai, then bathing the dogs, and finally packing up everything back in the car. Every day, we had to pack the car because every night, we’d remove things and we had to keep them back in a certain way. Otherwise, we can never find anything in that car. It’s like Pandora’s Box!”

Tanveer adds, “In hindsight, if we had some information or a reference point for how somebody had done something similar to refer to, it could have been a little easier for us. But I think we figured it out. And we’re going to be sharing a lot of those as well on Life Off The Leash.

Is India a pet-friendly country? You’d be surprised!

From personal experience, I can tell you that India can sometimes not even be people-friendly when it comes to roadtripping! For women, especially, the lack of sanitary and safe restrooms is a huge issue that often pops up. Of course, that isn’t an issue with doggos, but they have their own. As mentioned earlier, dog food was a concern for which Tanveer and Priyanka had to be prepared. But what about accommodation? Is India a country where you can easily find stays that are pet-friendly? I can imagine major tourist spots and towns having options, but what about the stopovers in between?

Priyanka assures, “India is a very pet-friendly country. I would say 90% of India is very welcoming to you when you’re travelling with your pet. In most places, it is easy to find homestays, resorts, or campsites that allow pets.”

And that’s where the second most crucial thing that you must do as a travelling pet parent comes into focus—research. Priyanka continues, “It’s [travel] easy, but you have to do all your research, depending on your budget, on the number of days you want to stay… you have to research extensively. For most of our destinations, we had charted out our route and the highlights of what we wanted to do, like kayaking in Mangalore or kite surfing in Rameswaram. But all the place in between were not accounted for. There, we had to just wing it as we go.”

Tanveer suggests that most of the times, it’s all about communication to bring people on board. You know, the Indian way of doing things! “While these highway hotels may not necessarily be labeled as pet-friendly, it’s all about talking to the people and making sure they understand what your situation is. Assure them that your dog is not going to destroy their property or bark at night. It does take some time. But I think people are, in general, very helpfully. You know this, especially if you are a traveler, 90% of the people out there are good people, and they always want to help out.”

On their favourite moments from the trip….

Tanveer shares, “I think kayaking with Cruise in Mangalore was fun. Priyanka always wanted to do that!”

Priyanka adds, “There are too many moments. But I feel, the best moment was all of us just being in the car and driving to the next place! Because that was the only common factor in the whole journey, you know? That car was like our home and safe space in the ever-changing daily routine. And in the moment, in silence in the car, just the four of us, it was one of the most special things. We really miss our traveling home!

“I think we were through our playlist in the first ten days or so!” says Tanveer. “We then switched to the local radio station and listened to songs in all languages from Malayalam to Tamil!”

 

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The financial aspects of raising pets, travelling with them and being full-time content creators

Raising pets is like raising kids. In fact, a recent study I read about suggests that many women are opting to become pet parents before they can bring their own baby home. It helps add value to their parenting skills. But another common thing is that both can be quite a money pit. It’s quite the legit concern for anyone interested in adopting a pet or embarking on their own pet-venture trip, whether it can be done on a budget.

Both Tanveer and Priyanka are business owners in the fields of marketing and travel and hospitality, apart from being parents to Frodo and Cruise and Instagram content creators. I had to ask how they figured out their ‘Vitamin M’ and whether it ever gets tedious, juggling so many things and maintaining an active Instagram presence with their furry babies.

“I think both of us have always been very independent. We both get bored very easily. So we like doing lots of different things at the same time. He’s the creative side of our business and I have am the finance side of it. So where he lacks, I fill in and where I lack, he does. It always works out when we work as a team, as opposed to just one of us doing it all,” explains Priyanka.

Tanveer chimes in, “I think it’s also got to do with passion. When what you’re really passionate about is travel and adventure, the outdoors and creating content, it just doesn’t feel like work. Even with the dogs, and travelling with them, it’s actually become an extension of our lifestyle. There’s never a question about, “Oh, should we take Cruise for this trip? I mean. Of course, Cruise is coming!”

Also Read: Women Are More Likely To Test Parenting Skills With Pets Before Having A Baby, Says Survey. And It’s Valuable Experience!

On living life, mourning loss and new adventures….

I suppose the release of Life Off The Leash might bring up a bittersweet feeling for this couple. A few months ago, they lost one of their pawsome travel companions, the golden retriever Frodo. Losing a pet is like losing your best friend, a family member, your companion for life. And it hasn’t been easy for Tanveer and Priyanka.

 

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“Talking about it is really difficult, perhaps the most difficult phase of my life,” says Tanveer. “I mean, how do you find the energy to go on when you’ve lost a pack member? No matter how prepared you think you are for a loss like that, you’re never going to be okay with it. Nobody can take Frodo’s place, he was the first tail of Wheels & Tails. But our cat, Noorie, has been really helpful. Having a new member in the pack, with some new energy, felt nice.”

Now that their traveller pack includes a cat, Noorie, and a dog, Cruise, I wondered if the preparations and the challenges of travelling with them change or remain the same. Turns out, Noorie requires some special care!

Tanveer explains, “It is a little harder to travel with cats compared to dogs, for sure, because you can train dogs to come back to you! With dogs, even when you leave them off the leash, and even if they’re gone for like 15 minutes, I know for a fact that if I do a certain type of whistle, they’ll immediately come back to me. Noorie is an awesome adventure-loving cat. But she’s a cat at the end of the day, with a very curious mind of an explorer. So we have to be on a watch at all times to see where’s she going, which tree she’s climbing, which bird she’s trying to hunt!”

But it is definitely a different kind of an experience. He continues, “For us, as people who love animals, it is just so much fun to watch another species explore life. How they look at the world is just a very, very fascinating thing to watch.”

 

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On one advice that they want to give to anyone planning to travel with their pets….

Priyanka has some pretty good advice for anyone who hates leaving their pets home and wants to really consider travelling with them.”To anyone who is planning to a long trip with their dogs…. Before you leave on the trip, it is probably stressful for the first week, but then, you get used to do life on the road.”

One of the things that both Priyanka and Tanveer hope their show does is bust the common misconception that travelling with pets is not possible. It requires a lot of prep, like you would do when you’re travelling with a small child. But it is definitely doable!

Priyanka says, “Many pet parents will say. ‘I can’t do it.’ ‘My pet will not be happy to travel.’ Yes, there are some pets that are more used to being indoors or walking on the leash. But I think it’s a lot like raising children. What you expose your kid to, what education you give them, that will shape them. I think as a responsible pet parent, I would say it’s a very important education for an animal also to be accustomed to the outdoors because that is their natural habitat. It’s good for their physical and mental well-being. They are happier.”

Tanveer agrees, and points out that staying positive is really the best way to ensure your pets enjoy the whole experience. He says, “Animals, especially dogs, they feed off your energy. So if you are really stressed out, the dogs will immediately take that energy and be stressed as well. It’s okay to have concerns, but just take some precautions and be prepared for things. Have a checklist of what you should do. If your energy is calm and composed, your dog will reflect that. So I think it’s a myth that doggy travel is difficult in India. Now, I think you just need to be willing to do it. Also, you can always start small, maybe by taking them out to the dog park or open spaces. See how they’re reacting. Make sure to give them positive reinforcement when they’re in car.”

Will they ever consider life off the leash on an international roadtrip?

Turns out, they have! Of course, the situation right now is not exactly feasible, thanks to the pandemic. But the memory of that epic trip keeps that fire burning.  Says Tanveer, “When we were working with our director and producer who were putting everything together and packaging the show, we were looking at all our old footage. And it made us reminisce, ‘Oh man, what a great adventure we’ve had!’ I mean, sure, we lived that life, but when your daily routine takes over, you tend to forget that you’ve done something like that, you know? So, we definitely want to do an adventure like that again in the future, situation permitting.”

Aww man! Them feels! I don’t particularly envy the job of the director and the people behind this show, because can you imagine sorting through 120 days of extremely cute footage and deciding what goes and what stays in the show? I could never do it!

I’ve always wanted to be a dog parent, but convincing my parent hasn’t been a successful mission so far. During this pandemic lockdown, I’ve seen and read countless accounts of people who found solace and companionship in their pets. They literally saved their sanity and lives, and it was a beautiful exchange of love. If you too, like me, don’t have a pet doggo or kitty, and miss travelling, Life Off The Leash on Sony BBC Earth could be the most perfect pawfect watch for you! Go on, watch it and make your own travel plans with your fur babies when the roads open again!

Life Off The Leash, featuring Tanveer, Priyanka, with oodles of star paw-er courtesy Frodo and Cruise, is currently streaming on Sony BBC Earth.

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