Anoop Chugh who started Found On All Fours, a community for artists and travelers to spread unique travelogues. With gazillion stories to share, he aspires to meet every serious traveler in the country at least once. Read more to know his thoughts on traveling and his take on sustainable travel.
Quotes and Takeaways:
- “We become what our hosts want us to become.”
- “An ordinary event when narrated becomes an intriguing story.”
- “Most of our events are quite different from one another. Like, we don’t have a template. We let it flow like a drunken nomad.”
How were your childhood and schooling like? Were you always excited to perform or to attend social gatherings? Can you think of any incident from your childhood that may have influenced your decision to start Found On All Fours?
On the contrary, I was quite the opposite. I was this shy back-bencher who was always hiding from teachers and public performances. I was an introvert, in fact, I am still one. I never participated in extra-curricular, never did anything artsy, no music, no debates, just an average shy kid digging holes to hide.
But, then once I was forced to recite Sanskrit shlokas in an inter-school competition because I come from those extremely religious families and I knew The Bhagwat Gita better than most of my peers. I rocked the stage with my diction and my confidence. That day I realised one thing about myself, I am two different people in one – introvert when I am the audience and a charmer when I am performing. Probably, the outspoken me has founded this community.
For our readers can you explain what Found On All Fours is and what makes it different from other travel platforms/ blogs? How did you come up with this idea?
I see it as micro-Tedx of travel/art/culture. It allows travel/art influencers of a small network share their stories and best practices twice a month hosted at people’s living rooms, terraces, and lawns. Much like wanderers, even this community is nomadic in nature as the group finds a new home for its gatherings every single time. It has a simple idea behind it – you don’t have to travel far and wide (every time) to meet other travelers/artists and hear their stories/see them perform. Especially, in big cities where people don’t have time to meet strangers and strike a conversation. In a nutshell, we home-deliver storytellers. We try to recreate a travelers’ hostel at your terrace/lawn/living room if you choose to host us. In a way, everybody is a contributor in some way or the other, staying true to the essence of a community. Call us a moving circus of surprises. We are already eighteen gatherings strong and over 3600 members heavy. We have already conducted gatherings in Delhi/Gurgaon/Faridabad/Pune/Mumbai/Bir.
We were merely a couple of travel blogs called Foundonallfours, as me and my partner, Kriti, would travel around the world to get stories about people, places and our stays. During one of our trips to South America, I was staying at this Peru hostel, while Kriti was supposed to join me from Chile in a few days. I was sitting at this hostel’s terrace with dozen-odd strangers and suddenly an idea popped into my head – let’s talk about our favorite travel story from the present journey. We spent the entire night listening and narrating stories from different parts of the world in multiple languages. Once I returned home, I kept thinking about it and decided to create a similar session back here. Hence, #FOAF sessions were born.
What does a typical day at work look like for you?
Calling up strangers. Finding interesting people’s stories. Convincing people to host a bunch of strangers at their homes. Following up on artists and speakers. Learning new art forms. Writing stories. Practicing fire spinning. Practicing drumming. Reciting spoken word. Talking to everyone who comes my way. Exaggerating.
Found On All Fours is a close intimate event which often has an outpour of applications. How do you select the attendees?
We usually have ask three questions to everyone who’s willing to join.
- What’s your story?
- What’s your art?
- How did you hear about us?
Anyone who gives an interesting answer each usually gets an invitation to attend. Once you attend any of our events you become eligible to host us.
You have had over a dozen FOAFs in various cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, etc. What goes behind the funding and organizing for these events? How do you find venues to host your shows in different cities and other tie-ups?
It’s more like hosts find us. I still have a long list of people who want to host us pending. I choose a host based on their story. More than the host, his/her story is important. For instance, a founder of a biking community wanted to host us so it became a road trip event. We were hosted by a permaculturist so it became an event on sustainable living. We become what our hosts want us to become. I have no clue how they find us, but often interesting people do find us.
In these exciting events, what do you like to bring to the audience? What are your hobbies?
I like to bring the art of storytelling through words, through the fire, through music, through flow, through arts, through dance, through food, and through poetry. I believe it’s important to tell a story, how so very ordinary you think your story is. An ordinary event when narrated becomes an intriguing story.
Found On All Fours focuses on sustainable travel. What do you mean by that and how do you ensure your travels follow such a concept?
Sustainable travel is like digital advertising. Everybody is talking about it without understanding it much. We obviously, want to do more than just talks. A little less conversation and a little more action. Which lead us to make three pledges which we try to repeat before every travel and at the start of every #FOAF:
- Minimising the use of plastic; bring our filth back.
- Supporting local communities by engaging with locals instead of brands.
- Gift economy over barter. Expecting nothing in return. Not even selfies.
We hope we can do whatever little we can manage and change the way we travel. We are also planning to tie up with a few filmmakers to create documentaries about taking our community for certain drives that connect us to the problems at certain destinations we often go to. We want to use digital in a big way to create awareness. For instance, we recently did a series about goa called #unGoa that looked at Goa beyond its stereotypes. We also did a series on places like Sadhana Forest, Geeli Mitti and Dharmalaya who have mastered the art of sustainable travel.
At every #FOAF we make it a point to broadcast one film that talks about or reflects upon travel that gives more and takes less. Moreover, we have done sustainable traveling workshops with some of our members with Geeli Mitti Foundation.
Your shows have won thousands of hearts and each time, the attendees come back for more. Can you tell us about your best experiences so far?
Has to be this 85 year old sailor who made it to our event to talk about his golden days when he would spend months traveling between continents. Also, the story of one lady who is making travel accessible to the differently-abled. And, the story of a lady who left her high paying job to build her own cob house in the middle of nowhere. And also, the story of one lady who is doing it all to carry on the legacy of her dad and his travelers hostel from the pre-independence times.
I have a dozen such stories. It’s hard to pick my favorite.
When you started out, did you have any mentors in your journey? Has it been difficult to grasp the audience and bring the concept to light?
Honestly my favorite travel authors and storytellers were my mentors. Dave Berry, Bill Bryson, Douglas Adams, Jeremy Clarkson, Jug Suraiya.
It was tough to explain what the event will be all about, at least initially. We will talk about our favorite travel stories made some people question the concept. There were no star speakers, no showstoppers but just ordinary people telling their stories. It eventually picked up. Now, nobody asks what to expect. Most of our events are quite different from one another. Like, we don’t have a template. We let it flow like a drunken nomad.
You travel a lot whether or not it is a Found On All Fours Showoff. How do you manage to find the time and money?
I work as a creative director in an advertising agency. That helps me earn my travel karma. I find time because I do not waste any time watching netflix or TV. Only socializing I do is through #FOAF.
Ibn-e-Batuta, said, “Travelling leaves you speechless, then it turns you into a storyteller.” Your main aim through Showoffs or travelling is to discover stories and uncover tales, how far do you think you have reached in this pursuit? Would you like to share one such story/tale?
Honestly I don’t have an aim. Like any traveler I should reach a certain milestone and then think of the next one. My objective is to meet every serious traveler in the country at least once. And trust me I am far far away from reaching that target. I have at least met and heard 500+ travel storytellers over the past year.
What is your message to travelers and anyone who wants to do something similar?
I honestly don’t think I have achieved anything to offer a piece of advice. More I travel, more I realise, how irrelevant I am.