“Syria! Now I want to visit Syria, and there is so much more adventure left, you know.”
This is the story of Paramvir Singh Beniwal. The 24-year-old was born in Hisar in Haryana, not very far from the border of Rajasthan and from that of Punjab.
Paramvir has two older sisters — one of them lives in the United States and the other in Delhi, with him and their mother. His father works in Bihar.
When little Paramvir was in school, he would go on school trips — to places like Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand — and yes, he made sure not to miss a single trip, and so did his family. From a very young age, say when he was in the fourth grade, Paramvir loved traveling.
He loved the distant lands and meeting new people. He enjoyed the sky and the rain, and loved bathing in the sun. Paramvir loved the fields with yellow flowers and the meandering streams.
Paramvir loved the world, but not when he was inside the four walls of a house. Adventure is what he looked forward to.
“My first international trip was in December 2015. I went to the US to meet my sister, which was fun, but that is all the trip was about. I stayed there for over a month,” Paramvir tells Platocast.
“It didn’t really feel like I was on an adventure. There was no cultural shock,” he smiles. I was surrounded by people I already knew. Besides, I wasn’t traveling alone. My other sister was with me.”
Paramvir completed his Bachelors in Zoology from Hindu College. He got admission through the sports quota — he was an athlete and an amazing volleyball player. He then pursued his Masters in Travel and Tourism Management from Indira Gandhi National Open University.
At a game in Gujarat, Paramvir hurt his knee. Despite two surgeries, he could not continue playing.
However, Paramvir’s second international trip, back in 2017, is what fuelled his passion for traveling.
“In 2017, I went to Turkey for an internship with an organization called AIESEC. I went to Antalya and stayed there for six weeks. That was a solo trip and those were those best days of my life. I met people from different parts of the world — Russia, UAE, Morocco, Egypt, China etc. — all of whom were also part of the internship. Although I was supposed to come back home after the trip, I returned only after I visited Georgia and Qatar,” Paramvir says.
From then onwards, there was no stopping for Paramvir. Traveling became his passion, his solace and the thought of every new trip was his daily dose of excitement.
Paramvir soon created a YouTube channel. As a travel vlogger, he began documenting his trips.
“But in the initial days, I could not attract a lot of viewers. I hoped to get a subscriber base of at least 5,000 people, and if my videos got at least 2,000-3,000 views, I would be happy. That was my goal,” Paramvir says.
“I knew that I was comparatively younger than most travel vloggers and bloggers in the Indian travel community, but I had visited more places than most of them. People usually do not begin traveling as early as I did. Through my documentation, I wanted to change a common perspective — believe me, you do not need to earn a huge amount to be able to travel,” he adds.
Paramvir’s story is unique because he is not your average travel vlogger. What drives him is not luxury vacation spots and spick and span pools with glittery waters. He is not enticed by the snow-covered expanses of Switzerland and the fancy cafes in the US.
Paramvir’s happy escape? Somalia, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, and so on.
“I want to set an example because people misunderstand these places. They have preconceived notions about certain places because of their dark history, and some of the fear and hatred also arise because of international politics and the media,” Paramvir explains.
“I realised that my adrenaline rush lay in places that were challenging to visit. I love the thrill, the smell of adventure and the slight fear of the unknown. Like other influencers, I did not want to limit my travel plans to staying in luxury hotels and partying in Europe,” he adds.
Paramvir’s YouTube channel gained popularity after his trip to Ethiopia in 2019. On the internet, he regularly searched for ‘unique and weird places’ to visit and Ethiopia was in his bucket list.
“I read about this place called Omo Valley in Ethiopia and I made up my mind to go on a trip there. These are places where neither travel vloggers nor tourists usually dare to go. This Ethiopia series really made me stand out. I had created my channel in 2018, and by 2019, I was making enough money to fund my trips comfortably. My channel got monetised in 2019,” Paramvir says.
“I choose these offbeat locations because I like the thrill. I like to put myself in the face of challenges. Also, my audience wants to see me in these unusual places. Say I go to Switzerland and promote their tourism and beauty, I wouldn’t be making a huge difference, because it is already a popular tourist spot. But if I go to Lebanon and promote their beauty and hospitality, it would mean the world to them because people tend to misunderstand these regions,” he adds.
Paramvir says: “In spite of what people think, Lebanon is a wonderful place, and I prefer it over Switzerland. The people are so hospitable, so welcoming, and they made me feel so much at home. The beauty of the place will be forever etched upon my heart.”
Through his videos, Paramvir wants to show people that there are good people in every part of the world.
“More than 90 percent of people in every corner of the earth are good at heart. Remember how we grew up learning about our differences with Pakistan? When I started traveling, I met Pakistanis who were like my brothers. They are so much better than many people I have been acquainted with. We need to get over our existing prejudices against certain countries,” Paramvir says.
Among the most unusual places that Paramvir has been to is Omo Valley in the south of Ethiopia.
“There, I met the Mursi tribe, one of the most isolated and aggressive ethnic groups in the world. I also met other tribes like the Hamar tribe, the Banna tribe and the Karo tribe,” Paramvir says.
“My visit to Somalia was also very challenging. There are security checks every 50 metres, and every second person you meet on the streets carries a gun. It’s quite an eerie feeling,” Paramvir says.
“But despite the seemingly dangerous surroundings, most people are nice. I was in Egypt once, with my cousins who were helping me with the filming. I ordered sandwiches for the three of us from a shop on the road, and all of a sudden, a man we did not know comes and pays our bill. ‘You are our guests,” he tells us with a warm smile on his face. When you meet people, you realise they are just like us. Another human being trying to overcome difficulties to earn a good living,” Paramvir says.
Traveling, however, has not always been very easy for Paramvir.
“I earn well now but there was a time when I did not have enough money to board a taxi, and I had to walk unbelievably long distances. The blisters on my foot, however, did not deter me because I knew that to follow my passion, I would have to make certain sacrifices. One one occasion, in fact, I had to sleep on the road as I ran out of money and couldn’t afford to stay in a hotel,” Paramvir says.
During the lockdown, Paramvir, who loves fitness, worked out regularly at home, and learned new languages to be able to comfortably communicate in the countries he is about to visit next.
Next in Paramvir’s bucket list? South America, central Asia and other African countries like Nigeria and Ghana, and also Yemen and South Sudan. He also wishes to visit Afghanistan, Syria, Iran and Jordan.
“I want to encourage young travelers to explore the world. Traveling is not just about having fun, but it is important to spark change and spread positive messages,” Paramvir explains.
Indeed, as it is said, jobs may fill your pockets, but adventure fills your soul!