It’s been a big weekend for me as a travel blogger, this time not for travelling somewhere daringly off the beaten track, but for having one such of my adventures published in India’s most widely read daily publications – The Times of India. It is perhaps every travel blogger’s starry-eyed dream to see their work in print, and in print that is so widely read. As I watched that dream unfold on Saturday’s paper (literally), I couldn’t help but think of the rungs I’ve climbed and skipped to get here.
It’s been just over 6 months since I quit my corporate job, and moved home to India to take travel writing seriously. I started with no contacts in the publishing industry, no connections in the blogging fraternity, and parents who were at best, terrified at the idea of me travelling in India. I’ve come a long way since (them too), and here are 5 confessions on how I got here:
1. On being relentless.
Generalizations aside, India is still largely a country of engineers. As the tables sway towards bankers, money, stability & comfort are what most people aspire to. For me to be galloping along a road less travelled, literally, meant fending off obstacles that looked like a fat paycheck, shone like a promising corporate career, and had the menacing ring of societal & familial expectations.
My early training as a rebel (self-training that is) helped in the relentless pursuit of what I wanted to do; break away from the shackles of a desk-bound life, see the world with my own lens, and paint my own stories about it for those that couldn’t have my wings. As Eminem would’ve said, you can do anything once you set your mind to it.
2. On being brown.
Now there’s a cliche, you might say. But this isn’t about that, about being singled out for your skin color and having your passport checked (which has happened, by the way). This is about what you acquire in your genes. I’ve outdone locals in fare negotiations in foreign countries, mastered the tricks of travel contests, and cracked many a bargain dubiously designed to lure people; my Indian blood doesn’t cool off with anything less than a value for money deal, and that’s just what I need to sustain my travels.
These genes have a darker side too; we grow up with the assumption of guilty, until proven otherwise. Sometimes it helps to trust that gut, sometimes it makes for an interesting story.
3. On being social.
If there is one thing to which I owe my conviction as a blogger, my insatiable desire to venture off the beaten path, my will to get out of bed after a sleepless night (causes range from snoring company on a public bus to not knowing where money for the next trip will come from), and my motivation to fight the writer’s block, it has to be the strangers that I’ve come to know through my social networks. My day starts and ends with Twitter, and that’s where I know most of what I know about blogging, writing and life. My virtual relationships range from personal to professional, and are a constant backbone for every situation I find myself in (vice-versa too, of course).
Besides owing a chunk of my blog traffic and followers to social networking, the world of social media is also my source of friends, professionals & experts in the editorial space and the blogging fraternity.
4. On being in love.
I’ve always had a thing for words, the way they can manipulate your mood, create images in your mind, and keep you company through good & bad times. Most people take on travel blogging for the love of either travel or writing, and a gooey balance of both is the sign of a winner. Unfortunately, slipping out of that ring of love is easy under the pressure of writing deadlines, editorial guidelines, and dollar signs. When it took me four straight days to churn out an article for a publication that I would have otherwise penned within hours, I knew I was in trouble.
Falling out of love is not an option. Not with travel, not with writing, and I’ve learnt to give myself a breather every now & then by writing something exclusively for my blog. It is an exercise in creativity, with such freedom as most editorial glares don’t allow. It is good for my soul.
5. On being brave.
Lurking around the corner from your glorious days when words flow around like a cool summer breeze and you strike a chord with your favorite editors, are bad days, days with sleepless nights, days with no words, days with no story ideas, days with no emails, days with no comments, days with low traffic, days that you want to hit the delete button of your blog and go into hiding.
On such days, I seek inspiration in the travelogues of fellow bloggers whose words add color to my grey world. On such days, I find peace in browsing through my own archives and marveling at the words I once strung together. On such days, I resort to the visual memories of my travels, which sometimes speak louder than any words ever can. On such days, I put on a brave face and oil those hinges and hope that tomorrow will be a better day. It usually is.
On that note, I’d like to thank you for virtually keeping me company on my travels, reading my blog posts & articles, being part of my Facebook & Twitter community, and encouraging me to do the things I love to do.