This is the 1st post of my Travel Secrets series.
If you don’t know me personally, you’ve probably wondered how I afford my travels, where I find the time, the company or the inspiration to travel, and whether my parents are okay with it (it is safe to assume that most Indian parents won’t be). I have hereby decided to come clean with my secrets in a new series that I’m not very creatively calling ‘Travel Secrets’, and I hope to inspire you to follow your dream to travel the world.
Lately, a lot of people have told me that I’m lucky to be doing the things I love to do. I beg to differ sometimes, because it’s not all luck. Just until a year ago, I was stuck in the rut like everyone else, living in Singapore, bound by a desk job, aiming for the next promotion, struggling with tasks that I knew didn’t matter in the bigger picture, celebrating my monthly paycheck, cribbing about pointless meetings, finding solace in being complemented at work, always awaiting the next weekend, and often trying to convince myself that some people were just luckier than me. In retrospect, I didn’t hate my job or my boss or my team on most days, and maybe if I had stuck around for a few years, I would’ve done pretty well for myself.
Having enough disposable income, it didn’t take me long to catch the travel bug. I would save most of what I earned, and take off for a few days every long weekend. I seldom spent a day of my annual leave sitting at home or roaming the malls or partying. Neelima, a fellow travel blogger, summarizes pretty well in this post just how many days in a year we can travel without quitting our jobs. That also meant I spent most weekdays planning my trips, and wishing I could pick up my bags and travel at whim instead of relying on someone else’s mercy to grant me permission. Don’t we all?
Working in the tourism industry exposed me to the largely western concepts of long term travel, travel writing, round the word travel, living out of a backpack et al. I learnt, quite enviously, that travel companies pumped in a lot of money to award loyalists & influencers. Contests offering fully paid trips as prizes were real. Press trip invitations to travel bloggers & writers were real. People not very different from me, really did travel the world for a living.
As a digital marketing and social media professional, I took to my social networks (mainly Twitter & Linkedin) to find people living my travel dream. I followed the likes of Wild Junket, Nomadic Matt and Wandering Earl, all world nomads albiet from the west. I found no reason why an Indian girl like myself couldn’t do it. I fine-tuned my then dormant blog, started thinking of a sabbatical from work to see if I could adapt to a nomadic life, and began shortlisting places I could travel to on a tight budget; I had most of Southeast Asia under my belt by then. If Paulo Coelho hadn’t already written when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it, I could’ve been famous for saying it, because that’s what happened. I took part in my first big Facebook contest run by Air Asia, and won myself 2 return tickets to France. Europe thus became the first month of my sabbatical.
I spent the next month volunteer-travelling in the high Himalayas of Spiti, in what was also my first solo trip. I realized that solo travel or budget (value for money) travel are not imaginary concepts, and that I could do it as much as the Wild Junkets & Nomadic Matts of the west. When I went back to office after spending two months on the road, my Facebook status read, ‘Feeling sorry for myself.’ Who wouldn’t, being desk-bound after seeing the fairytale alpine countryside of Europe, and the sheer magnificence of Spiti?
I suffered some sleepless nights after I resigned from work, thinking about where I was going to find the money to travel, or well, live. (Not to forget all my parents’ warnings about life in India, not having a job, not having money to pay off my student loan, etc, which is a topic for another post). I experimented with a couple of full time positions in the responsible travel sector, before realizing that all I really wanted was to be my own boss, money or no money. Your financial instincts must frown on my thinking.
I initially dipped every now & then into my savings from my corporate job, but gradually stabilized my income from freelance travel writing, social media assignments, and of late, my own startup, India Untravelled. I travel on whim, sometimes for a short escape, sometimes on work, sometimes indefinitely. I continue to take part in travel contests, and recently sent my first pitch to a tourism board (fingers crossed!). I’m also slowly and steadily paying off my debt for my college education. Most of all, I love my life and what I do, despite the occasional nightmare of what happens if one day I tire of writing & living a nomadic life. Ironically, someone recently came to my blog after Googling “Travel writer stops traveling.” I hope we shall never find out!
Do you dream about quitting your job to travel the world (or follow another dream)? What’s stopping you?
Featured image from Flickr by Kristaps B.