In my mind, 2018 was akin to a shinkansen (bullet train) journey in Japan. I immensely enjoyed the ride, but felt like it ended way too soon.
Even though the year wasn’t packed with as many epic travel adventures as I had originally planned, 2018 was the year of a major milestone for me – writing and publishing a bestselling book about my journey so far. Despite this achievement, I’m flooded with bittersweet emotions as I look back at 2018, given the disheartening state of affairs in India and the world.
As I introspect about the year that was, I have also outlined my aspirations for 2019, so when I feel lost or overwhelmed, I can come back here to remind myself:
Publishing my first book!
It still feels surreal to hold a copy of The Shooting Star in my hands or introduce myself as an “author”. My debut book – one that spans my journey from India to remote corners of the globe – took years to come together. I was a bundle of nerves just before it was published, but have since been overwhelmed by largely positive reviews in prestigious Indian publications like The Hindu and Live Mint – and even more so by connecting with so many of my readers on my book tour.
In just over a month of its release, The Shooting Star acquired the status of a national bestseller. It is currently in its third reprint, and I couldn’t be more grateful to the universe for conspiring to help it find its way to the right readers.
Falling in love with Japan and Cuba
I only travelled to a handful of new countries this year, and among them, Japan and Cuba – both so different from the rest of the world in their own way – really stole my heart. In Japan, I was introduced to a unique world of bullet trains, onsens (public baths), beautiful food (even as a vegan), plum and cherry blossoms, and secret forests. In Cuba, I felt like I had travelled back in time, discovering the real story behind the legend of Che Guevara and witnessing first hand, the impact of our plastic consumption on pristine coral reefs.
Embracing the digital nomad life in Guatemala and Thailand
Although I work on the go wherever in the world I am, this year, I based myself in one spot in Guatemala for 2 months and in Thailand for 1.5 months – the longest I’ve stayed “settled” in one place since I gave up my home and began living nomadically over 5 years ago! These periods were extremely productive work-wise and Netflix-wise, and I hope to discover more digital nomad and slow travel spots around the world in 2019.
The little things
I was dreading the idea of turning thirty in 2018, but I’m quite loving the thirties so far! I feel more grounded mentally, strangely aware of my mortality, mature enough to pursue things I procrastinated about in my twenties and bold enough to continue fighting the battles that accompany an unconventional life. I also feel really grateful for having good physical and mental health, all the great vegan food I’ve been able to feed my body and for the people (online and offline) who continue to support my craziness.
The void after publishing a book
I furiously wrote and edited my book for most of 2017 and part of 2018; then I furiously tried to get the word out about it, hoping that through it, I’ll be able to challenge people across the country to question their life and travel choices. When I heard that The Shooting Star had already sold 10,000 copies, I decided it was time to move on… to what, I had no idea!
At first, it felt like I’d be going back to my blogging and social media life, but my mind, which had been so fired up over the past year, needed more stimulation. It felt like a void that no books or hiking could fill. Like a purposelessness that had surfaced after a period of dormancy. I’m working towards filling it with some adventurous travels and new passion projects in the coming months.
Rejected visas and destroyed travel plans
I’ve generally had pretty good luck in the past with scoring visas on my Indian passport, but in the second half of 2018, I hit a bad streak. First, my Kyrgyzstan e-visa got rejected – no reasons given. I had planned the entire journey, even worked out blogging collaborations, but everything fell through. As per their rules, I can’t reapply for an entire year! The same thing happened with the Iran e-visa a month later, leaving me rather disgruntled about why countries are opening up e-visas for Indian citizens if they’re arbitrarily going to reject applications. Sigh.
Social media burnout
I reluctantly went on a digital detox in Cuba, where internet is scarcely available and people still talk to each other! But in those two weeks, it felt so good to rid my mind of the social media toxins that plague many of us on some level, that it’s been a challenge to embrace the online world (my job after all) again. When I grudgingly returned, I decided to cut down my social media time drastically and even experimented with a 2-3 day work week – something I hope to work towards in 2019.
Also read: Four Years of Travelling Without a Home
ASPIRATIONS FOR 2019
Greater focus on promoting meaningful and sustainable travel
My mind is forever abuzz with story ideas I need to pen, but lately – especially after cutting down my social media browsing time – I feel like I need more conscious minds, eyes and ears to promote travel that is meaningful and sustainable. So I’ve set up two new avenues for 2019:
- Guest posts on The Shooting Star: After much contemplation, I’m now accepting guest posts on The Shooting Star – but specifically related to meaningful and responsible travel experiences. See my guest post guidelines if you have an idea you’d like to pitch.
- Promoting content on other websites: If you’ve created or come across an article or story that strongly supports sustainable tourism, I’d love to hear from you and share it on my social networks. Please use this form.
Although I try to ensure that my travels focus on local communities and stay mindful of the environment, I’m extremely guilty of taking far too many flights. That means that despite being vegan and consciously choosing not to pro-create, my carbon footprint on the planet is still immensely high. So for 2019, I’m making the rather difficult resolution to drastically cut down the number of flights I hop on. I’m trying to think of it as an adventure, and for starters, intend to embark upon an epic land journey in January, from Thailand to India via Myanmar!
New passion projects
In the last couple of years, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working on two very unique passion projects – I Love Spiti, to create awareness about the harmful impact of plastic bottled water and offer eco-friendly alternatives in this high Himalayan region, and Voices of Munsiari, to enable rural storytellers to connect directly with the world using Instagram. In 2019, I have a couple of new projects up my sleeve, in support of my two fond loves – animals and trees. Details coming soon!
As we transition into 2019, I wish you a beautiful, crazy, adventurous and meaningful year ahead. Let this be the year we question our choices, be more compassionate towards animals and each other, and mindfully discover more of our incredible planet.