Curious what it’s like to be an Indian digital nomad? Behold some candid confessions.
I’m cozying up in my favorite corner of Bangalore as I write this. This is the closest I’ve come to calling a place home over the last seven months, when I gave up my apartment in Delhi and adopted a nomadic life. I’ve slow-travelled in Thailand since, sampled island life in the Seychelles, celebrated Christmas in Germany, splurged on Australia’s wine countryside, dived in the Philippines, and scratched India’s surface just a little deeper.
I’ve experienced varying degrees of joy, nostalgia and frustration as an Indian digital nomad. But the feeling that has become a constant is that of liberation. In my mind and in my words, I feel no shackles.
I plan to go as long and as far as the road will let me, but not before making these confessions:
The longer you go, the cheaper you live, right? But not me.
It’s common logic to think that the longer you travel, the more you adapt to living, travelling and eating cheaper. But in my case, the scale has tipped the other way. The more I travel in other parts of the world, the more aware I become of the standard of living we sacrifice in India. And I don’t want to sacrifice it anymore (Read: Confession: I’m Not a Backpacker).
I’m not okay with sacrificing healthy, organic food, experiential accommodations, and clean modes of transport. I’m not okay with accepting that less of the world is accessible to me as an Indian digital nomad because of the color of my passport. So I keep the jugaad going, keep looking for travel and visa hacks, keep trying not to give up.
Luckily, the world is full of surprises and the universe has been conspiring to lead me to them (Read: What a WWII Polish Refugee Taught me About “Hindustan”).
There’s less time to work. But I’m making more money now.
After reading (1), you’re probably wondering how I’m continuing to afford this lifestyle, especially as an Indian digital nomad. I’m wondering too. Truth is, I’ve spent relatively less time working since November last year. I’ve rarely sent out a pitch, turned down several assignments, and said no to many free press trips (Read: 6 Tips to Break into Freelance Travel Writing). And yet, I’ve made more money in the last three months as a freelancer, than I could have imagined when I quit my full time job in 2011.
I guess you could say I’m working smarter. Or that I’m finally coming of age as a blogger and freelancer. This growing income is feeding the growing expectations, so my bank balance, like before, remains alarmingly low! And that’s okay. It’s the life I choose.
Believe it or not, my life is not a bed of roses either.
Every time someone tells me I’m really lucky to be living this Indian digital nomad life, I’m reminded of something George Clooney said in the movie, The Descendants: My friends on the mainland think just because I live in Hawaii, I live in paradise. Like a permanent vacation. We’re all just out here sipping Mai Tais, shaking our hips, and catching waves. Are they insane?
I won’t lie to you. I love what I do, and I’ve worked hard to get here. But that’s not to say that I don’t have to deal with the shit that life throws at us anyway. The frustrations of dealing with a protective family, who don’t necessarily get what you do, and expect you to call even when you’re in Timbuktu. Or of opening your news feed and seeing pictures of friends getting married and having babies and asking you, when is your turn? Or of a bank balance that’s always low. Or of multi-million dollar companies asking for free work. Or of not getting paid on time. Or of the slow Wifi when you’re reaching a deadline…. You get the picture!
A nomadic life has become my new norm.
I didn’t see this coming. When I first set out on my indefinite travels, I was very eager to share my reasons for choosing this nomadic way of life with strangers I met along the way. But somewhere around the third month, this existence as an Indian digital nomad started feeling natural. I couldn’t think of another way to live, or anything else to spend my money on (Read: Things I Wish I Knew Before I Quit My Job to Travel).
Instead of explaining to people why I choose to live without a “home”, I now want to hear why they choose to live in one place, or work in a job they don’t like, or get married. I recently met a 40-something gentleman from Malaysia who was awed by my way of life and kept wishing he could do it too. He was a freelancer, seemed pretty well-off, and was very spirited about life. What was stopping him? He wanted to amass more wealth.
It does baffle me, these norms set by society. Some of us wait our whole lives to do the things we love, but the thing about life is, it’s unpredictable.
My advice for any aspiring Indian digital nomad? Just do it.
I receive several emails everyday, from people seeking advice on whether they should quit their jobs and travel too. I don’t know your personal situations or commitments, so I’m not going to tell you outrightly to do it – except this once!
If you’ve been on the fence about leaving a job you hate, and have saved up enough money to travel for a few months, JUST DO IT. What’s the worst that can happen? You might not find a way to earn on the go and squander away all your savings. Or you might realize that the life of an Indian digital nomad isn’t what you really aspire to. But I can promise that you’ll be richer in your experiences, and feel a sense of liberation that most people won’t in this lifetime. And like Mary Anne Radmacher once said, you won’t be the same having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.