It was somewhere in June 2014 (a year before this post was written) when the keeda
(Hindi for bug) to consider quitting my desk job to travel took seed in my
heart, head and feet! It was not just a whim that I was acting out of. It was
I had spent a week solo travelling in Kutch after
which I’d taken an overnight train back to Mumbai to catch a bus that night to
Velas to witness the hatching of the Olive Ridley Turtles. Less than 8 weeks
after that I was going to Bhutan. And the weekend I returned from Bhutan was
spent chasing fireflies in the interiors of Maharashtra.
Cut the chase to the moment when I heard myself say,
‘If I never try, I’ll never know’. So I took that leap of faith.
That’s what 2015 has been all about – keep trying.
The first six months seem to have paid off rather
well. I’ve been on the move – Delhi, Bihar, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Odisha,
Andhra Pradesh, Telangana - thanks to my application for a fellowship program
coming through. The fellowship has been an opportunity to travel with the end
of taking technology to the grassroots. I’ve been the first candidate so far.
Those six months drew to a close in June 2015! Looking back
it’s been more than the external journey. Because the internal journey has been
one of many firsts – from living outside Mumbai, long-term travel to places I’d
never been to before.
For one, everything I owned and needed eventually came
to reside in two backpacks and a trolley bag. All that was known to me then was
the duration – nothing more, nothing less.
Would there be
need for formal wear for my meetings?
Can I pull six
months off in my sneakers? Oh wait! Is the LBD coming along?
What about my
friend’s wedding in Jaipur? I can’t be a hobo there.
Oh my god and
winter wear! May be I’ll just layer up. No! That means more clothes
And my external
HDDs? And books, good old paperbacks
Why? Why won’t
everything fit in one bag? Okay two…
I spent three days trying to pack my stuff. To pack
or not to pack was (and will be) the worst dilemma ever.
What if I don’t
pack <insert item> then need it when I’m in <insert location> and
have to purchase it again? Such a waste!
The internal monologue continued. With everything
from towels to bedsheets and clothes including winter and wedding wear rolled
up – not folded – all I thought I’d need wound up in two backpacks and a
Today I’m wiser than that. Four to six pairs would be
more than sufficient – duration of travel notwithstanding. LBD or no LBD ain’t
If you can’t carry what you bring, you should bring
only what you can carry. Yeah, I could carry two backpacks and lug the third.
But in hindsight I didn’t need to.
I had to travel light. And travel light I did. Just
one backpack (the smallest one I had at that) and nothing else – leaving most
of the other stuff back in Delhi whenever I was on the go.
Travel light had other connotations too.
To travel light meant knowing how to be in the moment
and purge the mind of any preconceived notions about the Self, the places and
its people. This meant more internal monologues than packing for six months
I was moving about to fulfil the purpose of the
fellowship – i.e., meet the NGOs wherever they were located. The role was new
and unlike anything I had essayed in the past – Business Development. Mind you
I’m not the quintessential gregarious kind and yet here I was shaking hands and
engaging in conversations with strangers who were CEOs of non-profits spread
and strewn all over the country Read: Investing Their Lifetime To Change One Life At A Time - SocialCops Blog
the road: From A to F
Each month has seen me through a different phase
Lesson #1: Adaptation
– I’d barely spent 10 days in Delhi when I’ first arrived and soon it was time
for me to head to Patna. And just when I had gotten used to Patna I was
travelling to other parts of Bihar. There would be no time for recovery. The
more I did this, the easier it became for me to ease into my environments. And
gradually the state of constantly being in an unfamiliar terrain wasn’t
bothering me anymore.
|Adapting ...and not just to the winters of Bihar|
Lesson #2: Belonging –
All this travelling was not without the struggles of staying in touch with
family and friends – this in spite of the fact that there were no time-zones
involved. It wasn’t about being accessible to people back home but about knowing
how to access them in trying times; especially when my nerves were getting the
better of me.
I was used to a life where I could reach out and be
reached out to in person. This had been turned on its head and I had days where
I was struggling to hold on. But that was only until I began to actively reach
out and ask for time sometimes to just hash out ideas or just listen in – suddenly
I could belong anywhere.
Lesson #3: Calm and collected – I’d moved to West Bengal by this time and wasn’t struggling to
adapt nor questioning where I belonged. I had come into my own. The newness of
both, full time travel as well as my role through the fellowship had faded
|Calm and collected ...up for a ride on the local train in Calcutta|
Lesson #4: Disconnected – And then I was caught unawares again. I suddenly seemed to have misplaced my travel
pulse. I was in Chhattisgarh – a state I was intrigued by. But something didn’t
In a Rorschach Inkblot meets Maslow’s Pyramid
(because I went from being absolutely clueless to compartmentalising it right
down to the last bit) I realised that the disconnect was linked with the need
to strike and find that balance between work and travel – because prior to the
Fellowship the line between work and travel were well defined. But now it was
all at once, together.
With it deconstructed I was back on my feet –
figuratively of course. Anxiety can catch you off guard and how!
|Disconnected ...Seeking my travel pulse in Chhattisgarh|
Lesson #5: Easing in –
It was two-third mark; my fifth month into the fellowship. I realised that in
ways more than one I had within me the resourcefulness to stick it out on the
road even when there a niggling sense that maybe I should call it quits. But
that I didn’t and had in turn gained a couple of insights into the kind of
person I was, was what the difference.
This was not about targets or appraisals and yet it
was more rewarding than any promotion or salary hike I’d seen in the past.
|Easing In ...Sitting back to take in the view|
Lesson #6: Figuring the road ahead – To say that I haven’t been plagued by thoughts of what I’ll do
next would be plain denial. But if travel – from the days before I’d quit my
job – had taught me anything, it was about being present in the moment. Zen. I can
make an effort in a certain direction but I couldn’t control what comes (or doesn’t
come) from it.
So over the past few weeks on my last month on the
fellowship, I’ve been channelizing my energies in clarifying for myself what it
is I’d like to do. And I think I’ve made my first breakthrough.
I don’t know what lies ahead of me for certain. It’s
a lot like what it was when I quit my job and left behind everything certain
that came with it. But I’ve made it this far. I’ve solo travelled my way
through 6 states in 5 months – one which required me to take 17 trains and some
innumerable bus rides.
It’s been a validation – of not just my ability to travel
but also to write about my experiences. Not because I had to but because I
wanted to. To have been able to write posts not just on my own blog but on
other platforms too is something that gives me great satisfaction.
I know the stuff that I’m made of – I am made of
stuff to take the road less travelled.
|Figuring The Road Ahead... |
P.P.S.: For opportunities to work with me, click here
Labels: fellowship, India, solo travel, travel