It has been twelve months since I quit my desk job
to travel - AKA a
year of searching and sometimes scavenging for work – i.e. paid work – only
without the comforts of any guarantees: neither of the pay-check at the end of
a month nor the job! This is important because neither do I have it in me to
live off my parents nor did my career in the development sector translate into
savings to the tune of Uncle Scrooge’s!
I didn’t have a plan when I decided to quit last year. I had only my
gut to fall back on. Though, what really did it count for? Because for every
post on everyone’s ‘How I Quit My Job To Travel’, the post titled, ‘Couple Who Quit
Job To Travel Now Scrub Toilets’ invariably raked a higher number of hits and
|"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" ~Mary Oliver | Photo: Kanha, Madhya Pradesh - November 2015|
Here's how I managed...
Since I didn’t have a kitty to fall back on - with dimes being set
aside for the proverbial rainy day - I took recourse in finding ways that let
me travel while I worked. My Google search was a string of words that looked
like this: travel+job+opportunities. During those weeks, I learnt that most
‘travel jobs’ meant doing what I was already doing – i.e. sitting across from a
computer – only now, the subject matter would be travel.
Then happened the story of how I stumbled upon the Himsagar Fellowship
to which mine was the only application that got selected. Between January and
June of 2015 on the Fellowship, I was mandated with the responsibility of
meeting NGOs. For this, I travelled through the six states of Bihar, West
Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana while breezing in
and out of Delhi once every couple of weeks.
Long term travel is an experience unparalleled.
These were trying and testing times. Be it winters in Delhi, misconceptions
about places like Bihar
or the everyday struggles of managing
my travel logistics (of transport, stay along with the NGO meetings) while
dealing with the pangs of sticking it out on my own even as ‘homesickness’
would creep in… It took something from very deep inside of me to not want to
call it quits or to find the resolve to roll myself out of bed on the mornings
I felt overcome by a sudden sense of powerlessness.
My validation came from knowing that in those six months I had taken
17 trains across 6 states and met with close to 150 non-profits – not the kind
of statistics I had fathomed prior to this journey!
The fellowship provided a small stipend that allowed me to cover my
cost of living. And though it separately covered all costs while I travelled
for my meetings, making that detour to a Bodh Gaya
, a Santiniketan,
Chitrakoot Falls or a Konark Temple
, for instance, were a separate out of
pocket expense for me!
Now imagine the delight on my face in August, two months after I had
completed the Fellowship, while tallying my finances I realised that I had
exceeded my total costs by a mere Rs. 500 only!
And this is what my route-map looked like:
SO NOW imagine the delight on my face when I realised that I had
exceeded my costs by a mere Rs. 500! Did I mention that the only income I had
during those six months was my stipend?
I can travel frugally without compromising on my
safety or my travel itinerary!
Things weren’t all hunky dory either. Of the different things that
egged me on in my decision to quit my job, was the recognition my writing had
begun to get. I had begun to write outside of my blog. It was the kind of
validation that was of immense value to me.
And during the first six months when I had hoped to continue building
on my body of work, there was nothing!
Well, there were opportunities. But nothing that paid! These
opportunities still exist. And for reasons best understood by the ones who
create them, I haven’t understood how someone like me is supposed to afford
such unpaid work? Any answers on the subject matter would be of immense value.
Thankfully, there have been others who are respectful enough to go
beyond appreciating the quality of work I bring to table and pay for it. They
have added credibility and lent more visibility to my work while contributing
towards my travel fund! To see my article in print or read a byline in the
makes every decision that has brought me to this point a rather
Besides taking on travel writing assignments, I have been
collaborating with friends who’ve been running a responsible travelorganization
of their own. Not only does this keep me engaged in a theme I
firmly believe in but also helps me in affording my shoe-string budgeted
travels around India!
It’s painful trying to stick your ground when
you’re the one in need. It’s not easy negotiating when you know your value.
It’s bad that you often have to lose out more than you gain. But I’d rather
hold on to my self-worth.
And there have been blessings. That I was able to retain my travel
momentum and head out to Rajasthan
and Madhya Pradesh
without reaching out for
my rainy-day fund when there was no income whatsoever, has been somewhat
reassuring! The cherries on the icing have been the unimaginable-winning-a-free-trip
moment that happened when I travelled to Ladakh in June
and being among the 35
out of 200+ applications selected for the Kanha-Pench Walk in October.
2015 has been a journey into the self as much as
it has been around the country. Validations, though in spurts, have had a
redeeming quality about them; even though they seem to be timed almost at the
hour where I have come this close to losing my wits! Lastly, contrary to what
most people thought would happen, I haven’t tired myself out from travelling.
P.S.: I don’t even know what ‘tiring yourself out from travelling’
even means. Not just yet!
On the present
|Have Feet Will Travel; where red = 2014 and green = 2015!|
Somewhere over these past few months a thought has continued to linger
in my head: There was no rat race it was participating in, least of all when it
came to travel. So I have decided to take some downtime before I head out
again. I figured it would also be a good time to make a direct investment in
the Self. After all, the quality of my deliverables will only be as good as my
inputs. But when was the last time I had fed my mind?
There have been 2 opportunities I’ve immediately jumped the gun on:
The Writers’ Retreat organized by Tall Tales Storytelling
in collaboration with
which was over a weekend in November.
So, here’s to more nuanced and richer writing.
I still don’t know where the roads beckon next but I hope they
continue to seek me out as much as I do them!
P.S.: I am open to collaborations for 2016. *hint hint*
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