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 shares.
|"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" ~Mary Oliver | Photo: Kanha, Madhya Pradesh - November 2015|
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.
Lesson learnt: Long term travel is an experience unparalleled. These were trying and testing times. Be it winters in Delhi, misconceptions about places like Bihar and Chhattisgarh 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!
I've heard great minds describe it as a life changing experience.. As that watershed moment in one's life after which nothing is ever the same.. It's all true I guess.. Travel. I've seen myself change. Metamorphose, almost during these past six months. The same nerve it took me to quit my desk job after years of deliberation was what I needed to stick it out as I traveled through 6 never-been-to-before states in India. That's what my latest 'up, close and personal' post on the blog - Have Feet Will Travel (link's on my Instagram profile) - is about. I'd love if you'd share your own thoughts after reading through. The antidote for wanderlust is wanderlust. And so I'm on the move.. Searching. Exploring. Navigating. #travel #India #solotravel #Bihar #WestBengal #Kolkata #Chhattisgarh #Odisha #AndhraPradesh #Hyderabad #traveldiary #travelgram #travelstoke #wanderlust #incredibleindia #lonelyplanetindia #igers #igers_India #ig_india #natgeotravellerindia #natgeotraveller #_soi #ig_indiashots #instatravel #photooftheday #picoftheday #indiapictures #indiaclick #nomad #HaveFeetWillTravel
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, a 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!
Okay full disclosure.
A month after my Fellowship, (and in an attempt to do the crazy) I set off on an adventure that spanned across 18 days and involved 7 train journeys (including India’s longest at 82 hours) simply because I did not want to board the Rajdhani from Delhi to Mumbai! [Read: 7 trains. 18 days. So what is your idea of an adventure | Outlook Traveller]
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?
Lesson learnt: 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 Guardian Travel makes every decision that has brought me to this point a rather fulfilling one.
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!
Happiness is holding a 'zine & seeing your name in print. A 4 page story on #homestays thanks to @StayWell #travel pic.twitter.com/6iB3iNY7jY— Elita (@NomadicThunker) November 10, 2015
Lesson learnt: 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.
On more travel
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.
Lesson learnt: 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!
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 Grassroots which was over a weekend in November.
The second is something that is outside of my realm of work but is definitely builds on my academic and professional background while helping me stay centred – a 6-week certificate course in counselling based on humanistic psychotherapy.
So, here’s to more nuanced and richer writing.
On the future