The Internet has for some time now continued to be rife about ‘people who quit their jobs to travel’. I would know better, right? *insert tongue sticking out emoji*
The raison d’être – it would seem – is to inspire those at crossroads that the adage ‘impossible is nothing’ does in fact hold true.
Mayhaps. I can only imagine it to be so.
Yes, ‘impossible is nothing’.
In just the same way that making the impossible happen requires many a readjustment with and in one’s life from the way it once used to be.
Exit stability, predictability and all things fixed including the paycheque and the bed you crash into after slo-mo’ing your way towards earning that pay-check.
Enter uncertainty, life out of backpacks and all things erratic including the paycheque (it does not always exist) and the bed (or something that resembles one).
Some hug their knees and dive in.
Some let the winds carry them.
Few flirt with it from the side-lines …never quitting that job of theirs. It is these ‘schemers’ who are inspiring because their jobs are not even remotely linked with travelling. They are the ones who straddle both worlds – the certain (with its paycheque) and the uncertain (with its enamouring erraticism).
In this my first collaborative post, I present before you 10 such schemers. 10 people (in alphabetical order) from different walks of life who’ve been walking this tightrope with much élan.
I. Amlan Dutta, 37 | Bhadrak, Odisha
“Eddie Vedder’s Guaranteed would be the song that best describes my travel style” says Amlan who also digs street food while on the move and advices against alcohol if you intend on an early morning the following day.
So how does someone who manages the environment mandate of a sea port in Odisha succeed in his customary two trips a year? “I carve my time out by ensuring all my work tasks are up to date and the management is informed in advance about my travel plans.”
He is quick to add that “…with better planning I’m sure I can do more than two trips! My most memorable trip was one to Valparai (Tamil Nadu) where I’d gone to help a friend set up his first field research station. We would get up before day break and head out to the woods setting up mist nets and trapping birds to ring them with colour tags for his study. It was fun as mist netting lets you see the endemic Western Ghats really up close.” he reminisces.
For someone who has the Andaman and Nicobar Islands next on his travel bucket-list, Amlan recommends that, “Winter is the best time to travel so try wrapping up important tasks before. That way, work phone calls and emails won’t be expected when you are on your annual vacation. And at least three travel vacations can easily be taken in a calendar-year by any corporate executive, if planned well in advance”
II. Madhuri Mukherjee, 24 | Mumbai, Maharashtra
“Rumi’s quote – Beyond the ideas of right doing and wrong doing is a field, I’ll meet you there – best describes my travel style” asserts Madhuri, an emerging markets risk analyst with Credit Suisse.
As someone who (with much confidence) swears by rolling clothes while packing as it saves space and does not ruin their shape, it is not surprising to know that she travels “about twice a month which are small breaks, clubbed with public holidays (if any) and once a quarter – a long 10 day or so break – using paid leave.” Prod her into how she does it and she says, “Well if you try you can always make time. At the end of it, it’s just a matter of prioritizing and doing what genuinely gives you joy.”
This wanderlust-ress has already enlisted Kutch, Nepal and Vietnam on her travel bucket-list over the next two months and recollecting her favourite trip she says, “It’s hard to decide between New York and Myanmar. New York was a place I’d dreamt of for the longest time and even now after 2 years, I can still remember every walk so vividly. Myanmar was a burst of colours, happy people, fantastic landscapes and so much hospitality! It is a must visit for everyone!”
III. Pooja Jerajani, 27 | Pune, Maharashtra
“Bali again in March! It is the perfect place to learn the art of slow travel” replies Pooja about her next travel destination.
A digital marketing manager for Ministry of Villas and an online marketing specialist at Sanctor Digital, Pooja, ask her how she juggles work with travel and she replies, “As a full time employee, I plot my leaves in advance which gives me ample time to organise client work or train team members to manage some jobs while I’m away. It also helps to grab the best deals on flights!” Not surprising to hear her say that because as Pooja discloses “While researching for airfares, I recently learnt that international airfares are relatively cheaper from airports that aren’t major business hubs. My flight ticket from Hyderabad to Hong Kong was about INR 26,000 whereas my parents paid INR 35,000 for a flight from Mumbai to Hong Kong.”
Inspired by Elizabeth Gilbert’s journey in Eat, Pray, Love, Pooja visited Bali in 2013 for the first time. “It was in Bali that I realised how travel can be a spiritually enriching experience. I spent my mornings working from beachfront restaurants or villas, went river rafting in Ubud and loved watching the sky turn pink with every sunset! I even learnt to design a WordPress blog here so yes, Bali was the trip that got me trippy!” says Pooja who mentions Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani’s Ilahi as the song that describes her travel style!
Quiz her on any advice she’d like to share and she forthrightly says, “I advocate working hard, earning money and having good financial security. I love my job, but I’m definitely not a cubicle dweller. In fact, getting a job I love instead of quitting, was the best thing that happened to me. It means I have a stable income, I can plan better and save enough money to fulfill my travel dreams. It’s not always easy, but I’ve made travel a priority without sacrificing my beloved fixed life.”
IV. Priya Krishnan Das, 35 | Pune, Maharashtra
“I try and visit at least one new place every month, even if it’s an unexplored part of my city” says Priya, an artist and illustrator who runs her own creative enterprise, ‘Purple Soul’.
“My work profile is best described as doing anything creative that inspires me. So juggling travel and work – both of which are equally important for me – happens without much effort. And if you really love travelling, there is really NO excuse!” Having planned her upcoming trip to Velas for the Turtle festival next month, Priya attests her love for home-stays “as nothing beats it when it comes to soaking up the local culture and food.”
She dates her favourite travel memory to the time when she “had gone as a volunteer to hand pollinate vanilla flowers in a plantation in Karnataka. Staying in the middle of that plantation was like fairyland and performing the role of humming birds to pollinate vanilla flowers was a wonderful experience.” This probably explains why when asked about a quote that best describes her travel style, she mentions: “We travel not to escape Life, but for Life not to escape us.”
V. Priyanka Kadam, 30 | Pune, Maharashtra
“As clichéd as it sounds (and it is tattooed on my right leg) – Not all those who wander are lost – is the quote that describes my travel style”. Meet Priyanka who has been working as a team leader at a software product company for the past eight years.
Quiz her on her ‘juggling’ abilities and she says, “I am annually entitled to 22 paid leaves and 10 national holidays. I try to fit in 4-5 short trips (4-5 days) and 2-3 long trips (9-10 days) by clubbing the above 32 days with weekends. I do need to plan ahead and inform stakeholders about my unavailability.” Recounting her time in Myanmar in January she adds “Traveling solo to Myanmar has been the most exhilarating travel experience. Safe travel, convenient and cheap transport options, delicious cuisine, clean hostels, honest sincere locals, rich heritage, beautiful Bagan sunrises, meeting new exciting travel companions were some of the many reasons I will cherish this trip for a long time.” With exploring Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Nagaland at end of March next on her travel bucket-list, Priyanka’s travel hacks include, “Take holidays when most of your peers won’t be taking one; not around Diwali or Holi – then people won’t notice your absence! If you have a wish-list of places you want to visit, create an alert for flight tickets on SkyScanner. And travel light. I travel with a 30 litre backpack. You don’t need more than that for even a multi month trip.”
VI. Purbita, 33 | Hyderabad, Telangana
Ask Purbita, who devotes 8-9 hours on an everyday basis to credit cards and transactions, about her trippy-est trip till date and she gushes “Standing in front of the Colosseum, I was totally awestruck. It was like I could hear the echoes of thousands of people who’d lived through centuries to tell the glorious tales of the gladiators.”
With Adam Agin’s ‘Your Heart Keeps Burning’ as the theme song of her wanderer life, Purbita admits that “My eager eyes are set on the official holiday calendar when the new year begins. I make a note of all the long weekends that I can put to good use for smaller weekend getaways. And I keep aside majority (1-2 weeks) of the leave dates open for that one long annual leave”. She further offers that “We know how blessed we are to be living in India where we have a festival almost every month. It just comes down to making travel your priority (if that’s what it truly is) and planning accordingly.”
That would explain how she’s already planned her trip to Hampi in the next few weeks! She divulges a little travel secret: “Eat where the locals eat and try to strike a conversation with them. Bonding over food helps a great deal in learning about the lesser known details about places that the travel guides don’t write about”
VII. Shreyas, 28 | Bangalore, Karnataka
“A good traveller has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving”, that’s a Lao Tzu quote that aptly defines my travel style, says Shreyas, who writes computer programs when not traveling – which is about 3-4 times a year!
Admittedly though he adds, “It is quite hard to strike a balance for me. My usual symptoms are that I start looking at maps and saved locations on Google maps for long stretches of time. I usually have a bunch of plans ready to be executed! If it feels right, I make up my mind instantly. I am still getting better at putting my head down and working when I am swamped…” With the caves in Badami, Ajanta and Ellora next on his ‘map’ along with Delhi and Kolkata, Shreyas’ favourite travel memory is “a week-long ride on the Western Ghats and the coastline of Karnataka. So many wonderful memories – getting a little lost in a forest with a drunk man, getting treated at Doddamane in Agumbe, doing a scuba dive without even planning a lot and riding on the amazing roads all the while!”
In response to those who claim that work does not leave them with enough time to travel he asserts, “…maybe they are just being lazy. I’d advise them to not even pack a bag and just head out on a bike, car or a bus to any place they haven’t been before, and feel the place with an open mind.”
VIII. Shri Ayyangar, 31 | Mumbai, Maharashtra
“My job description says I am responsible for media relations, but I prefer to dip my hands into design, photography and even site-visits to partner NGOs.” Meet Shri, who absolutely loves the movie Eat, Pray, Love and has Manipur and Sikkim next on his radar.
Prod him about juggling work with travel and he declares, “I’m fortunate that at my current workplace that I could be working on festive holidays and use it to travel later. My problem is finances as I am the sole breadwinner. So every month, I reserve a particular amount for travel and time my payments smartly.” This might explain his emphasis that “You need to PLAN travel out! Decide the destination later if you have to. I have also realized that I have to put my foot down firmly and assure my employer/supervisor that the work will not be affected in any manner because of my travel. I have had situations where I have worked on weekends in order to ensure no work remains unattended or pending while I am away.” Shri reminisces his “first conventional trip to Ooty. I visited off-beat places and also stayed at a home-stay that was right in between a tea estate and two villages on each side of the cliff. I also had a leopard sighting near the Bandipur National Reserve”.
A self-confessed ‘luxury traveller’ he reveals, “I invest a lot of time and energy in planning and comparing the best rates. And I am a shopaholic! I’ve often faced issues at airports for excess baggage, so I’ve purchased a digital weighing scale and I’m able to distribute the weight evenly in cabin and check-in luggage.”
IX. Sudeep Shukla, 30 | Mumbai, Maharashtra
Japan is what makes Sudeep, a digital content lead and social media strategist, starry-eyed. “The whole country was beyond what I imagined. There were nice surprises at every nook and corner. That is the one place I would love to go again and explore more.”
One more believer of Tolkien’s “Not all who wander are lost”, Sudeep verifies that “I try to travel every six months for an international or a big Indian trip. I save enough each month and make the trip in the sixth month usually. Plus since I love traveling I try to cut costs wherever possible and save for my travels. And it is all about managing your work and personal life. Remember you control your work, don’t let the work control you and your travel plans”.
Any how-to tips? “I tell this to a lot of my friends: You don’t need to break the bank to travel. One can travel to international places inexpensively provided you plan it out well. I blog to tell people that if I can do trips in below 90K budgets which includes flights, food, stay and internal travel, then anyone can. Just smart planning and being open to staying less lavish.” Want to know where’s next for this vagabond? “I’m heading for a 16 day trip from Hungary to Croatia in mid-March. I planning to drive around from Budapest to Dubrovnik and back while visiting Zadar, Split, Hvar, Bol and if possible Kotor in Montenegro…”
X. Vikas Plakkot, 26 | Bangalore, Karnataka
Quoting Kerouac’s “Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again. We had longer ways to go. But no matter, road is life” to describe his travel style, Vikas is effusive when he talks about his three week trip to Greece in the summer of 2015: “Inhabited by a handful of people, Milos – a lesser known island in Greece – only has two colours: white and blue. Riding a 50 cc bike through the mountainous island, the only sounds apart from the bike were the buzzing of the bees and kissing of waves. When I’m an old man, I’ll know where my sea will be!”
Co-founder of Just For Kicks, social enterprise that uses football to develop leadership skills among children from low income schools, ask Vikas how he manages his serious case of wanderlust and he responds with: “I get out at every chance I can during the multiple long weekends India is blessed with. I must admit that the ability to carry work along with me is a plus in ensuring those long trips don’t cut me off from my bread.” Such is his passion for travel that for those who claim they cannot his knee-jerk reaction is, “’Find something else, then!’ If traveling does mean a whole lot, a few sacrifices are due. Here’s a quick tip: When you wake up in the morning to a probable fever and feel like going back under the blanket, remember that this one day could else be spent sometime later enjoying the magnificent views of Machu Pichu, maybe. Stop taking those 1-day leaves for no reason. Accumulate them, use it all at one go.”
Ask him for travel tips and he sagaciously mentions, “Plan your next destinations 8 months in advance. Request for a price alert on three key sites: Kayak, Momondo, SkyScanner. Too-early and too-late are high price zones. However, there is a small 3-5 week window in the middle when prices dip tremendously. With a price alert kept, you’re sure not to miss that. I promise you return flights to most destinations under 35K.” All of this coming from someone who’s off to explore West and South Spain in May this year!
Need I say more?
Still think you can come up with an excuse? I’ll let George Washington have the last word: “It is better to offer no excuse than a bad one.”
Are you one such schemer too? Or do you happen to know one? Are you putting that story out there to inspire the rest of us?