The Need For More
If you asked me in 2014 what I would being in five years, I’d only have one answer: I’d be studying for Ph.D. in Economics from one of the world’s best universities, spending most of the day glued behind a computer screen.
Well I expanded since then, and towards the end of my Master’s degree in 2015, I knew that all my academic success at that point was not the answer for me. And although I had thoroughly enjoyed academia, I knew that I hadn’t seen enough; I hadn’t done enough.
During college, I tutored younger students in basic subject matter and during my Masters I started to delegate tutoring work to others, taking a small commission for connecting students with a tutor. I wanted to make this a full-fledged business, but it was simply too big for me to pursue on my own.
And things have a way of falling apart when they’re not actually on your true path. So at the end of my degree, I started to form different ideas about what to do. I was also applying to all the major consultancies and banks for graduate jobs, and even reached the final round of McKinsey in London.
But at that point I started to lose interest, because my heart wasn’t fully into what I was doing. And my outside experience reflected that: for one reason or the other, things just seemed to go wrong even though it seemed perfect. So I dropped all my applications, enjoyed the UK for a bit, and took a one-way ticket to India.
During the initial part of 2016, I was still trying to overcome a serious heartbreak from someone who had majorly injured my psychological and emotional health. Combining this with my feeling of not having seen enough in life, I was now firmly decided that I would take a gap year to travel, and then get a job during the fall of 2016.
I’d always wanted to go to Cambodia, because I’m interested in temples and nature and it seemed stunningly beautiful. After doing some research, I booked tickets to Cambodia and Vietnam for a month and a half of solo exploration. Funnily enough, the moment I landed in Cambodia I found out my wallet had been taken from my bag.
Cambodia requires a $30 entry fee for visa on arrival: but I had lost three debit cards, and $700 in cash! But I was determined not to go back, so I begged people to give me spare change here or there and managed to gather $28 dollars. The staff laughed at me and allowed me to enter anyway.
During the entire trip, I survived by sending fellow travelers money through PayPal and having them withdraw it for me through an ATM. Towards the end of my trip, my parents also assisted me with a Western Union transfer, which they willingly did because it was my first extended escapade.
By the end of this trip, I had let go of more things that I had let go of in a year. The freedom and happiness of solo travelling had made a firm entry into my psyche, and it wasn’t something that would let me go. Most importantly, I gained a new sense of self-worth and spirit about life, knowing that no one person is important enough to destroy you.
After spending a month in Himachal, I found out I had been accepted into what I thought was my dream job. It was working as a research associate for a professor from MIT who was conducting an economic experiment on the relationship between poverty and nutrition. So I shifted to Chennai to begin two of the most depressing months of my time in India.
It was only a week or two into my job that I realized it was totally different to my expectations. And because I was still quite emotionally vulnerable, I ended up falling in love with my American co-worker who then decided to cut me off from his life (a pattern I faced with guys in general over the entire year).
Though the research topic was interesting, and I was pretty much guaranteed a Ph.D. entry into an Ivy League program, I had no autonomy. And it’s when you actually do things, that you realize what they even are. I had everything at this point; a definite future, a generous payment package. But I was fucking miserable.
It took me two months, but I decided to quit. And the professors also got a good idea that I wasn’t happy either. My flatmates were obnoxious cows. I was getting drunk and stoned everyday before 10am just to encourage myself to get through the day. And on top of that, the guy I liked screwed me over.
So in July 2016, it was straight back to the Himalayas for more of Parvati’s all-powerful healing energy. It was straight back to the road, because this time it wasn’t a temporary holiday. This time I knew that it was the only life I could be happy with. Only a life where I had total autonomy to create by myself.
After Himachal, I headed over to Europe for a couple of months, before returning back to India and starting out across SE Asia for the first half of 2017. I visited the Himalayas 4 times over 2017, and spent most of the summer in Europe. The later half of 2017 was spent in SE Asia. I travelled across Thailand, Indonesia, Laos, Switzerland, the Netherlands, the U.K., Italy, and France.
By the end of 2016 however, my savings had started to run out and I looked towards online tutoring as a primary source of income. Though I didn’t have much time to tutor when I was working in Chennai, I started it up again both independently and with an agency in London who provided me with students on a regular basis. I also had students who I had taught earlier in the year.
And it was at this point that I knew I was finally free. It had never even occurred to me when I started my journey, that I could live a travelling nomad lifestyle and also sustain it. But it didn’t come through planning or thinking, it came through doing. It came through going out in the world and knowing what worked and what didn’t.
But no, that’s not the end of it. As I continue to travel, to teach, and do extra things to make money, I still find myself lost at times. Because even if you know your path, you still have to put your foot down and walk on it. I continue to seek balance, and my travelling style has consequently evolved a lot. Yes, I figured out my lifestyle, but the journey is still ongoing. It always is.