It’s been 5 years! 5 years of not going to office, 5 years without a paycheck at the end of the month. 10th January 2013 was the last time Chetan returned home from work. It’s been 5 years of becoming richer by experience. We’ve become fanatics about owning less. We don’t feel at home anywhere, we feel at home everywhere. We will be writing more “behind the scenes” about these 5 years – about how we managed to do all that we did. What exactly do you want to know? Do you have any questions about us and our lives? Do let us know and we will address it all in our post.
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This is the beginning of the attempt to answer all of those longterm travel questions.
It all seemed logical – even after a night’s sleep. The decision to travel long-term had happened over dinner, past midnight. It had been an exhausting day. “Let’s quit it all and travel the world” – had sounded, not surprisingly, like the best idea ever.
The real game changer, however, was the morning after. Unlike the “were we nuts last night!” feeling we expected to wake up with, we woke up feeling invigorated. “There really is nothing stopping us, let’s do it!” – decision made and sealed.
What didn’t happen overnight were the preparations. We gave a good one year to prepare ourselves (and our family and friends) mentally, emotionally and financially. Some decisions were obvious:
A year-long sabbatical wasn’t an available option – we would quit our work after a year’s time.
Earning in INR, we knew we couldn’t save enough for a year-long RTW (Round The World) trip in a year. But we had a house in Mumbai – our most valued possession – we would sell the house. Time and money issues sorted.
Once we got down to thinking about the execution, more questions than we had imagined came up.
Research – Are there other couples who quit jobs and sold their house to travel the world?
A quick Google search for “couples who sold a house to travel the world” yielded pages full of results. Some of them had become so besotted by the “travel lifestyle” that they had become “professional travellers” – exciting new terms entered our lives!
When someone who not so long ago lived a life just like yours is telling you stories of how they went about doing things, it has a “cool, I can do this” feel to it.
These modern-day travellers were setting up a picture in our minds, answering a myriad of questions:
- How to travel? Where to travel? How much to spend?
- What does a travel lifestyle mean? Travel as a way of life – what is that? Were they making a living out of travel?
- And the big daddy of it all – their motivation. Why were they travelling in the first place!
What was once, “What, really?” and “Oh my god, how is that even possible” was slowly but surely turning out to “Aah, okay”. Our disbelief about this lifestyle was transforming into fascination, curiosity and eventually understanding the nitty gritties.
Specifics: Anyone with an Indian passport?
It’s no breaking news that India features way down in the list of most powerful passports in the world – travel wise.
Okay – so what were our options? Consulate websites became our best friends. Many are quite open to answering your specific queries.
- Could I cross over this border from country A to B with an Indian passport?
- I have a US/UK/Schengen visa. Will that do?
- Can I apply for a visa from out of India?
- I have been to country N. Can I still travel to country M?
Further research came up with travellers with bizarre travel stories even on an Indian passport for years! (Look up for Guru Prasad – you’re welcome!). There were active threads in discussion forums on Thorntree aimed at travellers with an Indian passport.
As word of our travel plans spread, friends called in to introduce us to a “friend of a friend” who had cycled through Europe or spent months in South America or South East Asia! We devoured the details of their travels – understanding their stories became the aim of our life.
Recommended reading: Guru Prasad’s visa stories, Thorntree thread for Indian Backpacker.
Implement: Can we meet these “people out there” in person?
Couchsurfing was a travel community that most caught our attention. Invite travellers over to your home, offer them a place to stay, if possible (preferably) spend time with them. The only rule – you can not ask for or offer money. It was a utopian situation – to see our future selves right in our living room!
What to look out for in a bag?
- Quick dry clothes to buy
- Details that had never crossed our minds – like a compact rope to dry our laundry or inflatable water bottles.
- Techniques to wash clothes real quick, not fall sick
- Tricks that pickpockets used
We shared meals with them. Showed them a bit of Mumbai. Conversations flowed. We exchanged stories of our cultures, cuisines, families and travels. Our home became their home when they were far away from theirs.
It was a wonderful year of building our travel family!
Simplify: Do we need all these things and thoughts?
We had to leave our old lives and start a new one of travel in one year – with that clear goal, everything else became secondary. We had let go of ideas like climbing the career ladder, buying a bigger house – even this thing called “future investments”.
We were investing in our present. Living in the moment. With these thoughts simplified, it was easy to let go of things.
- Only after selling off our car did we realise we had barely ever used it. Thanks to this wonderful thing called Mumbai traffic, bus and cab commute times were almost the same. Only, the bus was way cheaper!
- Getting rid of most clothes eliminated the “what do I wear” crisis. We trained our minds to ask, “Do we need this?” every time something tempted us. (“We won’t be able to buy things when we travel – our sacks will become too heavy” – was the biggest deterrent!). After a while, we didn’t “want” most things.
- Adopting a sharing mentality. We didn’t have to own everything we needed. Libraries instead of bookstores, car rentals instead of a car in the garage worked in most cases.
- “Socialising” would happen at home. Which also meant we were spending longer quality time with friends – away from crowded and overpriced places.
Every paisa saved was travel fund earned.
Choose: Can we practice the life on the road?
A weekend we weren’t hosting, we would be travelling. Visits to friends living out of town, family events, weddings – all became a reason to explore a new place.
In all these short trips, we made deliberate choices that are part of long-term travel:
- Find a budget accommodation that’s still clean and safe.
- Could we opt for a homestay instead of a luxury eco-resort? Free walking tour instead of a drive around tour.
- Monsoon’s the best season to visit a place? Why not visit in the winter? Better rates and lesser crowds.
- Did we have kitchen access? Where did the locals eat?
BYO (Buy Your Own) sugar, milk powder, coffee powder and tea bags. Heat water in a kettle – and save money on daily tea and coffee. Buy fruits from the local market instead of packaged fruit juices.
Sometimes, we would just turn up at the bus station. Wherever the next bus was going would be our destination. It meant reaching an unknown highway spot at 4 AM.
But it also meant talking to others on the bus – and getting tips from them. It meant learning which autorickshaw driver to trust. And experiencing the joy of arriving at a new, unknown place – with no plans. Everything was open to being discovered. Every stranger was a potential friend.
These deliberate choices meant falling in love with the life on the road – and the road itself.
Honesty: Why were we really doing this?
The one year that we gave ourselves to prepare for the dream of our lives – was really a year of being honest with ourselves. We knew the cushion of coming back to our old lives was always there – we didn’t hate our work neither were we miserable with this life.
But we also knew we were taking a risk. There was no way of knowing what lay in the year ahead. What we would return back as.
We knew we wanted to take this chance with ourselves. Present ourselves with a chance of a different life – of uncertainty, maybe. But also of exploration. Of discovering the world and at the same time discovering something new within.
It was a year of preparing ourselves to live a dream.
When people hear of our long-term and slow travel stories, we are often asked questions – how do we plan, what do we plan and for how long do we plan. And when we say that we don’t really plan anything at all, more questions follow. We have always said that serendipity is a big part of our travel and we let the road lead the way.
We are starting this series on Instagram ( from our first long-term trip (well, it wasn’t THAT long but for us, at the time, it was! ) – our 3 months in the Himalayas(Follow hashtag #LongTermTravelWithSandeepaChetan). We won’t talk much about the place and our experience but about how did we decide the next destination, how we moved ahead and how the decision panned out. We will just “write out loud” what was going on in our minds. We hope this series throws light into the psyche of long-term travel and acts as a guiding tool for future aspirants.
A part of this appeared originally on Firstpost.