State of Things: A Year since I Quit my Job and Quarter since I became a Nomad

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Last year this week, I had just quit my job of 7 years and was out gallivanting in the happy Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan. I had a vague plan on what to do and didn’t have a lot in my savings account. All I had was a strange defiance of the life that was laid out for me - a life bound within the confines of familiarity and ennui. I took the decision to quit as soon as I learnt how to make money in other ways.

The plan
The only plan I had before quitting was that I should work diligently, 4-5 hours at desk every day. Frankly, that’s all it takes at this point for me to earn a decent living. Now when I’m traveling, taking notes and photographing, that’s work too but it being something I enjoy immensely, doesn’t really count as work. When I quit, I didn’t exit the structured corporate life with a hefty bank balance. I had already spent all my money on travels. What I did accumulate was plenty of words and images from my travels. I invested in my travels and stories were the product that I intended to sell. I didn’t have a financial plan. I planned to sell stories.

The Direction
One thing that I was looking for in the months after I quit was a clear direction. On some level I already knew the kind of work I’d like to do, telling deep stories from remote cultures and landscapes. But what I didn’t know was if I had it in me to take it up professionally. In the last few months, I found that direction. Earlier this year, I spent a week in Ziro, Arunachal Pradesh to document the fabulously interesting Myoko Festival. I attended all their rituals, learnt the local names by heart. Shot many many portraits, which is one thing I’m terrified of and ate plenty of weird food. That one week pushed me so much out of my comfort zone that I’d like to think I have inched towards becoming a better professional. In future, this is the kind of work I want to do - document faraway, bizarre cultures and landscapes. This, I believe, was a step in the right direction.

The Highs
The biggest high has been the opportunity to try something new. Earlier this year, I sold calendars which few of you bought (Thank you!). I priced them quite high at 950 and 1250 as the production cost itself was very high for small orders. I had outsourced the entire job of printing, assembling and delivery to another agency, all I did was choose the images and select a design. When the orders started pouring in, I began to wonder if it was going to be that easy to make money - sell an idea, delegate and earn profits!

But then came all the complications of managing the production logistics and delivering on time. That one week was one of the most harrowing times with insane sleepless nights and persistent headache. In the end, of course, I loved the fact that I sold a product, people actually bought it and I made some money out of it. I will be selling calendars and other products later this year again, armed with the learning from past mistakes and it’s going to be epic!

But there have been no lows. Nah, I’m kidding! No I am not.
You’d think I’m vain but let me go ahead and say it - there haven’t been any major lows in this journey. Sure, they were challenges, quite a lot of them. But that’s what they were, every potential low was a problem to be solved, a challenge to be tackled. Coming from where I did, anything felt better that doing the meaningless and miserable soul-crushing work I did earlier. When things went downhill, I was quick in counting my blessings. On some days, I just couldn’t believe this is my life - wandering about, taking pictures and writing stories.

I was full of bitterness in my earlier job - I remembered the bad days, the shitty meetings and the indignation. Surprisingly, now when I look back, I only remember the highs. That’s not to say there were no bad days, there were plenty. But it’s funny how genuine contentment can spill over into all parts of your life neutralizing whatever resentment you held.

Travel Writing, Money and the works
It’s been a bit challenging because I just wouldn’t get off my ass and pitch ideas. But on those rare days that I do manage to send my ideas out, I get good amount of work. I have written dozens of articles in the past one year and I’m secretly very proud that none of them were lists! (Okay, I’m lying. There was one.) When I thought of travel writing, this is what I had in mind. I am not going to tell where to go or how to do it. I am just going to talk about the reasons that compel us to travel.

So far, the only income I’ve earned is through travel writing & photography. There have been quite a few scary and penniless weeks, wondering how in the hell will I be paying those credit card bills because the cheques won’t ever arrive on time. But, I had decided a while ago that I’m not going to dilute my focus by dipping my feet into any other opportunities. I stuck to this decision and I couldn’t have been happier.

However, a lot of the stories I’m working on are from my previous travels. It essentially means I’m piggybacking on all the trips I paid for with my corporate salary. In about a year or more, I will run out of stories from my previous trips and the money I earn through writing will have to be put back into traveling again. I don’t know if I’ll be able to sustain myself for long depending only on income from travel writing but that’s something I’m not going to worry about right now. By that time in future, I should’ve also figured out how to get commissioned stories where all expenses are paid. At the moment, I travel on my own and then sell the stories. I do take assistance from tourism boards, hotel chains, travel companies and such but there’s a certain amount of money that goes from my pocket too.

There are some things I missed
Not having a steady base has been largely a liberating experience. On few days, I miss having a place to slow down and get work done but the fault largely lies with me in not being able to find a good guesthouse for long term stay. All world’s home now. Other than that, I really do not miss having a place that I call home.

What I do miss is writing good stories on my blog now. I am holding off the best stuff to write for other publications and I’m writing so much already elsewhere that it’s becoming increasingly difficult for me to write for the blog as well. Which is a pity because I love writing for you and reaching a direct audience. I do hope to post more anecdotes and unedited versions of published stories here soon. Meanwhile you can read my published stories here -


It’s really crazy that I lasted a whole year. At some point, I imagined I’d panic, break down and go crawling back to a regular soul-crushing job. Strangely, a year after I quit, I don’t see myself heading towards a regular job anytime soon. I love the fact that I can experiment, think out of the box and keep myself open for opportunities. More importantly, all of this feels quite normal!

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  1. So glad you made the move. Every word here - I can connect.
    Go on, I'll follow soon. Cheers.

  2. Awesome job Neelima, im still waiting to gather that much courage that i could quit my job and live the life i want to live. Hats off to you.

  3. Great to see that you are going strong a year after the taking the figurative leap! I will share my story. I haven't written about it elsewhere, but after reading your story, I am starting to think that I should write it out. It's not as nice as yours, but I took the leap too. Though I haven't yet taken to the road.
    I quit my job of 2 years at an innovative electronics company in January 2014. I had saved up enough to survive for probably 3-4 years. I did not know what I wanted to do, but I knew that I could not be in a job. I wanted to be on my own. Since then I have been travelling on and off. I had a rough idea that I wanted to do something that will allow me to travel. So, I made myself learn web-development between my travels. Some time in June 2014 one of the ideas started taking shape. I kept learning things about Web 2.0 and applied them to implement the idea. But work was slow because I was travelling, really slow. So I decided to stay in one place for at least 2 months, no travelling. I moved to Delhi in December, worked hard for 2 months and things took shape. I finally made publicly visible in March (it went live in Feb, but was password protected, visible only to a bunch of my friends who were giving me feedback) Then I went for a trek in early May, to Pangarchulla. It will divert from my story a bit here. You mentioned how you are piggybacking on your olds trips for stories now, right? My response to that is, travel does not have to be a costly affair. I noticed that on your blog you were running a survey for 'best trekking agencies'. I think we should plan all our trips ourselves, that way you don't just save money, but learn so much more in the process. So if done the right way off-beat travel is somehow very cheap. The trek I was talking about, 8-day trip (5 days of trekking) cost me just INR 3311. And not just this trek, all my past trips have been really cheap and still a lot of fun. Coming back to my story. After the trek, I am travelling again (not really on the road), just moving between familiar cities (where people I know live or where I have lived in the past) and the work has slowed down again. But progress is steady. With the 'business', I hope that I start making some money by the end of this year, because I am planning to hit the road next year.

    I have been silently following your blog for quite some time now. (I have read very few of your stories though, mostly been looking at the photos you capture. They are awesome!) I hope your experiences will help more people like me to take the leap and travel more freely. So, keep writing and capturing!

    PS: This trek was so memorable that I thought of writing about it [I have even tracked every penny we spent for this trek ;)] Here:

  4. Thank you for the honest and inspiring post..:-)

  5. Great going Neelima. It takes guts to quit a job and follow your passion and I am happy to read the journey you have chosen and how successful it has been. I quit my job about 5 years ago now and I realize that it was the best decision I have taken so far. It brings out a whole new spirit and challenges which turn out to be even more exciting with time :)

  6. All the above commentators, as well as you have worked for at least 2 years, before realising that you all were caught in different ruts. I joined work, for the first time in my life (just completed graduation), less than a week ago, and I still want to do all this!
    But just like you Neelima, I too have only history to recount- the trips I have embarked on, months and years ago. No trips planned at all for me.
    Also, India being the country she is, how safe is it for women to travel solo?
    How much can you go off-beat, use public transport etc.?

    1. Yes, working for a few years might be a good idea. It gives you an idea of how things work at a company. You have an opportunity to save money for your future travels. It gives you an opportunity to experiment with different things while you still have a regular monthly income. Once you have saved some money and/or figured out a way of making a living by doing something you enjoy, you can take the leap. About travelling as a solo in India as a woman you can talk to and take inspiration from so many who are doing it. Shivya Nath (, Elita (She is currently a Himsagar Fellow with SocialCops, Nisha Jha (, Shikha Gautam ( it's acutally a long list. I maintain a list of Indian travellers and travel bloggers, many of whom are Indian women. (

  7. Even I left my job 20 days ago and started my own travel blog. I really hope someday I manage to travel like you and do good to myself and this world. Thank You.

  8. Hi! Your blogs are amazing reads. I enjoyed reading each one of them; they are very much informative as well. Also, I would like to invite you to read mine on It would be a pleasure to know your opinion on the same. Thanks!

  9. Way to go, Neelima! Many congratulations on the right move. I loved the fact that you decided on a genre to focus on- "document faraway, bizarre cultures and landscapes''. Look forward to all those exciting stories.
    Keep traveling, writing, photographing and inspiring!

  10. Admire your courage and passion to follow your dreams! I enjoy reading your stories and looking at your gorgeous photos.

  11. Nice post! I quit my job in September last year to travel. It's the best!!

    "Surprisingly, now when I look back, I only remember the highs. That’s not to say there were no bad days, there were plenty. But it’s funny how genuine contentment can spill over into all parts of your life neutralizing whatever resentment you held." -- I can totally relate to this


  12. I guess you living the dream of many people , for sure mine. I am hoping I would tag along some day..

  13. Really glad you followed the footsteps laid down by your dreams and now you are the path dreamt by many.Keep dreaming and keep walking

  14. Really glad you followed the footsteps laid down by your dreams and now you are the path dreamt by many.Keep dreaming and keep walking

  15. Neelima - read thru the entire piece. Was so liberating to understand what we all go thru in our quest for meaning on what we want to do.

    Keep at it - there will be refreshing days ahead.

  16. And you have completed 2 years now . Yay !


  17. You are such an inspiration ! Kudos...

  18. Thank you Neelima, for reminding me of me.


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