How a woman who had a special hate for desk jobs and 9 to 5's got to start doing the things she loved, travelling and writing, and how she got introduced to the concept of budget travels.Chaitali Phatak
I’ll hit the road in two days but I believe my journey began the minute I received my selection call. Or maybe it somewhere started on the day I applied for this fellowship.
Rewind to last year around this time when I first travelled solo. I met this amazing fellow traveller who inspired me to travel as much as I can and as far as I can. When I met her, I was out with the exact same travel spirit, but I doubt the spirit would’ve grown into passion had I not met her?
It has been a couple of months since I came back to India, after spending about four months in Egypt; where I was mostly travelling and a lot of times working, earning just enough to survive through the month. Between Feb to June I was going through this weird transitional phase where I had to make up my mind on what was it really that I wanted to do next? Whether I wanted to get back to doing a full time 9-9 job or study for my Masters or simply continue travelling.
Continue travelling... it’s as unrealistic as exciting it sounds. Confused? Well, I am in my mid 20s, with an Indian passport and a bank balance in INR that has touched its bottom. I’m also the girl in my mid 20s who hates the rat race and desk jobs.
I want to work to have a steady income but I also want to travel and not restrict myself to a routine. So, the best mid way out was freelancing while figuring out - life.
In the month of May, it was by chance that I bumped into a distant relative at a wedding who told me about a Facebook post that said - Travel Writers required. Now this is the only reason why I’ve started enjoying the idea of attending weddings. *wink* So, I immediately looked up for it and got in touch with Mahendra. After all the interactions I’ve had with him, I felt he is an important man in this project. His first question was, do I want to travel and write or just write about travelling. You guessed it right! Of course I wanted to travel and write. And that’s how I stumbled upon this dreams-do-come-true-you-just-got-to-have-faith-in-them-Aaosome-Fellowship.
So I filled up the application and waited. Almost a month went by and I received a mail that said 8 fellows were shortlisted and my name wasn’t on it. Disappointed and a bit upset I got back to what I was doing - desperately looking for freelance work. A week later I decided to drop another mail to Mahendra and ask him for the ‘write about travelling’ opportunity. He called me the next day and immediately hired me for freelance BUT the real reason why he called was to ask if I was still interested in the fellowship. And that’s how, by chance I found my travel luck.
My trip technically started with all the planning and plotting, it feels like the journey had already begun. From short listing the places to go to in Maharashtra and Gujarat to checking the distances on Google Maps, to learning how to book the tickets on IRCTC, to taking permission from my Masters college to excuse me in the first month, to tweeting out for DSLR and settling down on Digi-cam, to taking pro travel tips from family and friends, to reading about the places on my itinerary, to mentally preparing myself to travel cheap, stay vigil, and enjoy to the core. Sigh.
With all the planning and learning I joke about having an alternate career as a travel agent. However, through and through one thing I realized time and again was that even if I’m travelling solo, it’s really a collective effort.
So many people, who are working hard in their capacity to make this trip a success, simply make me feel incredibly loved and blessed.
I’ve mostly travelled comfortably in the past with a decent budget in hand. But to backpack solo is an all together a different ball game. My dad was a bit sceptic about this idea because obviously he wants me to be safe and healthy. But I was 100% sure about this exciting journey no matter how challenging the situations get. I intend to learn to adjust and go that extra mile for the love of travel.
Saying yes to this opportunity was as simple as choosing what I definitely wanted in life. I want to be a travel writer, just like this travel journalist from The New York Times that I met in Cairo.
Travelling is never about staying in your comfort zone, and what better way to learn that, than to set out for solo backpacking.
I grew up watching shows on Discovery Travel and living and my favourite host Samantha would go to all these exotic places, stay in fancy hotels and eat delicious food. I admired her luck and always wondered how she landed herself that Aaosome job. I think after all these years I’m having my very own Samantha moment. I have finally found the opportunity of travelling (all paid for) and writing about the journey. So in the next 17 days I intend to make wonderful memories, collect beautiful travel stories, use public transport and hitchhike if need be, survive on vada pav, and prove myself and to the world the ultimate truth - Travelling does not require a lot of money, it generally only requires the passion and will to do it.
So bring it on!
This travel post is a part of the Aao fellowship travel series.