Normal to Nomadic: How One Girl Built a Life of Travel

Life isn't always about planning something, finding something, being something. Sometimes we just drift along and see where it takes us. And so it was with my 23-year-old self, working in a cushy cubicle-bound corporate job in Singapore that indulged me but didn’t necessarily fulfill me.

Normal to Nomadic: How One Girl Built a Life of Travel

In my restless state of mind, I found inspiration in the journeys of travel bloggers from around the world (Dave and Deb’s included!), and dreamed of trading my corporate life for one on the road – who doesn’t?

Alas, looming above my head like little warning clouds were my student debt, the complete lack of social security in my home country India, a passport that makes visas painfully difficult, and a protective family back in my small town home at the base of the Himalayas.

Against all odds

Truth is, there was little precedence in India for a person – forget a single girl of 23 years – to leave behind the security of a stable paycheck for an uncertain, seemingly impractical, life of travel.

But that’s exactly what I did.

Romania culture, Romania people, Shivya Nath

Heartwarming experiences with the locals in northern Romania.

Small steps for a long journey

Before I took the plunge, however, I tried to understand my wanderlust and know if long-term travel was really for me.

Clubbing annual leaves and long weekends, my trips across Southeast Asia unveiled my curiosity to go off the beaten path and find experiences travel guides could tell me little about – like living with the White Thai tribe deep in the interiors of Northwest Vietnam, climbing an active volcano on Indonesia’s Sulawesi island, and discovering pristine islands along Malaysia’s east coast.

Ladakh India, India himalayas

In the high Himalayas of Ladakh.

On a two-month sabbatical from my job, I flash-packed across Western Europe with a friend and volunteered by myself in the highest villages of the Indian Himalayas. Instead of feeling worn-out and craving a familiar bed after 60 days on the road, I felt alive with a newfound zest to explore the world, one that left me no doubt that my ‘stable’ job had nothing more to offer me.

So I quit and moved back to India – with a big student debt and bigger dreams.

Believing in the road

Thanks to the low cost of living in India, my savings were enough to see me through 6 months of wandering.

Apo island Philippines

On a lancha in Negros, Philippines.

Using Delhi as a base (away from the constant nagging of my family to get my act together), I picked up work with NGOs and travel enterprises that let me feed my wanderlust in remote parts of the country, started writing for national and international travel publications, and gradually entered the realm of professional travel blogging, with my blog

rural romania

A glimpse of rural Romania in Maramures.

Two years and many adventures later, in another leap of faith, I gave up my rented apartment and sold most of my belongings to go location independent – an idea that still leaves most people in India boggled.

An appetite for risk

Since the summer of 2011, when I handed in my resignation, my appetite for risk has grown slowly but surely, helping me deal with the battles that regularly come my way.

For instance, my life as a freelancer – I work as a social media strategist and community manager for travel companies, collaborate with travel brands to promote campaigns through my significant reach in Indian and Asian countries, and dabble into travel writing – has no set pattern of income, and I like it that way, for it has taught me to live in the now, wake up to the possibility of exciting new work everyday, and well, trust that things will figure themselves out.

Darjeeling tea estates

Hiking along Darjeeling's tea estates.

More importantly, this uncertainty in my working and income patterns has introduced me to the art of slow travel. Instead of moving around constantly, I try to stay in a place long enough to soak in its quirks and discover the local way of life – while also working to replenish my bank account and accepting the physical and emotional constraints of long-term travel.

It’s okay to mess up and live a little

That I left a well-paying corporate job with student debts, without social security and without much of a plan, might sound irresponsible.

Shivya Nath, Indian travel blogger

Writing at my Airbnb studio above San Marcos La Laguna, Guatemala.

Truth be told, I needed to take a leap of faith to build my life around the things I loved, and the longer I waited, the harder it would’ve been. So I just did it.

Worst case: I would’ve spent all my savings, made no money from freelancing or blogging, delayed my loan payments, gotten a telling off from my family for being impractical and found myself job hunting again – but I sure would have known that I had the courage to chase my dreams.

Best case: I would meet the Seychelles’ most famous songwriter and a fisherman in Mauritius, and realize that just like me, they had traded the stability of a regular job for their love of music and the sea respectively. I would live with a Mayan family in Guatemala, Buddhist nuns in the mountains of Ladakh and the indigenous Bribri people of Costa Rica, and appreciate that people all over the world are the same within. I would hitchhike through remote villages in the Maramures region of Romania, the Indian Himalayas and the Black Sea Coast of Turkey, and feel overwhelmed by the innate kindness of strangers.

And that’s what happened, I messed up and lived a little. What about you?

AUTHOR BIO Shivya Nath: Shivya Nath quit her corporate job in 2011 and has been traveling the world since – often solo. She likes to take the roads less travelled, get under the skin of a place and experience the local way of life.

Her travel blog – The Shooting Star – was awarded India’s best travel blog at the Indian Blogger Awards 2013. Connect with Shivya on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, and let her inspire you to step out of your comfort zone and discover the world!

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