Living the high life: Year 2- An Honest Recap

“Joss- What is that? Some kind of a drink?” I asked one of the guys looking up at the flashy menu on the bar counter.

“It’s this powder. You mix it in a vodka shot and have it while shaking your head. It’s a Gili T tradition, you must have it if you are here.”

“What happens then?”

“It’s like powdered Red Bull. Except it is like 5 cans of Red Bull in one shot,”
he laughed.

Whoa, I thought as I keyed in Vodka Joss on my phone resting on the bean bag.

I was sitting at the hostel bar next to the pool as the sun went down slowly. It had been a full day of snorkelling in the sea around the Gili islands. A huge earthquake and tsunami had caused massive havoc in Sulawesi, a north Indonesian island the previous night. There was no escaping the tsunami waves in the middle of the night in case they reached this tiny island I was on. Although the epicentre was over a thousand kilometres away, I had gone to bed knowing I would either wake up on my hostel bed or on the sea bed. Some bed at least!

'Vodka Joss is illegal across Indonesia except Gili Trawangan,' Google told me. The rebel in me wanted to try this ‘banned’ thing immediately.

“It gives a kick, makes you crazy high. With a few shots, you will be dancing all night and might end up doing some stupid things that you have no memory of the next day,” my friend told me.

I laughed. All the things that I have been doing this past year, the way I have been living life- would anyone sane consider I am not high already?

When I published the ‘One Year’ video exactly one year ago, I was battling with the big question ‘What’s next?’ I had just given up on my group trip venture (and my entrepreneurial dream with it). After 10 months of working day and night towards one thing, I suddenly was absolutely blank. Getting back to a regular job seemed like the practical thing to do. Except that I wasn’t mentally prepared for it. There was enough money in the savings bank to sustain me for a few months in case I decided to head to Delhi and get a job. But did I want to do that? 

The Solo Trip

A week later I found myself booking non-refundable return flight tickets to Vietnam and Cambodia.

My parents were angry and worried. Why do you want to go there? Why do you want to go alone? If something happens how will we know? The questions never ended until I left for the trip in January. I had made a detailed itinerary on a excel sheet with every tiny bit of information that I was able to gather in the previous two months- Day by day plan, flight details, train bookings, hostel bookings, hostel contact details, location of nearest Indian embassy in each city, contact details of the embassy or consulate, and so on.

I emailed it to them and hoped they wouldn’t need any of that information at any point. I was headed to one of the most backpacker friendly destinations in the world and that was why the information had been so easily available. I just didn’t know it then. 

Joining Emperor Khai Dinh's army. Hue, Vietnam

I have lived alone and travelled alone in familiar territory within India over the last decade. But it was my first time flying abroad. First time passing through Immigration. First time handling foreign currency on my own. First time in cities I knew no one in. First time going to a land that didn’t understand the language I speak. First time going to places whose food I didn’t know. I was definitely nervous, but the excitement of the first solo trip ensured the anxiety never surfaced even for a bit.

I had another objective to the trip though. I wanted to vlog the entire journey. Film every single day, every single moment and publish it on my youtube channel as fun travel guide vlogs. This constant urge to create and tell a story that this stupid right side of the brain forces us- creators- to do all the time, and my love for shooting and editing videos, ensured I take this project up in all stride. In hindsight, I think it was the best decision.

I came back with loads of stories. Probably the most important one of those was from my very first day of the trip. That was the day I decided to let go of the introvert me because I was not happy with how that side of me dealt with situations. I knew I wanted to travel, meet new people, make some connections and some great memories to look back on. And from that day on, I started conversations with strangers in every moment possible. Probably that made sure I have a lot of unplanned ‘firsts’ in my very planned trip. 

Family Dinner with hostellers from around the world. Hue, Vietnam

Read: Vietnam: Overcoming First Day Fears

The vlogs from the trip kept me more busy than I could have imagined. Unexpectedly I even neglected the blog because the ‘creator me’ didn’t have the bandwidth to create content in a different form simultaneously. I had so many stories to tell but surprisingly I couldn’t write. I am not complaining.

The Indecisive Period

Towards the end of March when the vlogs were about to come to an end, I was back in the ‘What’s next’ zone. In the absence of any answers, I impulsively went on a 3-week tour to visit friends and family across Mumbai, Pune and Hyderabad. Meeting friends and discussing things with them would probably give a new perspective and a way forward- something that definitely wasn’t happening as I sat in one corner of my room at home behind the laptop screen for hours at end every single day.

This was also the time I decided to sever ties with certain people whose presence was doing me more harm than good and I had failed to realise it until then. This was also when I decided to make a video and tell the world what was exactly going on in my head since the last several years- a decision that didn’t go too well with my family and some of my closest friends who already knew about it and thought it was unnecessary. In hindsight, I know it was a very good decision in ways better than I can explain.

The Drowned Drone

Few weeks later I made another impulsive decision and spent my entire savings on buying a drone. I had my eyes on it for over a year and I thought this would be a brilliant investment for the travel vlogs to come. Gadgets have always fascinated me and holding a camera in hand and shooting videos has made me feel more powerful than anything else.

Needless to say, Murphy’s Law was ready to prance on me. In less than 48 hours of getting my hands on it, I drowned my brand new drone in the Ganga at Rishikesh.

All my savings, drowned. The heartbreak was real. I returned home, a failed warrior at heart. This time I accepted defeat.

I posted ads and was able to sell most of the drone accessories. They were all sealed, most had not even been taken out of their packaging. I had 25,000 rupees in the account.

The episode also prompted me to stop my freelance writing work. This client had been the one constant source of income ever since I quit my job. Although it was work as per my own terms and paid better than most freelance work, it was not enough to buy me the same drone again even if I worked for the next several months. Still I had grown complacent of the slowly growing bank balance it provided and made me lazy to look for other clients or opportunities. I knew this had to stop. The emotional turmoil of the drone loss ensured I end that chapter.

I think I also started purposefully avoiding people, mostly good friends, at this point. For the first time I didn’t feel ‘something will work out’ as an alternative to a regular job. I started searching for options on LinkedIn and applying for all kinds of jobs in all parts of the world. I think a part of me still didn’t want any company to respond. It wasn’t sincere application. 

The second solo trip

Another two months passed and I was still completely blank. It would soon be two whole years since I quit (although honestly, it doesn’t feel that long at all) and this was when I decided I had to take things in control. I had to get my absolutely cluttered life on track.

So one late August afternoon 3 important things happened- One, I posted a Facebook status letting everyone know that I am looking for a job. Two, my bank account got a major credit with the maturing of a two year old RD. Three, I booked tickets for a 25-day trip across Malaysia and Indonesia that was to begin in exactly two weeks.

For the kind of research I usually put in for my travel, two weeks was too less a time to plan a 25-day adventure across countries I knew nothing about. This time I didn’t plan it as meticulously as the first time. No embassy contact details were sent to my parents, who were now more confident about me travelling solo. In fact I didn’t even book most of my accommodations or even travel within the country. This was going to be the real backpacking trip when I would decide where I was going to sleep the next day probably just a day in advance. I had a few things in mind that I wanted to do including climbing an active volcano. I had no clue how I would do that. But I knew things would work out. My budget was fixed.

Walking on the rim of an active volcano and looking into the crater. Mt. Bromo, Java, Indonesia

This was my big adventure to conclude the 2 years of ‘living life on purely my terms’ in an epic way. You can read all about the trip here: A 25 day blind date across Malaysia & Indonesia
I returned from the trip early in October. I am posting vlogs from the trip on a weekly basis this time so as not to exhaust me like last time. Even if it is a full time regular job I am getting into next, at least I would be able to find enough time in a week to edit one vlog.

What’s gone by, what’s next

Right now, for the first time since I quit my job I feel I am not running away from anything. I don’t feel I need to join any race to get something in life. I am not relying on luck to take me places. But now for the first time in over two years, I want to get into a regular schedule, meet new people in both my professional and personal life, and most importantly, take control of my life. I might get back to a corporate setup or something else might happen. I don’t know.

Even though I hate not having a plan, most of last year has been without one. I love that I can proudly say that this has been an incredible year. I think I have grown more as a human being in this one year than ever before.

Taking a moment staring into the abyss. Chele La, Bhutan

3 years later, I now realise how I had got into my first job and it somehow doesn’t look good, although very lucky. I had just moved to Mumbai after college and was exploring opportunities. For someone who had never wanted to take orders from someone else or have a ‘job’, the pressure of simply living with such huge competition in the media industry of Mumbai and encountering it every single moment of each day had ensured I take up a job ASAP. Hence, when a big brand opportunity came knocking I grabbed it immediately.

A year later the reason I had cited in my resignation letter was something on these lines- I want to try what best I can do with my life right now at the very start of my career rather than regret at a later date what I didn’t do because I got too comfortable with the job I have right now. For the company, probably I am a valued employee. For me as an individual, I am simply a guy who is trying to figure out what best he can do for himself.

I had been asked to reconsider my decision several times over that one month notice period but I had made up my mind. 

On top of the world. Khardung La, Ladakh, India

One might argue that not quitting the job would have now taken me two huge levels up in the corporate hierarchy and perhaps I would have had a handsome income right now that could have financed several more of my ‘dream trips’.

But had I settled in comfortably with that job that I loved and still quit, would I have- ever in life- tried all the new things that I have done these last two years? Things that I know have helped my personal growth tremendously? Things that have perhaps made me way stronger to face the world? Things that made me realise that there is way more to the world than just beautiful places? Things that re-enforced my faith in the goodness of the people of the world? Things that ascertained my presumption that you need to question what the world tells you to do before joining everyone else in doing the same thing?

Perhaps not.

Not all of us might have the scope of taking risks like I did. Obligations and family responsibilities might rank on high priority for some. It thankfully doesn’t for me yet. But in case it is even slightly possible and you have the opportunity, then why settle with something ‘comfortable’ without first trying what you really want to in life?

I am not sure what’s next for me. But as always I am certain, as long as one has an open heart, good things will happen. Or rather the right things will happen at the right time.

And no, I didn’t try the Joss that day. Or on any day. I was already living a high life.

Anyways I wouldn’t tell you if I did, would I?

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  1. Bhai, I really do hope I find some way to give the introvert in me a back seat. Although the stories of getting our first job is quite different, the sentiment behind it seems same. I just missed the big brand, I guess. This post just made me feel that I want to stop running away from things too. I just have to figure out how. I know for sure, travelling isn't my thing.

    Also, these posts are the ones that I love. The honest ones. I think, I was telling a couple of your friends last week that your blogs are soo much better (for me to read) when they are so honest!

    And, obviously, the ones that talk more about your experience of the places than the place itself.

    Thank you for the inspiration and all the best!



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