A mountainscape in ladakh, courtesy photographer Abhinav Chandel.
A mountainscape in ladakh, courtesy photographer Abhinav Chandel.

Travelling for a living: Meet those who are living their dream

It’s the ultimate dream: Finding a job that will pay as you travel. Many are now making it happen, using core skills like marketing, branding and event management in a cycle where each trip funds their next.
By Anubhuti Matta | Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON JAN 24, 2016 12:56 PM IST

What do a hospitality consultant, an angel investor and an artist have in common? In this case, they’re all living the ultimate dream, travelling for a living and living on the road.

These are people who have quit their full-time jobs and settled lives and instead identify ways in which they can leverage their core skills to earn as they move about, making at least enough to keep travelling. Gurgaon-based angel investor Prasad NP, for instance, helps startups identify new markets and scout for locations for new offices.

Mumbaiite and design strategist Anuja Joshi, meanwhile, compiles consumer reports in every city she and her husband visit, and gets paid for each report by a New York-based company. “We both work on the move and we don’t make what we were making, obviously, but we earn enough to fund our trips without dipping into our savings,” she says.

A thank-you note is written to a Pikkabox customer in Ljubljana.
A thank-you note is written to a Pikkabox customer in Ljubljana.

New technology has been a key driver to living this dream.

“Having the internet almost everywhere makes it possible for me to function smoothly,” says Rutavi Mehta, 29, who offers marketing, sales and branding consultancy services as she makes her way around the world. “It also helps me promote myself.”

Delhiites Neha Chawla, a marketing consultant, and her husband Nikhil, a corporate communications specialist, like to think of it as sponsorships. “We realised that, essentially, we have people who will pay for our travel,” says the marketing consultant. “We quit our jobs a year ago and have travelled to over 20 destinations and worked for as many brands in that time.”

For many, the core skills fetches them the bulk of their earnings — about 60% to 70%. The rest comes from blogging and writing about their travels. It’s not all sunlit beaches and bottomless Margarita pitchers, though.

“It’s important not to go into this kind of lifestyle with too many unrealistic expectations,” says Vardhan Kondvikar, editor of the Indian edition of Lonely Planet magazine. “Travelling non-stop can be exhausting. You’re essentially fending for yourself, in one unfamiliar territory after another. You have to also be planning your next step all the time. It’s not easy at all.”

Selling stories in a box

If not now, when?’ That was the question that drove Gaurabh Mathure and Anuja Joshi to give up their 9-to-5 jobs and orderly lives in favour of a life on the road.

“We felt it would only get more difficult later,” says Mathure, 33, a user experience consultant. “We wanted to do this before we started a family. Plus, having worked for more than 10 years, we were both confident about getting back into our careers.”

Mathure and Joshi, 33, a design strategist, have been married three years. Originally from Bangalore and Mumbai respectively, they met in New York in 2010, and decided to hit the road eight months ago.

To help get them started, the couple signed up with Remote Year Programme — a US-based community set up in 2015 that helps professionals travel while they earn.

Snapshots from Ladakh, courtesy Rutavi Mehta.
Snapshots from Ladakh, courtesy Rutavi Mehta.

For a fee of $2,000 a month (about Rs 1.35 lakh) per person, members are guaranteed accommodation, airfare and co-working space in a different country every month for one year.

Members must find their own long-distance or local work to sustain themselves through the year.

Mathure, for instance, consults with three companies based across two continents, charging an hourly fee; Anuja writes reports on consumer trends in every city she travels to, for a New York-based company.

“We don’t make what we were making, obviously, but we earn enough to fund our trips without dipping into our savings,” she says.

As they juggled deadlines, finances and adjusting to a new place every month, Mathure thought it might be a good idea to send their families a box of souvenirs from each city they visited. And that’s how they started Pikkabox, a curated mystery box that combines artifacts, stationery, toys, postcards, edibles, home décor products and stories from each place they visit, sold via a website. The couple has so far sent out boxes from cities in Vietnam, Malaysia, Turkey, the Czech Republic and Slovenia. Coming soon are Argentina, Uruguay, Chile and Peru.

The downside, Joshi says, is she misses her bed and having a fixed routine. On the upside, the couple says they have had the best year relationship-wise. “Our time is our own,” says Mathure, “and we have bonded on a completely different level as a result.”

A roadie, a marketing whiz

Rutavi Mehta, 29, a Mumbai-based marketing and sales professional specialising in the hospitality industry, quit her full-time job and settled life seven years ago, in favour of travelling, earning and living on the go.

While she made some money by blogging about her travels, it was while visiting her sister in Qatar in 2013 that she took up her first overseas marketing assignment, for a local tourism portal, finally giving her a sustainable revenue model.

“I thought my marketing skills were restricted to cubicles, but with the success of my first pitch I knew there was a big market for consultation services too,” she says.

Since then, she has consulted for tourism boards in Thailand, Malaysia and Italy, among others. “I handle Twitter accounts and newsletters, coordinate events. This work now makes up 40% of my income — the rest comes from travel writing — and I consider these earnings my travel budget, and use them to fund further trips,” she says. On average, then, she spends 10 months of the year on the road.

“Good internet connectivity almost everywhere makes it possible for me to function smoothly,” she says. “And helps me promote myself.” One speedbump for her has been resistance from her parents. “They have only now warmed up to the idea of me travelling solo and working on the go,” she says, laughing. “And I do miss home food.”

Her advice to those who’d like to follow in her footsteps: “Develop a niche and always, always, charge for every service.”

Pictures on a postcard

Abhinav Chandel always had a yearning to travel. While working as a content writer in Delhi, he took breaks to go hiking in Meghalaya, visit Mussoorie and live in Ladakh for two months.

In 2014, he decided he couldn’t bear a full-time job any more and quit.

Originally from Kashipur in Uttarakhand, the 26-year-old went backpacking to McLeod Ganj in Himachal Pradesh, fell in love with the place and moved there. He then decided to combine his two great loves — travel and photography — to help fund his roadie lifestyle.

Tourists pose with one of Abhinav Chandel’s prints in Mcleodganj, Himachal Pradesh
Tourists pose with one of Abhinav Chandel’s prints in Mcleodganj, Himachal Pradesh

As he travelled through Himachal Pradesh and then beyond, to states such as Jammu & Kashmir, Rajasthan and Karnataka, he began to sell his photos as postcards and prints.

His first series of 100 images of McLeodGanj sold out within a week. “I prefer to sell them in person or at self-organised exhibitions because each postcard is accompanied by the story behind it,” he says. “For two months last year, I survived only on the money I earned from them.”

The rest of his income comes from freelance photography gigs for resorts, the odd singing gig at local cafés and paid blogs.

“A lot of fellow tourists buy my pictures as souvenirs,” he says. “Next, I am planning an ebook featuring poems and short stories on my travels.”

In an interesting aside, Chandel says he sometimes barters stories for food or homestay accommodation, telling his hosts tales of adventures he has had and friends he has made across the country.

Finding the best locations

Prasad NP, 45, quit his job as India head for a US-based mortgage company in 2013. An IIM-Calcutta graduate, his job had demanded a lot of travel, which he supplemented with personal trips.

But by his early 40s, he had saved up enough to begin envisioning a different life. “I decided to craft my own itinerary,” says the Gurgaon-based father of two.

Snapshots of Ladakh, courtesy Rutavi Mehta.
Snapshots of Ladakh, courtesy Rutavi Mehta.

He now offers consultancy services to startups looking to scale up. “I also scout out locations for new offices and help identify new markets,” he says. Sometimes, if the start-up is a fledgling one, they will only pay for the travel; other times they also pay him a fee for his services.

“It’s still worth it,” he says, grinning. These consultations make up about 60% of his travel expenses and livelihood; the rest comes from investments; Prasad also acts as an angel investor. Additional income flows in from travel blogs and social media consultancy work for hotels and tourism boards.

“The downside is being away from my family,” he says. “Also, you work 10 times harder for lower financial rewards.”

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close
Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul applaud next to a container as they attend the arrival of a plane with a shipment of 200,000 doses of the Sinovac coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine from China at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi International Airport, Thailand, February 24, 2021.(Reuters)
Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul applaud next to a container as they attend the arrival of a plane with a shipment of 200,000 doses of the Sinovac coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine from China at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi International Airport, Thailand, February 24, 2021.(Reuters)

Thai PM orders study on "vaccine passports" to boost tourism

Reuters, Bangkok
UPDATED ON MAR 02, 2021 02:21 PM IST
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said Thailand will proceed with caution, waiting to see how effective vaccines are first in preventing the spread of Covid-19.
Close
Austria plans to let cafe and restaurant terraces reopen this month(Pexels)
Austria plans to let cafe and restaurant terraces reopen this month(Pexels)

Cafe and restaurant terraces to reopen this month in Austria

Reuters, Vienna
PUBLISHED ON MAR 02, 2021 07:22 AM IST
On Monday, the government officials announced that coronavirus lockdown restrictions will become less stringent in Austria and as a result, the cafe and restaurant terraces can reopen this month.
Close
Valdes’s comments come amid optimism in the European tourism industry sparked by the announcement last week of the U.K.’s plan to lift all coronavirus related restrictions by June 21. (Unsplash)
Valdes’s comments come amid optimism in the European tourism industry sparked by the announcement last week of the U.K.’s plan to lift all coronavirus related restrictions by June 21. (Unsplash)

Spain to consider bilateral deals and travel corridors

Bloomberg
PUBLISHED ON MAR 01, 2021 07:53 PM IST
Spain is ready to consider bilateral deals and corridors “with third countries” if a solution on vaccine certificates cannot be reached at the European Union level, according to Tourism Secretary Fernando Valdes.
Close
Round-the-world cruises are selling out (Unsplash)
Round-the-world cruises are selling out (Unsplash)

World tour cruises for the next year are selling out already

Bloomberg
PUBLISHED ON MAR 01, 2021 11:58 AM IST
Globetrotters who have been staying put for the past year are trying to make up for lost time and booking expensive multimonth cruise itineraries for the next year.
Close
Jammu and Kashmir(Unsplash)
Jammu and Kashmir(Unsplash)

Union Tourism Secretary: Sustainable tourism only way of expanding sector

PTI, Srinagar
UPDATED ON MAR 01, 2021 07:32 AM IST
On Sunday, Union Tourism Secretary Arvind Singh said that sustainable tourism is the only way of expanding and it will bring a much-needed change in Jammu and Kashmir.
Close
Australian regional airline Rex to launch more flights amid Covid-19(Twitter/THE_Russell)
Australian regional airline Rex to launch more flights amid Covid-19(Twitter/THE_Russell)

Australian regional airline Rex to launch more flights amid Covid-19

Reuters
UPDATED ON FEB 28, 2021 07:01 PM IST
At a time when domestic air traffic remains low due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Australian regional airline, Rex, to challenge Qantas and Virgin on the country's big-city routes by launching more flights in competition
Close
Zojila pass, Srinagar-Leh highway reopen for vehicular traffic after 58 days(Twitter/fc_kangana)
Zojila pass, Srinagar-Leh highway reopen for vehicular traffic after 58 days(Twitter/fc_kangana)

Zojila pass, Srinagar-Leh highway reopen for vehicular traffic after 58 days

ANI
UPDATED ON FEB 28, 2021 06:46 PM IST
After clearing the snow along the Zojila pass, Srinagar-Leh highway has been declared open from February 28
Close
Dubai's first cat cafe, Ailuromania, hopes rescues will find purr-fect new homes(Twitter/fahiiHA/rapplerdotcom)
Dubai's first cat cafe, Ailuromania, hopes rescues will find purr-fect new homes(Twitter/fahiiHA/rapplerdotcom)

Dubai's first cat cafe, Ailuromania, hopes rescues will find purr-fect new homes

Reuters
UPDATED ON FEB 28, 2021 05:24 PM IST
The Ailuromania Cat Cafe, which was the Middle East's first cat cafe when it opened in 2015, hopes the relaxing properties of its 25 rescue and shelter cats will help find them their forever homes.
Close
In a notification, Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA) said that the instructions issued on December 31, 2020 would remain in place till March 14.(Unsplash)
In a notification, Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA) said that the instructions issued on December 31, 2020 would remain in place till March 14.(Unsplash)

Pakistan extends travel restrictions as coronavirus cases continue to rise

PTI, Islamabad
PUBLISHED ON FEB 28, 2021 01:37 PM IST
Pakistan’s aviation authority on Saturday extended the existing restrictions for all inbound travellers for another two weeks as the nation continues to witness a surge in the number of coronavirus cases.
Close
The Odisha Government has limited the measures to passengers from five high-risk states instead of twelve.(Unsplash)
The Odisha Government has limited the measures to passengers from five high-risk states instead of twelve.(Unsplash)

Odisha limits precautionary measures for travellers from five high-risk states

ANI, Bhubaneswar (odisha) [india]
PUBLISHED ON FEB 28, 2021 09:23 AM IST
Odisha Government has made a partial modification to its earlier precautionary measures issued for the passengers travelling from other States to Odisha.
Close
Imradul Ali, 10, looks for recyclable material at a landfill on the outskirts of Guwahati, India, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021.(AP)
Imradul Ali, 10, looks for recyclable material at a landfill on the outskirts of Guwahati, India, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021.(AP)

From school to rag picking: A day in the life of a child scavenger in India

AP, Guwahati, Assam
PUBLISHED ON FEB 27, 2021 08:10 PM IST
Once school is done for the day, 10-year-old Imradul Ali rushes home to change out of his uniform so he can start his job as a scavenger in India’s remote northeast. Armed with a gunny sack, he goes to a landfill in the slums of Guwahati, the capital of Assam state.
Close
Representational Image(Unsplash)
Representational Image(Unsplash)

Poughkeepsie is top pick for New Yorkers seeking small-town life amid pandemic

Bloomberg
UPDATED ON FEB 27, 2021 04:54 PM IST
New York-to-Poughkeepsie ranked as the eighth most popular relocation in a survey of Americans who left big cities last year -- up from 17th a year earlier.
Close
The White House said the meeting with climate adviser Gina McCarthy and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg also touched on economic policy and curbing the spread of Covid-19 — travel has been a vector for the virus.(Unsplash)
The White House said the meeting with climate adviser Gina McCarthy and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg also touched on economic policy and curbing the spread of Covid-19 — travel has been a vector for the virus.(Unsplash)

Airline CEOs, Biden officials consider green-fuel breaks

AP
PUBLISHED ON FEB 27, 2021 11:13 AM IST
Chief executives of the nation's largest passenger and cargo airlines met with key Biden administration officials Friday to talk about reducing emissions from airplanes and push incentives for lower-carbon aviation fuels.
Close
Even as vaccine rollouts gather pace, a return to a pre-pandemic normal could be years away as many countries take a go-slow approach to reopening.(Pixabay)
Even as vaccine rollouts gather pace, a return to a pre-pandemic normal could be years away as many countries take a go-slow approach to reopening.(Pixabay)

Personal touch lost by travel bans is costing businesses dearly

Bloomberg
PUBLISHED ON FEB 27, 2021 08:45 AM IST
A full reboot of global commerce is counting on business travelers being allowed to cross borders again.
Close
The rich heritage of the country can be the focus and help the travel industry grow manifold, the official said.(Pixabay)
The rich heritage of the country can be the focus and help the travel industry grow manifold, the official said.(Pixabay)

Domestic travel sector optimistic with improving Covid situation: Official

PTI, Kolkata
PUBLISHED ON FEB 26, 2021 07:18 PM IST
The domestic travel sector is looking up, opening new vistas for business, with the Covid-19 situation improving in the country, a senior West Bengal government official said on Friday.
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP