How I quit my job to travel: The social media addict
I never planned to quit my job to travel. When I decided to break away from my cubicle-bound life, I was 23 years old, the daughter of a protective family in India and had graduated from university in Singapore only two years earlier with a not-so-helpful Economics degree and a not-so-comforting amount of student debt. In retrospect, though, my decision was not impulsive: the universe had been giving me signs all along.
I had entered the job market in the middle of the financial recession and felt lucky to land the role of social media strategist at the Singapore Tourism Board – especially lucky because, as it turned out, this was the first sign pointing me toward my true passion.
Having travelled parts of Malaysia and Indonesia as a student, I hoped that working in the tourism industry would lead to more adventures. Instead, I spent my weekdays learning about social media and blogging from my desk. As part of my efforts to help build Singapore Tourism’s global social media strategy, however, I started engaging with online travel influencers – in particular, travel brands and bloggers. I began to understand how bloggers played an influential role in brand building, and how, even though they weren’t that different from me, they really did travel the world for a living.
- Experiencing "slow travel" on a train from Kandy to the village of Ella, Sri Lanka. (Shivya Nath)
My cubicle-bound soul could no longer ignore the itch to travel on more than just the weekends. But quitting my job sounded impractical. Aside from financial challenges, I didn’t even know if I would enjoy being on the road for an extended period of time; my longest trip, to Indonesia’s remote Sulawesi Island, had been only two weeks. Even so, I started thinking of taking a sabbatical from work. As though the universe was nudging me along, I participated in a Facebook contest that asked what you would do differently if you had a second chance in life, run by AirAsia – a brand whose social media campaigns I tracked in my professional life. In my answer, I said we get a second chance every day – and that I used those chances to accept myself for who I truly was. I won two return tickets to Paris.
- One of the first signs: winning a flight to Paris. (Louise LeGresley/Getty)
I negotiated two months of unpaid leave from work, spending the first month travelling across western Europe and the second volunteering to develop responsible tourism alternatives in the cold mountain desert of Spiti, located in India’s northern Himalayas. Over my travels, I learned the secrets of Italian cooking, trekked along the peculiar limestone mountains of Saxony and helped curate a “monk for a month” programme, allowing travellers to live in a monastery or nunnery in Spiti’s remote villages, for the social enterprise Spiti Ecosphere.
- Spiti's Kee Monastery, one of the participants in the "Monk for a Month" programme. (Shivya Nath)
When my sabbatical ended, my old life and job waited for me – just as promised. But I had experienced and lived more in those two months than in all my 23 years and knew I wanted to make a fresh start. I quit my first and only corporate job within the week. I revived my then-dormant blog The Shooting Star, on which I had ranted about life on and off for the past four years, rejigging it with a travel focus. And I started to travel the world.
I lived off my savings for the first six months, travelled constantly, blogged relentlessly, pitched for freelance work tirelessly and relied on my virtual social networks for support. In 2013, three years after I quit my job, I was awarded India’s Best Travel Blogger at the Indian Blogging Awards. Now, I continue to freelance as a travel writer for Indian and international publications, which often leads to press invites from tourism boards. I also work as a social media consultant, helping travel companies devise and implement social media strategies; this funds the majority of my travels.
- The author, working on a trip through northern Thailand. (Siddharth Goel)