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I was invited to speak about long term travel or travel sabbaticals at the Times Travel Show on 24 February 24, 2019. Since this topic is close to my heart, and my good friend(and role model) Ansoo Gupta was curating this event, there was no way I could refuse.

There was very little time to prepare for this as I had come back from a cycling trip from Bangalore to Mysore. Under planned and unprepared, the trip had given me a lot of learning and a sore body. Despite the lack of time and the physical discomfort, I was pretty pumped for this talk.

After the talk, many of us interacted and I felt that it would be great to share the presentation with the interested ones. However, when I sat down to email the presentation I realised that the presentation only made sense with a accompanying narrative. So here I am, writing this blog post with the presentation as pictures.

Now most of us, at some point of time have thought of taking a break from everyday life, your job and city to take a trip of a lifetime. However, only a tiny percentage actually end up taking sabbaticals. Are these individuals special? Do they have lot more money than others do?


I intend to share with you some tips to get on a travel sabbatical. Some of the tips are related to mindset, and others are practical. And I think the mindset is more important than the practical tips, as the practical tips may vary from person to person.

Let's look at three individuals who have taken travel sabbaticals. They are pictured in this slide.

To the extreme left is Martin Dunaj, a friend from Europe. Martin, now, into his forties has been traveling and going on adventures for a long time. He has worked taken a break and gone back to work at least a couple of times. He loves adventures of all kinds - especially rock climbing and ice climbing.

The lady in the centre of the slide is the popular Indian actress, Alia Bhatt. According to an interview I read a while ago, she went solo backpacking in Europe to reset her career. From what we know, it looks like the sabbatical actually worked wonders for her.

Abhi Surendran is my friend on the right. He comes from a middle class, South Indian family which means a conventional career is priced over everything else by his folks. But Abhi has built a life routine of working in the finance space and saving up for his travels before he gets back into a job. His trips are some of the most inspiring and I absolutely love following his travels.

So there we go, a few steps to taking a travel sabbatical. Of course, none of what I mention is cast in stone. What worked for me may not work for others, and the same is true the other way round. These suggestions are just a starting point for some of you to get on your travel sabbatical journey.

Btw, this picture is of me trying to learn Salsa in Cali. And the pretty girl in the picture happens to be Tatiana, a Colombian friend and also a super accomplished Tango dancer. The places a travel sabbatical takes you :)

The first important question is more philosophical in nature. Anyone who wants to take a travel sabbatical needs to figure out why he or she wants to do it.

I think there are the right and the wrong reasons to doing anything. So if you want to take a trip round the world to satiate your curiosity about the world we live in or because you want to learn or try new skills(which is what I did) or just plainly because you haven't found your thing and you'd like to explore the world while you search for it - all of this is good.

There could be 100 other reasons why a travel sabbatical is a good idea.

But equally you may want to take the travel sabbatical for wrong reasons. Here are a few.

Like we give in to peer pressure for buying cars, homes or even while choosing careers that we don't like; the same thing may happen for travel sabbaticals. Maybe you want to travel around the world because your insta feed is filled with people doing the same? Maybe you are not cut out for a life of constant travel and uncertainty where you lack constant connections? These are things to ponder over before committing to a travel sabbatical. And the last thing you want to do is to quit your job to travel just for the bragging rights.

Also with the advent of new age social media and influencer marketing, many people feel that bloggers and influencers don't just get paid to travel - they also make a lot more cool bucks. I can assure you that in India that is not true for 99.99% of travel bloggers. Blogging like any other business takes years of painstaking work to build, and since there is almost no entry barrier the competition is humungous. Even after being successful, one can only rely on brand deals etc to help fuel the lifestyle. Most travel bloggers I know, including myself, live humbly and are in it for the love of travel. If any of us wanted to make money, we'd stick to our regular careers. So if you love money and the comforts it brings more than travel, then take my suggestion, stick to your job and travel on vacation and weekends. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Also, don't think of a travel sabbatical to escape your day to day responsibilities as a family member, son, husband, brother; etc. Figure out a way to work around these.

Family, Friends and Career:

After you have gotten through all these questions - there are two main aspects of your life for which you need to plan. First of them being career - I think it is important to have at least a broad idea of what you want to do after your sabbatical. Do you want to develop a skill - like writing? Painting? Yoga? Or do you want to look at entering a new industry after your sabbatical(in which case internships in the new industry should form a part of your sabbatical)? Maybe you can also use the sabbatical to upskill yourself for the same career? Like maybe you are a lawyer, but blogging about law could give you an extra edge over other people in the market. Then, probably you could use the time during the travel sabbatical to develop your blogging skills.

The second and more important aspect are 'friends and family', and they are even more important than career. I think it is your support system that plays a huge role during the travel sabbatical. Getting your inner circle on board with the decision is important for many reasons, whether it is financial or moral support or even to get you out of a sticky situation on the road.

But most people aren't able to take time off to travel. More often than not, you will hear that money is the reason for their inability. I totally disagree with that reason. In most cases, it is the lifestyle that people are used to that does not allow them to pursue their dreams, even the travel ones.

Most of our spending is mindless or driven by peer pressure or is counter productive and indulgent of the mindless rat race. If we are able to avoid or even control these, it will be a lot easier for many more of us to chase our dreams.

Now, enough of the philosophy. Let's look at the practical steps now. Like I mentioned earlier, these steps may vary from person to person but the ones here can give you a broad references.

These are the steps that worked for me. I started writing down what I wanted to do. Started listing out destinations, listing things I wanted to try and slowly a plan with a timeline started emerging.

Also, travel as much as you can before committing to a long trip. Short trips will give you an idea of the kind of traveller you are, and will let you focus on the type of travel you enjoy most.

Traveling the world is just a phrase. Even people who have visited all countries in the world have hardly seen the world. So I'd suggest narrowing your focus to a continent and maybe the kind of travel you enjoy. I decided to spend most of my time in Latin America as I had already been there once, loved the overall vibe of Brazil and Colombia, and thought that it would be a good continent to know from a future pov.

When you start planning, you may want to know visa requirements as the process of getting visas can be cumbersome and put a spanner to all your travel plans. There is a Wikipedia page with links and info for all visa requirements for Indians. You can check the page by looking for 'visa requirements of Indians wikipedia' on google.

Another tip is to get a US visa while you still have a job. Having a valid US visa on your passport, grants you visa-free or visa on arrival entry to many countries in Latin America. Plus, I generally think that it is great to have a US visa on your passport as it makes getting other visas a tad easier.

You could use skyscanner's tool to search for cheapest flights from India to anywhere and also the cheapest dates. Skyscanner - Google flights - Kayak also help you estimate the cost of flights which form a  major chunk of travel expenses. Similarly, Airbnb, Hostelworld, and Hostelbookers can give you a good idea of how much you will spend for stays.

Sites like Numbeo share standard of living data that can help you to draw up a broad estimate of daily expenses.

After creating a budget and starting your trip, the biggest challenge is to maintain your budget. Well, that's something you will learn while on the road. But here are few hacks -

1. Skyscanner can get you the cheapest flights if you spend time on their platform
2. Couchsurfing can get you free stays - but be sure to start building your profile by hosting people in your home first for at least a year
3. WWoofing allows you to stay on farms across the world in lieu of helping out at the farm
4. Workaway is a platform which brings together employers looking for temporary staff, and travellers. Mostly a traveller is expected to work for 4 days a week for at least a month and his stay is taken care of by the employer. Its a great way to get some hands on experience while living in some of the best cities of the world
5. Trusted Housesitters - allows you to take care of someone's apartment while they are away

Knowing how to cook can be really helpful in cutting costs and in ensuring that you eat healthy. Most airbnbs and hostels provide kitchen facilities, so cooking space is not a problem you will face.

Sometimes you can opt in for supermarket lunch boxes as opposed to eating in a restaurant. Visit the local markets(and not the touristic ones) to buy fresh produce and fruits. All these help in cutting costs but also go a long way in keeping you fit.

The first thing I do when I reach a new destination is to look for Free Walking Tours. They are a great way to get introduced to a city, meet fellow travellers and to pay what you can afford.

Also if you put in enough time to research and ask locals, you may get super deals on museums and other places of public interest. You may also get deals on subway cards and other public transport too.

There are also apps like Triposo which give you a lot of information about destinations, and can even be used offline.

The last but the most important part of this conversation is, how to keep generating some income while traveling. The ways in which you could do that are listed below.

However, the two skills that Indians can easily make money with, are cooking Indian food while traveling and becoming a Yoga instructor.

So if you haven't spent anytime in the kitchen, and are wanting to travel long term, start learning to cook now! Similaly, there is a Yoga boom across the world and a certified Indian yoga teacher would be of great value across different countries.

So there you go. Those are most of the suggestions I had. I wish you a life of contentment :)