During my expedition to Antarctica, I shared a room with a much older gentleman, Murray, a seventy-seven-year-old grandfather from Australia. He had come to Ushuaia, Argentina to embark on a once in a lifetime journey to Falkland Islands, South Georgia and Antarctica. I met him on board, and we got talking. He told me that it was a life long dream to explore this part of the world. For many, coming to Antarctica is about going to one of the world’s most exotic place. For some, coming to Antarctica is about making it to all seven continents. For Murray, there was a bit of the mysterious faraway land. He, however, wanted to experience Antarctica and the places in the region for the avian life. At that point, I had very little knowledge of bird species. I was interested in the penguins only.
Murray sparked a bit of my interest in birds. Every day, he came back to the cabin and made notes on the different sightings. As part of the itinerary, we visited multiple islands and lands across the region. Each island hosted numerous species of birds. Murray, quite diligently, noted the different sightings and documented his experiences. He was the leader of his local bird club, and he was excited to make a presentation for his local club.
He had spent countless hours learning about birds in Australia, tracking them on numerous expeditions, learning about the different species, and understanding their behaviours. He had a deep love for birds that he envisioned as a lifetime pursuit. His enthusiasm for birds supplemented by his knowledge of the different species in the region was truly inspiring.
In Africa, I met Karl Watson, a thirty-four-year-old British filmmaker. Karl, at that point in June 2016, was a very well established Youtube star. His film ‘First Time in Africa’ available on Youtube captures his journey across Africa. Karl had been making travel videos since his late teens. When he was nineteen years old, Karl and his friend, James, embarked on a gap year adventure called HK2NY (Hong Kong to New York). With an old Sony Handycam in tow, Karl captured his experiences and adventures along the way. Since that first journey, he has done a lot more travels, capturing his adventures on films every single time. It led to him building a Youtube profile, getting the necessary recognition and becoming famous within the travelling community. He started filming as a hobby and then as a serious passion. To supplement his income and life, he worked as a freelance video editor (he still does). Over the years, he worked hard to hone his craft. Today, his films provide him with a decent income. A journey that started as a hobby, almost twenty years back, has become his life.
In Madagascar, I met Dan, my roommate in the group tour I had taken to experience the country. Similar to Murray, Dan was in his seventies. He was a practising doctor in Canada. Similar to Murray, Dan had spent a lifetime seriously pursuing his passion. In Dan’s case, it was landscape and wildlife photography. He was a purist. He cared deeply about the art of photography than anything else. He wasn’t on social media. He did not care much about post-processing software such as Photoshop and Lightroom. He approached his love for photography as one would meditate. He was patient, diligent in his composition and was completely disconnected with his surroundings as he focused on his subject. It was a treat to watch him work on his craft.
During my travels to Africa, I met a young British girl, Mary. Mary had lost her brother a couple of years back. She struggled with deep depression and anxiety, which affected her mental health. Despite these adversities, Mary motivated herself by a vision of a gap year abroad. She worked hard to save up money for her travels. She wanted to get away from her life in the UK, for a while, and experience a different life. As someone who suffers from mental health issues, I know how hard it is to plan ahead and then execute. Mary did it. She took some time, and she did it.
In March 20202, after the Annapurna Circuit Trek, I checked into a hostel in Pokhara. There, I met a young Polish man, PK. PK had been travelling from Poland for the last eight months. He was also a software programmer and had been working remotely during the period. He was not the first digital nomad who I had met during my travels. I had met an American, who worked with the Department of Energy and had taken a year off to travel the world while also working remotely. I had met digital marketing experts who worked on small projects remotely. PK was another digital nomad. What made him exceptional was the way he travelled. He had hitchhiked his way from Poland to Nepal while also working remotely every day. It requires commitment, diligence and a vision only a courageous few execute. There are many digital nomads who I had met who used their income to live comfortably. There are many travellers who I had met, who explored on a meagre budget. Many of these travellers in South America hitched hiked. PK was different. He was doing both, and he was doing it well. Of all the people, I had met during my travels; PK intrigued me the most.
Before Nepal, I was in Sri Lanka, where, in February 2020, I met an older Swedish gentleman Gunnar, in Galle. He stayed in the same hostel. Gunnar was cycling through India and had already done 3,500 km before visiting Sri Lanka for a short break. He was scheduled to head back to India and cover another planned 2,000 km. I was quite surprised to meet someone who preferred to cycle long distances across countries. I had heard of younger folks cycling long distances though I had never met one. It was the first time I had met a long haul cyclist, and he turned out to be in his seventies.
We got chatting, and I learnt that he had covered 5,000km in the previous year and over his lifetime, he estimated to have covered 150,000km, cycling across multiple countries. That distance is simply mindboggling. I can’t comprehend the effort required to complete that distance. Here was a person who had the vision to cycle around the world. He carried very little and worked hard on his fitness and health. And in time, he had achieved his ambition.
All these experiences have inspired me to dream big and create my very own vision of my world. Gunnar and Karl just went for it. They started with almost nothing and with a lot of hard work, have achieved their dreams. Mary struggled in her life, but she overcame her adversities to go on a gap year. Murray and Dan ensured that they always pursued their hobbies with the required intensity and dedication. It was not easy, as the time, effort and resources needed to balance their respective personal and professional lives.
When you meet people who have achieved their respective dreams and visions, you are inspired to go for it.
I have always wanted to be nomadic but never felt capable enough to dream this big.
The fear got to me.
It always did.
I jumped to solving the problems, focusing on the outcomes, the elegant solution instead of the vision and the first step to get to that vision. Questions daunted me at the start:
How will I make money?
Where will I be in 5 years?
What, if I become, deskilled and obsolete?
How will I take care of myself when I am old?
What will others think?
Am I doing the right thing?
What if it doesn’t work out?
In this chapter, every person started with a first step, not knowing whether the desired outcome was possible. The vision mattered a lot.
The first step mattered too.
The rest is not essential at the start.
These folks have given me the confidence to dream big and have a grand vision.
The questions matter. They don’t need an answer today. You can try to find solutions to problems which don’t exist today. It would be giving in to the fear before taking a calculated risk.
Sometimes you need to have a grand vision and then just go for it. The pieces may fall in place, or they may not. It isn’t a case of mindless plunge but rather a calculated jump without having everything fall into place. It is about a jigsaw puzzle but starting with a few pieces not knowing where and when the rest will fall into place.