My Complete Journey of How I Travelled for Free before I owned a Travel Blog ~ Dedicated to all Budget Travelers
Traveling is an expensive affair. I can NEVER travel solo. "Are you crazy?"
Sitting by the patio of my shared accommodation in Pune, I've had only fantasized the idea of traveling and had never thought of doing it for real.
Like everyone else, I'd always thought of it to be expensive.
Other than that, being an introvert I've barely had any friends and solo travel had then not even occurred to me, that one instance it did, I had a chill down my spine. (*gulps*)
At 15, I've had only wished for some miracle to happen and sat back hoping and waiting for that 'someday it would'.
Until Instagram happened and I was exposed to this world of possibilities where people from different corners of the globe shared their travel stories and had their own definitions of travel. Some were into luxury while some into adventure travel.
In the middle of these, considering my options, I chose mine to be offbeat-budget travel.
I travelled for free. No Sponsored trips. OK? But, yes. I 'DID' travel for free!
At 17, after completing my junior college in Pune, I was back home (Vasai) to pursue my Bachelor's Degree from a college in the South of Mumbai which happens to be one of the most admired neighborhoods of the city.
Majorly being brought up in a small town (Vasai) nestled in the outskirts of Mumbai and then moving to Pune to complete my junior college I'd barely gotten any chance to even visit the tourist spots of Mumbai, let-go exploring the unsung offbeat places.
Promising my introverted self of fueling my passion with new wanders and sufficing my curious mind of new corners, I'd decided to take my first step of wandering solo.
Not because I was unafraid but merely because I value my sense of curiosity more than the boundaries of my fear!
In the middle of the long college hours, the scheduled free lectures were mostly meant for gifting myself that very idea of 'street wandering'.
Walking by vivid street murals, or exploring art galleries, museums, synagogues, open-air hangouts, heritage corridors, art-deco buildings, UNESCO World Heritage sites, Gothic churches, to lesser-crowded seasides I've had grown to the idea of street wandering. I've had grown to the idea of traveling for free!
A lot of these places that I'd visited either had free entry tickets or had an entry fee of about 20INR ($0.5). But the world they'd unfolded before me was spellbound!
Since, my experience in street wandering,
the very thought of traveling that I'd nurtured as a 15 y/o was thrown out of the window and I'd grown to the idea of my self-proclaimed version of travel.
The idea of Street Wandering and exploring my own city from a new perspective is what parented Steps and Streets and gave birth to this blog on this day (19.01.2019) two years back.
My favorite stories from Mumbai.
I moved out of my parents' home!
At 18, eventually as my interest in exploring the South Mumbai neighborhood grew, I'd also started having an interest in interacting with tourists coming from different parts of the world. So, through a common circle of friends (who appreciated my interest in exploring and spending time with tourists), helped me out with a handful of guests whom I'd showed around.
Freelancing as a city tour guide brought in some decent money, about 2000INR per guest (about $30).
From the West Indies, to Canada, among few other countries, I'd pretty much-made friends from different corners of the world.
With all the other conversations we've had, I'd always been inspired by the Western idea of teenagers being capable of financially sustaining themselves after the age of 18.
These conversations intrigued me to financially sustain my passion of being able to travel to newer places and explore the countrysides by myself.
As I'd stepped into the milestone of being officially recognized as an adult, I'd decided to take a leap of faith and move out of my parents home to sustain myself financially and sense the idea of adulthood.
So, to have a minimum flow of income every month, I had joined Dharavi Diary as an English teacher to the slum community of Dharavi, which offered somewhat flexible working hours.
My monthly stipend of 5000INR ($70) coupled with a seasonal bit of money coming in through the tours and some on & off paid collaborations with travel startups paid me around 1000INR ($15).
All in all, I would roughly make around 7000INR ($100) in a month.
From all that I earned, I had to pay my bills, and as well save for my travels.
All of it wasn't a cakewalk. It was challenging. There were times I questioned my decision. At times I had to alter my lifestyle choices. Considering the drift in my lifestyle, eventually, I'd grown to have a very clear idea of saving, which meant whatever amount of money I'd saved would only be used for my travels.
Over a period of time, I'd grown comfortable to the idea of spending money mostly on experiences rather than things.
I chose to become an occasional shopper. I shopped only out of need and not out of greed.
Deep within, I knew, that a trip would any day be more valuable to me than an expensive pair of footwear (considering my past fetish of fancy footwear!)
From a 15 y/o teenager who'd spend all her pocket money buying pricey fashion and considered traveling to be an expensive affair, I'd been transformed to an 18 y/o (so-called ;)) adult who considered traveling to be just as affordable as shopping, provided now that I had/(have) my priorities clear.
I earned $3 per day and traveled across 6 cities in Rajasthan.
At 20, I graduated with a degree in Sociology and with that my life as a student in Mumbai had to be wrapped up as I chose to move in with my parents at rural West Bengal.
The long period of 3 months between getting past the hangover of being a student all these years to finding a job, I clearly knew that I had to use this time optimally in order to hone my skills and gain expertise in the areas of my interest.
To suffice to my expectation, I'd started working on different projects starting from travel writing, content creating, to selling English lessons online and with all the money I'd earned I'd saved a huge chunk of it; say around 25000INR ($350), being cautious of every transaction I made.
Within two months of working as a freelancer, I was selected as a fellow to support and facilitate the social cause of English Education in rural India. With the opportunity that came in, I'd also nodded to unfold a new chapter of my life somewhere in rural Rajasthan.
My work at The Barefoot College was that of an English teacher at a rural school which paid me 8000INR ($115) to sustain my life in a village. But with all the savings I had and the amount I could save (3000INR; $45) from my monthly stipend, I could visit about 6 places in Rajasthan for a minimum of 4 days (approx.) in each city.
The ultimate advice
Of all the lessons I've learned from the amateur decisions I've taken, one of my takeaways has always been to 'do what makes me happy' even though there were times I'd reconsidered my decisions, but all in all, now that I look back, they've all seemed to happen for good!
And as far as travel is concerned,
I will always advise you to chart out your own version of travel no matter how unusual it might seem to you now.
Not only it is important to find one but also necessary so that you have your priorities in place.
You might not be in a position to leave your routined work or your 9-5 job to travel the world but you are capable of finding a solution to follow your passion. You are capable of deciphering what your heart has to convey.
All in all,
Do whatever suits you the best. But DO. Don't give up!
Initially, when I'd shared my idea of street wandering as one of my favorite pass-times I was mocked at by many but I continued to do what fueled my passion and am glad to not do it the other way.
The road ahead
As I would be turning 21 soon, I’ve decided to take a short break from my full-time jobs and dedicate all my hardwork to this blog.
Presently, I am working on freelance projects viz travel writing.
At the same time, I’m also on the lookout for interesting travel opportunities.
Read more about it here.