They are one among us, yet there is something special that makes them distinctly different, its their ability to inspire thousands by their deeds. “Inspirations” will take you closer to the lives and thoughts of these individuals who live life in their own unique way.
In the First Edition of “Inspirations” I get up, close and personal with Saurav Arya; a supply chain professional, a photographer and a traveler on a mission to travel the entire world, twice.. grow old and then tell stories of adventures in exchange for a coffee and a brownie.
Saurav was on a plane within two weeks of being born and hasn’t stopped since then. He already had his footprints in 40 countries and is a true example of a location independent professional, who can live and work from anywhere around the world.
1. You have been a tireless wanderer for quite some time now, when and how did it all start?
A : I showed the first symptom of being a wanderer when I was 4 but I got seriously bitten by the travel bug at the age of 21 while I was sleeping in a bus.
Back in 2006 when I was working in Udine, Italy; one fine weekend I decided to explore nearby places. I took a bus ticket to Tarvisio which is at the Italian-Austrian border but fortunately I slept and when I woke up I found myself in Villach, Austria. It was like waking up in a foreign land where I had no idea what to do. After panicking for an hour or so, I learned to flow with the flow. There was no returning back after that. I believe that in order to explore a city, we must get lost in it and as of Sept’12, I’ve done that over 200+ times in 40+ countries.
2. What are your travel philosophies?
A : I believe that consciously or unconsciously, we all travel in search of fulfillment, creative freedom and spiritual growth. Traveling is something intrinsic in us. We all want to explore and experience new places, people and situations. We all were nomads till we discovered agriculture.
3. You have inspired many to get out of their couches, tell us about someone who inspired you
A : Stefan Sagmeister inspired me to take a leap and live a year full of sundays. In his TED talk about the power of time off, he explained how enriching it can be to take mini retirements every 5-6 years inspite of toiling yourself for 30-35 years continuously and waiting for the traditional retirement age to spend time and money on your dreams.
4. What kind of planning and preparation do you do before you visit a particular destination
I prefer reading a bit on wikitravel about my destination but I avoid making an itinerary unless it is absolutely essential. Sometimes I’ve to make an itinerary and book flight tickets in advance to convince immigration officers that I’m a tourist and they should grant me a visa. Of all the things while traveling, I hate playing tourist the most.
5. How do you fund your long term travels, do you work when you are travelling
A : I switch between these two options. I’ve been working and traveling for the last 2 years but now I’m full time traveling and spending my savings till this year end. If all you need at your workplace to work is a laptop, internet connection and a phone, option of working remotely is convenient for employee as well as employer.
6. Do you think regular or long term travel is only for young people and gets difficult once you have a stable job and a family
A : No, regular or long term travel is for everyone and it is never late to hit the road. I’ve met couples who are traveling and raising their kids at the same time. At times it can be challenging to teach your kids while traveling full time but rewards of doing the same are huge.
I think when we don’t want something, we come up with excuses which stop us from doing that and then we do something else.
At the end of the day, it is all about priorities.
7. How does technology help you in your travel? Do you think web-based workflow tools, smart-phones, Skype, Blogging platforms have made travel easier?
Technology has definitely revolutionized the way we travel. Right from searching a low cost flight to sharing travel updates with friends, we need apps and tools at every step. Wherever I go, I often ask my followers on twitter and facebook about places to see, things to do, food to eat, people to meet and couches to surf.
8. Tell us about “A Year full of Sundays”
After 5 years of 9 to 5, I decided to live a year full of Sundays where I can give full time to my dreams and passions. Apart from traveling, this year I’m trying to tick off as many to-dos in my bucket list as possible. I’m sharing the updates about the ‘year full of Sundays’ at its facebook page – www.fb.com/yearfullofsundays
9. What has been your best and worst travel experiences so far?
Vangvieng in Laos has been the best experience so far. While answering to you, I’m badly missing the sandwiches I had there. Also, the beautiful landscape, tubing for hours in the river and the beautiful friends I made there. I stayed longer than planned and cancelled my flight ticket from Bangkok to Saigon because of Vangvieng. I loved the place so much that one day, in order to move on, I had to remind myself that my girlfriend is waiting for me back home.
What could be worse than missing flights one after another? I booked a Kathmandu-Istanbul flydubai flight but when I arrived in Kathmandu after 12 hours of journey from Patna, I got to know that the flight has been cancelled. I booked the next day Delhi – Istanbul flight on AirArabia but Patna- Delhi Air India flight got delayed and I missed the AirArabia flight too. That day I promised myself not to fly on Air India ever again
10. What are some of the challenges that you have faced on the road?
It is not always easy for an Indian passport holder to get visa for a country from a 3rd country and I had to change my plans couple of times just because of this. Last month I was in East Africa and decided to travel south to Mozambique and then to South Africa and then to west Africa but South African embassy in Dar es salaam told me that I’ll have to go back to India to get visa for South Africa. What a disappointment it was!
11. Of all the countries that you have visited, which is the one that you would want to go back again and again and why?
Since this is one question I’m asked the most, I decided to make a video reply for this one. Here you go – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fmsm67ZmAgM&
12. What is that one particular destination you haven’t had the opportunity to visit yet but ranks high on your list of places you’d like to go?
Mongolia. Its vast emptiness that links land and sky and nomadic life which is still a tradition; pulls me towards it like a magnet. Iceland is close second.
13. Do you think it is any different to travel the world as an Indian or is it just the same as anyone else?
Usually, the first question an Indian backpacker is asked in Egypt is – “Do you know Amitabh Bachhan?”. In South East Asia, they’ll enquire you about Shahrukh Khan; in Russia, about Mithun and Raj Kapoor and Akshay Kumar and Sunil Shetty in East Africa. India is a cultural superpower and no one knows this better than an Indian backpacker who has been on the road and across continents for long. Also, I managed to negotiate great deals in East Africa just by saying “I’m a muhindi(Indian), not a mzungu (foreigner)” .If you’re carrying an Indian passport, sometimes you’ll have to struggle to get visa for some first world countries but pros of being an Indian outweighs cons.
14. What would be your tips and suggestions to people planning to pursue long term travel?
I’d sing Dr. Seuss’ ‘the places you’ll go’ for all those who are planning to pursue long term travel. Those who are traveling on a shoestring, I have some tips : travel light, couchsurfing, don’t get ill, get a student card, avoid expensive countries and look for mega cheap flights.