Neeraj Narayanan Funds His Solo Trips Around The World, Doing What He Loves!
What do you do when life throws you a googly? When you are a cricket enthusiast like Neeraj Narayanan, you hit it for a six!
Life Before ‘This Guy’
An MBA from MICA; a creative job managing content and social media for a travel startup; even a year long stint with Prime Minister Modi in Gujarat… Neeraj’s erstwhile corporate life was, in his own words, ‘fun and interesting’. Until one day while attending a corporate launch event for travel bloggers he realized he didn’t want to spend the rest of his life writing about travel while sitting on his desk. In front of him he saw a panel of real achievers − a woman who had climbed Everest; another who was India’s only female base jumper; a world renowned kayaker who was trying to set up kayaking routes in NE India, and even the other attendees, like Charu Sharma, an anchor on DD, who turned out to be a big time mountaineer who had summitted so many mountains. Every single person there was an adventurer in their own right, and looking at those people all he wanted was to be on the other side of the panel of travelers and adventurers on the podium. He wanted to do what they were doing.
The Turning Point
Neeraj says that day at the five star hotel, attending that event was a turning point in his life. As he sat in the audience that day hearing the panel speak, a realization dawned on him and it was clear that he needed to quit his job and travel. This was 2013, the year Neeraj went on his first solo trip to Europe. But things didn’t stop there. After an adventurous trip to Europe, where he ran with the bulls at Pamplona; mingled with the gypsies in the caves of Granada; even had a wild encounter with a bear in a forest in Croatia, Neeraj returned to India. He discovered his love for the mountains when he went up to the Himalayas in Sikkim, Nepal and Bhutan. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Keeping The Dream Alive
Today Neeraj leads groups of travelers to destinations across Northeast India, Ladakh, Kashmir, Bhutan, Europe & South East Asia, and has been doing so for the past three to four years. The money from his venture helps him keep the dream alive and facilitate his solo trips across the world. According to Neeraj, the trips he organizes for people have been rewarding and fulfilling in their own way. Even though the destination might be the same for him, every group is new, which means lots of interesting conversations and experiences. It helps that he is a people’s person and a storyteller. He says he “gets a real kick out of pushing people to do fun stuff that they wouldn’t have tried on their own, for example, motivating someone to climb that particularly strenuous mountain, or going under the sheet of waterfall”. Seeing people’s reactions to natural beauty is also very wonderful, for instance, when the experience of seeing snow for the first time moved his fellow traveler to tears. Of course, Neeraj ensures that people remember the inner child in them and makes sure it all ends with a big snowball fight and lots of fun.
Travel for him is ‘the surest way of living life to the fullest’. Neeraj says, “For most of us, our regular lives are monotonous; you follow a schedule day in and out and are stuck in the race. There is no need to think. But when you travel, there is no schedule; you need to be on your toes at every moment. Long bus journeys force you to think and reflect. That’s probably what people mean when they say they travel to discover themselves. I used to think this kind of talk was a cliché. But now after travelling so much, I get what they are saying”. When he travels solo, he doesn’t plan much. For his upcoming trip to South America in Feb, all he has is a ticket, 45 days, and an idea that he wants to go from the northern most part of the continent, i.e. Columbia, to the southernmost tip of South America, and then take a boat to Antarctica from there. Neeraj says this kind of unplanned travel forces you to be very aware; it forces you to think much more than you would in your regular life, and that’s what living in the moment means for him.
Neeraj truly breathes travel. When not on the road, he is busy reading about other outdoor lovers. Amongst his inspirations, he mentions Bear Grylls- the host of ‘Man vs Wild’, for the crazy things that he does and gets away with; Mike Libecki- a National Geographic explorer, who said he will do 100 extreme adventures before he turns 100; Tashi and Nungshi Mallik- the twin sisters from Sonepat, Haryana, who are the only Indians, in fact the only south Asians, to complete the Explorers Grand Slam -the South and North Pole, and the seven summits.
For people considering starting off on an alternate career path like Neeraj, he has simple advice, “Be smart and work hard! It’s the only recipe for success. Many people message me saying how ‘lucky’ I am to be able to do this. What they don’t see is the 16-18 hourrs I put in everyday. If you are willing to put in the hard work, this is the best time for alternate careers like this. The presence of social media and Internet has made people much more aware and willing to try new options. So, go for it!”