Why I took a sabbatical from my great going job.

[This post, my reflection on why I’m doing what I’m doing, is in part inspired from Simon Sinek’s Start with Why.]

“Why did you want to climb Mount Everest?”

“Because it’s there”.

That was the answer, a truthful retort, by the mountaineer George Mallory, which has since become a popular quote in mountaineering.

I certainly don’t speak for all the adventure lovers out there, but to me personally, the reason I undertake challenges and adventures has evolved to go a bit beyond that.

The challenges of startup life, with the obvious responsibilities that come along with the sense of satisfaction of making an impact in people’s lives, is – probably a bit counter-intuitively – addictive and also a real adventure in itself. Having been part of a startup right from its very early days, going through a journey which can be easily compared to a roller coaster ride full of super highs and lows has made me so used to looking for adventures that this was exactly the trigger that made me go on my first long trek – a month-long solo trek around the Annapurna Circuit and Annapurna base camp in Nepal, last year.

With time, as MobiKwik grew and “I” grew with the growth of the company, I also met so many amazing people, many of whom I myself recruited. The whole journey has been an amazing learning experience and while starting-up was a difficult decision to make, what helped me was that I was allowed to take a sabbatical by my boss-cum-mentor while I find my way through this new adventure.

The travels through those remote regions have been eye opening, a soul shaking experience for me. I got to see life in the remote regions, full of little moments of joys even amidst the extreme hardships. So much of what we take for granted back home in our city life, becomes a luxury in the remote regions. I’ll be honest and admit that there have been moments which were more like a question of survival than a blissful adventure. You don’t want to be in no man’s land, alone, out of water, out of breath, carrying your backpack, and clouds darkening every moment, not having any option but to keep pushing yourself a tiny bit more, and then some more.

This was the beginning of a chain reaction. That journey through Annapurna region in Nepal was followed by me embarking more solo journeys through Markha valley, Spiti valley and some of the north-eastern states eventually lasting as long as 100 days of my time spent in the mountains, in 2016.

While in the mountains, I had also been using the free time to think through an idea that I had been very excited about for a long time, which was to create an artificial intelligence – inspired by Jarvis – to help people “discover stuff” easier in a personalized manner.

I had been thinking through and doing some MVPs with close friends on this and while there were some things that I needed to think through in more detail, in retrospect it was more like a “childhood crush” of mine. While I was refining the idea, I was hit by this another opportunity of solving a problem that I personally faced frequently, before and even during the travels, and could also get it validated with other travelers, during the discussions with several of them, whether seasoned or first timers.

The gist is that I believe there is a huge scope of improvement in the way we discover travel destinations and do the further research required to make the travel a memorable experience. This is a space which I very closely relate to, and feel very passionate about. Any impact that I make here, whether it’s saving the time of travelers, helping them have a better experience or making a meaningful impact on the lives of people dependent on tourism as their sole or primary livelihood, would give me huge satisfaction.

I’m currently in the process of listening to people I’m meeting, understanding the different problems much better and taking feedback on quick prototypes I’ve been building with which I do believe the travel research can be upgraded in a big and meaningful manner. So that’s what the website will do, it’ll serve as a travel guide and help with travel research.

While currently, I’m mostly taking feedback in private, refining the focus, I hope to come out with an initial product in a few months time.

PS: By any chance, is travel something that really excites you? Would love to chat!

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