Traveler Interview – Vahishta Mistry

Kicking off the first in a series of traveler interviews, meet fellow globetrotter Vahishta Mistry who quit the corporate world after ~15 years in the industry to discover the world on a 2-year Round The World (RTW) trip!

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Vahishta and me at Starbucks, Times Square NYC

EG: Firstly congratulations on your brilliant plans! I’ve always wanted to take a whole year off to travel, but you’re doubling up that dream of mine and actually doing it. So big respect and thrilled for you!
VM: Thanks man, I’m super kicked and its a bit overwhelming to actually have this happen to me. Sometimes I still can’t believe it’s happening!

EG: What was your breakthrough moment that made you take a double-gap year?
VM: I had a choice. My career was at a point where I would either have to double down on the commitment and it would pay off possibly by seeing me as a CEO of a small company or high up in the management of a big company. I was getting offers and stuff but that means I would have to really put aside everything.

The goal was great but I’ve never actually wanted to do any of that. If I became a CEO it would not be because I have planned and worked for it. I haven’t – I’ve done one job after the other because I’ve enjoyed the challenges and I’ve been recognised or promoted because of that attitude and that’s all. I never wanted to consciously shoot for these things. So while it seems like I would be giving up a lot I really wasnt because I wasn’t that emotionally invested in that goal.

On the other hand if I chose not to go that path – to do something more personally rewarding even if it meant not making as much money or any money at all, why not try that out? I’ve been working pretty much non-stop for 14 years or so. Since I was 16. That’s fulltime. So it was time to try something new. Will it work? Who knows!

EG: Why do you travel / want to travel?
VM: The Mumbai Mirror article touched on this – the easiest way to explain it is because the world is there. because there is this stuff out there to experience and visit and touch and see and smell and taste and love and kiss. (Too hippy?)

EG: Which is the one place you are looking forward to the most?
VM: It’d be easier to list one place in each GENRE of places. Cities: New York. Events / festivals: Burning man. Camping / adventure: Utah, the Atacama desert, the argentinian pampas.

EG: The weirdest / scariest / most memorable travel story you may like to share
VM: I was in Germany staying in a hostel for the very first time. went out for dinner at a local doner kebab stand and this (apparently) racist man laughed at my pronunciation of “bratwurst mit pommes” (sausage with fries) – throughout my meal he stares at me and mutters the words over and over. Bratwurst mit pommes. Bratwurst mit pommes.

It’s getting creepy now and I bolt my meal down and cycle away on my rented bike (which is, btw, the best way to see Lubeck, the town I was in.) Anyway I get back to the safety of the hostel, and lie down, ready to sleep. i notice that while I was away, another occupant has moved into the dorm. Whoever it is, is out at the moment but their stuff is still around. I’m about ready to pass out when the door opens and they come back. Yup, its the same guy. As the shock of recognition reverberates around the room, the only thing he can say is “bratwurst mit pommes.” That kind of became code for “i need your attention.”

The next few days as we lived together and got to know each others routines. It was always “bratwurst mit pommes” whenever he needed to point something out. I knew no german and he didn’t even know where I was from so there was no point fighting it. For those 4 days, I became bratwurst mit pommes. That was my name. the guy wasn’t deranged, or racist or even creepy. He just was amused, I guess!

EG: What are you carrying in your backpack?
VM: A tent, sleeping bag, clothes, water filtration device, dry-bag, first aid kit, 2 boxes of protein biscuits for my aunt in Florida (it’s a gift for her from grandmother – don’t ask!) shoes, raincoat, umbrella.

My day-pack has my electronics (laptop, kindle, chargers, cords, headphones, mouse, hard drive (external), intervalometer for my camera (look it up) and camera tripod. I also have a camera bag for my 60D and three lenses (crap… thats a lot!) Total weight about 45 pounds.

EG: What advice would you want to share with aspiring travelers or gap year-ers.
VM: Pack as much as you think you’ll need and then leave home with no more than a third of that. Everyone overpacks. OH! also, never bend your NYC Metrocard. You’ll wipe the data and any money you have on it. True story. No-one EVER tells you that. Most New Yorkers don’t even know that.

EG: How do you see your forthcoming travel impact your personal life and professional life? How do you plan to bounce back to stability (or do you not?)
VM: My entire life has changed. I’m not going to come back and do a corporate job like I was doing earlier, I know that. I need to figure out what I’ll do once I’m back. That’s professional. Personal life, well, I don’t know, this is the biggest thing I’ve ever done. That’s a pretty big impact! I have a lot of people back home that I’m tied to so I know I’ll return eventually.

The 2 year thing isn’t a hard number – could be more or less than that. Let’s see!

The interesting thing about Vahishta is that him and i have had a very similar career chart and life philosophies, we never met in India, but we did at Times Square NYC in July 2013 after this e-mail interview and hope to catch up again in Colombia in March 2014 (note that he will be travelling continuously while I’m currently back home in India and visiting South America separately!)

Vahishta is live blogging his 2 year RTW travels at Write Of Way (vahishta.com)

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Exotic Gringo (Kaushal Karkhanis)

Leading an experimental life as a digital nomad, Kaushal started traveling in 2007 while choosing to shuttle between Goa and Mumbai as ‘home’.