Uncharted paths

Early retirement

Uncharted paths

Following one’s heart and dreams is something that has been explored through all possible media — newspaper articles, Facebook posts, movies, short films, lectures and more.

 It seems that the universe itself is exhorting you to give up your regular nine to five job and do something exciting or adventurous instead.

But when it comes to walking the talk, how many are ready to quit a well-paying job and take the plunge?

While the term ‘early retirement’ usually conjures up images of a middle-aged couple holding hands while taking a long walk, the truth is that early retirement isn’t just for people in their 40s anymore. More and more youngsters are coming out of their cramped cubicles and striking out on their own, to live life on their own terms and do what they love.

Saurav Arya is one such person. The IIT Kharagpur graduate started out by working with MNCs but a gap year changed the course of his life.

“I took a break in 2012 to travel as much as I could; a project that I named ‘Year full of Sundays’. After that, it didn’t make sense for me to go back to a usual nine to five job and I became a ‘solopreneur’ — I don’t have a boss and I don’t be a boss.”

Similarly, Rajat Kukreja also decided to pursue an alternative job that would allow him to pursue his interest in music and travel. “While holding a normal job, I didn’t really have much time for myself or for doing what I love. I was working in the field of entrepreneurship promotion and I felt that maybe I should also do something on my own.” The thought led him to start ‘Cuckoo Hostel’, a zero-waste hostel for travellers.

But it is not a ‘retirement’ in the commonly accepted sense of the term. “I do more work now than when I was in the corporate sector. I paint pots, practise music, build stuff and do many other things,” says Rajat with a smile. “But because I am doing what I love, I don’t feel like I am working. And I am more of a ‘periodic retirement’ guy; I take breaks every two months to travel.”

“We keep pushing our dreams to retirement age and follow a template lifestyle instead,” opines Saurav.

“A TED talk by Stefan Sagmeister changed the way I think. He said that instead of waiting to do everything after retirement, why don’t we take 10 years of our retired life and distribute it among our working age. He essentially talked about taking mini retirements every five to six years.”

The concept makes sense to many young professionals, most of whom have high-stress jobs that push them on the verge of a burnout sooner or later.

From teaching underprivileged children to pursuing hobbies like baking or photography to even being stay-at-home parents, anything and everything is acceptable to these risk-takers as long as it gives them a sense of fulfillment.

Even work fits in within this mould if it allows flexibility and freedom. Saurav talks about the rise of the phenomenon called ‘digital nomadism’ — a trend where
people work from remote places and are location independent.

So it all sounds good but what about money, you ask. It may not be everything but it is an undeniably important part of our lives. How do such people manage their
finances?

“I chose to be frugal,” explains Saurav. “It is not about saving money and then travelling; it is more about figuring out your way as you go. While travelling, I stay with the locals and hitch hike whenever possible.”

“I borrowed from my family and I am still repaying them. I didn’t have a lot of savings myself but that didn’t turn out to be a big problem,” adds Rajat.

Nithya J Rao sums it up beautifully when she says that an ‘early retirement’ is not meant for everyone.

The psychologist-cum dancer-cum-poet, who is also involved with a theatre company and an expression space, says, “It all sounds very rosy but it is not. It is an emotionally demanding process and one should go for it only if they are very clear about what they want to achieve. Don’t just follow your heart, your mind is important too.”

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