Lovell D’souza and Priya Ramachandran left behind the stability of big city jobs to pursue their passion for travel, writing and photography.
A stable day job might bring in a good paycheck but not always does it guarantee happiness. Sooner or later, the escalating disdain for stressful schedules, rigid organisational structures and the dreaded cubicle existence rears its ugly head. Add to this the long commuting hours, congested roads and overall frenetic pace of urban living, which can practically leave you sapped of all your energy — of both the physical and creative kinds. In an ideal world, who wouldn’t want to throw in the work towel to pursue a passion that brings in a paycheck? Or, at the very least, find a job that improves one’s quality of life? The answer to these rhetorical questions can be found in yet a few more rhetorical questions posed by W. H. Davies in his poem ‘Leisure’: “What is this life if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare / No time to see, in broad daylight, streams full of stars, like skies at night.”
For photographer Lovell D’souza and freelance writer and editor Priya Ramachandran, quitting their day jobs as a software analyst at Google and copy editor respectively wasn’t exactly the outcome of some “whimsical desire to pursue our passions.” The decision was purely based on the desire to exit the cubicle, and the city of Hyderabad, for good. And it just so happened that this decision led to the birth of Happy Feet, their travel blog that documents their lives and thoughts through journeys, words and photographs. The move also saw the couple find a home in Goa, surrounded by nature, where they continue to work as self-employed professionals while pursuing their passion.
Priya worked as a newspaper copy editor for five years. During her college days, when she studied literature and history, she devoured a book a day even as she worked a part-time copywriting job. Although she wanted to pursue a Masters degree in Arts at a renowned Indian institution, she soon lost faith in the country’s flawed education system thanks to its preferential reservation system. Instead, she worked for a good three and a half years at Deccan Chronicle, first as a reporter and then as the chief sub-editor. Even though it was her first ‘real’ job, she found herself toying with idea of breaking free from the rigidity that comes with most jobs. “I wasn’t satisfied with what I was doing, not so much because of the work, because my job was always very challenging and kept me on my toes. But there was a certain sense of disillusionment I experienced in my cubicle existence,” she says. When she quit in 2010, she embarked on “a life-changing backpacking trip around Europe” and taught English to Spaniards for a few months.
Priya did return to a full-time job in 2011 as the chief copy editor at the Times of India, where she worked for two years. On making the mammoth move to eventually quit to work as a freelance copywriter and content writer, she says, “It wasn’t an impulsive decision taken on a whim. For a few years I was contemplating quitting the media world. I felt institutionalised and wasn’t inspired. I was drained out everyday after work, not wanting to do anything else.” She believed that there was more to life than just surviving the daily battles of stress at work and the noisy and polluted commute. “I think I reached this decision very organically.”
Lovell, who was born in Goa, also began to tire of city life — a major factor that pushed him to quit his day job in Hyderabad. He had been working a full-time job at Google for six years as a front-end developer for internal tools and search quality from 2007-2013. He developed an interest in photography after he bought himself a camera in 2009 and began to shoot weddings for his family and friends. Although he had no formal training in this field, his work soon found appreciation online. “People were willing to pay me to shoot their weddings,” says Lovell, adding that more photography gigs started to come by as his work started to get better. “Although working at Google was amazing, the quality of life in Hyderabad really dropped over the six years that I was there. Massive traffic, pollution and noise were the major contributors, along with my health, which started to take a beating. It just made sense to get out of it and go back to living in Goa where most of my photography gigs were anyway.”
Today, Lovell and Priya, who were married in 2013 — the same year they both quit their jobs — live in Goa. As self-employed professionals, they find the time to indulge in their passion to travel across India and create photo-stories for their blog Happy Feet. They also continue to work as freelancers, which enables them to pay their bills. Lovell specialises in professional wedding and travel photography, with wedding photography being the breadwinner, besides offering website development services. Priya collaborates with advertising agencies, digital marketing firms and website developers to generate creative online content and strategy for brands, and occasionally contributes travel stories to print publications. She is, however, quick to distinguish her work from her passion for life beyond work. “According to me, it’s good to separate the things you love from your work. I’m passionate about how I spend my days and my creative endeavours, our travels, and keeping the sense of curiosity and wonder alive and not be jaded like most urban dwellers.”
Priya feels that being self-employed drastically changed their quality of life. “I used to work on Sundays for almost seven years due to erratic schedules that come with working with a newspaper. Now, we wake up to the sun rising, the sound of birds and a beautiful view of the woods. Our days are calm, we work peacefully, and thanks to the stress-free environment we enjoy doing our work.” Lovell echoes this thought but adds that even though they don’t have to clock in fixed hours, it does not necessarily mean that they can slack off. “We mostly wake up early, get work done and then slowly pace out the day and try to head out in the evenings for a walk or to explore.” “And, I love the fact that we can just decide to pack our bags and travel any time we wish with nothing to tie us down,” Priya chimes in.
“We saved up over the years that we were working and had enough money for us to take the decision to quit. We set expectations and targets, mostly to see how the year would turn out,” Lovell admits. Priya, who says that it helped that they had simple, basic needs with no ‘lifestyle’ to maintain, adds, “If we didn’t find the plan sustainable, we knew we could always go back to our day jobs, given our previous work experience.”
Walking out on the stressful nature of a day job in favour of flexible work hours and a good enough, if not better, pay sounds like just what the doctor ordered. In fact, it might even sound incredibly adventurous and exciting, but both Lovell and Priya warn that it’s important to be realistic about it. “You can’t just quit your job on a romantic notion that you want to chase your passion. You have to know what you are giving up and be okay with that. You have to know your strengths, figure out if you can capitalise on them and approach your next step in a very calculated and dedicated fashion. You can’t take a big leap if you don’t have something to fall back on, like a good amount of savings.”