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Downshifting.. why and how i changed gears to live a simpler and (hopefully) better life.

By @Saravana |

Money. We all want it, we work hard to get it, but do we ever stop to ask ourselves how much we really need it ?

Society programs us for the rat race. It automatically subscribes us to the materialistic lifestyle without really soliciting our consent. Success is gauged not by the quality of the life lived but by the quantity of possessions acquired. 

Take me for example. Back in 1999 i started working with a salary of about 20,000Rs/month. I bought a motorbike which i could barely afford. But i told myself that "I'll soon earn more to afford more". Sure enough, a little over a year later i landed a new job with more than double the salary. A new car beckoned. My job remained the same over the years, but the salary kept increasing and with it so did my new possessions. iPods, laptops, clothes, cameras, lenses, trips, investments and even a new apartment. No, I was not spending irresponsibly, just spending on things i thought i needed at that time.

Earn more, afford more, buy more, want more, the vicious cycle never ends. Over the years, i realized that the things that truly made me happy were either moments from spending time with people i loved or from doing things i loved like traveling, photography and writing. I now had the money to afford to do all the things i loved but did not have the time to actually do them. I desperately wanted to slow down and experience life more, but couldn't. It was kind of a catch-22 situation. Life does not let you have your cake and eat it too.

I realized that there was no easy way out. One way out was to downshift. Downshifting is a social trend where individuals voluntarily choose to live simpler lives inorder to get more out of it. To quote wikipedia "It emphasizes finding an improved balance between leisure and work and focusing life goals on personal fulfillment and relationship building instead of the all-consuming pursuit of economic success".

What it requires from most of us, is probably a change in our working habits. One could either do a work downshift in their current jobs by choosing to work lesser hours for less pay and more time, or more radically, do a career downshift by choosing a completely different line of work in the area they are passionate about. Either way, its all about lowering ones aspirations about wealth, power & social status, and instead aspire towards non-material things like passionpurposefulfillment and happiness.

Whichever path one choses to take, its not to be taken lightly. It is better that you plan ahead, stash away some emergency money, put together a life plan and try to see it through. There will be hardships on the road ahead and there will be stress. But it will be stress of the good kind, like the gym pain which you know that its good for you, satisfying. You will be in charge of your own destiny.

And even in the off chance that you dont succeed, you can still come out of it with the satisfaction that you had given it your best shot and avoid going through your life wondering what might've been if you had taken the different path. There is only way to find out and the time is now.


In my case, i had been planning my downshift for over two years. Saving up, piecing together a life plan and putting the foundation stones in place. I finally took the plunge in mid 2010 and so far the journey has been exciting.

In the first 6 months. I learnt yoga in the Himalayas, something which i always wanted to do. And while at it, I learnt how to be a yoga teacher as well. Spent about a month with my family, met some wonderful people, traveled across the Himalayan states and cycled to Ladakh. It was all exhilarating stuff. Kind of like being on a honeymoon.

All honeymoons, however great, need to end sometime. I ended mine early (could've easily gone on traveling for another year atleast), to work on other bits of my life plan. The most important of which was to secure a sustainable source of income. My dream is to be able to photograph and write for a living, to go on unusual adventures and bring them to life with my words and photographs. Realizing the dream however would take a few good years, but my savings wont last me that long.

So, I chose to leverage my existing skills (design) with my new passion for writing and photography, and Kettik was born. It is a free and open platform designed to help travel bloggers like me to showcase their content and earn 100% revenue through advertising and other affiliate sources (like amazon). I'am quite excited about its potential, but it remains to be seen how well the idea will be received by others in the travel community. The going would be slow but I'am in it for the long haul.

In the meantime, i will also be freelancing as a photographer, taking on a few assignments like leading photography tours around India. The money is decent, and it lets me indulge my twin passions, Travel and Photography. What more can i ask for. Slowly, the pieces of my new life seem to be falling into place.

Along the way, I made a few other life choices to lead a more responsible and healthy lifestyle. Small things like cutting down on meat and alcohol, taking the bus and bicycle instead of my car, volunteering in wildlife and community programs etc. Small things that do make a difference in the end, leaving you feeling light and healthy and most importantly good about yourself.

Life's more exciting now and i have a feeling that it is gonna get even better. Fingers crossed.. :)

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