Chasing Sunsets & Butterflies: 12 Trips in 12 Months with a Full-Time Job


Travel has been a core part of my life since I was a child. Family vacations with extended relatives and cousins, school trips and excursions right from when I was a toddler, the mandatory annual trip to Hyderabad to meet grandparents, periodic trips to the Himalayas, jobs that entailed a fair amount of travel, reading for my masters abroad and stealing weekends to explore nearby places, meant wanderlust was in my blood!

This past year, I decided I wanted to travel more than usual, and for purposes other than work!

Waking up to the sunrise in the dunes in Jaisalmer

Photo of Khuri, Rajasthan, India by Ila Reddy

My major concerns with making this happen in the past had been that developments at my workplace tend to be unpredictable at times, and I didn't want to be unavailable (and sometimes couldn't afford to be unavailable) in case some important work came up and I was needed. This led to postponing travel plans, only doing short weekend trips to nearby places, and generally feeling disgruntled about my inability to go and explore all those stunning destinations my Instagram feeds seemed to throw up every day, unless I quit my job.

I soon realised I was being stupid (hah!) and succumbing to fear of the unknown. I challenged myself to embark on 12 trips in a span of 12 months (Jan to Dec 2017).

I'm happy to share that I not only managed to do this without quitting my full-time job, but I also realised it's very comfortably doable! Sharing some tips in the hope that you'll stop putting off your travel dreams in 2018 and fulfil your travel dreams before it's too late.

The glowing Jaisalmer Fort

Photo of Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India by Ila Reddy

Face your fears

More often than not, we put off our travel plans due to fear of the unknown- everything that can go wrong if you travel solo, parents not giving permission, friends bailing out, commitments at work, financial implications, yada yada yada. The first step to dealing with your fears is to face them.

Make a list of everything that may prevent you from embarking on your trip. Yes- Every. Single. Thing. Next, note down how you can prevent them or tackle them should they crop up. Trust me, you'll already feel a lot better, because the unknown is not so unknown anymore. You've pre-empted at least a few things that might not work in your favour, and also thought of ways in which you can potentially deal with them. That's a start!

Witnessing friendly ant wars in Coorg

Photo of Coorg, Karnataka, India by Ila Reddy

Plan ahead

I'm a big believer in planning ahead. I like to plan my trips well (with adequate scope for impulsive experiences/detours/going-with-the-flow of course) as it enables me to make the most of my limited time, avail good flight and accommodation rates, ensure my parents are in the know-how about my whereabouts (for safety reasons) and plan my responsibilities at work accordingly.

I started off by making a list of all the long weekends in the year, and possible dates of travel each month. I then added potential places I could go to each month, noting the weather at that time of the year, the number of days I had at hand (that I could take leave for) and places I've been wanting to visit in mind. This was, of course, a dynamic working list, and I added /edited it every now and then.

I made bookings for some trips well in advance (such as trip to the North-East), while some were last-minute (such as a weekend road-trip to Alwar, or catching a bus to Lucknow).

Drinking Lal Chai while looking into the expanse in Meghalaya

Photo of Meghalaya, India by Ila Reddy

Having a fair idea of tentative dates and places of travel from the onset meant that I could plan my work accordingly, and ensure there are no dependencies on me while I'm away.

There will definitely be instances when despite all planning and preparation something comes up just before your trip (this has happened with me at least a handful of times this past year, when an important meeting came up the exact date of my travel, informed to me a night before my flight). I was lucky that I didn't have to cancel any of my trips for these unforeseen reasons as I had colleagues to back me up, but pre-empting everything that might come up helped me better prepare myself, as well as ensure my colleagues had everything they needed to cover for me while I was away.

Further, keep stock of your finances- it's useful to know how much money you have at hand to spend on your travels (maintaining a travel fund/piggy bank helps) and pick the places you want to travel to, mode of commute and accommodation wisely (as per your budget). Estimating a per day cost during your travel also helps keep a check on spending, and avoid feeling like you've burnt a hole in your pocket at the end of a trip!

Sunset at Almora in Uttarakhand

Photo of Almora, Uttarakhand, India by Ila Reddy

Keep up the momentum

What helped me keep my resolution to embark on 12 trips in 12 months was that I made sure I never slacked. There will be times when you're too lazy or occupied at work to plan a trip, even though you want to catch that sunset on the beach, or trek up that mountain. Moments like these was when the list I made came handy, as I could simply refer to the month at the time, the potential travel dates and options of places to go to, quickly check the costs and make the required bookings (it's really just an hour or two's worth of work- depending on how picky you are).

Rural travel in Jhansi

Photo of Orachha, Madhya Pradesh, India by Ila Reddy

Travel also doesn't always have to entail a long bus ride, train journey or a flight. One can also pick nearby places that are just a couple of hours away or in the outskirts of where you live, so that you spend less time in the commute (unless you enjoy the journey as much as the destination of course- which we all should in some ways) and more time at the place you're headed to.

Maintaining discipline in not skipping travel in any month (come what may) meant that it soon became part of my routine, and didn't feel like I was putting in a lot of extra effort in planning for the same or making sure it happens.

Looking into her eyes

Photo of Chasing Sunsets & Butterflies: 12 Trips in 12 Months with a Full-Time Job by Ila Reddy

Diversify your experiences

What I definitely didn't want while making 12 trips in a span of 12 months was to feel like every trip entailed the same kind of place, experience or activities. When you're in a full-time job, it's often tempting to travel to a beautiful place (hill station with a view, or a beach to laze on) to simply relax, laze around and unwind. While I definitely did this in a few trips, I wanted some of my trips to be more meaningful and active in nature- exploring more offbeat places, rural travel, engaging with local communities, learning/observing handicraft activities, going on photo-walks, bird/insect-watching, the list goes on.

The list of destinations I zeroed-in on entailed all of the above. I made sure I didn't make consecutive trips to similar places, travelled with different sets of friends/family whenever possible, and picked a diverse set of places to visit- with different weather forecasts, modes of transport, types of accommodation and local culture. This ensured I was never bored, and always excited about discovering something new- be it a place, person, culture or experience, in every trip I went on!

Butterfly chasing in Uttarakhand

Photo of Chasing Sunsets & Butterflies: 12 Trips in 12 Months with a Full-Time Job by Ila Reddy

That sums up the crux of what I learnt from making 12 trips in 12 months possible- even with a full-time job! I covered almost 30 destinations from big cities to small villages- traveling by almost all modes of transport (except a bicycle and a helicopter).

My biggest learning from the past year has been that it's all in the mind- and once you set yourself to make something happen, you will find your way :)

Here's wishing you a lot more travel this year!

(Follow me on Instagram @ilareddy, Twitter @ilareddy and my personal blog