Most city dwellers are born into the linear rat race that comes with living in an urban space, constantly hustling and bustling through crowded railway platforms and car-jammed roads in polluted. While the grind is one way to live, we all recognise the alternative: expanses of greenery and water that beckon—the simple life. We all recognise it, and maybe even sporadically discuss how we will one day leave the busy streets behind, but too few actually go on to living it and doing it.
Giving up the infrastructural convenience and energy of the city for a quaint and peaceful life is a challenge not meant for most, but there are a few souls who pull it off. They run to the call of clean air and unadulterated simplicity, and revel in its beauty. And as people on the other side of that ‘green grass’, we idolise them all the more for it, despite not knowing much about what inspires such decisions, or what makes them challenging.
As a tribute to the few that have achieved this feat, we’ve compiled stories of 10 individuals who moved away from busy cities for a quieter life, and each story is as inspirational as the next, not to mention honest in its simplicity. While most of the individuals in our first volume left cities like Mumbai and Delhi for Goa specifically, we found many more for volume two who have found their way to more unlikely places right from Bhutan to Hamirpur in Himachal Pradesh. If you need a little motivation to pack your bags and change the pace of your life, let these stories be your catalyst.
[Note to readers: all these people are featured in alphabetical order and in no particular order of preference. For those who missed the previous edition of this series, do read Vol.I.]
I. Aadirika Maya | 28 | Introvert. Bee. Sponge.
Anant Singh | 25 | Extrovert. Fish. Yin Yang.
…From the hustle bustle of Bangalore to peaceful Velim in South Goa
Take the plunge! People are very reluctant to move out of the city, but the benefits of moving far outweigh any downsides (none for us!)
“This is an interesting story. We already had it in mind to shift from Bangalore to Goa, but got the push to do so earlier thanks to our dogs. We have four dogs and our landlord in Bangalore had a problem with that. So we put up a post on a dog lovers’ Facebook group called Bombay Dawgz, saying that our pooches and us were looking for a spacious house and garden in Goa. Just a couple of days later we got a response saying there was a lady moving from Goa to Bangalore who has five dogs and needs two to be taken care of.
When we came to Goa to check out houses we went to hers first, and then decided we were going to search no more. It was an old Portuguese style house with a huge garden that had been dog proofed—it was just what we needed.”
“Create, create, never satiate!”
“We’d feed the dogs and water the garden. Being freelancers, our routine is quite similar. And now we have a much better environment to live in, with birds bathing in our garden and no traffic to deal with. The best part of the shift includes having free cow dung in a nearby field that we collect and use, and being close to the ocean because I’ve been an avid swimmer from a young age,” says Anant.
“The humidity and all the sweating!”
II. Anurag Sharma | 37 | Dreamer. Zealous. Affable.
…Answering the call of the wild, he headed to Rajasthan leaving behind fast-paced Gurgaon.
“Take the plunge when you want to, there is never a right or more suitable time. It’s always better to do something and regret it later, rather than regret not doing it at all.”
After a successful 10-year-long stint with Standard Chartered bank, Anurag bid adieu to his corporate career to fulfill his passion for wildlife, especially tigers. Shifting base to Ranthambore Tiger Reserve, he now manages a boutique wildlife camp and is the founder of wildlife travel and destination management company Tigerwalah.
“I was a regular visitor to forests. All holidays invariably meant trips to the jungles. I would always look at the possibility of skipping work on Monday/Friday just to get that one extra day in the wilderness, but this was also not enough. Soon I realised that it was time to say goodbye to city life. Now, my days start really early and end late as I manage the lodge on the outskirts of Ranthambore Tiger Reserve. But there is no stress. There are no conference calls to attend, no deadlines to adhere to—you get to do what you want. Things are simpler and easier. There is no rush whatsoever.”
“Problems are opportunities.”
“I am fortunate enough to be able to convert my passion into a profession. I get to do something that I want to do every single day. Life is a holiday, and yes it does pay well—though not as much as my corporate job, but enough for a comfortable life. It’s so peaceful here, unlike the chaos and stress of city life. I guess I do not belong in cities anymore,” he shares.
“My family is still in Gurgaon and I really do miss them. They are my only reason to visit the city now.”
III. Charmi Chheda | 31 | Creative. Adaptive. Versatile.
…From Mumbai’s manic pace to Bhutan’s serenity.
“Be it any place one moves to, never compare it with the one you’ve moved from. The whole idea is not to see it from your perspective, but to change the perspective and see it for what it really is. Don’t expect too much. Accept what it is, understand the place and its philosophy—and respect it.”
“Artist, teacher, wanderer, wonderer, dreamer, learner…this is who I am, this is what my life is about,” muses Chheda. Working with international schools in the city, she spent thirteen years working in Mumbai, starting off in animation, moving to theatre and finally, to teaching. Today, she works as a performing arts director for Druk School in Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan.
“I came to Bhutan on a holiday in 2014. The owner of the hotel where I was staying was extremely friendly and we bonded beautifully. On learning I work with schools in Mumbai, she asked if I’d like to see her daughter’s school. I agreed immediately. I shared my work with the school’s principal, Tshewang Choden Wangdi, and we spoke for about forty minutes and she offered me a job. I got the opportunity to move to Bhutan, just what I was waiting for. I left for Mumbai, packed my bags, informed my family and returned to Bhutan to join Druk School.”
“I was fed up of meaningless city life and was waiting for a miracle. I wanted to start working on my children’s books as well, and this felt perfect. Also, this was something very new for the schools of Bhutan. I knew it would be a challenge but I also knew I could make a difference. I jumped at the very thought of it.”
“Close your eyes . Fall in love. Stay there.” - Rumi
“The best part is the serenity,” she comments. “I am surrounded with fresh air, pure water, a slow life, better health and the time for myself. Now, it’s all about the quality life for me—everything else is a byproduct.
“The worst part of it has to be being away from my family and friends. Connectivity here is a bit complicated in terms of flights and such. Other than that I just blended in pretty well. I almost feel Bhutanese now.”
IV. Jason Menezes | 29 | Multipotentialite. Entrepreneur. Social Activist.
…From a settled life in Mumbai to nomadic adventures with Asian elephants in Amer, Rajasthan.
“Living less materialistically will help you easily shift/move from your city to a quieter life. Exercise, meditate and do good while away from the city. Trust me, it’s a gift and you’ll thank me in hindsight.”
In a 14-year-long career of mixed professions, Jason has worked as an event manager, a creative studio manager, a salesman, and a brand consultant. Now, he’s CEO of a travel company based out of Rajasthan called Elefantastic. Being a ‘multipotentialite’ with a variety of interests and creative pursuits, he explores the multiple opportunities life gives him. Most of his friends and family are still not sure what he does for a living, but he continues to pursue his passions wherever they may take him.
“Before the big shift, I was co-founder of a Mumbai-based mobile travel chat app, a startup called GoHero, which involved long hours of hard work. To be honest, I wasn’t prepared for start-up life. With rising personal debt and family pressures, I decided to quit in 10 months. Luckily, my partner was in no mood to quit. He took the baton and ran towards the finish line by himself.”
“With this broken confidence, I couldn’t work in Mumbai anymore. I decided to take up a job that was being offered to me for the past three years by one of my longtime branding, communication and marketing clients, Rahul Choudhary of Elefantastic. He called me to Jaipur and I packed all that I had and left. Only later did I realise that I’d be living and working seven kilometres away from the main city in a small town called Amer. I was happily surprised with the shift and latched on to this opportunity as well.”
“I smile because you smile. And it’s a loop.”
“I had a robotic lifestyle while I was in Mumbai—no appreciation towards work, family or friends. I could hardly meet people as I was always struggling for time. After I shifted to Amer, Rajasthan, I’ve started to have regular meaningful conversations with colleagues, family and friends. I’ve also started to play cricket which I stopped playing after college. Now life is tiring but fulfilling at the same time.”
I don’t live in a small apartment but a house with a lot of breathing space. I wake up early not to travel by train but to exercise. I walk more and sit less. I am surrounded by animals (dogs, bunnies, chickens, horses and mighty elephants). I run a travel company by day, and help startups with their branding, marketing and communication challenges by night. I also learned about my personal causes (public health, animal welfare and women empowerment) simply by being in this environment.”
“Not knowing how to ride a bike or drive a car is my only challenge. It’s real.”
V. Jitin Mani Thomas | 30 | Self Confident. Persistent. Dreamer.
…From the hazy chaos of Mumbai life to the tranquil backwaters of Kottayam, Kerala.
“If you dream it, follow it. Everything else will streamline and adjust towards achieving your goal.”
Born and brought up in Mumbai, Jitin has a degree in mechanical engineering from Pillai’s Institute of Information Technology, Panvel. With eight years of work experience, he moved from working in digital marketing to the position of Senior Marketing Manager at Mahindra First Choice, where he was responsible for the entire brand marketing and strategy for the company. He opened a Mahindra First Choice certified used cars franchise in Mallappally after moving to Kerala.
“Before the shift, I would leave for work at 8 am, travel for two-and-a-half hours and slog for eight-to-ten hours more before getting home by 10 pm. Long working hours coupled with a long commute and a hectic mechanised life catalysed my decision to move. I’ve always wanted to live in a place where people are not running around all the time and where you can actually take a breather. Moreover, after the birth of my child I was always terrified by the fact that one day when I returned from work my son could look at me and ask, ‘Uncle, who are you?’”
“The biggest adventure you can take is to live the life of your dreams” - Oprah Winfrey
“I wake up to the sound of birds chirping in the morning, breathe the fresh air outside, read the newspaper—no one is in any kind of hurry. I love that I can get up and drink a cup of coffee without having a schedule ruling my day. I get to go out and do organic farming on our land and then open the showroom which is ten minutes away from my house. I reach home much earlier now, I get to play with my kid and spend the evening with my family,” he shares.
“I miss my sister and friends who live in Mumbai. Also, I miss high-speed internet.”
VI. Manjot Marwah | 29 | Happy-go-lucky. Hard working. Positive.
…From chaotic Mumbai to the peaceful town of Hamirpur, Himachal Pradesh.
“If you keep thinking, you’ll never do it!”
“I’m a typical Andheri girl who’s used to the traffic jams and pollution in Mumbai,” says Marwah. After completing her MBBS and MD she started working at her uncle’s clinic. “We have a family chain of skin and cosmetic clinics called Dr. Marwah’s Skin and Laser Centres. So life was pretty much set for me,” she shares. Working from 9 am to 9 pm, city life never bothered her—and she never expected, nor wanted, to leave it behind, but things don’t always work out as planned.
“I met my husband during my post graduation and when we decided to get married, everyone assumed that he would shift with me to Mumbai, considering the big opportunities available in a metropolitan city. However, we both decided to move to the hills, which came as a big shock to everyone. I just followed my heart and my husband. I was anxious; I’d wonder what I would do there, whether I’d be able to accept the change, but the reality is that you never know if you are going to like it, unless you actually do it.”
After moving to Hamirpur, Marwah set up her own skin, hair and laser centre. “Currently, I’m the most successful hair transplant surgeon and director of the most advanced laser centre (National Hair Clinic) for skin care in the entire state, all while sitting in my small town, Hamirpur. I am proud of what I have achieved and glad I took the decision to move.”
“Never regret any decision in life”
“I love everything! I love that I can go for morning walks in the woods and peacefully have my evening cup of tea sitting on my lawn. I can go relax by a riverbank or waterfall on a Sunday, rather than the mall, and be with my Husky.”
“I miss pomfret, prawns and my family.”
VII. Medhavi Davda | 31 | Ravenous. Audacious. Tranquil.
…From Pune to quaint Bir, Himachal Pradesh.
“You need to be strong willed not to be affected by what the world perceives as progress. If you are at peace with yourself, it’s not tough to listen to your heart.”
Popularly known for her travel blog, Ravenous Legs, Davda is a techie with nine-and-a-half years of experience in software development and has always been passionate about sports and adventure. A national level badminton player, trained dancer in salsa, jazz, kathak and waltz, and a high-altitude trekker, she constantly took up new challenges to quench her hunger to travel and explore. Having quit her desk job in January 2016, she is now ‘trying to figure out a way not to get back to the same’.
“Over the years, the adventure seeker in me started growing restless with my regular job, and I began to aspire to do more. I always knew a desk job wasn’t for me and I would always find reasons to run away to the Himalayas. In my last project at IBM, I was forced to work irregular hours, spend maddening hours on calls resolving technical issues and ordering food from outside. Though the badminton court was a kilometre away from my place, I couldn’t manage to go to the court. I started losing out on my healthy lifestyle—one that I have always tried to maintain. Additionally, I was forced to cancel my approved leave for a planned trek due to reasons which principally were against my mindset. This was the last nail in the coffin.
My productivity did not take a beating, but my soul was getting caught up between the devil and the deep blue sea. I had to quit. I utilised my pending leaves to celebrate my birthday in the Andaman Islands, diving with the sharks. I returned and submitted my resignation with IBM. I wanted to give myself two months before I started thinking about my next move. I went on a backpacking and diving trip to Southeast Asia (Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia) for five weeks, and spent the following month in the Himalayas. I started with Himachal Pradesh and destiny helped me find my abode in this quaint little place called Bir.”
“The best part is that I’m able to lead a very healthy lifestyle here. I wake up at 6 am incredibly motivated to take giant strides in the direction of my new life. I enjoy my ginger-lemon-honey tea gazing into the vast blue sky and snow-clad mountains right in front of my bedroom door. Oh, and the lush organic fields too. I jog on mountain trails surrounded by forests, fields and peaks. I eat farm-fresh organically grown food and breathe fresh air.”
“I badly miss the badminton courts. There isn’t a single indoor court in a 30-km vicinity.”
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step” – Lao Tzu
VIII. Ninad Sonawane | 27 | Persevering. Observant. Modest.
…From London to Pune, and on to Parandwadi village.
“If you think you are just not right for a monotonous life and need challenges, just go for it.”
Having obtained an engineering degree, Sonawane worked at a multinational IT corporation, but it bored him after a few years. Having moved to London, his plans of starting his own business were put on hold. In 2015 he finally decided to move out of the city and closer to nature. After he quit his job, he moved to a small village called Parandwadi (near Pune) from where he commutes to a nearby town, Kudal, where he is in the process of setting up a nursery and plantation business, and innovating methods that combine clean and creative solutions for energy, garden, plantation and food needs.
“Office work involved working in weird shifts, skipping lunches and basically feeling drained all the time. The side effects of long, stressful office hours combined with an unhealthy lifestyle prompted me to look for alternative lifestyle choices. That’s when I stumbled upon the idea of setting up a business close to nature. I currently live on a farmhouse which is in an isolated location with a lot of pets but also within the reach of a city an hour’s drive away.”
“Nowadays I end up travelling a lot, visiting sites and meeting new people, which I love very much. I haven’t felt so satisfied and healthy in the past decade. I’ve met so many new and interesting people, and I’ve learnt so much.”
“Haven’t come across any so far.”
“Stay true to your own nature. If you like to do things in a slow and steady way, don’t let others make you feel as if you have to race. If you enjoy depth, don’t force yourself to seek breadth” – Susan Cain
IX. Yajuvendra Upadhyaya | 28 | Outgoing. Hardworking. Down to Earth.
…From Delhi’s concrete confines to the wilds of Madhya Pradesh
“Don’t go by peer pressure. Do what you like doing and want to do.”
Yajuvendra Upadhyaya works as a naturalist in the jungles of central India, taking people for safaris inside national parks. In the mornings, he ventures into the jungles to try and track wild animals and observe their behaviour, and educates people about the forest and its inhabitants. Currently, he works for Banjaar Tola at the Kanha National Park, a tented camp that’s run by by a joint venture between Taj Hotels and & Beyond of South Africa. “This is probably the most fulfilling and satisfying job I’ve ever had,” he muses.
“I was born and brought up in Delhi. After graduation, when I joined the tourism industry, I got a few opportunities to visit some national parks in our country. I realised how much I was missing out on in life. There is nothing more beautiful than nature on our planet. I began to observe and learn so much from it. This was my calling. So, I immediately applied for & Beyond/Taj Safari’s training and gave it a shot.”
“I live in the healthiest environment possible, fully connected to Mother Earth. Also, as the forests are closed during monsoons I get more than a 100 days of vacations in a year, which I can spend travelling around the country on my Royal Enfield.”
“If you are happy with living a life with limited connectivity and modernity, there are no bad parts.”
“The core of man’s spirit comes from new experiences.”
Compiled by Sara Hussain and Raj Rege
[Note to readers: We're always looking for inspiration to move to quieter, greener pastures. To contribute your story to Volume III of this series, write in to [email protected] with the subject line 'Quit City Life'.]