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3 people who brought me to where I am today: Trip Leader Niyati Saxena

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I often meet a lot of people who tell me that I’m so lucky to be doing what I do, trip leading, making a life out of travel and basically pursuing what I love. I agree. In fact, I whole heartedly agree. I’m lucky to be where I am and I could not do it without my support system. While I thank a lot of people for my present life, today I’d be talking about the crucial role played by these three:

1 )Mom & Dad

I know. It’s extremely cliche to credit your parents for where you are in life. But but what do you do when it’s all true too? When I credit my parents for my life I don’t do it simply because they are my parents. I do it because they are not the typical middle class Indian parents. They are people who are cut from a different cloth. There’s my father who had me travel in trains and buses all by myself even when I was a teenager because he wanted me to be comfortable with every mode of transportation. There’s my mom who wants to hear about the stories of each and every trip because she’s that excited for me to experience something that makes me that happy.

When I was 4 years old, my father was posted in Ambala. Ambala didn’t have many movie screens at that time so we went to Chandigarh to catch a movie. As our family friends and us failed to get movie tickets, my father concocted a plan for us all to go to Shimla. No winter clothes, no luggage, no planning. But you see the man loved the mountains too much and he’d make the rest fall in place. My mom was always the one smiling nice and wide amongst all these antics, happy to see us all on these adventures together.

Trip Leader Niyati Saxena

In 2019 I decided I gave trip leading a shot. I soon wanted to pursue it full time but somehow I would keep chickening out of having the conversation. In April 2019, I had just returned from Thailand when my father suddenly said let’s go to Kashmir this weekend. Who goes to Kashmir for 4 days? But it was my sister’s birthday and my family has a special love affair with Kashmir. Throughout the trip I kept thinking I’ll have the conversation with my parents but I was too timid to go through with it. I even sent myself a postcard in which I asked myself to have the much needed conversation!

Postcards

Unaware that during that same trip my father would tell my mom how he thought I was more inclined towards this than law.

People often tell me how my parents are so cool. Then why did it take me so long to bring this up with them? Maybe the fact that they had been so supportive of me walking away from mainstream law after putting 5 years into my degree gave me a guilt trip. But maybe it was the same profession where they saw me loose 6-7kgs in a few months due to stress or the erratic moods or the lifestyle as compared to the high on energy happiness as a trip leader..maybe that made this decision easy for them. When I finally ripped the band aid to tell them of my plans they actually agreed within an hour. When I credit my parents for where I am today, it isn’t simply because they accept what I do. Instead it’s because they fully support what I do. They went for a course reunion recently. Each person had to speak about themselves and their family. My father proudly proclaimed on the mic that Niyati completed law and is now working for a travel brand called On his own trip. Hah my mom’s friends follow the page and are amongst the forefront of my minute readership. Acceptance is one thing, support is another. And it starts from home.

Thailand

2)Ex colleague, Apoorva

You know how they say that your work friends are only hang out buddies? Well, I used to think so for the longest time. However, in 2019 I met Apoorva Singh and she plays a key role in where I am today. When I started freelancing for OHOT along with my job in a MNC I kept it pretty hush hush. I didn’t want the scrutinizing eyes that may now question my credibility. And yet, in Apoorva I found not just trust but also supportiveness and my own personal cheerleader. When I told her what my friend Neeraj does and how I’m considering giving it a shot, she said you must!

Trip Leader Niyati Saxena

When I considered diving into it full time, I went back and forth on it. One day over a cup of tea and simply stared at me with her big eyes and asked “What is it?!”. I looked confused so she replied that she knew in my heart I’d already made the decision, in my soul and my bones I knew what I wanted, then just why was I holding back? She told me how my past should not write my future. Little did she know that she’d be critical to this having been my future.

Oh, you should know that she cried when it was my last day at work. It hit her that hard. And yet she was selfless enough to push me towards my dreams. Because what may have created a void for her would not come in the way of her big heart loving me. You would not believe the number of times she covered for me when I was on trips, when she had my back when you would expect no one else to. She takes my calendar every few months, makes jokes about the weird names of the places I am visiting, calls me a monkey and patiently waits for me to make some time for us. Hah she finds all sorts of travel goodies for me. She even gets jealous at the prospect of any of our other colleagues travelling with me before her! When I’m in town I’m mostly glued to my laptop but she takes a leave, comes over and never complains.

When I had to make the most crucial decision of my life I found a cheerleader in her holding my hand through my indecisiveness. Neither the length of our relation nor the place where it was born (in an office cubicle) could take away from it’s genuineness and it’s love. I make it a point to get her a small trinket from every destination I visit because without her I would have probably still been sitting in a glass building and not atop a mountain.

Trip Leader Niyati Saxena

3)Neeraj Narayanan

Oops, very anti-climatic na? Ek toh parents and then the person I’m working for. Sorry to disappoint you but like I said, when it’s true then the obviousness can’t take away from the truth. I will have you know that Neeraj gets credit not just because he gave me this opportunity but because he had made this a dream in my thought bubbles years ago. A lot of this Neeraj himself may not know.

On his own trip
When we became friends in 2016 I had just done a few weekend trips with him. One evening I was animatedly telling him about my love for the forts and rich history of Rajasthan. He joked that he would a Rajasthan trip for me to lead. Little did he know that his joke would get me dreaming..

As I was considering quitting my first job in a law firm I’d messaged Neeraj about where in India I could solo travel for a month. I wanted to escape to the hills and open meadows away from the suits and ties. We never spoke very often but whenever we met there was affection like ever before. But this time when I asked him about this, he messaged me even between his trip about the places I could consider and what all I could do. Cut to a few weeks later, he didn’t know that I’d quit but I was in Pune and I met one of Neeraj’s closest friends, Mani. Mani was the first person to tell me “Niyu, you should be a trip leader!”. A distant thought from 2 years back returned to the surface. And yet I didn’t bring it up with Neeraj. I simply started working out to get fitter so that one day I’d ask Neeraj myself. Hah but Neeraj Narayanan is an intuitive man. A man who wins all his races. He beat me to me asking him and himself asked me if I’d want to be a trip leader. We hadn’t spoken in a few months. This conversation happened out of the blue but felt so right, it felt inevitable.

I was soon freelancing as a trip leader and two months into it we discussed full time trip leading. When people ask me how I could give up law, so many of them think it’s because I get to travel. The reality is that it’s because I get to travel but more importantly I get to meet so many people, hear their stories and create memories that they’ll forever cherish. Equally important is the fact that I work with someone like him. It’s not just that he’s inspiring, it’s that he treats the people who work for (no, WITH) him as family. He constantly encourages me to grow more as an individual and has my back in times that I don’t even know of. So, you see it’s not just the opportunity that he gave me. It’s the dream he once ignited and the unwavering faith he puts in me that makes this all a reality.

On his own trip

I would actually thank a few more important people in my life. But paucity of space requires me to keep itt short. In the end I would just thank my loved ones because the confidence, the energy and the drive comes from a support system that keeps you going day after day, destination after destination, dream after dream.

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