I’ve always felt a bit strange about having a job that others want and many envy. Over the years, countless people have written in, or said to me at travel meetups, workshops, even socially, that I have their dream job. In their imagination, I travel the world from one wondrous destination to the next on someone else’s tab. I spend my time in exotic locations, and somewhere between cocktails with colourful umbrellas, I write some free-flowing prose and send it to print in the magazine. Many assume this job is easy. Some think of it as little more than a free ride.
For a while I tried to dispel these myths. Indignantly, I’d respond that it is a hard job that involves being nitpicky about facts, grammar, and how we tell a story. The truth I now know is somewhere in the middle. While it’s certainly true that mine is a dream job, it’s the sum of many fantastic parts. It has taken me around the world, but also put me in the fortunate position of giving others the chance to travel to places they’ve never been, to fulfil dreams they didn’t know they had. It’s allowed my passion for travel and the written word to come together as a career. As much as I love travel, I love the process of editing, rehashing, finessing stories, working with a team to bring out a cracker of a travel magazine and website month after month. This dream job has allowed me to come to work every day for five-and-a-half-years, and create something I consider worthwhile, beautiful, and a pleasure to read. If along the way a story we published touched a chord with someone, if I’ve managed to bring joy to a few, or to help make a positive change in anyone’s life, it is icing on the cake.
This is my last month at this dream job, and as Winnie the Pooh once said: “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”
So what does one do when a dream job comes to a close? I don’t know just yet. What I do know is that the skills I’ve acquired will hold me in good stead. The life lessons I’ve learnt will serve me well. The travel I’ve done has enriched my every cell and changed who I am.
I could count the sights I’ve seen. List the places I’ve been. But I’d rather dwell on what I’ve learnt. I’ve always known that travel is a wonderful thing and of course I’ve loved all the destinations I’ve reached. But it was only in the course of this job that I recognized that travel truly is a magic potion. It’s the elixir that enlightens and educates me, that quietly feeds the choices I make.
Travel has allowed me to scratch beyond the surface, shown me how incredible the world really is. It was on assignment for this dream job that I understood the difference between merely observing a tiger on a safari from the security of a 4WD, and coming to grips with what it means for a place to be truly wild. Standing on the banks of the Yellowstone River as night fell one late summer evening, I watched a grizzly tearing into the carcass of a bison half submerged in the water. It was a warm day, but I felt a shiver of fear. It was a moment in which the essence of the wilderness and what it stands for in this muddled modern world of high technology came home to me.
Travel often helps confirm the things we know theoretically. Thanks to this dream job, I once got to travel around Azerbaijan with Nat Geo editors and photographers from around the world. During late-night conversations, while walking the length of Baku Boulevard along the Caspian Sea with new friends from different cultures, I closely felt the truth of our basic human sameness.
Travel has touched every aspect of my life, and as editor of this travel magazine I have become even more obsessive about taking regular family holidays. It’s the most important and cherished family time we get, and I can see that the one who recognizes this the most is my 11-year-old. She’s willing to give up on other treats, but not on travel. It’s not just about visiting exciting new places. We as a family are addicted to the wonder of the global classroom, the making of new friends, the opening of our eyes to other ways of seeing and being. No matter where I go then, I know that I will carry the rainbow of what I’ve learnt here. And I will always feel the magic of travel, as I’m sure will you.
Niloufer Venkatraman ’s idea of unwinding is to put on boots and meander through the wilderness or the by-lanes of a city. She is obsessive about family holidays and has already instilled in her young daughter wanderlust and a love for the outdoors. She is the former Editor-In-Chief of National Geographic Traveller India.