You know how you always thought that someday you wanted to move out of the city and into a small quaint town by the hills, and lead a peaceful, stress-free life? While the concept sounded ideal, putting it in practice wasn’t easy. The city life offers benefits that most of us are too used to to give up. However, there are people around us who did take the plunge. The fat corporate salaries, the malls, fancy clubs and restaurants and the fast internet speeds of a city couldn’t stop these people from treading a path less traveled – one fraught with risks, uncertainty and financial instability – all to lead a simple life in a small town and make a difference. Some of the cities they have moved to will be hard to locate on a map, leave alone have a recall for the urban millennial.
When the cities are choking under the pressure of rapid urbanization and overpopulation, battling rising temperatures, pollution and a reduced quality of life, more people choosing to move out of big cities and into small, sparsely populated towns can only be a good thing.
After a successful series on people who quit their jobs to follow their passions, we bring you people who quit cities in favour of small towns and villages, to inspire you.
1. Danika Tavora – Left Hyderabad for a small village in Karnataka
Danika was living in Hyderabad and worked as a nature educator at a small school and freelanced as a communication designer and consultant at many agencies. But soon her itchy feet got the better of her. “I’d been in Hyderabad for a fantastic 5 years and wanted something new. I was supposed to be working as a dive master this summer, but when that didn’t work out this opportunity at Rathnapuri did. She has now been living and working at a private farm at a village near Mysore, called Hunsur for the last 2 months. At the farm, the community works on education programs in conservation and wildlife, for city and village kids.
“Rathnapuri is a beautiful, tiny village a few km away from hunsur. The best part about this particular property is that it sits right on the banks of the Devi Kere lake, and so we have a lovely diversity of birds, snakes and other animal life visiting the farm.”
For Danika, the only challenge about moving to a village has been the language barrier. “I speak broken Kannada, but it’s obviously not good enough for me to be considered a local! I’m not permanently tied down to anywhere, for this year at least. Some of my work might take me into the cities for short periods of time, but I’m really looking forward to my next stint – taking a small group of families trekking in the Binsar sanctuary.”.
2. Shailesh – Left the US to settle back in Nagpur and cofound a startup
Shailesh was based out of Washington DC, working as a Senior Consultant with the Strategy & Operations group at Deloitte. But he decided to move back to India, partly because of the really long wait to get a US green card and partly he wanted to return to India and be a part of the thriving startup ecosystem that was developing here. Once back to India, instead of choosing a metro city that could come closest to his US stint, he decided to move back to Nagpur, his hometown and a small city in Maharashtra. He co-founded a hyperlocal startup called GETNOW and also runs a co-working space called Indieloft for local startups in Nagpur. “It was great coming back to my hometown after nearly 15 years and re-connecting with old friends and family. It’s nice to be close to my parents and to be able to do little things for them and physically be there. In some ways, I’ve had to re-connect with Nagpur as a lot of my old schoolmates have moved to other cities for work. And the city has changed too quite a bit. So it’s been a process of re-discovery.”, Shailesh says about his move.
What have been some of the challenges in adjusting with the new life there? “There were plenty of challenges in re-adjusting – it took the better part of my first year here. The usual re-adjusting to traffic, noise, heat, power cuts and the little things we don’t notice living here but that are overwhelming to someone moving from overseas. Since I didn’t move to a metro like Bangalore, Mumbai or Delhi it was hard to find like-minded people who were genuinely interested in startups or doing new, cool things. The businesses in Tier-2 cities like Nagpur tend to be traditional and there are fewer mentors/investors. The absence of a mature ecosystem hurts people trying to do innovative stuff but we are trying to build that from the ground-up here.”, says Shailesh.
3. Manil Agarwal – Moved from Delhi to McLeodganj, Dharamsala
Manil is a masters from UK and was based in Delhi, working with YES bank on their CSR team as an assistant manager, after working in diverse fields. However he decided to give it all up and moved to the quieter environs of a small town. He cites reasons such as lack of job satisfaction, a severe dip in personal life, depression and an overall disillusionment with the regular city life. “I found the daily commute to work very painful, spending closed to 2 and a half hours daily cooped up in a car in the horrendous traffic of Delhi was not my cup of tea. Spending hours in the office attending meetings with no outcome and near zero productivity told me that if I really wish to do something I will have to approach things differently. I always have had an entrepreneurial mind set and I felt that time was right for me to take the risk. So considering that continuing to stay in
Delhi would have been a very expensive affair, adding further stress to my life.” Now after settling down in Dharamshala, Manil has started a website sharethelove which is a platform for people to find volunteers for their social and environmental projects and vice-versa. He also runs a parallel business where he manages the sales for small hotels. The hotels are located in Manali and Mcleodganj each and plans to add one more in each of these cities over the next couple of months. However, the transition has been smooth for Manil for whom the quaint hill town of Dharamsala was a love at first sight. “I had decided to move here even before visiting the place. I took a weekend trip after resigning from my job to house hunt and get a general feel of the city. Since then, there has been no looking back. The rawness in the nature attracts me. It is unlike the paintings we drew as a kid. Its landscape has a challenge to overcome at every turn. I personally feel that the high mountains of Dhauladhar visible from here are the abodes of Shiva and possibly for this reason I have always had this comfort that he is watching my back! The people! Absolutely gorgeous. My circle is mostly people who have left the city to move here to find peace or live their lives differently. Life with them is a little more laid back, happy and co-operative. We all are there for each other and help each other, be it personal or professional matter!”, Manil tell us.
4. Poonam Jain – Moved from Pune to Raipur
Poonam was working as a software engineer at TCS Pune before switching to Raipur. “After working there for three and half years, I was caught up with confusion as to where my life was leading. The charm of living in a big city was slowly fading with my friends moving out, some abroad for work, some for MBA’s and others switched companies. This left me with similar options. Being close to my family and doing something in the IT sector for the rural part of my state turned me towards moving here. I am currently running a start up named PCJ Technologies in Raipur where I build school management, hospital management, pharmacy related, CRM and ERP softwares for small business.”
“The best part about being here is you don’t feel the loneliness. Family doesn’t share problems with you when you live at distance and vice versa. Knowing that you are together with them through thick and thin is the best part of it.”
Missing the life in Pune, definitely yes. Everything is so easily accessible there and more option for every service compared to what you get in raipur. But flying there once in two months will help you keep the balance.”
5. Shubham – Moved from the NCR region to a remote village
Shubam is an engineer from Ghaziabad in the NCR region who chose to go for a government job at a PSU bank which posted him at a tiny village called Chaul in Raigad District of Maharashtra.
There he works as a Probationary Officer where his daily duties involve supervision of branch activities, and also coordinating loans to farmers and traders. While he does miss his city life at times, living in the village has its perks he says. “Living in Rural India has its own charm. You know most of the people and can simply and go and talk to most people on street. Life is slow and you get time to do things which you enjoy. The best part about the place is that village is seaside and completely green. So you get to live near to a beach and breath fresh air which is getting rare in India.”
A big challenge however has been to get vegetarian food as the town thrives on seafood. Language is another barrier but biggest issue according to Shubham would be lack of proper broadband and Wi-Fi connection.
6. Ravneet Jaggi – Moved from Delhi to a remote village, Raigarh
Ravneet was born and brought in the capital city of New Delhi, working as an HR executive at a corporate office of a manufacturing giant. However, he decided to moved out to learn beyond the cubicle and get past the noise and hustle of busy city and contemplate the next steps in life. He has volunteered to take up a position at a remote village of the same company. Seeing a different side of life such as extreme poverty, social backwardness and little connectivity in terms of mobile or internet has given Ravneet the much needed perspective in life. However he also commends some part about the village. “The best part about living in the village is no pollution, no traffic, no expenses. It serves as a good place to concentrate & rejuvenate oneself.”
7. Nidhi Thakur – Moved from Mumbai to Dharamsala
Nidhi was born, grew up in and thrived in the career at the big thriving metropolis of Mumbai. “I was a part of the many dreamers walking the busy streets of Tinsel Town, all wanting to achieve and succeed – I wanted to be a journalist. My career has quite a restless graph – a year in HR, 2yrs in PR followed by a year in TV, and the last two in social media marketing! So what made her make the big move? “It was my first solo trip to the mountains that did the trick. What was meant to be a month’s volunteering trip, turned into a life-altering journey, as it healed me in ways I didn’t know was possible. When I returned to Mumbai after my trip, I just couldn’t understand what was so fascinating about the city. How do we not know that work is not life? It doesn’t have to be? I just couldn’t bring myself to follow the herd anymore, I knew I had to go back and find a home in Dharamsala. So I started freelancing in PR and Social Media, one thing led to the other.”
She hasn’t given up working though. And while she realises her nomadic dreams while based in Dharamsala and traveling around, she manages social media for clients across Mumbai, Delhi and Chandigarh her bread and butter. “And before I knew it I had an agency! I gave myself a few months to work towards making this a location independent agency, and 2yrs later, I’m managing clients in Mumbai, Delhi and Chandigarh, sitting in my pretty mud house in a little village named Rakkad. I’m also experimenting – Travel writing & photography for my personal peace, and learning farming and gardening for future career planning!” How does she like her new home? “Oh, it has to be how beautiful the people here are! There’s so much simplicity, honesty and sincerity in the way people lead their lives here – I learn something new everyday! People in the mountains have hearts of gold (no exaggeration), and you can see that in the way they welcome you into their homes with warm smiles and hot chai!”, Nidhi says.
8. Christelle Ledroit – Came from the UK, worked in a small village in Andhra Pradesh
Christelle is a French citizen from the Reunion Island, who came to India to reunite with her boyfriend, whom she met while doing her masters in sustainable development in the UK. But her India stint took her to places as far and remote as a village called Paderu in Andhra Pradesh. Christelle got a field job with the NGO Naandi foundation in Paderu where she stayed and worked for over 2 years, away from her boyfriend who was placed in Hyderabad. In Paderu, Christelle worked in a biodiversity farm that worked on apiculture and coffee cultivation. Far from the first world comforts of a UK or even a big city in India, Christelle comfortably lived in a tiny one room house in the village, where electricity was a luxury and having water meant pulling it out from the nearby well. Not only did Christelle get her hands down and dirty in the farm, sowing and harvesting crops and extracting honey, she learnt the local language, Telugu, to connect and mingle with the farmers and locals.
“It was hard adjusting to life in Paderu. People tended to stare at you all the time, and commonplace things become hard if you’re a woman, even more so if you are an outsider. It was difficult to convince the farmers that I’d really come all this way to talk about bee farming! But my life here is a fair bit healthier and safer than the big city. Living in a village like this, feeling the fresh air, working on the land, it keeps you grounded. It’s magical.” Christelle signs off.