Always wanted to trek those high peaks but needed a guide or a trekker with an immense knowledge of the mountains, who can lead you everywhere safely? Or keep having those day dreams of shifting permanently to the mountains while sitting at your desk job. Well, for all those dreamers, we bring to you Vyshakh Nair.
Vyshakh did his mountaineering course from Himalayan Mountaineering Institute and never looked back. He currently works as an outdoor leader and leads treks under his brand, ‘One in the orange jacket’. Here is his story, in his words:
How did you get into this profession ?
I wasn’t one of those who knew exactly what to do , from childhood. But I always loved most hands on jobs that were mentally and physically challenging.
It took me 22 years of education and a job to realise that I wasn’t at the right place.
In 2015, while working for an oil company, I pondered over a simple question for months: If I don’t take a chance and try what I want to do, I am never going to take that chance at 30. So I might as well take it and see where it takes me.
I loved every job role I had, it’s just that I saw myself doing much better at certain roles than others. I had done a good amount of independent high altitude trekking before I ventured into leading treks. I learned that, as an outdoor leader I will be able to inspire, influence and change a bunch of people’s lives every week. So I took up the first job I got as an outdoor leader with a trekking company after months of thinking about how to do the transition. Meanwhile, I got myself enrolled in the outdoor courses available in NOLS (national outdoor leadership school) and Mountaineering courses in HMI (Himalayan mountaineering Institute).
But I never felt it in my gut to start my own. I was happy leading the trips and letting others take care of operations. The second shift in my career came when I moved away from outdoors and started a tech startup in 2017 which changed my perspective about the lifestyle I want to lead. Just before it collapsed completely, I put up a schedule for the upcoming treks online and changed my Instagram handle name.
I remember the first person who booked the trip. I didn’t take any advance amount, for lack of my experience then. After making all the arrangements trusting she would be coming, she backed out just days before the trip leaving a hole in the teeny tiny profit the brand was making from the first trek. Now I do take a booking amount from all trippers. (Haha)
Then the word of mouth caught up and it has been growing good yearly since then.
Somehow quitting a job and travelling full-time is much glorified than it has to be. There is also much glory in bringing food to table for your family and of course there is glory in working on an interesting project that saves time and makes someone’s daily life easier.
My aim was to create something so beautiful that it encourages people to present the best version of themselves to me everywhere I go. Even though I wasn’t changing the world all at once, the trips and treks started making the lives of few people a little better 🙂
I tell this every-time people ask me this, it’s more about people to me than places.
What advice would you give someone wanting to pursue a career similar to yours ?
I get at least one email every week enquiring about an opening in the brand and most people are only looking to travel for free. I believe that’s a wrong reason to choose this career. You will eventually get bored of visiting the same places.
You should first enjoy creating experiences for others. Everything else is a by-product of that. I hope to hire someone who is much better than me at creating those experiences.
What do you wish you had known when you started out?
Just 3 small things:
1) I waited for a longtime to start with a fair portion of doubts. I was afraid of failure, even the smallest ones. But nowadays, I go out and do things even if I know it might fail because it helps me fail fast and learn from it. So I wish I had known that iteration is the key to make things better, not just mere planning.
2) I used to struggle with time management and with time I have learned that we should find time to do things we care about and the people we care. I now take time out to do a bit of meditation (typically just sitting idle, nothing fancy), to take an afternoon nap of 20 mins, some time to read before I sleep, some time for running and to learn Russian. All of this is what makes me, me.
3) People will tell you, recommend you and advocate things to you that have worked for them. As a bonus, It justifies their choice also. That doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for you too. Be it career, a product or a life decision.
How much of luck and how much of hard work will you attribute into it ?
I am definitely here because of the people who have welcomed me into their lives with arms wide open. No doubt about that and I have been lucky to consistently meet such new people. On an average, I work around 13-14 hours a day when I am not travelling. I believe in working smarter than harder. So yeah, that’s that.
What are you curious about right now?
- Implementing tech to current systems to create seamlessly easy experience – A holistic approach from booking a trip to airport goodbyes, just because I love technology 🙂
- Scalable tech Startups
- Creating new markets
- My other half’s mind
Where would you recommend going in 2020 ? Domestic and international trip ?
I refrain myself from taking names of places which are at its threshold already. So my recommendation would be to explore places where less people have reached and give the communities there to create a source of income over tourism. Namely : Go Nagaland when the pink cherry blossoms happen and attend the Hornbill festival. Internationally choose any of the following Stan countries: Kazakhstan or Kyrgyzstan before they get all touristy.
How would your parents describe what you do for a living? How did they take it ?
My mom is a teacher and father has been doing business in Oman for as long as I remember. The whole education I had was orchestrated so that someday I can start working in an Oil & gas company. I passed out from UPES, Dehradun with a M.tech in Health, safety and environment. They were supremely unhappy about my new career choice. I don’t think they even considered it as a career, not until last year.
I didn’t even have a choice to be uncertain about my plan after I chose this career path. For the good, it took me to where I am now. They are now only worried about the times when I am not available on network. On treks like Kashmir great lakes, trekkers and we stay out of network for 5 days straight .