I founded Soulscape in 2017, a travel company that enables people to enhance, stretch, enrich and rejuvenate their creative impulses. The idea of Soulscape is rooted in a simple phenomenon that our output is a mishmash of what we’re putting in – consciously and subconsciously. So, by putting in the good stuff, our output should have traces of ‘good’ too simply because everything around us and in us is connected.
Such as my childhood.
I had a glorious childhood and one packed with irony as my father was in the Indian army which meant that while he was defending borders, I was set free. I travelled extensively to remote areas of the Indian sub-continent where often the largest locality was the Army base. I would play in the vast open spaces of the tropical Indian landscape, often skiving school to let my imagination sprout innumerous possibilities such as band-aiding trees to stop them from hurting.
Change had become a constant in my life. In 12 years I went to 10 different schools in 10 different parts of the Indian subcontinent exploring new cultures, foods and different ways of life. I had grown confident and had gained wisdom beyond the academic spheres of structured education. More importantly, I had grown ambitious.
At 17, I flew to the UK to embark on my then seemingly exciting journey for higher education with £5,000 in my pocket. But I hadn’t done my math. Each year (of the 4 year degree) was going to cost me £18,000, not £5,000. This was the moment my life catapulted from a care-free spirit to one that did not want to fail and didn’t know how to succeed.
I worked in factories at night and attended classes in the day, I slept when I could and became a pro at power napping. I made cars, electrical goods, pastries and delivered post. Every penny I earnt went towards paying my fees and rent leaving me £2 a day on average to live on. Boiled pasta with ketchup became my routine dinner. Generally, I was the greasiest and smelliest person in my class. But I knew that was going to end. After four gruelling years, I graduated with a distinction in Graphic Design.
Post Uni, I worked hard from 7 am – 11 pm and peaked my career in less than 5 years. I needed a new purpose. So I changed my career and continued to push myself. This thing I thought was going to end wasn’t anywhere close to the finish line.
I was paying a hefty price for what I perceived to be my success. I was working long hours in a job which I otherwise enjoyed, couldn’t switch off, and forgot how it felt to sleep like I used to when I was a child.
At that time it felt like I was giving my job 110% and everyone was patting my back for it. I got promotions, flexibility and a real sense that my university days weren’t being wasted. It all seemed to make sense.
What I didn’t realise is that I had started relying on the learnings from my childhood experiences to be innovative in what I was doing in my adult life. But I had been using this stock for much of my adult life without the thought of ever needing to replenish it. This was getting tiring.
To combat this. I did everything every productivity guru tells you to do. I squeezed in gym sessions in my working day, tried to eat healthy salads, taking regular holidays etc. in a desperate attempt to offset the noise of my life. I even took time out to study sustainable design and came out with a promising masters degree. I went on adventure trips like kayaking in the Amazon, paragliding in Rio, quad biking in Morocco, trekking in the Himalayas, I visited Russia, Japan, Cuba, the Caribbean, I took city breaks, relaxing beach holidays… the whole lot.
Having visited all the must-see sights in guidebooks and connected with local tour guides, I would return to London with new memories, souvenirs and a longer list of Facebook friends. Yet, I felt unfulfilled, as though I had just scratched the surface and left. And the exhaustion remained. It was hard to pinpoint as this exhaustion wasn’t physical – it was deep-rooted. Instead of opening up – I had clogged my senses with an overload of more surface level ‘stuff’.
The realisation that I was caught in something that would never end motivated me to pause. I booked a week off to go to my homeland, India, for a ‘holiday’. A couple of days on a beach in Goa with great food and great Wifi. Sounds perfect right?
Not quite. On holiday in Goa:
– I failed to switch off mentally
– It was all too cliche and my yearning was unfulfilled.
– I couldn’t get that intellectual fix I was sub-consciously seeking
I decided to book a train ticket to a town in Odisha, a comparatively remote area that I remembered from when I was a child. A long train journey later I arrived. This was a small village on the east coast of India. The lack of connectivity (no network, no internet) frustrated me – my emails, messages, online banking…?!
I guess that black spot commemorated the start of a new chapter in my life.
The air was fragrant with chamelis, the soil sweet from the monsoon, there were no cars and people examined me – their visitor with curiosity. My senses felt like they had woken up from a coma-like state.
I spent my time learning a classical percussion instrument called Tabla, exploring the local art of painting on palm leaves, taking long leisurely strolls, eating the few local foods that tasted better than anything one may find at organic stores of the western world.
While I drowned myself in local life with momentum defined by desire and the lack of ‘schedules’, my subconscious was soaking in everything. Noise-free learning not from acclaimed business school mentors and the so-called innovation experts but from people, their way of life, their humble mastery of things, vast open spaces populated with bead-like trees and other creatures – I watched grasshoppers take flight, koyals perching, dogs dancing around high on their freedom. I questioned my lack of ‘productivity’ – where was my flowchart? My project plan? The outcomes? How could such a simple experience feel so good?
I was feeling fulfilled – I figured. Every cell in my body felt like it was waking up, just like when you pop your head out of the water after a cold swim in a natural pond leaving behind the tension that habituates in you. I had become the child I used to be with bustling creative power, at peace and in control of my time.
I did it again, and again and again. Travelling to different parts of the world, recreating this recipe I had discovered, each experience made me grow in ways no one soul can teach. I also started to understand that the exchange was mutual – others opened their worlds to me and I opened mine to them.
Thinking about widespread impact is part of my job – so I had to share this.
I founded Soulscape to recreate and share my recipe of travel experiences that can enhance, stretch and enrich oneself. The recipe is rooted in 3 types of explorations: creativity, culture and wellbeing.
Creativity – the act of learning a creative skill to contribute to the creation of something by applying yourself to it is simply blissful. You won’t get taken into a classroom or a boardroom, instead, expect humble makers and craftsmen who haven’t been to fancy art schools but have inherited their artistic talents and skill from their predecessors. They converse in the language of the craft they are a master of and give an invaluable experience through that interaction.
Culture – people’s lives in lesser known places are fascinating, not only because our reality is so far removed from theirs but because their way of life is a product of their history, society and environment. Soulscape takes you into their lives – with permission and much gratitude of course. To learn how a family survives sub-zero temperatures living in a mud house, why people wander singing folk songs and accepting whatever little they are given to upkeep an ancient tradition, why a tattoo is engraved on women’s skin to mark a significant period in their lives… are some of the truths shared and explored.
Wellbeing – forget boot camps and high-intensity training, instead you will meet gurus who have mastered the art of awakening our minds and bodies. From yoga to meditation, you will get taken on a holistic journey. The space and the place you may be in is designed to be conducive to this process and is set deep in nature. Soulscape even curates the food and drinks you have ensuring each gram of consumption is healthy, organic and plant-based.
The Trikon principle isn’t a one way system where one takes and takes, instead it’s about giving back and developing a symbiotic relationship with local communities. This exploratory and symbiotic nature make our travel experiences more of an expedition, and we’d love to have you join us.