Meet NomadGao’s New Co-founder, Shahzada Arora!
Everyone dreams of travelling full-time. There is something about the change this movement offers that makes everyone seek it out. However, it’s not always easy to grab hold of a dream so big and so perilous. We worry about commitments, finances, friends and all the things that we might lose grip of if we take that flight to nowhere.
Shahzada Arora’s dive into the deep world of digital nomadism is here to prove your fears wrong. He started exploring in 2017, became a full-time digital nomad from India, and has never stopped since. Over his adventures, he worked some really unique jobs, and when the money wasn’t sufficient, he volunteered. He chose to walk down a path that not many have dared to stray into, without helmets but loaded with courage fuelled by a single dream – to travel as much as he could.
“I want to have visited 50 countries by the time I’m 30.”, the persevering digital nomad in India says.
Shahzada got his first taste of the world of travel in 2016 when he interned with Mercury Himalayan Exploration – an adventure travel company. He got a firsthand insight into the world of adventure travel, how life on the road can be and what it takes to be out there. That’s when he knew he had to find his place in the travel industry. In 2017, his hunger to seek more pushed him to volunteer with another travel-related organisation – a backpackers hostel called Jugaad. There, he met travellers from all around the world – Europeans, Americans, and Africans who travelled full-time. He got an insight into so many new ideas and cultures without leaving his office. All of this was happening at a time when not many knew what backpacking or digital nomadism was.
To be a backpacker or a digital nomad in India was a far-fetched idea for many, but not Shahzada. His encounters and conversations encouraged him to chase this dream as hard as he could. However, there was a brief pause in his adventures when his mother got diagnosed with cancer. He returned home to look after her and help take care of the family-owned pharmaceuticals store. A few months later in August 2017, she passed away. While Shahzada took some time to heal and recuperate, he eventually leased the family business and in 2018, began travelling across northern India. He worked as a freelance photographer and moved between Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh and many other states of north India. This became his first peek into travel as a digital nomad in India. He obviously didn’t know that there was a term for what he was doing, but he still managed to travel and work in India well.
In 2019, Shahzada began working with FIS as a Google Ads Specialist for Google USA and Canada. This job allowed him to travel beyond India and so he did. He embarked on his first adventure as a digital nomad in Southeast Asia, visiting and working through Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand and so on. In Cambodia, he was introduced to the idea of cultural coaching – teaching foreign cultures to interested learners. He started training Taiwanese employees on the nuances of Indian culture – from mastering the Indian English accent to the food, clothing and so on. This was one of the most unique remote jobs a digital nomad could have. This sustained him through his travels. However, he wanted to cut down on his expenses for food and travel. A clever way to do this was by volunteering for people or organisations who would provide food or accommodation in return.
“In Vietnam, I also taught English to locals – a system that many foreigners there benefitted from. In exchange for your lessons, you could get either food or accommodation, or both. With the money I made there, I bought a motorbike and crisscrossed all of Vietnam on it. When I reached Ha Noi, I decided to come back to India. That’s when I came across NomadGao.”
Shahzada continued to work remotely in India and stumbled upon NomadGao when he was hunting coworking spaces in Goa. It’s mysterious how certain people are fated to meet and grow together. Mayur – the founder of NomadGao – and Shahzada became good friends and continued to stay in touch. Together, they launched the Remote Explorers Podcast and the Program Panchayat in 2020. The Podcast revolves around meeting other digital nomads in India from around the world and listening to their journeys. These conversations with advocates of remote work aimed to share insights, tips and tricks, hurdles and success stories that would empower others to work remotely too.
He didn’t let the pandemic hinder his adventures too much. In 2021-22, he took up travelling again, to explore Eastern Europe and Russia. He stayed in countries like Albania, and Serbia (where he battled a cold cold winter), and then moved to Russia, eventually ending up in Sri Lanka (not in Europe, we know). He believes that Eastern Europe is highly underrated and people looking to explore Europe or just travel on a budget, should definitely check it out.
“Travelling really changed how I saw things”, he says. “It gave me a strong personality, the encouragement to believe in myself and the courage to be an extrovert. I have developed so much empathy toward people. I have come to see the grey in everything, how good or bad, or black and white don’t exist, but they are all just a confusing grey. There’s so much to learn from different cultures – how different people live and work, how they eat and how they celebrate. We are so different and unique.
Yet, at the end of the day, we all want the same thing – food, shelter, love and friendships. As humans, deep inside we are all the same no matter how different we might seem on the surface.”
As a digital nomad from India who has explored the world, Shahzada really believes in what NomadGao is doing in India. He knows that what this coliving and coworking space in India is doing, is unique and powerful.
“The flexibility of remote work brings with it endless possibilities. While this is in no way disrespecting those who prefer to work from an office – everyone has a lifestyle they prefer. However, there is no denying the fact that working remotely enables you to travel and work simultaneously. You get to meet more people and experience more. Life is short and there is so much to be done. So why wait for a paid vacation?
As NomadGao’s co-founder, I want to enable more people who dare to dream follow-up on them. We want to create infrastructure for digital nomads in South Asia and bring remote work to the world.”
Shahzada started out as an intern with a dream, became a full-time digital nomad and is now the co-founder of a company that aims to enable more digital nomads in India. There are dreams and then there are those leaps of faith we take to make them a reality. In a world that teaches us to settle for less in the name of “security and stability”, Shahzada dared to want more. So if you wonder whether reaching out for the seemingly impossible is worth it, this is your sign. It might take a while to land on solid footing, and longer to really succeed, but what really matters is that it will make you happy.