Series / 3 min read / by Mana Mehta / Jul 12, 2018

From DJ in Mumbai to surfer in Kerala, all in pursuit of better work-life balance.

Formerly an electronic DJ, producer and brand ambassador, Raffael Kably began questioning why every working day wasn’t as happy or as fulfilling as he wanted it to be; a recurring thought that led him to work at Soul & Surf, a yoga and surf retreat based in Kerala and Sri Lanka. Raffael left behind a lucrative and thriving metro dream in Mumbai, for a more wholesome and fulfilling retro dream in Varkala. He talks to us about his time soul-searching, making deliberate changes to his lifestyle, and discovering a more viable vocation. If you’re interested in knowing more about making a similar career and lifestyle shift, or want to visit S&S for a fresh perspective on life, chat with Raff on Dysco App.

Raffael was popularly known in the music circles by his electronic DJ alias – Mode7, and for the band he co-founded, Bay Beat Collective. Playing gigs at night, while producing music and videos during the day – he admits that his life was enviable for many reasons. He was earning well, was recognised as a major ad producer, he bagged multiple gigs a week and was regularly approached by brands to represent them as an influencer or ambassador. When we invited Raff to speak at Vocation Redefined, he spoke about ‘having it all’ but yet feeling a sense of discontent – something the audience resonated with; a sense that is increasingly relatable especially amongst millennials.

Most people assume that this mindset is common amongst ‘investment bankers’ and ‘those with 9-5 desk jobs,’ but that notion is slowly changing. It’s not so specific to industries or professions anymore, but rather a ubiquitous feeling of ‘what impact am I making in this world?‘ or ‘does what I’m doing really make me happy?‘ – questions that people across sectors seem to be asking themselves.

“Looking at the lifestyle I was leading, it wasn’t bad, I just felt I was being trapped.”

It’s not difficult to imagine how and why Soul & Surf was dramatically different from life in Mumbai city. What Raffael discovered there, was a retreat that was the first of its kind in India, one that offered an indispensable change to those who needed it most. The retreat emphasised and celebrated slow living, holistic wellness, and community building, all through surf and yoga. Now a Partner at Soul & Surf, Raffael looks back at his professional journey and talks to us about how it took its course, leading him to a sustainable, fulfilling place – one that allows the lines to be blurred between work and leisure.

How did you know that the lifestyle you were living as a filmmaker and artist was not for you?

Looking at the lifestyle I was leading, it wasn’t bad, I just felt I was being trapped. I was feeling that there was no reward, so I made a conscious decision that I wanted to do something else, which lead to me moving out of Bombay.

Your lifestyle has changed dramatically. What’s the most prominent difference to you?

It’s the quality of life really, I feel that the work-life balance is more prominent. When I was living in Bombay I felt that the work-life balance was very different. It would take me 45 minutes to get to work, another 45 minutes to get home, I would be working from 9 am to 10 or 11 pm. I wasn’t eating healthy, and I wasn’t exercising. Now I enjoy going to work. I go surfing every morning, I do yoga, I get to meet interesting people, hang out on the beach and be with people from all around the world. That’s what makes it worthwhile to me. It was also rewarding being in Kerala, where I can help local people have a better life by training them to surf, do yoga, teaching them how to run a business, and other practical things to improve their day-to-day lives.

I was so done with Bombay at that point in my life, and so done with my career. Don’t get me wrong I love Bombay, it’s a part of my soul, I will never be able to leave it behind. I love the city and I love the character and I love my friends and my family who are here. At the same time, at that point I was so ready to go, and so ready to get out, that I was willing to do anything at that point. Luckily Kerala came up at the right time and was almost too perfect, as it gave me the perfect time to leave.

“I had all these last minute thoughts going through my head. But as soon as I landed and saw Kerala, I had never felt that way before.”

How did you feel when you actually decided to make the change?

Obviously I was really scared, I was quite like “you’re leaving your life behind, you’re going to live on a beach,” it sounds stupid when you think about it. Every part of me was like “what are you doing? you’re making so much money, you have such a good life.” I remember very clearly when I was flying to Kerala I was on the edge of my seat looking out the window and I had all these last minute thoughts going through my head. But as soon as I landed and saw Kerala, I had never felt that way before. I had never felt that way when I flew to Goa or the Seychelles. Kerala had such a beach-y kind of chill location, you could almost feel the chillness coming off while you’re landing. As soon as I walked through the gates of Soul & Surf, I knew where I wanted to be. Just the people, the colours, the culture, the warmth, I loved everything immediately. It’s not just Kerala, I work in places like Portugal and Sri Lanka and they have the same vibe.

How did you initiate your shift from making your passion your profession?

It’s not like I come from a really rich family, but it’s not like I come from a very poor family. I am very lucky to go out and do what I enjoy doing, but again I didn’t have any support from my family, I just did it with my intuition. It’s about being true to ourselves, and I believe our customers see that, and it’s the reason why we have such loyal customers, it’s the reason why people keep coming back. They see how passionate we are in what we do and that money is secondary, what matters to us is our experiences, our guests, our staff. When we did it, we did it quite selfishly because we wanted to surf and we wanted to do yoga and have that lifestyle. But we also wanted to share that with the world and most importantly help the local people and community. I believe that’s what helps us be who we are today, if we hadn’t set any clear ideas with the help of our employees and the community, it wouldn’t be us.

What is your favourite part of your day?

Honestly, this may sound like a cliché, but I really can’t choose one favourite part of my day. It’s really hard to choose from all of things I love. Breakfast is one of them, I like eating breakfast with our staff and our guests who have come from all around the world, coming up with ideas and sharing interesting stories. Surfing is one of my favourite parts obviously, I live so close to the beach and I love it. Waking up to the ocean, it’s beautiful.

“I go surfing every morning, I do yoga, I get to meet interesting people, hang out on the beach and be with people from all around the world.”

Naturally, financial security is a key factor in making a career choice or a career change. How did you make sure that this career shift would secure your livelihood?

When Soul & Surf began, our idea was never to make money. We are lucky enough, touch wood, to be quite successful now, but it was always about making enough money. It was never about making millions or billions of dollars in a year. We did want to make a decent amount to live and support our lifestyle and the way we looked at it was different.

It was all about living the life that we wanted to live and not having any regrets for what we do. If you take on your passion, a certain amount of success will follow.

What advice do you have for someone else who is looking to make a similar change?

If you set out your ideas, if you set out what you want in life, you can start achieving it one goal at a time. At the end of the day, what is it, and how do you get on with accomplishing it. This is my philosophy, to me I have never been about money, it has always come secondary and success for me will always come as long as I do what I want to do and do it with integrity, hard work and intelligence.

“It’s never too late to start anything when it comes to your passion.”

The biggest piece of advice I could give a young professional is the only way you’re going to do it is to actually do it. A lot of people don’t end up doing what they want to do because of fear of the future, absence of money, etc but the thing is you’ll never be successful if you don’t go out there and do it. Whether it’s running a surf and yoga retreat in Kerala or running a bakery. If Mark Zuckerberg didn’t get out there and make his move, he wouldn’t be where he is. Don’t be afraid to fail, just go out there and do it because that’s the only way you are going to learn. Failing at something isn’t the end of the world. If you never fail in life you are never going to learn anything. If it doesn’t work out don’t beat yourself up over it, because, it’s ok. You can always go back and do it again, and do it better. It’s never too late to start anything when it comes to your passion.

If you’re interested in visiting Soul & Surf, or learning more about making a career shift, chat with Raffael Kably on Dysco App. All images credited to respective owners (Halina Pokoj, Peter Chamerbalain & DTL Photography, Rolling Stones India).