Balancing the Grind with Akash Arora, Deputy Travel Editor at Explore

Akash Arora is the Deputy Travel Editor for Explore, the Saturday travel supplement of The Canberra Times and 13 other Australian newspapers, such as The Newcastle Herald and Bendigo Advertiser, published by ACM.

Let’s start with your background! Can you share with us your career journey and what you’re currently up to?

I started my career as a print journalist, working as a fashion reporter for Hindustan Times – one of India’s biggest English-language newspapers. A desire to study journalism brought me to Australia, where I completed a master of arts degree in journalism at the UTS.

The plan was to go back. But while I was at UTS, I started writing for Australian newspapers, such as The Sydney Morning Herald. One assignment led to another and I’m still here. Over the years, I have worked for Australian publications such as The Daily Telegraph, Gourmet Traveller and Qantas magazine.

I spent some time in London, too, working for the design bible, Wallpaper*. In the middle of COVID-19 I decided to leave the world of print and lifestyle journalism, and do something completely different. So I started working as a senior reporter and site editor for SBS News.

It was the most exciting job: I was the site editor on the day Russia invaded Ukraine and, during my stint, I reported on topics like the Omicron outbreak, the 2022 federal elections and the death of the Queen. It was also the most exhausting job.

I started missing an element of lifestyle journalism: so here I am, back in the travel world, as the Deputy Editor of Explore – the Saturday travel section of 14 newspapers published by ACM, including The Canberra Times, The Newcastle Herald and Bendigo Advertiser.

We’d love to know what a typical day is like for you. Could you describe a recent workday?

Recently, I started my day with breakfast at Sydney’s Pier One hotel with a few Switzerland Tourism representatives, who had flown in from Europe to promote their country among Australians.

Then I spent a few hours in my Sydney CBD office, filing stories, monitoring Explore’s social media and website, and editing print features. I also spent a lot of time on email that day – workshopping future story ideas with our freelancers who’re based all around the world and going through PR pitches.

We receive hundreds of pitches from PRs and freelancers a week (and that’s not an overstatement), so I spend quite a lot of time going through ideas – mulling, deleting, workshopping, commissioning, archiving. That evening, I travelled to Melbourne to spend a couple of nights at the new Ritz-Carlton hotel so I can review it for Explore.

Can you define work-life balance for yourself and share with us your approach in maintaining it?

The secret to work life balance is to truly love your work and embrace it as part of your life as if it’s indispensable. People draw hard lines between work and life. I don’t. For me, they’re inseparable. I could be having drinks with friends when someone may say something that could inspire me to write a story for Explore. Or I could be on my way to the gym when I may come across a great view that can make it to Explore’s Insta.

In fact, sometimes, when I am really struggling with a story, the answer comes to me not when I am on my desk, but in my sleep. I put all this down to the fact that I truly love my work and embrace it. And because I have absorbed my work into my life, I don’t need to look for balance. It’s already there – built in.

Change is constant, and it’s essential for growth. Have you made any lifestyle changes in the past year to improve your work-life balance?

Absolutely, as you get older and get into more senior roles, you have to make lifestyle changes – regularly and progressively. I was not a morning person, but I trained myself to be one. There are suddenly so many more hours in a day when you don’t sleep in.

In fact, the 20-minute early-morning walk – when traffic isn’t clogging the streets and people haven’t started queuing outside cafes – from my home to my office are the most well-spent minutes of my day. It’s when I do all my thinking – what’s just happened, what’s happening and what’s about to happen. It gives me clarity, allows me to plan and prioritise, and have a day at work that I enjoy rather than feel overwhelmed by. 

We’re always on the lookout for new resources! Can you recommend any books, podcasts, or newsletters that have helped you in your journey towards balance? 

I am an avid reader – a good page-turner is part of my “balance”. But  I have never been a fan of self-help books, podcasts or newsletters. So I don’t read to seek answers, I read for pleasure. I look for answers within. And the best way for me to do that is to meditate.

We are bombarded with so many thoughts and messages (including books, podcasts and newsletters) that we can lose sight of what’s truly important. And nothing cuts through noisy thoughts like meditation. If that’s too intense for you, try float therapy. Forty-five minutes in a float tank is equal to six hours of good sleep. I also do yoga three to five times a week. It grounds me and renews me.

Before we wrap up, do you have any final words of wisdom or insights on work, life, or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

Feel free to listen to everyone and try everything, but what works for others may not work for you, so don’t forget to look within – a deep dive into your own self – and ask what you can do to enjoy a balanced life. And if you’re really honest with yourself, you will find the answer.

About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.