"Travelling-it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller."
Cliche, but true.
Having heard all these stories from amazing globe-trotters and them travelling to their 45th country or 10th year abroad, made me wonder-where did it all begin?
I never thought I would travel solo. It kind of just...happened. And I'm glad it did, because it changed my life.
When the thoughts of breaking away from the constraints of a mundane life struck me back in 2016, I decided to quit my job and take the roads less travelled to rediscover myself. With that, I counted up my savings, packed my backpack and with no company but my own, began chasing adventures.
So, like many travel plans, mine started out with a little browsing on the net. I didn't know where I would go, where I would stay or what would I do, but at that point in life I wanted to breathe again and travel was my only answer. I remember the feeling of butterflies. Of nerves and anxiety. The world was waiting, and I was about to meet it. All by myself.
Having travelled most of southern India during my childhood, I was craving for the mountains in the north. Obviously, the next thing I did was book my flights to Delhi and decided to plan my further itinerary once I reached. But, since I only had a week's time in my hand, Himachal was my safest bet.
An overnight bus journey from Delhi and I found myself in Bhuntar, amidst landscape I was not used to but had only dreamt of. Another hour's ride from there would take me to Kasol. I remember being glued to the world outside the window. I was surrounded by rivers in deep gorges, thick forests with tall dark trees, acres of pastures, mountain sides far away draped with raindrops and green. These views were going to accompany me for the next few days. This is one of my first fondest memories of Parvati Valley.
When I reached Kasol, it was almost noon. This hippie town with a recent inflow of tourists was lined up with cafes and restaurants selling Italian, Continental and Israeli food. It is one of those rare places where you just sit back, relax and let the enchanting valley drift you away in thoughts.
I was supposed to look for a bridge that would take me across the river, in a narrow forest trail leading to a homestay that a friend had recommended. I walked on this path laden with pine leaves most of my way, collecting pine cones, stopping at instances to gasp at the gushing river and peer at the unending pine trees all around me. I spent the rest of my evening chilling by the banks of the river, looking up at those mighty peaks kissing the clouds.
The next day I boarded a local bus which would take me upto Barsheni. From here you trek along a winding road to Tosh, a small village at the end of Parvati Valley, just 20 kms ahead of Kasol. Once the tarmac road ends, you walk over a wooden bridge, a trail that takes you across the periphery of the Himalayas as you enter the village. With scenic beauty this quaint village is a great place for a quiet vacation amidst nature. This far end of the valley attracts very few tourists. Travelers looking for an escape from routine life prefer staying in budget guest houses or hotel rooms enjoying their time without a fuss. The pristine beauty of this place is untouched by modernization and fast-paced life.
Amidst all the beauty of these landscapes, also lies Kheerganga, a moderate 3 hour trek that will take you through gorgeous meadows and streams leaving you breathless. It is believed that Lord Shiva meditated here for 3000 years.
Next morning, I along with two new friends I made the previous night at my guest house, started off for one of the finest treks in Himachal. We began from Barsheni and hiked up, making pit stops along the way. About nine kilometres long, the trail takes you through the mesmerizing hills of the valley until you reach an absolutely delighting land surrounded by snow-clad peaks and hot water springs where you can relax and rejuvenate. This path offers exquisite vistas of the picturesque mountains, valleys and landscapes filled with snow. With every step you take, there will be an upsurge in love for this place. On reaching the top one surely gets lost in the dreamy ambience and splendid views.
Cosy tents, great music, amazing weather and two friends to chatter away - what better way to spend the night in the valley, with views that will stay with me forever.
The best thing about embarking on a solo trip is that you're free to do what you want, when you want and where you want - whether it be hiking, walking aimlessly in a city or simply sipping coffee while you enjoy reading a book. You're free to be wild, eat what you like, sleep when you feel like, meet strangers and have adventures along the way. You find yourself approaching other travellers, opening to locals and appreciating the people you meet along the way. A few days into your trip it is likely that you will begin to feel more comfortable being on your own. You begin to realise just how friendly other travellers are and how easy it is to join a new group of people and appreciate the solo moments.
The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun. If you want to get more out of life, you must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life that will at first appear to you to be crazy. But once you become accustomed to such a life, you will see its full meaning and its incredible beauty.
As your mind is introduced to new people, sights, smells and sounds - you develop the ability to look at your 'real' life at home objectively. You question what habits, goals and lifestyle choices you once thought were important really matter to you. You are likely to be overwhelmed by a sheer sense of panic and the realisation that yes, you are completely and utterly alone in a whole new world! Hold on tight!
As they say "sometimes the hardest things in the life are the right things in life."