This past year, I decided to travel more than usual and for purposes other than work! As a traveler, for me every place has its own special charm & spark. But yes, I will choose Himalayas over & over again for my kind of trip in coming years because without Himalayas I wouldn’t be the same person I am today. Himalayas has taught me something wonderfully beautiful yet very simple- to have gratitude for every single day of my life. I always learn something new when I hit its curve.
I am full time MNC employee travelling every month since 2014. My story is not going to be a boring oeuvre of Ritwij Anshuman's Travel Stories of 2018'. Instead, a hopefully helpful guide to travel every month while keeping a organised job in low budget.
Before getting started, here is a short list of the 12 places I traveled to in 2018: Jan- Gulaba, Feb - Sikkim, March-Barlowganj,Mussorie, April- Shivpuri,Rishikesh, May- Mandi, June - Triund, July- Tosh, Aug- Rohtang, Sept- Western Ghats, Oct- Meghalaya,Nov- Bir,Kangra, Dec- Chopta.
If you have any questions about visiting any of these places, feel free to ask.
January-Manali-New Year Celebration
For January, I traveled Manali with my friends to start my year with Himalayas. I Still remember 31st December night when the whole Manali was on mall road. Needless to say everyone was high on welcoming 2018. Their enthusiasm had defeated the freezing temperature that night. Next day biked to Gulaba to show my friends how snow look like. The advantage Gulaba has over Manali is that you get some of the most spectacular views of the Kullu valley in one single frame. Prefer bike to explore nearby of Manali as cab is not so economically reasonable and traffic friendly.
Protip- Prefer old Manali over mall road stay. Try to buy just room package(food not included) when opting for a property.
February-Sikkim-Curiosity on Baba jee
I have always read about Baba Harbhajan Singh who is said to be protecting the country even after death. He is revered as "Hero of Nathula" by soldiers of the Indian army, who built a shrine in his honour. As with most saints, the Baba is believed to grant favours to those who revere and worship him. Sikkim gets extremely cold, arid and dry during winters. Given the high altitude at which Nathula is situated, it's difficult not to feel the physical burnt.The curvy roads, dense forests and pretty faces, Sikkim is one of the best experiences I have had in India. People have preserved the nature, maintained cleanliness (you will find proper clean restrooms everywhere on road and there are high fines if you litter anywhere), honesty (no one will overcharge you) and live a simple and happy life. Sikkim entirely as a state fascinated me in a lot of ways.
Protip - The Nathula Pass permit can be obtained by applying to the Tourism and Civil Aviation Department. You can apply through a registered travel agency which will cost you INR 200/- per person.
Mussorie is ideal getaway for those who want a break from their hectic schedules, but don't want to travel to a remote destination. Mussorie was saturday's sudden plan to experience sunrise, Barlowganj's Jharipani in afternoon and George Everest's cloud end in evening. As full-time employees we don't have a lot of control over our time, so learn to let go of excruciating planning to make way for spontaneity. Don't take three weeks to plan a two-day trip.
Protip - If you are fortunate enough, meet and talk the legendary Ruskin Bond.
In April i don't wanna miss the year's rafting at Shivpuri with office mates. Next day i was challenging rapids of ganges. Later i was not willing to let the evening go waste, so decided to go on spiritual walk to experience Ganges aarti. The bell-clanging and chanting of devotees give this place a soothing ambiance. You can also camp here on shivpuri beaches. All these in just 1200 INR. Trust me, its itself a experience to sit on a bonfire with people across globe.
Protip- Avoid alcohol consumption when in Rishikesh. Try lunch at Rishikesh's chotiwala near Luxman Jhoola.
May-Mandi- Friend's marriage
What I definitely didn't want while making 12 trips in a span of 12 months was to feel like every trip entailed the same kind of place, experience or activities. While I definitely did this in a few trips, Mandi was more meaningful and active in nature exploring, more offbeat places, rural travel, engaging with locals, learning/observing them, going on photo-walks, the list goes on.
Protip- If you are in Himachal ask for Dham.
June -Dharmshala - War with waste
Clear, star-studded skies, a clearly marked route, forested hills and the fresh air make Triund enchanting, especially during the summer months. It's purely a beginners delight and that too in budget. A small trek of 8km to spend your night in tent is pure bliss. Though I personally feel that difficulty of trek is only dependent on the particular season like Triund is very easy trek in summers but a bit moderate one in winters specially when there is snow everywhere. On World Environment Day (June 5),I volunteered along with dozen of organisations to pick four lakh pieces of plastic waste in a two-hour operation.
Pro tip- Start your trek before 5 PM as cops wont let you start after that. Enjoy 5 billion star tent stay for star gazing.
July - Parvati Valley - High on nature
The last motorable stop in the Parvati Valley, Tosh is where peace and high combine together to create calm. The ones who find the rest of Himachal too occupied with commercial activities come here to escape the hustle bustle and relax in the sunlight while smoking a chillum (Pipe used to smoke Hashish) and sway with the slow and cool flowing breeze. This is also the starting point of the Kheerganga trek.
Pro tip- Dont forget hike to Kutla which is just 3 km from Tosh.
August -Manali- Roadtrip with Bae
The rains, I thought would ruin my trip when I booked my tickets to Manali- a place where the regular tourist goes for magnificent views,snow and adventures. The intermittent showers brought out the most beautiful bits of Manali. Romance was in the air already, for we ware staying at a charming property, secluded from the village, that provided us views to die for! Rohtang was the plan for next day so need to hire a bike from Manali. Everything was amusing in Rohtang till a fierce gust of cold wind hits the pass from nowhere. We drove back to our stay as weather was turning bad.
Protip - A permit is required if you are heading Rohtang. One can travel by their own car at all places except Rohtang pass where it is not allowed to go without a taxi Authorised by Manali Taxi union.
September- Sahyadri range - Bike rides
Monsoon (Jul-Sep) is undoubtedly the best season for sahyadri range due to presence of lush paddy fields, gushing waterfalls and cloudy atmosphere. The early morning drives are best to see the colours of nature sprinkled across the sky by rising Sun. Since i was transferred from Noida to Pune only option left here was to explore Sahyadri range. So decided to cover Lonavala, Mahabaleshwar , Lavassa and Bhimashankar on each weekends. Every place has its own charm and ambiance.
Pro tip - Sahyadri range is best in monsoon. Avoid going rest of seasons.
October-Meghalaya- Solo because YOLO
Travelling by flight, cab and bike, all served to amplify the separation of time and space, and the lack of knowledge about where i was going, increased the trepidation and excitement that comes from visiting somewhere new. My trip in Meghalaya was everything about waterfalls, rivers, streams and lakes. It struck me that for a trip to a culturally and geographically diverse state, after all how many waterfalls can one see? In a limited time I had to explored multiple waterfalls and caves. For Meghalaya i was travelling solo until a friend joined me there and we embarked on our journey to Cherrapunji's famous living root bridge.
Pro tip- Local people dont call Cherrapunji,they call it Sohra. Dont forget to carry insect repellent and sunscreen.
I am sure you guys know Bir as the asia’s best paragliding site, but for me it was so much more than paragliding. So I embarked upon this adventure of this very cute, very free and so happy place called Bir. You never know what your destination has to offer you until you go there. Watching videos, reading blogs and checking other whereabouts of your next destination is cool, but trust me it gives you separate feel when you step in realm of place. Bir was same for me. I never thought it has anything more than paragliding. Bir has that aura where every inch sprinkles positive vibes.
Pro tip- Keep woolen clothes, if going in Summer, then also. Weather can change without any prior notice.
December-Chopta- Spritual trek
The last month of year i decided to thank Shiva for amazing 2018. Chopta snow trek was in my mind from a long time. Four friends, a car and an unexplored destination, what else is needed for an spiritual cum adventurous trip. The beauty of Deoria Taal, Chopta, Tungnath and Chandrashila were calling me to explore it. 3 hour trek from Chopta to take you to world's highest shiva temple Tungnath is pure gold. The best part about Tungnath is that it offers something to everyone. Either you are a hardcore devotee or and ardent adventurous person. Further ascending to Chandrashila for breathtaking 360 degree view was feather in the cap. There was no path to follow, just look at peak and chose your path.
Pro tip - Wear good grip shoe and carry water with you if visiting in winters.
Travelling on a tight budget highlights the joys of the simpler things in life. Beautiful walks, great conversations and watching the world go by, which is what backpackers like me travel for. We travel not to escape reality, but to dive right into it. In a world divided between privilege and struggle, we travel to belong. From cities infested with mobile phones and WiFi, we escape to feel connected. We have a deep relationship with places, and a deeper one with the roads that get us there.
And trust me, travel is every bit an indulgence. Perhaps the most indulgent of them all. But it just doesn't cost that much.
Read my Travelogue of 2017- 12 Months, 12 Trips: The Story Of How I Travelled Through The Year Without Quitting My Shift Job
All pictures have been clicked by me and shouldn't be used without my permission. #keeptravelling