This Travel Blogger Started A Backpacker Hostel In Himachal With 3 Guys She Met In Goa

Photo of This Travel Blogger Started A Backpacker Hostel In Himachal With 3 Guys She Met In Goa by Stuti Gupta

Although I have spoken about this innumerable times, given interviews about it on various forums and have mentioned briefly on my Instagram posts about The Lost Tribe Hostels, I think this version is going to be my audaciously written one, where some important facts are not censored. Earlier, I intended to be “socially confirming” and “politically correct” but this article is unfiltered and raw.

Photo of This Travel Blogger Started A Backpacker Hostel In Himachal With 3 Guys She Met In Goa 1/1 by Stuti Gupta

Let me start from my childhood, because I believe every single experience counts in this journey of starting my own tribe in the mountains. As a kid, I traveled a lot with my family, and I particularly remember what my father always said to me and my brother “you can tell a lot about a person by knowing how much they have traveled in their life”. We traveled by road mostly – with some of the most significant trips being a 18-day road trip from Gwalior, which is my home town, all the way to Kanyakumari. Another one that I can recall was a two-week long road trip by our old red color Tata Indica, throughout Uttarakhand. Traveling was integral to my parents, especially my father who taught me to hunt for hidden spots and locally known places and not the touristy waterfalls.

Photo of National Highway 44, Huda, Jammu, Udhampur by Stuti Gupta
Photo of Udupi, Karnataka, India by Stuti Gupta

Being a girl, it was impossible for me to imagine traveling alone back when I was growing up. So when I moved to Bangalore for my graduation, I traveled to Goa with a couple of my college friends telling my parents that it was Sociology Conference. I was a high performing student for most of my school days, so it wasn't difficult for my parents to believe me either. That was my first significant trip as a teen that wasn't being looked after by an adult.

Photo of This Travel Blogger Started A Backpacker Hostel In Himachal With 3 Guys She Met In Goa by Stuti Gupta

I studied Psychology from Christ University and then went to TISS-Calicut to pursue Masters in Clinical Psychology. Moving from a metropolitan to a small town of Kerala was a big shock for me. Calicut was way smaller than Gwalior, and far more conservative too. The first time a friend and I bunked a class, we didn’t know where to go because there weren’t many places to hang out at back then. This is when I learnt that a lack of something is a sign of opportunity. With a good figure left in our hands every month from our pocket money, because we did not spend on movies or cafes for there was no choice – we started to travel way too often.

Calicut turned out to be a great spot for trips that required over-night journeys, Kovalam, Varkala, Coorg, Bangalore, Kodaikanal, Mysore, Wayanad, Fort Kochi, Trivandrum, Palakkad, Munnar, Chennai, Pondicherry, Goa or Udupi. There were uncountable places for us to explore.

Photo of Kerala, India by Stuti Gupta
Photo of Darjeeling Cafe, Varkala, Kerala, India by Stuti Gupta
Photo of Nasik, Maharashtra, India by Stuti Gupta
Photo of Vadakara, Kerala, India by Stuti Gupta

Believe me when I say this, traveling is like deep meditation, once you begin you get closer to knowing yourself and when that happens, there’s no coming back – you would just want to do it more and more. It is an addiction, but of a healthy kind. This is what happened to me as well. I took about 41 trips in two years with the sole purpose of being closer to nature, being mindful about every minute that passed by, meet people and have meaningful conversations. If you’re wondering how my parents allowed me to travel so much, I think they get used to of it gradually if you’re keeping them informed and being responsible towards yourself and the others around you. Money wasn’t a problem because we saved it from fancy clubs and put it all in the tickets, instead.

As I went along with where the roads took me, I wrote one poem a day as if I was a plant and the poems were flowers in Spring, they burst out of me and bloomed. I collected these poems and later, it was published as a collection of poems with a major section dedicated to the places I traveled to.

Photo of Teso Waterfront, Bardez, Goa, India by Stuti Gupta

To celebrate my birthday and have a poetry reading for my newly published book, my girls and I decided to go to Goa, as it was one plan that was long due. It was a struggle for us to find a place to stay as it was December third week and everything was booked. I found Bricks and Bamboo on Google, so I asked my friend to simply call the guy up and ask if something could be managed.

Photo of Anjuna, Goa, India by Stuti Gupta

Luckily, we found a dorm for ourselves – we were eight girls and it was twelve-bed dorm. We reached at 4 in the morning, when Jackson (who drove us from Madgaon Station to Anjuna) said “Call Alex and inform him” in his typical Goan tone. Being sleep deprived with all the birthday calls, my instant reaction was “Who the fuck is Alex?”

We walked across the path filled with pebbles, we entered the hostel. All I needed was sleep – hunting for beds in the dark, we ignored this really tall guy standing at the reception. In the morning I met Alex. My friends sang Smokie’s Who the Fuck is Alice the first time I told them about him, the guy who runs the place I said. A day later, we spent an entire night getting high and deconstructing religion, breaking myths till 6 am. We built mutual admiration for each other; we were 22 – young and ambitious. On this trip itself, I also met Arjun, another business partner of mine. It’s been over two and a half years to this incident.

Photo of Bricks And Bamboo, Mazal Waddo, Anjuna, Goa, India by Stuti Gupta

After my return, days passed but our conversations continued over text messages, as my phone got spoiled on that trip. We fell for each other as our admiration metamorphosed to affection.

I had planned to go for further studies abroad, after my Masters course. It had been my dream to go to Edinburgh and study there. I applied, and I got the results exactly two weeks after we got back from our Goa trip. I got through. I got a good Scholarship too. There was nothing that could go wrong, I told myself – my plan was going to come out right. Nonetheless, things in life are not that easy, are they?

My father faced a huge business loss, with his major source of income falling into a conflicting situation. My family expected me to not go to Edinburgh at such an unexpected turn of events. I was shattered, at first, and then lost.

Being someone who always knew what was going to be my next major step in life, I found myself completely lost, clueless of my future and at a position where I did not have a plan B. Our course in Calicut ended, and as guided by our curriculum, I took up an Internship in Goa. I packed the clothes I needed and got myself on a train from Calicut to Madgaon. I moved to Goa. I transported rest of my stuff in carton boxes and sent it back home.

While working in Goa, I interacted with all kinds of people, with unique individual differences and backgrounds. There was one thing in common among everyone I met. I sensed a deep longing for belongingness, a search for home away from social expectations, a need for acceptance. They were the lost kind, and I’d be lying if I say I wasn’t a part of them. With all the plans crashed into the ocean like a plane, I felt clueless about what I was going to do with my life. I met Pranay as he was visiting Alex from Bombay, and got to know him too – who is my business partner too, apart from Alex and Arjun.

Coming from Psychology background, I understand the importance of social relationships and groups. I was aware of how communities that give you a safe space can also act as a tool for healing. ‘Therapeutic Communities’ is a concept of Psychology, which I told Alex I wanted to apply and start something of my own.

I was awarded as the Youngest Woman Achiever of the city for the work Gramiksha does – Children welfare and education, so I traveled to Gwalior to receive the award. In the event, I saw my parents feeling proud of me, as some of the influential people came and congratulated me. I used this opportunity to tell them about my interest in building a community and what I was planning to do, on the same car ride.

Later that night, Alex and I were daydreaming about traveling to Manali together as he was invited for an inauguration of a cottage started by his college junior. We spoke about how we could combine the community idea with a business plan – and back then, it felt like something impossible to do, something that we spoke about to feel good.

I couldn’t make it for the Manali trip then because I had to finish my internship, back in Goa. However, on reaching Manali, Alex and Arjun found a property to rent out. I felt the sincerity of the whole conversation when we spoke about it this time. I prepared a short presentation for my father about what I wanted to do. I even compared my possible expenses for abroad studies versus starting something of my own in India itself. Being a proper businessman, my father agreed.

It wasn’t easy for me, I can tell you that. My parents hadn’t met them, the three guys I told them I wanted to start something with. My mother was completely against the idea as it isn’t imaginable for a girl from the kind of family I come from, to 1. Start a business, 2. With three other guys, 3. In Manali.

Life went against all the odds. I flew from Goa to Delhi and met Pranay there. We took a bus and reached Manali. There was only a ten-day gap between the night I was day dreaming and the morning I reached Manali. Dreams do come true, and some too spontaneously.

Photo of Patlikuhal, Himachal Pradesh, India by Stuti Gupta
Photo of Jagatsukh, Himachal Pradesh, India by Stuti Gupta

We finalized the place and started the construction of beds. In one month’s time, the hostel was up and ready. I had my convocation on 7th May in Bombay, which I attended and traveled back to Manali and we started the place on 9th May 2016. Starting a business is not easy, we had to keep a lot of patience and wait and hope for the guests in the beginning.

We wanted to get the hostel painted, and we had invited an Artist from Goa who was supposed to reach on 19th May, and when we called him to ask where he was, he told us he was getting married the day he was supposed to arrive. So, we thought we could bring artists from all over the country and create art at The Lost Tribe Hostels. I created a basic poster on my phone and shared it everywhere. To my surprise the first Summer Art Fest ’16 was received with a lot of love by the artists’ community. We then decided to take this forward as The Lost Tribe Art Festival, and have conducted three art fests in two years time.

Photo of Jagatsukh, Himachal Pradesh, India by Stuti Gupta

This has been an overwhelming journey for me, the ups and the downs, the challenges, the fight with the family and tirelessly answering people’s question “why did you start a hostel after studying Clinical Psychology?”

I hope I have done justice to my story and you enjoyed reading it.

When the world talks about hunger, pain, parting and stay in wait for instant sex - I quietly enter my poetry - subtle, ambivalent and erotic. Travel with me by following me on Instagram @bijniswoman For everything else, check my website here.

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