With the recent commercialization which is taking place on the mountains, the main question is not “Where to trek?” because every trek is marketed well by trekking groups and there is enough information about treks to help you decide. Here, we see the dynamics in this business activity changing and the question now is “Who do I trek with?”. This may seem very trivial to you as you can travel your college friends or go solo with unknown people. There is a different adventure thrill involved in both and they have their own pros and cons. I would prefer solo-trekking over anything else.
Clarification- By solo trekking I don’t mean travelling all alone on a mountain. I haven’t experimented with that yet. My idea of solo trekking isn’t that wild. It means travelling with a group of people who you don’t know at all and interacting with them. This involves a different kind of a bubble where you expand your horizons and increase your comfort zone. I am awed by the idea of travelling completely alone on a mountain but I haven’t tried it. I hope I will be able to experience that in my life as well. This is about solo trekking with people I don’t know.
Why I don’t go with college friends?
My college has its own trekking group called “Sherpa” which plans a trek every six months. I have never been out trekking with them because trekking for me is about more than that. The idea of solo travel hit me once and it is there to stay. I wouldn’t like my peace on the mountain being disturbed by the same college gossip and drama. Mountains symbolize a safe space for me where I get to be away from the people I know and come back as something new. This transformation would be hampered if I travelled with the people I knew. If you are going on a mountain to socialize and to build stronger friendships, then the idea of trekking with college friends will be perfect for you. But I warn you that you will never explore that liberation of mind which the mountain causes to the fullest if you go with the people you already know. There is a liberation of the mind that you achieve on the mountain when you’re up there alone.
Though I like the idea of being under the stars with friends as I enjoy a great conversation with them or the idea of being in a tent with them when its freezing cold outside as we chat about life, I would yet choose solo trekking. Who wouldn’t want to enjoy playing in the snow with friends when the other option is to walk over snow with strangers? But the experience will be different. I like the idea of climbing the summit with all those you hold dear to you, but I like the idea of self-achievement more than collective achievement. It makes me feel like I did something different from other people around me. I did miss my friends from the summit when I climbed Roopkund [my first trek] alone and made them a video from the summit. But I wouldn’t choose to be on the summit with them. The mountain is the one love that I wouldn’t like to share with others I love. I can’t let my friends lose the competition of love between them and the mountain. Perhaps, I’m better off alone to avoid that competition.
A South Bombay 17-year-old trekking solo
My love for trekking has taken me up on the mountains often. The first time I trekked, I decided to go solo. Just like any other South Bombay person, I had travelled to exotic places with my family but never had the idea of solo trekking hit me. It was in the first month of college that I met people who had trekked solo and they inspired me to give it a shot. I think that college is the best place which exposes you to people with different interests and helps to diversify your own interests. It was my 18-year-old friend who had climbed Mount Kanamo (A difficult trek) as her first trek. She made it sound very difficult but interesting. I love challenges and was inspired to take up a moderate difficulty trek. It took me a lot of time to convince my parents to let me go alone as the idea of a 17-year-old [Yes, I was just 17 when I did my first solo trek] trekking alone was horrid and scary to them. They perceived mountains as a place where people could die and my perception was pretty much the same. My father actually asked me “What if you die on the mountain?” and I told him that I won’t. My perception of trekking changed after my solo trek which was the best experience ever.
[Fact: My parents were very supportive in spoiling me and adapting me to luxury. My father booked flight tickets from Bombay to Delhi and he fetched me from Delhi and dropped me till the base camp and then flew back to Bombay. After the trek, he came back to the base camp from Mumbai, then dropped me to Delhi and flew back. This may sound cheesy but if you’re from South Bombay, this is very normal]
I planned my first solo trek to Roopkund in October 2016 and that was my mid-term break. I loved the experience so much that I planned my second solo trek to Sandakphu within six months in March 2017. In the period of those six months, whenever the conversation of a mountain came up, I always had volumes of enthusiastic stories to tell everyone.
I don’t think that the experience would be similar if I had travelled with college students because the environment would be too safe and bubble like to feel any different. The entire idea of solo trekking with strangers made it wild. The idea of trekking was to break the existing bubble but travelling with college students would only make the bubble stronger.
Too much luxury and no challenge
There were various instances where I realized that I was a spoiled brat and I hadn’t explored much in my life without my parents. I had not faced any harsh difficulty per se and everyone in college thought I was too exposed to luxury. I then realized that traveling solo would increase my exposure and make me more independent. There were various instances on the trek and before the trek when I realized that travelling solo was not what I wanted but it was what I needed. Travelling with college friends wouldn’t help me to get rid of the spoilt brat image but travelling solo would enable them to see me in a different light. It would give me the opportunity to start new. When my father came all the way from Mumbai to drop me till the base camp, I felt a sudden cringe to see that he thought I wasn’t capable of travelling alone. The very idea of travelling alone then seemed to be ten times more important to me. I also realized that I was very dependent on him to travel and I wanted to gain some independence as I was moving towards the 18th year of my life.
I had started getting tired of the people around me and of all the monotonous conversations on the same topics now and then. I needed a change of topics and people. Travelling solo allowed me to meet different people on the trekking group and I interacted with them. Interacting with these unknown people helped me to master speaking to people of all age groups. I was always like a closed shell who fit in perfectly with people around my age but when it came to elders, I always felt a barrier. This barrier loosened on the trek when I spoke to people of all age groups and had different conversations. I was also exposed to people from different backgrounds of expertise and everyone had their own stories to share. There were diverse people who I could learn a lot from. If I went out trekking with other college friends, I would be exposed to the same group and conversations would be stuck-up. I needed a change which solo-trekking gave me. I would never be able to feel comfortable in speaking to elder people in a friendly way if the trek was with college friends.
My parents would be more okay if it was with college friends.
My parents did not want me to go solo because clearly they were scared of the risks. If the trek had been with college students, they would have allowed me easily but the learning would be a lot less. Parents are always scared of giving their children too much exposure at an early age. However, it is difficult to determine the exposure which is just correct. Travelling with college students would satisfy my parents and they would have allowed me easily but it wouldn’t satisfy my urge to learn more and face challenges. If you are someone who likes challenges and wants to break the bubble of college life to learn more, travelling solo is your medication. Moreover, I have always been a rebel and facing obstacles is my thing. Even if my parents weren’t okay with it, I was certainly more satisfied. In fact, I couldn’t overcome feeling that I had done what they never anticipated me to accomplish.
Feeling of accomplishing something different
How many people do you actually know that trek? How impressed would you be if someone told you that they climbed some mountain all alone? I want to get this sense of achievement after I climb the mountain. It may sound very selfish but I don’t want others to climb the mountain with me as I want this sense of achievement alone. I would like to climb the summit and enjoy the view alone and then brag about it to my friends. I wouldn’t like them to brag about the view with me when I can have it all. I would rather tell them stories about the trip than have them share those stories with me.
At the end it is all about priorities. If you want to go with your friends, no doubt that the experience will be amazing, but there wouldn’t be as much learning. You can always choose to be there with your friends and enjoy in the tent under the stars, but I’d rather have a solitary moment of introspection which I don’t get normally.