How I Left My Corporate Job And Moved To The Mountains In Old Manali

20th Mar 2019
Photo of How I Left My Corporate Job And Moved To The Mountains In Old Manali by Ambika Bhardwaj

“Wanderlust” is the dream of our generation. However, here’s an honest confession:

Implicit in every traveller’s heart is a yearning for home.

Photo of Old Manali, Manali, Himachal Pradesh, India by Ambika Bhardwaj

Five years of uninterrupted travel, rickety bus rides, adventures on trains, rustic rural trails, unnamed villages, watching India rush past me from the window of a local bus, the Kanyakumari to Kashmir rampage, living in hundreds of homes with amazing hosts– left me yearning for a little wooden cottage of my own somewhere in the mountains. It left me in the heart of maniac bipolar phases of wanting the home and the world at the same time.

It all started five years back when I visited Manali for the first time. The hippie vibe of Old Manali, music flowing out of the colourful lanes, silent walks in the nature park, and random sweetheart strangers, made me feel at home. I left Manali but it could never really leave me. In all certainty, I am sure every traveller has stumbled upon that one place from where we never return.

Five years on the rampage and I was still wondering about how to go about it. You see, before making a permanent shift to the mountains, one needs to figure out aspects like: rent, consistent flow of finances and work, restructuring the whole life accordingly and much more.

Photo of How I Left My Corporate Job And Moved To The Mountains In Old Manali by Ambika Bhardwaj

It is a glamorous idea, you know, moving to the mountains and living in a small wooden cottage on a lonely mountain top. But what does it really take to live this fairytale? What does it translate to in undiluted reality? This is what we are going to talk about:

Frantic House Hunt:

Blessed are the city dwellers, they have so many ways to find a house. There’s internet, flat mate portals and apps, and when nothing works there’s the old trusted broker uncle. It doesn’t work like that in the villages.

Your chances of finding the fairyland home leans more on a stroke of luck than anything else.

So here’s a word of advice from someone who landed up in Manali with all her bags packed and suddenly had nowhere to keep her stuff: Research!

Photo of How I Left My Corporate Job And Moved To The Mountains In Old Manali by Ambika Bhardwaj

Get at least a few friends and locals working on the task, a couple of months before you plan to pull the moving in stunt. This will not only help you find a better place but allow time to compare rent prices. For instance, when I moved in or let’s say attempted to; there was a whole lot of confusion because of haste. Save yourself the trouble.

The Grocery task:

It’s all nice and breezy, you’ve found a home in the mountains and life does feel like a fairytale. You are sitting in the balcony, appreciating life and suddenly a realisation knocks that you’re out of groceries. Well, this is not your shopping chick flick where you can just select groceries online and expect them to be delivered at the doorstep.

You’ve got to store everythingfrom peanuts to gas cylinders.

The cylinder story. Shot by Suneet Rawat

Photo of How I Left My Corporate Job And Moved To The Mountains In Old Manali by Ambika Bhardwaj

Once, on a heavy snowy day we ran out of fuel. Never have I appreciated, the existence of the gas cylinder delivery guys so much ever before. Realising the need of the hour, we embarked on an adventure to the New Manali Bazaar that afternoon with our flat boots vanishing in 2 feet of snow. We picked up the cylinder and wore courage on our sleeves. We slipped on icy downhills hugging the cylinder, because the last thing you want is your cylinder bombing old Manali. Somehow after snow paintball games, all the sliding and slipping business, we tangoed our way to the market, refueled the cylinder and walked home back with the cylinder on our back. Walked–back–home! Aye, autos and taxis don’t fly. They can’t get their wheels around the icy mountain roads.

The simple joys of life: Doing nothing becomes everything

I remember meeting my landlady for the first time. She received my intention to stay throughout the winter with a raised eyebrow and a smile. At the onset I could barely understand this. But soon words of warning started flowing from all around. “There will be prolonged phases of no water and electricity,” they said.

And one fine day a couple of months back, I woke up to a cloudy morning. There was no sun. I went to the washroom and there was no water. I turned the lights on and there was no electricity. Days passed. The final and most lethal stage, was when I started talking to the tap, begging it to yield water. But it’s fun. I’ll tell why: the whole village gathers around the community well. We draw water from the well along with the village gossip. “I will not talk to my husband because he did not collect wood with me yesterday” said one, “did you hear about the snow leopard on the rampage these days?” said another and so on.

Photo of How I Left My Corporate Job And Moved To The Mountains In Old Manali by Ambika Bhardwaj

It’s amazing to see the entire village bonds to exchange their mundane everydays with one another, especially in times when people stay locked up with their phones.

Phones remind me, sometimes there’s no network. Well, even if there’s network your mobile phones may die without battery.

This is where things start changing. Village folks visit each other; stay around for hours and chit chat. Imagine a place where you don’t have to dial a call to speak to people but all folks come home. Someone plays music, someone sings and someone is a great storyteller. Everyday becomes a celebration. This circumstantial tech detox is so much fun that you’d enjoy the company of real friendships and warmth in the dead of winter.

Concluding, some days I wake up to the village life and realise how amazing it is. No city hustle, no honks, no traffic jams, no meetings, no concrete jungle, just a lone wooden house on a mountain top. Mountain life is not just about living, it’s about celebrating. Some days we celebrate the sun and some days we throw snow balls on random strangers. Honestly, now mountain life is a vacation and going anywhere else, away from the little sleepy, little snowy village feels like a daunting task. Whatever the hardships, life in the mountains is an everyday celebration.

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