By Reema Sathe.
Traveling opens my mind, helps me learn new principles of life, and unlearn some. I have travelled alone for work plenty of times, but this year, I decided to take a vacation to the hills of Kumaon - alone.
My only agenda for this trip: To rediscover my inner strength and take a bigger leap of faith in life.
|The welcoming locals at Shaukiyathal.|
Apart from the fact that I wanted to go to some place away from the crowds, I had nothing else planned. I read several travel blogs (esp. my favourite travel blog The Shooting Star) and did research on the internet about places in India which are best for soulful travel. When I set the date and destination, my mind started jumping up and down, worrying about the dos and donts of traveling alone to an offbeat location. However, my excitement of the unknown beat my fear and I began my much awaited trip to Delhi >> Bhimtal >> Shaukiyatal >> Binsar. Few books and clothes, my iPod, camera and backpack became my companions.
|Enroute to Kathgodam from Delhi.|
Bhimtal – a peaceful and celebratory town in Kumaon
The first stop on my trip was Bhimtal, the quieter cousin of Nainital. My colonial homestay, located on a quiet hill, is run by a warm-hearted Anglo Indian family. The house has an old world charm with a piano, a bookshelf stacked with classics and a fireplace surrounded with wooden furniture and tea kettles. The moment I saw my room with a cosy reading corner and a large window facing the forest, I knew that I would spend the next 3 days indoors. My plans were pleasantly altered when I met an awesome group of travellers from Delhi. I spent the rest of my time in Bhimtal hiking, exploring the forest and lakes, and swapping travel stories over a glass of wine and delicious home-cooked food.
|The cosy reading corner in my room at the Bhimtal homestay.|
Shaukiyatal and Binsar – tranquility in the Himalayas and soulful silence
My next stop was a village homestay inShaukiyatal. “This house is in the middle of nowhere” said my brain when I first surveyed the place where I was about to stay for three days. That night I was worried as hell about my safety at the homestay. A few frantic phone calls later, I calmed and believed in the good things this experience would bring to me. My faith proved right, and the next few days at Shaukiyatal were filled with experiences of a lifetime - meeting the locals, hiking across villages and the dense forest of Binsar, and reading books in complete solitude while gazing at the mesmerizing valley.
|The meditative solitude at Shaukiyathal.|
Traveling alone has a charm of its own and to understand it, you have to experience it yourself. Make basic preparations of supplies that would help you in trouble; basic medicines, a map, a Swiss knife, some snacks and phone numbers of a few trusted locals form my survival kit. It is okay to be scared or to think of things that could go wrong, but always counter such thoughts with the excitement of experiencing things you have never seen or felt before.
|Lessons of a different kind - bread making with Paddy in Bhimtal.|
Here are a few things I truly enjoyed and learnt as a solo traveller:
Making no plans. Little or no planning helped me discover the unknown and find joy in whatever my journey offered to me.
Making friends with locals and fellow travellers. Not only did I meet some lovable people but came across stories I never thought existed in the world.
|My warm hearted hosts and fellow travellers in Bhimtal.|
Ditching the “famous travel spots” and instead hiking around the villages and forests. I met wonderful locals, walked the forest trenches with mountain dogs, gazed at beautiful fields and pristine mountains, and spent time in meditative solitude.
Sharing love. My biggest learning from the trip. Be kind and respectful to everyone in your journey – people, animals, nature. When you love someone or something, it always loves you back.
Following my curiosity. Whether I was on foot or in a car, whenever I saw something interesting, I explored it. The temple with letters to god, the SOS Village factory, the paddies and potato fields, and the sight of a barking deer - a few wonderful outcomes when I chased my curiosity.
Staying alert but positive. My mind was always alert and prepared for unpleasant situations but I placed trust in the goodness the world holds around me. It worked!
|Accidental discover of a diety temple; people tie handwritten letters to god and bells here to fulfill their wish.|
|The rice paddies and quaint town of Bhimtal.|
Do you dream of a solo trip to the Indian Himalayas? What's stopping you?
Reema travelled on India Untravelled's Secrets of the Kumaon Himalayas trail.
AUTHOR BIO: Reema is a UN Volunteer and works at Krishi Star, a startup enabling small farmers in India to generate sustainable incomes. She loves traveling and blogs about her experiences at Scrapbook. You can find her on twitter @reema_sathe.