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November 13, 2014

Here’s to Traveling Solo.

Neha traveling

Surprisingly, I agree with the age old adage of “ whatever happens, happens for the best.”

Traveling is my soothing balm and provides us someplace to take our forever wandering minds. Traveling is a need, a passion.

Little did I know my travels would teach me a lesson, of course for the better.

It all began with a plan to travel to Vietnam with a close friend. When she backed out at the last minute I was upset but the feeling of not getting away from crazy Mumbai wasn’t settling in at all. I needed to travel.

A week before my leave date I had no plan of where and what I would do. Churning around in my head was a question I’ve been asking myself for a while now.

Should I just leave, alone? 

Sometimes impulse is indeed the best medicine. An idea sparked of the one places, I’ve always had on my “go to” list.

Himachal Pradesh, the Land of the Gods.

Traveling alone has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember.

The fear of being alone hits you with a bang. Who will you talk to or share your meals with? What if something goes terribly wrong?

Overriding these thoughts was a stronger much louder voice, “Just Go! If only to get over these fears! “

A few quick calls, bags packed and I was all set to leave, company or not.

Without a detailed plan in hand, I went with my gut—impromptu and impulsive. Just how I like it.

Meeting new people, for someone who’s not socially confident, is a big mental hurdle.

This impromptu trip made me leave behind my inhibitions and strike up conversations, starting with two random women who shared a car with me from Chandigarh to Kaza. We spoke about life and work and all things in between. Sometimes talking to a complete stranger, knowing that you may or may not meet again, is exactly what you need.

The feeling of having no expectations.

The two weeks I spent in the mountains were a whirlwind. From driving on the most treacherous roads Old Hindustan Tibet Road or being in a sleepy town with no phone service, the trip offered me many new experiences.

The pin drop silence, the pitch dark, the bone chilling cold, the scorching heat .Whoa.

When you travel with a friend you sleep easy knowing you’re not by yourself but when you’re alone in a room, you toss and turn ’till your eyes adjust to the pitch dark—in my case the fear of cockroaches, what if one climbs into bed!

It taught me to deal with my fears of simply being alone, I realized I wasn’t bad company after all.

Mountain trips are all about getting your feet on the ground, the more you walk the more you see. The crunchy feel of gravel under your feet, you feel connected to Mother Earth in her most natural forms.

I connected with myself like never before. From finding peace in reading a book on a rainy day to breathing in the clean mountain air.

I soaked in the beauty the place had to offer, marveled at it, feeling blessed to be there, right in that moment.

Traveling through the smallest most inhabited villages, the mountain cold kept me company at every step.

What stays with me is the sound of the temple bell, the occasional and very loud moo of a cow and the unmistakable sound of the wind flapping prayer flags in the air. I’m like a Labrador Retriever with her face out of the window, loving every minute of it.

Close your eyes, feel the wind in your face.  Just Be.

With music for company, an umbrella for the occasional drizzle and of course my thoughts—I was ready to roll. The nights are like looking into a field of diamonds against soft black velvet.

Childlike, in awe of all things glittering, I wait for my shooting star to appear.

I met some amazing people. Be it the old woman in Nako Village who laughed with a childish exuberance at her first “selfie” or the old man at the Norbulingka Institute who smiled at me each time I was there, saying “Go See, Go Learn.” Lara who chatted about life in the mountains over a cozy bonfire or 23 year old Lucy from Taiwan who made life seem so effortless.

The one thing that strikes me the most about all of them is the simplicity. They live in the moment and for them laughter is indeed the best medicine.

I remember visiting the 1000 year old Tabo Monastery or days in Mcleodganj walking on Temple Street or evenings chatting away with Sonam, the hotel owner. Spending an afternoon at the Norbulingka Institute, the trek up Kangra fort or sitting with my music plugged in watching the sun go down in Sarahan. Blessed evenings.

This journey made me succumb to my deepest fears. Whether it was the pitch dark or simply being on my own, I made friends with myself and that in my opinion is a big barrier crossed.

In Shanti’s words,

“At the end of the day your feet should be dirty, your hair messy and your eyes sparkling.”

And boy did I love it!

Here’s to taking chances, to traveling to places I’ve never been to, to going solo.


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Author: Neha Mishra

Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock

Photo: courtesy of the author

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