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Diary Of A 20 Year Old Backpacker – Part 1

The beauty of our digital world lies in the simple fact that there are millions of stories shared every day. The trend of sharing your thoughts and experiences with the world started years ago and even though most of us may believe that blogging is slowly fading away from the internet, in reality, it’s just evolving.

We already know how easy it is to open an application, click on a button and tell your story to the world that’s always ready to listen.

Since we don’t have a podcast or a video channel, you’ll have to settle for reading these stories with us.

Today, a 20-year-old backpacker will let you travel through some of her memories captured in the photographs she usually shares on her blog. Avantika Chaturvedi, a college student from New Delhi, is on a mission to hit 12 destinations in 12 months, on a budget. Here are some stories told by her:


I have a list of places I want to visit. It’s an inexhaustible list. I keep adding places, just pick one and decide to go whenever I want. I’d love to travel for longer periods of time but I’ve got college and financial restraints. My trips haven’t lasted more than a week as of now and I usually come back home after every short trip.

This was shot in Rishikesh, at my Nana Nani’s house. I’ve been going there for 20 years but never really ‘saw’ the place. But this year, I spent a whole day going around the house. My Nana showed me all the plants he has planted over the years. There are four types of mango trees, guavas, lemons, jack-fruit, papayas, bananas, brinjals, turmeric, and so many more that I can’t even remember :).

This is my Nana’s old Chetak just lying in the shed and it’s beautiful. It’s funny how I never paid any attention to all the beauty that was around me. Travelling taught me this I guess – There’s beauty everywhere, you just have to look for it.

 

I recently travelled to the Spiti Valley in Himachal Pradesh. It was a big tick off my bucket list. I was on my way from Manali to Kaza in an ordinary HRTC bus. The picture was clicked right after Rohtang La, one of the first glimpses of Spiti. I took this sitting inside a moving bus.

You can notice the waning greenery on the mountains. That’s what Spiti is all about – Naked mountains and arid lands.

 

I clicked this picture at Lossar village when I was returning to Manali. We had stopped for breakfast here and I was just scouting for places to photograph. And I came across these stones just lying there. Apparently, these stones are of historical importance to the Buddhists. I couldn’t understand much of what that cafe owner was trying to tell me, but I was amazed to see how they were maintained. There was no extra security or tomb erection and nobody made a big fuss about it. That’s what I love about Spiti, everything there has some historical significance and these things are revered without glamour associated with them and I find that beautiful.


She liked the idea of heritage sites being maintained by locals who preferred keeping things quiet. Rather than seeking the attention of tourists, or sensationalizing historical monuments, we can create a sense of harmony and focus our efforts on protecting said monuments. Can we try this for every single historical site in our country?


It’s hard to say if this attitude will work in the rest of the country. There are monuments that are on the brink of destruction despite state protection like Agra Fort and Taj Mahal.

In Spiti, there is an unsaid rule of harmony. In fact that’s how it is in most of Himachal Pradesh and that’s what keeps me wanting to go back again and again. People there are naturally respectful about other people and the environment around them.

 

This is Deyzor cafe in Kaza, the administrative capital of Spiti Valley. This picture is significant because I didn’t get to visit this place 🙂

One night we were strolling around Kaza when a local guy I had been chilling with for the past 2 days decided that we should have dinner here. So we walked around from New to Old Kaza, through a trail only familiar to local people but we ended up eating takeaway Shahi Paneer from a Dhaba with some barley liquor sitting in the middle of Kaza Helipad because this other guy who runs a home-stay in Kibber wanted to show us ‘his spot’.

That was how my trip to Spiti turned out to be in a nutshell. We had made a rough plan in our head as to where we’d go and what we’d see according to the time we had, and it was all for nothing. But I am not complaining, I met the most beautiful people in Spiti, who took it upon themselves to make sure I have an amazing time. They showed me places only locals knew of and made my trip as authentically ‘Spitian’ as possible.


The locals were nice to her and helped her out. What if she had to compare the hospitality of locals in small villages and towns to that of people living in big metropolitan cities? Living in Delhi, she may have some idea of how big or small this comparison can be.


I believe it’s because big city people have it too easy. When you’re living in small or remote towns or villages with little to no luxury, people understand each other’s hardships and are more empathetic. But I still wouldn’t go and say Delhi people in general, aren’t nice or big city people aren’t nice.

I also believe it has a lot to do with the energy and vibe you carry with yourself. If you are good to people, people will be good to you, it’s that simple.

 

I met these three guys in the cafe outside Key Monastery-  two from Shimla and one from Delhi. Two of them have moved to Spiti for good. One is running a home-stay in Kibber and the other one is working as the project manager and designer for an upcoming mud resort in Key. These people basically adopted me for those few days 🙂 and made it their duty to make sure my days in Spiti were unforgettable.

So the village we were living in, Key is situated right beside the Spiti river bank. They pointed at the mountain above us and showed me some prayer flags right at the cliff and told me that’s where we’re going.

We were six people and a husky puppy in a Swift. It was about an hour long drive to this village called Gettey. There are only four houses there and it was astounding, to say the least. From the cliff, you can count and see six Spitian villages including Rangrik, Key, Kaza, Kyoto. On our way to Gettey we even spotted a big group of Himalayan Ibex!

So it was a very special day for me. This shot was taken on our way back. We reached a flat area and there were mountains surrounding us from all four sides. It was something else, and then I saw this mountain in the distance with its uneven peak and it just caught my interest and I clicked.


She has been fortunate enough to find some friendly travellers and locals who took care of her. One of the reasons why she loved those destinations was the people she met and how they treated her. Indians are known for their hospitality, but we are also known for our poor travel etiquette. If you disagree with that statement, try to remember the last time you went to a tourist spot in India. How did our local vacationers behave there? What’s your impression of Indian travellers or tourists?


I have had bad experiences with tourists, especially in extremely commercial locations like Chandratal Lake and Triund Trek. Triund was my first solo trip and my first trek and I was shocked when I saw how many people go there. And it wasn’t even peak season, I went in March but when I reached the top, there were easily 50-70 tents with 2-3 people in each tent. Instead of trying to get some peace, there was noise throughout the night.

In fact, I remember I had pitched my own tent and had gone to sleep in when I heard my neighbours talking about me. There was a group of three boys and they kept discussing (rather loudly) why anyone would travel solo. The conclusion that was reached was that I must be heartbroken when in fact I’m very much in love :).

It was quite uncomfortable – hearing people pass random judgements about me.

Then when I was in Spiti, I remember having the most difficult time getting a ride to Chandratal Lake, even though there were several, almost empty vehicles, headed that way. These people in their big rented air-conditioned cars couldn’t be bothered to give a ride to somebody who hadn’t even had a shower for days and had been walking on the road, waiting for a ride, for a long time.

I might sound petty for expecting people to give me a ride for no reason but it’s such a harmless act of kindness. That’s the difference between a traveller and a tourist I guess.

There are people who try to unwind for some time from their boring lives. Being with nature doesn’t mean anything to them but just another fun thing to do and boast about. These are tourists. On the other hand, there are travellers who try to make the road their lives and understand mother nature in a way other people can’t. They have a sense of responsibility to the place and people they’re with.

I have survived most of my trips because of fellow travellers and locals. These are two groups of people I owe my travelling experiences to. Thankfully I have never had a bad experience with a local.

The best is when you meet fellow solo travellers and just form a group, and stick together throughout the journey – strangers become friends.

 

That’s why I love travelling. Unexpected things happen and create the most beautiful memories.


Passing judgements is another favourite hobby of many people. On the road, when we see a married couple, we may say something about them. If we see a group of youngsters, we will judge them based on what they are doing. But when we see a young girl, all alone, travelling, away from home, we may not offer help but we will definitely pass some judgement.


This doesn’t happen a lot but every now and then, someone (mostly from the older generation) will say something. I was very shocked that those guys, who were just a few years older than me, couldn’t comprehend the concept of travelling alone.

With middle-aged people it’s different. They always show concern that I might not be able to take care of myself, or should at least have a boy accompanying me.


Continue reading.

*Follow her on Instagram to know more about her journey.

 

2 thoughts on “Diary Of A 20 Year Old Backpacker – Part 1”

  1. Prince Kumar Gogoi says:

    This is so beautifully written.

    1. Rohit Yadava says:

      Very well written and expressed. I having been born and brought up in Shimla, feel proud of what you said about Himachali people 🙂 I have travelled to Kaza from Delhi by car. I went around with a local named Dorjee, wonderful guy. He worked for a govt agency called Himurja. You have brought back my good old memories back. Link to your blog has been shared with me by Mrs Alka Sudan.

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