Diary Of A 20 Year Old Backpacker – Part 2
The story of Avantika Chaturvedi, the 20-year-old backpacker on a mission to hit 12 destinations in 12 months, continues with some more precious moments that were captured in her various adventures.
For the first part of this story, click here.
This picture was taken at a 45-year-old dhaba in Batal. The chachi in the picture is an absolute gem.
Batal is supposed to be a village but there’s nothing here except for a few dhabas in the middle of nowhere on the Spiti river bank. There’s a dry toilet with a hand-pump outside for water, no sleeping arrangements. We didn’t know about this and had planned to spend the night. By the time we realized, it was too late to go any further, so chacha and chachi made some arrangements for us in this “room”.
It’s completely made of stones and has a tin sheet for a door. All four of us (my friend, a Maltese couple and I) spent the night there. The floor is cemented so they put a few thin mattresses and gave us quilts to sleep. It was freezing at night but it was an amazing experience!
I hitched a ride from Batal to Lossar and met this couple from Malta.
They’re 31 years old, unmarried and absolutely living their dream life. They’ve been together for 6 years. They work 8 months a year and travel the rest. They loved talking about Malta – it’s just 25 kilometers in total :).
Nikki is the man and the woman is Mary-Anne. Mary has been to India before. She even visited Spiti 10 years ago and was pleasantly surprised by the change. She says Delhi is much cleaner now and the travel scene in India has grown a lot. She was glad to see two young girls travelling freely. She never encountered something like that back then.
Our country has evolved in some aspects, and this is clear in how our youngsters are gradually choosing their own paths. Even an independent backpacker, like Avantika Chaturvedi who is travelling alone and managing college at the same time, needs support from people around her.
Though her parents have always stood by her, they still needed some convincing from her on this new idea of exploring the country, alone.
This ’12 months 12 destinations’ mission wasn’t a planned idea. It just so happened that I was travelling for three months consecutively – December, January with my parents and February with my classmates. So I decided to do this throughout the year. When March came, I couldn’t find a travel buddy and decided to go solo. It was a nerve-wracking decision for me but I pretended to be all chill and courageous about it so that my parents didn’t get a hint of that slight fear. It took a lot of reasoning with my parents before they finally let me go. I made them sit and understand that I want to travel for a living and I can only do that once I start taking this seriously.
This is from Nag Tibba trek in Uttarakhand. I was with a friend and the trek took us more time than expected. It was May and the sun was too bright, we had exhausted all our water and were slowly giving up because we were tired, and suddenly this massive grey cloud shadowed up and within minutes, it started pouring. We were nowhere near the summit but thankfully found this meadow on our way and decided to hurriedly pitch our tent for shelter. The cold rain was hitting us hard and the wind was so strong it took us an hour to pitch the tent (it’s actually a 15 minutes task). There was one moment where a sudden gust of wind came and nearly swept away the rain cover (the top blue part) of the tent. I was clenching a small end of it in my fist and the rest of it was trying to escape with the wind.
To this day I’m thankful that I wasn’t alone and had somebody with me, otherwise, God knows how I would’ve pitched it. But our teamwork paid off and within moments after pitching the tent, it stopped raining and the sky became clear 😂😂. When we stepped out to get a look, we realized how beautiful the meadow was. In the tensed moment while pitching, we had paid no attention to our surroundings. The meadow was filled with white wild flowers and we spent a good hour looking at the sunset. It was beautiful.
My parents have never discouraged me from following up on any plans I have for my life – not even travelling or blogging or photography, but they wouldn’t approve of me travelling alone.
I told them that it’s not possible for me to have a travel buddy every single time. I have chosen this as a career, other people have other things to focus on. So they finally settled on a detailed itinerary. They wanted to know every little thing I was going to do, and my plan for the entirety of the trip, so I obliged.
Even when I was in Spiti (there’s zero connectivity there) I bought a BSNL sim to make sure that they receive at least one phone call from me everyday.
They’ve never stopped me from doing anything basically and have always been supportive. They just need assurance and I make sure I give them that.
Most college students would agree that doing something on the side when you are enrolled in a full-time course isn’t an easy task. Apart from the regular exams, there are co-curricular activities that students have to take part in, assignments with deadlines and then there’s mandatory attendance.
I am lucky that I’m a literature student. My course requires me to study novels, poems and plays. So what I do is I make sure I finish reading one book per trip, come home and study that in detail. My college doesn’t have strict attendance issues so it has worked out in my favour. As for the extra activities, there’s no compulsion. I was in the dance society in my first year but I barely got time to do anything apart from that because we used to have practice till 6 pm and I used to reach home around 8. So to make time for myself, I left it in the second year in and started travelling.
This one was my first trip to McLeod Ganj. I trekked to Triund and pitched my tent – huge feat back then. I had put an alarm for the sunrise and when I woke up and stepped out of my tent, I wasn’t disappointed. I remember buying a compass especially for this. To make sure my tent was facing east so that I could wake up to the sunrise right in front of me. And I did!
I didn’t tell my parents that I am going to pitch my tent and spend the night camping. They knew about the trek but they thought I’d come back down and spend the night in my room. What I didn’t know was that I wouldn’t get any signal throughout the trek. So they got worried sick and when I finally reached, there was this one single point where there was some connectivity so I quickly called them and told them everything.
They were worried sick but they couldn’t do much sitting 500 kilometers away. Anyways that’s how my parents gained confidence in my ability to take care of myself. Now there’s no stopping me. They’ve developed this trust in me that whatever I’m doing when I’m away, I’ll make sure to keep them informed and I uphold that trust.
This was one of the most glorious sunrises I’ve ever witnessed. This is near Parashar Lake, shot from inside my tent. Even though I had put an alarm again for the sunrise, I overslept and I remember suddenly my tent started quaking and there was a thumping noise coming from outside. I woke up with a jolt and stepped out to see this imposing image right outside my tent. And later figured out that the quaking was from the horses’ tails hitting against my tent.
This is from my home-stay in Rasol. It doesn’t really have a story. I just randomly shot it one evening when having chai and Maggie and uploaded it on Instagram and to this day, it’s the most liked picture I have and I don’t know the reason 😂.
I’ve just been really lucky that things have worked out for me at this stage itself. I know so many people who had to start travelling after college because of attendance or academic constraints. It’s just a happy accident, that’s all! 🙂
That was a collection of stories from Avantika’s travel diary. She’s managing a very busy schedule. Even during the interview, the young adventure blogger was on a train, on her way back home from another short trip. Her journey has just begun and when her ’12 month, 12 destinations’ ends, she’ll embark on another mission and create more interesting memories.
I want to travel full-time. I’ve started blogging and photography and that’s a step in that direction. In addition, I keep hunting for freelance projects. I don’t know what I’ll do right after graduation. I will apply for jobs. I might work for a year or two to save up and build my travel plan on the side and then push-off from thereon. Or I might take a gap year and do a few adventure sports courses with a correspondence PG diploma. Nothing is certain but what I do know is that I don’t want to continue studying immediately after college. Maybe, in the future I’ll get a master’s degree in photography or something similar.
If you wish to read about the destinations we couldn’t list in these stories, follow her here.