The Magical Himalayan Odyssey – this is the name I have chosen for my little journey which spanned from 31-July-2013 to 08-March-2014. In brief, this travel break was for 221 days across 12 Indian states and involved 3 volunteer stints, along with 2 long treks in the Himalayas. Before I go into the details of this journey, I would like to explore why did I take this up in the first place? Firstly, this is the most common question I have been asked – why are you doing this? And also I am quite convinced that for any task the most critical question is the WHY, once this is clear the rest becomes easy to handle in terms of how, what, when etc. Something which I have tried to understand better in one of my previous posts as well –The critical factor called 'Motivation'.
I had the chance to meet a wide spectrum of people during this journey and almost everyone has asked this question in various forms. But, one traveler I met in Spiti Valley put this question in the most articulate way – what made you take this up, is it the Push or the Pull? In simpler terms, what he meant was, am I pursuing this journey because I am passionate about it or am I just running away from reality? Well, the honest answer is that it is a combination of both. It is tough to give a quantitative percentage split, as to X% pull and Y% push. But, for sure, it involved both.
Let me elaborate the PULL factor first, it sounds more positive! When I started, I was facing the question most of us in our late 20’s do – what next in life? I had a fairly clear picture of what I am passionate about and what I am good at and had pursued those things at various phases. It is just that I needed to pursue them more vigorously and see it for myself how much did I truly believe in them. This journey gave me the perfect opportunity for the same. The places I chose or the volunteer stints I opted for or the treks I did was all directly or indirectly tied to one or the other little passions of mine.
I started on the 31st of July and it was only in the last week of July did I decide to take this break. I instinctively decided to quit my work, did all the planning and preparation in one week!! NO, THIS IS A LIE and such things generally happen only in movies. The reality was that there was a lot of preparation behind this decision and I considered the pros and cons in detail. Most importantly, I had taken up good number of short travels before, which helped me develop the faith in the process of travel. Actually, from September 2012 to July 2013, on an average, each month I was travelling for at least 5 days, which included my first trek in the Himalayas, a visit to the Andaman Islands for a scuba diving course, a motorcycle drive across 3 south Indian states for 8 days and a good number of short treks and bike rides. Even before I did my first trek in the Himalayas in September 2012, there were fair number of short travels in my home state Karnataka. These details are not to boast, but to reiterate the point that there was reasonable amount of effort and experiences before I could muster the courage to take the big leap and it would be a mistake if I make it sound like it was a heroic spontaneous decision.
Now, coming back to the Push and Pull phenomenon, I was explaining the pull factor to another traveler I met while on a trek in West Bengal. Her observation was - all this motivation stuff is fine, but is it not possible to pursue these things being in my hometown while still continuing with my work? Honest answer, it is possible. Here is where the PUSH factor comes in. Being away from home and being away from the routine also translates to being away from things which had been bothering me for some time. If this is called escapism, so be it. In fact, I believe escapism is an integral part of most travels and no point in hiding it.
Before I started and during the journey and after the journey as well, the reaction from most people, especially in my age group was ‘wish I could do this as well’. Generally, my immediate question used to be, why do you want to do this and not often do I get a convincing answer. Is it cool to quit your work and go on a break like this? Of course, it is!! But, is that enough motivation to do that? Definitely not. As much as the road is enriching, it is intense as well. At all levels - physical, mental, emotional and beyond. I personally feel that if one is not convinced enough, it is tough to be on the road for a long duration. I might be wrong with this observation as I am drawing this conclusion from a very limited experience, but almost everybody I met who have pursued long travel breaks were very clear as to why they were pursuing it.
Well, that was my push and pull justification and it need not be the same for anyone else. If you are thinking of doing something similar and if you have the opportunity and the required resources, my honest advice is to spend some time away from all the travel blogs and forums and ask yourself few simple but tough questions – Do I really want to do this and why do I want to do this? If the answer to this question is in the negative, that is fine as well. It is absolutely ok not to be interested in this and there is no need to pretend as though one is very passionate to pursue, but just does not have the resources. This is not to discourage anyone, but just trying to be bit more realistic. If the answer is in the positive, please go ahead and pursue it, trust me, you will never regret it. I am saying this from my personal experience and also from the interactions I have had with people who can be considered PhDs in travel!!
The next obvious question is – did I get what I was looking for from this journey? Strong YES. In fact, I got more than I expected and surely more than what I possibly deserved. I remember the conversation with another traveler I met in Uttarakhand and I was going gaga over how super motivated I was and how I could be on the road for few more years. This was in November and by then, had spent little more than 3 months on the road. She said that it is just the initial euphoria and it would die down and I would eventually start looking forward to going back home in a couple of months. Actually, I was originally planning to return in December, but ended up cancelling my return tickets and she was wrong in her prediction :) The road is extremely rich and with each passing day, I was more convinced than ever about what I was doing. This understanding and appreciation of the journey is possibly my only credit and rest was just magic. I could have easily spent a few more years on the road, am not kidding about this, I did consider the realistic chances of this at one point of time, in December to be precise. But when I eventually decided to return, I was not short on motivation, but the other required resources were drying out!! Well, good times don’t last forever and I had to accept this and return back home. Nevertheless, these 221 days were undoubtedly the most rich, beautiful, intense and memorable days of my life.
Hope this post was worth your time and possibly gave some critical insights. In the next post, will answer the second most common question – What is the overall impact this journey has had on me? Look forward to share more about my little journey.