Like a true backpacker, at the age of 21, Aman Nikhil Mehta set out on a 12 day trip to conquer the invincible landscapes of Ladakh. He started out solo, heaving a 12 kg backpack through admonishing terrain with no one save a dog on certain days for company but when he returned, he returned with memories, stories and new friendships. Aman believes that travelling alone is an intense, soul-searching experience. It will leave your soul scrubbed and neat and you will come back a better human being.
Wildflowers & prayer flags add colour to Ladakh's stark landscape
We spoke to him about his trip and here is what he had to say.
I love my own company. I love getting lost in my thoughts. I daydream a lot. So travelling alone is not a problem for me; I enjoy loneliness.
Prior to my trip, I had faced a series of failures and my confidence had dipped. I had a feeling that I was losing control of my life and that it was heading into a direction I didn't want to. I wanted to do something that would restore my confidence. I hadn't traveled alone before, so I knew it would be challenging. I wanted it to be challenging. A solo trip filled with challenges takes your confidence to a whole new level. You develop the belief that nothing is out of reach for you. Besides, traveling alone makes you an independent, more adaptable and responsible person.
When you travel alone, you spend a considerable amount of time with yourself - away from the virtual world of Facebook and WhatsApp etc - which is very rare in today’s over-intrusive world. You introspect into your life. A self-exploratory trip is priceless.
The greatest barrier was to convince my parents to let their 21 year old son who has barely seen the world go for a solo trip. So I did not. I lied to them that I was going with my college friends. Most of you won't recommend lying to your parents though!
My second barrier was the budget. I didn't want to ask money from my parents. I had saved around Rs. 5000. A 12 day trip to Ladakh with such a minimal budget may sound ridiculous, but I had to make it somehow. I wanted to make this trip pretty tough. I had a tent, and my plan was not to spend a single night in a hotel, use the cheapest transport available, and consume the cheapest food. However, my grandfather and aunt granted me an additional sum of Rs.3000, which I spent for a night's stay in a decent hotel in Leh, gifts to bring home, and trying out some local Ladakhi dishes.
Traveling alone can save your money. You are not bound to choose the expensive accommodation, transport, and food like everyone. You can customize the trip just for yourself.
One way or the other, every parent is protective. Indian parents will rarely allow their children to go on a solo trip. If you can't convince your parents and you are really passionate about travelling, at least discuss your detailed itinerary with your friends or siblings and leave a copy of your itinerary and contact details with them. If you are not experienced enough, avoid risky places.
On the way to Leh from Keylong, we found our way blocked by a huge rock in the middle of nowhere. Everyone got off the bus and many of them started pushing the rock to slide it down the valley. At first, it seemed unmovable. But everyone took turns to move it bit by bit. It was amazing to see people from different nationalities and cultures shouting in unison to encourage others to push harder. You realize that our inner humane bonds surpass the boundaries of borders, cultures, and religion. I too tried my hand in the final push off the road. We all exclaimed with joy, "We did it!" while celebrating our little victory. We reached Pang in the afternoon and had our lunch. We had only moved a few miles from Pang, when our bus broke down. While the diver and his assistant were fixing the bus, people were having a nice time enjoying the surreal landscape and knowing about each other. One of the Russian guys took out his Mandolin and started singing "Hare Rama..Hare Krishna". Others sat around in circle and started singing in unison. It was amazing. By then, it had been 4 hours and it started getting dark. Many of us started showing symptoms of AMS (Acute mountain sickness). We were stranded in the middle of nowhere. Fortunately, army trucks were passing by, and a Major gave his time to know our plight. After an hour, he sent an army bus to pick everyone to the nearest tented campsite. It took another couple of hours to fix the bus, and it finally came to pick us at 8 P.M. We reached Leh at 2:30 A.M. The journey which was supposed to take 14 hours, took 21. And it was totally worth it!
The biggest takeaway was the fact that people, in general, are much generous than you expect them to. Friendships made with locals and like-minded travelers etch a deep mark. I learnt that traveling alone makes you value your relationships more.
You will meet some amazing fellow travelers, make new friends and learn about their passions and culture and share yours. You will interact more with the locals and know about their traditions, food, costume, and languages. These will not happen very often if you travel in groups.
The barren landscape of Ladakh
The starkness of the cold desert, Ladakh
A little girl turns a prayer wheel at a monastery in Ladakh
Against luxuriant cliffs, a waterfall creates a striking imagery
Tempted, aren't you? Don't procrastinate and set out. Tell us your stories because well who doesn't love a good one ;)
Article by: Aman Nikhil Mehra