Travel has broadened my horizons and made me more appreciative of the world around me. I have been through various experiences and challenges and interacted with people from different parts of the world, from different walks of life, communities, lifestyles, religions, castes, and schools of thought. This diversity of challenges and my experiences has definitely been life-enriching. I have evolved as a person.
I have trekked extensively all over the Himalayas, and if there is something I have learnt from the mountains, it is humility. Looking at the sheer grandeur and power of the mountains, it shows us our position in the whole scheme of things - a very humbling experience according to me.
I believe that if you have a desire to explore new places and are passionate about adventure, then age does not matter at all. Many of my co-travellers on some of the toughest treks I have done were older than me - it was their sheer enthusiasm to explore the unknown that had brought them there.
I would recommend guided tours, as there is an experienced knowledgeable guide with you who offers many insights about a place. The guide also takes care of the logistics and communication while travelling, and can handle any crisis too, if necessary. A guided tour can also be experiential, as it goes beyond just seeing the place. The focus is more on the destination by immersing yourself in the local traditions and culture.
I have trekked extensively in the Indian Himalayas. I have visited Bhutan a few times too. In Nepal, I have trekked along almost all the popular trekking trails - Annapurna Base Camp and around it, Langtang Helambu, and of course, the Everest Base Camp - where I have been seven times. I have been to Tibet many times too, and have done the Kailash Manasarovar Yatra thirteen times. The other adventures on my list of experiences are biking in Sri Lanka, the Tour du Mont Blanc, trekking circuit in the French, Swiss and Italian Alps, and climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa.
I have many stories and experiences to share. A memorable one, though, was on one my many trips to Nepal. Once at the Everest Base Camp trail while coming from Gorak Shep to Pheriche, the visibility was low and there was a whiteout with light snow fall. I missed the trail, which is something I did not imagine would happen to me, since the trail is prominent and unmistakable. Fortunately, I chanced upon a passing shepherd who came by like a saviour. He directed me back to the trail, which was just across a small hillock. I also had a satellite phone with me as a backup.
This story indicates just how things can go wrong in the mountains, even with someone like me who has travelled several times before on the very same trail. You should be always cautious and never overestimate yourself. There are many more harsh and severe dangers that I have been through, but this one was most unexpected.
My trip to Mongolia in 2016 was a very exciting one. On this 10-day trip, I had some completely out-of-this-world experiences. Staying in a traditional nomadic dwelling called ger along with a family of nomads and experiencing their lifestyle was one of the highlights of my trip. We had a chance to go on off-road drives, where there are vast grasslands for miles and miles together.
I also interacted with an eagle hunter family, who demonstrated hunting techniques with their domesticated golden eagles. Being so cut off from urban life in a country as remote as this was truly an adventure, since it only added to the thrill of the trip.
Mongolians have retained their nomadic lifestyle, customs, and traditions from the times of the legendary Genghis Khan, who is revered. Most of this country is unchartered territory and over 90 percent of the roads and routes are unpaved. Hence, it was a great experience.
Here are some basic travel tips for an adventure holiday - follow these and you will stay safe and enjoy your trip.
Do your homework thoroughly: Understand the basic logistics about your trip - where exactly your hotel or campsite is located, how your itinerary will progress, and some basic information about the destination and terrain. Try and understand what you are getting into and the physical challenges, if any.
Book accommodation and flights in advance: Do this to get good deals and have some much-needed peace of mind!
Travel smart: Pack light but with all the essentials. Take the right kind of equipment or gear. Make sure all your important documents like tickets, passport, visa and insurance are in place. Keep important contact numbers handy as well.
Always keep your near and dear ones informed: Keep your family and friends informed about yourself and your current location whenever you get phone connectivity. Share your itinerary with them and plan in advance with some important numbers. You never know what might go wrong in the outdoors even after being careful.
Follow instructions: Remember the instructions of your local guide or representative where you have to be extra careful, especially in the outdoors.
Ensure your fitness levels are up to the mark: On a trek, you need to be physically fit to be able to do the trek, and ensure you can make the most out of it.
Make sure you have a backup or a contingency plan: This is important so that there is something to fall back on in case things go wrong.
Not respecting local culture: Always ask permission before clicking pictures of the locals - it is very impolite if you don’t. When going to places of worship like temples and monasteries, always dress modestly and follow rules and regulations to avoid getting into any trouble. Besides, it only makes you look culturally insensitive.
Not keeping the environment clean: On a trek, the last thing you want to be doing is littering and polluting the pristine mountain environment, or worst still, starting a forest fire. Be mindful of your actions.
Being penny wise and pound foolish: Trust us, adventure and experience is free. The cost you pay is for the safety, for comforts and for experience and knowledge that is shared.
Make sure that you are insured while you travel: Ensure that the policy covers all the adventure activities that you have planned.
What are some of the adventures you want to experience in the near future?
Travelling to the North Pole on a husky-sled in the wilderness, a Trans- Himalaya trekking expedition, and a road trip in Central Asia are all on my bucket list. These are some experiences I would love to have in the near future.