The mesmerising views, the majestic mountains, the nicest people made my experience worthwhile in the valleys of Himachal.
The parts I value the most: A 5 Hour long intriguing conversation with a complete stranger at a bar, a random bike trip with a group of guys who I can safely call my homies and learning about the life changing decisions of fellow travellers and locals which inspired me to see out of the box.
Traveling solo was indeed a challenge, and even before being through it, in the planning phase I can recall multiple moments where I thought I do not have it. Thankfully, one of the podcasts featuring Marc Randolph, a thought to chase the gut amidst his empire building of Netflix infused an impulse in me and I ended my booking the flights for Delhi, and the rest followed through.
I was scared about the whole idea until the last day of my flight, and for some reason felt extremely hyped about the whole trip. I think when you are close to taking the step, and it seems inevitable, the position to see possibilities takes the front foot to show you the progress you will be making real soon. It's hard but it takes you ahead. With that mindset, I slept peacefully with my bags packed and devices charged.
The whole itinerary was of an open-ended plane ticket, bookings for the first 4 days and the bus from Delhi to Manali. I did not get enthused by the idea of spending much on fancy stays until the end of my venture. Initially, I was manifesting the premise of i reading a book in solace on the riverside. It would be magical, I said to myself. Although the experience surprised me with not much room to do so, the times that I did, I felt more alive than ever.
The surprises that I talk about were not bad in any way. It revolves back to my most significant parts of the trip, and I would like to start with the conversation I had with the first stranger who found me sitting and reading at the barstool of 'The Lazy Dog Lounge'.
The place indeed carried the vibe like its name; had plenty of swings at the sound of river, making it ideal to have a drink and relax. The place was packed, so the only place I could see vacant was a barstool at the counter. I got myself a nice beverage, and started what I have been picturing in my head. It was blissful. After almost 20 minutes of being there, I observed a man, seemed in his 30s with a sparkling demeanour, sitting keenly rotating his ring. I found it interesting and did think multiple times of striking a conversation, but I was scared; trying to just survive in this new place. I am glad that he ended up taking the initiative, and asked me what I was doing on my iPad, which was out of his sight. I mentioned that I was reading, and he said 'at a place as loud as this, how are you able to focus'? , "Sometimes peace is found the most in the loudest of places," I said. I reckon he realised that I must not be keen for a chat, initially. However, with the ice broken, I introduced myself and he did the same.
It was his one of many visits to Manali, so he had plenty to share about the town to make small talk. I was intrigued to learn more, so I took interest. The conversation built up, and we started talking about our lives like friends. He told me how he was running a sustainable handloom textile business, making the voices of rural Himachal known to the western world of the UK and North America. We then found the common ground of having overseas study in common, and spending time as a potential immigrant overseas. I did not imagine finding someone with a similar stance; having it hard to find people here in India after spending so much time overseas. 'It's hard, people are restricted in their means of making talk, forming connections with an open mind. We have been accustomed to a society where free speech and expression are not just words of law but a mindset of people, hard to find here in India.' he said and I agreed. We also did acknowledge that things are changing with the new generation though. 'Just need to carry on the search' he said. I thought to myself, 'hasn't it been long enough for me'?
More on this later ;)