Like a typical Punju, holidaying for me meant staying in luxurious hotels, air travel, and buying expensive stuff to take back home. And yes, how could I forget the high that came out of announcing before the whole class, when your teacher asked you, so what did you do in the vacations? With immense pride, I used to say names of fancy places each year. We punjus spend lakhs travelling to exotic locale and once there what is the first thing we search for? Any guesses? Yes, you got it right! All-time favourite dal makhani and butter chicken! Let’s move a little ahead in time. When last year in August, my family (not immediate) got to know I am going for a trek to the beautiful Tirthan Valley, I am sure they considered me mad. Staying in tents, pooping in open and no TV? And you will be paying for this? You must be kidding me? Is this is a holiday or self-imposed torture. For the patient person I am, I just smiled and said to myself, ‘you don’t have it in you so just eat your dal and stay happy’. Not much of an outdoorsy person, I wanted to give hiking a try. Once there, I adored the evening campfire and the clear sky with thousand twinkling stars. But hiking was another matter entirely. To others, it must be an easy stroll. To me it was a steep, winding climb that seemed never to end. When we finally reached the destination, I couldn’t wait to start back down. Sleeping in the tent by the river, I used to get up in the middle of night asking myself, what am I doing here? What went wrong in my head to abandon the confines of my comfortable city life to take up this? Am I just following what other people doing? I am not made for this adventurous stuff.
But when I began to explore the valley, a new sense of wonder and appreciation enveloped me. Walking atop logs and playing in streams made me feel young again. I have learned that you can’t compare yourself with anyone, or shy away from a challenge just because others might do it better. If I had kept thinking the way I did in my 20s, I would have missed a marvellous adventure. John Muir had it right when he wrote, “In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks. A few days back, I read a blog which said that if you intend on marrying someone, go on a trek with him or her. The mask of the city wears off quickly and the real person surfaces while you are in nature. Interesting, isn’t it? I don’t know about marriage but yes, the mask does come off. The mask of make-up, fancy clothes, coffee shops, eating at fancy places is taken off by the nature and what comes out is how disciplined, considerate and cooperative are you? A late riser who has been lucky not to be working in a 9 to 5 job, getting up at six in the morning was an impossible task but I did it. So yes, I am disciplined (conditions apply ;)). Trekking is not easy. Complaining about food, location, tents is not an option. We were lucky that we were served delicious, fresh meals five times a day. (I should give a special mention to Panki Sood ( www.sunshineadventure.com ) for this. No matter how much I speak of the hospitality his team offers, it would be less.) The most important thing, how considerate you are toward the environment. If you on a trek and you litter around, and shout at the top of your voice, sorry you are not meant to be there !