The first few days after a long vacation are possibly the most mundane, depressive and challenging. And the longer you are away, the harder it is to orient yourself back to the space that you were in, before you took off. It makes you wonder about the kind of life you are living, makes you doubt your seemingly important decisions and how the most poignant issues at work or in your everyday life seem so microscopic and irrelevant, when put in perspective. I just got back from an eight-day long trip and my thoughts occasionally keep going back to the hills, my mind wanders and brings back the sights I saw, the places I sat at and the views I grew accustomed to; it could take me a couple of days to get fully back to reality. The withdrawal can be so strong you almost fear heading back on another trip, a friend of mine said. And it’s so true! This over powering feeling of emptiness, loss of timelines and an intense craving of wanting to go back or just go away is definitely the worst part of a vacation.
So what is it that truly makes up for these forlorn times that will hound you incessantly once you return? Well, the entire trip, the experiences that have so much to offer; a change of perspective, humility, an understanding of different ways of life, some of which can truly humble you, others that teach you about existing cultures, people, opinions, mind-sets, among other things. The architecture, lifestyle in different areas, the food people eat locally, everything can be something new and everything can be something worth indulging your mind in, and that is exactly why traveling is important. It will broaden your mind to something you have never given a thought to, give you an insight into the kind of people you never knew existed and you will be miles away from the person you were before you took that journey.
I took an eight-day long vacation to Uttarakhand and I have still not quite processed that I am back to Mumbai. The trip was everything I expected and yet everything that I totally did not expect. Starting with landing at Delhi and heading to Nainital by a private car which we had booked for the entire trip, I did not expect anything miraculous or mind blowing. Maybe the bungee jumping would be an extraordinary experience but what could a place like Nainital or Rishikesh offer that can truly stump you? I guess if you really pay attention and delve into traveling, exploring and being open to unexpected events, people and places, turns out there is a lot that can shock the living day lights out of most of us, even in the most conventional, most regular of places.
Nainital is a hill station and like most hill stations is cooler than the rest of the cities. I will not go so far as to say that it was cold, but at this point, not sweating like all the water content in your system is pouring out in droplets that furiously slid down from every part of your body or simply not feeling dizzy and dazed on account of the heat is also a win-win! The views of the lakes, landscapes that justify the panorama feature on our phones, greenery and roads that lead up to nowhere in particular; it is everything that you need when you decide to “escape”. It took me 7 hours to reach Nainital by car and we reached late in the night at Jeolikote, which is a small town near Nainital, an hour away and has the only hostel available in Nainital (HOTs HOSTEL) which is a hiker’s hostel, something I had not looked into before I booked. Nainital has many hotels which are mostly quite expensive and if a student is travelling or you set out to travel with your friends, there are very few options. This is the only hostel available and is at an hour distance from Nainital Lake, Tiffin Top, Aerial Ropeway and the other tourist spots.
We met a guy named ‘Shaurya’ who took us to the hostel which was an uphill trek for another half hour. And since we had not expected it to be a back packer’s hostel, we were climbing with suit cases and handbags, amounted to quite a workout! The hostel is located right in the middle of a jungle and is the perfect retreat for someone who truly enjoys and appreciates being amidst nature. Surrounded by dense trees, there are small cottages or huts that have been built and painted in vibrant colours, with posters of famous musicians and artists inside the common room. There are games like scrabble, jenga, ludo and snakes and ladders to keep you occupied and there exists a community living kind-of-a-spirit that encourages you to socialise and be inclusive of everyone around you. The food is simple, earthy and the three people that take care of everything are warm and welcoming. Shaurya himself is a 23-year-old guy who left the comforts of his Mumbai job as a chef and went down for an internship with this hostel. A 7-day long program made him realize his true calling, gave him enough perspective and desire to want to make a shift and he came down to Jeolikote to work with the hostel as their operations manager. It’s a simple life and it’s miles away from the luxurious lifestyle that he was used to, it’s right down to the basics and it really made me wonder how he was doing it. People would assume it is easier being away, away from the trappings of career goals, family responsibilities, social conventions. But I guess it is a thousand times harder to take a decision where you leave behind a life so familiar, full of struggles but yet comfortable, and embrace the unknown. To be in a place that is secluded and with very less contact with the outer world on a daily basis, to work from remote locations like these when you have experienced life in bustling cities, and to do so at such a young age, is nothing but courageous.
We spent a day at Nainital doing all the regular touristy things ( take the aerial ropeway which is located at Mall Road but don't go expecting a view at the top. The view is worse than what can be seen from most other locations. Make sure you go to Sonam Restaurant and eat the fried tandoori chicken momos and the thupka) followed by a day at Jim Corbett. The Corbett Safari, we were told is pretty much for name sake as the chances of spotting a tiger in one or two trips is rare. Take a separate tour with guides and people who are aware about the timings and the areas to enter the jungle and you will come back happier.
Here is a link to the hostel and the resort in Jim Corbett that we stayed at -
(Visit Café Chica in Nainital for a breath taking view of the hills and if you want to spend some time relaxing at a beautiful 147-year-old property) Pictures ahead-
Read Part 2 for the other half of the trip!