Author – Sneha Furia
Born and brought up in Mumbai, I have never lived in any other city. Going out of Mumbai was only holiday-specific. Mostly, all holidays were about revelling, relaxing, luxury and exploring. I always admired friends whose holidays would involve going for a trek, or for adventure sports like scuba diving courses or paragliding courses.
I went for a handful few one-day treks in the Sahyadris. I would feel ecstatic while on the trek and for a few days after. Then the effect would slowly wear off and I would find myself back on the wheel like a hamster, “back to the grind” as its often said.
Then I went for my first Himalayan trek- Sandakphu, in West Bengal. It is only fair to dramatically claim “….and then nothing was as it used to be.” It changed me as a person and it changed my life.
Up there on the mountains I felt one with the nature. I felt everything that had happened so far in my life had finally led me to this moment, to be on the mountains and to ignite this passion for the mountains and its people. I knew I could no longer go back to my life in Mumbai, fight the traffic to reach work, slog for hours, and fight the traffic and crowds again to reach home. Though I loved my job and my family and friends, to live this robotic monotony, day in and day out, now seemed like an impossible task.
I was touched by the mountains, its air, its beings. I was intoxicated with the freedom the mountains brought to my mind and soul. The mountains physically challenged me to only bring out the best in me.
I was merely blessed to find the right people and the right trek leader to do the trek with. The feeling of scaling a mountain top and achieving the altitude is ecstatic, but what made it more endearing was our trek leader Ankit’s experience and knowledge about the history, the locals, the flora and fauna. His love and passion for nature shone through his talks and every decision he took. His stories enhanced our experience and made the trek even more memorable.
I returned to Mumbai but my mind, heart and soul were with the mountains. Unlike my one-day treks where this feeling would eventually wear-off, the Himalayan mountains had such a deep- rooted impact that this feeling grew stronger with each day. I kept reading about the mountains, the people. I wanted to do something for them. “Give something back to the nature” is the truest cliché I live by. I researched about climate change. I saw videos and documentaries.
On one of our walks on the mountain Ankit very passionately spoke about how we can, in very small but realistic ways, help maintain the serenity of the mountains. He spoke about this organisation Leave No Trace and its principles. He lives by them on each of his treks.
I went on the Leave No Trace website. Became a member of the movement. I got in touch with the concerned authorities in the United States who are working with Leave No Trace to further my involvement with them. I did a two-days course with the Leave No Trace master educator and completed my certified trainer’s course. I also did the Wilderness First Aid course from NOLS in Ranikhet as a mandatory course along with the trainer’s course.
I plan to do the five-day Master Educator course so that I can introduce Leave No Trace to all schools across India. Leave No Trace principles aren’t rules or regulations but basic values that you imbibe in yourself as you enjoy the outdoors, thus minimizing your impact on the nature. I find young children as the best suited audience to imbibe these values in, so as to save the nature for us, for the future generations and because we are capable human beings who want to leave this world a better place than as we found it.
Current Status – My family, (my husband, my kid and dog) we have left Mumbai and moved to Chandigarh. I want my kid to have deep-rooted respect and value for the nature (being partial towards the mountains). Now our weekends are no longer revelling with friends or going to malls, but travelling to the mountains with the kid and the dog. Three months since our move to Chandigarh we have travelled for a total of 30 days, 12 destinations. (My husband loves Himachal Pradesh and I love Uttarakhand). My office was kind enough to accommodate my travels and provide me with resources such that I could work as I travelled.
We try to the best of our ability to minimize our impact while on our travels. Simple things like carrying your own bottles of water than buying plastic bottles, carrying wholesome food in home containers than buying plastic wrapped junk food. What has been even more fulfilling is eating the locals’ food, drinking their water, staying with them. We also carry trash bags wherever we go. Now my kid (at the age of two) insists on saving water, bucket baths only! He is learning and quickly picking up traits like – Engaging in the lives of the locals, saying namaste, kaise ho, being kind to animals and insects. And it’s amazing to see how the kid picks all the goodness around him when he sees it being done practically.
I hope with this read, some are motivated to get out of their comfort zone. Make that one trip that has forever been on their bucket list or vision board. Not wait for the “right time” and proactively choose the “soonest” as the right time. Visit the mountains you have been eyeing or dreaming of. Escape your city life for a few days and come live with the mountains. Lose yourself to the mountains to find your true inner good self. It may not necessarily change your life the way it did mine, but it will definitely move something in you. I promise, you will return feeling only happier, prouder and blessed.
Yes, you may have knots in your stomach, and doubts in your mind. But when you find yourself up on that mountain, gazing at the endless horizon, as the wind brushes your skin and you take a deep breath, you will feel, in your heart, the happiness, the peace, the calmness. A tear or two may roll down your cheeks and you will hear your soul say “thank you”.