Twenty-three-year-old Japleen Kaur took a trip to the mountains in North India, all the way from Mumbai. And, this trip changed her life forever. This International Women’s Day week let’s celebrate women who have made hard choices, had the courage to travel solo and write their own destiny. Scroll down to find out Japleen’s journey from being a city girl to a mountain child. By Team T+L
As I sit to write this article, Kho Gaye Hum Kahan by Prateek Kuhad and Jasleen Royal is playing in the backdrop, and I’m getting flashbacks of my life in the last six months here in the mountains. Come live in the hills for a bit, through my words? This is for everyone at the crossroads, wanting to take a step in a new direction.
“I just can’t do this anymore,” I told my mentor, and then boss, Zahra Khan, last year in June. I was completely exhausted with the daily grind, which is funny to say because it had only been some two odd years since I had started working. She then told me, “I think you need a vacation, you don’t need to quit.” The problem was that I had used all my leaves, so all I could do was serve my notice period and go for a trip to the mountains.
That’s what Bollywood taught us, right? To find yourself, you have to go where the scenic views are! But, that turned out to be true. All the Instagram captions suddenly made sense, and that trip to Mussoorie with my school friends helped me come out of that brain-dead phase that I had been in for a while.
Once I was back, I started applying for jobs, overcome with the fear that I’d be jobless forever.
That’s when Abhinav Chandel posted about an internship in Spiti where we’d get to travel across the valley for a month—it seemed like the perfect thing to apply for. A week later, I got a confirmation call from the company, Spiti Holiday Adventure, and I got to go on a trip that would change my life forever.
In Spiti, we stayed in homestays, met the purest people, and honestly just learnt a lot. It was one of the most difficult internships of my life, and, yes, I can say this because it was my seventh one. But, we powered through because there was no way any of us was giving up, and I got to know how much dedication and discipline it requires to live in the mountains.
Once I was back in the ‘network’ zone after three long weeks, I knew that going back to the city would not be possible. And that’s when I decided to make the move. I had not planned it; I hadn’t even saved for it. It just happened.
Was it difficult? Yes. For instance, when I was fully prepped to move, I got a call from the editor of Travel + Leisure India, offering me a full-time job in Delhi, with great pay and an opportunity to travel. It was my dream job. I had worked towards getting it for a long time now, but that was when I was shattered. It was a choice that would impact my future greatly. After thinking hard, I made a counter offer to her, wrote a long email, explaining that I would work for her from the mountains. And she agreed. There’s a reason why I say I have the best mentors ever!
I would, of course, have earned a lot more had I taken up that position. I would have travelled the world, but the happiness that I feel now cannot be traded. Tough decisions come at every step—all you can do is take the plunge.
From thereon, I started writing and making videos for other websites as well. In an office, you have people around you who are also working; that keeps you focused. But when the mountains are right in front of you, sitting and typing becomes a hefty task.
A lot of people ask me how I manage working and living here. Where electricity goes away for hours, the pipes freeze, leaving you with no water, roads get blocked if it rains or snows a lot; there are constant landslides cutting you off from the world; for basic groceries and medicines you have to travel for kilometers, cabs charge a bomb so you have to rely on buses to take you everywhere—and these are daily struggles.
But, if you really want to sustain a living here, you have to work no matter what. There is no second option. There are good days and bad days, and you have to tackle them both swiftly.
Some handy tips I’ve picked up along the way would be to keep extra power-banks, fill up buckets of water for emergencies, inculcate the habit of walking, and appreciate the beauty of HRTC buses (if you’re a girl you get a 25% concession, too).
In the end, I took some difficult steps to do what I’m doing now. I missed an opportunity to work as a scriptwriter for a reality show, but what I’ve gained in the process has taught me to stop regretting, and, instead, concentrate on how to make your dreams reach fruition. Because we all can.