Solo Trip to Manali

One of the best traveling experiences is your first solo trip. A solo trip to Manali is a must-do in life at least once.

Since the very beginning, most of us plan our vacations with family or friends. The concept of traveling alone is difficult to digest.

It takes a lot of courage and mind-making to take up your first solo trip.

Dreams to go solo travel are fascinating but solo trips come with a different set of challenges. Once you are able to prepare your mind that you can tackle them, you’re good to go.

But what if, you are suddenly stuck in a situation that you are forced to travel alone? What if life suddenly wants you to encounter this experience face to face and you’re not prepared?

I am that person, who did not pursue a solo trip but a solo trip pursued me.

It was 21st December 2007, my friends and I collectively planned a trip to Manali which was a dream destination in India before the smartphone era. Also, Manali was the only nearest hill station where we could see snowfall and none of us had seen snowfall before.

Our excitement level was at its peak when we got the news that the temperature is almost -4 degrees there.

From Chandigarh, we took an overnight bus and reached Manali the next morning. It was freezing cold. As soon as we stepped down the bus the chill breeze touched our skin causing the hair on the skin to rise. The roads of the city were wet with due drops, rain, and melted snow.

We checked ourselves in a hotel. Although we were under 18 (only 13 years old at that time), we easily got a room. The room was affordable due to the large group size. As we went on this trip with our own savings and pocket money, we had to spend it wisely.

The room was only for Rs 300 and because we booked 3 rooms altogether. We got it for Rs 700 per night, and sharing Rs 700 amongst 7 people was not a bad deal at all. The boys took a room on triple sharing and being the only girl in the group I got a full room to myself.

We took our time to freshen up turn by turn and went for breakfast in a roadside stall opposite the hotel. The food and tea served there, tasted divine.

Imagine, yourself sitting with your friends. Having aloo ka paratha, sweet curd, and ginger tea for breakfast. You’re hearing the pitter-patter sound of rain. A scent of moist soil filled your nostrils. The view of mountains covered under angelic white snow and clouds. Yes, that was one beautiful memory I have stored in my heart for life. I would love to stay trapped at that moment forever if I could.

We chatted for a while making different plans about what places do we want to see, what activities do we want to try. Moreover, in what order should we go about it. While we were discussing this, the weather changed and it started snowing. The roads were closed due to heavy snowfalls and landslides, so we stayed at the hotel.

We stayed indoors for the next 3 days, watching television or playing board games. The only time we went out was while we had to take our meals. After meals, we would only take a walk on the mall road and return to the hotel.

In the race of whites, SNOW wins.

On the night of Christmas eve, my friends decided that we should return to Chandigarh. The blocked roads prevented us from going anywhere. It was uncertain when will the roadblocks open. Moreover, the limited money left with us would have exhausted soon. There was no point in wasting it. I was the only one against this, as I was enjoying the weather. Happiness engulfed me just getting to see the snow-covered mountains and city every morning. I did not want to leave yet.

After a lot of discussions, the boys decided to leave and I stayed back for 3 more days. On the morning of the 25th, my friends left and I vacated the room from the hotel. I then found and shifted to a dorm room near the hotel which was available for only Rs 25 per bed.

In the afternoon, that day the sun showed up finally and the weather became clear again. By the next morning, the roads cleared too. I spent the Christmas day talking to the owners of the dorm which were a mid-aged couple named Sameer and Anjali. They shared so many stories about their experiences while living in Manali. “When you own a hotel or dorm, you get to meet a lot of people. We live with them, study them closely learn about their experiences and how they see your world. One of the tourists from the U.S. said that life in the Indian hills feels like you’re on a different planet.” I still remember these words of Sameer Uncle.

On the afternoon of 26th December, Sameer Uncle offered to drop me at Hidimba temple, and I agreed. Together we went on his scooter and he showed me a large tree on which several little temple bells were tied. This tree was behind the Hidimba temple premise and he asked me to meet him in front of that tree at 2 p.m.

Back in those times, mobile phones were still not too common. People used to communicate through landlines. So, the only logical way for him to find me was to meet at a fixed place at a fixed time.

Once he dropped me and went away I went inside the temple and offered my prayers. After that, I explored the area. I met a girl dressed in a red-colored traditional outfit from Himachal Pradesh. She was a street performer who was casually sitting outside the temple picking grass. She did not seem too old, perhaps 2-3 years elder to me. I hesitated to approach her at first but then I thought to give it a try. I sat next to her and started a conversation. Her name was Shringa, a name I had never heard before.

She was sweet and approachable and I found myself getting comfortable in her company. She also told me a lot of things about the temple, mythology, and history that I did not know before. Today, I do not remember the information she gave me but I remember her. We took a walk around the temple. Covered in partially melted snow the temple still looked beautiful. She told me that during summers, the entire area is green and beautiful. I also learned, she loved summers in Manali more than winters.

After spending about 45 minutes walking and talking to Shringa, at 1:50 pm I bid goodbye to her. I reached the tree where Sameer Uncle said he will pick me up from. He came there almost 2-3 minutes after I reached and together we came back to the dorm.

In the evening, Sameer Uncle told me to go and explore the local market. I hesitated and asked him what if I got lost? He chuckled and said, all the alleys open into mall road. If I forget my way, I just have to ask any shopkeeper the way to Tibet market and they will help me find my way back.

I mustered up the courage and left. I explored the market until 8:30 pm without getting tired. There was an electronic market with gadgets I had not seen before at a very reasonable price. I also saw a touch screen mobile phone in that market for the first time in my life. At that time, I dreamed to have it and the irony is today I am writing this blog on a better phone than that.

(Learn here, what all you can do in Manali )

Solo trips do teach you so much. Not only did I do things alone, but I met so many people, listened to so many stories, got to know about varied lifestyles. Moreover, I learned that you do not always need companions. Sometimes, you’re your own company.

I learned that I can keep myself entertained, something I never knew about myself before. I also learned that it does not matter that you are a shy introverted person. When you need, you can talk to people and also build good relationships.

And the most important lesson is, that the world is not only about the people you know. If you step out of your little comfort zone, you will realize no one can ever be completely alone.

You don’t take companions, you make companions.

And a Solo trip is going to teach you that.

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