I’m sure you’ve read enough blogs about solo trips by now, but give The Alternative Way a chance to show you another perspective. In August 2019, I decided to visit Zuluk, in Sikkim and do it solo. First, because I’d never done it before and second, because I needed a break from my life, including the people in it. Elaborated in the form of experiences, this is a collection of the epiphanies I had while on the trip.
Day 2: Just another day… is covered in detail in the first article of the series. Even though the learnings are not really chronological, the journey was and it would serve for better reading if you read the first article (if you haven’t already) before reading further.
Day 3: Trying to reach Zuluk… covers the struggles and realizations that came across along the way of reaching Zuluk. For the abovementioned reason, I would recommend reading Day 2 & 3 before reading any further.
Day 4-6: Chasing the queen of the hills…
Vijay woke me up at around 8 AM for Breakfast, the students had already left for their School. The plan was to go for a drive till Elephant Lake and come back. It was a 2-hour drive one-side. Not much to explain here, this is one of the 3 pictures I took on the trip. Oh by the way, Elephant Lake is in Kupup at 13,066 feet elevation and it took some time to acclimatize once I reached there.
A glimpse of God
On our way to the Elephant lake, there are a few temples that come on the side of the road. The most renowned one is ‘Baba Harbhajan Singh Temple‘. Baba Harbhajan Singh was martyred in 1968 near Nathu La during the Sino-Indian War. The army officials believed that Baba, as they started calling him, used to send warning signals to notify the troops of Chinese attacks up to 3 days before the attack. The people of Sikkim and the Soldiers (Jawans) believe that Baba still roams around the Mountain ranges and protects the border. Every year in September, he gets a vacation for his village in Kuka, Punjab in which his Clothes are sent by Jeep and then by Train to his home and his mother. He is accompanied by 3 soldiers. He is nothing short of a God in Sikkim.
On our way back we stopped at the temple again to take a break and relax for a bit. People looked at me and wondered why I didn’t go into temples or join hands in prayer. Come to think of it, it could just be me who was wondering. Anyway, I got the answer just as soon. Temple was on the side of the road high up in the hills, and on the other side was my temple: nature.
While I completely understand people’s faith in gods and deities. The statues made out of stone themselves are never alive by definition. I looked around and all I could see was life, the mighty Kangchenjunga was in the furthest point that I could see. I thought to myself,
“If this isn’t a temple, I will never know what is”
Nature is my place of worship
From ‘No‘ to ‘Hi‘
Early in 2019, I had a realization that I lack confidence when it comes to dealing with people (like bargaining, or approaching new people), and something needs to be done about it. Through a friend of mine from Norway, I recalled a game they used to play when they used to get drunk and hop bars. They tried to get as many ‘No’s’ from women as they could, and the person who gets the most wins. At first, it might sound absolutely crazy but wait for it.
So the underlying benefit is obviously the bragging rights for both ends of the leaderboard, the winner gets maximum No’s and wins the game, and whatever reward they decided upon (probably a lap dance), but there would be some who actually got a ‘Yes’ and potentially even a date, there’s a win-win situation.
What about the ones who were in the middle though?
I decided to start doing this as an experiment, not just in bars and while partying, but in whatever situation I could. I involved 2 of my close friends in this to make it interesting and competitive. So we started approaching women and tried to talk them up and boy did we got a lot of No’s. I won, obviously. The point is that it was not just about the No’s, with each rejection we also understood the key to increasing confidence and self-worth: approach anxiety.
It’s not just about women, it’s applicable to all walks of life. There are enough people out there who are just too afraid to take the first step required to move towards what they want, approaching it. This game turned out to be good practice, and I can safely say I am more confident in approaching new people, challenges and problems now than I was before the activity. This is what the people in the middle will gain.
Lift the sepia filter
Day 4 ended just as smoothly, coming back to see those happy faces of the kids at the hostel and Vijay’s delicious cooking. On Lamaji’s recommendation, I left for Darjeeling the next morning. Day 5 had a similarly long journey with a few changes in Taxis and the same 25 min trek (now uphill) in between.
Although I’m an introvert by nature, I love interacting with people and having conversations about life, philosophy, and travel. Hence, I always choose hostels for accommodation during my travels. I reached the Hideout Backpacker’s hostel at around 5 PM in Darjeeling, decided to freshen up and have tea on the terrace. The hostel was almost on top of a mountain and you could see most of ‘The Queen of the Hills‘ from there and it goes without saying that the view was fresh and relaxing after a long and tiring trip from Zuluk.
A pretty girl was reading something and having tea herself on the terrace. I continued journaling and reading, although I could feel the energies shifting around me. The girl had a very positive aura about her and it was infectious. I fought for about 45 minutes with my inner instincts, developed through years and years of being a ‘nice guy‘ (I don’t mean it in a nice way) and having approach anxiety. I recalled the game I played earlier in the year and finally gathered the courage to just say, ‘Hi’.
Go say ‘Hi’
Oh yes, the stars!
Everything flowed naturally after that, we hung out on the terrace for a while, went for dinner and drinks, walked around town looking for an ATM after 10 PM but couldn’t find any that was open. We came and decided to light one up for some time before going to sleep. Just when I thought the day couldn’t get any better, we reached the terrace to see a group of guys smoking up themselves. The next 4 hours, we spent chit-chatting about each other’s lives and experiences, politics, PTSD, animals, the health of Earth, the Toy Train, and a plethora of things.
Somewhere in the middle of those conversations, I looked up to see how beautiful the sky was. Even though it was monsoon, it was crystal clear that night and we could see the stars as bright as ever. I looked down and ahead towards the mountain ranges in front of us, and the lights in the distant houses made it look exactly like the sky. I showed it to everyone and after letting it all in for a few seconds, all of us sighed at once thinking:
We are living among the stars
Day 6: The next morning I decided to rent a Royal Enfield Classic 350 and ride around to wherever the roads took me. Rode for about 200 km all round. The roads were amazingly well built and the ride had all kinds of weathers: rain, fog, sun. The road adjoining the Nepal and India border was fun to ride on with border check-posts and free movement of people to be witnessed along the way. It ended with all of us at the hostel going for Dinner at Glenary’s, buying alcohol in black as well as chocolates (:eee), and smoking up on the terrace.
That concluded my 6 days that covered Gangtok, Rongli, Zuluk, and Darjeeling. It was not just a physical journey, it took me to places within myself I wouldn’t have gone otherwise. It inspired me to travel solo more often, looking forward to the next one.
PS: My ego was telling me that this is not a travel journal even though it most likely is. My main objective here was to highlight the philosophy, the concepts, and the insights I learnt throughout the trip, and not talk about the shops, places, events, that I visited. I would really appreciate it if the readers could give feedback on what they think about how it was received in the comments section or by e-mailing it to firstname.lastname@example.org.