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Ever since I was a child, I had a habit of spending time alone, playing alone. Perhaps it was because I was the only child, heavily pampered by my family, kept in a small bubble, and always protected. Though, my inner soul was that of a gypsy – independent, craving to start a life, and do things as she pleased. After much convincing, my mother, with a heavy heart, sent me to the hostel. It had only been a week since I arrived, and I was not accustomed to interacting with so many people! After all, I was just an introverted kid who would sit in the corner and say nothing. But, contrary to my expectations, I met an amazing bunch of classmates who were so lively and fun. However, I would sit back and relish my solitude, answering only when necessary, and keeping my interactions very limited.
I was fortunate that our curriculum encouraged learning through travel. Just a week after enrolling in the new school, there was a sudden plan for a trip to Mount Abu. Quickly packing my backpack, I boarded a small bus exclusively reserved for our group. Our journey began from Bhilwara at night.
It was a group of 17 people, all familiar with each other, and there I was, the newbie. We were accompanied by two supervisors, who were also our teachers. Throughout the night, my excitement kept me from sleeping. This trip marked my first venture alone, well, in a group but without any family members. I felt a bit like Naina from ‘Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani.‘
Skipping a cherished moment at my aunt’s wedding, I enthusiastically embraced this adventure! Laughter and fun had filled the bus. while others played games like antakshari and dumb charades and enjoyed, I sat at the first window seat, next to the door, smiling contentedly, gazing out the window (my kinda fun). It was the beginning of October, my favourite time of the year! It was getting colder and I had my window slightly open. I kept gazing at the dark roads, listening to music feeling like the main lead in a movie. As the night took over, I must admit that dozed off for a bit.
After a short yet comforting nap, I woke up to something amazing—the view!
The beautiful sun, peering from behind the mountains, was a mesmerizing start to the morning. I instantly felt a surge of positivity; my mood brightened, and a smile lit up my face.
All my fellow tripmates were still sleeping, so I took out my camera and clicked amusing pictures of them as they were in deep slumber.
Soon, our destination arrived. It was nothing but vacant land, so we began to wonder what was happening?
The next thing we knew was that we had to walk at least 1 km to reach the destination! Honestly, it was really good; we had our backpacks on and began walking. After a while, we spotted some tents on elevated land. Yes! that’s exactly where we were going to stay.
The washrooms were a little far, and the tents had no doors, something new but nothing to complain about. Soon, we had to go for our first morning trek of this trip. I was slipping every few steps, but others were not. They would laugh at me because I was slipping so much, but I quickly learned how to walk on that terrain. That was our first sunset at the eco point.
The rest of the day was dedicated to us for some rest because we had other activities planned. While I made some friends, we decided to explore the nature around us. In the evening, we engaged in many activities like ‘rope balancing’, and ‘firefox’.
At night, our host, Mr. Patel, cooked some awesome dal bati on the chulha. We all had a chhaach drinking competition. My score was 15, but my classmate won with 28 glasses. To wind down, we embarked on a moonlight trek. Fortunately, our guide knew the safe spots, and we arrived at a cliff where we could see the whole valley in the moonlight.
I thought that was it. The day was over….but no! Around 1 a.m., we started hearing some unusual sounds. Everyone was afraid to step out of their tents. Two girls agreed to come out with me, and we realized there was a prank going on at the boys’ tent. Apparently, a guy was afraid to go to the washroom this late, and the others decided to prank him. ???? It turned out wild! I’m just glad he didn’t get too scared. I didn’t expect the night to take a turn like that. I hadn’t laughed this much in months. I made some more friends and I could realize I was opening up a bit.
We woke up around 5 for the morning trek. Those were the days when I had seen the best sunrises of my life perhaps because we had to work so hard for it. We clicked so many pictures and as we were coming back, our guide announced that we will be doing activities today and so it was going to be a busy day (As if we were not already tired) but we all were excited. So the day finally began! We had to trek everywhere as we were almost 5-6 km away from the city. All we could see was 2 very lively and fun dogs and the most beautiful mother nature.
We were taken to a lake nearby where we entertained ourselves by throwing rocks only to see who could make it reach the other side.
Then we trekked to see the areas, some were caves known to be the abodes of bears. There were many fun opportunities where we had to challenge our physical capabilities to accomplish the tasks or just get to the place. I realized my trekking skills had improved and so did my interaction with others. We cooked Maggi in the Jungle for brunch and then trekked to another location where we got the chance to do some mountain climbing. It was a very tilted mountain and we needed support to climb for the fear of slipping. Our guide seemed to do it effortlessly without any straps or any help. I guess the human body and brain can do way beyond our expectations.
The next activity was a treasure hunt. We were divided into two groups (boys and girls) and we were supposed to find a rare flower somewhere on the top of the cliff. The challenge was that this cliff was full of thorns as well as bushes and it was pretty steep too.
We gathered our courage and began the journey. We had absolutely no help from our teachers or from our guide. As we started climbing, We realized how difficult it was. We had cuts from the thorns everywhere! We had to find our way through the rough and dry bushes to get through. Here is where the heroic part of my story begins! Since I was an introvert, I never thought to take a lead but this activity changed me completely. There was a big bush and my teammates could not seem to get through it anyway. I was waiting at the back and I could see that they could not get through. That’s when I realized that they needed me. I instantly jumped to solve the problem like it was my first instinct. Something surely happened that day. I used my full strength to stomp and slice through those bushes and made way for my teammates! As a result, we got there in no time and we finally found the flower. Hurray!!! Although, we did not win but we did not lose either because we all learned to be a great team and collaborate with each other. The greatest treasure of all, we became really close friends after that day.
Our day ended with extreme tiredness and pain from those thorns and bushes which we proudly carried with us for at least a week. That day, we ate like a horse! We were so hungry, and even the simple food seemed more delicious than ever. With the last of our energy, we all decided to gather for a bonfire. We had a chance to bond more and share everything with each other. As the introvert in me was still there, I did not share much. I just sat there and quietly observed everyone, trying to understand them more as a person. Each one of them are unique and dynamic individuals who inspire me to this day. I cannot recall how and when we slept that night.
This was our last day on this trip. We were not ready to say goodbye yet but all the journeys that ever started are destined to come to an end someday. We packed our bags, had a quick breakfast, and said goodbye to those two lovely dogs and to Mr. Kamlesh, our guide. We then went to Gurushikhar which is the highest point of the Aravali Range. We also visited Lord Dattatreya’s temple situated there. Then we explored a bit more of the city. We went to the Nakki Lake Market to shop and explore more. It is a unique market with a lot of variety to shop. Its scenic lake view makes this market even more special. Soon, it was evening and Mount Abu was even prettier at night. The streets started to lighten up and the crowd began to increase as we continued to roam around.
By this time, I could see myself as a more open and expressive person, who was actively laughing, joking, and having fun. I guess the extrovert in me finally wanted to take the spotlight. We ordered pizza and ate it like it was the last pizza of our lives! (Just hosteller things) Then we went to a horror house, but we laughed more than we were actually scared. The trip ended with loads of fun and us laughing all along the way. We finally left Mount Abu with all those memories that will be with us for the rest of our lives and with lots of photos. It’s been years and I am still friends with these people.
I had only heard people say that travel has the potential to change people and their lives, but I only believed it when I experienced this magic myself. If you wish to rediscover yourself, I suggest you take an adventurous trip with people you don’t know at all. Do things you have never done before. You will see you are much more than what you think you are. That is when you will truly rediscover yourself.