For my birthday this year, I decided to buy myself a solo trip. I had never traveled alone to a distant country, so I relied on my travel agent to use their expertise to place me in the perfect location. They chose Ladakh, India, one of the safest places for women to travel alone. What I did not know at the time was how much this journey would change me.
As we made our descent into the airport, snowcapped mountains peeked through the clouds. I could see tiny villages and the majestic Himalayas. At that moment, my eyes welled up with tears. I was so overtaken with emotion by the beauty in front of me. I knew at that moment that this trip was going to provide me with the peace I was so longing to find.
There is so much about my time in Ladakh I want to share with you, but there just aren’t enough key strokes or enough words that could express how full I feel. What I will share with you is how understanding and connecting with other human beings and how they live brought a deeper meaning to my life.
Day 5 of my trip, I found myself being swept away to the upper region of the mountains to the tiny town that stole my heart, Ullay. I was accompanied by my tour guide, Gulzar, and our driver, Iqbal, making our way through twists and turns, villages scattered throughout, cows roaming freely, and a backdrop that was the most beautiful picture nature could create.
I stayed with the Pharma Pa family at 13,123 feet. They live in a small village made up of five homestays. My room was in the Snow Leopard Lodge. It wasn’t fancy; no extra frills, just a modest room with the bare necessities. It was perfect, with a view from my window that overlooked the picturesque mountain range. Each day, I was welcomed into the main home. I removed my shoes at the door and found my spot on the floor, and was fed traditional Ladakhi meals, using the freshest ingredients from their garden.
Without connection to the outside world and by unplugging from technology, which I am so grateful for, I was able to be completely immersed into the culture. We did everything by foot, walking up and down the valleys, just as the villagers do, trekking a total of 25 miles. Each day, I met new families who welcomed me in, providing me a space to rest along with tea, biscuits and freshly made yogurt, but most of all a warm smile. Each family member, each villager plays an important role. Sharing and providing for each other, making sure that all basic needs are met. Their generosity to those traveling through is something so special, willingly giving you their very last slice of traditional bread.
What I came to understand during my stay is that we all share a universal language, that words are not the purest form of expression, but rather laughter and love are what fill you up beyond measure. It was a reminder to me that the material things we have in this modern world are not necessities. It is the people we surround ourselves with and the time we put into bringing those closest to us into our hearts.
Being surrounded by beauty, witnessing all that nature has to offer and knowing that this place is so deeply connected to spirituality fed my soul so much that it overflowed. I will never forget my time in Ladakh. It is something I will cherish forever. I am forever grateful for each person whose path I was privileged enough to cross. I know one day I will return to see my friends again.