‘Soul Searching’ – this term has been often overused in those countless number of articles, blogs, write-ups, Instagram posts, Facebook statuses and we all bear witness to it. But how about finding yourself through travel? 

The whole definition of ‘Soul Searching’ is to find yourself. But do you really? Find yourself? I think to find yourself, to some extent, change is necessary. A change of environment, a change in perspective or outlook or even maybe a change in the person as a whole.

Most of the times, we as humans usually choose the easy and the most accessible way out. Instead of bringing about change in yourself, you must have just thought, “I need a change of scenery, maybe then I will have something to look within, at that moment”. It is true. Changes in environment, witnessing the sheer beauty of nature and being with oneself does change you. So you actually can find yourself through travel.

I had one of those life-altering moments once. It happened after 23 years, at nearly 14000 feet above sea level and in sub-zero temperatures. The Indo-China Border.

Outlooks and perspectives change on an everyday basis. I don’t mean the ‘one day BJP and one day Congress’ change. In that temperature, in that location and most importantly in that situation, all that matters is surviving. Nothing else.

I had decided and finally planned a trip to Gangtok, the capital city of Sikkim. Since it was the summer everywhere else in the country, a trip to the northeast seemed feasible.

Remember, when you’re heading to places which are far away, make sure you plan beforehand or else, it becomes a pain when you reach the city and it gets difficult.

When you’re in Gangtok, make sure you visit three places. It comes in a package and it is a must. Lake Tsomgo, NathuLa and Baba Mandir.

Tsomgo (Changu) Lake, Sikkim
Tsomgo (Changu) Lake, Sikkim

What changed my outlook and perspective on life?

It was the trip to NathuLa which did it. Sometimes, choosing the easy way helps immensely. At a staggering height of 14,000 feet, lies the Indo-China border. Once you are on the climb towards the border, you cross the Bengal Sapper’s Base Camp. I was shivering under the four layers of clothes in a car where the heater was on.

Outside, as I cleared the foggy windows, I saw the jawans in the army waving at us with nothing but their uniform and a pullover cardigan. That is the moment I realised how much we want, how little we actually need. A new and different perspective then dawned upon me, which I had seen before, but struck me now. In a deep and effective way.

Once I reached the border, I realised how little everything else mattered there. The outlook and perspective we have on the army, the border, the soldiers, their life and so much more changes drastically when you see them, posted literally on the Himalayas, protecting their country with only a gate at the bottom and a rope on the top separating the two giants – India and China.

Soldiers at Nathu la pass, Indo China border - finding yourself through travel
Soldiers at Nathu la pass, Indo China border

As I was lost in exploring a place, an army jawan passed by me. I decided to speak with him. “Excuse me, Sir, can you tell me a bit about the border and how everything works?”

The conversation went on in Hindi. What he said next, took me by surprise.

“Most of us are never posted here. During the summers, when the tourists are a lot in number, we and many other army men are posted here for the protection of the people”.

Everything suddenly stopped. At that moment, I felt a number of emotions. My outlook, perspective towards the army, our country and our lives changed for the better. They without a question follow orders to protect us, in minus temperatures, standing in the rain, maintaining discipline and always alert, sleeping on the snow-filled grounds.

“Thank you so much, Sir, for your service to us and the country”.

We often say “We find ourselves in the people we meet”. This is true.

In the meanwhile what do I do, in the city?

Complain. All of us usually complain. This country is going nowhere, what are people doing, so on and so forth. Have you ever thought about the perspective of others? The changing perceptions?

I always was intrigued by movies and TV shows about the army. No matter what country. That day, I experienced it. First hand. And that changed me, changed my life for something better. More humble and most of all, to value each and everyone. That day, I found myself through travel or perhaps a little part of me, but for now, that is a step, a good one.

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