‘Soul Searching’ – this term has been often overused in those countless number of articles, blogs, write-ups, Instagram posts, Facebook statuses to which we all bear witness. Does this soul search consist of an eye-opening travel experience that alters or challenges your preconceived norms and perceptions? 

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 within the person.

Most of the times, we as humans usually choose the easy and 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”. It is true. Changes in environment, witnessing the sheer beauty of nature and being with oneself does change you. So can you actually find yourself through travel? For me, the answer is yes. And I had one of those life-altering moments once. It happened after 23 years of living, at nearly 14,000 feet above sea level and in sub-zero temperatures. The Indo-China Border. 

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

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, a lot of unforeseen things can happen to make your journey difficult. So plan beforehand to make it a smooth experience. As an aside, when you’re in Gangtok, make sure you visit three places – Lake Tsomgo, NathuLa and Baba Mandir.

Tsomgo (Changu) Lake, Sikkim
Tsomgo (Changu) Lake, Sikkim
What is this eye-opening travel experience that 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. 

“In that temperature, in that location and most importantly in that situation, all that matters is surviving. Nothing else.”

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, something I had seen before, but which only struck me now. In a deep and effective way.

Outlooks and perspectives change on an everyday basis. In that temperature, in that location and most importantly in that situation, all that matters is surviving. Nothing else. This realisation of how little anything else mattered there dawned on me as I reached the border. Our outlook and perspective of 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, in the context of the article, a look into their life was an eye opening travel experience
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 to 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, many army men are posted here for the protection of the people”.

It felt like time 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,” was all I could say.

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 was always 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. It was my eye-opening travel experience that showed me something that I didn’t care to look for before. More humble and most of all, to value each and every one. That day, I found myself through travel or perhaps a little part of me, but for now, that is a step, a good one.

Read more: Is travel a road to recovery for mental health?

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