As a Canadian raised in remote areas of BC and Yukon, my backyard was comprised of breathtakingly beautiful and seemingly endless wilderness. Even at a very early age, us kids would wander the in bush unaccompanied.
After living and working on four continents and travelling to more than 30 countries, I now call Tamil Nadu home.
I could spend my whole life exploring India, and still not be able to see it all. It's so vast and layered.
Nothing makes me happier than getting out in nature. I spend most of my free time trekking and trail running. I am often asked “How do you do it?” “Is it safe?” “How do I get started?” I suggest starting off by having an honest conversation with yourself. Be realistic about your current abilities and allow yourself time to grow.
Here are a few of my top tips for those seeking adventure.
Remember that every adventure carries an element of risk. This is why we do it. Adventure gets us out of our comfort zones and breaks the monotony of our daily routines. We can reduce our risk by planning well and reading our surroundings. As a woman who often treks alone in India I am frequently warned of the potential dangers.
I feel big cities are often more risky than rural areas. Maybe because I was raised in several small communities I feel a kinship with country-folk. In my five years of wandering India, I have experienced so much kindness and hospitality. Never have I been harassed. In fact, I have been invited into people’s homes for rest and refreshment countless times. I’m a firm believer that if you put good out in the world it comes back to you.This doesn’t mean that I don’t take precautions. I dress modestly. I don’t ever go out alone at night. I plan well and let at least one person know the general area I intend on exploring. I don’t carry expensive equipment or jewellery with me.
As for wildlife, when you are in nature tune into your surroundings. If the birds and monkeys suddenly go silent, be alert that a predator may be near. The best thing to do is make noise. Almost all animals, even predators, don’t want anything to do with humans and will avoid you if they are alerted.
How to navigate well
I use Google Maps for discovering new areas. I study backroads, trail systems and green zones. I have come across so many beautiful locations this way. Many map apps offer offline modes.
Look out for major landmarks like a mountain, a main river or a temple on top of a hill. These will help you keep your bearings. Keep finding new landmarks as you move along.
Remember to look behind you. If you need to backtrack, sometimes things look very different coming from the opposite direction. This is how many people get lost. Whenever there is a fork in the road I turn around to see how it will look on the way home. I sometimes take a photo so that I can remember.
Leave markers on the trail especially at crossroads. When I’m in the bush I often stack three rocks or make an 'X' with sticks. This helps me to trace my way back especially when there are no clear landmarks to follow.
What to pack
Travel light. Let me say that again. Travel light. I have been known to go away for one month of trekking with under 6kg. I sleep in guest houses or with villagers in the mountains. If you are camping you are obviously going to have more.
Here are my essentials.
- · Hydration vest with water bladder
- · First aid kit (small and basic)
- · Head lamp (sometimes you end up on the trail after sunset)
- · Pee funnel (this is a game changer. Girls you can pee standing up and not have to remove any clothing)
- · Lightweight shoes with good tread. (I like Teva-style sandals. Big clunky boots are a no-no. Runners with trail treads are also good)
- · Snacks (don’t forget to refuel)
- · Bug spray and sunscreen (put into smaller containers)
- · Hat (I wear a soft cap that packs small and is washable)
- · One or two changes of clothes, even for a month (I hand-wash each night)
- · Plastic rain poncho during monsoon
- · Phone and power bank
- · Fast drying towel
- · Hygiene items will differ for each person. Keep it simple and use small containers
- · No more than a couple non-essential items (I bring a mini-perfume because I don’t like to stink. Others bring things like a change of shoes, an extra clothing item or some tech gear)
Where to go
One of my favourite things is to go to a popular tourist spot, like Munnar, but then find my own way around. I skip the famous sightseeing locations, talk to locals and get an idea of what hidden treasures are nearby. I have visited some beautiful places and had them all to myself.
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With our travel limited due to the pandemic I’ve started to explore my nearby surroundings. I have found many new and interesting places. I often follow back roads through villages and fields. I check out nearby reserve forests and anywhere I see a hill I try to scramble up it.
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Solo or group
Many people struggle with this. If you really do not welcome the idea of being alone in nature then go in a group. If you are simply afraid due to lack of experience, there are steps that you can take to slowly build your skill and confidence.
Start doing small treks with friends. Once you are comfortable with the route try it alone. Like anything, practice makes perfect. There is no right or wrong here. The goal is to explore India and discover the natural beauty all around us.
This article is a submission by one of our readers, and part of our series #OTReadersWrite. Have a great travel story to tell? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org