Every time we visit a quaint and beautiful hill station, most of us are overpowered by the feeling of leaving our bustling city life behind and settling in the mountains. But, only a handful of us takes that leap of faith to actually give ourselves a much-needed adventure of settling in the mountains.
One such person is Swati Talwar, a 24-year-old travel vlogger from Delhi-NCR, who shifted to Himachal Pradesh for the long term in 2021. Known popularly by her Instagram moniker, Swatzparadise, she found her calling in the mountains.
For Swati, the decision to shift to Himachal was spur-of-the-moment. In 2020, she stayed at Madpackers Manali for 47 days as part of her job requirements. That’s when she fell head over heels for the mountains. Soon, she came back to her hometown only to feel lost and out of place. So, she packed her backpack and did everything possible to reach Himachal from Delhi in the midst the pandemic—even though it meant incurring significant expenses to do the same. She took a cab, got her tests done and set off to Himachal.
In her quest to find her home in the mountains, Swati rented a room with an attached washroom and kitchen in Old Manali and started living her dream life. But all of it wasn’t as dreamy and romantic as it’s often portrayed in Bollywood films. After living for four months in Manali, she finally shifted to Jibhi in October 2021. With only one medical dispensary in her locality and a small hospital 8 km down the road in Banjar, she tries her best to keep herself fit and healthy.
“In the mountains, people do everything on their own—be it carrying groceries or a cylinder. Being a city dweller, I wasn’t used to this kind of self-dependent lifestyle. I was used to ordering everything online and getting it on my doorstep. So convenient, right? I hardly knew how to cook. Adapting was tough, initially, but I was ready for each and every challenge that came my way. Things got easy eventually,” Swati says.
She adds, “Life in the mountains comes with its fair share of struggles. On some days, you even struggle to get hot water for daily chores. Power cuts are frequent and internet connectivity is poor on some days. It becomes hard when your work revolves around high-speed Wi-Fi and electricity. Especially when you’re a content creator who needs to show up on social media channels and provide value to the online community on a daily basis.”
Landslides, cloudbursts and flash floods are some of the frequent natural disasters witnessed by people living in mountains. Locals are brought up in this environment and know how to cope with such adversities. When she settled in Himachal, Swati was new to life in mountains but the locals came to her rescue. During the monsoon season, they advised her to refrain from travelling and only stay at home.
While she is still learning the demography of the region, she sticks to the advice given by locals. Now, with the ongoing winter season and frequent snow showers, the significant drop in temperature is hard to adjust to. As she says, the grass is always greener on the other side.
Swati has a followership of 54K on Instagram, where she shares content on the best places to visit in Himachal, local Himachali culture and food, the life of locals, solo and budget travelling guides, and snippets from her trips.
“One of the best memories I can recall from many of my solo trips is from Rishikesh. I was exploring a quaint waterfall with a fellow traveller who was from Germany. While returning, we both were tired to our core. Behind us was a local couple. My friend and I were seeking a lift and so were they. After a few failed attempts, we finally got a lift by a kind truck driver who was also a Pahadi by birth,” Swati reminisces.
“Solo travelling was a little intimidating at first considering the safety risk. So I took baby steps towards it. For my first-ever trip, I asked my sister to accompany me to Goa. Next, we took off to Himachal, Rajasthan, and Nepal together. My first full-fledged solo trip was to Rishikesh, the place that boosted my confidence 10 times. I believe travel does that to us—and by this, I do not mean the touristy one but the real adventurous one. It brings you out of your comfort zone and sets you free. However, to ensure safety during my solo trips, I follow my instincts and listen to my conscience. If I don’t get the right vibe from a person, I avoid taking a lift in their vehicle."
Swati favours slow and budget travel. She opts for land travel over the air, local homestays and hostels over hotels, and adventure over luxury. Besides running a travel vlog full time, she also works as a content head for Madpackers which is a backpacker hostel-chain across India. Her parents disapproved of her choices at first. But when she started making the most out of it, they gave in.
“From a very young age, I have always tried living life on my terms—however difficult it may get. Even if any plan goes downhill, I will only have myself to blame for the consequences, but I will have no regrets in the end. Claiming my independence and throwing myself to uncertainties and adventures have not always been easy but when you have a dream to pursue and a purpose to fight for, it eventually makes its own way,” Swati emphatically states.