In one afternoon in Kasol, some Himachali friends of mine told me: "The secret gem of Himachal Pradesh is Thachi Valley". One of the boys was from Dandeli village living in this valley and he said he was going home for the weekend. When I heard this, something caught my heart. I knew from deep inside of me that this is the next destination.
"Strong push from something invisible.
When I feel the voice of the invisible, I only surrender and follow regardless what others say as it knows the path of my soul."
The next morning, I and my partner packed up quickly, double-checked the routes to the village that my friend has written down, and said goodbye to Kasol, where I lived in nature with inspiring souls, ended up staying for a month creating a family in the campsite. But I know that attachment and familiar comfort blocks the flow, and now it's time to leave for new adventures that await me.
"We find home and family everywhere, and here and now we connect and share.
And when the time has come, we go on our own journey alone again, hoping to reconnect someday."
On the way to his village called Dandeli, we met two local boys who invited us to their village Danser instead of our friend’s village, passionately explaining how beautiful the place was. I saw pure simple goodness in these mountain boys’ eyes’ and felt that this was another call.
Being proud of their roots, the family and home where they belong to, they were not in need of something else or something more in the outside world. This is one of the secrets of self-mastering. Knowing your own jewel, knowing what you already have is beautiful.
We told them that we were coming to their village after visiting our friend in Dandeli, and we departed our ways. The first thing I saw when we started to walk was Baturdar village filled with many traditional stone roofs and a woman going home with firewood. Suddenly a sense of nostalgia arises, making me feel like l time-travel to the past.
We wandered around this Shanti village, smokes coming out of the kitchen, friendly villagers finishing their jobs in the gardens, cows coming home, kids playing outside, people talking from balcony to balcony, and the nature merging with traditional houses creating the picturesque scenery all around...
After half an hour's walk, we arrived at our friend's house in Dandeli, just in time before dark. We were welcomed warmly by the whole family, but they had something to tell.
The caste system in this area strongly remains in their culture and we were seen as an outcast. This means we cannot go upstairs because the second floor, including the kitchen which is the center of the family life, is sacred and people of lower castes or outcastes are not allowed to enter. So, we have to eat downstairs while others eat altogether upstairs.
We had no complaints or any bad feeling as it's already nice of them to prepare a nice room downstairs and treat us with an amazing meal and tea. Also, the caste system is completely out of our concept of life so we don't feel discriminated, as there is no bad experience related to this system in our life.
But this experience made us reflect on how it is impacting the lives of people. If a rich lower caste person comes to visit, can this man can go upstairs? How about a very wise beggar? In daily life, how do people know the caste of other people?
Indian friends tell us "we just somehow know, we grew up with it". But how do we decide this person should be treated this way and the other person in a different way? I’m neutral on this topic because I don't know anything about living a life under the caste system, but just simply wonder why people want it to be continued.
After having dinner separately, the whole family came down to our room for chatting with us. Although there are traditions that make things complicated, they truly welcomed us with their big heart and curiousness, and we shared many good conversations. Although this system which in my opinion is rather a closed-minded structure of the old society still exists, I felt that human connections prove to be much stronger.
The next morning, we saw Dandeli in the daylight and we were amazed by what we couldn’t see when we got here last night. Only a few wooden houses are scattered around and in between there are small canals flowing through all over the village, making traditional water-powered mills move magically.
For the activity of the day, we decided to climb the tallest mountain in the area.
We enjoyed the whole way without thinking about the goal to get there, as 'the path is the journey'. Finding the edible berries, plant medicines, natural tooth cleaning leaves, stopping to appreciate and breath in the beauty of nature and sharing the experience with new friends exchange between totally different cultures, points of view, experiences...
The way down is also “aramse aramse” (take it easy), making some breaks for a bonfire and mint tea. Here people are never in a rush.
When we came back, the dinner was cooked with Lingad (wild plants growing everywhere) that we collected on the way home, making us appreciate the meal even more!
After we made a small juggling show for the local school to give back something, we left Dandeli and walked off to the next village Danser.
From talking with them I felt the family is the center of lives in India, which is opposite in travelers’ lives. We leave home for good and we don’t even come back for years by our choice. We don’t really miss home because while traveling for a long time we l learn how to meet people alike, create a family with them and feel home anywhere we go. But when I see people living a simple life totally satisfied, it makes me think about what real happiness is.
Their humble happiness inspires me whereas my spontaneous and adventurous life is also inspiring to them.
As I reminded myself that traveling can be a way of sabotaging from connecting to this inner happiness by looking for new experiences outside, I started to think of the importance of traveling into myself as well as external traveling.
May this day be filled with love, peace of mind, and freedom to be yourself!!!