Stepping out of your comfort zone

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Every traveler starts somewhere. Early trips begin with visits to familiar places. And then, you get a little adventurous. You think you can beat the odds and step out of your comfort zone. Back in 2009, we decided to step out of ours. And, we’ve never looked back since. We credit this trip – to be the one – that changed everything. I’m not sure why Basil chose Sikkim.We didn’t have family or friends there, so we’d be pretty much on our own. I guess that’s what worked for us. We discovered, it doesn’t matter who you know, when you’re privy to some of the most haunting views of the Kangchenjunga, soul stirring monasteries, and people – you’d find hard to forget.

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I must confess, before our trip, I knew very little of this erstwhile Himalayan Kingdom, sandwiched between Bhutan and Nepal. Sikkim became a part of India – after a referendum in 1975. Due to it’s proximity to the Chinese border and delicate Indo-Sino relations; the state has a strong army presence. Permits are mandatory for most areas and security is, in general, more stringent than other parts of India. With no railroads or an airport, Sikkim is practically disconnected from the rest of the country. The nearest airport is in Bagdogra (West Bengal), from there on, you can make a four hour (felt like six) long trip to Gangtok – the capital of Sikkim.

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Bagdogra serves as a base camp for the Indian Army. Besides that, there’s very little to see or do in this sleepy town. Our cab (pre-booked through the hotel) waited at the airport for us. Our driver, a reticent local from Gangtok, was in his mid-fifties. As with most road trips (we’ve faced this across India), we had a flat within the first hour of the journey. To our luck, there was a small stupa (Buddhist commemorative monument) nearby. We wandered around, watched child Buddhist monks walk by, and ogled the evening sky.

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Here’s what I hate about mountain roads. They make you pay a price for those breathtaking views. As our driver, deftly maneuvered his way through the winding roads, I felt nausea taking over. Somewhere, before reaching Gangtok, our driver made a wise decision to stop. A plate of steaming chicken momos (dumplings) was good enough to get me going for the rest of the journey. There’s a point en route – somewhere in between the dense foliage and mountains – where you can see the confluence of the Teesta River (source Cholamu lake) and Rangeet River (source Himalayan mountains). This is a popular spot for rafting. We simply sighed and carried on.

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Descent

Β We finally reached our modest (8oo INR per night) hotel at 9 pm. MG Road (main tourist road) wore a deserted look. And slowly, the lights descended on the valley below.

27 responses to “Stepping out of your comfort zone

  1. Good on you for stepping out of your comfort zone and venturing somewhere off the beaten track. It’s usually when you discover the best places. Great post with some lovely pictures.

  2. Sikkim – the special place for both of us πŸ™‚ Good to know that recently Gangtok was listed as one of the Top 10 cleanest cities in India – it was no. 7. I couldn’t agree more!

    • I remembered you, Kat! I must confess, you’ve inspired me! Gangtok is the place we’d like to escape to. Haha! Sikkim and the NE are very clean. Mawlynnong(Meghalaya) is believed to be the cleanest village in Asia. I’m not sure which organization bestowed this title, but it is very clean. πŸ™‚ There is a lot of turmoil in these regions making it difficult to travel and get permits. Once you do, the people and culture will fascinate you.

  3. Sikkim looks to be a fascinating destination…definitely one of those places where you go for an adventure and to explore ~ and as you found out to uncover new cultures and thoughts of people that trigger an urge to travel and see more ~ beautiful photos and writing. Wish you many more happy travels ahead.

    • Thanks for stopping by. Truly appreciate your words of praise. Sikkim is one of those places that we instantly fell in love with. We’d go back in an instant. πŸ™‚

      • It won’t disappoint. Especially, as you leave the city and head towards the northern mountain towns. Bad road and AMS are the only drawbacks. The views and the people will make up for it. πŸ™‚ India’s northeast is equally alluring. The tribes and culture is very unique and quite unlike the rest of the country. And there are gorgeous views of the mountains. πŸ™‚

  4. 2008 was the year I stepped out of my comfort zone. Great you too have stepped out of yours and travelled to places a little of the radar, its usually where the best things happen!! I lived in Maldives all last year but very sadly didn’t get to India. But it’s close to the top of my list. Happy travels and nice to connect.

    • Hi Kristie! I guess the first trip is the hardest. I must confess, it doesn’t always get easier with time. But, yes, there is a heightened sense of figuring out things. I’m glad we did this trip. Two years after this trip, we went on a dream trip to Europe. We’ve not stopped since. So glad to connect with you! We’re happy to ‘virtually’ meet with people who share the same passion for travel. Loved your blog and travel story. Thanks for stopping by! πŸ™‚

    • I must confess, I’m pretty lazy. I’d prefer to stay glued to my screen. Basil is the opposite. He can’t sit still for a long time. The docs thought he was hyperactive as a kid. That’s why, all our trips turn out to be an adventure! I’m not complaining. I’ve seen the world very differently. πŸ™‚ Thanks for stopping by. I love your work and your thoughts.

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