Vagabonding Case Study: Shalabh


Age: 28

Hometown: Palampur, Himachal, India

Quote: “I have learnt a lot, been out of my comfort zone and met people I would have never met otherwise.

How did you find out about Vagabonding, and how did you find it useful before and during the trip? Found Vagabonding on a Google search. It was a constant source of inspiration and information before the trip. Some of the articles gave great insight on challenges of travelling alone.

How long were you on the road? About 18 months

Where all did you go? Himalayas, mostly Western except one month in the Nepal Himalayas.

What was your job or source of travel funding for this journey? I worked for a bank before I quit and decided to take this break. Savings from my job funded the journey.

Did you work or volunteer on the road? Yes, volunteered for The Mountain Cleaners (, an informal group cleaning trash from mountain sides.

Of all the places you visited, which was your favorite? Difficult to pick just one but Zanskar (in Kashmir), Lahaul and Pangi in Himachal were the top. Apart from that, an unknown glacial lake in Chamba was fantastic too.

Was there a place that was your least favorite, or most disappointing, or most challenging? Challenging? Yes, but not least favourite. Most of my solo treks were quite challenging, as were the ones for which I had no decent maps. The unknown glacial lake (mentioned above) and Kang La glacier were amongst the most challenging.

Did any of your pre-trip worries or concerns come true?  Did you run into any problems or obstacles that you hadn’t anticipated? I was lucky enough to never get injured in the mountains but was snowed-in a few times. Weather was a constant worry and the last summer was uncharacteristic with lots of rains. I narrowly avoided being in Leh during the cloud burst. Overall, nothing serious but had to sleep with wet clothes in a wet tent and sleeping bag for days on end at times. Also had to cross quite a few waist/chest deep ice cold streams and made a few stupid mistakes. That I am writing this means I did not really pay for them.

Which travel gear proved most useful?  Least useful? Good hiking shoes, a 0 degree Fahrenheit sleeping bag and a good down jacket proved most useful. I think I never really carried enough to have something which would not be useful.

What are the rewards of the vagabonding lifestyle? I have learnt a lot, been out of my comfort zone and met people I would have never met otherwise. It also teaches one to survive in different and difficult circumstances, helps develop a deeper appreciation of other cultures.

What are the challenges and sacrifices of the vagabonding lifestyle? For me, the biggest challenge was the ‘alone’ factor. To be in the mountains alone was not always as much fun. It was scary sometimes. Even when I was with a guide, I was effectively alone with almost no one to talk to. Sometimes, the solitude can get to you. It started off being well but at some stage, I did feel the need to have company. I am still only getting back from my travel, so will figure in the next few months the sacrifices I have had to make. 🙂

Apart from that, getting used to a new lifestyle – of having to get out of your tent every morning and make a move, walk a long distance, sometimes in freezing cold on boulders and snow, then finding a place to pitch the tent, getting a fire going, making the food, not having the luxury to just order what you want, eat meagre food and then repeat the sequence for days on end. All this was a new experience and very enjoyable too. After a while, once the muscles had stopped hurting, I slept like a baby every night for many months.

What lessons did you learn on the road? Loads, like never try to cross a stream without a bag on your back, you could be washed away! On a serious note, I learnt a lot about outdoors, survival, wild life, plant life and in a personal sense, more about myself, handling unforeseen situations, making conversation with people in the deepest villages, about remote cultures.

How did your personal definition of “vagabonding” develop over the course of the trip? My first treks were not all that adventurous. On the first one, I had a guide and someone had even convinced me to take a porter. I was only carrying 7 kgs and was on much used route. As I completed the first month, I decided on no porter and slowly trained myself to carry all my stuff (by just doing it right away). Over the next few months, I also undertook solo treks and even when I had a ‘guide’, we always went to routes the guide himself had never been to. So, the initial familiarity of the trail was replaced by a lot more adventure and discovery.

If there was one thing you could have told yourself before the trip, what would it be? ‘In the mountains, never make concrete plans’ is what it would be. I had to change so many of them owing to weather or natural reasons and to begin with, I had issues adapting to changing plans everyday though after a while, it became the way of life. Not knowing where the next stop would be was part of the fun.

Any advice or tips for someone hoping to embark on a similar adventure? Don’t make concrete plans, go with the flow, try and learn about vegetation so your food can be richer and tastier than just noodles, do not stay put in your tent and use every opportunity to maximize your interaction with locals in villages, try village food (it is mostly organic) and drink, interact with shepherds and other nomadic people. They can be the biggest source of learning and sometimes, of meat as well. 🙂

When and where do you think you’ll take your next long-term journey? No concrete plans as yet. This could be the one and only but I do hope to travel in Latin America and Spain one day.


Are you a Vagabonding reader planning, in the middle of, or returning from a journey? Would you like your travel blog or website to be featured on Vagabonding Case Studies? If so, drop us a line at and tell us a little about yourself.

Posted by | Comments (8)  | March 30, 2011
Category: Vagabonding Case Studies

8 Responses to “Vagabonding Case Study: Shalabh”

  1. Brett Says:

    Shalabh–Great to see you featured here — you deserve it bhai! Buen camino… B

  2. Anusha Says:

    Awesome Shalabh.U always had the guts to do things differently n excel:)

  3. Ankur Parmar Says:

    Shalabh, Minju bhi jaana hai tijjo kaane bhaua..

  4. christine Says:

    greetings shalabh — awesome, v. inspiring! thanks!! Will try out one of your treks soon.