Each journey is different as is its realization. The surprise elements along the way are what make them stand out in our memory. 2016 was a very special year for me because it was nothing like I had imagined it would be. I had not planned to quit my job, not planned a sabbatical and certainly not planned to sign up for an experience that would change something inside me, possibly only a ‘little’ but for the better!

A dear friend told me about little local. I looked it up and thought it sounded like the perfect thing to do during my sabbatical. I had been looking for opportunities to travel and work with local communities - for the simple desire to take on a different experience.

I reached out to Antara and given my hospitality experience, we zeroed in on a project in Tirthan Valley in Himachal Pradesh where I would be helping the local community in designing their homestay training manual. I had an unlimited amount of rookie questions that were all met with a lot of patience. I also had apprehensions about travelling alone and Antara understood that. I was travelling alone to a place that most of my family and friends hadn't ever heard of. Once I reached Tirthan, strangely, I felt at home, instantly.

Two weeks, a girl & a #mystical place! | Day 1 of being #littlelocal @little.local

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Living in the city had made me a person who was always in a rush – to get to work, to meetings, back home, to meet friends, to eat my meals. My mind was always in motion, even if my body wasn't.  It was different here. I was at ease. I was calm. I had an interesting project, and with the warm smiles around me, I was immensely satisfied.

For two weeks, I lived like a local and got an opportunity to see another side of life - the simple one. I could work for a community while experiencing its culture, food and local folklore.

I attended a local festival called ‘Budhi Diwali’ which is celebrated exactly one month after Diwali, where the menfolk carry firelights and hurl abuses at each other, supposedly to get rid of all negativity within them!

Buddhi Diwali ... A local #festival #celebrated exactly one month after #diwali | Honestly, I couldn't follow what the legend has, but what I could understand was that menfolk from one village meet the menfolk from the other village carrying #firelights ; abuse each other, try and burn each other. Well, supposedly in good spirit ;) Then the procession carries on to the next village. Its meet, abuse and repeat! Eventually, everyone gathers at a certain place and throws their firelight into a massive bonfire hurling choicest abuses, in general. By this time, everyone is reasonably drunk. When the weight of carrying ill in their hearts for others is done away with, they all break into the folk dance. All this happens to the beats of drum and rhythm of shehnai! | An intriguing #custom and a fascinating sight | Day 11 of being #littlelocal

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And I even managed to do an overnight trek to the Great Himalayan National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

And that’s how I discovered a new way of travel. I loved being a little local, and hope to do this once a year, every year!

About our author - Juhie has a nomadic disposition and a goal free life. She likes to live on the edge and have new experiences whenever the syzygy of time, money and opportunity occur ( which is not that rare!). To ensure the availability of one of those elements, her day job defines her as a hospitality consultant. She has worked with Cushman & Wakefield, Taj Hotels, Lemon Tree Hotels and Ginger Hotels. She is currently on a working vacation in Goa, for the foreseeable future. In her recent Gap year, she travelled to Tirthan Valley with Little Local to experience, observe and contribute to the local community. Now, at least her travels have a goal! You can follow her journey here.

About our partner - Sunshine Himalayan Adventures has been working in Tirthan Valley for the last 20+ years, with the single point mission of ensuring conservation of the natural resources and heritage, as tourism increases inevitably. Spearheaded by two brothers Ankit Sood and Panki Sood, the organisation was instrumental in Great Himalayan National Park being awarded UNESCO World Heritage site status in 2014. They are working closely with the local community to promote homestays and locally owned small guesthouses, over large hotels. You can read more about them here.

If you enjoyed reading this and would like to be part of such travel experiences, do read about our current trips here. And please write to us on antara@littlelocal.in and give us feedback on what you'd like us to post about!