Taking it slow – Life in Jibhi

I never really understood what ‘slow travel’ or a ‘me time’ trip meant. Even though, I have also spent almost a month in one state; i did things that i wanted to do and have spent enough time for my ‘solo’ self.

My past travels have been to one destination for a long duration but I used to pack them up with places to see, stay, and venture out to a large extent. This time around, I chose a smaller unknown place ‘JIBHI’ (to many) and explore as and what came my way. Jibhi was pointed out to me by another amazing traveller and am glad I went for it.

How does one spend a day, a week or a life in one such small locale? I have often been asked this, what do you do by yourself?

You just be.

With my visit to Jibhi, – I understood deeply the meaning of travelling into a place and letting it lead you.  You feel the air, it is refreshing and pungent with life; you soak in the freshness of the soil; you listen to the sound of the flowing waters; you observe the  selfless life of the locals. You may do all that you do back home, but here you do it with your own choice.

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Out of city habits, I resorted to a routine but only to let Jibhi and its people choose the activities for me.

My days would begin early and I would choose to walk in one of the directions of the main road to cross the same homes, shops and people for the following week.

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My first day was met with eager looks, new face in the town murmurs and by day 4 these were exchanged with smiles, and good mornings. In retrospect, in three days I got to befriend more strangers than I have in a city over the last five years.

My days would be spent reading next to the river, or sitting on a rock at the guest house overseeing the river flow along with ‘chai’ and sidhu- a local delicacy.

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Guddu, the caretaker of the guesthouse I was put up at would enlighten me with the stories of the guest house, his dads work for the town and places I should discover every day. There was a new place on his map for me to walk to for each of the days and I would religiously follow them.

On one of my explorations to the nearby town of Chaini fort, I was over ambitious and decided to walk the whole stretch from Jibhi. While I managed to reach the fort encountering some very sweet elders and specially touched by dimple didi, who invited me over for some tea and apples.

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Dimple didi and moi

On my return from Chaini, I realised i was too tired and couldn’t walk all the way back to Jibhi. Guddu came to my rescue – he rode on his bike – found me and that is how I got my bike ride in the hills. These are a few encounters of what makes living in a place so wonderful.

While staying at this guest house – I also met Isha, a fellow traveller from Delhi and in a matter of those few days – found a friend, travel companion in my solo Jibhi adventures. Trekking to Raghupur or sitting on the bridge and talking aimlessly may not have been as fun or exciting without her.

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Isha and myself at Raghupur

During my wandering mornings, I landed up at the local school in Jibhi and as luck would have it, I made friends with two young girls and one of them happened to be my namesake. Visiting the school, chatting with children and just reminiscing my school days were something I hadn’t done in the longest time – it was like getting a glimpse of my growing up years.

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Days passed by, and Jibhi soon felt like this little hidden paradise that I did not want the world to find. I wanted to soak in its purity and innocence and protect it from becoming another commercial hub that people flocked to.

Meeting people who had left their city lives and settled here and opening Jibhi as an avenue for more than a pit stop to Shimla or for luxury stays was another insight. This was only possible because this place and its people open their doors to strangers.

On one of the days, the clouds decided to bless us with rains like never before. While everyone hustled into shade; I sat in my room balcony and decided to paint and watch the clouds and fog play hide and seek with tall pine wood trees. Spending an entire afternoon watching nature is the best therapy to open our senses.

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On my last day while I was walking by a group of ladies discussing Star plus and our Indian soaps, we got chatting about my life back home. I mentioned to them that I was leaving, and they reacted with the fact that they had gotten used to seeing me around walking, taking local buses, and chatting around.

It was then when it struck me that even though I did not recognise them all, I had become a part of a life of this small town in ways I can’t put in words, but are etched on my soul. May be I was one of the many faces they had encountered but they left an everlasting impression on me.

These are just a couple of reasons that helped me realise the joy of spending time in a place that can be “seen” in a day.

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Self Reflection:Smile Often

During my last trip to Himachal Pradesh, I kept wondering why I was always pulled back towards the mountains of our country.

What is it that gives me this sense of belonging, comfort, a true feeling of home away from home. I have thoroughly enjoyed exploring the hilly regions , mountains whether for a week or a month.

I find myself relaxed, aware, and with a sense of peace that feels more like home than any other place.

While introspecting and observing my behaviour, I realised that I would lower my guard,  smile often and be more patient on my travels as compared to being in the city.

On my trip to Jibhi, it dawned on me that some of the most useful and powerful tools one possesses is their smile and sincerity – It is a way into people’s heart and lives.

I was able to befriend strangers, make awkward scenarios more comfortable and get elders to share their adventurous life stories.

I have often wondered how some photographers capture the essence and joy of people through their images; during this trip I discovered the same joys of sharing happiness and conversations from children to elders…

Sipping chai and chatting up with locals, sharing a meal with my hosts, and meeting travel companions on the way was all a part of openness and the idea of smiling at someone along the way. Not that this was new in my travels yet I found myself more open to strangers and meeting people.

I also realised that the warmth and love you are greeted with in our hills cannot be compared.Being a solo female traveller always raises a few questions, curious looks by locals but the smile and honesty soon lets you into their world and stories.

Soon they are a part of your story and not the other way around.

So with that thought …“Keep smiling because Life is a Beautiful thing and there is so much to smile about” – Marilyn Monroe.

P.s. Some of my favourite smiles from my travels.