Student Directed Travel, Dharmalaya, Trekking

Written By Charlotte

Hello everyone this is Charlotte from the Shanti group and I’m going to be walking you all through our last couple of weeks in India! As our journey has been getting closer to the end the group has been soaking up every last bit of India that we can. For starters we finally landed in the beautiful Himalayas and spent a week staying in Bhagsu in Himachal Pradesh. It’s been quite a change in weather, going from scorching hot Amritsar to the colder paradise of the mountains. We spent our student directed travel exploring the wonders of the Tibetan culture and hanging in our favorite cafe, Chilly Beans! We all split up and ventured the areas on our own for a couple days and then met up to celebrate Amaya’s birthday. The day started with the purchasing of copious amounts of Bhagsu cake (which I have been obsessed with) and hiked up to a beautiful waterfall just outside the town. Unfortunately the one day we decided to hike was the day it started heavily raining but we pushed through the weather conditions and hiked anyways. When we got to the top the group shared a sweet chai as we hung out and exchanged laughs. Zevi, our gratitude guru of the week, took it upon himself to make sure Amaya got flooded with compliments on her special day. So, the group ended up shouting everything we love about Amaya as other foreigners looked at us like we were insane. Of all the things we loved about Bhagsu the group mostly agreed that Amaya’s birthday hike was one of our favorite memories.

The relaxing week in Bhagsu was well needed in preparation for our time in Dharmalaya, an institute about sustainable and compassionate living! A lot of the group struggled with the completely vegan meals as we would constantly chat about snickers bars, cheese burgers, and most importantly, Bhagsu cake. Georgia on the other hand, already a thriving vegan ate happily everyday! I definitely felt a deep feeling of respect for her knowing how hard it can be to abstain from animal products. She inspired us all as we learned that veganism is the most beneficial diet for the environment and especially the animals! We spent everyday waking up around 6:30 am, meditating, doing hefty labor and then ending the day with a perspective changing discussion. We spent one of our first days hiking through the mountain side to a nearby village in order to pick up trash with the local kids in the community! We stuffed bottles with plastic and learned about the hard effects of consumerism on the environment. We learned how to compost, mulch trees, pug dirt, make mud bricks and we even spent a day constructing a natural pathway in the miraculous landscape at Dharmalaya. The days were long, full and hard but each night I felt a sense of complete serenity knowing all that I had accomplished during the day! Olivia thrived at Dharamalaya as you could see the complete look of joy on their face at every moment there. They loved every single moment at Dharmalaya and inspired me to be the most environmentally friendly person I can be! I was so thankful to have had this life changing experience here as now my awareness on my effects on the world has expanded and I now possess the knowledge to live compassionately. Overall, the group felt inspired as I remember over hearing Olivia and Kari talk about how they wanted to work for an NGO as soon as they got back to the states! As Zevi and Owen said, they came out of this experience feeling like they now know the affects of their carbon foot print. Even Adam claimed he would eat less hamburgers and cut down on the sour cream and onion chips.

After saying our goodbyes, we packed our bags, ate our last vegan meal and headed off back to Bhagsu for a couple days to rest up before our trek. We will be spending the next four days trekking for 4-5 hours a day and camping in the woods! Everyone in the group is extremely excited for this experience. It’s a bittersweet feeling of excitement to be out in nature and also heart break knowing that this journey is one of our lasts until the end. I spent the last three months in the most incredible yet crazy country in the world traveling with strangers that I now consider family. We laughed, cried, hugged, fought, and stomped around in mud together. We saw the wonders of India and witnessed each other grow into more culturally enlightened people. I’ve never been so lucky to get to live this experience with a group of such beautiful and colorful people. I know I can speak for all the students when I say that our two leaders Adam and Rebecca have been the best leaders I could’ve ever asked for. I can’t even count how many times Rebecca has been such a great support and Ayurvedic healer for all of us! She really stuck by us at our best and worst and never failed to strike a smile at anyone! Adam heavily inspired each member of the group to continue our travels to the rest of the world as he told us his stories of his travels and lectured us about programs like work away. Adam not only got me excited for my future but he was constantly keeping smiles on the groups faces with his jokes and funny hand gestures.

After the trek we will take our last overnight train back into Delhi and experience some nostalgia as we’ll be staying in the same hostel we stayed at in the very beginning of our trip. We’ll spend the last days celebrating how far we’ve come and saying goodbye to India. I guarantee tears will be shed leaving one of the most amazing countries in the world and sadly each other. As you’d say in Hindi, Dhan ya vaad Namaste India. (Thank you and good bye India)

Collective pugging.


Georgia, Kari, Olivia, Owen and Zevi in a pugging circle.
The group gathering leaves for mulching.


Charlotte, Adam and Amiah enjoying the sunset and dinner.