At Indiahikes, we hear stories of transformation from trekkers every single day. Stories about how trekking changed their lives, about how a trek brought about a complete shift in their attitude, about how someone rediscovered a part of themselves that they thought was lost.
To document some of these extraordinary stories and experiences, we’ve created the ‘How Trekking Transforms Lives‘ series. This is our attempt to share with you the life-changing effects of trekking.
Our next story in this series is Gaurav’s. Strangely, his journey started with an unsuccessful trek.
In December 2019, Gaurav and his wife had signed up for the Kedarkantha trek. Having gone on a few local hikes, Gaurav felt he was ready for a Himalayan trek. He didn’t pay much attention to the fitness plan that his Experience Coordinator had shared with him. After all, he was young and active, how tough could it possibly be?
It was December 2019, and Gaurav weighed 103 kg.
On the first day of the trek, Gaurav was brimming with excitement.
“We started to trek. Everything was quite easy. During the first half of the day, everything was going great. But things started to change for the worse. I started getting continuous cramps in my leg, and I wasn’t able to walk properly,” says Gaurav.
Gaurav spoke to his Trek Leader, Aditya Bodke, about what he was going through. Aditya encouraged Gaurav and helped him make it to the first campsite. There, Aditya spoke to Gaurav about the importance of physical fitness.
Gaurav says, “Aditya pointed out that if I had just put in some effort (in the weeks leading to the trek), I wouldn’t be facing these issues. The way he managed my whole situation left a very long-lasting impact on my life. He sat with me and discussed how I need to relook at my lifestyle and fitness. His simple words poked my heart.”
Gaurav’s troubles continued into the night. His leg pain persisted, and he wasn’t able to sleep. In the morning, Aditya continued to motivate him to head to the second campsite.
“But I was so drenched in pain that I was not able to proceed. I had to return down to the base camp. I was very upset. This was the first long trek I had signed up for. My whole family was excited about me doing this. But, I was not able to complete it,” recalls Gaurav.
What made Gaurav feel worse about the entire experience was that his wife couldn’t complete the trek because of him.
Gaurav and his wife on the Kedarkantha trek in 2019.
In retrospect, Gaurav says, “I was overconfident. I didn’t take it seriously. I thought I could climb mountains easily. Kedarkantha turned out to be out of my league. After this experience, I learned that nothing is easy in this world. You have to work hard for it.”
Disappointed but not defeated.
Gaurav came back deeply disappointed and upset. It took him two weeks to shake off the setback and move forward. After taking time to reflect on his experience, Gaurav sprung into action, with a firm resolve to change his lifestyle.
The one thought that pushed him into action was this — I won’t leave this trek incomplete.
Incorporating Lifestyle Changes That Would Make Him Fitter And Healthier.
“I joined a gym and started to workout. I started with three days of cardio and, after a month, added three days of weightlifting to my routine. During the first two months, I didn’t lose any weight. I was not too happy. But everyone around me — my trainer and friends — encouraged me to be patient.
“Slowly the results started showing. I started to gain confidence. I learned to focus on the goal at hand and not get distracted,” recalls Gaurav.
A year after the Kedarkantha incident, Gaurav signed up for another trek with Indiahikes.
In October 2020, he successfully completed the Brahmatal trek.
This time, he weighed 93 kg – 10 kg lighter, with a much lighter heart too!
Completing the Brahmatal trek with renewed confidence.
“I was so happy that I could do it. But, that wasn’t the main achievement. In our group, there was another trekker who was struggling with the trek. He was not very physically fit. I understood quickly that he was facing the same problem that I had faced earlier. So, I started helping and motivating him, supporting him mentally and physically, and with our help, he completed the trek. When he completed the trek, I felt like I had done my Kedarkantha trek also. After not being able to do the trek, for me to not only complete it but to also help someone was just amazing,” narrates a still visibly thrilled Gaurav.
Even as this story goes live, Gaurav’s fitness journey continues with his current weight at 83 kg – a whopping 20 kilos less than his pre-Kedarkantha weight!
While the transformation in Gaurav’s physical appearance is there for everyone to see, there are unseen changes that took place within that are equally (maybe, more) important – a strengthening of resolve, a shift in priorities, a realisation of the importance of fitness, and the value of sticking to a well thought out health regimen.
“Earlier, in my gym, I was learning from people around me. Now, people learn from me. Watching my journey, my friends have been motivated to join me. My wife, who started the weight loss journey with me, is my true inspiration. From 90 kg in 2019, she is now 69 kg,” he says with pride in his voice.
Gaurav proving that ‘Where there is a will, there is a way’
When I asked him what his most important lesson from the trek was, he says, “We have to give some time to ourselves. You have to look after yourself.”
Discussing his plans for the future, he tells me excitedly, “This year, I am going to go back and complete Kedarkantha. I know it will be a challenge, but this time around, I know I will prepare myself to the core and then head out. It is also my dream to visit Everest Base Camp. I am sure that I will be part of the Indiahikes EBC batch next year with my wife. Indiahikes played such a big part in our transformation that we have decided that we will go on at least one trek every year.”
A Transformation That Goes Beyond The Self
Some changes are visible to the naked eye, and then there are some that go deeper. Even as Gaurav was going about adopting a healthier lifestyle, there was something else churning in him.
During his first Himalayan trek attempt, on the Kedarkantha trek, Gaurav had noticed how the Green Trails initiative by Indiahikes was having a positive effect on the mountains and villages nearby. It left a deep impression, and he came back home with a plan to do something similar in his hometown and the Sahyadris.
A few months after the Kedarkantha trek, Gaurav headed to the Dhak Bahiri trek in Maharashtra with a plan to clean up the trail. They took two rice sacks with ‘Green Trails’ printed outside. During the descent, he and his friends started picking up trash that had been left behind.
Extending what he learned on the mountains to his surroundings.
“To my surprise, a bunch of college students joined in after I told them about what we were trying to do. Our trash bags quickly filled up and taking them down to the village actually turned out to be quite a task. At the village too, after the initial suspicion, the Sarpanch told us that we would have the full support of the village on any future clean-up missions,” he narrates.
Gaurav’s quest to make a difference didn’t stop there.
During the lockdown in 2020, Gaurav mobilized a small group of six friends and cleaned a section of Arnala Beach in Virar. Later, along with six friends, Gaurav planted trees and cleaned up the meadow section on the Bhairavgad trek. He even donated dustbins to his community and continues to mentor younger members of the society about the environmental impact of trash and how best to segregate waste.
I asked him what had changed after the trek.
“One of the main things that changed in me during the treks is that I started thinking deeply about nature. I learned on the trek that if we segregate the waste, it will help us and the coming generations. I will do anything that it takes to ensure that the coming generations don’t face the problems that I am facing. I am just trying to introduce this thought in people’s minds that cleaning is not just a government work, it is every individual’s responsibility. Now, I always carry a few trash bags with me wherever I go!”
There is a quote that says, ‘All growth starts at the end of your comfort zone.’ And that is what trekking does. It pushes you outside your comfort zone, and once there, it’s incredible to watch the transformations that come about.
Here’s wishing Gaurav many, many more successful treks!
What are some of the lifestyle changes you have incorporated after coming back from your trek?