Interview with Travel Writer/Blogger at Obsessive Compulsive Traveller Divya Prasad
Please tell us something about your origin.
My heart belongs to the Himalayas, although I am a Mumbai girl with roots in South India. I keep transforming into a Ladakhi to a Himachali to a Southie so I can say I am from everywhere. I currently live in a Gaddi village called Khirku in Kangra valley, Himachal Pradesh. I have been documenting Folklore, oral history and mountain stories on my journeys for my blog and weaving many a dreams. I am a freelance writer, travel blogger out of passion, an energy healer and artist at my soul venture Iktomi wherein I create Prana (life force) energized crystal dream catchers, mandalas and sacred geometric arts. I grew up in Bombay and my family is rooted here. I worked as a writer in advertising for many years before treading on my current path. Facebook Link – https://www.facebook.com/ObsessiveCompulsiveTraveller/
When did the travel bug bite you for the 1st time?
It all began with Himalayas. About 9 years ago, I met the Himalayas for the very first time and fell in love. Something was very special about it. Arriving here felt like home. I used to go trekking with my friends around Maharashtra and Southern India in my growing up years before visiting the Himalayas. I set out on my first solo trip to Lahaul Valley in Himacal Pradesh which also urged me to explore other valleys. Back then, I was working full-time as a writer with an advertising and digital agency. Those days, the Lahaul and Spiti valleys were remote places, alien to even Indians. Two cloudbursts in a row caused me to cancel my trip to Spiti. And the leaves in office were sanctioned and I was determined to utilize it no matter what. I postponed the leaves by a week and headed to Uttaranchal. I was okay heading to the other side of Himalayas. The weather had not been gracious and it was pouring throughout my train journey. I was about two hours away from Haridwar station when the train halted there for four hours. I hear that Haridwar is flooded! Slowly and steadily, the train reached haridwar and I managed to hop into a truck to get to Rishikesh. This by itself was the first sign of an adventurous beginning. All my trekking and exploration plans in Uttaranchal went for a toss; but the travel gods had a beautiful plan for me. Something struck me after two days in Rishikesh. Deep inside, I was still hung over my Lahaul-spiti plans. That vey feeling urged me to take a bus to Shimla. I headed straight to the HRTC bus stand and decided get myself a ticket to Dharamsala but instead booked a ticket to Keylong on impulse. And it was one of the best decisions I made. I was invited into Lahaul with fresh snowfall; and it was one of my firsts. Since that trip, something shifted inside me and I wanted to surrender to the experience of travel even more. After two years, I decided to take a sabbatical from my job and travel to far off lands to explore life just as it is. I didn’t quit my job only to travel,but to invest my time and energy on passions, dreams and what that truly moved my soul. I always felt a deep connection to mountains, tribes and certain places. I made another solo trip for four months via the tribal circuit of Kinnaur and Spiti in Himachal Pradesh up to Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir. It was one anthropological experience for me. I was deeply moved by the souls I met in these nondescript villages. That was when my love for travel grew even deeper because it was beyond just seeing a place or ticking off a bucket list. Every moment was a learning experience. Meeting different tribes, living with the Brokpa Aryan tribes at Dah-hanu in Jammu and Kashmir and be a apart of them felt meaningful.
I have always been fascinated with folklore, anthropology, art, tribes and culture. It’s the love for it that led me to explore takes hidden in these non-descript villages and tribes. I set out on a solo journey via the tribal circuit of Himachal Pradesh colleting tales from villages in Lahaul- Spiti up to Ladakh, which over years became homes I returned to. Over time, travel grew on me and turned out to be a meaningful connection. I was blessed with so much unconditional love from strangers on my travels, I was moved to share myself fully and connect. It was an expansion of spirit, and an exploration of the cosmos within and outside of me. That’s when I journeyed across South and East Africa sharing my Iktomi crystal dream catchers energized to manifest dreams with souls I met on the road. I felt joy; in giving back to those souls who made my journey special. And I intend to continue energizing dreams and collect folklore on my future journeys too.Today I feel grateful to have moved to a Gaddi Village in the mountains of Kangra, Himachal Pradesh, be present in these moments and live a simpler life. I am yet to uncover many a loving homes like these on my travels. It’s beautiful how this dream and love for mountains manifested for me over years.
Besides art, energy healing also happened to me. It was truly an expansion of spirit. Despite a small pocket, I grew richer in spirit. After a one and half year sabbatical, I returned to Mumbai to work and save up for my travels. After working for a year, I decided to freelance and work on the go. I earn a living through writing, energy healing and my healing arts venture Iktomi – all of which lets me travel freely. By now, I had also found many a homes to return to. Above all, it made way for gratitude in my life. My journey to collect more and more folklore will continue. I intend to weave, energize and manifest many more beautiful dreams with Iktomi
Out of Hilly region, Desert and Beaches what do you prioritize the most and why?
Mountains remain my first love; for the Pahaadi that I am at heart. Although I am ever open to the beauty that Deserts or beaches bring. I would go with a hill top home because mountains will always be my first love. Every time I arrived at the Himalayas or left from there, it has been a magical blessing in my life. It always feels like home. That little home in the hills, a farm, a simple life and the road towards the light, always had my heart. So I decided to move here, freelance, commit to writing, travel, energy healing and to my spiritual arts venture, Iktomi.
On a beautiful morning, I could climb that snowy mountain sitting pretty under an umbrella of clouds, meditate or go an evening walk only to be stuck in traffic; with a herd of sheep. At any time, I can switch on my heart’s GPS without an internet connection. On another day, I could be sipping chai’s and listening to stories from grandmothers in the village. I have also learned to embrace the art of doing nothing and just be, one moment at a time. On days, I make that back-breaking, stomach churning ride on an HRTC state transport bus up a bumpy road to a nondescript village in the mountains. On a cold Himachali day, I make an important presentation – dancing to Himachali or Ladakhi folk songs. On the coldest Himachali day, I snuggle into a blanket or warm up by the Chulha (fireplace). On a Monday morning, I have meetings with mother earth; planting veggies on her or sweep the floor of our mud house with the turquoise hued ‘leune’ -a paste of cow dung and mud. On most days, my goals are to embrace joy and sharing that simple living brings.
Every single day, I appreciate the show put up by nature and feel grateful for these experiences. And every day, I have to share my time with our beloved baby goat ‘Chinna’, the dogs, sheep, rabbits and cows at my little Himachali home in Khirku..
What have been your most favourite cities to visit, and what have certainly been some of your least favourite cities to visit? Is there any such city or place you recommend avoiding?
Bombay and Bangalore would be my preferred choices. I would go with Bombay for its high vibe and spirit. I like Bangalore for its slowness and quiet corners. I would advice both men and women to be a little careful in Delhi though.
After visiting which place you started your blog?
Since the time I moved around the mountains, and the mountains moved me. The Tribal circuit of Himalayas (Lahaul, Spiti and Ladakh) was where it all began.. I was love-struck and deeply moved by the beautiful souls and stories I met with. My blog was merely a medium of expression. Till date, I share a story only if I feel like. I don’t feel pressured to post something because I have to keep up. I can say, travel happened to me much earlier than blogging.
Reflecting on life at Komic village in Spiti had a huge impact on me. These were the moments when my heart fluttered just as the Lungtas were adorning the Komic Gompa. This is where everything shifted inside me. I set out on a journey via the tribal circuit of Himachal after taking a sabbatical from my job. I was at Komic – the highest inhabited village in Spiti. The humble family that hosted me there asked me if I want a pair of Ammonites which they gathered high up in the forests. I accepted those ammonites since I was drawn to them. Those moments there, were life-changing, just being present at Komic village. Back then I didn’t trace the reason why I accepted those ammonites. Later on, when I began learning energy healing and was initiated into crystal healing, I understood that those ammonites were metaphysical treasures to have. Now when I feel deeply about these experiences, I am sure they happened for a purpose and I feel guided by the universe. I believe the ammonites and quartz chose to bring their blessings into my life and led me to my soul path. The light in these moments can only be realized through awareness and often seem illogical when narrated, and are real moments of magic.
I have always felt deeply about mountains, tribes, folk, art, spirituality, culture, mythology, and anthropology. I have been documenting folklore, culture, tribes and stories in the mountains. I share a deep love for these oral traditions and tales that have been preserved by ancestors and passed on from one generation to another. The beauty lies in the fact that these tales existed for generations, are deep rooted and made its way to us. I intend to keep exploring many more soulful stories.
Is blogging your profession or passion?
I started blogging about my travels so that I could share my stories and experiences. My blog was born out of passion and I love it that way. Sometimes people approach me for writing travel stories, but I only do work that I resonate with and have experienced myself. Travelling happened way before blogging. And I travelled a lot more than blogging about them for about nine years. I am still not a religious blogger. I post a story only if I feel like. My blog was merely a medium for expressing these stories I met with. There are so many experiences that haven’t been inked yet. But whatever stories happened, it was just the right time for them to be shared. I have always felt a deep connection to Himalayan mountains, tribes, folk, cultures and places. I feel it’s the love that got me closer to them. I have been documenting folklore and culture in the Himalayas. Overtime, I expanded to places outside Himalayas too. I am happy that this love only keeps growing and evolving.
I have been documenting folklore for my blog since I am mesmerized with the unheard tales passed on from one generation to another. Most of these stories can only be unearthed through oral history from the elders. They recreate the magic of yore and even defy logic. There’s so much magic we feel deeply in these moments that are beyond understanding; we rather accept it fully than question its existence. I have my heart open to these tales narrated by grandmothers, grandfathers, tribes and local folk who have preserved these tales in their hearts for years. Hence I trust that the light in these tales can only be amplified by inking them and sharing it with everyone.
By far, what has been your most popular blog post and what was it all about?
In 2010, I explored the remote villages in Turtuk, Batalik and Tso Moriri region of Ladakh. I was relying on local buses and hopping from one village to another. This journey was a complete exploration of culture and tribes of the upper Himalayas. I lived with the tribes of Turtuk, Batalik and nomadic villages of Tso Moriri. This gave me a deep insight on their cultures. I was deeply moved by the souls at Turtuk. One of the experiences that I still hold special is exploring the lives of the Brokpa Tribe of Dha-Hanu villages in Batalik region, Ladakh. In those beautiful moments with the tribe, I learnt a lot about their culture – especially the Bagbha sign language. My journey went on for months, and after a long interval, I penned down my experience in my diary. Many such stories remained inside my diary. Back then I was a shy blogger. After about a year and a half, I published my story on Brokpa Tribe on my blog. Whether it grew in popularity or not, this experience holds a special place in my heart.
How do you plan your budget diplomatically while travelling?
I always travel on a budget because I love it that way. Even on days when I can travel luxuriously, I ask myself ‘Is it absolutely necessary?’. And on days I feel like pampering myself, I am open to splurge a little bit. But travelling on a budget on local transport remains my favourite. All my journeys have been either on ‘Local Buses’, shared vehicles in a few cases or on foot. It’s also teaches you to manage your finances better, invest in what’s necessary and guarantees a raw yet beautiful experience of the place just the way it is. The perks: Since I go solo, I get the benefit of occupying the single seat next to the driver with a front window view on a Himachal State Transport Bus; and Chais on stopovers too. For the rough terrain, the government buses are safest as they have the most experienced drivers. The best part is I get to interact with locals too. About seven years ago, I was on a long haul bus hopping from one village to another. I made friends with a local family in the bus and was invited to stay over at their village. I just trusted my vibes, got off at the village and it was a humbling experience!
Can you imagine your life without travelling?
Certainly not! The universe will take me where I need to be. I completely trust and surrender to this magical process. After all, there is so much beauty to imagine than this question.
Any advice or tips for our readers please?
Find your own reason to travel. There are no rules. You need not care about labels, trends or stereotypes. Travel the way you love; to places that call you. Fret not; the destinations happen when the time is yours. You don’t need to go by a bucket list; there’s something extremely magical about not having one and staying open to exploring something unexpected. If you have one, that’s good too. What truly matters is your own reasons for travel and how you would love it to be.
Quitting your job to travel full time sounds like a dream, but nothing comes without a cost. In my experience, travelling helped me expand in spirit, learn, gave me clarity of purpose and adventure and changed my life but I have had tough moments too. It may not be the smartest, most responsible decision to leave my life behind to soul search but it was truly worth it. I should have planned better and saved more instead of jumping without thinking, but I learnt my lessons and picked up work to keep this lifestyle going. Today, I am doing what truly moves my soul and I am grateful that I am able to do what I love. So do ask yourself how much are you willing to sacrifice and what are you willing to give up? If you are willing to throw yourself completely into this, then don’t be afraid, take that leap of faith, research, save, and give this lifestyle a chance. You will never look back.
Be content and grateful; let the places call you and let your heart answer the call. I feel even a little bit of travel is a blessing and can be as transforming. Travelling on a budget is a great lesson on life. Use your common sense and be safe. Respect the local culture and point of view of locals. Always trust your vibes. And feel positive about the journey. Let go your inhibitions and judgements. Travelling sensibly and responsibly is at your discretion. It’s a beautiful and kind world out there, if you have the eyes and heart for it. An open heart is an asset.
Visit the Website : https://obsessivecompulsivetraveller.wordpress.com/