Towards the end of the monsoon season in 2022, we set out for one of the most stunning and treacherous hikes in the Western Ghats.
The route took us through an old forest brimming with butterflies, then turned unexpectedly slippery. Water gushed over the mossy rocks we were to climb. As we walked up streams still in full flow, I held on to stray branches to try to find my footing. With hardly a dry patch, I slipped multiple times, sometimes landing on my butt and sometimes on my knees.
Bruised and battered, we finally arrived at our destination: A majestic waterfall that cascaded several meters down a hill, and created an inviting pool of pure spring water below!
When I think of 2022, I think of that waterfall hike. It started out beautifully, but the route became unexpectedly challenging. I slipped and fell, bruised myself, but ultimately arrived at a new destination.
Reflecting on the year’s highlights and lowlights has become a ritual on this blog now (10 years and counting!). Here’s 2022 with all its joys and challenges:
Highlights of 2022
Living for a month on the stunning and remote Robinson Crusoe Island
After two years of grounding myself during the pandemic, I was ecstatic – and if I’m totally honest, nervous – to have the opportunity to spend a month on Robinson Crusoe, a remote island several hundred kilometers off the coast of Chile.
For over 5 weeks on the island, I bonded with the beautiful local community and fellow Work for Humankind participants. We were introduced to the incredible biodiversity of the archipelago (more diverse than even the Galapagos!), hung out with the endemic Juan Fernandez Fur Seals in the Pacific waters, and witnessed species extinction up close (a terribly overwhelming feeling). That experience stirred something deep within me, that I still find hard to articulate in words.
Also read: To Chile, With Love
Hanging up my nomadic boots
If someone had told me before 2020 that I’d one day see this as a highlight in my year, I would’ve laughed. But look how the tables have turned!
I’ve been skirting the challenge of balancing long term travel with environmental impact for a long time – but always felt like I was made for the road. After my time on Robinson Crusoe, I went through a rather strange time. It was a period of mild depression, climate anxiety, and a deep sadness about the commercialization of travel. I felt like I could no longer visualize a future doing what I’ve done for the past decade.
The pandemic had already shown me that it was possible to find some sort of contentment living close to nature in one place. That was out of circumstance, but now, it’s out of choice.
It’s still very much work in progress, but I’m surprisingly glad to report that after 7 years on the road, I’m no longer living a nomadic life.
Also read: Why I’m no longer travelling full time
Healing in the Uttarakhand Himalayas
During that time of internal turmoil this year, I reluctantly boarded a shared taxi to a place that has long felt like home – Sarmoli, in the Kumaon Himalayas of Uttarakhand.
Those mountains, so close to where I grew up and yet so far in some ways, offered me much-needed time, space and freedom to grow out of my funk.
But more than that, I felt incredibly grateful for the friendship, acceptance, warmth and resilience of the local mountain community, who’ve inspired me and my ways ever since our paths crossed back in 2016.
E-biking across the Swiss Alps
I’ve been lucky enough time to spend time in the Slovenian, Austrian and Swiss Alps over the past few years. But in 2022, my partner and I were invited by Switzerland Tourism to test out their latest “Swisstainable” offering – a week long, self-guided, e-bike journey across the Alpine wilderness of Central Switzerland.
We spent a blissful week amid Switzerland’s rugged karst mountains, huffing up some of its highest Alpine passes, and riding through timeless Swiss villages. The Swiss aren’t the friendliest bunch (even on the countryside!), but the pristine blue lakes, mist-clad peaks, ancient churches, gushing rivers and streams, and wildflower-filled meadows kept us unforgettable company.
Experiencing the midnight sun in the Arctic
There are some things on our planet that are beyond words and photos – and experiencing the phenomenon of the midnight sun in the Arctic is one of them.
Determined to keep our flying footprint low, we embarked on a (very long!) train adventure to cover 8000+ kilometers – crossing Switzerland, Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, the North Sea and the Arctic Circle.
It was scenic and exhausting in equal measures, but Vaeroy, one of the smaller Lofoten Islands, took our breaths away. We went hiking at 11 pm under a pink sunset sky, cooked midnight meals with bright light pouring in through the windows, stayed in the Airbnb of a sweet Norwegian couple, cycled at 1:00 AM just because we could, and slept with eye masks! What a feeling.
A new journey with Climate Conscious Travel
While visiting the stunning Queulat glacier – a hanging glacier suspended between two mountain ridges – in Chilean Patagonia last year, I was surprised that no one brought up climate change and its impact on glaciers across the region, until I began to probe.
What a missed opportunity to engage a captive audience, and create awareness about the climate emergency that is upending our lives around the world!
I decided to launch Climate Conscious Travel a few months later – an impact consultancy where I’m working with the tourism industry to integrate community-centric climate action in tourism offerings.
There are some exciting projects lined up already: A global storytelling platform that makes it easy for traveller to discover ideas on sustainable travel in the world’s most exciting cities, through the lens of those who call these cities home. Carbon neutral trips for a tourism enterprise in Southeast Asia. A grassroots digital storytelling fellowship for tourism-dependent Himalayan communities, with a focus on climate change. And lots more.
Things have been moving so overwhelmingly fast, that I’m ready to hire my first intern. If you’re a student (or a very recent graduate) who feels passionate about sustainable travel and storytelling, learn more about the internship here.
Lowlights of 2022
I went through the pandemic believing with all my heart, that those two years were going to change the way we travel. That we would emerge from those unprecedented times with deeper appreciation for nature, and a strong desire to protect it.
I guess the pandemic did change travel – but mostly in the wrong ways.
From Kashmir to Europe, I was awestruck by the state of mindless revenge travel. Of course, we all felt the pent-up frustration. But what I couldn’t wrap my head around was the intensity with which people scrambled to overrun the same popular spots, and treat destinations as mere Instagram backdrops.
The responsible travel promises of the pandemic rarely made it out of the virtual world, as destinations, businesses and travellers rushed to get back to “normal” – no matter how much “normal” sucked.
Wherever I went, I couldn’t help but wonder if my being there, especially as a travel writer, was doing more harm than good.
My entire personal and professional existence felt shaken – and ultimately paved the way for a new chapter. I’m excited to turn its pages, and as always, invite you to come with me.
What were the highlights and lowlights of 2022 for you? How do you think travelling has changed?
Welcome to my blog, The Shooting Star. I’ve been called a storyteller, writer, photographer, digital nomad, “sustainability influencer,” social entrepreneur, solo traveller, vegan, sustainable tourism consultant and environmentalist. But in my heart, I’m just a girl who believes that travel – if done right – has the power to change us and the world we live in.