Tuesday, September 24, 2013

40 days with Spiti-Ecosphere

Volunteer travel and Ecosphere – I came across these words for the first time on the 21st of April’2013 in an article in Times of India. I remember this day well, as I was preparing to travel to Chennai that night and take the ship to Andaman Islands the next day (for a beginner scuba diving course). I was planning for a travel break around this time and the concept of volunteer travel caught my attention. I eventually started my travel on July 31st and reached Kaza mid- August (after 2 weeks in Ladakh). I was all set to spend close to a month and a half in Spiti valley with Ecosphere.
View of Kaza from Kaza-Komic trail
Between July 21st and August 14th, I did some basic online research about Ecosphere, had a couple of mail/phone interactions with them to discuss my plans. If one questions me as to what was I expecting from this volunteer stint, the honest answer is that I was preparing myself not to have any expectations, but just absorb the experiences as they come along. In hindsight, I cannot think of a better approach than this. 

So, on the 14th of August, I met the voices behind the phone calls- Sunil Chauhan and Ishita Khanna, the co-founders of Ecosphere. We briefly discussed what work options are available for me during my stay. Given my limited skill set, am sure it would have been a puzzle for them to assign me the right task and get something productive out of me. But, fortunately, things fell in place and between August 15th and the time of writing this article, I had the chance to work on the Pocket guide for Spiti, build this blog and submit a couple of posts and be a part of the solar installations that happened in the first 2 weeks of September (my previous blog post Spreading Sun's blessings around Spiti on the same). Without a doubt, it was an amazing experience and am extremely glad that it turned out the way it did. I cannot help but ask the question, what made this volunteer stint so special? Is it the work or the work atmosphere or the place or something else? I will make an attempt at analyzing and understanding these factors.
Komic Village
Firstly, I would say, it is the people who made it special. The Ecosphere founders and the staff are some of the smartest and sweetest people I can think of. One has to meet them to appreciate the joy of working with a close knit team. Add to this, the opportunity to meet some inspiring and interesting travellers and volunteers at Ecosphere. Of course, the hospitable Spitians complete the loop. Second has to be the place. Nature is possibly in one of her most majestic forms in this cold desert region and time and again she surprises you with her sheer charm and beauty. The few pictures I have added to the article would stand testimony to this statement. Third would be the strong values and ethics at Ecosphere and how they are tied to the everyday work here, either directly or indirectly. It is refreshingly different from a typical corporate setup where the vision/mission and the actual practices are miles apart. And of course, how can I miss mentioning the frequent dinner treats and the daily sumptuous lunch in the office. If you are lucky, you might also taste delicious office-made cakes/chocolates!! Well, is this my comprehensive and final analysis and understanding? Am actually not sure. The fact is that the experience has been quite overwhelming and am still in the process of absorbing it. One thing for sure is that Spiti and Ecosphere have given me more than what I expected and definitely more than what I deserved. Even for a moment, if I think the other way, could easily rate it as one of my dumbest thoughts.

Now, if one questions me, if there are any flaws that I observed, frankly I don’t know. There have been so many positive experiences to absorb and learn that there was hardly any time and energy to ponder over the negatives. Not to say that everything is perfect over here, but the imperfections can be easily ignored. So, if you are thinking about travelling to Spiti and volunteering with Ecosphere, my humble suggestion is to stop thinking further. Instead, focus on booking your tickets and packing your stuff. 

It is highly likely that this article might get lost and go unnoticed among the gigabytes of content on the internet. But, also there is that little hope that this might be the first step towards someone’s journey to Spiti-Ecosphere, just like the article in Times of India was my first step towards this memorable journey.

About the author : This post is by one of our volunteers, Madhan from Bangalore, who volunteered with Ecosphere from mid-August to end-September'2013. You can also visit his blog sharedmusings86.


  1. Having seen spiti and meeting ecosphere team albeit for only a week, i van completely understand the overwhelming feeling. Thanks for the post

  2. Very nice of you Madan... I need to know the full story around this.. Tried to call you some time ago on collecting your contact from your parents, but could not reach you. Please connect me if it is possible @ singampalli2002@yahoo.com - Subbu