Everyone makes life-changing decisions. I’ve made a few myself but the one I am about to share is closest to my heart.
I had this dream to travel across the whole country without having to spend a dime. In order to do so, I planned to barter my life-force in exchange for grasping our beautiful country with my senses.
Setting out with a flag of India, a pre-historic Nokia phone, and a heart filled with hope and faith in humanity
Murphy's law says "Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong." Well, it applies to travelers as well! I was excited to set foot in Spiti after 65 days, a place which took me over two-and-a-half days to reach by hitchhiking through the world’s most treacherous routes via Indo-Tibetan Borders.
As a traveler on cashless travel, my priority was to find food and shelter. And to find them, I ended up investing a lot of my time! I was initially referred to a hostel by my friend’s brother. But the person with whom I concurred with was not present there at the time. I spoke to the other management and partners of the space, and they said they couldn’t accommodate me nor could they give me much work.
So instead, they referred me to this Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) called "Spiti Ecosphere”. I reached the place on foot and spoke to the staff. They owned a café (Sol Café) in the main bazaar and also a restaurant (Taste of Spiti) with homestay accommodation. I felt that arriving at Ecosphere was the chance of certainty.
As a lost traveler, I went into Sol Café and met with a humble, passionate, and kind lady, Ishita Khanna - the founder of Spiti Ecosphere.' I shared my story with her and she decided to help me out with no hesitation! She gave me the opportunity to contribute to various Ecosphere projects and initiatives.
I found myself with food, shelter and to barter for it, enough work to tire myself over the day. From photography, cooking, painting the walls of the buildings, and housekeeping - I did it all! They gave me the tools and I gave back with whatever skills and manpower I could.
There was a great deal of work, fun, and laughter. People jokingly began calling me “cashless” for obvious reasons – and the nickname seemed to stick…
I spent 18 days there and I realized that life is much simpler at Spiti Ecosphere. It was my first time working for an NGO, and I felt alive and focused like never before.
During my stay, I learned about sustainable traveling, which means leaving zero waste and negative impact during traveling, while contributing positively to the nature, economy, and culture of a place instead.
Daily life was simple there. I would get up in the morning, freshen up, have breakfast, do any work which needed to be done, have a pleasant walk in the evening with the manager, have some snacks, visit another hostel and occasionally catch up with some friends.
On my way back, I would stop and stare at the unbelievable Spiti night sky, even when the temperature was freezing! Every once in a while, if luck would have it, I experienced fresh snow falling on top of me.
During my stay there, I captured the interest of many people in the restaurant and café. Of all the travel stories they had heard, mine turned out to be the most amusing! I had a great time meeting and chatting with them each evening!
Looking back on those days of #missioncashlesstravel - especially now during lockdown - made me realize how it was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life! And who knows when I will be able to experience such unforgettable and spontaneous adventures again!
Ishita Khanna, Norbu sir, Takpa, Lobzang, Nawang, and Neema - thank you all for your kindness. I will always be grateful to everyone in Spiti and my Spiti Ecosphere family.
About the Author: Abhitej, a.k.a Cashless a.k.a Teja, traveled to Spiti and into our lives exactly 3 years ago, with the lines “I was told you will be able to help me”. But in truth, it was Abhitej who gave back to us and to Spiti a thousand times more. Here's hoping our paths cross again!