After a wonderful start to my month in Manali, the last few days were filled with seeing more sites and getting to know the community even more. My days were very much “go with the flow” as unexpected events unfolded, leading to a slight change in plans in my volunteering gig that I’ll share more below. 🙂
Day 16: Hadimba Devi Temple + exploring Old Manali
After being social the last few days and starting my new hostel job, I was looking forward to some “me time” today. I decided to explore more of Manali on foot, starting with the Hadimba Devi Temple. The Hindu temple was a beautiful wooden structure and over 400 years old.
Afterward, I headed down the hill to explore Old Manali. Old Manali has a quaint vibe with more Tibetan influences. It was filled with western eateries and seemed more like a chill backpacker spot versus New Manali which was more for families.
Old Manali sits next to a gorgeous freshwater stream – almost every hotel/restaurant had lovely riverside views.
I had lunch by the river – I usually am in and out of restaurants in <30 minutes, but I chilled here for 2 hours. Working at a hostel requires a LOT of socializing, and even as an extrovert, I appreciated the time to recharge. 🙂
The rest of the day was a series of events that prompted me to make some changes. As I mentioned in my last post, I started volunteering at a Nomadic Den Hostel in Manali. Long story short, I decided to move to another hostel next door called Wrong Address Hostel. Without getting too much in the weeds, it essentially came down to the management and poor living conditions. I felt like the working environment was negative and chaotic, and the hostel infrastructure was not set up for volunteers, let alone guests (e.g. I couldn’t get a towel and shower for 3 days…). I had spoken up about my concerns, but I ultimately concluded the situation was likely not going to get better during my limited time in Manali.
Since I was having doubts about Nomadic, I had been spending a lot of time at Wrong Address and absolutely loved the vibe there. There was so much positivity when I walked in the door, and I saw a lot of potential in the business – it felt like a better place to invest my time. I befriended the manager at Wrong Address, named Chetan, and explained my situation. Chetan was so supportive and offered me a free bed, and I offered my help back.
There was some tension around my departure, but I’m proud of myself for having the courage to speak up and have these difficult conversations (something the old me would not have done). I’m very much on good terms with most of the old staff at Nomadic, and we still see each other frequently (it’s a small village 🙂 ). During my few days at Wrong Address, I feel a stronger sense of peace and my spirits are higher.
Day 17: day hike
The next morning started off with coffee at the corner store. Love getting to know more people in the village as everyone has been so welcoming to me.
I hung out at my new hostel for the rest of the morning, getting to know the property and readjusting to this new gig. It felt like starting over again but I was grateful. I talked to Chetan about what he needed help with and how I could be useful. Trying to make some structure out of a very unstructured situation. 🙂 Overall, Chetan has been super supportive and has given me space to chill and adjust the last few days, while also laying out the projects I would be working on the next few weeks.
In the afternoon, Shivam and I went for a hike. He took me on a moderate hike that started in the village and then went through the mountains. It wasn’t as challenging as the Lion Rock hike but still got my heart pumping. Shivam is an interesting, well-traveled person with great stories – the hike flew by as we chatted away. I’m also grateful for his support of my departure as he was the original person who took me on at Nomadic. I certainly see him as a friend and confidant in Manali.
Beautiful view of New Manali from this trail.
After the hike, I hung out at the hostel in the evening.
Day 18: breakfast in the village + sulfur hot springs
The next morning, Subhash (photographer for Nomadic Den) and I had a little morning adventure. I noticed he brought fresh milk to the hostel each day, so I basically invited myself over to his home to see their cow. I love working with farm animals, but I didn’t have experience with cows, so I was interested in seeing theirs.
I mentioned previously that the two hostels are located up the hill from Manali in a village called Nasogi Village. The village community has made this experience for me so far. Subhash showed me his house, and it was my first time seeing inside a village house. It was a modest house with a kitchen, 2 rooms, and a bathroom outside. All his family members slept in the same room on floor mats. I loved the simple floor seating arrangement and cozy vibes.
Then I met their family cows. Subhash’s wife showed me how to milk one.
Subhash and his wife were so welcoming. They fed me a delicious breakfast and treated me like family.
After breakfast, I headed back to Wrong Address and stopped by the corner store along the way. One of the village “uncles” owns this place, and he invited me in to hang out. The corner store seemed to be the place to hang out, as all the villagers stop by at one point in the day. He recruited me to run his store, but I think I’ll stick with my hostel gig. 😛
As hostel life goes, events unfolded after talking with some guests, and we decided to take a spontaneous adventure to the hot springs. The hot springs are more a local activity, and the sulfur in the water is believed to have healing powers. I was expecting a spot in nature, but it ended up being a facility with a large bathtub + water from the natural springs. I kept an open mind and went for it.
Once we got in the water, it felt SO nice. Especially since it was cold and rainy outside. The sulfur smell was faint, but it gave the water a special quality. Locals had told us that we would feel “lighter” after the experience, and I definitely did. I’m always open to homeopathic remedies, and I could see why the hot springs are regarded as a healing source.
Puppies outside the bathhouse made my life.
Day 19: chill day
After several activities and transitions the past few days, I chilled around Manali today. I took a walk to New Manali, hung out with the guests at Wrong Address, and worked on this blog post. 🙂
Despite the turbulence the last few days, my spirits are high. I’m grateful to be in a better situation, and I feel like it will only get better from here. The good moments have far outweighed the negative over the last few days, and I know everyone around me has good intentions which has helped me stay positive. I’ve also been overwhelmed with support from my new friends (as the only foreigner here, it feels like the whole village is invested in making me feel comfortable).
This whole gap year is about taking life by the reigns and fighting for happiness, and being in this headspace gave me the courage to handle this difficult situation. Despite things not working out the way I expected, travel is teaching me to be flexible and make the most of what I’m facing.