Monsoon, Mountains, and Chance Encounters with the Dalai Lama

Back in April when I booked my round-trip plane tickets to and from India I consciously set aside some time after my internship ended to travel the country. I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go, but I figured that I should spend some time exploring if I was going to go halfway around the world. Unlike some of the other CASI interns, Bevan and I weren’t able to travel on weekends due to our very rural location and single days off. Thus, I was super excited that I’d get to spend 11 days traveling throughout India post-internship. Unfortunately, Bevan had to go home earlier than I did and thus I spent most of my time traveling alone.


Initially, I felt both nervous and excited about the prospect of traveling alone in a foreign country. I did a lot of research and asked around to everyone I knew to come up with ideas of where to go. As late July/early August is smack in the middle of monsoon season, it really isn’t the ideal time to explore most of India. So when one of my coworkers suggested visiting Leh, which is in the Indian Himalayas and receives almost no rain as a cold desert, I was immediately intrigued. I also love the outdoors and had always dreamed of trekking in the Himalayas so I decided Leh was the place for me. Bevan and I subsequently decided to spend her 3 free days exploring Mumbai so I went ahead and booked tickets from Indore to Mumbai to Leh to Delhi (from which I was flying home to the US).


I honestly couldn’t begin to describe my travels in this short blog so I’m just going to include some pictures and highlights:

  • Exploring southern Mumbai on foot with other CASI interns (and experiencing the reverse culture shock of being back in a city with modern amenities)
  • Hiking up a mountain to a fort in the outskirts of Mumbai with Bevan complete with hardcore monsoon showers
  • Exploring the city of Leh on foot (+ randomly getting to see the Dalai Lama!!!)
  • Visiting Pangong Tso lake (a super beautiful clear blue lake on the Tibet/China border)
  • Trekking in the Himalayas in Hemis National Park!!! (most unreal landscapes ever)
    • The hardest hiking I’ve done in my entire life as I literally could not breathe, summited two 4900m passes and hiked around 13 miles a day
    • With the best guide ever (Ishey) from the only all female guiding company in Ladakh!! She was also the only female guide I met the whole time I was trekking.
    • Met the coolest people from all over the world while staying at traditional Ladakhi homestays in the mountains that are only accessible by foot
  • Exploring Delhi and staying at an awesome hostel
  • Visiting the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and the baby Taj on a day trip to Agra from Delhi


Overall the two weeks were simply amazing. I am SO glad that I had the experience of traveling alone. Although I had to be more cautious (especially as a solo female traveler who didn’t speak the language) traveling alone also gave me a sense of independence, a whole lot of personal reflection time and allowed me to be more open to meeting new people (when it felt safe). I now can’t wait for my next solo traveling adventure!


Please check out the hundreds of pictures from all of my travels here:


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About Geneva Gondak

I am a rising junior in the College of Arts & Sciences majoring in Environmental Studies with a concentration in Policy & Application. This summer I will be interning at Samaj Pragati Sahayog in Bagli, Madhya Pradesh.