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Trip Leader Sakshi Pant shares her experience of being a trip leader for OHOT

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So here’s a story of a girl who went on a trip, realized that travelling is what makes her happy, couldn’t think about anything else after coming back and quit her job to travel full time. Sounds familiar? I know, we have heard so many stories like this. And I am not saying that my story is unique. I just want you to enjoy it as much as I liked sharing it.

Like any other Indian kid, travelling for me was yearly family trips during summer holidays. And given that my father loves spontaneity, none of those trips were planned which made travelling a lot more exciting. As I grew up, I started to travel with my friends. We were young, in college, and quite broke. But we did take a trip to Goa (coz Dosti Gehri thi) and cruised through Rajasthan.

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A post shared by Sakshi Pant (@saksh.ii)

I have always loved to explore new places but travelling full time was not something I had even dreamt about. A decent job in IT (Oh I forgot to tell you – I am an engineer), hanging out with friends during weekends and a trip every couple of months seemed like quite a great deal at the time. I travelled solo too and loved every bit of it. Every time I came back, I yearned for more. I read about far off places, and imagined myself there. I read about early explorers, and often thought how they must have felt after discovering a country or a continent no one even knew about. I was happy in my dream world.

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And it was during my browsing phase that I stumbled upon a Tripoto interview with Neeraj Narayanan, a guy who had left his job and had started “On His Own Trip”. The idea of a group trip with strangers had never crossed my mind but after reading some of the posts and looking at the happy pictures, I was definitely intrigued. It was May 2016 when I travelled to Meghalaya with 20 strangers, and I am not exaggerating when I say that trip changed my life.

We ran on mountains, sat under waterfalls, danced wherever we could, clicked hundreds of selfies and laughed a lot. We hardly slept during those seven days. Nights were meant to play games and share stories and as the days passed by, everyone in the group got super close. You know how beautiful the trip was when you see people crying at the airport and refusing to leave. The farewell was hard but I could not believe how much it affected me. I could not believe that the people whom I didn’t know a week back would leave such a huge impact on me. I went back to my office, told some fun anecdotes to my friends, shared the pictures over social media and tried to settle in the routine. But I couldn’t shake it off. It was an unusual feeling that was making me restless. I missed Meghalaya, but more than that I missed the people. And yes, I was hooked. I went back and travelled to Tawang, Kashmir and Himachal with OHOT and some of the most amazing people. So now, the plan was to save enough money and leaves to travel as much as possible with On His own Trip. Simple right? Wait, there has to be a magical twist in the story. Neeraj asked me to lead a trip for him. That was never in the plan but how can you say no to something as exciting as that.

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I led my first trip to Kasol and Bunbuni in June 2018 and there was no looking back. I started trip leading as a part time job but in my heart I always knew this is what makes me happy. I quit my job after a couple of months and went into trip leading full time, and it has been the best decision of my life. In the last three years, I have led 38 trips across India and Southeast Asia. Sometimes, it feels like a happy blur and at other times, I smile on remembering one particular moment or a person. I have travelled to some of the most stunning places and I have done that with awestruck strangers. I have seen people conquering their fears – from climbing a mountain, to crossing dark caves or diving into the ocean. I have jumped with joy with someone who has just seen their first snowfall. I have cycled an entire island to find the perfect spot for sunrise. I have celebrated countless birthdays of trippers and tried to make each of them a little more special. From star gazing near Pangong Lake to the karaoke session in Bhutan, every experience is unique and has shaped me into the person that I am today.

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A post shared by Sakshi Pant (@saksh.ii)

I also consider myself extremely lucky as I get so much love on the road and I am blessed to have met the most amazing people on these trips. One time our group was stuck in a landslide while travelling to Spiti. The vehicle could not move for three hours, but instead of getting restless we decided to give a dance performance to the crowd.  Twenty people dancing on Bollywood numbers on road – it was crazy. Within minutes, other people joined us too and we created an impromptu party in the mountains. I was leading trips to Kashmir and Sri Lanka when the bomb blasts of Pulwama and Colombo happened. They were unfortunate incidents but with the help of the locals and my amazing trippers, I was able to execute all the plans without any hassle. Today, some of my closest friends are the people I met on the trips.

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I always thought that I would be doing a 9 to 5 job, chill with my friends and family during weekends and would save enough to travel every few months. I never knew how amazing it would feel to meet old trippers and hug them like long last friends. That people would actually cancel their flight tickets and extend the trip is something I never imagined. Exploring different places was always the plan but I had never thought how sharing these experiences with someone would feel like. It has been almost three years since I left my job and started leading trips, and I cannot imagine myself doing any other thing right now.

For more travel tales and adventures follow Trip Leader Sakshi Pant on Instagram @saksh.ii!

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