In a century where women are defying societal stereotypes, a young Indian girl treks free across mountains to camp alone under stars. Marriage is a common question to young adults but Prakriti Varshney, like Jane Austen once wrote, has chosen mountains over men and is in a content relationship with travel.
A freelance travel blogger, now living in Manali, her love for fashion changed boots after a life-changing trip to Spiti Valley in Himachal Pradesh.
As her profile on social media reads, Prakriti travels solo in India and feels safe in India having covered Leh-ladakh, Nagaland's Dzukou Valley, Basar in Arunachal Pradesh, Spiti Valley in Himachal Pradesh, Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, and Meghalaya among many others. In her own words, she was working a nine-to-five job and living a very monotonous life in Delhi until she decided to travel to Himachal during her first job with a start-up. "That trip to Spiti with my friends changed my perspective and made me recognise my worth, to be free."
In a blog titled 'How Travel killed my Fashion Passion,' she reveals her transition from a teenager desiring a successful career to quitting it to traverse mountain ranges, starting in January 2017.
Prakriti has also started the 'Back in Time Hostel' in Manali. It is a haven for those seeking tranquillity and peace in nature. Visitors can lounge around the breathtaking view of misty, damp mountains or adventure on some thrilling treks to places not commercially popularised.
Posing alongside indigenous headhunters in Longwa village of Nagaland to hitchhiking for days on end with her dogs under the stars in a tent, Prakriti Varshney's unquenchable thirst for freedom and undousable love for nature transcends all stereotypes. Prakriti who now lives in Hamta, Manali, was born in Allahabad and promotes a wild passion for sustainable travel and encourages everybody to live a sensitive lifestyle.
"To save the planet and our own lives we have to think about what we do and how it will impact nature. I stopped eating maggi because not only does it harm my body but its mere production is harmful to the environment. Plastic packaging is the worst." she says.
In a country like India where many women are still often chaperoned and caged inside their homes with curfew, Prakriti feels a switch in mindsets is imperative to keep up with change. A strong personality who does exactly what she wants, she opines that society must change in order to pace itself with current times and thought.
"Society has never seen a woman travel, let alone solo... Women today are much more powerful and have the opportunity to do anything as much and sometimes more than men. It's called an evolution and I'm happy I get to play a small part," she says.
She goes by the handle 'It is in the name' on social media and admits that there are setbacks, recollecting how she once lost all her expensive equipment after months of hitch-hiking in Meghalaya
On Instagram she recounts in a post her anguish when she encountered landslides at Pin Parvati Pass, Himachal Pradesh with her porter, and dog Mario. She writes, "My porter asked me a thousand times to let him (Mario) find his way through outrageous water crossings (sic) because it was dangerous to do so carrying him. Perhaps I knew if I would let him on his own, I might lose him..." Thankfully, all three of them made it to safety without casualty.
Travel did not only instil in her a confidence and love for herself but also sensitised her towards other people and nature. A self-claimed introvert, Prakriti vouches for Spiti Valley in Himachal Pradesh and Basar in Arunachal Pradesh as extremely safe for solo women travellers. She touches on several basics, including 'five things she carries in her bag' to insightful posts and tips for budget-friendly smart travel. Her blog site includes detailed accounts of all her travels and mountain musings that "you (women) need to give it back when required" to defend oneself.
Loved and respected for her blunt personality and fearless nature, supported by family, friends and admirers she says backlash does not affect her, though she has received none till now. "Society does not count for me, I don't care for or listen to unwanted opinion. People have always loved me for what I do, say, and present. I am very strong and upfront and fear nothing. I love to learn and raise my voice against what is wrong," says Prakriti Varshney.
She is of the strong belief that "a woman can be strong on her own if she knows how to embrace it. I have been an independent woman, not without struggles, but I am more than content standing alone. Be strong for yourself and the world will follow!"
Follow Prakriti on prakritivarshney.in or itisinthename on Instagram.