This solo traveller's hunger for adventure knows no end

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Photo: prakritivarshney.in
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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."

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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.

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I won't say I am only concerned about the people of the valley; of their safety and well being. No, because this will be a lie. Just like the J&K Governor had to lie before this storm. It is still piercing my heart that the valley is in danger to a terror attack and they've shut down everything. The people of Kashmir are silent, but will they forever be? I don't know. I wish they don't resent. All I pray is peace, love and a little bit of compassion towards all. The hate doesn't end with hate like the war never ends with war. It all, always, comes to an end after understanding and mutual agreements. But in today's time, when India takes a big step to land on the Moon, the leaders of our country take two steps backwards in serving as the largest democracy. You know why? Think about the days when you and your family members had to stand in lines for hours in the name of demonetization, for your own hard-earned money. Remember they said, it is for the betterment of the country? And they had to answer to no one, whatsoever! India stands as the 7th largest economy, slipping from being the 5th largest economy of the world. That was the start to the end of our democracy. Talking of today's statement. J&K was in the boundaries of India but it was a separate state with special priveledges. It is an autocratic behaviour of the govt that has abolished the special status after developing such tense conditions and keeping citizens of J&K oblivious to their future. I may be wrong but it seems like what China did to Tibet in 1960s. And all along we've stated that China did wrong. If you are among the rare ones, then thanks for sticking by, understanding about the situation and being with Kashmir in its tough time. My heart cries, and I can't think of sleep for nights to come. I hold no answers to you for not being able to align with my opinions. I wish you knew what it feels to take away your pride. I have all the rights to utilise my space here, after all, I have the right to speak. Do I or will it be gone someday, overnight? #PrayforKashmir #KashmirBleeds #StandforKashmir

A post shared by Prakriti Varshney 🇮🇳 (@itisinthename) on

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.

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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.

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