By Dhanusha Gokulan
Khaleej Times, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Pooja Dhiman quit a steady job at a leading advertising agency in Dubai, packed her backpack in mid-2016 and hasn’t looked back since.
In these days of Insta-travel, many of us travel vicariously through social media accounts of popular travelers and trekkers.
ut 29-year-old Indian national, adventurer and trekker Pooja Dhiman gave up looking at the world through her smartphone and leaped face-first into a world of travel and adventure.
A former advertising professional and alumni of American University of Dubai, Pooja quit a steady job at a leading agency in Dubai, packed her backpack in mid-2016 and hasn’t looked back since.
After traveling across 13 countries in Europe, South East Asia and the Subcontinent, Pooja is now a trek blogger and mountaineer certified by the Indian Army and continues to conquer her fears, one mountain in the Himalayan range at a time.
The travel so far…
She describes herself as a “solo backpacker, a Muay Thai boxer and a mountain goat”. Unlike regular travel, a wonderful romanticism is attached to Pooja’s travels. She has lived, worked small jobs, picked up new languages, and learned a martial art, along the way.
Khaleej Times caught up with Pooja for a chat, just after her return from the Kuari Pass Trek. Located 12,516ft above sea level in Uttarakhand, India, the Kuari Pass Trek is one of the easiest treks in the Himalayan mountain range. From the Markha Valley Trek in Ladakh to the Stok Kangri, the highest trekkable summit in India, she has traversed some of the most challenging and breathtaking mountains in the Himalayas.
“The plan was to see epic landscapes, sip tea with people you don’t have a language in common with, do odd jobs, never wake up to an alarm and stay away from the cities and the crowd (and selfie sticks),” she explained.
Pooja in the Himalayas
Pooja started her journey in Scandinavia (Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Faroe Islands, Sweden), then hopped around warmer countries along the Mediterranean (Portugal, Spain, Malta, Italy, Greece) before making her way to Asia. “I learned Muay Thai in Thailand for about five months, explored Cambodia and Sri Lanka and got trained by the Indian Army and became a certified mountaineer in India,” he added. She paid for her travels using her savings from her job in Dubai, and also earned money doing odd jobs on the go.
She has learned to make silver jewelry, paint houses, knit gloves, ride scooters and make soaps. “I worked as a painter in the Faroe Islands and had such an amazing volunteering experience. I also worked in Portugal for a few weeks for a small family-owned business. I stayed in a caravan in their garden and worked as a painter,” she added.
How the journey began
Back in 2012, Pooja remembers having a conversation with a friend about traveling. “For fun, we made a plan of countries we’d visit if we were to travel for six months straight. It sounded amazing. Of course, we forgot about it the next day, but I still have a picture of the tissue paper, with the list of countries in it,” she said.
However, in April 2016, she packed her bags and just decided to travel for six months. Eyes brimming with excitement, Pooja said: “I wanted to travel because I didn’t like the person I was becoming. I wanted to tie myself to different threads that connected me to strange heartbeats. I wanted to see all the colors the sky and the sea had to offer.” She added: “I wanted to sit on top of a cliff and have a boiled egg. I wanted to climb a mountain and not feel my nose. I wanted to chase chickens, not a career.”
‘The world is not a horrible place’
Pooja has traveled several thousand miles on her own but has never felt alone. “A lot of people did say that the idea of traveling full-time with no future job security was silly. My co-workers and family were concerned for my safety. I’m stubborn and didn’t listen to anyone,” she said. Though she didn’t intend to stay in India for so long, she said: “The Himalayas stole my heart.
“The world is not a scary place. I had thought the best part of my trip would be the landscapes, but it was actually the people I met along the way and their big massive hearts,” she added. Pooja’s journey can be found on Instagram, under the handle @thismadmadworld and details of her adventures at www.bikatadventures.com/Home/Author/120173