This is the story of a young woman’s journey to the Everest Base Camp!
Despite a limited trekking experience, she aced her journey – one that is sure to inspire even the hoi polloi to realize impossible dreams and prove that limitations exist only in mind.
Saachi Dhillon, who originally hails from Chandigarh embarked on a 130-km long maiden trek, which she has brought out in her book, ‘Dreaming of Everest’ that was released recently.
In our cover story, Saachi, a traveler and adventurer who has been to over 22 countries speaks to Tricity Scoop about the book and her travels.
Tell us more about your latest book, Dreaming of Everest.
Dreaming of Everest is my debut book. It’s about the experience of traveling to the Everest base camp in 2019. It was a phenomenal life-changing experience that led me to write the book in the first place. I was just overwhelmed with the natural beauty all around me and being surrounded by one of the highest mountains in the world. Ama Dablam, one of the mountains, also known as the Matterhorn of the Himalayas caught my attention because I was walking along with Ama Dablam for most of the trek and of course, Everest. The first time I saw it, I was overwhelmed and I was literally in tears because I have been dreaming of going to Everest. Seeing it with my own eyes was an incredible experience and nothing can describe it. I trained hard for this trek and this was my first ever high-altitude trek so for six months I did all sorts of cardio, strength, and conditioning. I ran up 19 stories to my apartment in Gurgaon because I wanted to prepare my lungs, and increase my lung capacity to be able to walk and survive in the thin air, so that helped. But of course, things don’t go as they are planned so it was not an easy journey and it’s challenging because of the distances you have to cover between 8-12 kilometers in a day, plus the altitude gains every day, the inclement weather right from crazy winds to hail to snow. You name it and we have experienced it all. There are very limited food options as you go higher and higher and it becomes expensive. It was a great learning experience as well, not only physically but mentally as well. I did fall sick somewhere 3 days before reaching the base camp. It was difficult as I was down with fever, cold, and cough. I had to keep going and the book is about inspiring people to go for their own Everest (goal) and hope people like reading the book. A lot of good reviews are coming and I am looking forward to planning my new adventure.
Take us through your travel adventures across 22 countries.
I have traveled to some amazing places and met some really warm people from different parts of the world. I have experienced some delicious food and hospitality, whether it is at people’s homes, B&B, hotels, or even street food for that matter. This goes all the way from Zorbing in New Zealand in the South Island to wine tasting in Tuscany, to stories around a bonfire with locals, cycling amidst paddy fields in rural Vietnam, to ATV riding in Cambodia. I have experienced varied places and of course, had some adventure on these different trips across the world and even to the base of the highest mountain, Everest in Nepal. So there have been some memorable trips for me.
When was your first travel experience? Tell us more about it!
My first travel experience was an international one and that was the first time I sat on a flight and I was going to visit my aunt in New Zealand. This is when I was in college and it was quite an interesting experience. I was on a long-haul flight with a stopover in Singapore, where we did get stuck for a day so I went on a little sightseeing tour by myself. That was quite interesting while my parents were a little worried since I was traveling alone too internationally. I had a nice time and that’s where it started from. Just the freedom of exploring a new place brought the travel bug alive in me back then. New Zealand was amazing, so beautiful, and so untouched, especially at that time. We had taken a road trip both across the south and the north island so from beautiful mountains, to beautiful beaches to culture, it has it all and of course beautiful nature. There were times when we would go hours without seeing any people but we would come across a lot of sheep, so that was pretty interesting for me.
How do you strike a balance between your professional life and your wanderlust?
Luckily, I work for a company where storytelling and exploration are an intrinsic part of what we do so it pretty much coincides with my interest and passion for travel. Of course time off is very difficult when it is a very busy period whenever we have upcoming projects but I do always keep time for myself whether it is a short trip or if I can manage a long one but my work also takes me to different places so that’s how I manage to balance it out.
What are some of your favorite pocket-friendly travel destinations that you would like to recommend to our readers?
In terms of pocket-friendly destinations, you can even do to the most expensive place called Paris but there are different pockets in the city where you can have the most amazing black forest pastry that will not burn a hole in your pocket, to buy some nice clothes, or going to these little tours and museums here and there. There is always a way to see the place even if it’s on a shoestring budget and I have done a lot of that. I used to live in England for some time as I had gone to do my masters there and that’s when I started exploring different parts of Europe. I went on a shoestring backpacking trip across Europe with a Eurail pass and I think I spent 50,000 back then about a decade ago. Yes, it’s possible and depends on your eating and your travel. Of course, at that time I was taking it easy on hotels. There are different ways to go about this. Apart from that, closer home Vietnam is a beautiful country to explore and very pocket-friendly as well – cheap food, stay and travel, lots to see, and of course, there are many avenues for you, like using public transport, which makes it easy on the pocket. Apart from that, Prague in the Czech Republic is also a beautiful destination. Of course, Eastern Europe is always a little easy on the pocket, and their currency allows you to have a good time on a budget.
Shed some light on your love for Chandigarh Tricity and when and for how long you were here?
Chandigarh is my hometown and I was born and brought up there. I did my schooling at Carmel Convent and then my college at MCM DAV. I have pretty much spent most of my life over there, but post that I moved abroad for some time and came back again. I keep coming and going because my family lives there and Chandigarh is like home. It is a special place and is also a planned place so works out well plus it is close to the mountains which is another love of mine.
What are your go-to travel places in Chandigarh Tricity? Why?
I like the forest reserve behind the lake. I am a nature lover so I love going and exploring places with lesser crowds. You can see all sorts of animals, different varieties of birds, spotted deer and if you are lucky then maybe a wild boar running across the field. Inside the city, I love the parks and otherwise the golf club is one of the places where I enjoy going to, as I have been going there since I was a kid. If you go a little beyond Chandigarh, Kasauli is one destination that is easy to get to in a day from Chandigarh. Of course, Sector 17 will always be a favorite despite all the new malls which have come up over there.
Some final travel tips for our readers?
In terms of travel tips to readers, if you are traveling alone, do your research, see where you want to stay, and preferably book a hotel in advance, so that you don’t end up wasting time looking for a place. There are many websites today where you can do a lot of research. See what the other people are saying about that place whether it’s a hostel, an inn, or a hotel. Do that in advance so that you can focus on sightseeing when you are in a new place. For sightseeing do make a list of all the places which you do want to see. Try to get a local number to stay in touch with local people and your loved ones back home, and keep your important ID documents handy so that you have them if anything goes wrong. Things can go wrong while traveling like delays etc, but take it in stride!
The book is available on Amazon, Flipkart, Kindle, and Capital Book Depot in Sector 17, Chandigarh.