It all started 15 years back, when a shy, introvert and physically weak middle class boy first went for a local trek in Maharashtra and returned back completely exhausted and scared. That boy, my friends, was ME, your captain and the founder of one of the fastest growing travel companies in India, DarkGreen Adventures (DGA). How did a common teenager transform into such a passionate traveler? Let me take you through the untold story of this unconventional traveler.
Coming from the villages in the Thar Desert of India (Rajasthan), my family never knew much about sports, let alone mountaineering. As a kid, I could barely run more than 100 meters. Though fairly good in studies, that constant feeling of missing out on health and fitness irked me. But being an introverted kid, I could not express this feeling to my parents, who believed only studying (or rather memorizing like a parrot) was the way to succeed in life.
I know I look uncouth, but believe me, I am educated. Coming from a Marwari family, I was always strong in Mathematics. That combined with my fondness of Physics made Mechanical Engineering a recognizable choice. Fortunately, my college was near the lush green mountains of Karjat (yep, they were green 15 years back, unlike today) and that’s when I first saw a mountain.
The thought of seeing the world from the top of a mountain always fascinated me but at the same time, my acrophobia restricted me from going on a trek alone. After months of persuasion, I finally convinced my friends to sign up for the Bhimashankar trek. Finally, at the age of 21, I realized my love for mountains.
The Captain as a participant:
During my postgraduate days, Orkut was a thing (yeah, yeah, I am that old!!), where people could connect with different groups. That was the time when I connected with a trekking group. After asking 100s of questions about safety and the difficulty of the trek (yes, there was a time I too had my own ‘Masoom Sawal’), I finally signed up for a small trek near Karjat, Maharashtra. After that trek, there was no looking back and my journey towards trekking and traveling began.
After completing M.Tech, I took up a well paying corporate job, to keep up to my family’s expectations, pay up my education loan and to take up more loans for a home. The 9-6 job, completing milestones, made my soul sick. The only thing that kept me going were the occasional treks. One day while searching for a himalayan trek, I came up with the basic mountaineering course. I realized that the cost of the course was almost similar to the cost of a 7 day Himalayan trek. So why not spend an entire month in the mighty Himalayas? The question was, will I get a 28 day leave for the course?
There was a waiting of almost 1.5 years for the course. But it felt like a life changing opportunity so I applied for it anyway, thinking I will take a sabbatical of a month if I get selected. 6 months down the line and I was fired!!! Though I felt stuck in my job, I never really had the courage to quit, considering my financial liabilities, along with the responsibility of my aging parents. That day, my company did a favor on me by dismissing me from the soul sucking corporate responsibilities.
Journey to becoming the captain:
While looking for new jobs to pay up the loans, I started doing solo treks. That kept me sane. One such weekend, I decided to go with a group of strangers, instead of solo. So I put up a post on social media, looking for company. A few people joined and it was a success. Later, I started doing this every weekend. After a couple of months, I realized I would continue trekking even if I am not earning out of it, which would never be applicable to a corporate job. Who gets the opportunity to actually “work what they love”? That realization and the great reviews from my fellow trekkers lead to the foundation of DarkGreen Adventures!!!
What started as a solo man’s trek to sanity, today has turned into a huge family of thousands of people, who have at least one awesome memory of traveling with us.
Basic Mountaineering Course (BMC):
After a few months into leading treks, one day I got news that I have been selected for the mountaineering course I had applied 1.5 years back, thinking I would take a sabbatical. Life can be funny at times, right? My new found company was just stabilizing and in that, taking a month long break from work would be a major blow on my finances. But still I went ahead with the course and spent the next month ensuring my family’s financial stability for at least two months and working on my fitness.
Shaping as a trek leader:
Though my initial treks were gaining popularity, I always felt I was not enough as a trek leader. But things changed after BMC. Walking around 4-5 hours through the steep Himalayan slopes, carrying a bag of 20kgs, required physical as well as mental endurance. After that, I was a changed man. Later, I did my Advance Mountaineering Course, ran half marathons, chased waterfalls, back-packed solo through dense forests, virgin islands and snowy peaks. All these adventures helped me become a better leader, but more than that, it made me a better human.
Transition of DarkGreen Adventures:
What started as a solo man’s trek to sanity, today has turned into a huge family of thousands of people, who have at least one awesome memory of traveling with us. What started with treks, has now transformed into a company that takes people to virgin beaches and trails all over the world. Sometimes, all we need is a little push to fulfill our dreams and live our lives to the best potential. For me the push was giving up the corporate world.
Do I regret any of my decisions?
Does anyone ever regret a long warm hug at the end of the trip? Does anyone ever regret seeing the sparkle in the eyes of a little girl who saw snowfall for the first time? Does anyone regret making tons of memories with people all over the world? I don’t think so. Though I had my own struggles and still do at times, I believe all my decisions have made me the person I am today, a trip leader who makes every trip a tale!!!