“Make your choice adventurous stranger
Strike the bell and bide the danger,
Or wonder till it drives you mad,
What would have followed if you had?”
– C.S Lewis
Children in India get the right to exercise their choices quite late in their lives. Girls, in particular, even later. The saying, ‘we are all the product of our choices’ holds little meaning when one is brought up with constant reminders of societal norms and is prodded to not deviate from the so called ‘normal’. All our choices are rooted out of just two primary emotions; Love or Fear. With every action, at any given point in time, you are constantly choosing between the love and fear.
My story, in a line, is about my journey of following the crazy ideas inspired by the endless possibilities around and slowly in the process, letting love for life and adventure replace the deep dark doubts and fears.
On paper, I am Bharti Arora, MBA in Marketing and Operations with a graduation in Economics with Maths and Political Science. That’s the ‘who’ that people like to hear to judge your aptitude, financial status and happiness quotient. Overall I have had abrief career made rich with experiences of working in Corporate (As product / brand professional), start-ups and entrepreneurial setups.
But the Bharti Arora that I have discovered and grown into is a passionate dreamer and an explorer of not just mountain trails but life in general. Infact, I am that girl next door who suffers from OCD… Obsessive Compulsive Dreaming! 🙂
I have been the Walter Mitty (Protagonist in the movie The Secret Life of Walter Mitty) throughout my childhood and a significant part of youth as well. On one end, I was part of a real world that’s running around you, going about the regular day-to-day tasks while on the other end; I was forever lost in my dreams! I was always wondering, dreaming about being whatever I wanted to be, anything and everything, just about everywhere!
While all of this was continuing in a perfect balance, the turning point came on a day, while preparing for an interview where I had to introduce myself. I realized that whatever I have been and done so far was just a derivative of what was suggested to me based on society’s experiences and expectations. Do MBA, get a job, get married, etc, because that’s considered the safe (‘normal’) way to be. But Who Am I? What do I like? What am I passionate about? Did I want my life to be in pursuit of completing the social checklist or did I want to experience this life first hand and take a chance at those day dreams that kept me going?
This is where I left my corporate career and chose to take the road less travelled by (quite literally!). I wasn’t much of a traveler at that time. But to start somewhere, I travelled places to meet people who inspired me. I decided to meet them all, only to ask them how and when they got to know what they wanted out of life. I was determined to discover my passion. Somewhere along all this, I took my first Himalayan Hike on the recommendation of a close friend. The hike brought in a fresh perspective and an all new confidence in me. Forever bustling with ideas, I wrote to the Organizers of the hike and few months later ended up taking a job there.
At one end my love affair with mountains was beginning, at the other, while experimenting with options, I began to realize a fundamental flaw with the idea of ‘Search for Passion’.
Like everywhere else, our idea of passion and pursuit of it is so corrupted that we limit it to finding and finalizing on one idea / hobby / career and endlessly follow it believing that just this one completes us! The key is not to be passionate about just one hobby / career and limiting it there. While this is the driving force, one has to be passionately curious…Curious about everything with an open mindset to experiment and explore the possibilities around.
In short, one has to stop Finding and start Creating! Start somewhere, anywhere, create anything but start doing and the rest follows.
We are all too obsessed with connecting the dots and figuring out a plan for ourselves. But what about “Collecting” the dots first? It is when we collect these dots (experiences) that we begin to see the bigger picture and discover things about ourselves that we didn’t know existed.
I never knew I would fall in love with trekking, mountains or take the entrepreneurial route to follow my passion for that matter. My idea of making it big in life was very different from where I am today, until my first hike. The mountains gave me a high and before I realized it was turning into an addiction.Having decided that I would want to lead and organize trekking, incorporating my skills as a marketer & strategist was only natural and the two led me to become the entrepreneur I am today.
MonkTain is not my first start up. I had tried my hand previously with building up something similar and failed at it. With a failed start up and too long a corporate career gap (leading to lesser job opportunities), depleting bank accounts and a non-existent social life, I had flat-out hit rock bottom, emotionally, financially, mentally & spiritually. They say, sometimes when things are falling apart, they may actually be falling into place. Something similar happened at my end and I learnt a great deal from my failure.
I struggled with my emotions and feelings of hopelessness for a while (few months actuallyJ). Eventually the setback left me with no choice but to face myself brutally and honestly. Amongst all of this, the desire to take to the mountains sustained.With the support from family and belief that few dear friends showed in me, I was ready to get started on my Entrepreneurial Venture 2.0 – MonkTain! Obviously the decision to work on another start-up, that too into trekking was not heartily welcomed at home and by friends. Trekking being essentially a male dominated field right from guides to porters to organizers, being a woman leading the operations had its fair share of inhibitions. But then, that’s the thing, you don’t need to convince everyone around you for what you believe in. What may seem promising and logical to you may come across as challenging and chaoticto others. You just need to find your method to the madness and pursue it. As Ed Sheeran said, “I can’t tell you the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everyone”.
MonkTain is just an extension of everything that the trekker in me believes in. One can learn everything they have to, in life, through mountains. It holds the potential to help an individual delve deeper within and discover themselves while scaling heights, hence the name ‘MonkTain’. Trekking helps you build character. It introduces you to your break points, yet reminds you how strong you are. Mountains keep you humble and climbing them forces you to be at your fittest best! What better way to live than that?
Our plans with MonkTain are BIG! To start with, we want to ensure our guides &trek leads are local women (from the hill-towns & base-camps) so they can challenge the male bastion. We want to ensure our trekkers don’t just trek to camp & enjoy with expectations of it being a packaged tour. We have integrated basic camping and survival workshops in all our treks along with the due and much needed focus on responsible and ecologically sustainable hiking. We want all those who our trekking with us to experience nature in its raw form, leaving them refreshed with a rejuvenated sense for life. Along with this, we plan to run at all our base camps community projects like conducting medical checkup camps, setting up solar powered street lighting, and building mentors for the rural villages as a community of hikers. Plans are on, to offer experiencing rural way of life (living with farmers, locals) as well.
As an entrepreneur, below are my learning’s for MonkTain and life-lessons from the mountains;
- One Step at a Time: Like in the mountains the weather is unpredictable, life and business too don’t have constants. In the face of adversity and tiring situations, one needs to just take one step at a time and continue. As long as you don’t give up, you are still in the game!
- Your degree of adventure is directly proportional to your Health. Get fighting fit if you want those dreams to come true and take shape.
- The summit from the base camp always looks difficult and so is starting to work on a cherished dream of yours. We don’t attempt summits in a day. We gradually move up from one camp to another and so should be our approach to realize a dream. Don’t let the audacious dream scare you from taking smaller steps.
- Your Speed Vs Others: In a trek, one of the simple ways of tiring and exhausting yourself is by trying to match up to the speed of others. We have to understand and accept our own pace and make the best of it in time. In life as well, we all have our own pace at which we are most efficient. Find that and stop trying to match upto others.
- No Summit is ever completed because someone else had faith in you. In the end its your belief in yourself which takes you ahead. Stop being a worrier of others belief and be the warrior that the situation demands.
- Remember to stop and look around to enjoy the beauty around as you move. Don’t make your trek and life a tedious task.
- Your team on a trek and the support system in life makes a lot of difference. Surround yourself with the positive, happy energy you need and not the toxicity.
- In the end it’s not the failure eventually that bogs us down, but the fear of it.
Entrepreneurship in itself is challenging and to top it up as a woman, it becomes a different ball game all together. The tolerance and respect level are both much lesser for a woman particularly when she is trying to storm the male bastion. This combined with our media which also ensures that we stay focused in getting fairer, thinner, prettier all to serve the traditional idea of a beautiful woman serving her man since the age of Eve!
In my industry, it is this mindset that gets challenged when the local men and at times even the trekkers, see a woman leading and organizing the trek.
On Woman’s day and every other day, if as a woman you want to stand up and walk your own path, you need to stop seeing yourself as the fragile gender that we are made to believe in the first place. There is nothing that we can’t do. Focus on what you want with the resources you have and get busy bridging the gap needed to achieve your dream. Period.
While chasing your dreams and following your idols, please remember, the common thing between you and others who succeeded / idols can never be same set of circumstances that brought you here but it is the common spirit to never give up and keep exploring. Be unapologetic about your choices and follow every dream!
Here’s the link to the Facebook page of Monktain (https://www.facebook.com/monktainer/)
Like it and explore the highs !