Preparing for a trip to a place like Ladakh could give you so much fun and excitement; we read a lot about the place on the internet, keep our favourite playlists ready, share our thoughts with friends and sometimes, even picture ourselves being there. But, what most of us forget is- prepare for responsible travel in Ladakh. It is important for a committed traveler to be respectful towards the place he or she is visiting and give more than take while travelling.
When I was planning for my first Ladakh trip (it was a month-long stay), I did overarching research so that every day could be made memorable. I read tons of blogs on tips for Ladakh trip, watched several videos on travelling responsibly in Ladakh and gathered every possible information about the place for my stay. Since then, it has been four trips in three years and I still remember each day of all my trips to Ladakh. So, from all my researches and experiences of travelling, I have whipped out this list of seven tips for travelling responsibly in Ladakh.
The first thing a traveller needs is to be fit for travelling, Afterall, you can enjoy the entire stay and relish all the fun only when you are both mentally and physically fit. Besides being healthy while travelling, it is also important that you take suitable precautions to avoid transmitting any infectious diseases to others during and after travel. You may also carry a medical kit and understand its full use. Further, it is also important to be aware about things that ensure a fit trip like acute mountain sickness in Ladakh.
We always take something back from a travel trip, but the true essence of a trip only lies in giving something back to the place itself. We can experience the true-raw feeling of traveling to a different place by contributing extraordinarily to the place with ordinary things. You may volunteer to teach children, help in data collection of various organizations that work there, share your knowledge and skills with the kids and keep the locals informed about the things that may prove useful to them. There are numerous organizations and movements which offer opportunities to travelers for contributing to Ladakh. 1700ft is an organisation that has been transforming lives in rural Ladakh by developing the already established schools in the area. I had the opportunity to teach and help set up a library for MS Gound Minjee School in a small village of Ladakh by enrolling myself in the volunteer program. Other similar organizations are SECMOL (The Students Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh), Volunteer Ladakh and LEDEG (Ladakh Ecological Development Group).
Instead of staying in a luxurious hotel, I would suggest you stay at a traditionally built homestay in Ladakh. They are budget-friendly and offer home-like hospitality. Besides maximising your experience, staying at a homestay in Ladakh helps the local community to boost their economy. It also helps in sustaining ecology by reducing migrations and preserving local culture and traditions. Moreover, the government is planning to introduce homestays in monasteries as well.
The biggest part of travelling responsibly is supporting the local community- helping them develop and flourish. When you choose to shop and eat from local setups, you not only get the authentic experience but you also help the local economy to boost. I always make sure to shop from a local shop (not owned by outsiders) and eat from a small cafe owned by the locals. This helps me to interact more with the people along with a pure experience.
Another important side of a responsible journey is to be mindful of the impact we have while travelling. Doing small things can really make a big difference in keeping your carbon footprint to a minimum such as carrying a bag for your leftovers, taking public transport, using less water (after all it is a desert, though cold) and travelling in groups. I always carry an extra bag with me to take back all the trash that I create while I travel.
A true traveller is one who not just respects the place he/she travels to, but also its people and culture. Even if you do not like or do not agree with anything or anyone, make sure you are warm and kind in your behaviour. Also, we need to understand that this place holds far more significance for the local than any of the travellers. We are the outsiders and should always respect the place and its people in all small and large ways. I have too made an effort to be respectful in my approach during my stay in Ladakh. I also learned a few common greetings in Ladakhi like hello (Joo-lay), good morning (Nato Deleks), good evening (Photog Deleks) and please take care (Don-lay). Just a smile has worked wonders for me and it always earned me a smile back. It can work the same for anyone.
One should never forget the fact that Ladakh is a cold-wild desert and a home to many wild animals. It is an ecosystem for snow leopards, antelopes, yaks, wild asses, golden eagles, rock buntings and many other wild faunas. These animals might harm you as they often try to protect their territory and young ones. So, it is better to keep away from them than getting bitten or scratched and spoiling your trip.
To have a pure experience of the land of High Passes, one should indulge oneself in its land, its air, its people and its culture. Think of what you can get by travelling responsibly in Ladakh; you will not need any tip for travelling responsibly anywhere.