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A Teacher from Pune Afflicted with a Serious Bug to Travel & Trek

Find out how Trekking and Travelling gives Ujwala Kadam – a teacher, her true identity.

Born and raised in a Maharashtrian joint family in Pune, Ujwala works as a Maths and Science teacher in Sardar Dastur Hormazdiar High School. Her exposure to travel during her growing up years was limited to her father’s postings as he was in the Army. The travel bug bit Ujwala in 1995 when she started working and earning. She recollects her first trip that she planned with her friends to the Golden Triangle (Delhi-Agra-Jaipur), and since then, there has been no looking back. “We used to travel by train and actually use printed maps to go from place to place. We spoke to people from that region to find out what was special about a particular area and then go and explore it ourselves.”

Ujwala has been travelling and exploring different parts of India during her vacations at school. “We teachers are very fortunate to get so many holidays. I travel during all my vacations. The best part is that there is so much in India to explore that I have never felt the need to go out of the country. Even if I travelled all my life in India, that would not be enough to complete discovering every nook and corner of this beautiful county”, shares Ujwala.

She continues, “I was not satisfied with teaching. There was always something in life that I kept craving for, and that is exactly what I found with travelling. It was as if I had gotten a true identity – my instinctive calling!”

If she is not travelling out of Pune, Ujwala makes the most of weekend travelling to areas in and around Pune, like the Tamhini Ghat, on her two-wheeler. At first her family wasn’t very happy that she loved travelling alone, as they were concerned about her safety. But once she returned from her trip, she used to show them the photos and tell them about each place in detail. “The spark they saw in my eyes as I narrated my tales and experiences of my travel reassured them that this was what was my true calling – something that made me the happiest in life! They now understand and support my travel mania. My friends keep saying that I have wheels on my feet!” laughs Ujwala.

Ujwala has always been unlike most women who are attracted to jewellery and such tangilble luxuries. Bound to nature, she strongly believes that Nature also loves her as much. She loves seeing birds fly in the sky, and welcoming the sunrise every day on her way to school. This sunrise is what she looks forward to during her treks. “Nature teaches you a lot. Unfortunately, Pune has lost its natural charm as it has become over-crowded and polluted. If you move 60kms out of the city, you get fresh air and energy to keep you going for the next few days. It has become the need of the hour to become physically fit and mentally active. If I don’t do this, I might not survive. The urge to know something new and be close to nature is my energy and what keeps me going,” shares Ujwala.

A surprising thing we got to know from Ujwala is that she doesn’t have a passport as she is not interested in travelling out of the country. “I love Indian food, culture and Indian people. I have a lot of strings attached to India. When there is so much to explore within India, I really wonder why people travel out of the country!”

She has met many groups and made many travel buddies, thanks to her travels. She loves sharing these experiences with her students who are now equally interested in her travel tales. Every time she goes on a trip, she meets new people.

Ujwala’s mid-life crisis was when she wasn’t getting true satisfaction in spite of travelling extensively. It is then that she discovered the Himalayas, where she went for her first trek, two years ago. She felt herself transported to heaven. “I was very sceptical about my fitness levels and whether I would be able to accomplish this trek. But I managed pretty well and now I am hooked on for life.” One trip to the Himalayas, and ever since then, the Himalayas have been calling her again and again. “I have started feeling that my life is nothing without going to the Himalayas.”

“If you are pre-planned and well equipped, there are no sudden things that come up while travelling.” Her most memorable trek was recently to Har-ki-dhun. The first three days had normal climate, which was followed by snow on the fourth day, after which the landscape changed fully. This metamorphosis was just surreal.”

“The simplicity of the people from the mountains has won my heart. We should travel to our country’s remote areas as people in these areas depend on tourism to make a living. There is a lot to learn from them. When I see women beyond the age of 50, working hard, this gives me immense strength to keep going”, voices Ujwala.

Having completed more than 50 trips all over India, her next dream destination is to explore the North Eastern states of the seven sisters. Her dream trek is to Rupin Pass which is one of the most scenic famous treks in India. She also wishes to trek Goecha La Pass towards Kanchenjunga, before she loses her physical strength to do it.

“Travelling keeps me going. It has developed my personality. I look for places to travel. Travelling makes you a totally different person. You begin to become selfless and are ready to help and give to society. I have become calm and quiet from my earlier hot-tempered self. When you travel and see people’s struggles, this changes your personality. Nothing else can satisfy you as much as travelling and trekking. Travelling teaches you to love yourself, talk to people, love other people, and live satisfied lives in spite of non-materialistic things around you. Travelling teaches you humility.”

She is extremely proud with all her travelling and trekking accomplishments. She used to initially pen down all her experiences, but now with social media, she finds it easier to share instant photos and thoughts. “A book can take you around the world! I hope to write a book in future for those who cannot travel. I don’t want them to miss out the experience and joy of travelling.”

Her advice to the young and old is to spare time to travel. “Throw yourself in the world of travel and see how your life changes. The joy and peace are immense.”

Vaishali Heblekar January 28, 2019