Sitting on the couch in the common room, with the news flashing India’s second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, naturally, I felt a surge of sadness in my heart. The innumerable phone calls of neighbours and relatives fighting the virus brought me to the brim of depression that I longed to go back to the carefree times. I inadvertently took my phone and found myself glee-ing while scrolling through the photos app looking back at the pictures from Insent’s recent Himachal Excursion.The whites, blues and greens in the pictures had my heart and mind captivated. It teleported me to a time that was almost surreal -- like a breath of fresh air from all the chaos and gloominess that was spread around. It was the perfect escape from reality; then, from the chaos of last year’s home isolation and now, from the misery of the second wave’s devastation. I am not going to argue whether it was the right step or not. All I know is that it brought me and my team happiness.
The mountains, rivers, trees, the setting sun, and a hut on the foothills of those rocky mountains has been a childhood fantasy for many of us, hasn’t it! That’s what the junior Picasso in us would paint after all. Pablo Picasso’s line, “Everything you can imagine is real”, found a substantial meaning on this excursion. And why not -- we were in the most majestic state of India, Himachal, the “Abode of Gods”, after all.
The last days of February of this year marked almost a year of the mandated work from home, which had brought its own challenges alongside its perks. One of which was the ability to work comfortably from our homes without facing the daily traffic. Phrases like “Am I audible?” followed by “I can hear you” became the corporate world’s most used phrase. Correct me if I’m wrong (especially if you have the data to support it), but I’m sure many of us can relate.
The Journey to Himachal
To take a break from the constant Zoom and Google Meet virtual meetings, Insent planned for a real meeting (fully sponsored by the company). Instead of the blazers, pants and ties, the dress code was to be jackets, trousers, caps and gloves. We even took time off dedicated to shopping and Decathlon visits!
Team members travelled from different parts of the country to meet at the railway station in the capital city of India, New Delhi. After lunch in Delhi, we began the journey, filled with binging of sweets and savouries we all brought from our respective states. And then from Chandigarh, we started the road trip to the hills and valleys of Himachal. The beauty of this road trip was unparalleled - the lights lit up across the valleys were like diamonds spread across a black sheet, and the stars twinkled in the sky like a chandelier above us.
We followed the Himalayan ranges along Shimla, Narkanda, Jibhi all the way to the last village of India at Indo-Tibetian Border, Chitkul; making a stop now and then to take in the beauty of the world's largest snow-clad mountain ranges, the Himalayas.
The Experience of a Lifetime in Chitkul
Well adapted to living under regulated temperatures, in the comfort of cities and the facilities they offer, Chitkul was definitely the most memorable stay. With temperatures below 0℃, at an altitude of 3450m, there was no tap water to be found. Even the water was frozen, which meant that we were fully dependent on the waters we collected from streams nearby; which were obviously too cold. The village did not have much to offer in terms of appliances as well. The hotel we stayed at offered water heaters that worked most of the time (if the electricity allowed for it) but we could not find any hotel with room heaters. Which meant that we slept with multiple blankets on, jammed alongside three to four people in a room. It was an experience for sure. But, what made it all worthwhile was the view and the hikes in the snow, and the unlimited teas and maggies served piping hot. Our days passed with bonfires, eating our heart’s content of chicken and paneer tikkas, followed by chilly nights amongst the company of colleagues that soon quickly became friends. When you mix vulnerability with a bit of philosophy and shared experiences, friends soon become family.
Off to Manali We Go
We were still not over our love for the mountains -- I mean how could we, right? So, inevitably the next destination had to be Manali, which was a relief from the extremities we faced in Chitkul. From the hike to Jogini Falls, followed by an Innovative Hackathon for some potential ideas, a demo night, a trip across Atal Tunnel to snow surfing in Spiti Valley, meeting a few Himachali families in their village, a meal at Cafe 1947, and even celebrating a team member’s bachelorette, it was a jam-packed yet a memorable couple of days. Working alongside each other without the interruptions of the internet and surrounded by the amazing view from our Manali Villa, was almost surreal!
The Return to Reality and Our Takeaway
We came back to Delhi after a week well spent amongst the mountains and tons of memories to cherish for a lifetime. Our company grew exponentially in size last year, and it continues to do so. Within just a year from being in the office, and our last company retreat, we had a lot of new faces join the team. This was the perfect getaway to meet everyone in their natural state, away from the pretentious corporate boundaries. It was a way of forming friendships beyond the labels of colleagues. This trip only brought us closer, and it solidified what we knew before; we can always turn to each other in any situation and shall find solace in one other. Insent prides itself on the motto “Human-First” and this extends beyond our product. It finds its sustenance in the way we treat each other, in the way we lean on one another, in the good times and bad.
After witnessing a couple of retreats from Insent, I can firmly state that a company that travels together, stays together! For more upcoming expeditions with this wonderful bunch of people, we have made our own group. One that is very elastic in nature and constantly welcoming more people. These explorations break the monotony, change the way you perceive things and broadens one’s knowledge horizon. The overall experience of it all humbles you and makes you more accepting while pushing you to change your way of life for the better. As cliche as it sounds, there was the need to emphasize this. Especially after spending the last year, surrounded by the four walls of our homes and living on delivery services. Most of us have craved companionship and have had the urge to be closer to nature multiple times over the last year. At Insent, we have been fortunate to not only travel together as a team but to learn and grow together.
Thank you to my team at Insent for a memorable trip of a lifetime. The story doesn’t end there. Our amazing team put together a video to take you along on the journey we experienced together that you can check out here.
Loved the retreat story? Want to be part of our Insent family? We are always looking for amazing people to join us. Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Swati is a Software Engineer at Insent.ai, a human-first conversational marketing platform that connects B2B marketers to their target prospects the moment they land on their website.