Contributor : Ruchi Chauhan
It wouldn’t make sense to go for a blogging retreat when you’ve never written before, right? When you can barely even operate your laptop or smartphone ..... well, smartly. But the website had me at ‘you will leave with your blog set up and first post published’. “This is exactly what I need to get off the ground, I must sign up right now”, I thought, quickly filling out the details until it asked me to share a sample of my writing. “Uh, uh, no. This is not happening. Forget it, I won’t go.”
15 days later, I still couldn’t get it out of my mind and decided to apply without a sample and see what happens. So I did, crossed my fingers, and thought, “well, if they don’t accept me for lack of a sample, fair enough”. Mercifully, Chetan Mahajan, the host of the retreat called within hours, and such was the warmth and welcome in his voice, that I immediately confirmed.
Chetan included me in the email chain and took me into the fold. And assigned homework!! ‘Share 10 topics for your blog’. “Are you kidding me?!! 10? I barely have one!” But I am afraid of getting chucked out of class, so I send him 2, privately. Hoping it will be enough to buy some time, asking myself, “what have you got yourself into?”
Seven of us were on the same train to Kathgodam. From there, we headed up to Satkhol in 2 cabs, getting to know each other, making lasting friendships. As we arrived at Frozen Woods, Chetan and Kiruba rushed out to greet us along with Manoj, the owner of the property and a fellow participant. Somehow, it felt like we were meeting friends - there was no ice to break.
We settled into our rooms, and soon set out on a trek, ending up on top of a mountain just in time to soak in a magnificent sunset. Coming back to hot pakodas lovingly made by Manoj hit the spot. That night, we sat around a bonfire and shared our stories. Each one powerful. Each one beautiful. Each one moving. This exercise in sharing and letting our guards down in a supportive environment set the tone for the next 2 days.
The next morning, we dove straight in. We discussed the barriers and fears we each face getting started. These were addressed with constructive, practical inputs from everyone in the group. It was interesting to see that a lot of us had the same concerns. These were addressed in more detail over the course of the retreat.
That afternoon, we got started on actually setting up our blog. “What? you mean now?” It was time to face the monster, look him in the eye. Who was I kidding? Probably sensing my discomfort, Chetan took me under his wing and helped me set up my blog. “That wasn’t too hard “, I thought. With newly gained confidence, I figured I would tinker with my blog that night, and make it look awesome. Get comfortable with the “dashboard”, you know. And of course, something went wrong. Surprise, surprise.
The next morning, I confessed my sins and asked for help. “(sh)it happens! You’ll figure it out “, everybody encouraged me. That afternoon, on popular demand, Sumit, a fellow participant, and a full-time blogger, shared his vast knowledge of the technical aspects of blogging. Words flew thick and fast - SEO, analytics, google rankings, dashboard, etc etc. This was the heart of the beast. My head was spinning! What was I, a technophobiosaurus, doing here?? With my sloth for a laptop? Could it be any slower?? “How am I going to do this?!”
Such was the generosity of spirit and helpfulness, that everybody came forward to put me at ease. We had formed a buddy system the day before and committed our goals to the whole group. I’d like to revise my goals please, if I may?! The group encouraged me to keep working at it and helped me with my blog. “I can do this”.
The last day, everything finally co-operated and I presented my blog to the group. It wasn’t half bad. Nothing was where it was supposed to be, but it looked pretty darned good! I had crossed a barrier.
Did the retreat do everything it promised? Hell, yes! Have I overcome all my fears? No. But I can, with a little help, which this loving and supportive group promises. Someday soon, this dinosaur will be a dinosaur no more.
About the contributor : Ruchi Chauhan is the mother of two and lives in the Delhi NCR. She attended the Himalayan Blogging and Podcasting Retreat in the Kumaon Himalayas in April 2017. For upcoming Blogging events, please visit http://www.himalayanwritingretreat.com/blogging/ .