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WAY UP IN A FAR CORNER OF INDIA, squeezed in tight between Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan, is the state of Sikkim. catches the eastern rise of the Himalaya and is full of some of the most extravagant natural beauty you’ll ever witness. in 1992, it changed my life forever.

Sikkim was closed to tourists and travellers at the time, but a contact in the Army worked his magic and granted a friend and me unprecedented access. Our only guide was a battered old Lonely Planet book, and we spent many weeks having the best offbeat adventure that any 19-year-old could wish for. We rode on train roofs, swam in glacial lakes, and stood and stared in silence outside hilltop Buddhist monasteries.

Of all the experiences on that trip, there were two that transformed me completely. First was meeting the local people. Their warmth and welcome left lasting impressions on me. As we shufled into one village after another, the people of Sikkim demonstrated vital lessons that I’ve held onto ever since: they gave without asking, they never judged, and they offered strangers like us the very best of their kindness.

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