The physical, emotional and financial costs of moving to the mountains 

The pandemic has revolutionised how we think of homes and base locations and offered an incredible amount of flexibility to many of us working from home. When I told my partner in September 2020 that we should rent out a home in the mountains (as we were not officially returning to the office until Sept 2021), his reaction was to dismiss it. Fast forward to August 2021, we let go of our apartment in the city and set off for the mountains, hoping for a more relaxed, peaceful and natural setting. While this sounds like an ideal tradeoff of keeping your job, and yet waking up to the mountains everyday (a best-case compromise for the ‘Into the Wild’ fantasies that we all have!), the journey hasn’t entirely been a cakewalk. Here’s an honest opinion on what are the costs (real numbers!) of moving to the mountains.

MOVING TO THE MOUNTAINS

Things you must know beforehand

The house hunt:

We dedicated a vacation taken 6 months prior to the actual move to hunt for properties in our chosen destination (in this case, Manali). It was when we realised there were properties that could support long term stays, i.e., having a kitchen and giving you access to the entire property, much like an apartment, that we realised we could stay here. Our earlier choice was Mussoorie/Dehradun – as we had family around who could refer us to some properties. No matter what you choose, you’d have to keep a few things in mind:

  • Can you really stay here for say 3-6 months? 
    • This means having the right surroundings (does it really have that much to offer that you can go out every weekend for 6 months and not be tired?)
    • Is it a big enough town and are there adequate facilities available? (Basic services such as laundry, restaurants, good wifi, basic healthcare services?) 
  • How would you sort the logistics of moving?
    • No matter where you’re moving to, there will be things you will need to bring in. For example, in our case, while we were moving to a fully furnished house, we needed to take along ample woollens, a microwave, some utensils, other appliances such as hair dryers, kitchen appliances like a mixer-grinder, so on. It will not be practical to do all this in the short term if you have to say, employ movers and packers or have to catch a flight to reach the destination.

How much it costs to live in the mountains:

Here’s a list of pretty much all our expenses while living in the mountains:

  • Our apartment rent: INR 30000 per month (We’re renting out a 2BHK – they can be anywhere in the range of 10k to 50k per month)
  • Electricity costs: ~INR 1000 per month (usually included when you’re renting for a month or so, for our long term rental, our landlord kept all conditions the same as a general rent agreement – where the tenant pays for utilities)
  • Cook: INR 5000 per month (more expensive than Gurgaon even, but you can rarely find someone who agrees, hence we gave in)
  • Groceries: INR 2000-3000 per month (we prefer to continue using the same brands in food as we used to in Gurgaon, with the exception of fresh produce and dairy which we source from locals directly, such as cow milk and vegetables)
  • Monthly travel expenses: We end up traveling a little further at least once a month, so with that the petrol costs come out to around INR 2000-3000 per month
  • Wifi: INR 500 per month (this is usually included in most other stays, but we asked our owner to upgrade to an unlimited package and therefore we contribute to it)
  • Gas cylinder: INR 500 per month (again, included for most other stays, but our landlord wanted us to pay for all utilities)

So all in all, between the two of us (my partner and myself), the costs come to the ballpark of ~40000 INR per month.

The verdict: We don’t see a huge cost advantage of moving to the mountains from the city, but then again, we continue to have the same lifestyle and have a very comfortable place to stay - also partly in thanks to our hectic lifestyle and us wanting a place which offers great views and facilities without venturing out. If you’re someone who can manage to spend 1 hour outside everyday, you might not need a place that offers brilliant views all the time. Maybe you don’t need the place all to yourself, especially if you’re a solo traveler who might enjoy the company of fellow travelers.

Our costs might be slightly on the higher side but here’s how you can reduce them when you plan your move:

  1. Rent out a private room in a hostel (I had a quote for INR 17000/month), or share a room in an apartment. In our case, we have the whole place to ourselves and hence the costs. You could also stay in a homestay and the costs will be drastically low. E.g., we stayed in Darcha overnight at a homestay with dinner and breakfast and it only cost Rs. 450 per person! Read more about our Darcha experience here.
  2. If you can manage to cook by yourself, you’ll save a lot of money. Alternatively, having a tiffin or tying up with a homestay will help you keep your costs in check.
  3. Choose your locality wisely: If you’re staying in the main town area (in any location), which is the biggest tourist attraction with all the restaurants, etc., you’re bound to end up spending more as these places are going to drill a hole in your wallet. Stay where the locals stay and you’ll get everything much cheaper, from food and groceries to transport.
  4. Avoid utility bills: Choose a stay which is inclusive of all electricity, wifi and other utility costs. Most places will be, but some end up charging for heaters on a daily basis. Given that they are a necessity in the mountains, be sure to check this beforehand.

Other costs to consider:

If you’re moving out of an apartment, do consider the costs of storage of goods (if you’re not selling them) and moving them to a storage warehouse. Here’s what these costs looked like for us:

  • Packing and transfer of goods from our house to their warehouse: INR 16,000 (ours was a semi-furnished 3+1 BHK but we didn’t have cupboards or almirahs in any room – they came in-built)
  • Monthly storage: INR 8000 (including insurance, and this was one of the few services offering insurance – hence our decision to finally go with APML)

Few emotional factors that come into play:

  • When we moved here, one night I heard a deafening roar of thunder – and felt extremely scared and vulnerable as we live among apple orchards so our risk of getting struck is extremely high!
  • We’ve seen a variety of insects, most notably huge spiders that are the size of a human palm, INSIDE our bedroom. In these moments, we have come to regret, although momentarily, our decision of moving here!
  • Winters in the Himalayas are known to be harsh, we’re anticipating day-long power cuts even, when it truly unleashes its wrath. Idea is to be prepared as much as one can – including picking out wood for the fireplace when such a situation does arise. We like it, we’re not complaining yet, as we truly want to live like locals, but it could be tough if one is used to living with modern conveniences at all times. 

I have tried to give a clear picture of how living in the mountains is – it’s not easy, but it sure is rewarding, and you can read on more about the rewards on a number of other pages. Keep reading on to discover the joys!

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