I constantly gasp Ladakh’s thin air, searching for more oxygen, but it is in this place that I feel I can finally breathe. I’m without hoards of people in a glamorous city life, yet still come across glamor in the seasoned smiles of elderly Ladakhi women welcoming us into their home. Skyscrapers are replaced by mountains who command my respect and attention. There’s no room for candy and fast food here when vegetables fill our stomachs. Without technology, I’m allowed to use extra down time to journal, rather than to mindlessly scroll through staged perfection. What’s perfect here does not seek validation through likes or follow requests. Ladakh is not gilded. It is gold all the way through. Underneath multicolored monasteries lies the gold of an intricate culture and behind comforting meals of chosgi and rice remains the gold of making dinner together with past generations. Without my headphones streaming rap music, I am satisfied with community Ladakhi folk songs. I feel whole without people and buildings surrounding me. I feel full without my phone. I’m satisfied without tables and chairs during dinner. What is it about doing without that makes us feel so whole? Maybe instead of thin air, I’m really taking breaths of fresh air.