People often ask me, of all the places I’ve been, which is my favorite, and I never know how to answer them. Each place has its own uniqueness or reason why I could consider it my “favorite” place. The Netherlands was my childhood dream come true, Paris was love at first sight, and Australia changed my life forever. But to give one specific place the title of “my favorite place,” seemed unfair to all the others.
Until now!… The answer is India!
The main reason I ended up in India, Rishikesh to be more specific, was to embark on 200 hours of yoga teacher training! Rishikesh is the birth place of Yoga. (It’s also the town The Beatles came to practice meditation to in 60s.)
Yoga has been my north star for the latter half of my twenties, especially while traveling. I did Yoga teacher training to deepen my own practice and that’s exactly what happened! I’m more flexible, stronger and know way more about yoga philosophy than ever before!
Right before I left for India, I found a book about spirituality in the Himalayas in the lobby of my hostel in Bangkok. It seemed fitting so I traded in the book I’d just finished for that one. I started reading it in Rishikesh and couldn’t believe how well it aligned with yoga philosophy and the vibes of northern India.
There was a line in the book that read:
“… I was on the banks of the Ganges in Rishikesh, where my ashram stands today...”
At first, I didn’t think much of it, considering the book was published half a century ago. But later, my curiosity got the best of me and I did some research. I found the ashram (a spiritual retreat) referenced in my book! It was a real and currently functioning facility. Shortly after my yoga teacher training ended, I went to a meditation retreat at that ashram! Drinking chai tea at sunrise and practicing meditation on the banks of the Ganges, I was living in a scene from a book, literally.
Back in Vietnam, I lived and worked with a couple from India. At that time, I was still nervous about traveling to India. I asked them tons of questions! They assured me that traveling to India was not dangerous and offered to show me around Delhi whenever I made my way there. As sincere as their offer was, I highly doubt they expected me to show up two months later! But I did!
My first few days in India they showed me all over Delhi. They took me out to eat at their favorite restaurants, to Gurugram- the financial and technology hub of Delhi and to a Jain Temple. They practice the religion Jainism which they taught me all about when we were in Vietnam- religion fascinates me. When they learned that I’d still be in India for Diwali, they insisted I come to their family’s home to celebrate! Diwali is a Hindu and Jain celebration that has as much cultural significance as Christmas does in America.
After yoga and meditation wrapped up in Rishikesh, I met them at their family’s home for a big celebration. They lived in a small town about half way between Rishikesh and Delhi. Almost every building was wrapped in colorful twinkle lights, chandeliers hung over the streets of the bustling outdoor market, and nearly every household put on a firework show. It was like the forth of July meets Christmas- but with better clothes and food!
We chanted, prayed, sang, lit devotional candles and visited multiple temples. I wore a traditional Indian kurti and ate my weight in Indian sweets. Everyone went out of their way to make me feel like a member of the family! Celebrating Diwali with my friends and their family was by far one of the best and most authentic cultural experiences I’ve ever had while traveling!
What I Have Not Been Doing
I have not been drinking alcohol or eating meat! The entire town of Rishikesh is dry and vegetarian so that made the transition easy! None of the restaurants, grocery stores, or markets serve or sell meat or alcohol in Rishikesh! Even though I haven’t had either in months, I am not considering myself a non-drinker or a vegetarian but I certainly want to continue to consume less of both!
Coming Back to Social Media
After a three month hiatus I am back on social media! I decided to disconnect for awhile in an effort to better connect with myself and with India. It worked!
I learned so much from my time offline- I’m sure I’ll delve into that in another post- but for now I am excited to continue sharing my experiences with you all!