I left Thailand with overwhelming sense of buyer's remorse having chosen India as my next destination. India was not the low-stress environment in which I imagined I'd be immersed in over my year abroad. But due to the time, energy and money expended on merely attaining my Indian Visa in Bangkok, my cheap lazy a$$ decided not to ruffle any more of the Universe's feathers and just go with it. Besides, wasn't acceptance one of the biggest lessons people walk away with from traveling solo through India?
(Maybe that's because if you didn't learn to accept commonplace situations like old men peeing in street garbage, you'd probably want to kill yourself.)
As I mentioned in a previous post, I was scared to be going on this journey alone. But someone up there (or something karmic) must have sensed my trepidation and sent me a 60 year old, Portuguese, seasoned India tour guide/traveler- Maria.
Maria just happened to be at my guest house in Bangkok and overheard my travel plans to India. As it turned out, we were leaving on the same day, same flight and had the exact same trajectory. I took this as a major sign/incredible gift from which I could not walk away. Maria's company put me at ease and proved to be especially helpful in navigating my first stop, Delhi (i.e. bargaining for the cheapest prices and making sure people didn't take advantage of me).
(Most likely an Indian in her last life, Maria is a shark when it comes to negotiating.)
If I thought the hustle and bustle of Bangkok was a shock after months of my peaceful island existence, it was nothing compared to the insanity of Delhi. It's an understatement to say that all of my sensory organs were mildly violated with the harsh sights, smells, tastes (actually I quite enjoyed the tastes) and sounds of the city.
(This truck's message, "Stop Horn Please Relax," surely fell on deaf ears.)
Thankfully I only spent two nights in Delhi before boarding an early morning train with Maria to Haridwar.
Haridwar is just a short 20km drive to what would be my final destination of Rishikesh. Rishikesh, known as the Gateway to the Himalayas and the World Capital for Yoga, is a holy city revolving its existence around the sacred Ganges River. Indian and Western tourists alike flock to this vegetarian-by-law city to cleanse their karma in the river, seek enlightenment through meditation/yoga/guru satsangs and to go white water rafting (obviously).
I was excited to get in touch with my "crunchier" granola side when I stepped off the train in Haridwar. As I breathed in the fresh[er] air of the Himalayas, I found myself awestruck with my first sight of the emerald green Ganges River.
The stress from my preceeding days in Delhi almost completely melted away when I arrived 40 minutes later in Rishikesh and was greeted by my beautiful friend from Koh Phangan, Anna.
Anna, my Rishikesh angel/yoga teacher extraordinaire, invited me to stay with her until I got settled. She was the perfect tour guide showing me the Rishikesh ropes and taking me to some of her favorite spots like the groovy 60s Cafe that plays only classic rock,
serves delicious food,
and boasts a spectacular view of the Ganges.
Anna also introduced me to the more spiritual side of Rishikesh by taking me to Guru Prem Baba's first satsang of the season.
(I know what you're thinking and NO, we didn't get special Press Passes. But we did get front row seats!)
These days, I mainly occupy my time in Rishikesh practicing Ashtanga Yoga with a world renowned teacher, exploring new cafes with friends and trying to convince myself not to eat every vegetarian delicacy in sight. I also manage to get out and about to peruse the shops on the other side of the Laxman Jhula bridge,
spend time meditating on the beach of the Ganges,
(I remember a time when I promised myself I wouldn't wear the typical Boho traveler outfits...whoops)
And if I'm really lucky I can sometimes catch a glimpse of a Guru doing exactly the same things.
(Here's the Jamaican Guru, Mooji, out for an afternoon shopping trip/attempting his escape from 100 trailing disciples on his scooter. #w00t #gurusc00t).
Even the cows want a bit of the Guru scooter action...
Although I was scared to face the challenges of traveling through India, I've found the beauty in every day life here. And it's more often than not that I catch myself short of breath realizing that I've finally made it to the Himalayas, a place I've been dreaming of visiting for years.
And because this post wouldn't be complete without a cheesy-yogi-gratitude moment, I'll briefly say that when I look back at all the twists and turns of the last few years, I wouldn't trade any of my past suffering or experiences that ultimately led me to this place of delight and appreciation.