*Reprise: It’s been exactly a year since I took the most life changing trip traveling alone through northern India. It was the absolute greatest gift I’ve ever given myself. In true nostalgic spirit, there’s no better way to relive the trip than with a read through this post. It truly is a place you must visit.
I hope you’ll go. It is an honest wish in my life that everyone gets to experience the magic of India at some point in their lives. I want you, I want everyone, to have their soul touched by the gut of humanity, and see the way it changes you. The way it lightly shifts your outlook while you’re in the midst of it, and then wildly shifts your heart after. I want you to have the adventure I had. I want you to stare at the Taj Mahal and wonder how love ever built something so magical. I want you to hop on a motorcycle and tour the countryside. I want you to send your blessings down the river Ganges or watch bodies being burned at sunrise. I want India for you.
So when you go, call my friend Gurpreet Kaur (the best travel agent ever over at India Inbound) and have her create the most magical itinerary that includes, but is not limited to my favorites:
The River Ganges in Varanasi
There are two unbelievable moments you must experience while you’re in Varanasi. The sunrise and the sunset. They couldn’t be more spiritually similar, yet radically different experiences.
At sunrise, wake up at 4am and begin trekking through the old city at dark. You’ll go through back pathways laid with stone. You’ll meander through the alleys, avoiding cow shit (and cows), seeing little children urinating in the corner, women burning incense and old police officers sitting around, guns in hand. Intense. I know. But when you get to the ghat, you’ll light a candle in a votive made of pink flowers, and you’ll send your blessings floating down the ripples. I sent blessings of love to the ones that meant the most to me, and similarly asked the holy river to send a great love my way. And when you get to the old boat made of rickety wood, you’ll float along the dirtiest river you’ve ever seen. But you’ll find yourself wondering how something so dirty could still feel so beautiful. And when your boat stops, look for the smoke. There you’ll find the bodies of locals’ loved ones being burned, their ashes, and their smoke, wafting off to the heights of heaven. There too you’ll find the deepest sense of belonging to a universe that is so much more connected and deep than our conscious even has the capacity of understanding.
And when the sun sets, make your way through the crowds, through the ailing locals begging you for money, and get to the rooftop to view the evening Puja of God. You’ll sit cross-legged on the ground with a group of 50 travelers, all there to watch 8 men dressed in gold dance around and send fiery blessing upward to god. They’ll chant, you’ll hum along, and somewhere in the midst of the fire and flower petals and the sunset on the river, you’ll be covered in goosebumps wondering how any moment will ever compare to this one. How you’ll ever go back to your grind of a life. Here’s a secret: you wont. You won’t return the same way you came.
The Taj Mahal
It’s one of the the world wonders for a reason. But don’t just go to see this one. Go and sit with the Taj at sunrise. Watch what happens when the sunlight hits the sides of the white marble. It’s like watching a soul come alive. It’ll twinkle and sparkle and you’ll never want to get up from that bench that sits just off to the right of the courtyard before this beautiful structure. Watch the people as they take their pictures. Look at the different walks of life that have all come around this one, glorious monument. While the visitors start to trickle in, somehow the beauty of this place will make you feel like you’re the only girl in the entire world looking up at it. Facetime the loves of your life and share it with them too. Relish in the moment that something this beautiful exists. I promise, once you sit quietly in front of the Taj Mahal, nothing will ever feel so epic. Be quiet. Don’t get up for a couple hours. Pray. Thank God, or the universe, or whatever greater power you believe in the for the grace and the glory that has led you to this moment. This unforgettable moment.
Amber Fot in Jaipur
You’re going to be heckled by countless men who want to sell you bangles, paintings and maps, but don’t let them get under your skin. There’s an elephant waiting for you. A beautiful, magical creature who will use her power and stature to get you up a steep 30 minute trek to the entrance of Amber Fort, the ancient capital of Jaipur state. As you’re riding, honor the lucky animal taking you there and breath in the first breath of clean air that you’ve had in a while. Look down the foothills, and see the plush green mountains that surround you. This is nature. This completely unrefined, hardly touched but mature civilization. Say goodbye to your elephant, and watch as she roars her trunk in the air. It’s a novel experience that you’re unlikely to have again.
Tiger Lake in Udaipur
No one is going to tell you about Tiger lake. It’s your magical jewel in Udaipur to seek out and find. But when you find your way to the lake, probably from hopping on the back of a motorcycle of one of the locals, know that the journey there is every bit a part of the destination. The small, dirt roads that take you twisting through the country side, the villages that you pass as the little children wave hello with their big brown eyes, the heat on your face that’s cooled with the whipping wind, this is all a part of the experience of Tiger Lake too. Don’t discount it. Where it leads to will rock your soul. The lake that you find, glistening in the middle of the mountains, it looks like it has never been touched before. Sit on the white stone with your feet hanging off the cliff and just be still. Enjoy the serenity. Appreciate the culture. Send your gratitude for all the the trip has served up to your heart. Life likely won’t feel this still again for a while, so tuck the experience away for when you need it most. For when you return home. It’ll be a gift that keeps giving, and it’s all yours for as long as you can hold onto it.
Whatever you do in India, and whenever it is that you do it…. Go and wildly experience it.