Sunday, March 30, 2014

"The Only Way You Will Ever Get There Is To Buy A Ticket" - Nicole Leffer


Last August as I sat with my vision group sharing some of my short-term and long-term goals I shared my dream of going to India.  One of the group members responded to me reminding me that we can make all sorts of dreams and plans but the only way to accomplish anything is to start taking steps to accomplish our goals.  In this case, buy a ticket. Nicole was right.  I first needed to buy a ticket.  Nicole shared with the group some of her travel experiences.  Her travel bravery was inspiring.  She has made some very extraordinary trips traveling alone.  That's right, solo.  I was particularly inspired by her trip to Nepal where she celebrated Holi.  As Nicole described her trip, and in particular, the Holi celebration, she described something I'd long wanted to experience and celebrate.  .
Nicole throwing colors with the children
After that August gathering, Nicole's words kept re-playing in my mind and I would wake up hearing "the only way you will ever get there is to buy a ticket."  So I got on Kayak and started looking at prices for tickets to India.  I'd read that the best travel times were October - February. Usually by March things start heating up and by May it is too hot and humid.  Monsoon season begins in June so I started trying to figure out a date that might work for my family schedule.  I then checked the calendar for Holi.  March 17.  That did it for me.  I wanted to celebrate Holi  - a festival celebrating spring and color.  Yes, color!

So I bought my ticket, hoping that a girlfriend would travel with me but was prepared to travel solo.  It was interesting that as I began to share my travel intentions with friends and family, most often the response was, "why are you going to to India, of all places?"   The opposite happened in only a few instances.  But then I discovered several very close friends had been and they surprised me with their travel stories.  It was so inspiring to learn that some of my friends had spent considerable amounts of time in India or made multiple trips and they shared their stories with great enthusiasm, passion and in some instances, reverence.  For me all I could think about was being able to see the Taj Mahal and being able to celebrate this incredible event called Holi.  

Even the cows received some color - Holi Cow!
Travel is very important to me and anyone who knows me knows how much I enjoy planning trips and I put a lot of work into planning this trip but ultimately, I needed help.  After spending hours on my own and with my friend, trying to figure out a a manageable itinerary, hotels, transportation, etc., we finally gave in to getting assistance from trustworthy travel advisers.  What a relief! (One of our funniest, now that we lived to tell the story, and scariest moments stems from one of the bookings I made on my own.  If anyone ever tells you "don't worry, chicken curry," start panicking!)  The travel company we used is SITA World Tours and our contact was Narendra Rathore.  He took care of connecting all the dots between what I wanted to do and see, and made it all manageable. He also secured highly educated tour guides with diverse backgrounds.  Another one of the wonderful things he did was to find a "home stay" for us for Holika (bon fires the night before Holi) and Holi.  It was wonderful to be able to celebrate the holiday with a family! Enjoy the photos. Happy Holi!
Our host family

Starting the day with prayers and blessings

Bells to ward of evil and a reminder to start and end the day with joy and blessings

The host family's garden

Bonfire is ready with a green stick and a ring of water around it. Prayers are said and we wait.

Blessings are completed and the green stick is removed 
Women put on their cover as a symbol of the veil of protection offered to Holika
And finally the full moon peeks out from behind the tree

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Mark Twain Was an Indophile!

Who knew?

What an unbelievable trip and incredible experience the past couple of weeks have been!  I've had the chance to see and learn so much about an amazing country.  Our flight got in late last night after nearly 30 hours of travel.  I'm still trying to adjust to the time and will be back to work tomorrow.  
Having taken over 1500 photos, I'm looking forward to sharing highlights from Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Udaipur and Varanasi.
Before I left for India I kept reading and hearing from friends to prepare for sensory overload (and "Delhi Belly")!  The sights, sounds, flavors, culture and the people found a way to massage all the senses and totally captivate me (and, I feel really lucky to have escaped any digestive challenges).   Over the next few posts I hope you will follow along to enjoy as I share some of my travel highlights.  I learned many things, including learning about others who've been equally as mesmerized by INCREDIBLE INDIA.
With our unbelievable guide, Dushyant Singh.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Blessing or Privilege

Over the past few years as friends and family have shared a life update or happening, many have ended the conversation with the thought that they are blessed.  I have to be honest. I've struggled with the use of the word "blessed" and in many instances I've wondered to myself if the word "privileged" might be a more appropriate word.

Tuesday I leave for India (one of the countries on my bucket list) and I'm both nervous and excited.  There are amazing blogs like My India Travel that have been a huge inspiration to help me finally muster up the courage to buy a ticket for this trip.  As I've read about this incredible country and studied so many of the places I hope to visit, I've been reminded of the many privileges we enjoy in America.  I will continue to give thought to the use of the word "blessed" but I welcome your thoughts.  Are those born into a caste system, or born a woman in a country where women are not respected less blessed or are we simply privileged?

To help inspire me, I woke up this morning and watched The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
Over the next several days as your sun sets, I will be starting my day's adventure and I can't wait to share the experiences with you.   I leave you with this wonderful quote from the movie.
Can there be anywhere else in the world that is such an assault on the senses?  Those who know the country of old just go about their business.  But nothing can prepare the uninitiated for this riot of noise and color.  For the heat, the motion, the perpetual teeming crowd.  - Evelyn, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel