Joan Hyman: Traveling in India

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Mark Bennington PhotographyPhoto by Mark Bennington Photography

Venturing out into unknown territory can throw up several roadblocks when we are unsure where to find the information we need and are far away from the comforts of home. Whether one is a seasoned traveler or a first-timer, sorting out the many details can be a daunting task. My last trip to India (with my photographer boyfriend) took over a month of planning only to be thrown by the way-side when we arrived to our hotel in Delhi and were persuaded to buy a “tour” to Rajastan, Agra, and back to Delhi all in 5 days. For the price it seemed like a great deal, however, we were still thinking in dollars and hadn’t gotten our feet wet in Mother India. The 5 day tour bordered on hectic as we were driven many, many more hours than had been told and later found out through a little researching online and going to other travel agents that we paid almost double the market value! After 5 days in the back of a car, we were back in Delhi, exhausted and feeling conflicted by the “western” prices, we repacked our backpacks and hopped on a train to Hardiwar with no plan, praying to Shiva it would all work out when we got on the other end.

We packed light knowing we would be moving around a lot. It was January so Northern India was cold, we brought long underwear and some thermals and sweaters along with T-shirts so we could dress in layers and un-load as the day got warmer. We rolled everything up in our bags, placed the things we needed the most on the top and avoided bringing a lot of toiletries, as it was easier to get those in India and cheaper too. I had planned to go down south after our journey in the north and had shipped a box of lighter clothes for a hotter climate to a friend’s house before I left the US. I brought my sneakers and mephistos (very good walking shoes), which I wore the whole entire time there; buying toe socks, which are like mittens for your feet to wear with the mephistos in the cold weather and de-socked when it warmed up. We also packed headlamps, which had been our most prize possession in India considering the electricity goes out 3-5 times a day! I bought a cell with a money converter upon arriving in Delhi and purchased a sim card with “talk time” as oppose to waiting for the surprise bill at the end of the trip. As much as I wanted to bring the Lonely Planet Book for India, it was way to heavy, so I packed my laptop and visited the lonely planet website which recommends good lodging and restaurants.

As a yoga teacher, Rishikesh was a must see on this journey. It is the yoga capital of the world and based at the foothills of the Himalayas where yoga was discovered 5000 years ago. When we got off the train to Hardiwar, a spunky young girl came up to us and asked if she could split a cab to Rishikesh. We went with the flow and were enlightened as to an amazing ashram to stay in with good healthy places to eat on that humbling cab ride. Eating in third world countries is always a mission, especially coming from America where everything is so damn clean! Sticking to the hotels is always safe, but can prove to be expensive. We found the more time you spend in one place and follow other travelers to the local hot spot with good food and a great prices, the more you meet interesting people and feel a part of that community. Our stay in Rishikesh was amazing, and everyday was an exploration, which affirmed throwing the plan up to the Gods was the way to go!
By the end of our travels we were well equipped and dashing through airports like they were the local NYC train stations! I learned so much on that journey about surrender and to trust in the universal flow that carries us all down the great river of life.

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