I went to India for 14 days, returned last week, and I am still jet-lagged. Such is life. Would love to share 9+ Things I Learned in India with you:
AYURVEDIC FOOT MASSAGES // Not what you’re thinking, it’s WAY better. I signed up for a “foot massage” because my calves were killing me and I actually received a full body massage with the therapist’s foot. You read that correctly, they did not use their hands. I was flat on a mat while they clung to a rope and used their foot. The pressure was amazing and they step on your stomach too (so don’t eat beforehand)!
IT TAKES A VILLAGE // I traveled to an area called Kerala, known as the land of coconuts. I lived close to the beach and ventured out to the ocean as much as possible to see the fishermen work. These men would cast large nets into the ocean from the land, spread it out with a motorboat out in the sea, and reel it in with the help of the entire village. It can take up to 50 men to pull in one net and I saw nets come in both full and empty with tiny sardine fish. I thought to myself, “how could this be more efficient” but then I realized how amazing it is to see the comradery between neighbors.
SOURCE OF SHAKTI // Did you know nutmeg grows inside of fruit? Mind, completely, blown. I visited an Indian spice plantation and the local guide walked up to a tree, and pulled down a pale brown piece of fruit. When he opened it there was a bright red flower wrapped around a brown nut and I had no idea what it was. The smell was distant yet familiar; and to my surprise and delight, I had just discovered nutmeg in its original form! Again, mind blown.
AMMAS ASHRAM // For those of you who haven’t heard of Amma, she is a living saint from India and travels all over the world to spread spirituality (not a specific religion, just spirituality). People wait in line to hug her and once she starts, she doesn’t take a break- I’m talking 16hrs in a chair, hugging strangers, sans meal. Have you seen me when I’ve skipped a meal before? Not pretty. Anyway, I was lucky enough to be at her ashram right before she left for a tour! I waited on line for two hours to receive “dharshan” (the hug) and to my surprise, the journey towards Amma was the experience I needed, more so than the hug, JAI-MA!
INDIAN CUISINE // I thought my opinion on Indian food would change, but I didn’t. Indian food is still my least favorite cuisine. I made an effort to try everything offered to me- and I’m still obsessed with dosas (fermented bean crepes)- but I’m not into rice, curry, or any of the Indian sweets. Don’t get me wrong- Indian food is good, it’s just not my jam. I did order the local fish (at established restaurants) and enjoyed them very much.
REVELATION AT THE SHIVA TEMPLE // Devotion in India is a lifestyle. Up until two weeks ago, I couldn’t understand organized religion. It was confusing, filtered and somewhat caustrophobic; but now I understand that all religions stem from love and that’s all I need to know. OM SHANTI, SHANTI, SHANTI.
PALM TREES & SUNSHINE // I love living near the water, writing under palmtrees, and searching for shade in the sunshine. The warm weather heals my soul and as much as I love NYC, I’m relocating to the beach in the near future. Namaste NYC, I STILL LOVE YOU.
OVERALL // If you visit the Kerala region in Southern India, wake up before sunrise and enjoy that view. Start your morning with a banana straight from the tree because they’re absolute perfection. Practice yoga in a shaded spot (preferably infront of the ocean), eat breakfast and take advantage of the fresh fruit and local cuisine. Always drink bottled water, even if that means brushing your teeth with it. Smile at the locals because they’ll smile back. Contribute to the economy by purchasing some souvenirs (just know your price points so you’re not taken advantage of, but don’t barter over an extra quarter or two… they need it more). Stop by Amma’s Ashram and stay for a couple days. Visit a spice plantation (if they don’t speak English, I’m sure you can guess the plant just by the smell). Do a homestay if possible and travel off the beaten path.
Full Disclosure: I felt safe in India but it’s best to travel in pairs and to respect the local dress code (women should not show their shoulders/ankles or wear tight pants). I didn’t walk around past 6pm and I was in bed by 8-9pm. If you have a male travel partner, all the better. As Pamela Barsky says, “I suggest you get a fake wedding ring and make up a fake husband. It will make your life so much easier.”