1) More underwear than clothes. You can get away with the same clothes for while, but changing your underwear every day, is a good rule to live by... even on holidays..
2) An open mind. Be ok to wear the same thing 3 days in a row, go without showering, and having a "natural" scent. Just let go of the ego and let the smell release...
3) Bring rubber pee pee poo poo shoes, as you never know what you're stepping in and they can be rinsed off easily. Sandals with cotton straps, sops up too much nasty sh*t.
4) Toilet paper. For obvious reasons, unless you are comfortable using your left hand (see previous blog) and then I say go for it, enjoy!
5) Hand sanitizer. Just do it.
6) If you are packing pants, make sure you hem them all above your ankle. Do not worry that you may look like you're waiting for a flood. You will thank us later... as mentioned before, pee and poo are everywhere.
7) If you take sugar in your chai tea, make sure you bring your own natural no calorie sweetener, like Stevia. Otherwise with a teaspoon of raw sugar here and there, you will come back diabetic.
8) Strong legs. The squat position can leave one rather tired, so before you go, make sure you've had some good solid leg training.
9) A plethora of your favorite natural herbs and over the counter drugs. India has pharmaceuticals everywhere, but if you have a preference of what will help you "go," or stop your bowels from exploding, or clean a cut, or soothe heat rash, or help you sleep, or wake you up, or calm the itch... bring it...
10) A smile. Don't be a smart ass, an asshole, or arrogant. It won't work here (or anywhere).
Top 10 Indian Experiences:
1) Eating the most amazing yummy mind blowing food ever. The cuisine is healthy, tasty, and hearty. mmm...
2) Observing the color palate. As India's flavors of foods are so vast and mouth watering, so are the colors of their saris, scarves, landscapes, and flowers. Our Western world is dark by comparison. Black is not a color.
3) Drinking the local beer, Kingfisher, (and liking it) and other fruity drinks. Made us feel 18 again (well, it made me feel 18 again, so that would make Greg feel 30 again! HA!).
4) Bartering for clothes and jewellery and having the vendors tell me that my Indian blood has given me the ability to be a great negotiator. What can I say, I can't buy anything that's not an amazing deal... even in Canada.
5) Frolicking in the sea. The ocean on the East and the West coast lines of India have felt our bodies swimming through them, even if I was reluctant at first (the water is cool for a few seconds and then it feels like bath water).
6) Laying our yoga mats out on balconies, roof tops, decks, beaches, and in our hotel rooms. Wherever there was a space... we filled it with movement, breathing and meditation.
7) Finding Portuguese wine, for a great price, in our last week here and having a "religious" experience.
8) Seeing the most spectacular temples. We observed the most private and intriguing rituals, ceremonies and prayer.
9) Sitting on the beach, with nothing to do but tan our bodies, walk along the water, and wait for our yoga class to start as the sun goes down.
10) Being the only foreigners on the eastern side of India. Having our picture taken on several occasions and then turning the tables on the locals and taking their picture. Lots of fun watching Greg interact with kids and older Indians, with a huge smile on his face, because he had no clue what they were saying. Unbeknownst to him, they were speaking English!
Top 10 things to be aware of in India:
1) Sh*t is everywhere. As there are herds of animals all over the place, even in large cities, where you step is VERY important. I recently made fun of Greg for stepping in a couple of sacred cow patties over the past 4 weeks. Karma is a bitch sometimes. Then on a road to a small town, I accidentally stepped in the biggest piece of sh*t EVER! I am shocked I didn't see it. However, you know you've been in India too long, when you look at the crap on your foot, hope it wasn't human, douse it with bottled water and keep walking.
2) A woman really shouldn't travel alone to India, unless you are staying with a family or heading off to an ashram. One of the saddest parts of our trip, was learning that rape is on the rise. It is one of the number one crimes that goes unpunished and therefore the momentum is building. Even if you have a man by your side it doesn't guarantee that you are safe. So stay in nice accommodations and walk where there are groups of people, in well lit areas at night.
3) India WILL assault your senses. You will not need to go far out of the airport, before you smell burning garbage, incense, gasoline, spices, kaka, and pee. So if you can't stand your nose being out of joint for a while, then India might not be the place for you.
4) Getting upset at things does not help the situation. Traveling with a calm head and an open mind is key. There are a lot of injustices in this country and so if you are on the attack to change the system, good luck. Be observant and start to change your own attitude and that will effect change around you.
5) If you do not barter, you will over pay for everything. Restaurant food is the only commodity that is not negotiable, but all the trinkets and clothing you might buy for family and friends is. Bartering is a way of life for Indians, so have fun with it and always try half the value first and go up from there. When talking numbers, have a calculator handy to show them what price you are ready to buy at. Keep a smile on your face to let them know you are enjoying the process. It's a game, and in the end usually both parties walk away feeling like they've got a good deal. I generally try to shake their hand before the deal is done, to let them know that I have reached my "best price." Works almost all the time!
6) Hindi is not commonly spoken in all areas of India. This wouldn't be so crazy, except the areas are fairly close together, so you might think that people could understand each other even if they weren't from the same region... not so, they are not speaking different dialects, but completely different official languages.
7) The yoga community is small, unless you're at teacher training. We have been to a few beach platforms and usually a full class has 4-6 people practising, which we found refreshing. Hatha is more commonly practised than flow, but if you find a good foreign teacher or an Indian instructor that speaks good english, they may be more creative in their sequencing and you'll have an easier time understanding them. We have been disappointed more than once going to class, but this is India, not America, where our teachers are very progressive in their approach.
8) Curry is everywhere, but in more touristy places you can get all the luxuries of home: coffee, toast, pasta and even pizza (it may still have curry on it though... tough to say). However, if you love peanut butter... bring it with you. They just don't eat it or sell it here!
9) Watching the sun rise or set is a big deal out here, so if you aren't a morning person, make sure you head to the West side, where in January the sun sets at 6:15pm that way with wine in hand you can enjoy with no worries...
10) If you can handle it, be vegetarian when you travel here. You will not get sick, you will be very satisfied with your food choices and you will have more options for fabulous dishes. There is no need to eat beef, as their cow is sacred. Stay away from it and you'll be respected more. If you have to, eat chicken... but do your best to avoid all meats and your mind and body will appreciate the effort!