This blog is my first documented TaoWander journey of my recent trip to India from March 1 till March 16, 2018.  When I planned this trip, India was calling me, especially the urge to experience the naturalistic side of India.  The mystic in me will always love India and its deep spiritual roots, but this time I also wanted wildlife eco adventures – especially to see the Bengal Tiger! Thus, I made many efforts to create an wildlife and spiritual travel itinerary which was adventurous, nature-loving and deeply mystical.  I have created a series of videos on this India adventure.  Visit my youtube channel and get more playful coverage of this trip, starting with Mumbai and Goa.  (More videos to come)

Not All Who Wander Are Lost

As J.R.R. Tolkien once wrote “Not all who wander are lost…”, this is the journey of wandering into beautiful areas of India from a naturalist perspective.  One of the things that I love about travelling is how it changes your thoughts and literally re-wires you from the inside out.  Instead of brooding over global bad news of who is beating who with what, instead I am focused on the now, being, and sending out thoughts of love to the world.  The media we live in, is the world we create. I want to co-create a beautiful and sustainable world and be here now.

The trip started with me leaving San Francisco and heading to Munich, where I was about to be reunited with my dear German friend, Micha.  We originally met aboard a Pullmantur cruise across the Atlantic Ocean in October of 2017.  I had joined the cruise through a “digital nomad” group.  He was there taking time off of work for 3 months to visit South America (as the final destination was Panama).  Our fates collided and we became fast friends.

After the cruise ended, we spent some time in Panama together and realized that we were great travel companions.  I headed back to the USA and he went on to continue his journey in South America and eventually back to Germany.  We stayed in contact during his journey and within a few months, we decided to meet and go to India together.  This is the record of our amazing experiences we had along the way.  Below is the map of where we went.  We travelled to 6 cities, starting in Mumbai, then to Goa, Varanasi, Jim Corbett National Park (near Ramnagar), Jaipur and Agra.

eco-adventure-tour-india

 

A Note On Travelling Light

I am making a note of this as to do this type of travelling, especially considering some of the places we stayed, travelling with less luggage is best.  Last year when I went to Barcelona and then across the Atlantic on the cruise, I chose to bring only a carry on size roller backpack and a regular backpack. Travelling this way is absolutely wonderful!  If you don’t want to check your bags, you don’t have to and can make your trip much easier.

Also, in at least one place we stayed, there was only stairs.  Now, certainly at full service hotels, they will carry the luggage for you.  However, it feels a whole lot better to travel light to begin with – a lot less to lose and easier to maneuver overall.  As Micha had already backpacked for 3 months in South America, he already knew it was best to travel light with his backpack.

March 1, 2018 Arriving In Mumbai

We arrived at 7am in the morning after a 6 hour flight from Istanbul via Munich.  We noticed the lack of air quality and smell immediately, even before we got off the plane.  This has been a problem in India for awhile as I remember it from Delhi 2 years back.  Although coming into the polluted grey skies of Mumbai was not so pleasant, it was nice to see that they are making improvements.  They are moving people up off the streets of Mumbai to single family dwellings apartment style.  I am in favor of this movement and change!  Helping people to get off the streets will help shape Mumbai into a thriving community.  I am very much looking forward to see it blossom and watch tourism grow.

The Vibe Of Mumbai

Our uber driver to took us to the Retreat Hotel and Convention Center near Versova beach.  On our way to the hotel there were many other cab drivers, scooters, motorcycles, tuk tuks, cows, donkeys, chickens, birds, children, people of all kinds – it was a busy and engaging city. (Note: Uber is available in Mumbai and other big cities, but not all cities.  Sometimes its just easier to take a tuk tuk or taxi)

The hotel was nice from the outside and it appeared to be in a fairly nice part of town. I will say that there is obvious water damage and moisture problems at this hotel which I am sure they are aware of, as it seems to be a consistent problem in Mumbai due to the high humidity.  We were so grateful to arrive in India, but both of us were tired, so we ate breakfast and then went for a nap, which turned out to be a long sleep of 6 hours.

Adventures in Sim Cards

airtel-indiaWe awoke around 3:30 pm and thought it would be good to get up and try to find a sim card for our phones so we could use our phones in India.  This turned out to be quite a challenge.  I had read another blog post a while back that said that “airtel” was the best one to get a sim card from, so we went in search of this.

Getting Photos

After about an hour and a half of looking we eventually found an airtel which said they could furnish us with sim cards.  The only thing was they needed a passport photo to go along with the paperwork.  So, we had to leave the store and walk a block or two to get photos taken of us.  Although this was quite annoying, we got the photos and came back in time for us to get the sim cards (as stores were closing at 6:00pm). They told us it would take 24 to 48 hours for the cards to activate. I left mine out, so we could still use my existing Verizon coverage and Micha put in the India sim card in his.  We felt good that we finally got the sim card issue resolved.  Now we just had to wait.

Note: Unfortunately the sim card never worked for us and we ended up just using wifi and my verizon coverage along the way.  It seems that in India you need to have India ID to get a phone or a simcard – not very convenient or helpful for tourists.  I hope there’s a good way to resolve this in the future.

Food Experience

bombay-barbequeWe were hungry after all of this sim card adventure and found a great place for dinner nearby called “Bombay Barbeque”.  It was rated fairly good on Zomato (an app commonly used in India for restaurant reviews).

Micha wanted non-veg and I wanted veg, so this worked out great for both of us.  Generally speaking, in India, it is easy to find restaurants that offer vegetarian meals as there is a large population of people that do not eat meat.  However, because of western cultures influence, there are a growing number of non-veg choices as well.

The service here at the restaurant was really good.  They passed around appetizers every 10 minutes and all of the ones we tried were really good.  They build a barbeque rack into each table so that the meat or veggies that are on skewers stay nice and warm.  It’s really a nice way to eat and we enjoyed our meals thoroughly.

After our escapades in Mumbai searching for sim cards and eating dinner, we realized it was time to go to bed and get ready for the big Holi festival day tomorrow.  We heard that most places close during Holi festival, so it is just a day of celebration.  We were wanting to have a good sleep and be ready for the day.

March 2nd, Holi Festival Day

The significance of Holi festival is many fold, starting with the beginning of spring, forgiving and forgetting, and the celebration of love.  Truly one of the best ways to enjoy spiritual travel in India is to jump right into a festival.

We woke up at around 8:30am and eventually made our way to breakfast at the hotel which was included with the stay. (I must say that this is a great option for hotels as it makes it easier and less stressful to find restaurants).  The hotel offers a simple buffet style breakfast which we enjoyed.  I especially enjoyed the fresh papaya and pineapple.  However, they also had a curry here which was most enjoyable and light.  I don’t generally eat curry in the morning, however, we were in India afterall!

After breakfast, we asked the front desk where was the best place to see the holi festival.  They said that Axa beach was the best place, which just happens to be a 3 minute tuk tuk ride down the street.  We were thinking, wow that was easy.  Both of us had white shirts on, which we intentionally wore to see what would happen by the end of the day. 😊

Axa Beach

We got our sunscreen on and headed to Axa beach.  At first we thought, it was a bit quiet, but as we neared the actual beach, we could see groups of people and families scattered throughout.  We stuck out like sore thumbs as both of us are 6 feet+ white skinned giants.  However, this brought us a lot of attention from the locals who thought we were pretty cool to venture into their territory.  The first group asked us if we would like to celebrate with them and applied pink chalk color to our faces in one strip.

Bucket List

We laughed and felt good that were getting colored.  Having seen some of the Holi celebrations online, I was hoping we would definitely get more color.  Sure enough, we just had to walk around a bit more and more groups and more families wanted to color us and take photos with us.  It was such a sweet experience to be there and get colored.

After about 45 minutes of walking around at the beach, we decided to take a tuk tuk into the city to get a feel for Holi festival there.  We were surprised to see not as much going on as we did at the beach.  However, we continued to walk around and it wouldn’t take long for others to approach us and give us more color.  Almost everybody that colored us, wanted to take photos with us too.  I found myself smiling so much that it actually hurt because it truly was such a joy to be there at this time.  Holi festival has long been a bucket list item of mine, so I felt gifted to have this experience.

Adventures in Un-Coloring Ourselves

Our flight to Goa was to leave at 9:00pm, but we wanted to make sure we got there early, so our Holi festivities ended at around 3:30 and we were able to clean up at the hotel (even though we had already checked out and had our luggage in storage).

It was wonderful to be able to clean up as we were quite COLORED from head to toe.  We were super thankful to the hotel staff for letting us use the indoor showers for pool users.

We drove through very thick traffic to get to the airport.  Holi festivities near Axa beach had grown considerably and it seemed that several people were quite intoxicated.  Police were confiscating vehicles from holi festival seekers who were already very drunk.  After about an hour in traffic, we were finally able to make it to the airport.

Mumbai Airport

When we got there, we noticed a very large lineup to get into the airport as there is security at every airport just to get inside.  You have to show proof that you will be boarding an airplane.  We did not think of this before we left the hotel and thus had to scramble to get our boarding passes on our phone.

After about 15 minutes of struggle, we managed to go to Air India’s website and show our booking screen to the security guard who finally let us in. (Even if you can’t make boarding passes, at least always have booking information handy so that you can share with security guards at airports in India!)

We brought our bags to check-in and then went into the very pretty Mumbai airport.  Of all the airports we visited in India, this was the largest and the prettiest.  We went to the food court to eat as we didn’t have any lunch.

Is It A Cab Ride or Indy 500?

We had plenty of time to get onboard the plane, but it also arrived late by 1 hour.  When I had booked the Goa part of the trip, I had not checked to see how close our hotel was to the airport.

Apparently, Goa is a big place and thus, I found out when we landed, that there was going to be another hour and a half to get to Mandrem, the place where our hotel called Beach Street Eco Hotel was located.

We were fairly weary and needed to find a cab to take us there, but were concerned that the hotel was not going to be open as they were not answering their phone at 11:00pm to take our call.  However, the cab driver assured us that he knew the place and that there would be someone there to let us in.

The cab driver was wow… a race driver!  However, he was the most accurate driving race car driver I had ever met.  Imagine this… we saw a snake on the road and the car came to a stunning halt.  I was so GRATEFUL for this because I adore snakes and their awesomeness.  India stops for snakes! Of course they do, because the snake has a very mystical function, as seen in the image of Shiva.

Paradise At Last

When we arrived, I was grateful to see that there was indeed a person at the desk (outdoor desk) to let us into our room which was absolutely delightful.  Although it was dark, and the lighting was soft, we entered what I considered to be paradise.  The bed was surrounded by mosquito netting, as the room is made with bamboo and not sealed shut.  Our room was situated with a waterfront view and it was spectacular to open it up the bamboo shutters to see the moonlight on the water.  We had an exquisite rest that night with the sounds of the waves in the background.

March 3 to 6, Ecotour Experience in Mandrem, Goa

After all the excitement and hussle in Mumbai, it was so nice to unwind and “just be” in Goa.  As this was definitely more of an ecotour experience, I was really looking forward to the naturalistic side of Goa, which included seeing dolphins in the wild.

We awoke to a glorious sunrise and enjoyed a wonderful breakfast at the café situated on the grounds of our Beach Street Hotel.  I was feeling a bit snap happy with my Samsung NX300 camera, so went out and took some photos.

Truly, we enjoyed the days that followed with a lot of love and joy in the air.  The beach town of Mandrem, Goa is very colorful.  The vendor laid streets of Goa are lined with a beautiful assortment of locally made goods.  Knowing how the glare can be on water, I was wanting to find some sunglasses, as the ones I brought disappeared. After perusing a few stores, I managed to find a pair of folding sunglasses for 500 rupees, which was a great deal and kept the glare out.  I also managed to pick up a very beautiful light weight and beautiful dress for 500 rupees as well, which I later wore at the Taj Mahal.  There is definitely some nice shopping here.

Eco Adventures and Wild Dolphins!

The water was so beautiful – very warm, perfect for swimming and temperate for feeling relaxed.  I allowed myself to be fully immersed in her warmth and beauty.  As I immersed myself, I was reminded of my favorite saying from the messages from water by Dr. Masuru Emoto “Love and gratitude”. I spoke these words to the water as I do to all water.  I felt myself breath deeply and inhale a song of joy.

These waters have beautiful dolphins which we were able to see from our dolphin boat, which we got on the next morning.  Having wildlife eco adventures here is so much fun!  I hear that not all ecotravellers who seek dolphin excursions get see dolphins, however, we were very LUCKY to see them that morning!   It makes me so very happy to see dolphins in the wild as I have travelled to different parts of the world just to see them.  It was wonderful to see them in pure joy – feeding and enjoying the waters.

Wild Dolphins and Fish

The dolphins are different than others I have seen before, as they have an extra hump after their dorsal fin.  We think it was the Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphin. However, as always, I was just as excited as usual to see them.  We actually had 2 opportunities to witness dolphins that day.  The first was in the morning starting at 6am for 3 hours.  The next was at 6pm for fishing.  We went on a local fishing boat (same boat we saw the dolphins with) to see how they fish.

At night the dolphins are out feeding as well as this is their dinner time.  We could hear them eating the fish out of our nets right next to us.  This doesn’t make the fisherman too happy.  However, it made me happy to know that their nets are easy to swim through.  My greatest concern is for their well-being as we are connected to them.

I have been advocating for dolphins for as long as I can remember.  Their presence in this world gives me great hope.  I believe that is also part of their symbolism to mankind, to provide hope when there is none.  Many lives of men, women and children have been saved by dolphins.  I believe our lives depend on them as they provide a song in the ocean, like their brothers and sisters, the whale. (Adventure note to self: swim with whales next)

Amazing Sunsets

That night we had a great dinner and enjoyed a gorgeous sunset.  We are so very blessed to have such an experience of wonderful food in a romantic setting.  Every day was truly a joyous experience.  Goa was such a treat of sunshine, great food of many different cuisines, beautiful flowers, butterflies, fish and dolphins.  I kept remembering the word “Anand”, which is the Sanskrit word for bliss.

March 6 – 9 The Spirit of Varanasi

Although leaving Goa was bittersweet, I was ready for the excitement and change of Varanasi, the holy city near the Ganges.  We were leaving the ocean to head to the protected River Ganges, which is now considered a living entity, providing it with additional care and protection.  This river expresses to me the word “love” and its message.  Each day, morning and night, this river is blessed with song and movement at the ghats.  I am forever grateful for this action because it sends a very clear message that sending blessings to water works.  As much as the river is used for all kinds of things, it still remains the hope of India.  The river Ganges is like the lifeblood of this country and I for one will always be thankful for it.

 

Open Prayer

Praying in India is seen almost anywhere.  However, Varanasi seems to be the most obvious of places to see open prayer.  To me, this is one of the main reasons tourists are drawn to this place is to witness this open expression of spirituality.

Visiting My Extended Family In India

I am blessed to have a friend who lives near Varanasi. His name is Kamal and he has a beautiful family in Bhadohi, which is an hour from Varanasi.  Kamal is a fine area rug producer and I met him 2 years ago on a business trip.

When we landed in Varanasi, we found our luggage almost immediately.  I peeked out the front window of the airport to see many men standing there waiting for people to come out.  Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Kamal waiting there for us.  It was such a treat to see him again!  I saw big smiles and he was very happy to escort us to his car (which was a new Hyundai).

The cars in India are a bit different than they are in the US.  Many different brands including Tata, Mahindra, and others.  Most of the cars seem to be white, which is smart because the heat is reflected.  The tuk tuks are mostly green and black, with some of the newer e-vehicles in green or blue.  For quick inner city drives, we preferred the ride in the tuk tuk due to softer seating and better shocks.  However, I do like the idea of the green vehicle.  I am seeing an opportunity for someone to come in and make a better vehicle that is green as well as comfortable!

Big Improvements In Varanasi

After reconnecting with Kamal after 2 years, I was noticing a lot of improvements in Varanasi.  It was cleaner – a lot cleaner!  Kamal was mentioning to us that there have been lots of changes in the area with a big effort to clean up the streets.  This seems to be an ongoing theme as it was happening in Mumbai as well.  I felt a presence of life here that ilike no other I have ever visited.

I purposefully chose the hotel we got in Varanasi because I want to be where the action is.  We definitely were located in the area where all the action is – Dashashwamedh Ghat, which is where the evening prayers are celebrated.  The hotel is a good hike up the hill called “Palace on the River” and not for those who are challenged by heights or climbing stairs.  It’s only a 2 ½ star place, however, the warmth and hospitality is 5 star.

Palace On The River

Two years ago, I stayed at Assi Ghat at the “Palace on the Ganges” and watched morning prayers. However, in all, I would go back to the Palace on the River because the prayer here is phenomenal and truly an impressive event! Also, the service at this hotel was much better.  The Dolphin restaurant nearby is really nice and has a beautiful view of the river.  The only downside is that you cannot get to it by car.  You have to walk, but there is a nice little shortcut through the windy narrow streets that can get you there. I so enjoyed this place in every way.  I loved watching all the animals and feeling such a great connection to the earth.  It truly is a marvel that these prayers happen every morning and night.  Watch the magic of our Varanasi experience below!

Learning About The Art of Rug Making

The next day we were treated royally with Kamal and taken to his factory in Bhadohi where he produces the fine area rugs.  For those who don’t know the location of Bhadohi, it is situated approximately 45 km west of Varanasi.  It also has the nickname of “Carpet City” as it is the largest hand knotted rug weaving industry in South Asia.

 

Micha had never seen this before and showed keen interest in the production of these fine rugs.  We got to see everything from the hand-spinning of the wool, the dying of the wool and several different looms.  It was truly a marvel to see it all in action.  There is so much hand work that goes into the production of fine hand knotted area rugs.  It appears that India is one of the strongest producer of hand made goods in the world.  Kamal was eager to tell us of all of his new products and different materials they are testing out for production.  If anyone is interested in the art of fine rug making, I can make this dream come true for you. 😊

 

The Buddha in Sarnath

The last couple of days in Varanasi were spent to see some spiritual sights including Sarnath and other temples. I know that India is doing a great job right now at cleaning up all of their tourist and spiritual sites which is awesome to see.  However, I had to take a photo of this, which I thought was odd, but I learned later that the people of Tibet and China who believe in the “fat” version of Buddha, also believe in putting gold foil on the stupas. However, the Buddhists of India believe that Buddha was a thin man and thus no gold foil.

Burning Ghat

One of the most interesting things we saw and perhaps very deeply felt place was witnessing the burning ghat.  Here is where they burn the bodies in a relatively open area for people to see.  Oddly, there is no unusual smell other than the smell of wood.  Our guide says this is because of all the preparations they do the body before they are burned which includes washing them with herbs and using special sandlewood in the fire.

Indian women are not allowed to come here as because of tradition as some have flung themselves into the fires while their husbands dead bodies burn.  However, I was not the only white woman who visited the burning ghat.  We were not allowed to film or take photos, except in certain spots, where he allowed me to take this photo below.  It was however, a deeply felt and intense experience to see it.  India seems to have deep respect for its dead.  One thing I do remember is that if you were a child under five, a pregnant woman, a Sadhu (holy man) or you were bitten by a snake and you died, your body is not burned as you already have a ticket to heaven (with no reincarnation or karma). Those bodies are left adrift in the Ganges.

City of Organized Chaos

It was getting hot in India and we were moving slowly.  However, it was truly an experience to cherish and remember.  Watching the cow, the water buffalo, cats, dogs, donkeys, pigs, goats and people all moving about with little or no accidents is still a miracle to me.  Varanasi is truly a city of organized chaos.  I know many cities of India do this well.  However, Varanasi is one of the craziest.  There is always activity going on and so much of it is keeping an eye open for one another.

I Heart Cows

It should be noted that it was almost 2 years ago that I decided to give up beef.  I knew that it was not doing me any favors to eat it and I was never particularly that fond of red meat.  I knew that many cows were suffering needlessly (especially in Industrial farms) and for what?  So we could clear another acre of forest in the Amazon?  No.  I will not be a part of this industry anymore.  So, now I am very comfortable choosing to stay away from beef and be vegetarian.  I am thankful to my first India trip to help me get on this path.

There were so many cows in Varanasi to look at and I witnessed many blessings to cows along the way.  I truly enjoyed their presence so much on this trip.  It was like seeing an old friend again.

March 9 Train ride to Moradabad and onwards to Jim Corbett National Park

We got to the train station at 9:00pm as our train was to leave around 10:05 pm.  However, as it turns out, it was 3 hours late!  Late trains are commonplace in India as we found out.  Thank goodness we were on a sleeper train.

The train ride was to arrive in Moradabad in the morning by 9:00am, but we were late and didn’t arrive until 1:00pm!  Our Jim Corbett guide was waiting for us there and found us right away which was a relief.  Moradabad is a very busy city and it took us ½ hour just to get out of it.

Jeep Ride to Our Safari at Jim Corbett

Once we finally got onto the open road, traffic was better. An hour later we would arrive near Jim Corbett Park.  We stopped once to get something to eat as it had been many long hours on the train without food.  After a quick stop to eat, we changed vehicles into a Jim Corbett Jeep.

One thing that is consistent throughout any travel within India in a car, is that they drive fast and crazy!  I could see many people, not having the stomach just for the car rides here, but for me, I just accept that I am in Gods hands and enjoy the ride. There are so many potential hazards in India, that you cannot count them all.

Entering Jim Corbett National Park

Established in 1936, Jim Corbett National park spans 1288 square kilometers. It is the oldest national park in India, maintained to protect the endangered Bengal Tiger. Entering the actual park is an interesting experience.  I was told to get out of the jeep when we got to the gate with passports in hand.  Then I had to manually log into a register book.  I thought it was interesting how “old school” this was.  No computers, everything done by hand (probably not much different than when it started in 1936).  It took about 15 minutes and then we were able to go through the gate and begin our safari and wildlife eco adventures!

Our time was shortened due to the late train.  We only had a few hours on this night and the full day tomorrow to see any wild tigers or elephants.  It should be noted that seeing tigers in the park is NOT A GIVEN.  In fact, many people stay for days or weeks at a time without seeing one!  We knew this ahead of time and just decided to enjoy the ride and see what happens.  I had my camera in hand and I was ready.

An Angry Bull Elephant

Within about 15 minutes of driving into the park, we bumped into a wild bull elephant with one tusk!  Our driver, Nanu, had warned us that the bull elephants were very dangerous especially when they are alone.  So he immediately backed up on the windy road to get out of his way.  I could sense his fear and I was feeling the adrenaline of seeing a wild elephant.  I could hear another jeep coming up and they stopped briefly as they wondered why we stopped.  They decided to continue anyway and the bull elephant was still there charging them!

I felt like I was in a scene of Jurassic Park for a second, except instead of an angry T-Rex, it was an angry elephant.  Still scary!  Just watch youtube videos on angry elephants and you will see how dangerous they can be.  That being said, I was thrilled beyond measure to see him and so thankful to see that there are wild elephants out there enjoying life.

Dhikala Rest House

Probably one of the best parts of this experience is that we stayed right inside the park at a place called Dhikala.  This is one of the “rest houses”.  I will say that for those who enjoy naturalistic experiences, this is the best.  Just don’t expect the Hilton.  The bed was as hard as can be and there were no clean sheets to be found.  However, waking up to the exquisite morning dew and going for a safari jeep ride is exceptional!

It was surprisingly cold in the morning in the park.  Thank goodness I had a sweater with me as it was surprisingly chilly.  We saw a lot of deer in the morning as well as beautiful birds.

Hiding In The Grasses

Searching for tigers can be a bit exhausting because you never know where you might find them.  However, we found a group of jeeps that morning who had just spotted a mother and her cub together in the tall grasses.  At first, I could not see them, but knew they were there, because everybody’s camera was out.  Then after a little more searching I could see them.  It was so exhilarating to see these beautiful animals in their natural territory.

I felt that our trip was turning out exceptionally well at this point! This was only our 2nd safari and we already saw tigers and a bull elephant!

After witnessing the tigers, they disappeared into the bushes and we went back to Dhikala for breakfast.  Micha ended up eating quite light that morning because he felt that he had a bit of “delhi belly”.  I was a bit concerned that this may cause him to not want to go on the afternoon safari.  However, fortunately, it wasn’t severe.  I did not have it and we had been eating the same.  Sometimes, it is difficult to know what causes these things.  However, we did manage to go on the afternoon safari.

It got considerably hotter in the afternoon as we trekked deep into the forest on the unpaved roads.  There were plenty of deer, monkeys and peacocks as we tried to track a tiger.  There were fresh footprints on the road, but for at least 2 hours no tigers.

Eye of the Tiger

I was starting to sing the song in my head “Eye of the tiger”, then, suddenly, we found a big group of jeeps ahead and sure enough, there was a tiger!  She was sitting on the road. It’s like she’s saying “I own the road” (just like a cat). It was so wonderful to see her!  I got a video of it and some stills.

There were other jeeps coming up behind us and there was a lot of commotion with all the jeeps wanting to see her.  I found that almost as entertaining as watching the tiger!  Eventually she moved from her spot and was walking into the grasses so we could get a closer look at her.  She was so beautiful!  I found myself loving every moment of her presence.

After enjoying her for about half an hour, we decided it was time to go.  We needed to eat, clean up and change before we got on our train to go to Jaipur.  Our train wasn’t leaving until 10:00 pm, but we wanted a chance to cleanup. We were really dusty from all the travelling in the open jeep on dirt roads.  It’s all worth it for the chance to see wild tigers!

Winning the Naturalist Lottery

Although we had only spent 24 hours in the park total, we managed to see 3 tigers, 1 bull elephant and the range of monkeys, parrots, birds, peacocks, huge groups of bees and many mountains of termites!  I would definitely consider this as winning the naturalist lottery.  It was an amazing experience in a short period of time!

I would like to go back to Jim Corbett again one day as the joy of seeing a tiger and an elephant in its natural habitat was an ecstatic experience.  Also, comparing the cost to Africa, this is far easier on the pocket book and an amazing experience overall.  I am thrilled that India is taking care of this park and being mindful of it since 1936.

We were then taken to our hotel which we were able to cleanup. After resting a bit, we prepared for the long train ride to Jaipur from Ramnagar.

Thankfully, the train was right on time in Ramnagar and we were able to find our spot quickly.  We hung out with some of the people next to us sharing stories and then went to our bunks to sleep.

March 12 Onwards to Jaipur

We woke up at around 7:00am and by that time, many people had already gotten off the train as we had passed Delhi.  At around 10:00 am, we made it to Jaipur where our guide, Sanjay, whom I had met 2 years ago was waiting for us.  It was great to see him again and make our way to our hotel called the Fortune Metropolitan.  This is a 4 star hotel and had very nice rooms.  Check-in was good and fast and we were on the 5th floor.  After showering and resting a bit, we were ready for our next experience… Elefantastic!!

The Joy Of Elephants

This was my 2nd time at Elefantastic, a well known and popular tourist place to visit with domesticated elephants in Jaipur.  The majority of these elephants at one time or another have worked in Jaipur or participated in weddings or other religious activities.  Now they are situated at the sanctuary where tourists like us can learn about them, enjoy their company including feeding, painting, bathing and walking.  This was Micha’s first time and I was so looking forward to witnessing the wonder in his eyes upon meeting them.

The name of the elephant we got to play with was Sampa, who is 46 years young.  We had 3 hours of playtime with her.  It was so much fun to feed her, paint her with chalk paint, wash and scrub her, get sprayed by her and later walk with her.  Oh, and by the way, Sampa and the other elephants know and understand 2 languages: Sanskrit and Hindi!  Therefore, if you are planning a visit with these divine creatures, I suggest that you learn a few words of love for them.  “Pyaar” is love.

Up Close and Personal With Ganesh

These elephants are very well taken care of and we are highly appreciative of this!  I went out of my way to find Elefantastic originally, because I had heard how many abuses were going on with elephants in India, but still wanted to have the experience of meeting them in this beautiful way.  Rahul, owner of Elefantastic, has done a great job of keeping the elephants in great condition and treating tourists to a wonderful experience.  They are still listed as a 5 star attraction on Trip Advisor and for good reason.  If you are looking for an experience with domesticated elephants, this is a great opportunity to meet them up close and personal.

After 3 hours of fun, we were escorted to Rahul’s mother’s place for dinner.  Yes, dinner is included in your experience, which is a nice touch because it is a home cooked vegetarian meal.

They also have a few pets, a pug and pet rabbit!  You can see the trip advisor awards on the wall as well.

After this, we had Sanjay take us back to the hotel as we were ready for sleep.

A Trip To See The Famous Taj Mahal in Agra

Not many people get to see the Taj Mahal twice in their lifetime.  However, the second time was much sweeter as Micha was with me and it was a delight to see the wonder in his eyes.  It’s a 4 hour road trip to Agra from Jaipur (which constitutes part of the “golden triangle” Jaipur-Delhi-Agra).  We were enjoying good weather, not too hot yet at around 32 degrees Celsius.

While we were there, we were quite popular and many Indian tourists wanted their photos with us.  This also happened to me last time I was in India. If you are planning a trip to India, the Taj Mahal is really a must see as it’s one of 7 wonders of the world.

The Jungle Book Is Real

The next morning we planned to see 2 main attractions, the Amer Fort and the monkey temple, known as Galta Ji!

We woke up at a reasonable time and arrived in Amer at 10:00am to see the awesome sprawling Amber palace.  This palace has the 3rd largest wall in the world.  Its truly a beautiful place to explore.  We chose to walk up the steps and not ride the elephants, as we wish to discourage that aspect of elephant tourism.  Besides that, we got to see some cute goats along the way!

There are many wonderful blogs that document the beauty of this place, so rather than re-hashing it, you can read more about Amer Fort here. One thing is for sure, they did not build it for tall people like Micha and I!

It was quite hot that day in Jaipur, 36 degrees C.  After a couple of hours at Amer Fort walking around, we felt quite exhausted.  We opted to go back to the hotel to rest and use the pool until 3:00pm.  On the way to the monkey temple we saw a lot more animals.

Galta Ji – The Monkey Temple

Yay, more wildlife eco adventures!  Ok, this one is a little different than Jim Corbett. 🙂  Monkeys have long been one of my favorite animals.  Maybe because they are a little unpredictable, but also because they are genetically very close to us!

This was my 2nd time here at Galta Ji and Micha’s first.  The thing about this place that is so wonderful is that they are allowed to be and enjoy this temple.  There is old history behind Galta Ji.  It was built during the 15th and 16th centuries.  It is a retreat for Hindu ascetics with the vaishnav Ramanuj sect.  Although mostly abandoned, for the most part the monkeys maintain the place. 😉 Built between 2 mountains, there are numerous bodies of water which are considered auspicious by some. It has a very spiritual and playful feeling here.

This is what happens when you put a German and a Canadian together at a Monkey temple in India.  Do you like my new hairstylist?

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Birla Mandir Hindu Temple

One of the last tourist things we did in Jaipur was visit the marble Hindu temple called Birla Mandir.

This temple is absolutely spectacular and one of the things I truly adore about it is that it is a beautiful hand carved masterpiece.  Some of the images on it are also very unexpected, like the ones below.  We wouldn’t expect to see Jesus, Socrates and Zarathustra carved into a Hindu temple.  However, it is a pleasant and welcome surprise to see here.  This is one of the beautiful things about India, is the observation and acceptance of many religions.  It is my understanding that a lot of Hindus accept Christ as a God-man, while also accepting that there have been others.

Major Improvements In Every Indian City

After travelling to India for a 2nd time, I can honestly say that it is one of my favorite places in the world to visit. Although there are things like heavy pollution in some cities, it is wonderful to know that they are making headway and pushing environmentalism to the next stage.  With the return of the turtle on Mumbai’s beaches, and environmental movers and shakers like Afroz Shah, India is fast becoming a much cleaner place in the world.  On top of that, their influence around the world pushes us all to make changes.  They are also making serious headway with solar power!

It is my observation after visiting Varanasi and Jaipur again after 2 years, that the improvement is IMMENSE!  Jaipur seemed dilapidated in 2016. However, now it is beaming with beauty.  They are revitalizing buildings and making the city cleaner, pinker and changing laws about driving in certain areas of the city.  For me, as a traveler, this is so delightful to witness!

The Time Of Our Lives Experiencing Wildlife Eco Adventures

I think it is safe to say that after our 15 days of this journey, we really got to see a wide variety of territory in India.  We enjoyed the best wildlife eco adventures, experienced many holy sites as well as some beautiful, scenic and ecologically friendly places.  We tasted a lot of different food as well which varied from south to north. It the last 2 days, I got a bit of the “delhi belly” and fortunately, due to great immunity, charcoal tablets and my desire to get well quickly, it passed quickly.

For anyone who has always wondered about travel to India, I highly recommend it.  Also, consider taking a retreat, such as this luxury retreat in Kerala or if you want something a little more rustic and meditative, try this one in Goa.

Thank you India for your magnificent beauty!

One of the things that I find so amazing in this world is how easy we can make a difference and create social change with a simple thought in “recognizing our value in how we communicate with the world.”

One of my favorite quotes is by Einstein: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”.  These words echo in my mind as a constant reminder that there is always a way to solve a problem, we just need to find out the barrier that is stopping us from figuring it out.  Sometimes its just as simple as walking away from the problem for awhile until we can see the answer. To create social change is to see that you too can make a difference.

As I have mentioned in a previous blog post “7 Reasons To Make a Conscious Choice To See Dolphins and Whales In The Wild”, I am a keen fan of whales and dolphins in the wild and all cetaceans in general.  They represent such joy, freedom and lightness of spirit and have shown us their sentience and intelligence.

However, right now as I type this, they are being bullied, threatened and murdered in a place called Taiji, Japan.  It is difficult for me to even talk about because I get so emotional.  Yet, it needs to be talked about.  They are known as some of the most beloved creatures on the planet; saving human lives for as long as humans have been telling stories. The ancient Greeks loved dolphins and called them philomousoi, music lovers.  They thought that dolphins danced when they heard music.

The Time Is Now For Conscious Transformations

Yet here we are today in 2018, where these beautiful singing mammals are corralled and brutally slaughtered, leaving the babies to become an intelligence insulting sideshow for us humans.  One may say, “well, its part of their culture…”  I might say, sure, it was once culturally acceptable for doctors to promote cigarette smoking.  Look at how well that turned out!

Considering the times that we live in and the daily assaults that all marine life are going through at this period of time on earth including the barrage of plastic, trash and contaminants, it’s a miracle that we have any life left in the ocean.  The world is global now.  To create social change, we can no longer sit in our little bubble and pretend that things going on around us are not happening.  The time is now to act.

The internet may have a dark side of “fake news”, but it also has a light side of real, tender and breathtaking stories of major change and conscious transformations.  I believe that we are living in an INCREDIBLE TIME for making conscious changes and change is happening faster than it ever has before.  Realizing this advantage as a wellness travel influencer, I have taken it upon myself to write this blog for the sake of my beloved water creatures.

Dolphins and Whales need our help!  They have a gift, the gift of song and sound like no other on the planet.  We still do not know the vastness of gifts they offer to the oceans and the earth as a holistic organism.  It is clear that they are sentient and loving beings, much like humans, although probably (and very likely) much deeper than we are.

What is happening in Taiji is NOT OK.  They are corralled and slaughtered, leaving the babies behind.  These babies cry for weeks after the slaughter of their families.  This is all to put them into a horror of a what we call a dolphin show.

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These videos are very difficult to watch.  However, sometimes we need context of the reality going on so that we can grasp the problem.

The video below is in stark contrast to the above.

Japan appears to have a very mindful culture, but how can it continue to hurt dolphins?

The real truth of the matter, is we

  1. Don’t need meat or fish to survive as humans, and currently it is very TOXIC to even consume any marine life
  2. Do not need to watch dolphin shows, as they offer no reality to the truth of who they are
  3. CAN make a difference by not supporting this

How can we make a difference you ask?

For starters, as consumers, we can CHOOSE NOT TO take vacations in Japan until they stop their hunts.  We can make conscious travel decisions and can tweet, Facebook, Instagram and Reddit. As well, we can use a whole lot of hashtags, especially speaking to Japanese travel groups, Japanese embassies, and Japanese leaders.

I’ve been using the #dearjapan hashtag and letting them know I will not support any travel to their country until this practice is permanently stopped and the coves are blue again.

One thing I have noticed in this consumer driven world –  companies that don’t make money cannot survive.  It reminds me of this quote from one of my favorite movies of the 80’s “Trading Places” by Eddie Murphy’s character. “Yeah. You know, it occurs to me that the best way you hurt rich people is by turning them into poor people.”  In this instance, we want to create social change by hurting the businesses who are profiting from dolphin shows or dolphin meat.

We can choose to NOT feed the tourism market in Japan or the Faroe Islands. Anybody who slaughters dolphins, doesn’t get my vote. Dollars = votes. WE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE.  Not only by not choosing to make it a travel destination, but using social media to let them know why!  It’s a double whammy for Japan, because if we are not visiting, we are also not seeing their dolphin shows.  This kind of pressure works and has worked in multiple scenarios with other social problems in recent times.

Hashtag Movements Work

Look at the #metoo movement!  It was ok for so many years to treat women in the Western world, particularly in Hollywood, as sexual objects to be mistreated behind the scenes.  Now, all of this terrible sexual assault behavior is exposed and thus creating the path to healing!  Imagine how many careers this is affecting in Hollywood alone! However, the entire movement is making a difference for women everywhere.

During the Dakota Access Pipeline standoff, many people divested out of big banks into local credit unions who were not invested in the pipeline #nodapl.  This all happened in a very short period of time.  I know this hurt the banks and its still hurting them. The best way for us as consumers to make a difference is to VOTE WITH OUR WALLET!  The beauty of this, is that you don’t even have to be a citizen of the country involved to have a say! You just have to choose whether you want to spend money on anything they have to offer.  It’s that simple.

It can happen for dolphins in Taiji and in the Faroe Islands too.  It just takes consistency and doing everything we can to drain money and interest that causes harm to dolphins and whales. In the end I hope Japan has an open mind to learning more about the consequences of their actions.

I want to make it clear that we are living in such an amazing time on the planet.  For the first time in years, I feel like I can make a real difference in this world. Social media has given us the opportunity to all be BROADCASTERS.  No longer is it just mainstream crappy media giving us their dogma of the day.  We can get news from multiple sources. People who are witnessing directly at the source can be our teachers.  I follow many different travel bloggers and see an immense amount of social change going on.  We are not here to just sit and let the world just fall to pieces.

Even the Dalai Lama knows that we need to do a little more than just pray.  I am all for prayers and one day soon will write a blog about the power of prayer.  However, for now, I know it is the combination of both prayer and action that makes a difference. YOU CAN DO IT!

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Make a difference for dolphins and spread the word about Taiji. Talk to your friends about it.  Use your broadcasting ability to make a difference!

Here’s a list of popular hashtags   

How does one get on the path to healing? Do you need to go to a special place? Do you need to meet a spiritual guru?  No, the path is pretty simple, you carve it yourself, in your own way in your own time.  One more thing… it never ends.  It a journey.

To get on the path to healing is simple.

You are:

  1. Tired of living a life of poor physical or mental health
  2. Ready to feel better
  3. Taking steps to feel better, however small they may be

“Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.” – Lao Tzu

Also it is important to note that you need an open mind to learning a new way of life and actually consider the idea of constant renewal.  Some people say they are ready, but then never make the plan to change their ways.  It does not matter how often you say it, without action, you are still at the train station waiting for the train.

I suppose one could say that I have been on the path to healing for years.  Its true, one path leads to another path, then another, then another and so on.  However, I would say that I have made a sincere conscious effort since 2012 to truly direct myself in a way that serves me and others.

How did that path start?

Making lifestyle changes

I realized that I needed to do something different with my lifestyle.  Although I have been interested and practicing alternative health for many years including practicing homeopathy, I really began to question a lot of things at this point.

It should be noted that I had a very intense experience one night in the summer of 2012 that changed my view of everything.  It actually started with a dream.  I woke up in the middle of night, all charged up and said to myself – “I am here now”.  Crazy, yes.  However, it is also profound.  What had happened to me that night was a miracle.  I am still not certain as to what happened or how, but I had what you could call the equivalent of an NDE (near death experience).  I literally had a full life review from the time I was a little baby to the current time.

What I saw, was like a movie from a birds eye perspective.  I saw myself as a loving spiritual being making my way through life, only that I was far too hard on myself. As the bird, I could not understand why I spent so much of life with such uncertainty and so much disdain towards myself.  Yes, I say that, because it is true.

I guess in this birds eye view, I was looking at my life from my “higher self” so to speak.  My higher self has a much different view and opinion of me than my ego.  My higher self sees everything as a learning experience and doesn’t judge people or situations the way my ego does.

I started to make a change in my lifestyle.

Thus, my path to healing was renewed with making green juices. I had seen her a few times on the internet, Cherie Calbom “the juice lady” and she looks amazing for her age.  Everything she was saying was making sense.

“Let juice be your medicine and your medicine be your juice. May you be healed body, soul, and spirit.” – Cherie Calbom, M.S., C.N.

I started having juices 2 times a day, 5 days a week.  I gave myself the weekends to eat good size meals as I was detoxing originally.  In two weeks, I started to see the whites of my eyes a lot brighter and in one month, I noticed a visible change in my hair, skin and nails, especially my skin.

Eventually, juicing this often was a bit too much for me, so I changed it to once a day 3-4 days a week.  I didn’t want to overdo it and then feel like I didn’t want to do it anymore.  Choosing to juice at night instead of the morning also works well for me.  Since then, I have switched it up a few times.  However, the major shift from just eating your typical meat, veggies and starch had now shifted.

I started this way of eating at age 42 and it really made a difference in how I viewed the world.

Keep An Open Mind To Learning

Along the way, I learned different things that really worked for me on the healing path

  • Travelling helps me see the world through different eyes as well as keeping an open mind to learning. It also helps me feel excited about the future, aligns me with my goals of seeing the world, and helps me feel more compassion for others
  • Exercise doesn’t have to be a 4 letter word. If you don’t like going to the gym, that doesn’t mean you can’t exercise.  I exercise almost every day and it starts with walking.  Walking in the park gets me closer to nature.  Stretching and yoga helps my body stay limber.
  • Joy is a choice. So is pain.  How we react to things is a choice.
  • We are not responsible for other peoples reactions or feelings about us.
  • Helping others will always help you out of a depressed state

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  • Although making money is important for our well being, it is not where I get the greatest joy
  • Don’t eat big meals after 6pm (No, we’re not going to change into ugly gremlins if we eat past this time, only we are going to feel a lot better 😉). Your body is already shutting down at that time and metabolic processes are slowing down.

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  • Wait 5 minutes after eating a meal to see if you want seconds (9 times out of 10, I stop eating)
  • We do not NEED to eat meat. It truly is a false perception that we need to eat it.  (Have you seen any meat eating Gorillas? Read this article for more on them.   Despite that I have eaten meat for most of my life.  However, I have not always enjoyed it.  I never really liked it that much – I was trained to eat it. I prefer a vegetarian lifestyle.
  • One day at a time. One moment at a time.
  • Kindness matters. No matter whom you come across that is having a bad day and chooses to be cross with you, do not let them bring you down or succumb to their level. You are in control of how you feel, remember.

Now that its almost 2018 as I write this, I have learned a few more things that have made my life genuinely better and stay on the path to healing.

One of my best friends that I met at the tender age of 5 finally came back into my life after almost 10 years! She is a great inspiration to me that people can change and get out of bad habits.  With her it was drinking alcohol.  In 2016, after some bad exchanges with another friend, I realized that I needed to stop drinking alcohol.  Although I would never have considered myself to be a serious drinker, I knew that it wasn’t improving my life or making me a better person.  I could see that it was a habit that was not building my character.  Also, I was beginning to realize that it was in fact a poison and it was causing my body to have inflammation.  (I later tested this out.)

Over the years, I had a lot of experiences with people close to me who had drinking problems.  I really began to question how alcohol became a substance that people thought was cool and exciting.  I will say that I enjoy a martini or margarita, but to drink it regularly is not a good thing for my body or my mind.  There’s really nothing cool about the behavior that comes from regular drinking.  Thus, this ended.

Instant Results From Making A Conscious Choice To Feel Better

What happened after that was amazing.  My body started to re-shape itself.  Yes, although I have always been what you may call slender, I got thinner and more refined, more in the shape that I wanted to see.  Suddenly I lost a lot of “padding”.  I started to see the shape of the muscles in my arms and legs.  I could see abs!!  This was all from not drinking!  Not to mention that I was also feeling a lot better.  No more feeling foggy in the morning from having had drinks the night before.  My hair was less frizzy, my mind a lot clearer and my body was feeling great!  No more inflammation!

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As I write this on my path to healing, my goals for wellness are growing… as it is a journey, I am remembering how important it is to keep in tune with them.

  • Continue on my path to wellness with new and different exercise patterns. I learned acroyoga on a cruise I went on this year with Nomadcruise.  This actually requires another blog. However, acroyoga is an absolute blast and I’ve seen people of all ages doing it.  All that is required is your sincere desire to learn!Acroyoga path to healing
  • I also found tai chi while walking in the park and absolutely LOVE how meditative it can be
  • Staying healthy is a choice as much as it is a way of living. My choice to juice and have good clean healthy food continues to work for me.
  • I am learning a new language – Spanish! After travelling to Spain and then across the Atlantic with the digital nomads, I found myself realizing how little I know in terms of language.  Almost every European travelling on board had at least 2 languages with 3 languages being the norm.  As a North American, I knew I could do better.
  • Being helpful to others who want my help and are ready to make changes – this is paramount to my long term goals
  • Continue to make conscious travel choices with wellness as the main focus
  • Be a wellness advocate!
  • This list will continue to grow…

Finding your path to healing is as easy as recognizing you want to be on one and making the first move.  Are you ready to heal?

My first ecotour experience with dolphins in the wild was at The Divine Dolphin in 1999 in Costa Rica.  My ex-husband and I made a conscious travel experience where we stayed at an eco-lodge in the middle of the rainforest and then later would go out in the boat and see if there were dolphins around.  Sure enough, we saw them every day.  They usually liked to swim near us and follow the boat for awhile.

This experience was the first time I had ever been exposed to dolphins in the wild and I’ve never really been the same since.  We were lucky to have a marine biologist with us the entire time who gave us a lot of education about dolphins, their interpersonal lives and feeding activities.  Since this experience, I have continuously advocated for their health and safety.

Understanding Whales and Dolphins In The Wild

I am a HUGE passionate fan of dolphins and whales and I have been as long as I can remember being on this earth. It goes without saying that I also advocate for them quite regularly on my personal facebook page as well as TaoWander. To be clear, dolphins and whales are probably the very least understood of animals on planet earth. For one, they live in the ocean, whereas we as humans live on land.

It is said that we know less about our oceans than we do about navigating space.  As much scientific research as we have done on these exquisite creatures, we still have no real idea of the meaning of all the clicks, whistles and big vibrating songs – other than the fact that they have a highly complex form of language that we still don’t understand.

All I know is that from my heart, I feel a deep and soulful connection to all cetaceans and feel that we need to take a closer look to “understand” them without being invasive and disturbing.  It is with this thought, that I wanted to list the 7 reasons to make a conscious choice to see whales and dolphins in the wild.

1) It’s on your bucket list

You saw Star Trek IV (truly the very best Star Trek ever!!!) and you’ve have been putting it off for years.   You’ve been wanting to spend time with dolphins because you have heard so much on the internet and the news that there’s something wonderful about dolphins and whales. Regardless, seeing them in the wild is something that has always intrigued you and NOW is the best time to experience it.

2) You want to see cetaceans outside of an awful chlorine filled tank

Yes, for goodness sake, DO NOT VISIT AQUARIUMS! Dolphins are usually captured against their will, taken away from their families and basically tortured and put inside an awful chlorine filled pool.  That pool is equal to the size of swimming in your bathroom toilet (figuratively speaking). Seriously, the water is polluted and toxic and their lives are considerably shortened by living in such awful conditions.

It is also worthy to mention that they use echolocation as their form of communication.  Thus, the waves bounce off the walls of the pools and literally hurt them over a long period of time. Visiting an aquarium is truly not conducive to learning anything useful about them in any way that is normal.

If you are still considering visiting an aquarium, consider the above, consider being robbed of your home, the ENTIRE OCEAN, taken away from your family and then forced to perform a bunch of intelligence insulting tricks in front of a group of people. It really is twisted if you look at it from their perspective.  If you’re still not sure, watch BLACK FISH.

3) You have heard of a healing capacity that comes from being in their presence

Some of the captive facilities in the world have also used this as a means to capture them and then use them in “dolphins assisted therapy”. The only problem with this is obvious (as per #2). However, dolphins in the wild will act on their own will and provide healing naturally through their own vibration. You may have not expressed it to your friends and family because they may think you’re weird especially if you feel like you can communicate with them. Many people with all sorts of different ailments from cancers to injuries have felt a strong healing connection between them and dolphins. To be alleviated from suffering seems to be a gift that both dolphins and whales can provide to us humans. Wouldn’t that be a gift to experience?

4) You have seen “The Cove” and want to make sure you see them in person

5) You feel a calling to be near them

You don’t know why, but like me you just have this strange and compelling reason to spend time with these beautiful creatures. Their energy calls to you like there’s something really important to learn.  Strong emotions come up when you watch videos about them on youtube.  You want to do your part to help them in some way. Meeting them definitely provides you with some fuel to help. If you feel a calling towards them, please do so, because there’s definitely a reason. Perhaps they are your spirit animal or perhaps you just need to see them and feel the joy of being in their presence. Make the trip and I promise you will always cherish every moment you spent with them.

6) Many cetacean species are under threat or endangered

Many species are endangered, like the Northern bottlenose dolphin, the amazon river dolphin and the humpback whale. The good news is the humpback whales are rising in numbers again and we can thank all the non-profit work around the world for helping to protect them. Seeing them in the wild may also help you want to be more active in helping them!

7) You are concerned about the amount of pollution, plastics & seismic testing in our oceans

There’s no doubt about it, mankind has been less than kind to our oceans. We have consumed so much plastic and dumped it all in the ocean only to devastate our cetaceans and other beautiful sea creatures with our garbage. Then to make matters worse, for the purpose of getting more gas and oil, we use seismic testing which creates huge boom noises that are perilous to those that live in the ocean.

Whatever your reason to see whales and dolphins in the wild, know this… they can use your help! Consider giving back to them. Help them by speaking out for them on your facebook, Instagram and any other social media you use. Find an organization that is working hard to protect dolphins and whales. Make conscious travel decisions in your life! Here’s a list to choose from http://www.onegreenplanet.org/animalsandnature/organizations-dedicated-to-marine-conservation/

Now more than ever, more and more people are seeking not just a holiday, but rather a holistic mind-body experience.  Health and wellness travel experiences provide escapes that heal the body and expand the mind.  The ultimate goals are to experience conscious transformations.  People are choosing a surprising variety of destinations some of which include the Himalayas, Sub-Saharan Africa, Thailand, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Indonesia and Nicaragua.

Travelling with a holistic intent brings so much depth and wonder, that when we return from such an experience we feel that we are ready to take on the world.  It’s like a reset button.  For many, they have already started to incorporate a healthier lifestyle at home and the holistic retreat experience is simply an extension of where they are at already.  Beautifully prepared organic anti-inflammatory meals, spas, walking and cycling, adventure, mindful meditation, silence, and relaxation provide the perfect recipe for rejuvenation.

“We are seeing a huge increase in the wellness travel sector, where the fastest growing segment is made up of guests who simply want to combine elements of wellness with their vacations,” said Six Senses Spas vice president Anna Bjurstam.

It used to be that people went on a vacation and that was it.  Now we are seeing goal oriented, vision quest wellness vacations that often involve a retreat and an opportunity for wellness.  According the the “Global Wellness Institute”, the health and wellness travel sector will exceed $600 billion in 2017!  With meditation, yoga and vegan diets becoming more mainstream, the western ideological vacation has changed.  Holistic health is not just a fad, it’s a consequence of living in stressful times as well as the pressures of Western society: earning money, buying new things and looking good.

Looking to Combine Retreat & Adventure

Some examples of the types of retreats people are looking for are a mixture of both relaxing as well as adventure.  Surfing and yoga is becoming very popular in many destinations amongst millennials and gen-x’ers.  At Original Surf Morocco (see video below), they give the following tip on meditation and surfing. “Over time, as you continue to practice, you will notice that you are not only catching more waves, but perhaps knowing and loving yourself a bit more, maybe even perceiving your external reality with an increased zest of compassion, grace, light.” These type of retreats often include a blend of surfing classes, standup paddleboarding, yoga, meditation, fitness, massage and healthy organic food.  Many of these retreats are female oriented.

Seeking Refuge from Noise & Digital Detox

Even the buildings or structures for hotels and retreats have changed considerably over the years.  This is due to mindfulness in architecture and design.  For instance the brand-new, completely “Silent Spa” at Therme Laa Hotel, Austria utilizes sacred geometry in its design.  This creates a totally serene sanctuary.  These silence retreat spaces help people restore their inner silence and make a space for inner contemplation.  Delivering peace is the new solution from spas to hotels to restaurants through “silence”.

https://www.therme-laa.at/en/SILENT-SPA.html

Wanting to Get Closer to Nature

The desire for healing and conscious travel embodies greater contact to nature.  As well, dissatisfaction with traditional western medicine has spawned healing retreats all over the world.   In other words, the postmodern condition has inspired health and wellness travel.

Places such as Peru have experienced a massive increase of wellness tourism.  The total overall visitors have doubled in the last 10 years.  Many of those tourists go there as a path to healing and a whole new reality with the plant known as Ayahuasca and other plant medicine.  Most people choosing this type of travel have an open mind to learning and are ready to experience fully conscious transformations.

For people who have ever had trauma in their lives or have dealt with depression, many have experienced radical healing.  The reason for the healing is because the plant medicine addresses the mental, emotional or energetic disorder within the individual. Watch this video here on one man’s journey that was totally transformational.  However, as the video clearly depicts, the journey was intense and even terrifying in parts.

http://www.etnikas.com/

Using travel as a means to focus on your health is a wonderful idea.  It helps us work on the parts of our health that have been neglected. As well, it gives us a whole new start upon our return home.  Clearly, health and wellness travel is in!

The first thing we must do is define sustainable travel.

“What is sustainable travel?” And why should it matter?

The truth is that as a traveler, we have a direct impact on the environment wherever we travel. Sustainable travel is an act of conserving the environment that also effects and improves the well being of the local people.  For example, ecotourism in Costa Rica owes its conservation to the efforts of tourists and conservationists.  Today, more than 30% of its land is marked for conservation, as well as over 8000 square kilometers of marine protection.  That’s how powerful we are!  All we have to do is be more vocal about what matters and make conscious travel choices.

Sustainable Travel is also called Responsible Travel and the tips below are just a small sampling of how we can do better as travelers and also improve our overall travel experience.

  1. Do not litter.

    This may sound brutally obvious (especially looking at the photo below). However, we have to say it to make a point that litter is not only inconsiderate and unsightly, but it can be devastating to the environment including beautiful animals such as the sea turtle.

  2. Bring your own shopping bag.

    I think we already know the dangers of plastic to the environment, so this one is really easy and there are such wonderful choices out there that are super practical like this one.

  3. Bring your own water bottle.

    For those wondering, “what about if I’m travelling to a third world country and their water is not as pure as our North American water?”  Well, first of all, that is not always the case. Secondly, you can prepare yourself for this by purchasing a water bottle with a built in filter.  You can also get a light pen which will give you 100% protection of any tapwater including water you may take from a lake or a stream. Making this conscious travel change can truly be a gift for future generations.

  4. Conserve water.

    When you are travelling, you can take shorter showers. I know, sounds simple right?  Did you know that in some luxury hotels, the average use is approximately 1800 liters?!!!  Wow, we can definitely do better.  As a consumer and conscious travel advocate, you can also suggest to the hotel that they put signs up for their customers to conserve water.

  5. Be respectful.

    What does that mean? Well, let’s start with understanding and respecting cultural differences.  What makes the world so interesting is its vast differences in culture.  Learn it and respect it.  Also, if you are traveling in a religious place, dress appropriately, notice the dress codes.

  6. Buy locally made products and support the local economy. 

    Purchase local made souvenirs and eat at local restaurants.  Don’t look for the nearest Subway or McDonalds (you’ve had enough of those already haven’t you?)  Keep an open mind to learning about the local economies.

  7. Don’t purchase anything from endangered animals, plants, hardwoods or ancient artifacts.

    This may be obvious as travelling through customs may be tricky, not to mention that it is a very bad idea and entirely ILLEGAL.
    animal poaching campaigns sustainable travel

  8. Do not give to beggars.

    This may be hard to do for some, however, by choosing not to support this, you reduce the idea of a “begging economy”.  Also, in some parts of the world, the beggars are children who work for a crime ring that use and abuse children for this sort of work.  Instead, if you want to help, give to a local charity or organization that helps those on the street.

  9. Recycle.

    Ok, how is this possible if there is no recycling? It can start at your hotel.  Ask them if they have a recycling program!  If not, encourage them to start one!  You are the consumer and your voice matters!  The more we speak out, the more likely they are to implement these changes.

  10. Bring a solar charger for your electronic devices.

    Yes, the technology is out there.  Turn the sun into your regular charger.  And it is very convenient to have power where there might not be any, like in the middle of the rainforest.
    solar panel charger sustainable travel

  11. Use alternative transportation.

    Granted, in a foreign country this can be challenging.  However, do your best to walk, bike or use public transportation, it cuts down on gas usage and saves money.

  12. Avoid souvenir photos of exploiting wildlife.

    This just hurts everyone in the end and you potentially support groups that illegally capture, transport and abuse animals.  Not good. Research ahead of time any activity that has to do with animals.  A great example of this I learned recently about a famous so called sanctuary in Costa Rica for sloths.  I was considering it as one of my go-to places in the near future.  That was, until I learned that most of the sloths are crammed in tiny little cages, as witnessed by veterinarians who worked there temporarily.  Keep in mind that not all sanctuaries are the same.

  13. Learn a little bit of the language.

    Ok, so you don’t need to learn the entire dictionary.  Just learning a few words like “please”, “thank you” and “My name is…” can do absolute wonders for you.  People feel appreciated by those who take the time to learn their culture and are more likely to want to help you.  You can download language apps directly to your phone!

Conscious and sustainable travel is available to us.  If you are considering health and wellness travel options in the near future, please consider all the above as well.  We can make a difference by every small step we make towards a healthier environment.

*1. http://assets.inhabitat.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2013/03/Peanut-Deformed-Turtle-Six-Pack-Ring-1.jpg

It is hard to believe that it was a year ago that I flew across the world to see India.  Although I was there for work related business, I really had no idea that I was about to have a truly conscious travel experience.

Listening and Witnessing

My immediate travel goal was to visit the rug makers and see the process of rug making and to learn more about a new innovation in rug making.  It was an amazing learning experience from the technical side of things.  However, the most impactful conscious travel part of this trip was witnessing how people lived and worked.  For one, I saw smiles and happy faces, more than I have seen in years.  In fact, I could not remember a place I have ever visited in the world with more happy faces.

I was taken to some fairly remote villages where some of the rug makers were and I saw so many children running and playing.  They were very fascinated with me, and as I learned it was likely the first time they had ever seen a white woman in their area.

This is such an abstract thought to most Westerners as we cannot fathom the concept of not seeing diversity of culture.  Growing in up in a multi-cultural environment in Canada and later moving to the United States in a melting pot has given me an incredible concept of living amongst a multitude of cultures and seeing a variety of faces.

Imagine only seeing your own kind and that’s all you know?  For the majority of us, this is a wild concept.  I am glad that I live in variety; that being said, it was wonderful to feel like such a celebrity while I was travelling in the remote areas of India.  Children followed me everywhere, just to catch a glimpse.

“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other places, other lives, other souls.” – Anais Nin

Actually, this type of experience was pretty typical almost everywhere I went.  Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that not only am I light skinned, blonde and very tall, taller than most men at 6’2”.  Although I have seen a few very tall Indian women, it is extraordinarily rare and usually seen in Western culture vs India.

There was such simplicity to their world versus my own.  None of them owned smart phones or other electronics, they were just playing like I remember kids playing when I was growing up.  They were not consumed with stuff, rather they were consumed with each other.  This experience alone was beautiful to watch.

No wonder we feel so dissociated with one another in our Western society because we don’t connect the same way anymore.

Conscious Travel and The Sounds of Prayer

I found myself not spending too much time on my phone while travelling, as there was so much to see that time spent on the phone was wasting precious time being.  I did have my Canon Rebel with me and I was taking photos like crazy the entire time.  However, I really enjoyed the action of just being and witnessing.

The other aspect that was probably one of the most profound aspects in all of my travels through India was the visuals and sounds of prayer.  There are prayer temples almost everywhere and I would find people praying almost everywhere.  This made me feel good knowing that people were finding ways to pray everywhere and that it was out “in the open”.  Then during the day, I would hear the Muslim “call to prayer” in the afternoons and that was also comforting.

No matter where I went, the call to prayer was everywhere, no matter which religion, it was ok to pray.  That was one of my favorite parts.  Although this particular travel was not booked as a spiritual travel experience, it became one and was one of the first inspirations for me to start TaoWander.

To be continued….

On-ChildrenThis is one of my favorite poems, for it sparks the wonder in my eyes and allows me to see through the eyes of a child.  Their wonder. Their might.  Their force. Their hope. Their love.  This is the training manual.

On Children

BY KAHLIL GIBRAN

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.

The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.

Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to animate things. I have always loved animation and how we can play with objects and give them life. The dream of putting together TaoWander came after a holiday retreat I took to Peru on my birthday. That very night was my first meeting with mother Ayahuasca during the lunar eclipse. This trip and everything that happened while I was there is inspiration for the creation of this logo. A team of wonderful people put this together: designed by graphic artist Raymond Garcia, and later animated by another artist Nebojsa.

I wanted to make my first blog both relevant and special.  Enjoy!

I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud

BY WILLIAM WORDSWORTH

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.