My first time in India I was 6 years old, and I traveled there all the way from Mexico City. Since then, I am fortunate to say that I’ve actually lost count on how many more times I’ve been back… something around fifteen. India is an incredible country of contrasts. You can find great peacefulness and spirituality in the midst of chaos and noise. The people are friendly and lively and the colours everywhere are beautiful. It never gets old.
I always travel there for spiritual/pilgrimage reasons and every single time it’s a memorable experience. My stays there range from 10 days to 3 months, but most of the time it’s been between 2 or 3 weeks. I always stay in the same place, and it’s always a different and incredible experience. I have countless memories from these trips and I’ll share a few that stand out, but the feelings and growth I’ve experienced there are hard to put into words.
So here are 21 of my best travel memories from my trips to India:
1. Every single one of my trips to the Meher Pilgrim Retreat in India.
This is the place where I always stay and my trips there as a whole are memorable experiences. It’s a spiritual retreat in a rural town in the state of Maharashtra where you can disconnect from the world (though as of recently, visitors have managed to get wifi on their phones, which takes away a bit of what it used to be.)
It’s a place where you can decompress from the hectic life back home, a place to make incredible connections with people from all around the world. And it’s a place to truly sit down and enjoy a cup of chai either in pleasant solitude and quiet, or surrounded by people and taking part in really interesting conversations; the type of conversations that are really hard to achieve in the midst of busy life.
Meherabad (where the retreat is located) is a place where you don’t mind waking up every morning before sunrise and taking a walk enjoying that morning breeze. (Take it from a person who is NOT a morning person.) It’s a place to dig deep, almost without trying, and work through any issues bothering us in life, as well as refresh with the loving atmosphere. It’s simply a place that one must visit to truly understand because everyone’s experience there is unique and powerful.
2. Taking part in Dhuni
This is a ritual in which you throw a sandalwood stick into a fire representing an attachment of your choice. Not to be underestimated.
3. Attending Amartithi in India and witnessing thousands of people keep silence for 15 minutes.
In this 3-day celebration, tens of thousands of people attend to commemorate the dropping of the body of Meher Baba. There is food, music, and the climax occurs during the long moment of silence.
4. Living in India for three months.
In 2013, my husband and I sold everything we had except what we could fit into two suitcases and a carry-on and moved to India. The stay ended up being shorter than expected but it was nonetheless quite the experience because we completely submerged in living like locals. We rented a home, I went grocery shopping to the markets, I learned to cook with local ingredients, and even “adopted” a stray cat. No matter how many times before we had visited, we experienced culture shock nonetheless.
5. Climbing Seclusion Hill in Meherazad and feeling the wind at the top. The feeling is indescribable.
Anyone can climb to the top, just don’t forget a hat. It takes maybe 20 – 30 minutes, it’s not the tallest hill in the world, but believe me, the feeling at the top is something special. The energy that the hill has is something to be experienced.
6. Mastering the use of an Eastern toilet.
7. Having Indian food in India.
8. Cooking Indian food in India.
9. Exploring rural India on a motorcycle.
Riding a motorcycle in India is quite the experience. The traffic is kinda chaotic, but there are many unspoken rules that Indians follow in their own way. It’s like organized chaos and it’ll definitely get your adrenaline pumping.
10. Going shopping for food, clothes, fruit, incense, and more.
Shops in India are dedicated to specific something. There isn’t one place to get everything you need, so you have to go shop-hopping on a rickshaw and by foot. There the plastic goods shop, there’s the incense shop, there’s the fabric shop, the stainless steel cookware shop, the jewelry shop etc… It’s a fun experience.
11. Visiting the site of King Ahmed’s tomb and hanging out with the locals.
12. Coming across locals hand painting Ganesha statues for the festival.
13. Receiving an unexpected gift from passing by some women harvesting mung beans.
This is truly one of my favourite memories. Sometimes the simplest things can really touch you.
14. Missing my flight in Mumbai alone, and it turning into a whole crazy experience.
I had very little money, no phone, stayed at a stranger’s home, saw a 3-hour movie in Hindi at the theater, and more…
15. Drinking freshly made sugarcane juice on a hot day.
16. Finding (and ordering) Domino’s pizza in rural India.
17. Attempting (and failing) to ride a scooter for the first time.
It looks way easier than it is. At least for me.
18. Attending a traditional Maharashtrian birthday party.
This was a very cool experience.
19. Getting invited into a stranger’s home for some homemade chai. And a second time.
Both of the families that invited me in were clearly not rich, so it is very humbling when they share their commodities with a stranger. But India is famous for their outstanding hospitality.
20. Witnessing the biggest laundromat in the world (where the clothes are washed by hand outdoors).
21. (Last but not least)… Meeting my soulmate!
In 2008, I met my husband in India! He’s American, so we both traveled across the country and found each other in India. We both stayed at the retreat mentioned above and we hung out for about two weeks before he headed back to the US. We kept in touch through email and actual paper letters for a year, and then I made the big move towards him. Kinda hit refresh on my life.
We’ve been married for 7 years now and we had our first baby last summer! If that wasn’t crazy enough, we confirmed my pregnancy with an over-the-counter pregnancy test in India when we were traveling there last year. Later we found out I was about 2 months pregnant then. We gave her a Hindi name.
India definitely holds a special place in our heart.
Do you have a special connection to a country other than your own?