India: Oh, how you expand the heart!
I’ve been back for 2 weeks from our annual Xplore ‘Purpose and Passion Field Trip’ which took us to India, and I still feel the wash of the amazing experience that it was.
Many people describe India as ‘an assault on the senses’, however, my experience was of an expansion of the heart. An overwhelming sense of awe and connection with a culture so rich and vibrant, coupled with sights, sounds and smells that at times challenge your senses.
Our 10-day trip took us from New Delhi to Agra, Jaipur, Udiphur and finishing in Mumbai. Travelling mostly by road we travelled over 1,000 km across an ever-changing landscape from lush farmlands to marble quarries, rugged mountains to dishevelled towns. What blew my mind, was that everywhere we travelled, there were always people in view. On the roadside between small towns, there would be a woman carrying goods in a basket on her head, a man leading goats to graze, children playing games, and families sharing a meal. With a population of over 1.3 billion, I guess that explains it.
And cows! Everywhere! They estimate that there are more than 5 million stray cows roaming India, and I feel like we saw many of them. Being so sacred, they are safe doing so, but it does make for some hair-raising ‘dodge and weave’ driving!
The purpose of our trip was to visit and support local NGO’s and charities whilst experiencing all of the must-see tourist attractions as ethical travellers. Our carefully selected charities were all doing amazing work, in a sustainable and ethical manner, and visiting was a privilege. There were heartbreaking stories and sights, and tears and tissues, as we did our best to understand the challenges and journeys of those less fortunate. Compassion was our calling card. Our eyes opened wider and our hearts expanded.
My favourite charities, that you may like to check out:
A social enterprise that supports survivors of acid attack. Providing medical treatment, safe housing, education and training, and employment in a cafe that serves food with love and warmth and educates visitors on the need to eradicate acid attacks and the societal stigma they create.
If you want to find out more about Sheroes Hangout, visit their website and get in touch.
Dedicated to serving less privileged people and making every possible effort to protect the environment. There major projects include an old age home to look after homeless and abandoned senior citizens (we visited), a rescue centre to look after mentally disabled people, and the ‘Do Not Honk’ campaign to reduce noise pollution by educating drivers not to honk unnecessarily while driving.
If you would like to support The Earth Saviours Foundation, please visit their website.
On the tourist front, the must-do visit to the Taj Mahal was extraordinary. Photos cannot prepare you for the beauty of this magnificent palace. Delicate, intricate and pristine – despite some serious smog. The Amber Fort in Jaipur tho stole my heart. It’s architecture and stature, so strong and warm. Udaipur – The City of Lakes – was my favourite city, and is often referred to as ‘The Venice of the East’. This description resonates the moment you step onboard a boat on the lakes and tour the city, and see the beautiful centuries-old Havelis (townhouse mansion) up close. Rooftop dinner at a converted Havelis, now a 5-star hotel, was a special treat and spectacular evening for us all. A ‘pinch myself’ moment.
There were so many highlights from our tour and so many memories that I will cherish for a lifetime. I returned home acutely aware of my good fortune, so grateful for the experience and with a greater sense of who I am and my small place in this amazing planet. To be able to share these trips with other adventurous and passionate women is an honour and a bonus.
If you are keen to know about our 2020 Purpose and Passion Field Trip, follow Xplore on FaceBook, as we will be sharing the trip deals in early January!