As many of you reading this know, India is my second home. I fell madly in love with this place at the beginning of 2016 and have journeyed back to her 3 times since – spending a total of 7 and 1/2 months. I’m preparing to leave for an epic 6 month adventure on her soil once again beginning this November.
One of the most common questions I get from other women (besides why I love it so much) is whether it is safe. Specifically, as a woman.
Now, I must first make one thing clear. India is vast. India is deep. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of dialects (depends on whom you ask). The different states and regions are so varied and I’ve not even scratched the surface of this land…but I can share my experience.
The regions I have explored are Delhi, Rajasthan (Jaipur, Pushkar, Bundi, Kota, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer), Uttarakhand (Dehradun, Rishikesh, Laxman Jhula), Punjab (Amritsar, Wagah Border), and Himachal Pradesh (Manali).
My first week and a half was bumpy (as to be expected). I didn’t understand why there were so many men. Where were the women? Most of them at home, it turns out. I didn’t expect so much trash. It was shocking and uncomfortable and my initiation was in full effect.
Then, she swept up my heart and blasted it open with laughter, love, cows, chai, music, dance, fabrics, silver, dal, and a deep connection with myself, fellow travelers and the beautiful people of the land.
So…my advice is from a limited but fresh perspective. Take it with you as you consider traveling to this magical land…
1. Buy a SIM card for your phone and get an Indian number. Your life and travels will go much smoother as you can call your hotel, favorite taxi driver, restaurant, even use Uber (or ‘Ola’).
2. Be smart, prepared, organized & pay a little extra. Pre-book your hotel to send a driver to pick you up at the airports, train stations, bus stations, etc. Especially if you are by yourself. Especially if you *must* arrive somewhere in the middle of the night (not recommended – in any country, anywhere). Instead of taking an overnight train in 3rd or 4th class, book a driver or book one of the very comfy Volvo deluxe buses (seats recline almost all the way) to avoid stress, insomnia, theft of bags, staring men, etc. Western women are generally gawked at (see next tip).
3. Dress conservatively, appropriately, respectfully. Indian women (with few exceptions in big cities) dress very modestly and do not show skin, except for the midriff or waist when wearing saris, lehengas, ghagra (skirt) & kanchli (top). When I wear sleeveless tops, I always cover my shoulders with a thin scarf or dupatta. I never wear shorts or short skirts. I don’t view this as being oppressed or controlled. I actually love covering more skin than I’m used to. I absolutely embrace this style and have become much more modest in my every day wear when I’m back in the US or traveling through Europe. It has become a part of me and my style.
4. Be more assertive and firm (especially with vendors in markets) than you are used to. Now, I am generally a sweet and friendly person and I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, but in India I have to wear a slightly thicker skin. Most people are kind and friendly, but assertiveness is extremely useful when traveling in heavily touristed areas. Plain and simple. If you sense that you are being taken advantage of, just stand your ground and say “No! You will get respect for it, too.
5. Understand that India holds many paradoxes. Their worship of Divine mother along with the oppression of women and girls. The chaos and craziness of traffic and markets and festivals (especially Holi) along with the thousands of temples and devotees and religious rituals and sacred sites. The beauty and wonder along with trash and poverty. This place has bewitched me, body, heart and soul, yet it has it’s challenges and lessons.
My last piece of advice (bonus tip)…when Mother India calls to you, it is time. Don’t go to her until you hear the call or are given an extraordinary opportunity to visit her or work in her land. She is special. She is intense. She is love. She is madness. Go when you are ready.
And…if you are ready…this is my last call for two amazing opportunities to travel and bask in Mama India. Registration for these two offerings end on Oct 20.
NATYA YOGA TEMPLE DANCE RETREAT in MYSORE, INDIA Dec 14 – 21
Temple & palace tours, dance festival, daily ritual/pujas + yoga, dance, pranayama practice. Embodying the feminine in the motherland.
SIGN UP & MORE INFO HERE
2ND ANNUAL N. INDIA WOMEN’S TOUR
12/28/17 – 1/18/18
Ride camels through the Thar Desert, sip chai in ancient forts, dip your toes in the sacred Ganga river, walk through the majestic Golden Temple. SIGN UP & MORE INFO