Ever Wonder What It’s Like To Travel To India With a Group of Yogi Volunteers?
Madison traveled to Jaipur and Agra, India with Yogamour in January of 2013. She had always wanted to go to India and when our co-founder, Beccah, told her about the amazing opportunity to volunteer with children she seized it.
In this interview with Madison, she describes her experience volunteering with Yogamour: beauty, the link between yoga and volunteering, elephants, being vegan in India and some of the lessons she brought home with her.
What was a typical day like on your trip?
We would wake up at 6am and go downstairs to the yoga room where we would practice yoga for an hour then meditate for about a half an hour. Then we would all go to the dining area and eat together.
After that we would go get ready for the day and meet up to go to the school. At the Vihaan School we would help the students make crafts, clean the school or work on the garden. After our time at the school we would usually go see a temple or have an afternoon excursion where we really got to experience the Indian culture. In the evening we would go to dinner and then go to bed! Always super tired from a jam packed day!
Describe your accommodations.
The Arya Niwas hotel where we stayed was lovely. The garden in the front of the hotel was the best! The rooms were simple but they had a lock box for personal items, tv, heater, and bathrooms with a toilet and a shower. The water wasn't always hot but that's what you have to expect in a developing country!
Besides the typical fine India dust and dirt that you become accustomed to after the 3rd day, the hotel was very clean and the food was awesome. Our hotel was one of the nicer hotels in the area.
Did you come across anything in your traveling, volunteering, daily experience that was difficult? How did you react to it initially? How did you learn to deal with difficulty as your trip continued/progressed?
The TukTuks were very scary to me at first. They were wild and the traffic was rough and unpredictable! Our driver and savior, Poran, was amazing and so sweet so I got used to that after 3 days. I began to become accustomed to traffic patterns and the bumpy TukTuks.
The animals for me were the hardest part of the trip–so many uncared for animals everywhere that were hungry and so skinny. Being an animal lover it was hard to see dogs and horses being uncared for in a way we are accustomed to in the United States. Each day I had to mentally tell myself that there was nothing I could do at the moment to help these animals except by feeding them or giving them water which I did.
It was hard, especially seeing people themselves just as starving and unkempt, but for me it was just tough for me to see animals that we keep as pets not being taken care of. The cows however looked well taken care of due to the religious beliefs. This part of the trip never got better to be completely honest.
Describe some of the sights you visited, beautiful things you saw.
Absolutely everything that was either a palace or a sacred temple for the gods was beautiful. The colors and the adornments on the buildings were so ornate. The wind and water temples were breath taking and the Taj Mahal was indescribable. Just seeing that in real life was worth all the emotional issues associated with the trip. Traveling to the elephant sanctuary was amazing and so special to experience because it was so peaceful. There were too many beautiful things on that trip to put into words.
What was your favorite non-volunteering activity on the trip?
The elephant sanctuary trip. "Driving" our elephant, Pinky Darling, was one of the most exhilarating and peaceful experiences I've ever had. Also, to know that these elephants are being taken care of so well and have their own homes in the sanctuary was reassuring, along with the fact that some animals in India besides cows were being well taken care of. Those elephants were so gentle and lovely!
Additionally, the trip to the Taj Mahal was obviously unlike anything I've ever done. I can say I've seen one of the 7 wonders of the world!
What was your experience with the food in India? Since you are vegan, did you find it difficult to find options for you?
Oh no the food options were amazing! So many vegan options! I had to make sure there was no paneer, which is cheese, in my dishes but everything was mostly vegan! We went to an actual "meat" restaurant once that was labeled on the outside that they had meat on their menus but otherwise we ate at eateries that were 100% vegetarian! It was amazing!
What was your experience with doing daily yoga practice? How did this enhance your trip?
In the beginning it was very tiring after all the traveling and jet lag but once that wasn't an issue it was so amazing! I learned so much about yoga and my body! I would have loved to have had a local teach a class to see how they practice but Geni and Beccah taught awesome classes! The classes each morning made the trip so much more spiritual. We also worked on breathing to help with the pollution issued we experienced.
Do you see a link between the work you did volunteering and the teachings of yoga?
Yes, I'd say that yoga got me into a better mindset each morning to open my heart to the children in the school and the experiences we encountered each day. I might not have been able to accept some of the harder experiences on the trip had I not had a good mental readjusting each morning.
What did you learn from this trip?
Gosh, I learned that I am blessed. Absolutely blessed in every way. Although the culture is different and most will never know anything but poverty, I saw that those people were still happy and made the best of everyday. They embrace so much more than we do and I try to carry that with me everyday! I keep telling myself whenever I'm down that things could be worse and the people of India have it much worse than I ever could but they are resilient and I should be too!
I also learned that the children in the Vihaan school are so intelligent and more willing to learn and excel in life because they have so little! They could become leaders when they grow up because they've been fortunate enough to be given this experience! They truly were so loving and special and I feel that I grew as an individual because of them!