South India

As I sit here now, I feel at a loss of words reflecting on the events of the last couple months.  So much has changed after leaving Japan and starting this new adventure.  In the past months I have gone from complete extremes of an insane winter season in Hokkaido, Japan to all kinds of crazy in Southern India.  To be honest, the reason I haven't written much during this time is because while all of these changes have taken place, I've had a hard time catching up with everything myself.  Through the ups and downs, change of pace, new atmosphere, wonderful people and culture I continue to remind myself that where I am in this moment is exactly where I am suppose to be. 

Catching up to speed, after leaving Hokkaido and spending a few days exploring Kyoto, I made my way to the Kerala region of India to begin a 200 hour Ashtanga and Hatha yoga teacher training course. This month long training is something that was tugging at me before and during our bike trip.  With a change in plans, I knew that after working in Japan I had to follow my desire to pursue the training.  While I don't have the intention to become a full time traveling yoga teacher, my motive to take the training stemmed from my desire to listen, learn and gain a greater understanding of yoga from which I could create depth in my own practice.  

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As I finished the course roughly two weeks ago, I still feel that I need time to completely reflect and process the entire experience.  I could say it was a 'yogis dream in paradise' and at times it truly felt like it, but in reality it was an intensive course that was both physically and mentally challenging.  So much more than just the physical practice, I was also studying the philosophy and anatomy of yoga, growing in my meditation practice, living simply, and being amongst people from all over the world who quickly became family.  (I intend to write another blog post solely focusing on my experience of the course so I will keep this short).  The month was also personally full of self-reflection, growth, questions and confusion, clarity, and a whole mix of emotions and joys. I am so eternally grateful for such a wild month.

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After our yoga graduation ceremony and saying farewell to our little yoga family in Varkala, I travelled onwards to the city of Madurai with Mireille, one of the lovely yogis I studied with for the month.  Maybe it was due to the fact that this was my first train ride in India but the entire 12 hours of travel from the middle of the night to the afternoon the following day was ridiculously exciting.  Was I exhausted, hot, sleepy, and sweaty? Yes - but the whole experience of travelling by train to a new destination ran well beyond any of those discomforts.  After attempting to get some rest in our sleeper cabinets and enjoying delicious 20 rupee chapati and veg curry for breakfast I continued to go back between our seat and the opening between the train carts to put my head and feet out of the cart. Nothing can compare to the full sense of embodiment and freedom from the rush of wind against my body as I held onto the cart railing for dear life (sorry mom).

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After the long hours on the train and peeling our sweaty bodies off of the seats, we made it to the city where we spent the next day together before parting ways to continuing on our travels.  Our final day was spent touring around the impressive Sri Meenakshi Temple, walking the endless market streets, visiting shops throughout the city and eating all the delicious veg food. 

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I had also previously heard that the Tamil Nadu region was famous for bananas and Madurai was home to a massive banana market offering 16 different varieties.  At this point I don't doubt everyone who has been following my journey is well aware of my banana obsession, so similar to the train ride I felt like a giddy, over-excited child. I guess you could say I have some pretty simple pleasures in this life.  

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In love with the hectic Indian city, I spent a couple more days to see neighbouring temples, hike up the Samanar hills, go to the Gandhi museum and continue to roam the market streets until I decided it was time to escape the +40Β°C heat and head to the cooler hill stations. 

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The bumpy five hour bus ride to Munnar offered spectacular views as we rode the unforgiving switchbacks up high into the hills.  After living on the beach for over a month during my teacher training, I began to realize just how homesick I was for the mountains.  Coming high into the hills and being in the luscious, green environment gave me a new sense of energy.  From Munnar, I continued through the hills to the village of Kumily. I didn't have any plans while heading there but knew I wanted to stay in the hills longer. I was quickly reminded during my time there that sometimes having no plans at all can turn into the most incredible and unexpected adventures.  

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My first evening in Kumily I went to a tradition Kalaripayattu Martial Arts show, but before the show had even begun an older lady sitting behind me began playing with my hair.  In complete awe of my long blonde hair, I turned around and started chatting with the entire family.  As we got to know one another I was invited to join Ashique and Thomas, along with their siblings the following morning for a bike ride in the nature reserve close by.  What started as a simple conversation turned into a beautiful day including a 6 am ride through the park, breakfast at their aunties home, road-tripping through the hills to Thomas' family home, meeting extended family and friends, a breathtaking local trek, night time hilltop views of the entire area lit up by the city lights, stars and lightning, and most importantly creating wonderful new friendships. 

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The next day included another road trip with Ashique, Thomas, and Christo as we made our way to a friends wedding.  I still can't believe I had the opportunity to attend an Indian wedding, but it was such a wonderful and crazy experience.  With over 750 guests, we joined in the huge celebration enjoying a big feast, taking photos with the absolutely stunning bride and groom, and chatting with some of the other guest and friends.  After basking in the beauty of the entire experience we continued on our way back home. It's truly remarkable how a simple conversation can turn into unanticipated adventures with such kind people who quickly turned into good friends. I suppose when you let things come as they are and happen naturally you open yourself up to the possibility of creating lifelong memories.

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Leaving Kumily with 13 hours of local bus travel to the north (for only $6!), I reached Mysore where I have spent the last few days touring around the bustling Ashtanga yoga hub of India.  The city is also home to the breathtaking Mysore Palace, various hectic street markets and more yoga shalas than you can count.  It has been a lovely city to explore and continue practicing yoga before reaching the end of my time in India.

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I'm truly trying to savour every last moment before leaving in less than a week. India is easily one of the most captivating places I have ever travelled.  The vibrancy of colours, diversity within the culture and people, endless textiles and patterns, big toothy grins, delicious veg food and friendly nature truly takes hold of you.  I'm always saying how grateful I am to be living these experiences and maybe it can be a bit excessive, but the reality is that sometimes everything is just too much for me take in and all I'm left with is a big overflowing sense of gratitude. Sitting here now trying to recap all the events, lessons, and memories of the previous months that is exactly how I feel.  

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I've learnt so much during my time in India and traveling solo again.  Like any adventure there are the indescribable and blissful moments but there are also many challenges.  I believe each day the events that unfold before us are teaching us one lesson or another that can be carried forward into the rest of our lives. When we are mindful and aware, we can move through each day with an open heart to things as they come and live out these experiences in the best way. 

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So while recapping the last couple of months here I suppose I won't skirt around the question any longer... what am I doing next? Or rather where am I off to next?

Well, my flights are booked and I am ridiculously excited to start my next adventure working at an amazing, little eco-lodge nestled in the mountains of Bali, Indonesia! I will be involved with a passionate company that truly encompasses all facets of sustainable, wellness and ecotourism - they are so environmentally conscious, work to benefit the local community, have several opportunities for education and interpretation programs, offer yoga, trekking and biking, cook fresh vegan meals from farm to table, and encompass a way of living that is truly in tune with nature.  I am so unbelievably grateful to dive into a project that aligns so deeply with my own passions.  Life really works in some crazy ways and I can't wait to see how this adventure continues to unfold. 

So with that said... does anyone want to come visit me in Bali? :)

KARA FOLKERTS1 Comment