MORE PRAISE FROM ANOTHER FIRST-TIMER TO INDIA: METTA YOGA’S TAMIL NADU TEMPLE TOUR

chettinad street
Karaikudi, the Chettinad region

“India! Land of color, contrasts and curries!
When I signed up to travel to India with Metta Soul Journeys, I expected the unexpected and I was not disappointed in my expectations!

Linda knows India, heart and soul. Thus we were spun and woven into a glimpse of India that was authentic, heartfelt, and immensely diverse. I have traveled many places on this grand earth, but I have never felt so warmly enveloped and embraced by a culture, and that is a true reflection of the genius that Linda brings to her tours, wherever they may roam.

I am definitely signing up for another Metta Adventure! Can’t wait for Linda’s next spin on _____ ???”  — Rebecca K., Elgin, IL

FIRST TIME TO INDIA: Praise for Tamil Nadu Temple Tour, September 2015

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October, 2015….Marilyn R., Elgin, IL

“I returned from my trip approximately 4 weeks ago and it has taken this long to have a clear mind and heart to sit down and attempt to write this commentary about the trip.

First, let me start off by saying that Linda has been not only my yoga instructor but also a mentor. She has talked about her own personal trips to India for several years and at first I was slightly jealous that she was brave enough to make these trips on her own as I had never traveled outside of the US.  But she continued to talk about them and the places she had visited and I became more interested and the thought of going to India sometime didn’t seem so impossible or scary. Her postings and photos on Facebook just added to my interest.

Then a few years ago Linda planned a yoga retreat to Varkala, India but the timing was not right for me. After hearing about this trip it just sealed the deal and I was bound and determined that I would find a way to make her next retreat possible for me. And that I did!

When Linda confirmed that she would be setting up a trip for the fall of 2015 I knew this was my time. Once the dates were confirmed I booked and paid for my airfare. I knew this way if I had invested the money for the airfare that I would not be able to back out. As Linda says, “if not now, when?”

Our itinerary was made available early on and gave me time to research the cities and temples we would be visiting. I read a few books to help familiarize myself with the country and its customs. This helped but nothing compares to the actual experience. As the departure date neared our travel group met to discuss the details. What clothes to bring, what luxury items to bring (TP is one of those luxuries), how much spending money, what the weather would be, who would meet us at the airport upon our arrival, every possible question was answered and more. This was in additional to the numerous emails that were provided with updates and reminders. And when I received these emails I got little butterflies in my stomach with excitement.

D-Day: I was packed and ready, so off to work I went as my flight was not leaving until later that night. It was difficult to concentrate knowing what was in my future. Arrived at the airport with enough time to navigate the international terminal at the airport. Even as my trip was just beginning Linda was already sending text messages for safe travels.

Arriving in Chennai: Once I landed and made my way thru customs. It was hard for me to imagine that I was actually in India. My driver was waiting for me just as Linda said he would be. Once I arrived at the hotel, approximately 4:00am, it was hard to sleep. My roommate, Rebecca, had already arrived and all we could do was talk. We were both too excited to sleep but we did manage to sleep for a few hours before meeting Linda for lunch and starting our trip.

The city is busy, always. There are no sidewalks and everyone walks either on the road or on the shoulder. And believe it or not I didn’t see anyone get hit by a vehicle. Vehicles drive on the opposite side of the road as we do with the driver sitting on the right hand side. There are very few traffic lights, I think I saw maybe 3 or 4. Everyone just drives and pulls out into traffic at will. This includes city buses, trucks, cars and lots of motorcycles. And let’s not forget the cows, goats and bullock driven carts.

Everyone shares the same space. We were only on a highway as we know it once and it was a two lane road going in each direction. I think we actually got up to about 45mph. Vehicles pass each other at will and sometimes with very little room to execute the pass. And lots of horns honking.

We didn’t stay in one city for more than 2 days allowing us to see as much as we could in our 2 weeks there. It was a temple tour so we visited at least 1 temple in each town but it was more like 2 or 3. The temples are beautiful, each one different from the next, magnificent grandeur, colorful, and inspiring.  It’s hard to believe the time in which these were built and the intricate detailed stone cravings and how did they build these massive temples without modern machinery?

Then there was Pondicherry with its French influences, the bronze museum, the Gandhi museum, Auroville, the rice and sugar fields, and the people. Even as I am writing this my experiences and the sites are popping from my memory and putting a smile on my face.

Our driver, Subramani, was phenomenal. He added a few extra stops along the way which really added spontaneity to the trip. He took very good care of us, walked with us to cross the streets, walked with us to the temple entrance, stopped for bathroom breaks when needed, arranged for side tours (i.e. a family home, glass tile maker, bronze statue maker, weavers and even a jeep ride to the beach at the southernmost tip of India). Subramani has a good sense of humor, after all he tolerated this group of western women. He is kind, polite, and knowledgeable, speaks English fairly well, and is an excellent driver. He dropped us at the airport in Madurai for the flight back to Chennai and he asked that we text him to let him know we were checked-in and that everything was okay. One doesn’t receive this kind of treatment here in the US.

I could write a short novel about this trip; the places we visited, the people we talked to, the food we ate, the conversations we had, the experience, etc. but I want to keep this as brief as I can. This trip was one of the most profound, energizing, emotional, gratifying, exciting, and humbling experiences I have ever had. I am not the same person I was before I left. It was worth more than the financial investment in many ways and I would do it again in a heartbeat and never think twice.

I have a list of bullet points that I keep handy just as a quick reminder of my trip.

  • Cows, goats, monkeys, street dogs
  • St. Thomas Church
  • Ganesha
  • I.W.C. (Indian water closet)
  • Lime soda
  • Kingfishers
  • Street traffic
  • St. Thomas Church
  • The Ocean”

1, 2, 3, GO! Temple Tour of South India/Tamil Nadu Yatra

cropped-love-india.jpgDetails are finalized, the hotel rooms are booked for 20 travelers and this trip –

SEPTEMBER 8-22, 2015

…is a go even if there is only one person who wants to travel with a seasoned Indophile such as myself — and one person has already signed up!

“Forget the travel section of The New York Times, Lonely Planet and all those travel sites written by twenty-somethings. If you want to experience the REAL India, check out Linda’s blog. I first “met” Linda through her blog several years ago and was struck by her humor, honesty and down to earth attitude about everything Yoga. When I found out she was a fellow India lover I reached out to her for advice about where to study, where to stay, and where to shop. She knows her stuff. And she will lead you to places that you will not find on a travel website or a map. I don’t know what I would do without her.”
Alyssa T., New York

I hear many yoga teachers say “if only I could go to India….”  Well, here’s your chance because I am offering a 5% discount off the $2695 tour price to studio owners and teachers who bring two or more of their students with them.   That is enough to pay for your travel insurance and to buy lots of gorgeous Indian textiles.  A percentage of what you pay will be donated to The Banyan women’s shelter in Chennai, India so by attending this trip you are engaging in COMPASSION IN ACTION AND SEVA.

The ancient texts of India contain the stories of the making of the Universe as well as tales of the many gods and goddesses. Many places mentioned in these texts are fully alive today and are important places of yatra (pilgrimage) where vast temple complexes arose. Within these temples daily worship is performed to the resident gods and goddesses in a tradition that is thousands of years old. To those who believe, the Divine is more easily intuited, recognized, or experienced in these temples.

North India sees more tourists than the South but having traveled to India 8 times since 2005 I believe South India, and Tamil Nadu especially, to be a very special place. For me, it is very different from North India. India can be intense but I find Tamil Nadu to be “softer” and it can be an easier landing than North India for first time India visitors. But whether North or South, India is my heart’s home.

We will stay in 4 and 5 star hotels, eat vegetarian food, and travel comfortably from town to town. We will have morning yoga and meditation practice every other day. A guide will travel with us to answer questions and discuss our experiences. Arrangements can also be made with local priests for the proper performance of any rituals you may wish performed.

We will have ample time for the usual sightseeing, shopping, and exploring that travelers enjoy. The pace will be relaxed and sometimes the travel will be hours between each town – since this is India, always expect the unexpected!

Included in the Land Cost of $2695:
This trip will be 15 days with the first and last days being for arrival and departure. I want to keep your expenses reasonable but your stay very comfortable. Meals will be South Indian vegetarian which can be spicy. You receive breakfast but you must pay for lunch and dinner – eating in India is very inexpensive compared to the West. Travel will be in a comfortable bus and any entry fees (for one visit) are included.

The above price includes:
–15 night accommodations, DOUBLE OCCUPANCY ONLY. Single Supplement is $750. I will assign a roommate, however, if none is available you must pay the Single Supplement.
–Daily breakfast.
–One South Indian cooking demonstration with farewell dinner on last night in Madurai.
–All applicable tax on hotels/transportation.
–All transfers, sightseeing, excursion by Air-conditioned mini-bus or larger bus.
–English speaking guide throughout the tour.
–Adequate mineral water during the tour available in the vehicle.
–Entry fee to the monuments during sightseeing for one visit.

In 15 days we will go to:

CHENNAI
MAHABALIPURAM — a UNESCO World Heritage site
KANCHIPURAM — famous for silks
TIRUVANNAMALI — walk around the holy mountain Arunachala and visit the Ramana Maharishi Ashram
PONDICHERRY — visit Auroville International Village
KUMBAKONAM — GANGAIKONDACHOLAPURAM — SWAMIMALLAI – DARASURAM
TRICHY — TANJORE
RAMESWARAM — where Hanuman lept across the ocean to Lanka to save Sita
MADURAI — visit one of the greatest temples in South India and have an evening cooking demonstration at our hotel followed by farewell dinner
BACK TO CHENNAI

“Trip of a lifetime” can be an overused cliche but in this case you WILL have the trip of a lifetime, guaranteed.

Although I’ve been to India 8 times I am very impressed with the tour company’s hotel choices because they will serve to make for a soft landing in India for first timers.  The last time I was in some of these towns I arrived with only my backpack, having taken a bus through rural Tamil Nadu and staying in $10 or $20 a night rooms.

I have seen tours like this advertised for twice as much and you would get less than what I am giving you.  The price is less than what most yoga teacher trainings cost nowadays and frankly, India can teach you much more — it will take you out of your comfort zone but you need to be open to receive what Ma India will give you.  My first trip to India was transformational and where I am taking you, it can be the same for you.

If you want complete information see my website page here
and you can print a PDF of the itinerary and India FAQs.

ASK YOURSELF, IF NOT NOW….WHEN?