Will I get a taste of “the real” India?
Absolutely. You will have plenty of time to roam around, absorb the atmosphere, mingle and chat with the townspeople, and shop for delightful bargains and souvenirs.
What’s the weather like in India in January/February?
Perfect: the days are warm and pleasant but not too hot and the nights are pleasant.
What about religious observance?
The itinerary is built in such a way as to enable us to observe Shabbat. The Shabbat, says Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, is like a "palace in time". Just as a palace is a place of special beauty and delight that's set apart from its surroundings, the Shabbat is a chance to set time aside from the usual and indulge in the chance to (re-)connect to ourselves. It's another way to be mindful.
One of the things that makes our trips unique is that our participants come from all across the religious and spiritual spectrum. Dina seeks to make all participants feel welcome, comfortable, and curious about exploring their relationship to their own personal spiritual traditions as we travel in a country known for its own multi-faceted spiritual traditions and practices. Everyone, regardless of their background and usual practice, is invited to join in welcoming in the Shabbat together and to exploring their own relationship to a day of spiritual, emotional and physical rest and rejuvenation.
Can I keep kosher?
Every restaurant has a varied vegetarian menu. Whenever possible, we will eat at restaurants that are purely vegetarian. When this isn't an option, know that Indian religious practices are very strict and require a complete separation between veg/non-veg pots and utensils, sometimes even the areas of the kitchen where each is prepared.
Non-religious group members may order from the non-vegetarian menu, whenever that is an option.
Please let us know if you have special dietary needs.
Are the food and water safe?
We will not be eating "street food.” We will eat in local restaurants
but only in places that are clean and serve fresh food.
We will drink only bottled water (including for brushing teeth),
and will not eat any fresh fruit and vegetables that can’t be peeled.
How comfortable are the accommodations?
Very. We will be staying in lovely 4 and 5 star hotels.
Do I have to share a room?
Is it possible to get my own room?
If you are not coming with a roommate (spouse or friend), we will make arrangements for sharing rooms that are acceptable to the group, e.g. rotating roommates. If you would like your own room, you may pay the single room supplement.
What does the “mindful” in “Mindful India" mean?
To be “mindful” means to be aware of what you are doing as you do it, to be aware of what you are experiencing as you experience it, and to be curious, flexible, open-minded and open-hearted about it all.
You actually already know how to be mindful.
For example, if you’ve ever fully savored your food as you ate it, noticing its colors, smells, textures and tastes, you were being mindful, fully present.
But it's all too easy for us to slide into mindlessness, to function on autopilot much of the time. We've all eaten without tasting our food, chatted with someone while thinking of something else, tried to do ten things at once.
Sometimes we have to do that. So why bother learning to be mindful more consistently?
Because when you’re more mindful, chances are you'll get more out of life. You'll experience it more fully. In addition, research indicates that being mindful can help you stay calm and cool under pressure, sleep better, be more creative, focused, and calmer. It can even strengthen your immune system.
Because India is a center for spiritual and meditation practice, it’s a perfect setting for learning all about mindfulness and meditation. Throughout the trip, Dina will interweave a gentle introduction to mindfulness practice and techniques, suitable for everyone, from absolute beginners to advanced meditators. And remembering to be mindful will certainly enhance your experience of India which is a feast for all the senses.
Not sure about traveling with a group?
We know that many people are apprehensive about traveling with people they’ve never met before. So, prior to the trip, to the best of our ability, we make sure participants have a chance to meet and begin to get comfortable with one another.
We create a WhatsApp group that lets you be in touch with everyone else before the trip, certainly on the trip itself, and even after the trip ends. (You must have a smartphone that lets you set up WhatsApp and you must know how to use it comfortably and confidently.)
We hold a pre-trip orientation meeting at which we provide comprehensive information about the trip. We discuss
rooming arrangements. Dina gives a brief introduction to mindfulness. We answer all your questions. We nosh together and begin to get acquainted.
By the time we board the plane, we are well on our way to being comfortable with one another and are off to a flying (!) start.
Those joining us from abroad receive all the materials plus summaries of any such Israeli-based meetings, and are integrated quickly into the entire group in meetings held as soon as we all gather together in India.
What about shopping? What are some bargains?
There is fabulous shopping throughout India. You will find gorgeous fabrics, whether you are looking for tablecloths, bedspreads (bring metric measurements, not feet and inches!), saris, or pashminas. You can select a swath of fabric and have an outfit made up within several hours that will be delivered to you at the hotel. There’s a wide selection of jewelry, ethnic art, music, and books to choose from, in every price range. You’ll have plenty of free time to explore the markets. Even if you don’t know how – or don’t like – to bargain, by the end of the trip you should be haggling like a pro, and possibly even enjoying it. Remedial shopping and bargaining tutorials provided!
How much time will be spent on buses/cars?
We will be traveling by chartered, air-conditioned tour buses and private, air-conditioned cars for travel in the mountains. Following is a list of the length of travel time for inter-city travel (note that duration listed is approximate):
Kochi - Alleppey (approx. 2 hour drive)
Alleppey - Ayurveda Beach Resort (approx. 30-45 min. drive)
Ayurveda Beach Resort - Munnar (5 hour drive)
Munnar - Madurai (5 hour drive)
Delhi - Agra (4 hour drive)
Tipping is included in the cost of the trip. Our Indian Escort will take care of all the tipping on our behalf during the trip (to the porters, guides, drivers, etc.)
This does not cover tips for meals which are not included in the cost of the trip or anything extra that is not part of the itinerary (such as soft drinks/alcoholic beverages/laundry services at hotels).
What about immunizations?
We recommend that you meet with your family doctor or a doctor who specializes in travel. (There is a travel doctor in Jerusalem who has the most up-to-date information regarding immunizations. We will provide you with contact information for this doctor, whom we highly recommend). In Israel, the Health Ministry has a travel department that will advise you as to what immunizations are recommended. These usually include:
current Polio and Tetanus vaccinations.
Hepatitis A and B.
the vaccine for Typhoid Fever.
However, because we are staying in good hotels, some of these may not be necessary. Some of the immunizations are actually a series of shots, spaced several weeks apart, so contact the Health Ministry or your doctor early enough to get the process started.
What about malaria?
While malaria prophylaxis may be recommended, the time of year we will be traveling to India and the areas we will be visiting reduce the risk of exposure. Most of the members of our previous trips did not take malaria prophylaxis, though some did bring along medication to take in the unlikely event of contracting the illness.
What about Covid protection:
We have planned this itinerary carefully so we limit visiting very crowded tourist sites and we're outdoors in nature as much as
possible. We will be traveling in private cars for most of our travel so that we will be in close quarters with a small number of people (approx. 4 people to a car). Rachelle and Dina will bring antigen tests for our drivers/guides, etc. and we will be testing regularly. Participants will be expected to do the same. (We will cover this in the Participants Information Packet you will be receiving as part of registration, and at the orientation.)
It is mandatory to purchase supplementary Covid health insurance either through our travel agent who will explain this in detail or on your own. It is mandatory to accept the clause that increases cancellation coverage DUE TO COVID.
Visa fees vary according to which passport you are using for travel. For example, bearers of a US passport pay much more than those with an Israeli passport. The visa for Israelis costs about 580 NIS through our local (Israel) travel agent. You can also do it yourself online which is cheaper but sometimes requires patience and being comfortable with maneuvering through the site.