When you decide to go to India, what preparations come first — and soon? Even now is not too early to obtain or renew your passport, if needed; apply for your visa; and decide which of the recommended immunizations are appropriate for you. For more advice, I called Priya Kenney, and she offered tips based on her 2013 India trip with Swamiji.
First, fly with the group. You will, of course, book your own India flight. However, Priya says, “Flying with the group is a very sweet way to establish retreat community starting at the boarding gate.”
Book your flight as soon as possible. For our group flight, book the United flight number on the Retreat web page for the February 7th departure date. That flight lands you in Mumbai in time for the Retreat start on February 9th. Recalling her 2013 flight, Priya says, “It was great to see ‘pods of yogis’ sitting together throughout our svaroopa plane! Then sitting together to await flight connections in Europe — even just charging our phones together — cultivated camaraderie, with the sweet shared sense of being fellow travelers on a pilgrimage.”
If you will fly from your home to Newark, Priya advises planning for generous time between any connecting flights. She says, “International travel can take more time than you’d expect. You need plenty of time after landing in Newark to get to the gate for our group flight on United Airlines. You also need plenty of time between any connecting flights to Newark, for weather delays etc. Also, on international flights, the airline can sometimes close the flight well before the published departure, so arrive at that gate with plenty of time to spare, and plan to enjoy a restful wait, and to do japa!”
One preparation that gave Priya stamina and solace throughout her travels was uploading every one of Swamiji’s chants to her iPod. Priya says, “I listened to them the whole way. Those chants are so full of Grace, and that carried me. Listening to them when I was half falling sleep was especially supportive and soothing.” Besides an iPod, or course, you can upload chants from Swamiji’s CDs to any smart phone, laptop or an iPad. Then all you need are earphones. Just remember your charger!
Regarding packing, Priya says, “I started packing weeks in advance. That way, I experienced so much ease in beginning my trip. That was important for making the transit smoother. I wasn’t exhausted from having to sort through a mountain of last-minute details.”
The point of extra packing time is not about fitting in a great amount of clothing; rather it’s to make effective decisions about what to bring. Even though you’ll be away from home for two weeks, you don’t need to pack much clothing. First, choose your walking shoes; they are very important says Priya. After that, pack essentials but leave ample room for clothing that you’ll be able to buy in Ganeshpuri shops. While you are certainly free to wear Western clothes there, the cut and fabric weight of the traditional salwar kameez are appropriate for every occasion. The Punjabi-style pants (narrow ankles, full knees) and knee-length tunic are comfortable as well as elegant. Priya says that, in her experience, when you purchase a salwar kameez outfit in the US, the neckline can be cut too low and the fabric can be too heavy for the Indian climate, even in February. Yet, for early morning travel in open air vehicles to Nityananda’a Abhishek ceremony, you’ll want a light jacket or a shawl.
For your suitcase, other useful items might be granola bars, a bag of nuts and even protein powder for your blood sugar if that’s an issue for you. Your own mosquito repellent can prove useful, too, until you can buy the local stuff, which Swamiji recommends. However, before you travel, you don’t need to worry about exchanging US dollars for rupees because you can do that easily at the Fire Mountain Ashram upon arrival.
Priya found that the transportation arranged by Iqbal and his crew from the Fire Mountain Ashram from the Mumbai airport to Ganeshpuri was extremely smooth. She says, “After we turned in our forms at the immigration desks, we retrieved our luggage from baggage claim, and it was a short walk through a terminal lobby to the parking lot where Iqbal was waiting for us with his bus. It was quite easy.”
Click here for more information about our February 2015 India Retreat ‑ Ganeshpuri’s Grace.
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