I never imagined myself traveling across the globe to India. Let alone travel that far internationally three years after a global pandemic. But when the opportunity to travel to not only India, but to Nepal too, my husband Chris and I took it. This is not Elizabeth Gilbert’s story of Eat Pray Love. (although I did re-watch the film on the plane to India to calm my travel jitters) My story does land in two of the three locations she traveled to. India (January) and Italy (coming up in May!! Postponed Honeymoon here we come!) If I can manifest Bali into the mix I totally will but will probably settle for some awesome stateside trip to end my trifecta of my SOUL YEAR.
Let me back up to New Year’s Eve 2022/2023 to explain what the SOUL year means. After a fun day in downtown San Diego with my husband and our great friends, we came back to our condo for a nice evening of dinner, drinks and did the whole early NYE thing (celebrate East Coast time at 9 PM-ha!) We sat out on our balcony and had a fire on the firepit. At the time, it was the start of all storm weather that California was experiencing. The rain began to fall and the wind howled making our hanging plants sway and wind chimes sing and dance. We laughed and reminisced about the last few years. There was an energy in the air. No one was out in our complex…the world was ours. My friend said “you know Nat…this is your soul year!” I asked her what she meant. She explained this is your year to travel, to let loose and to be free. And I felt that deeply. I declared my word or phrase of the year as my SOUL year. The year I truly listened to my heart and followed my dreams (as corny as that is to write) which is what I have manifested for myself: to travel and to write. I declare this my SOUL year.
How did this trip come to be? Back in September 2022, I said to Chris “Wow in 2023 we don’t have any weddings to attend!” He then replied “Remember my coworker Abhi who lives in India? Well, he is getting married…in Nepal!” We decided then and there that this was not an opportunity to miss. So we looked into a journey across the world to attend an unforgettable wedding. Hindu weddings are vibrant, intricately planned, cultured-rich festivities full of celebration and tradition.
Day 1-3: Arrival
We flew from LAX on Qatar airlines (with a short layover at the Qatar airport) to Delhi. Arriving at 2 am was rough but we made it to the Sheraton Hotel in New Delhi. We were able to shower and sleep for most of the first day until we had lunch at the hotel with the groom, Abhi. It was so nice to see him after 4 years and have some one-on-one time with him. Later that night the rest of our group arrived, and we headed to Abhi’s family’s house for an EPIC welcome party. As we got out of the car, men banged on traditional drums and Abhi greeted us with hugs. We met his mother, father, sister, cousins, uncles, aunties and friends. They had a bar and delicious tray pass India appetizers. Everything was magical and everyone was so kind! We danced in a drum circle-it was electrifying. The energy and love for Abhi was so special. It was so loud that you couldn’t hear anyone talking!
Day 3: Shopping Day
Our second day in Delhi was all about getting ready for the wedding in Nepal. That meant we all (men and women) needed to get traditional Indian outfits for the wedding. The ladies had to get four different outfits to go with each ceremony-talk about shop till you drop! We had a wonderful friend of Abhi’s, Teesta, take us shopping to some amazing shops. We had a nice late lunch and took it easy the rest of the day.
Day 4: Nepal Day 1
It was a long morning traveling to Nepal (we had to get a new Visa when we arrived) but once we arrived there we were so happy to be in a new country. We were greeted at the hotel The Soaltee with another warm welcome of drums and laughter. After we checked in, we had a nice lunch at the hotel buffet (all the buttered naan!) We rested and got ready for the night. The first evening of celebrations was themed Bollywood. It was a full night of amazing food, speeches and dancing!
Day 5: Adventure day!
We explored the Pashupatinath Temple, which is 5,000 years old. I was blessed by holy men. We happened to go during their ceremony day of cremation. And saw a few monkeys!
The highlight of Nepal: going on the Chandragiri Chair to a viewpoint and temple. Our group was blessed by a priest. We were about to see a peak of Mt. Everest.
This was my favorite part of the wedding. It was held during the day under a beautiful colorful canopy. The Mehendi Ceremony is about applying Henna to the bride’s hands and feet. The women attending the ceremony get a henna applied on at least one hand.
Nepal Night 2: Sangeet Ceremony
Prior to the wedding, there is a gathering called the sangeet where the family comes together to sing, dance, and revel in the joy of the upcoming union. And yes…our group did a dance performance!
Nepal Day 3: Haldi and Wedding Ceremony
Chris and I decided to take it easy the last day and had a spa day…amazing! We then got ready for the Haldi ceremony. In the ceremony, a paste of haldi is applied on the bride and groom’s body the morning of the wedding day. The color yellow is said to ward off evil.
I am so incredibly happy and thrilled that we were able to experience India, Nepal AND Japan in a short amount of time and are now in the midst of finalizing our Honeymoon in Italy and Greece. India and Nepal are places we will never forget. The smell of spices and Chai tea, the insane amount of traffic, the unique and delicious food, the history and the kind people we met reminds me that life is beautiful and we are all connected in this universe.