Re-focusing Energy & Connecting with Others
By Aikita Suri & Misty Dhillon, Transformative Travel LLC
One favorite transformational travel story is my Cycle Yatra (yatra means journey) in rural villages outside of Bangalore, India. This was a five-day cycling journey with a group of 16 people, mostly strangers, ages 9-65, venturing together on bikes to explore our intrinsic value through gift culture. We were asked to get onto bicycles (all donated by local supporters) and leave behind money, food, non-essential medicines, waste products, and any form of technology, to instead re-focus our energy on connecting to one another, the environment around us, to local people in rural India who practice self-sustainable living, to one another as a yatra team, and most importantly, to ourselves. In this adventure, we connected using our hearts and our bodies, and offered ourselves, without money power, but instead exploring what our presence alone contributes to the collective.
Essentially as a cycle yatri, I carried a sleeping bag, water bottle, a journal and pen, plus one spare change of clothes in a small bag on my back and peddled off to explore rural parts of India armed only with my body, heart, and my fellow community of seekers. We had no destined route but moved organically across the landscape until coming across a village, where we would offer to work in exchange for food and a place to stay.
On bikes, we rode through the beautiful hillsides outside of Bangalore. Stopping often along the way, our trip leader, Ramawtar had a keen eye for eatable plants and flowering fruit trees. We stopped and climbed one another’s back to climb trees and pick fresh imli (nature’s version of a sour patch kid) or Singapore cherries. We feasted, and carried some for the road and continued until we found ourselves entering a village. In our group of 16, only 1 person spoke the local language, so this journey required me to communicate with the language of no words - smiles, hand gestures, good vibes, and charades!
During those five days I helped clean up coconut tree farms, de-shell a local seed used for bio-fuel, assisted in a trash clean-up and helped clean a cow-shed. I ate more than I ever expected, mostly due to the kindness of the people we met along the way, and partially because we picked fruits and vegetables as we rode past wild orchards. I bathed in a lake, brushed my teeth using a branch from the neem tree, and used the leaves to make an antiseptic ointment for a small cut. I stayed in public school grounds, a house made of coconut tree leaves, and on the land of a spiritual ashram.
Throughout the yatra we paused many times for reflection on our experiences as individuals and as a group. I learned a lot about myself, what I offer in a group setting, the abundance that the earth offers to care for us, and mostly I regained an amazing faith in the goodness of humanity.