I am particularly excited about this new post in my Spotlight On series highlighting recent journeys from experts in the travel field as it is to a destination I have never been. I met Katie a few years ago while I was chairing an event for the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. Absolute Travel, one of the most highly regarded travel companies specializing in custom private tours in exotic locations, was one of our sponsors and donated an incredible South African package for our auction. I met a kindred spirit in Katie, who is passionate about giving back in her travels and involved with philanthropic efforts around the world (a commitment that is evident among the staff of Absolute Travel).
Having worked as a Marketing Manager for Absolute Travel for the past five years, Katie has been fortunate to travel all over the globe (Brazil, Colombia, Morocco, Vietnam, Cambodia, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, South Africa (2x), India, Uganda, Rwanda). I’m completely envious. Her response to my question of which was her favorite?
Here is her review on her recent wellness trip to India:
My work at Absolute Travel allows me to spin the globe, pick a destination, and, in more ways than one, find myself somewhere completely off the radar. An excursion this April was no different when I took in a sixteen-day wellness journey through India with Susie, one of my closest childhood friends. We left our worlds behind (including my brand-spanking new fiancé and dog and Susie’s husband and two kids!) and swapped our sweaty New York yoga studios and quick-grab subway stand coffees for ancient ruins and the local chai wallah’s best brew. Here’s a closer look at a particularly inspiring portion of our trip in the quiet Aravalli hillsides.
2:30pm: We knew we were getting close when we started seeing India’s uniquely decorated trucks replaced by India’s uniquely decorated peacocks.
3:00pm: Hello Amanbagh! We strolled through the beautifully kept grounds and found a quiet spot to sip our ginger and lime sodas, made from scratch just minutes before, and soak up a little sun. Amanbagh is the former hunting camp for the Maharajah of Alwar, and we couldn’t help but daydream about what this garden retreat was like centuries ago—when tigers roved the hillsides over the now abandoned city of Bhangarh as the Maharajah relaxed in his luxurious palace retreat.
4:30pm: We hopped into an open-air jeep and took off for the hills and a Sunset Cow Dust Tour where locals, young and old, waved at us, their genuine smiles oozing delight. With the fresh air in our faces and a soundtrack of children’s laughter, it was easy to slip into wellness mode and let the rejuvenation begin!
4:50pm: We pulled up to the side of a backcountry millet field for an impromptu attempt at harvesting! The local women couldn’t help but laugh as they watched us take a stab at their field work.
5:00pm: While these mountains no longer host tigers, we were treated to impromptu sighting of peacocks, monkeys, and, of course, plenty of sacred cows.
7:00pm: Back in our rooms, we made sure to break for a bath, a signature at the Amanbagh. Each tub is carved from one piece of Udaipur green marble and stands majestically in the middle of the spacious bathroom—a bathroom that’s easily bigger than my one-bedroom West Village apartment!
8:15pm: It was hard not to feel like Maharani Queens during our sitar serenade on the Amanbagh balcony overlooking the peaceful Indian countryside.
9:30pm: Surrounded by candles and lanterns, we gorged ourselves on the incredible Indian cuisine, flavored with roasted fennel seeds, coconut milk, and fresh ginger. The vegetables were hand-picked earlier that day from the property’s garden and as flavorful and delicious as you could imagine. (My attempts to recreate our culinary experiences at home with Indian take-out have not been cutting it!)
7:00am: This morning we swapped our cramped NYC yoga studios for the haunted ruins of Bhangarh. Legend has it that this ancient city was abandoned after being cursed by the court magician. Today, it’s a stunning setting—mesmerizing, tranquil, perfect – for yoga. We couldn’t have dreamt up a more beautiful place to dive into a Downward-Facing Dog and meditate during our private session with instructor, Chaitali.
9:30am: The Aman team surprised us with a post-savasana breakfast in the shade of the ruins. After downing homemade chai tea and puri-aloo (fried wheat pancakes), we wandered around the Hindu temples and banyan trees with a crew of peacocks and langur monkeys.
3:30pm: We had a lovely excursion through the village of Ajabgarh. Hands down, India is the most photogenic country I’ve ever visited; photo-worthy mustaches and marvelously colorfully dressed women welcomed us around every single corner, no matter where we were. But our afternoon village wander also allowed us to take in the tranquility of the area, the quiet spots that fill out the complete picture of a community. We heard the camel ride offered a unique vantage point…maybe next time.
5:00pm: Spa! We indulged in the Shahi Angalepana, a mud wrap, scrub, and massage combo. But whatever we’d wanted —Qigong, meditation, Reiki, facials, even henna tattoos—they had it.
9:00pm: On our final night, a rain storm appeared… unusual for the parched Aravalli Hills in April. Suddenly, both Susie and I knew we were struck by the same inspiration. So we toasted the Indian shower with our local Sula wine and ran from the shelter of the Amanbagh patio to get soaking wet. And there in the courtyard the transformative powers of the region truly set in.
I’m not sure exactly what did it—maybe that morning’s meditation and yoga had synchronized body and mind, letting us fully appreciate being in the moment and allowing us to finally get away from the habitual thoughts of paying rent, making deadlines and planning dinner. But finding that extra bit of mental “space” gave us all the room we needed. And there, standing under the wet Indian sky alongside one of my best friends in the world, our wellness journey found us perfectly well.
I would skip the Amanyara boutique, which showcases jewelry from a variety of different shops, and wait for the unexpected jewelry store gem on the trip: Jodhpur’s tiny jewelry shop, Gems & Art Plaza. Even Brad and Angelina made a visit to this quiet shop on their last trip for their small selection of traditional Kundan and Minakari jewelery. I picked up an antique Navaratna bracelet (translation means 9 gems in Sanskrit). Navaratna jewels hold a unique place in Indian jewelry and are considered very lucky for the wearer. The nine gemstones represent the nine planetary aspects and are said to balance out or even ward off the ill-effects of ones doshas. I plan to wear it on my wedding day!
To organize a customized trip to India or any other far-flung corner of the world, contact Absolute Travel. See a sampling of other itineraries that Katie was on below:
Images Courtesy of Katie Losey and not for reproduction.