Thank you so much
for sharing the crowdfunding campaign and helping me and my family get to India.
Here I will keep you updated on the preparations and of course report about our trip.
for sharing the crowdfunding campaign and helping me and my family get to India.
Here I will keep you updated on the preparations and of course report about our trip.
During our two weeks in India I took 621 photos and videos. Or let’s say: within 12 days I took 621 photos and videos. Once a week I deliberately took a day off and didn’t take photos.
The reason is simple: mindfulness. On a day without photos I don’t feel forced to capture certain moments, situations or view. I recognize everything. Even the images that don’t really qualify to be photographed.
For instance, I look at cars that look just the same as in Germany. Or beautifully boring bus stops. I become aware of the structure of the pathways, the sneakers of the people in the park, print shops, street lights, the sky. During my photo-free day I am more perceptive than ever.
And the best about it: I become aware again of the fact that all these impressions are mine alone. Now, in this very moment, I see and experience this very part of the world. Nobody has ever seen it like this before, and nobody will experience it again like this – not even I myself. Actually it is this way in every second.
But with my camera hanging around my neck I wrongly imagine to be able to capture and keep the moment. However, people who look at my photos often see totally different things from the once that are important to me. And the vibe of a moment can hardly be captured on a photograph anyway.
This blog isn’t a travel blog in that sense. It’s about something bigger than my personal travel experiences. I want to inspire you to travel responsibly and aware. It’s hard to express that with holiday snapshots. That’s why you won’t find them here. Most of the images are from Unsplash.
I wrote an article about how to take photos in Africa. Beyond shutter speed and angle there are hints on using a camera mindfully.
Travelling with an infant is different from any other way of travel I did before.
Here are 9 things they did with my baby which they might do to yours if you let them.
One of the first questions was for his name. And once people knew it they would call it over and over again. Even if the pronunciation was difficult to them. Especially, when I was trying real hard to make him sleep.
Sweety Pie and Chubby were only some of the English names I understood. The ones they gave him in their mother tongues passed me.
To all occasions and in various degrees my son was pinched in and twitched at the cheeks. I had read about it earlier and realised that it is a common thing to do to babies. Although he didn’t love it, he never complained about it either.
Much quicker than any German before, many Indians took my son into their arms. Several of our hosts seemed to see it as their duty to let me have my arms and lap free so that I could eat. Therefore they carried him a lot. But also total strangers would pluck him from my arms. One young woman even asked whether I would remove him from the wrap I was carrying him in so that she could hold him. I had to explain to her that she should at least wait until he woke up. But when he did, I had my arms free once more.
Once people held him, it didn’t take long and they carried him around and showed him things in the other room, in the yard or elsewhere. Several times a day I was wondering where my child was.
In India my baby started to show interest in food other than mother’s milk. Since it was his first time to have solid food I tried to be careful with what he ate. I didn’t want to overwhelm his little stomach. He ate biscuits, though, and other Indian food that people gave him.
He doesn’t speak yet and he is growing up with at least two different languages anyway. So the languages in India may have not been more confusing to him. Only I didn’t understand what people told him.
We as a family have a policy. We don’t want photos of our baby to be spread around. We tell people that it’s okay to show them to others but they need permission before sharing them online. In that way we are trying to keep control over the distribution of our baby’s photos. I should have mentioned that to the many people in India taking photos with and of him. I just felt uncomfortable and wanted to be polite so I didn’t. Next time I will.
I don’t know what it means when a woman moves her hands around my baby’s face and then clicks her finger bones on her temples. They did it a lot. But I consider it as a blessing. All the things people did to him, including starting to cry, people did out of happiness and joy about him and for his best.
You don’t have to queue for the attraction. However, the way to the roller-coaster is long and leads through an interlaced labyrinth of fences guiding the masses in drops to the ride during main season.
That’s how we wiggle past the shoe deposit through the security check where I leave my camera. Father Thomas has kept his socks on and tries to climb on the fence to avoid the water which was sunk in the floor, probably for clearing purposes. He doesn’t manage quite as well as Father Santosh who is significantly younger and more agile. So Father Thomas continues with one wet sock.
Awestruck I follow the priests who appear almost as touristic as I. Sporadically, families and groups of young people move past us. They seem to know better how to behave in this place and which way to follow.
A voice chants the holy names of Krishna through speakers:
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare.
And again. And again. Believers walk one step ahead after each verse. Praying in that way, they slowly come closer to their destination inside the temple. There’s a way for visitors, too, and we simply skip the act by walking up marble stairs.
In each one sits one God. They wear sparkling adornment on their heads and their faces are black and serious. Father Thomas tells me their names. One of them is Hanuman, the monkey.
Few steps ahead there’s another God in a shrine, this time with the black head of a lion. Visitors like us are guided along in a big distance to the shrines. The Gods look serious at us, or through us.
Following yet more steps that make Father Thomas breath heavily, past even more bannisters, we finally reach the terrace in front of the main gate. It gives a good view over part of the city. Close by I see clothes, neatly hung on long lines for drying. Behind, half-finished skyscrapers shoot towards the sky. In between linger smaller buildings with light colours, and green spots here and there. The big birds throwing themselves into the breeze in between the tall buildings must have an even better overview.
There’s a draught in the entrance. In front of us, facing away from us, four monks sit in the cold breeze on a little stage, play music on a harmonium, cymbals and a drum and sing. They look and sounds exactly like the monks in Germany’s pedestrian zones.
In front of the stage believers are sitting down on mats. We follow the bannister guiding us round the high temple hall anti-clockwise, past the golden altar-like space in front. Radha and Krishna stand there like porcelain dolls, but their faces are shining gold. First I think they may have put on masks. But the impression results from the contrast to the black faces of the other Gods being a little livelier.
In front of the couple, hidden from us by a screen, three monks look as if they were sitting in shop windows. They fulfill their rituals which are not visible to us. We can only see their side- faces and the curl on the back of their heads.
The bannister guides us to a canopy.
His face is frozen in golden seriousness, too, but his little height makes him somehow human, despite all the enlightenment.
We meet him two more times. Once in his office behind his desk. Through the open door he suddenly looks quite real, maybe because his face is off skin colour this time. The second time he sits cross-legged in light orange clothes and looks into deep emptiness. On his bold forehead he wears two thin white lines ending on the root of his nose. The corners of his mouth characteristically move towards his chin.
The way out is almost as long as the way in. Now we pass stands with books, souvenirs, pictures, clothes, toys, jewelry, art. Two paintings are catching my attention: The artist painting little Krishna on his mother Yasoda’s lap has managed to portrait well how mothers hold their children. And on the picture of Ras Lila (which can glow in the dark and the shopkeeper is happy to show us) I adore the traces of naked feet on the nightly beach and the faces of the women. It must be a controlled dance being performed there, quickly filling the dancers with deep joy.
Meanwhile Father Thomas is amazed by how cheap the statues are. At the same time he warns me: Catholic priests are never recommended to buy something from a temple. “Because they have a certain influence,” he simply says, and I don’t understand whether he means the spiritual influence of the statues or the political influence of the confession that he doesn’t want to support.
Father Santosh buys me a piece of pastry that is as big as my palm and drips off fat and sugar, from the next stands that stretch for metres and bend under neatly piled little colourful snacks. I take a bite and am surprised how refreshing such a sweet thing can be.
In one corner a family has sat down and has lunchbreak with about ten different little bowls full of a colourful variety of dishes. They are not the only ones enjoying the food here.
Gratefully I decline the free splodge from a massive pot served by a monk with a big spoon into a pressed banana leave. I just don’t want to strain my stomach too much on my third day in Bengaluru.
I don’t dare either to accept the free mantra, printed on pink letters on a small card as Father Thomas’ eyes are meeting mine.
In the evening, lying in bed, I am waiting for sleep which refuses to come.
Maybe that’s Krishna, who can’t sleep either, considering all his calm joy and enlightenment. But I may be just imagining that.
Mindfulness means paying attention to the very moment and living in the absolute present. It means being. It means acceptance, patience and openness.
To travel mindfully, I open my mind as wide as possible, curiously letting all impressions in without judging them. At least I try. Here is why my baby is much better at it.
It is admirable how children live the present moment to the max. Baby doesn’t worry about the future and ponder over the past. All that counts for him is what is there right now. That is why even the hundredth time my funny noises are funny to him.
To him, everything is an opportunity, everything is interesting, everything is new. Keys, blankets, trees, people and the floor – he tries to discover them all with the same undivided amount of curiosity, as if he saw them for the very first time.
Whether I give him a fancy toy or a random spoon, he will play with both. Whether a grumpy old man passes him or his favourite aunt, he watches them both curiously and is open to what they may have in store for him.
He knows everything will be fine. He doesn’t fear falling from the bed, being knocked by a car, banging his head on the floor or slipping through his dad’s arms. Baby just enjoys being thrown in the air and trusts he will be caught.
Don’t rush to tick the sights on your bucket list. Instead, pay attention to the place you are in right now. Practice that a lot during your trip. Be it the waiting lounge at the airport, the hostel room, the river bend, the temple, the kiosk. How does it look like? How does it sound, smell, taste and feel like? Simply experience the places without liking or disliking them. Do that often.
If you consider an area at your destination more boring than the others, go there deliberately and be open for surprises. Look out of the taxi window knowing that nobody ever had this view, which is your very own this very moment, before. And nobody will ever have it again. Not even you. Be curious for the way people live. See what you can learn from them.
Try not to compare life abroad with what you know and take for granted. Instead, sit, breath, listen and watch. It is not your job to divide all impressions into good or bad. Instead leave the categories closed and just focus on the experiences flowing by.
Start walking, not knowing where you are going. You might have to ask strangers for help to get back. Trust that all your encounters will be beautiful. I am not suggesting to behave risky and mindless. On the contrary: Be mindful and pay attention to all the possibilities coming your way when you simply trust that you will be fine.
There’s a simple secret to better travel photography and videography: Take more photos and videos, even before travelling. It sounds simple and maybe disappointing, but it is true. And I have proof.
A year ago I was given a new camera by a very nice person. It came with a bag and a handbook and I was so happy and overwhelmed that I didn’t use it for three months. I always thought, in order to make full use of all its features, I had to read the handbook first. Which I was too busy to do.
Long time ago I found some truth: Doing comes from doing.
To cut the long story short: I still need practice for travel photography in India. So I keep taking photos. At the bottom there are the results from an end-of-summer walk. We did not only say goodbye to summer, but also to my village. It was shortly before we moved from the South to the West of Germany.
There is also a video. If you were so kind to support my trip with 9€ or more, you may already have seen it. If not: Go ahead – and thank you so much in advance!
If you are reading this, you know that I am about to travel to Bengaluru with my husband and baby soon. I know nothing about India and even less about Bengaluru. For preparation and inspiration, the internet is at my fingertips. But the internet can also be overwhelming. So here are the four essential websites I use for travel preparation:
Stories beyond the touristic tales. Stories that give you a feel of your destination. Stories that open your eyes for the daily life in the country or town you are about to visit. Their Know Before You Go Guides have great insight.
For my journey: unfortunately no guide. Instead, a story about the strongest man in India (which really is a story about Christian and Hindu faith and the values they share) and a mouthwatering description of Rava Idlis for breakfast.
For inspiration and anything odd and interesting from around the world.
For my journey: a story about how the nightlife changed in Bengaluru.
The collection of images from India have the common clichés like yogis, colours, temples, henna and mountains. However, the 12 signs of a first-time India traveller are funny and the 10 ways to humiliate yourself in India are helpful.
A bunch of open-minded locals and travellers who have ever been super friendly and helpful for any issue I had.
For my journey: I already got offers from potential hosts, without even having to look for one! And I might ask a couple of questions. (Where to buy diapers? Breastfeeding in public? Weather conditions?) I know I can rely on the answers and the lovely people giving them. And I might look for people to hang out with.
Tells women how to dress appropriately anywhere in the world.
I have the feeling that Tripadvisor tilts towards the touristic way of travel which I have long given up.
This page, too, lists a lot of sights. The Thorntree Forum can help mostly with visa requirements, itineraries and travel buddies, otherwise it is rather overwhelming.
Discovering the world through food.
Travelled all countries in the world.
For my journey: If I have time, I will click through the 109 search results for India. Some of them are portraits of other travel bloggers, so there might be some time consuming “getting lost” involved.
Preparation creates expectations. Expectations can easily be disappointed if not met. So if I avoid preparation, I will also avoid a bad mood because of disappointment. That doesn’t mean that I don’t take care of vaccinations, visa and accommodation. But I try to limit myself in “reading around” and instead look forward to experiencing the place once I’m there.
Maybe this may sound a bit esoteric, but I am convinced that news or information I must get will find me. That is why I can’t tell you how I stumbled upon Bengaluru By Foot. I love the idea and we may end up on a guided tour with them. And we are also considering a visit at Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living ashram. I just found out that it happens to be located in Bengaluru. My husband is a great fan of him, but that is another story.
I uploaded a sample video to show the type of moving postcards I make.
It’s not exactly India, though.
We did a daytrip to Ulm in the South of Germany.
If you like what you see and want to see more of this before and during our trip, visit my crowdfunding page to find out how.