One Among a Billion: My Mumbai Experience

For more on my backpacking trip through India, check out Mumbai experience, Kallikadu, Sivananda ashram introduction, Indiathe basics, Sivananda ashram I, Sivananda ashram II, waterfalls and temples, the streets, and varkala posts.

The journey from our home in Airdrie, Alberta to the Hilton Mumbai International Airport hotel took a total of 25 hours.

And an amazing 25 hours it was.

I have to admit that there quite a bit of crying at the airport as I hugged and kissed Kevin about a billion times before I forced myself to walk through the security line to begin my journey. And, even more crying as the plane lifted off Canadian soil and I faced the fact that I would be away from home, on my own for a pretty long time.

But I did it. I let myself cry, I let myself feel everything, and I made a promise that no matter how scared I got, I would just keep listening to my intuition and trust that my heart was making the right choice.

With a little help from my new favorite homeopathic remedy, I had the best flight to Frankfurt! I slept at least 7 hours, arrived rested, headache free, and ready to tackle my next flight.

Seriously, if you haven’t tried this stuff, you absolutely have to. I’ve had no jet lag, no issues adjusting to the 12.5 hour time difference, and no headaches or foggy brain. It’s a miracle.

We landed in Frankfurt at 11:30am local time. I got to the gate for my next flight with plenty of time to enjoy the breakfast I’d prepared for this very occasion…

Maple cinnamon protein pancakes with chopped apples, coconut oil, ground flax seed, and crushed pecans.

Ya, I travel in style!

During my flight from Frankfurt to Mumbai, there was a point where we were flying over the Himalayas (yes, the Himalayas…!!) where I realized it was the farthest I’d ever been from home.

I just started laugh/crying – an awkward state when you’re overcome by several emotions and aren’t sure how to handle them but to cry and laugh at the same time. I was incredibly proud of myself, scared, anxious and excited for the journey ahead.

This was around the point where I decided to break my trip up in sections so that I wouldn’t feel too overwhelmed by the whole thing.

First step, enjoy a snack.

Next step, fill out my customs form, then use it as a bookmark to what is now one of my favorite books of all time.

And so on.

One of the things I was most anxious about when planning this trip was getting off the plane in Mumbai, going through customs, getting my checked bag and finding a taxi. I’m happy to report that customs was a breeze, navigating my way through the airport was easy, and surprisingly, everyone I interacted with was willing to help me get to where I needed to go.

Because there were so many people from our flight, waiting for my checked bag at the conveyor belt took about 45 minutes. I saw this as a perfect opportunity to look around me and take in as many sights, sounds and smells as I could before having to hunt down my prearranged shuttle.

It was the first time in my life where I’d felt so jam-packed into a room with hundreds of other bodies, but that didn’t feel intrusive or uncomfortable. We were in such close proximity to one another but for one reason or another, it was somehow comforting.

Once I had my bag I felt like I was in the clear. Just one last hurdle until I was in my hotel room.

I found my driver, we got in the car and 10 minutes later I was in my hotel room. In Mumbai, with all my luggage, and in one piece.


This marked a successful Tuesday morning.

I was fine until I went to sleep around 4am. Kevin and I have matching teddy bears for when we go away, so we can each “take” each other along with us.

He sprayed my teddy bear with cologne so when I went to cuddle it before bed I just broke down in tears. And you know what, that’s okay! Being this far away from the one I love, wishing he was right here with me but understanding that the journey I’m embarking on is something I need to do on my own, no matter how much it hurts, is one lesson I’m going to ace by the end of this trip.

I slept for about 3 hours, made a mug of quinoa flake porridge (that I featured in this healthy travel 101 post) and went to enjoy it outside in the sunshine.

After that, I took my camera along with me for an adventure through the hotel to see what I could find.

It wasn’t long until I magically appeared on the health and fitness floor, really would you expect any less of me?

Before I knew it I was chatting with one of the practitioners who proceeded to show me the ‘menu’ of their spa services. I decided then and there that at these prices, treating myself to my very first spa day… ever was in order.

I spent the remainder of the day relaxing with the help of a 90 minute therapeutic massage, 60 minute facial, and 60 minute scalp massage. Although each treatment was great, with up to 3 ladies with me at once, the scalp massage was my favorite. Who knew your head could be focused on for a full 60 minutes? There was oil, steaming, washing, conditioning, it was amazing.

Out of the whole experience I realized that although I take care of my body through proper nutrition and exercise, I don’t generally give it the love and pampering it needs. This is something I’m sure I’ll continue to work on while I’m here with the intention of figuring out how I can incorporate it at home without spending $400 at a spa once a month.

I got back to my room around 4pm and hadn’t eaten anything since my porridge, so decided to order up some room service!

I went with a citrus bean sprouts salad with fresh bean sprouts with apples, fresh orange slices drizzled in an extra virgin olive oil vinaigrette. I was pretty hungry, so decided to add a package of Manitoba Harvest hemp hearts to the mix.

Such a great idea and definitely being recreated when I get home.

Lunch was followed with a 2 hour nap, a bath, and the start to another book. All the while feeling better and better about me being here. Knowing that there’s gluten-free, dairy-free, peanut-free food in India has definitely helped me adjust myself to my surroundings.

And lastly, around 9pm I ordered methi moong ki subzi; which after a quick google search, seemed to be free of gluten. The room service attendant was patient when taking my order and understood what gluten was, how serious of an allergy peanuts is for me, and assured me that the breads served with my order would be made with rice flour.

The dinner was amazing! It was my first time having fenugreek and I loved it! It was tossed with lentils, chili and mustard seeds with the perfect amount of spiciness, all balanced with a side of mango chutney.

The meal was finished with a handful of sugar coated fennel seeds before I spent the remainder of the night packing for my journey to Thiruvananthapuram in the morning.

Next time we chat, I’ll be in Kerala; south India, enjoying hours of yoga and meditation a day and; I’m sure, falling madly in love with India.

Bye for now!

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Comments | Leave Your Comment

  1. I love these posts! I can’t wait to hear more about your adventure!!!

    I know it is hard now. The first few days are, but you are going to have a blast!!! And adventure of a lifetime, and you will have so much fun.

  2. What a great start to the trip so far Leanne! I’m so glad your journey was safe. Thank you so much for mentioning those no jet lag pills – I’m TOTALLY tracking some down for Australia!!! I was planning to just take Gravol to knock me out but I like the sounds of yours so much more. I love that you headed to the spa and indulged yourself in massages too – like you said, it’s something we don’t do nearly enough and our bodies really need that relaxation time. I bet you’re feeling a lot more energized now. See you in Kerala!

  3. Wow Leanne, your trip already sounds so amazing. I love that you are updating FB and this site, along your travels. For some of us, it may be the closest we ever get to taking a trip like this!

    You look insanely happy in that photo you took of yourself! I love it.
    Hope your trip continues to be amazing – you really are on an adventure of a lifetime!

  4. So amazing!!! Those are my thoughts going over the Himalayas, I would have cried too:-) Enjoy every moment, your trip sounds amazing! My dream is to do a yoga meditation retreat someday in India:-) Namaste Terra

  5. It looks like your trip is off to a great start Leanne! Embrace your emotions and know that you will be a stronger (more centered) person by the end of the trip. Enjoy!

    P.S. I can’t wait until you recreate that salad, it looks great!

  6. Leanne, thank you for taking the time to write this post…and I am so glad you made it!!! I have been thinking about you, so much, the past 2 days…wondering how you’ve been and hoping you arrived in one piece :) Nothing like checking in to that hotel room and that first shower I bet after the LONG trip! But you’re there….can’t wait to hear more!

  7. Kerala? You are living the dream. Thank you for sharing throughout your trip, for those of those that may never get to do it. I will definately live vicariously through your experiences.

  8. Fantastique!! I so love Indian food and their many vegetarian options! (lotsa ghee tho). I am looking forward to readijng more about this great adventure! Thank you for sharing.

  9. That’s so awesome to know that they have plenty of gluten free options and understand what that means. I’m always so sad when I go to indian restaurants because I can’t eat some of my favorites, like naan and somosas!

  10. Your trip so far sounds amazing…It can be really hard being in a foreign country far away from home. Just embrace each emotion as it comes like you are already doing!!! You are such an inspiration for being so intuitive with your body and mind. Look forward to more updates :)

  11. 1. I love your new pants, they look so comfy :)
    2. I agree with Beth, you look so happy in that picture.
    3. I soooo want a scalp massage.
    4. So as I was sitting here reading this, I found myself getting more and more excited and happy for you. I felt so giddy like we were best friends and I wanted to call you up and talk all about your trip so far.

    Continue having an amazing, life-changing experience, Leanne!

    Goodnight! (morning?) Hah, didn’t we do this when you were in London?!

  12. I hope you enjoy India! I’m just finishing up my first trip there, and it’s sure amazing!

  13. Hey! I have been following your blog for a while but don’t comment ever often :)
    I am from Bangalore India so when I saw your posts from India I got all exited! Good to know that you are having great trip so far. If you are passing by Bangalore at any point and want to catch up for a drink/meal please let me know. I would be happy to meet you…

  14. Hi :)
    I’ve never commented before, but I have to say I’m looking forward to you getting back. I miss your posts almost every day! haha! Maybe it’s because I am incredibly far way from home too, and there’s something fun an comforting about reading them and seeing pictures and recipes of food I can actually eat! I guess maybe because it makes me feel closer to home, like being in the kitchen with my own family, all of who don’t mind when I make crazy experimental gfreedairyfreesoyfree recipes (usually cookies or some sort of popcorn :D ) as long as I don’t burn it and stink up the house, which I must admit, I do far too often ;p I just wanted to say though that you are being super brave going off all by yourself.
    Last year I quit my job and got on a plane by myself from the US to the UK to go to grad school in design. I didn’t know ANYONE in London, and was completely on my own for the first time ever. I was sooo excited to finally be pursuing what I loved and knew I was finally doing what I was supposed to be doing, but it was so hard to leave behind the people I loved so much for so long. After coming here I’ve had some major health and homesick issues (ugh!). I went back home for Christmas break, and when I came back to London when it was over, I had like a near panic attack or two and week of complete meltdown and crying at the drop of a hat, “what am I doing?! what was I thinking?! I wand to go home soooo bad!” I almost quit school and got on a plane home! Seriously! It took quite a bit to talk myself outta it. I couldn’t understand what was wrong with me! I was finally doing something I had always wanted to do, yet I was having to convince myself that it’s gonna be so worth it, and that I’d be home again in a few months, that I knew it was what I was supposed to do. I’m glad I talked myself out of it but I still can’t wait to go home! So I just wanted to say, that if you get super homesick and want to go home, it’s ok, you’re not ridiculous, and it’s going to be so worth it. I’m so excited for you. I hope you have so much fun and I’ll be sending some it’sokdon’tbehomesick vibes your way! haha! can’t wait till your back so I can see more of your recipes! and can’t wait till I’m home so I can try them out!!! (it’s hard to here because the dorm oven doesn’t work, it’s really hard to find ingredients free of everything I’m allergic to here, and the kitchen is a community kitchen and hard to stay outte people’s way or keep my food from getting contaminated with breadcrumbs or something in there). So again, I’m so excited for you! and even though I’ve never met you, I feel so proud of you that you’ve been so brave to go on this trip all by yourself :)
    Have a wonderful day and wonderful rest the trip and a good flight home :)
    <3 J

  15. I LOVE your travel food!!! I can just picture a whole portion of your bag dedicated to your foods! I definitely want to check out those jet-lag pills too, next time I do long-distance traveling. I would have loved to arrive in Australia feeling amazing, when I went 2 years ago haha. Enjoy the rest of your trip – it will be so worth it =)

  16. What an amazing adventure! I freely admit that I’m not brave enough to do something like that at this stage of my life. Enjoy every minute of it for those who won’t get the chance!

  17. I am so happy, nervous, excited, jealous! ;) for you…my Mum is from Bombay (can bring myself to say Mumbai) – my husband and I are going to plan a trip there next year for our Honeymoon…:) Take it all in…soak in your surroundings…and tell us everything!!!!!!!!

    with much adoration and love

  18. Leanne, you are just soooo pretty! That first picture at top? It is one amazing picture of you right there! You look so happy and so ready to embark on that great adventure. Seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone carry this many bags on them ever before…

    Looks like you’re having a fantastic time. I definitely envy you and look forward to reading about the rest of your trip. Thanks for taking the time to share this adventure with us!

    Oh, and that salad? I can’t wait for you to recreate it. I want the recipe. OMG does it ever look good! :)

  19. What an awesome post! Thanks so much for sharing your journey with us! It sounds amazing. I’m madly curious about how much that spa day cost you – I’ve never had one myself, either, because they’re just so crazy expensive here!

    OMG I can’t believe you’re in INDIA.

  20. so amazing!! First off that Buddha picture is stunning I LOVE buddhas.

    I am so excited to read all about this journey, it’s something I hope to do at some time in my life – but for now I’ll just live through you!

    :) Safe travels

  21. I’ve been looking forward to hearing about your experiences in India since I first read that you were going there, since I’ve been there a couple of times myself (and lived just outside of Mumbai for 4 months in 2010). I know how overwhelming the Mumbai airport can be and that first taxi ride from the airport to my hotel was one of the most memorable experiences of my life (seeing such a different culture and feeling so many mixed emotions). So it’s great that you managed that first day so well (especially being all on your own)! And the food I had in India was probably my favourite part about my trip (I liked South Indian style the best!), so I hope you keep posting about the meals you try!

  22. Wish I could of been there with you!! I can’t wait to try some of your recipes on your site!!

  23. Wow Leanne! This is absolutely amazing, I hope you have the BEST time ever. You’ll learn and see so much, I can’t wait to hear about everything =) HAVE FUN!!!

  24. I’m so excited to read more about your trip! I’ve always wanted to travel to India, and I love how you’re doing it in style – with fresh healthy foods from both home & abroad :-)

  25. Hi Leanne,

    I am soooo glad I’ve just come across your blog about your travels to India! I’m planning to go on my own little spiritual adventure in a couple of weeks to Kerala and, as luck would have it, exactly the same ashram!! (the only one I can find in Trivandrum). I am waiting for an email from them to see if they have room for me. I plan to leave London in a couple of weeks, travel to Trivandrum and then head straight to the ashram. (after treating myself to a night or two in a nice hotel in Trivandrum to acclimatise and settle, hopefully with some lovely spa treatments like you had in Mumbai!). I will then spend a minimum of a fortnight at the ashram, before setting off to explore the sites and sounds of Kerala and ending my trip in Goa for a few weeks. I will be away until the beg – mid Feb.

    I’m so excited about the journey I’m about to embark on. But, I’m not going to lie, I have been getting increasingly anxious about it because of all the negative Trip Advisor comments – about women being unsafe on their own in India, and about the ashram you went to. All I really want is to hear from someone I can trust to find out what the real truth is about this particular ashram. I’ve heard many saying “it’s all a scam” and that’s worried me. Reading your blog has somewhat dissipated those fears, though I do understand you were disappointed too and I think I understand your reasons for being disappointed. As it will be my first solo adventure, my first time in India and my first time in an ashram, I feel that it probably is the right place for me to go to meet people and focus on my yoga and meditation. Do you think it lends itself well to that? I know it is absolutely huge, some say it is difficult to get food it is so busy… Was there anywhere else you came across whilst you were over there, or that you heard of, that might offer a more spiritual and guided experience? I’m so looking forward to immersing myself in the daily routine of the ashram, the Satsang, improving my yoga practice, and the day trips. I’m hoping to book my flight for around the 20th Dec and plan to spend Christmas and New year in the Ashram (no idea if that’s a good or a bad idea!). I will then travel Kerala for most of January, finishing up in Goa for 2-3 wks.

    Is there anywhere in particular you can recommend, or perhaps have heard about but didn’t have time to see? It would be great to get some recommendations.

    Thank you so much for sharing your journey. You have replaced my growing anxiety with excitement so I’m really, really grateful. If I have anywhere near the same experience as you, I’ll be very happy! Have you written any more about your time there? I’d love to read more, I was gutted when I clicked on the last link.

    I’m in the process of sorting out books to take with me for my kindle and I’m focusing on Indian based fiction/non-fiction. There’s nothing nicer when you’re travelling in a country to be reading books set in that country, it does wonders for bringing the book to life! I’m curious though, you mention a book in your post above which is now your favourite book of all time… may I ask what it is?

    Om Shanti,

    • Hi Debbie – I had ALL of the same fears and concerns before my trip and I have to say — they were all just a big waste of time to even obsess about. All of the fears that you are creating aren’t real. You booked this trip for a reason. What was the reason? Why do you feel like you need to go? What is calling you? The ashram was exactly what I needed – it transformed my life. I saw everything that I wanted, although Goa never happened and I would like to go back to experience it. If you Google search, “Healthful Pursuit India” or “Healthful Pursuit ashram” you’ll get all the posts I’ve written. Favorite book of all time is: Gift of Acabar. Enjoy!

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