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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  1. 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!

  2. 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 :-)