Outside the Comfort Zone
When you travel to a country that has a culture that is completely different from what you are familiar with, trying and exploring new things is a must. If you don’t, you simply miss out on discovering something that you may love. At the same time, if you aren’t a fan of it, you’ll certainly have a story to tell later on. And boy do I ever have a story for you…
There are some travelers I’ve come across in India that insist on eating the same food they eat back home for every meal. As opposed to trying all of the wonderful Indian dishes that I still struggle to pronounce, they will go to a restaurant and order a pasta. When the dish comes, disappointment usually occurs because it’s not to the “standard” as back home.
I struggle to comprehend why people approach travel like this as they’ve already taken the leap to journey somewhere unfamiliar. Why not go all the way and do as the locals do? I believe it’s easier for people to stay within their comfort zone because they know what to expect. If we live a life that is predicable, doesn’t that get boring? At the end our time here, don’t you want to look back and say: “I lived life to the fullest. I have no regrets. And I had a fucking epic time”? I certainly do.
The definition of ‘epic’ is subjective. For some, maybe it’s jet setting around the world, having fancy things, and a laundry list of “friends” that constantly want your attention. Or maybe you’re the type of person that values a few quality relationships, the necessities, and retiring to the woods in a little cabin. We all have our own definition of epic and we all deserve to live a life that is just that. Epic.
So, I’m in India, now what am I going to do? Try all the strange shit that my parents will probably shake their head at and is probably the reason why they post statuses on Facebook saying: “OMG! What do you do when your daughter is traveling alone in India – pray! And ask all your friends to pray!”.
Back to my story… It’s a typical Saturday morning and I decided to treat myself to a relaxing day. Last winter in yoga teacher training, I learned a little bit about Ayurveda. It’s essentially an alternative system of medicine using herbal remedies with historical roots in the Indian subcontinent – that’s what Wikipedia says. When I noticed a sign that said Ayurveda at the end of my street, I went in and told the receptionist that I wanted to book a treatment. She handed me a pamphlet and suggested the “Royal Rejuvenation Therapy”. The pamphlet had all these beautiful spa pictures of relaxed women and men peacefully laying on what looked to be a massage table. I agreed to the treatment and she signed me up for that afternoon. Little did I know what I was actually getting myself into… Perhaps I should have taken note that the sign outside said “Ayurveda Hospital” and not “Ayurveda Spa”.
When I arrived back, I was escorted by a woman, no more than 20 years of age, to a room that had a padlock on it. She unlocked the door and we walked down a stark hallway to another door. She knocked and two other women of the same age opened it and in we went.
I’d later learn that they had a lock on the outside of the first door because of the equipment that was inside of these rooms. To get in and out, they would call each other to open the door.
At this point in time, I’m standing in the following room with the three India women. Take a peek. In broken English, they tell me to take off all of my clothes. All of them. If there was a man in the room I would have bolted for the door, but I felt as comfortable as I possibly could with these ladies I knew for 30 seconds, so… I did as the locals do and I stripped down.
One of the ladies proceeded to dress me, in what I only know how to describe as a paper loin cloth, and directed me to a bench. I sat down and standing behind me she started to tap on the top of my head with her palms and then down to my shoulders. It was surprisingly relaxing given I was 95% naked with unfamiliar people around me. I started to feel the tension that had built up in my neck and shoulders over the past year slowly dissipate. Perhaps this “alternative medicine” did have benefits.
After the tapping, I was motioned to the table, which if you took a peek at the above photo in the link, is a hard wood top with a dip carved into it. It reminded me of what you would imagine a morgue table to look like. I had an instinct that some kind of liquid was coming given the dip and the buckets on either end of table.
Laying face up, exposed to the world, I was once again met with the rotation of a ceiling fan to keep the room cool. They poured warm oil across my body from my shoulders to my toes. Standing on either side of the table they began to massage my body in unison. I had never in my life experienced six hands in a massage at once! Crazy sensation. What was different about this massage in compared to back home, was the motion in which they moved their hands. It was almost as though they were swaying in some sort of dance. I believe the intention of this motion was to create circulation and blood flow.
I couldn’t help it. I burst into hysterical laughter as reality hit me that I had come to India alone only to now find myself laying on a wood table, basically naked, drenched in herbal oil, with three Indian women “treating” me. This was completely normal to these ladies. To them, this was how you healed back pain, joint pain, restless sleeps, etc.
I think my laughter was a bit of an ice breaker because giggles filled the room and despite our language barrier, a bond and connection was instantly formed. These three ladies were in this room at this very moment to help me and improve my health. They were here to heal me and rid me of the toxins and stress my body had accumulated as a result of “life”. They believed in what they were doing, so how could I not as well? These three ladies were in a way my healers.
After the massage and the buckets on either end of table were filled to the brim with oil, a refreshing facial cleanse took place with a substance that looked like red pepper hummus.
The treatment would not be over without some more oil. With a hot bowl only inches from my forehead, I lay in silence for the next half hour with oil slowly dripping onto my temple. This portion of the treatment was called a Shirodhara head massage.
The experience itself was actually pretty good. It was completely different from what I’ve ever experienced but I would do it again. Perhaps with a bit of service training on privacy to put on your own loin cloth, even foreigners who order pasta for every meal would enjoy the experience as well.