Changing Holiday Celebrations

This year so many of us will experience a change in our holiday routines and celebrations. One year when that also happened stands out brilliantly in my mind.

Aarti in Karnataka

In December 1991 on our bicycle odyssey we climbed up into the high elevations of Tamil Nadu, India to reach the town of Kodaikanal which sat at seventy-two hundred feet in swirling mists with thick pine and eucalyptus forests. Kodaikanal means “the gift of the forest” in Tamil. The hill station lies on the edge of the Western Ghats in the Palani Hills.

The Western Ghats

 Minimal traffic circulated in the quiet town, and the fresh, cool air was pleasant after the high temperatures in the plains below. The town offered a delightful place to settle in for a few days of rest and exploration. We planned to spend Christmas in Kodaikanal, hike in the hills, and take day rides without the constraint of our gear.

Forest monkeys near Kodaikanal

During the colonial era, the English had ascended to higher elevations and established hill stations to escape the heat and dust of the plains in the summer. Many of the structures in the town had been built during that time period. The stone buildings, cottages with fireplaces, and old churches reminded us of Scotland. We found our own one-hundred-year-old cottage to rent. Fireplaces in both the bedroom and the sitting room provided cozy and comforting heat in the chilly mountain nights. Because of the eucalyptus forests, we could buy fresh eucalyptus and lemongrass oil. Almost three decades later, I still have the bottle of lemongrass oil. The aroma has stayed potent and transports me back to Kodaikanal with one whiff. We took hot, steamy showers and inhaled the eucalyptus oil to clear our respiratory systems. We cleansed and healed from our ordeal bicycling in the hot dusty plains below

A local resort offered a Christmas Eve buffet and we decided to attend. As we walked over along the lake that night, pangs of homesickness echoed through me. I missed our families and holiday meals together. I knew they worried about us. They received news of our whereabouts and wellbeing only once or twice a month when letters and postcards arrived. We, however, were on this great adventure. The homesickness usually vanished when I focused on the next experience. My thoughts of home melted away at the gathering, where we met people from different parts of India, who traveled to the resort while on holiday.

Before and after Christmas, we spent several days hiking and bicycling in the forest around Kodaikanal. We rode and hiked peacefully together in harmony with nature and each other. Deep in the forest, we experienced a side of India most visitors don’t have time to see and don’t even know exists. Our journey by bicycle connected us with the hidden, out-of-the-way places that held exquisite beauty and magic.

Forest monkeys – mother and child near Kodaikanal

That Christmas broke with tradition. At first I experienced homesickness and nostalgia, but the new experiences and encounters filled me with joy. That holiday will always stand out in my Christmas memories. What about you? Do you have some unusual holiday memories? 

You can read about my life-changing around-the-world bicycle odyssey in my book.

Bicycle Odyssey An Around-the-World Journey of Inner and Outer Discovery

Available in print or ebook through amazon.com , BalboaPress.com ,  or BarnesandNoble.com .

https://amzn.to/2V9x6Rd

Festivals in India

Every November for the past thirty years I am brought back to the festivals I attended while bicycling through the state of Karnataka in India. I set out with my husband on a two month journey through southern India by bicycle. Our only agenda was to look for magical places away from the tourist trail. A chance encounter by the side of the road led us to divert our route to a small, tucked-away village during its most important festival of the year. A young priest befriended us and took us under his wing for a life-changing week.

This diversion from our route ended up being my most memorable experience from our two and a half month odyssey through southern India. That experience taught me the valuable rewards we can reap when we listen to our intuition and stay open to serendipity.

As I reflect back on that era I am reminded of the importance of trusting our intuition all the time in our daily lives. Of the importance of keeping our eyes open to serendipity. It is a constant dance. What wonderful things have happened to you when you did this? When you trusted your gut feeling in spite of the impracticality of it?

Ganesha Festival

was the first one we attended during that magical week in the hidden village we stumbled across.