This month we wrapped up our Vegan Tour of India which was dubbed “A Vegan Adventure”. By all accounts, it truly was an adventure. Each day brought an exploration of different food, different neighborhoods of the city, a variety of workshops and meetings with the local vegan community and surprises that we never planned on the itinerary. Not being a typical travel company that only offers tours allowed us to offer the group activities that locals do on a daily basis. Sometimes it is in these ordinary experiences that travelers find the most authentic spirit of the country they are traveling through. Check out some of the highlights from an amazing group of vegans from around the world, traveling through India.
Traveling in India…Uniquely With Brian Baldrati
Last month, we partnered with Brian Baldrati and his travel company Is This Real Trips to host a group of Brazilian travelers who had come to see the “real” India. Part of their trail were the more touristy sites such as the Taj Mahal and New Delhi, Jaipur as well as the Thar Desert. In order to create a program for them that was different than what is already tried and tested, we included activities that helped support various non-profits and small businesses along the way. Here are 3 favorite moments from the trip.
Meeting Acid Attack Victims near the Taj Mahal
We took the travelers to the Sheroes Hangout Cafe owned and operated by acid attack victims. Many of the victims had their own parents and siblings throw acid on them. They have built an incredible non-profit that supports, sheds light and does advocacy work for acid attack victims. Also, the women are incredibly happy and loving and the food is delicious. When we asked one of the travelers, how they felt after visiting the cafe, their answer was “happy because the women are happy”. Make sure not to miss the Sheroes Cafe if you are visiting the Taj. In addition, follow @isthisreal on Instagram as he took 3 lovely ladies to the Taj Mahal during sunrise to do beautiful portrait photography. Stay tuned as he explains more about this important initiative and what we can do to help.
Stay with a Bed and Breakfast with the Royal Family
When we visited Jaipur with the group, instead of opting for one of the hostels or corporate hotels, we chose to stay at a small bed and breakfast with descendents of a royal family. With only 8 rooms, the BnB was an extension of the family’s house. We woke up in the morning to chickens and ducks in the courtyard garden, used auto-rickshaw drivers that had been working with the family for over two decades instead of a taxi, and ate a homey simple dinner in a beautiful dining room that was essentially just for us. By being intentional of where we stayed, we were able to support the family, the father and son who drove us around in their auto-rickshaw and see remnants and artifacts of the royal family.
3. Support Art
In a world of Ikeas and Amazon, it is crucial that we use our purchases when we travel to support art and artisans that are painstakingly keeping artistic traditions alive. Instead of going to a more commercial place selling mass-produced paintings, we took our travelers to an artist in the royal city who has been making paintings for decades in the city. His hand-crafted paintings were exquisite and made a fantastic gift for souvenirs. Whenever and wherever we travel, we believe in experiencing and supporting artists.
Looking for more off-the-beaten path experiences while traveling to India? Visit our Ongoing Trips page to see which trips pique your interest.
Volunteering in India with Elderly
Last month we spent time at the Old Age Home around 35 minutes outside of New Delhi, India. Along with a few Brazilian travelers, we wanted to see how we could better understand the issues that impact the elderly and geriatric care in the country.
The elderly need love and personal attention. There are around 60 senior citizens who have been abandoned, neglected or forgotten about their families. When we spent time with them, they were happy, holding our hands and hugging us. When we would leave, they would start crying.
The government provides them basic facilities, but come up short on key essentials. The government has provided a “dental office with a dental chair” but not enough money to hire an actual part-time dentist that can come check up on the residents. They have set up an “entertainment” room that has a TV but the space could do with a few musical instruments and more games to help the residents pass their time.
Their life is monotonous: The residents have an outdoor space where they can exercise. However, the area as they step out of the home is in shambles and they are unable to go to a park or take walks.
Funds are Low: Staff at the center is limited by the provisions the government has provided. If they want to do more activities or provide better facilities, staff has to pay out of their own pockets. The staff don’t make much money so it gets difficult for them.
We need more Volunteers: It cannot be overstated that the elderly do not have anyone in their life except the other residents and the staff. Every fresh face, every friendship and all time spent with them is meaningful and good for their mental health. The more they feel people are visiting them, hugging them and listening to them, the less alone they feel.
Outreach to other non-profits: We need long-term volunteers who can spearhead initiatives to do outreach to other non-profits that could provide more support to the center. This could be in the form of reaching out to dentists and other health care providers who can do pro bono work.
Vary Up Activities: Volunteers can try to put together day or afternoon outings to nearby places of culture that enrich the lives of the senior citizens. This may or may not be possible in a short amount of time, but with the right volunteer, things may be able to be pushed through.
Assist Staff on Fund Proposals: Volunteers can create content in the form of pictures, videos and proposals that can ultimately help the center’s staff ask for better budget allocations from which to provide the residents better facilities.
If you have any further ideas, please do get in touch with us below! If you are interested in volunteering abroad for this particular center, make sure to fill out the volunteer abroad inquiry form.
In just about 6 months, we'll be welcoming travelers from all around the world on A Vegan Adventure in India with vegan travel blogger, Ashley Hubbard of A Southern Gypsy. We did a little Q+A with Ashley to learn more about why she teamed up with us and why this trip is unlike most other travel experiences in India. This session was conducted by the other trip leader, Prachi who will be leading the group along with Ashley.
Thanks for chatting with us, Ashley. I wanted travelers that are going on the Vegan Adventure in India to get to know you better and learn more about the mission of the trip. So to start off, why do you use your platform to promote vegan travel?
When I started my blog almost six years ago, I was the furthest thing from being vegan. I also didn't really feel much direction in my brand for three years or so. I was just writing whatever and it showed. When I went vegan overnight two years ago, I shifted my blog completely. I, obviously, no longer wanted to write about non-vegan food or activities that exploited animals and so that's exactly what I did.
Ever since finding my "calling," I have felt nothing but a positive shift in my brand, my blog, and my writing. I will never stop speaking up for animals, the planet and other humans and I'm happy that I'm able to do that through something I love - writing and photography.
We love your slogan which incorporates "conscious travel". Can you speak more about what conscious travel means to you?
While most of my blog encompasses ethical veganism and is very much about the animals first and foremost, there are other aspects of life and the world that are important to me. Conscious travel to me means traveling the world where you're leaving as small a footprint as possible. Whether this means traveling sustainably by only eating at local restaurants, only participating in ethical animal tourism, avoiding accommodation that doesn't benefit the local economy and so on. There are many subcategories for sustainable travel and, every day, I'm learning something new.
The important thing to remember is no one is perfect and no one is all-knowing. If you find out you did something that hurts the economy, the locals or animals - figure out how to do it better next time and evolve.
You're hosting a trip to India with Escape To. What attracts you to India and wanting to bring travelers there?
I've wanted to go to India for a very long time. It's one of those destinations I've kept putting off and putting off because I wanted to do it "just right." I'm a bit of a perfectionist and it tends to mean I put a lot of things on the back burner. So it was a sign when I was connected with Prachi and this whole adventure unfolded.
I think every traveler has a dream of visiting India - I've not met a single person who has been that didn't seem to be changed by their time there.
So obviously, we're not going to the more well-known sites in India like Taj Mahal and the Golden Triangle. As a traveler, if you only have one chance to go to India, why would you pick this trip and not the more touristy activities?
Sometimes it's not about going to the most well-known sites! I just spent three weeks in Ireland recently and you want to know what places I recommend to others now? Not St Patrick's Cathedral or even Dublin in general but these castle ruins I stumbled upon randomly nestled off some tiny road or the very northernmost point of Ireland where not many people get to. Those are the moments I most remember and that left the lasting impact on me. There's a reason why tourist sites are tourists sites, sure, but taking the road less traveled can be highly rewarding and, in many cases, more rewarding.
Not only are we going to lesser visited areas in India but we're doing it less common method as well - but that is only going to make for a more unique and more in-depth experience and I know, without a doubt, that it will be a memory you'll cherish forever.
We love your vegan food guides that you've done for Europe and the United States. Will you be putting one together for India?
I will most definitely be putting together a vegan guide for India - probably several! I usually try to do one for each region or major city I visit as long as I felt like I tried enough places. I'll also probably put together a guide to eating vegan food in general in India with common phrases and so on. These are some of my favorite posts to put together and I'm really looking forward to it!
Which experience on the trip are you most excited for?
Honestly - traveling with a small group of like-minded people. I usually travel alone or with one other person but I'm so excited to share this journey with others who are interested in the same things I am.
What kind of group are you anticipating attracting on the trip?
I think we'll have a nice mixture of individuals but all fairly similar as well. I don't anticipate that everyone will be vegan but possibly vegetarian or interested in veganism. I'm anticipating a group with an interest in traveling, sustainability, the environment and animal welfare. I think it'll be an amazing group! This is all speculation though, haha!
Do you have any favorite Indian foods that you want to share vegan versions of?
Oh no! I'm about to show how terrible I am. I eat a lot of Aloo Gobi which is basically just potatoes, cauliflower and a bunch of spices but I don't have recipes to share. I'm lucky enough to have an amazing vegetarian (and 95% vegan) Indian restaurant nearby and I go there anytime I need my Indian food fix. I also really like dosas, pakora and pretty much any curry.
Any words of encouragement for first-time travelers to India?
Even the most seasoned travelers don't do things perfectly. Remember you'll be traveling with myself (who is surprisingly comfortable in unusual places) and Prachi (or another representative from Escape To...) who is from India and is very comfortable. You're in great hands!
Interested in being put on the wait list for the Vegan trip in January or future vegan trips? Fill out your information below and we'll be in touch! (Check your spam if you don't hear from us.
We are so excited to announce our brand new projects for 2018-2019! We stand by the fact that Escape To... has some of the most unique and varied internship and volunteer opportunities within the international education community. Here are new programs that you can sign up for starting…immediately! You can apply by sending over an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
International interns can gain experience in India’s art community by helping to empower rural artisans and providing support and resources to create awareness about art throughout urban populations. Interns will be working for a start-up that focuses on the following things: 1)Corporate Art: Helping rural artists sell their work. The initiative is to help struggling rural artists by showcasing their talent on the global market, helping them sell their paintings, and providing them with resources to pursue their passions. 2)Enrichment: Focus on enrichening the livelihoods of tribal communities located in Southern India. Help make their products more marketable/appealing/contemporary to the common public. Help increase income for these craftsmen so they can make a sustainable livelihood for themselves.
We has an opportunity for those interested in music and dance to intern at a dance company in India that specializes in dance and fitness classes. Interns will get a chance to help coordinate an organization that has helped bring contemporary dance to India’s urban population, create a rich range of options for its students such as Bollywood and fusion, and helps empower street children through dance and performing arts. This is a great opportunity with those from a music and dance background who want to experience modern India’s dance culture. Interns will focus on: 1)Coordination with staff and artists 2)Marketing and promotion of performing arts 3)Management of partner and student relations 4)Assisting with charity and outreach projects for street children dance initiatives 5)Assisting with any events or performances 6)Working on communications and correspondence (writing, editing, drafting) 7)Learning how to run a successful performing arts space.
Animal Rescue and Rehabilitation:
Interns can get involved in the rescue and rehabilitation of urban wildlife and outreach programs about animal welfare to universities, corporations, and communities. There is a 24 hour rescue call for injured, traumatized, and abandoned animals that need emrgency care. There are also mobile ambulances that treat injured, sick, and ill animals. In a 2-3 month time period you would be able to handle over 300 animals, many of who are endangered and fighting for survival. Some of them would be cobras, parakeets, eagles, vultures, owls, slender loris, fruit bats, hares, etc. You will also be able to work with the forest department to go out and seek out illegally detained wildlife. We would also love every intern to bring their own proactive ideas about how to increase awareness about animal protection within urban India.
Interested in getting involved either before or after your trips or simply as a one off experience? Fill out the form below and we'll get back to you!