Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Honesty Entering 2015

What is a blog if it isn't honest? I think a lot of us bloggers set up an account, brag about our outfits or latest beauty products, share bits of our materialistic lives and gush about how fabulous and glitzy we can be (I'm just generalizing here by the way. There are many of you that I absolutely love to keep up to date with that have actual interesting things to say!) 

Well, it's a new year in 1 day and 11 hours and I have something to admit. I haven't been honest with any of you.

You see... 2014 was a pretty shitty year for me for lack of better words. In fact, they are the perfect words - because it was shitty. Yet here I was trying to coax you into trying some silly horse shampoo or publishing a post about buying a pair of bad quality shoes every month to show to you like it really even mattered?! 

There were a small collection of 'real' posts I suppose - although I never really gave too much away. For example, there was the time back in June when my best friend in the world left and I wrote THIS.
Then there was a nice little slice of positive words to myself HERE shortly after that. 
I even posted a video clip back in August where I was in tears after being mucked around by yet another smelly git of a man... watch that NOW.  
I think the idea of posting real life struggles and perils is such a great idea in the blog world because we all have them but we try so hard to blanket them with all this bullshit. 


So here, in short, is a small summary of what REALLY happened in 
2014.... 

It was my first year as an Auntie. 
Jenson Charles Preston Wright was born on the 26th December 2013. 


Being an Auntie is incredible. It's a love like no other and this little guy has stolen my heart. 



I got a tattoo of cherry blossoms on my foot to symbolize mortality when my dad was given three days to live. 



I got my first novel, Walk With Me, published and it sold like hot cakes. The experience of publishing it was incredible but hard as hell. It did give me so much inspiration to complete my second novel entitled, The Other Woman, though. 




I had my first freelance journalist gig - which was a HUGE milestone in my career as a writer. It was for a site called Bored.com and it was about unique ways to wrap up your Christmas presents. 
As a writer, you can't help but feel so incredibly stoked when you see your own work published! So to see not only my first novel but also my first article published in 2014, that was pretty damn cool. 
You can check the article out HERE

I've been battling with living back at home with my folks - who although try to deny it, are big lovers of getting absolutely pickled every night in front of the television. 
I don't know how life could ever end up like that... sitting on the couch, slowly passing out from too much alcohol while watching mindless junk on the TV. 
I'm scared of that happening to me..... and I am willing to do just about anything to prevent it. 
I get angry and grumpy with them and become a terror of a person. I bitch and moan and shout at them... me... their daughter... the one they used to rock to sleep at night and sing lullabies to. 
I get so churned up inside seeing them like that. 
If it was once a week, on a weekend... then why not? But it is every single bloody night. But as hard as I try to tell them they have a problem... they just don't stop. 
I don't know if they ever will. 



But I still love them both... dearly.

As for friends..... well... to be honest with you it's been a pretty lonely year. 
I've never been great at making friends. 
Back in high school I was the biggest freak show and nerd you could get... of course it affects you. 
I have a few wonderful close friends like Lucien and Ashley... but the others seem to come and go. 
A lot of the time I make great friends but then they move to a new town or to a different country and slowly we lose contact. It's how it works I suppose.... but I have been needing to find a 'group,' if you will..... 
It sucks so much to see all these photographs on Facebook of girls nights and barbecues, going out and having FUN. 
I have them too - at the end of every month I show you photo's of me enjoying my evenings with people.... but do those people really care or know me? Not really.... not if I'm honest.
I miss having friends - friends that keep in touch and check in on how you are. Friends who make the effort and go the extra mile to let you know they are there for you. 
I don't have many of them left anymore.


Surfing? There hasn't really been much of that. I have probably done it a handful of times this year - and actually, as I write this, I am struggling away with some seriously stiff muscles from a couple of hours in the water on Sunday. I caught about three good waves but I definitely need to pick it back up again if I have any hope of surfing Indonesia in 7 months time!!! 


That's the OTHER thing... those of you who follow me regularly (thanks for that by the way!) will obviously know how passionate I am about travel. 
There was non of that in 2014.... barring a few little jets to the cities in South Africa, which I'm not really sure counts... but at least I was on a plane. 
There's something about being way up there in the sky.... and it's not just the fact that the altitude makes drinking wine just that much more fun! No... it's knowing that when you touch ground again it will be some place else....
I get SERIOUS cabin fever. 
I'm a nomad... a gypsy... or as my mother likes to call me, a bit of a waif and a stop-out............... (thanks mum). 
I go bat-shit crazy without experiencing the joys of a new country and culture. 
I could have traveled, hell, I've saved up enough! But I'm saving up so that next year can be my travel year... I have big plans and slowly but surely they are all coming into fruition. That's the only thing keeping me sane right now... knowing soon, I'll be somewhere else on the map, with a rucksack on my back and a passport in my hand. 

Now here's the real deep one....

I slit my wrist. Yip. Now there's some honesty for you. 
I had an absolute breakdown - went on anti-depressants and started suffering from major anxiety. 
Why did I do it? There are many reasons. 
Depression is a hard pill to swallow on top of the CiLift or whatever happy drug you're taking to help you out.

I think more often than not, we are so afraid to show who we really are... to show our weaknesses and fall-backs because we are petrified of judgement. 
But you know what??? Judge me if you want to. I don't care anymore. 
I got weak and I fell. I'm left with a stupid scar across my left wrist from something I did because I was ashamed with myself. Why???
Because I nearly killed someone. 
I got involved with a married man - fell in love with him, adored him, almost bloody worshiped him.... and he loved me back. At least I think he did. But then his wife found out and she didn't take it well. Who can blame her??? It's the worst thing I have ever done - to have continued something like that.
I should probably clarify that I didn't actually KNOW he was married until I was already to deep in into the doomed hole.... I really didn't. If I had, things would have ended up VERY differently. 
She slashed her wrists... badly. It wasn't just a plea for attention, but a genuine suicide attempt - and when he told me about it, it gave me such a fright. 
I was devastated. How could I have done that to someone??? And so I wanted to feel that pain. Somehow I thought that if I punished myself I could make it better. I fell back into a depression so deep and hurtful that I was experimenting with drugs and harming myself so much.... not letting anyone in to help. No one even really knew what I was doing.
One of the reasons I finally moved back home to my folks, was because I was having a problem with drugs. I told my folks everything. What I'd thought was just fun experimental teenage shit actually got really ugly......... and I made the huge decision to come clean to them.... and for AGES I had done so well at cleaning myself up... but after this happened.... I fell down again. 
Falling into this black abyss of depression and self-loathing very nearly killed me. 
I tried to apologize - I tried to make amends. But how can you ever really do that? How does someone ever forgive you for that? And how do you forgive yourself???

That weight has been resting heavily on my shoulders all throughout 2014 and I don't know when it will go away - or if it ever will. 

That story is what my book, The Other Woman is based on. 

Have you ever done anything so awful that you don't know if you could ever forgive yourself? If so... how did you overcome it? 

And lastly - I started dating the handsome bearded fellow... Sam. 


I think what is different about us is that I actually finally stopped caring. That sounds like the most unromantic thing I've ever said but let me explain....
Throughout my life, I have been with over a handful of absolute knob-heads... which in no way means I am any kind of a Saint... but from drug-addicts to beaters, manipulators and cheaters, even obsessive and possessive. Throw a couple of crazies in there and you've spelled out my life story! I can tick them all off. So eventually, I just felt like my heart had been so destroyed that I genuinely couldn't love again. 
I tried. 
I had one or two absolute GEMS that I tried DESPERATELY hard to love. It wasn't them. It was me.... as cliche as that sounds. I just couldn't open my heart - though I tried so hard it seemed like I did love them. I tricked myself and I tricked them into thinking I was in love. As evil as that sounds, I really didn't mean it to be. 

So when Sam came around I was literally done. 
Over. 
Ca-put with love. 
We went out a few times... both of us fresh out of relationships and feeling a bit lost... and he reawakened a certain spark in me that had been missing for so long. 
He challenged me. He wasn't over-the-top romantic or nauseatingly mushy. He was real... strong and manly.. yet so incredibly gentle. The definition of a big teddy bear (OK... Maybe more of a grizzly bear)... but he's my bear. 

It was the first time I entered into something with all my cards on the table. I told him EVERYTHING... and by everything, I mean everything. What did I have to lose anyway???? And Sam accepted it. He chose to love me with all of my flaws and imperfections.. the real ones. The ones that we try to hide away from even those that are closest to us. 




Have I found the guy I am meant to spend the rest of my life with?
Who knows - I'm not claiming to know the future. 
But I am happy - and I make him happy - and together we are growing and learning and being... as we should be. 
It's as simple as that.  

So that was pretty much my year. 
Not all it seemed to be cracked up to be from so many of my showy posts, was it??? 
We all have things behind the scenes. 
It's called real life... and I think we need to start facing it. 
Stop hiding it.
It's almost as bad as photogshopped models. They DO have stretch marks and cellulite and a bit of a wobble.... but people edit themselves so much... it's such a lie. 

This is life... now stop editing yours and worrying about being judged. 

"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter... and those who matter don't mind!" - Dr Seuss. 




See you all in the New Year.

Peace, love and harmony to all.... and to all, a goodnight. 

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Monday, December 22, 2014

7 Cool and Quirky Christmas Gift Wrapping Ideas

I know... I KNOW..... I was supposed to be taking a break from the blog world.

BUT.... I have pretty much the most exciting news EVER. 

My first ever article just got published!!!!!! A huge milestone has just happened in my writing life! 

So I have to share it with you all. Please click the link below to check out my article. Please also like it, share it and enjoy it because if the stats are good then I get a bonus payment!! 

It's all about different ways to wrap up your Christmas gifts! A great article to read considering Christmas is just three sleeps away!

Enjoy it my friends. 





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Monday, December 8, 2014

Farewell.... For Now

This is going to be my last post for a while.

Not only is it Christmas time which means peak season at work as well as there being lots of family and friends to catch up with – but I have also broken my hand. 



This makes typing pretty hard to do; in fact it makes absolutely everything pretty hard to do. I can’t even squirt toothpaste onto my own toothbrush or tie up my hair. 
I’m not even going to mention trying to DRIVE! I-m-p-o-s-s-i-b-l-e.
It makes me wonder how people live with one arm. 

I love doing things for myself and having my independence – it’s important to me. But now I am completely buggered.

Barring work, I plan on spending the next couple of weeks healing up and enjoying the approaching Summer in my brown bikini that I bought in a tiny street market in Thailand a number of years ago. 

I have also started to hand-write my second novel (luckily it was my left hand that broke, not my writing hand!). 



I'm feeling like I need a bit of a break from the blog world.

I just want to focus on my second novel for a bit, get it done. Polish it up and let it fly from the nest. It's such an incredible book and I cannot wait to share it with you all.

I'm even contemplating publishing a chapter once a week onto this blog once it has been copyrighted.

If any of you would be interested in reading it that way please let me know as right now it's just a thought in my mind.

Also, if any of you out there are also novelists, then I'd really appreciate hearing your thoughts on publishing chapters of your book onto a blog. 

Is it safe? Is it OK? 
I have no idea???

If I get a positive feedback regarding sharing my book with ya'll, then maybe I'll still stick around to post a chapter a week or something. Let me know!

I also want to focus on work and the festive season.
I want to spend some time reading books (I have so may lined up along my windowsill, all waiting to be cracked open!) and catching up on series that I've been missing like Walking Dead season 5 and Bachelor in Paradise,
Since I started dating the handsome bearded fellow, I have been too busy frolicking around in the waves and woods to have time to catch up on things like that. So that will be nice.
It's our 3 month 'anniversary' later this month - it's so strange to say that when it feels like so much longer that we have been together. Although I suppose we have been chums since July this year so we know each other well already.. in fact, it is the first time I can confidently say that someone knows absolutely everything about me. I decided to enter into this relationship with all my cards on the table; sparing no gory details - and you know what? He accepted it all and I accepted him. He knows me like the back on his own hand but yet we are still learning so many beautiful and quirky traits each of us have.



It's wonderful.
One love!

I'll be back in the new year .
So, until then, ciao for now! 

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Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green | Book Review

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.



Insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw, The Fault in Our Stars is award-winning-author John Green’s most ambitious and heartbreaking work yet, brilliantly exploring the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love. 

Blurb taken from: Amazon

This is literally the process of reading The Fault In Our Stars



It was impossible not to want to read The Fault In Our Stars. This book (and movie) got so much hype that even someone that isn't much of a reader got intrigued. 

I'm a slow reader. It literally takes me about a month to finish a book because I'm always so busy with juggling a full-time job,studying journalism, writing my second novel and being a girlfriend. 
Even so, everything else took a backseat as I picked up this book. By the end of the first night, I'd already devoured half of it! That has never happened to me before. 

When I started to read it, I was really skeptical. Cancer and illnesses petrify me. I like to pretend that if I ignore them then they don't exist. After very nearly losing my dad last year, it is a very tender topic for me but I battled through in the hopes of there being beauty in the pain and inspiration in the pages of heartache.
Well, there was all of that and more.

Just because this book is about a sixteen year old girl called Hazel Grace who is falling in love for the first time while she battles through a cancer-ridden life - that in no way means that the target market is sixteen year old girls. I'm going into my mid-twenties and this book touched my heart in so many ways. It is such a special novel that anyone, man or woman could enjoy, no matter what age. 

Hazel is surviving thyroid cancer on a miracle drug which author, John Green, makes very clear does not exist in the back pages of the book once the story comes to the end (if only it did...). 
She is drowning not only literally in her own dysfunctional lungs but also in a painful depression that worries her family and the doctors treating her. 
She walks around attached to a oxygen tank and carting around a cannula every day of her life, with tubes up her nostrils and her head buried in books if not religiously following reality TV shows.  

In an effort to have her daughter make friends, Hazel's mum begs her to go to a Cancer Support Group instead of lounging in front of the television, watching America's Next Top Model marathons all day long. It is there that she meets the charismatic, blue-eyed boy, Augustus Waters, who (spoiler alert but pretty inevitably!) changes her life. 

Have you ever been in love with your best friend? 
It's an infinite and unconditional love. Deeper than all others. That is what Augustus and Hazel structured between themselves, among their meaningful conversations that were well beyond their years
They shared a never ending love that was raw and real; that showed appreciation, support and strength like no other I have seen before. A bond that is so rare that some only ever dream of experiencing it. 

Reading their story was the perfected balance between heart-wrenching and heart-warming - with characters you can't help but fall in love with. 

It is beautiful yet infuriating all at once. 

Green's writing shows you a deeper side to teen literature. So often these days the shelves are crammed with awful teenage ramblings that is pretty vile to be blatantly honest - Green has finally broken past that barrier and with palm forward literally said, 'In Your Face!' 


If a novel could be poetry - this would be it. 

Now I cannot WAIT to watch the film!!! 
Have you seen it or read the book? What were your thoughts on them? 


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Monday, December 1, 2014

November Favorites



My Favorite Purchases: 
The Flower Head-Band and the Indian Bindi



With Summer right on our doorstep in South Africa - I have been in my element, breaking out the sun-dresses, bikinis and sun cream of late.
To better fit the season, I bought a few accessories to complete my Summery Style!

The Bindi is also a part of my fashion now as I plan my trip to India - I am embracing the Indian fashion and lifestyle! I even cooked this amazing curry called Chicken Jalfrezi
(I wrote the recipe down and was excited to do a recipe post on here for you all but I got so excited when I'd finished cooking that I completely forgot to photograph the dish before digging in!! Whoops!)
I've started eating with my hands too which the Indian's do - it's so fun and interesting to embrace their culture.


'Jam' Moments 
(yeah... I actually did it. I put Jade and Sam together in one name (you know, like Brangelina...) and it became 'Jam.' Classic!): 

Exploring the Botanical Gardens and forest for wild mushrooms



Favorite Fun with Friends: 

A Girls-Night Out (what a wild one it was!)

It started out mellow - with sushi and a bit of wine.....
but then the shooters were brought out........




and beer pong was played!



Jessie and I are dying to travel and met up at a local pub to discuss India and Bali travel plans for 2015


Celebrating the bosses birthday at River Deck - I do work with the coolest people


I had to include this photo.. because it just makes me laugh so much! Sam knocked my head-band down.


Favorite Compliment: 

I felt so incredibly blessed and special when I got these lovely messages from my friends about my article on India earlier this month!

November's Favorite Idea: 


I found this Barbie creation simply fantastic!!!

Our world is actually such a disgusting place to grow up in - giving a child a sculptured to perfection doll is ridiculous. It gives kids the wrong idea of who they need to be from such an early stage in life! It isn't right... I mean, have you ever heard of bloody Valeria Lukyanova??? She's literally a real-life barbie doll. Awful!!!

To bring out the 'Average-Girl Barbie Doll,' is one of the smartest and coolest ideas I've heard of for a while! 
So chuffed with it.

What are your thoughts on this regular barbie???


November's Favorite Lunch: 


Works been pretty manic lately... so on the last Friday of the month, our boss spoiled us with this deluxe sushi platter and a few bottles of chardonnay. 
It was, needless to say, DIVINE.


Favorite Tattoo Idea: 


I absolutely love the idea of having a palm tree on my arm like this. It's so Summery and Beachey which summarizes every inch of who I am. 
I don't know if I'd ever have the courage to get a tattoo so visible until after marriage (I don't want to be an ink-ridden bride!) but it would look stunning...

Lately I've been absolutely dying to get a new tattoo. Specifically something to symbolize my love for travel. 


Speaking of MARRIAGE........................................................!!!!



A few years ago, I introduced two incredible people to each other. 
Call me Cupid....

Rachel and Michael got engaged at the end of November and I am so filled with love and warmth - it's an amazing feeling knowing that I introduced such special people to each other and now they are embarking on a new chapter in life together! 

Rachel also sent me a little text that had me in literal tears - she wants me to be a bridesmaid!!! 
I am ecstatic and couldn't be more thrilled to be sharing this special time with her. 


November's Favorite Blog: 

I've honestly been SO slack in the blog world this month and have hardly had a chance to read and enjoy anybody's blogs.
There are quite a few blogs that I do go and visit fairly often though - blogs that leave me thinking long after I've clicked that little red cross on the top right hand corner of the computer screen. 

Dayna's Blog is one of those.



It's really just wonderful. So delicately written, so raw and real - touching beneath the surface on all matters from trying to have a baby, tattoo removals, self-mutilation but she's so inspiring and positive.
Her words are beautiful, her photography breath-taking and her blog is just simply delectable. 
I'll always return to her blog to see how she's doing - and it takes a special kind of a blog to get that right, doesn't it??? 
That's why she was November's favorite blog - even though I've been more absent than usual.  


Not many photo's were really taken last month but I can assure you that a good time was had as Summer swoops swiftly in.
I don't take as many photographs as I used to - mainly because I'm too busy just enjoying my time. 
This month I had lots of fun and met some wonderful people. In between being shat on by a bird, stung by a bee, being burnt by a coal and scorched by the unforgiving sun...... it was a beautiful month indeed!
I will try and take more photographs this month though. It's always nice to see them all together and smile back at the memories from the month. 

How was your November???


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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn | Book Review

Who are you?

What have we done to each other?

These are the questions Nick Dunne finds himself asking on the morning of his fifth wedding anniversary, when his wife, Amy, suddenly disappears. The police suspect Nick. Amy's friends reveal that she was afraid of him, that she kept secrets from him. He swears it isn't true. A police examination of his computer shows strange searches. He says they weren't made by him. And then there are the persistent calls on his mobile phone. 

So what did happen to Nick's beautiful wife?




I'd been wanting to abandon my habit of picking up lighthearted, romance novels by bestselling authors for a while now and get sucked into the world of mystery and thrill. So, when I saw the little orange circle reading 'THRILLER OF THE YEAR,' on the book cover that reminded me so much of a Twilight design, I had to get it. 

I'd never read a 'whodunit' book before and that is exactly how this book began - but don't be fooled. Don't even try to figure out what the hell is going on in those delicious, absorbing pages Just allow the words to consume you and sweep you away into its own world. 

It is impossible to write a review about Gone Girl without giving away spoilers, so let me just say this:

Gillian Flynn has written a book like no other around. To call it a thriller / crime novel doesn't do it any justice. It is so much more than that. Filled to the brim with twists and turns you could never have expected, delightfully juiced with wit and dark humor all meshed together in the breakdown of marriage and truth. 

As soon as you think you know what is going to happen, the moment you are sure you have it sussed out - you are thrown in the complete opposite direction and the unexpected jolt is so divinely enjoyable.

It is without a doubt, one of the best books that I have ever read with an ending so hauntingly open-ended you actually sit speechless for a while trying to wrap your head around it. 



Have you read this book yet?  If so what did you think? 


The movie, Gone Girl, was released earlier this year and my movie review on it will be coming soon. 



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Saturday, November 22, 2014

Flash Tattoos

I have a new obsession. 





Flash Tattoos.

Possibly the most amazing idea ever.





How gorgeous are they?!  

I literally need these in my life.

It doesn't happen often that I 'need' a certain item of clothing or an accessory... 
but this is just 'me' to a T! 
I ADORE them! 

Basically they are non-toxic, FUN and AFFORDABLE temporary tattoos that last up to a week. 
You can get them wet but to prolong them avoid creams and oils on the area it is applied to.

I'm sure you've applied a temporary tattoo once or twice in your life? 
Well, the application is just the same with Flash Tattoos. Cut the design out and place on the skin where you want it to be, dab it with a wet cloth for about 30 seconds and voila! 



These are so perfect for Summer that is quickly approaching South Africa - in fact I personally think these are pretty perfect all year round!

Prices range from about $20.00 - $30.00 for a pack of three to four sheets of these gorgeous flashy tattoos.
They ship internationally and do free shipping on all domestic orders over $43.00

If you love these Flash Tattoo's as much as I do then head on over to FlashTat.com to place your order now! 



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Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Holi One Festival of Colors, Ashrams, Meditation and Yoga in India

Namaste Bloggers (which means, Hello Bloggers in Hindi),

There’s a lot you need to consider before just jetting off to India, saying you want to be at an ‘ashram,’ and you want to ‘meditate’ ; ‘do yoga,’ and ‘attend the Holi One Festival of Colors.’

Firstly, make sure you know what The Holi One Festival of Colors really is and why it is celebrated. It is so much more than just a festival to chuck colored powder (gulal) all over each other! 




The festival is symbolic to the victory of good over evil - this is the more ancient, religious belief on Holi. 
The night before Holi, bonfires will be lit which correspond to a story about a demon king called Hiranyakashipu and his evil sister, Holika
Hiranyakashipu demanded that everyone worshiped him but his own son, Prahlada, didn't agree. He worshiped another, Vishnu
This, of course, made Hiranyakashipa furious. He subjected his son to endless cruelty but nothing deterred Prahlada away from his faith. 
Then, one day, Prahlada's evil aunt, Holika, deviously tricked Prahlada to sit on a pyre (a build up of combustible material that is often used to burn corpses,) with her. She had a shawl wrapped around her that made her immune to fire while Prahlada did not. 
Even so, once the fire was roaring around them, the cloak was suddenly ripped from Holika and encased Prahlada, protecting him from the fire. 
Inevitably, Holika died in the fire and Prahlada survived. 
Vishnu then appeared and killed Prahlada's father, Hiranyakashipu - hence the festival and bonfires being symbolic to the victory of good over evil. 


By throwing the powder over each other an opportunity to forget people's differences is formed. 
Race, sex and religion are forgotten;  discrimination broken. 
It celebrates Spring by letting go of the gloominess from Winter and embracing the new colorful season.

Holi is also a time to rid yourself of all mistakes, mend relationships, forgive and forget. 


The Holi One Festival is celebrated all throughout India and each different city or village has their own traditions for it. So firstly, I’d suggest researching the places that the festival is held to establish which way of celebration you are most drawn to.

There are so many fascinating places in India that host the festival and each have unique quirky things that make that celebration different and special. However, one place stands out to me more than all the others:

Delhi. 

Delhi hosts the Holi Cow Festival which is a more modern twist on the annual event. There is a music festival along with the colored powder throwing. 
It takes place in the backpackers hotspot, 'Paharganj.' 
Tickets for this particular festival range from 1500-2000 Rupees (R272.79 - R363.71) or alternatively for a more luxurious experience (welcome drinks, private lounges etc,) you can expect to pay up to 3000 Rupees (R545.57).

I really didn't expect to be drawn to such a major state. On the contrary I thought I'd be the sort of girl to venture off into the heart of Mathura and Vrindavan, temple towns with a more traditional way of celebration. 

Another place that celebrates the Holi Festival of Colors is Jaipur. 
Their festivities sound incredible with elaborately painted elephants and games. I am skeptical about visiting Jaipur for the festival though as some years the elephants do not make an appearance - and I'm not sure how I'd feel about seeing the elephants being used in such events. 
I guess I'd have to research it further to be able to make a more knowledgeable comment.  


To me Delhi sounds so wonderfully enticing. Of course there's some unavoidable things there such as the 'Delhi-Belly,' but this is why it is so important to do your research before packing your bag and boarding that airplane.  In India, it is advisable to stick to eating freshly cooked foods and avoiding raw veggies and fruits that could have been washed with dirty water. Even though it's blistering hot, don't put ice cubes in your beverages either. These little tips could really save your trip to Delhi - the last thing you need is to be suffering with a bad stomach for the duration of your stay there! Not fun.

A few lovely things you could do while in Delhi is visit the upscale Khan Market, which is in the center of New Delhi. This is very close to a beautiful green park called Lodhi Garden which you can picnic in after a stroll through the market. There is some wonderful history to  be seen in the park such as the tombs of the Lodhi Emperors. There's also a restaurant there where you can have tea and lunch - this is a lovely break away from the hustle and bustle. 

In Delhi there is also an abundant amount of cultural centers where you can attend art exhibitions, live-music and so much more. The list is endless on the delights that await you in Delhi. All you have to do is look past the intimidating and admittedly daunting demeanor.

I guess if you're lucky you could travel around and experience as many places as you can - but as much as that would be fabulous, I am only interested in a day or two at the festival. The rest of my trip to India (the first of many, I hope,) will be spent meditating and stretching in awkward and painful positions (hey! I'm new at this...) in an ashram. Perhaps devote myself to silence for a while - I don't know. I just have this force driving me to India to grow and learn, to discover and gain inner peace.

You'll never be able to see all of India in one trip... not even a long, extended one. So my advice to you would be to make a list of the things that are the top priorities for you while you're there. 
For instance, a huge tourist attraction is The Taj Mahal



This is in Agra, Uttar PradeshIt costs about 750 Rupees (R134.00) to see and this is one of the most expensive attractions you'll find. From Delhi it's about a 2 hour train ride. There's a morning train called the 12002 Bhopal Shatabdi that costs 370 Rupees (R66.00) which included air conditioning (score!) This train departs at 06h15 and arrives in Agra at 08h15. The only day that this train doesn't run is on a Friday.
There are other popular trains too, I've just mentioned the fastest morning train for you to consider. 
After your visit to Agra, you'll need to catch a train back if you aren't planning on staying. The 12001 NDLS Shatabdi is the quickest train from Agra to Delhi and leaves at 20h30, arriving at 22h30.
Again, there are other modes of transportation available to you - but the trains are wonderfully air-conditioned, seated and convenient. 

Once you’ve decided where you want to go you can start worrying about accommodation. 

There is a wonderful guesthouse called Thikana in South Delhi, should ashrams not be completely your style then this is a marvelous place to book into. With the incredible decor and friendly hosts, you can't go wrong. 

If you’re like me though and want to experience an ashram for yoga, meditation and spirituality, then it’s important to know what type of yoga and meditation you either do or are interested in doing.   

Different ashrams will cater for different styles of yoga / meditation practice.

This is a list with very brief summaries of the different styles of yoga you can choose from. Find the one that best suits you:

1. Anusara

Anusara means 'flowing with grace.'
This style of yoga is perfect if you are interested in working on both your physical and spiritual well-being as it is beneficial for the body and the mind.
It is based on the philosophy that all people in the world are inherently good, allowing you to let your goodness shine through as you open your heart.
Doing Anusara will teach you about the Universal Principles of Alignment.
http://www.pinterest.com/pin/25192079137834331/

These classes are usually very fun and filled with positive-energy.
As this class encourages the use of props it is easy for people at all levels to join.

2. Ashtanga 



Ashtanga means 'eight limbs,' in Sanskrit and is a style of yoga often seen as covering all aspects of yoga.

It is also well-known as being the more modern form of classical Indian yoga.

It is a more 'athletic' form of yoga and is often described as intense. You need to be made aware that Ashtanga will be physically demanding - leaving you hot and sweaty with its fast-pace.
Flexibility is a priority for Ashtanga.

This form of yoga is perfect for you if you like your independence and also if you like structure and order in your life as the poses are done in a certain sequence that you must follow. As you move through each pose you will also be encouraged to focus on breathing.

Ashtanga is very similar to Vinyasa yoga.

3. Bikram 



Have you ever seen the movie Mean Girls? There's a line Lindsay says in that movie about why she loves maths so much: "Because it's the same in every country." 


Well... this is true with Bikram yoga too. Rest assured that there will always be consistency in this form of yoga.

There are 26 postures and 2 breathing techniques no matter where you go for Bikram Yoga, which are all done in the space of 90 minutes in an artificially heated room, which encourages you to sweat. As in Ashtanga yoga, there is a sequence to be followed in the poses but they differ from those in Ashtanga.



It is a challenging style of yoga which is great for flushing out toxins from the body as well as managing your weight.

This style of yoga is incredibly popular and therefore is easy to find no matter where you go.

4. Hatha



All yoga styles are genres of Hatha Yoga so to speak.


If a class is described as Hatha Yoga then expect a very gentle class introducing you to the very basics of yoga postures.

You won't break a sweat in Hatha Yoga as in other styles but will still leave feeling calm and loosened.

Hatha Yoga is perfect for beginners.

5. Hot Yoga



Hot yoga is very similar to Bikram and is done in an artificially heated room which encourages you to sweat more than you ever have before. The only real difference is that hot yoga style deviates from the sequence structured by Bikram yoga and therefore must be called a different name.



The heat in the rooms help with your flexibility and is fantastic for detoxifying the body.

6. Iyengar



This style of yoga is very precise, showing great attention to detail and is done very carefully. Each pose will be attended to until the perfect posture is found. Props like blocks, straps and ropes are encouraged in order for each pose to be done correctly.



The poses are held longer than in other styles of yoga so that the teacher can closer look at the subtleties of each pose, carefully paying attention to the alignment of each asana (posture).

Should you suffer from an old injury, Iyengar is most likely the most suitable style for you as the teachers undergo comprehensive training and can give you knowledgeable training.

7. Restorative



If you are in serious need of some relaxation or to ease off some anxiety, then this style of yoga is definitely for you.



With the use of props for each pose, you don't need to put any effort in but still experience the benefits of the poses that can be held for as long as ten minutes. It is gentle and passive, some say even more rejuvenating than a nap!

8. Vinyasa

Vinyasa is the Sanskirt word for, 'Flow,' and often Vinyasa yoga is called Flow Yoga.
Like Hatha, Vinyasa describes many different styles of yoga.

Basically, Vinyasa lets you flow into sun salutation poses while synchronizing your breathing accordingly. Music is often played to keep up the energetic feel of the class.

No two Vinyasa classes are the same so if routine isn't really your thing and you enjoy challenging yourself physically then this is the style for you.

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This is a list with very brief summaries of the different styles of meditation you can choose from. Find the one that best suits you:

1. Guided Visualization 

Guided Visualization is often done while listening to a CD, helping you imagine a certain image or an imaginary setting. This form of meditation is fantastic for optimizing your creativity. 

It does not focus on the breath is any certain way but rather to create a stress-free, blissful place to 'visit.' 
I find that this kind of meditation helps a great deal to slow your thoughts down, allowing you to really focus something else instead of letting all the other jumbled thoughts in your head in.  Another great benefit is that it makes you focus on a positive thought or place. 





2. Heart Rhythm Meditation


This is a very different sort of meditation from all others and is not in any way transcendental. Where other forms of meditation focus on lifting your energy upwards, Heart Rhythm Meditation focuses on bringing it down towards the heart. 
Most meditations help relieve stress from you mind, body and spirit where as Heart Rhythm Meditation is intended to help you DEAL with it. 

This exercise requires you to become conscious of not only your breathing but also your heartbeat. 

3. Kundalini


Kundalini is a Sanskirt word meaning, 'Snake.'

"Kundalini" refers to a type of energy that lays dormant at the base of the spine, in the first chakra of the body.

This energy can be released during life-threatening situations. It is an explosion of power surging throughout the body and can give you the strength to do what you need to do in life-threatening situations. 
It can also be released by having an orgasm.

The goal of Kundalini Meditation is to become aware of that specific energy rising, and to ride this stream of energy to infinity. 

Kundalini Meditation and Yoga is a combination of posture, breath and chanting. It is not a heart-based meditation. 

4. Vipassana Meditation (Mindfulness)




Vipassana means 'to see things as they really are.' 

This is one of the most popular styles of meditation as well as being one of India's most ancient forms of it.


It focuses on 'being present.' You need to let whatever thoughts come into your head in freely, but then practice detaching yourself from those thoughts.
While doing this, you must focus on your breath.

You become very attentive while doing Vipassana Meditation.

This comes from a Buddhist tradition.



5. Qi Gong 

This Chinese form of meditation has a powerful healing system involving a combination of slow, graceful movement and breathing techniques. It involves focusing on circulating, cleansing, and strengthening the life energy (Qi). 

People often call this kind of meditation, 'Chinese Yoga.'
It is important to know that there are thousands of different types of Qi Gong meditation. 

You do a lot of inner work on yourself when practicing Qi Gong. 
As it teaches you to control your reactions to stress in particular, it is a wonderful way of finding a very tranquil state of mind.  Stress leads to many things such as high blood pressure, anger, anxiety etc so this is a great preventative.
Stress can also age you - so this anti-stress meditation is also proven to be anti-aging!

Avoid eating for a half hour before practicing Qi Gong as this can weigh your system down.


6. Trance-Based Practices

In the style of meditation, your state of mind is completely induced by someone else and you have little to no self-control. 

This style is often guided by music, drugs and hypnotism accompanied by a more shallow breathing technique.  

If you are searching for spiritual growth, I would strongly advise against Trance-Based Practices. 

7. Transcendental Meditation

This is a non-religious practice that requires you to sit comfortably, close your eyes and use a silent mantra twice a day.
No life-style changes are needed to practice Transcendental Meditation. 

Instead of focusing on breathing, in this form of meditation you are told to focus on the mantra. 

It is said that this form of meditation can improve not only your focus on a whole but also your job performance too. It can increase your overall calmness, creativity and so much more. 
You can treat anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder with this form of meditation. 

It is taught one-on-one by a certified teacher.

If you're South African and are looking to find the closest teacher in your area, take a look HERE to see where you can go.


8. Zazen

In Zen Buddhism, Zazen literally means, 'Seated Meditation.'

This meditation is often done over long periods of time and without much instruction. It focuses more on basic posture (straight but comfortable back, sitting cross-legged,) and does not have any particular attention to the breath.

This form of meditation is difficult to both learn and make progress with. You must let thoughts and ideas pass through you without becoming involved with them.  
It is a study of the self. 



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In short, meditation is basically a method that we use in order to have flourishing attention. 



After doing extensive research into what style of yoga and meditation would be most suitable for me (read more about that HERE) I had established that I...

A) Wanted to go to Delhi for the Holi One Festival of Colors
B) Had chosen Vinyasa and Bikram Yoga
and
C) Planned on dedicating myself to either Guided Visualization Meditation or Transcendental Meditation (eventually... although I have been practicing Zazen Meditation for a short while as that is all I have found that is available to me right now with a certified teacher)...

I could begin really planning my travels!

There is something very important to factor into all of this planning though. 

DON'T OVERPLAN!

Don't build your travel adventure up so much that you leave no room for surprises and changes. 
I don't want to say that Delhi is DEFINITELY where I'll be. That could very easily change in a heartbeat... on a 'whim.'
You need to open yourself up to the chances and possibilities. 

India will change you, if you let it. So let go - and embrace it. 

As a few friends of mine have been lucky enough to travel to India and stay in Ashrams already, I was able to ask them for some advice:

My friend, Chett, author of Breaking Free, mentioned that some ashrams are free! Again, I haven't been able to research too much into this yet but I'm guessing you do things around the ashram (wash dishes, scrub floors,) to earn your room and board. 
Chett said that other ashrams can get quite expensive and warned me to beware of this. 

He mentioned the Ramana Maharshi Ashram in Tiruvannamalai (about a 37hrs drive from Delhi...) which most 'tourists' shudder... I hate that word... LOVE going to because of its spiritual vibe. 




However, you can only spend 3 days in this ashram. 

Then he told me about the Sai Baba's Ashram in Puttaparthi which is also far away from Delhi (See what I mean? Delhi might not be the most ideal spot after all! I'm sure there will be plenty of villages with different celebrations for the Holi One. It doesn't necessarily HAVE to be in Delhi! Keep an open mind and make sure wherever you go is convenient for you to be able to see as much as possible... or save up much more than originally anticipated for travel expenditures!). 



At Sai Baba's Ashram it is only 100 Rupees a day (R20.00)

Amritapuri Ashram situated in the small fishing village, 'Parayakadavu' in Kerala is on my MUST DO list when I head over to India too. This is also HOURS away from Delhi.

Amma is an incredible spiritual leader and guru that I learnt a lot about through Chett's book and ever since reading about her it's been high up on my bucket list to meet her. 
She says that her religion is love... which I think is beautiful.

She has dedicated her life to alleviating pain and suffering from others.
People travel from all over the world to get a hug from Amma as it is said (and proven) that her hugs can heal you from your physical and emotional pain. 
It is about R 60.00 to stay at her Ashram per night.

Just be warned that Amma isn't always at her Ashram so if seeing her is important to you then do some research first before trekking all the way there and missing her. 


View from the Amritpurri Ashram


Chett also did say that as far as he knows, most ashrams are the kinds of places that you can literally just rock up and stay at without needing to book in advance. 

There are no direct flights from Delhi to the above ashrams but there are modes of transportation to help you reach your destination such as the Spicejet, which is a low cost airline. This will get you closer to where you need to go and from there you can take Indica (a supermini car) to your destination. 
So make sure you tuck away enough for the trips and transport costs that you will definitely be doing while there if you want to experience India to the fullest. 

While we're on the topic of cash.... you should get used to bartering before heading off to India. I was lucky enough to learn how to barter while staying in Phuket, Thailand a years ago. Almost everything in India is up to negotiation. Don't feel guilty about it because it is in their culture to barter. Be firm. If the price doesn't lower to one that you're happy with then take your business elsewhere because there is NO doubt that you will find the exact same thing elsewhere for half the price, whether is be clothing, food or even taxi fares and accommodation costs. Nothing is a fixed price unless you're in a real store that has the price printed beside the product. 

Now let's move on to fashion, ladies! We all know how important style is to us - but it's important to the Indian culture too. Make sure that you cover your shoulders and legs, especially when entering a sacred place such as a temple. The temperatures are high there so buy a few loose fitting, cotton clothing because although this covers you up, they also keep you cool more than your tighter fitting items. You can really have some fun getting Indian-style clothing too, this shows that you are embracing the culture and it also makes it easier for you to blend in.  

Here's a question I've been asked lately:

'Is India really where you'd want to go on HOLIDAY?! It's DIRTY!' 

Here is the right way to answer this when people try to tell you how filthy and how 'un-holiday-like' India is:

'India isn't a holiday. 
India is where you go to transform. 
You will never be the same once you've visited India. 
It awakens you. 
It challenges you. 
It helps you grow and learn and experience.' 

Oh right, and just in case you're wondering about my little India trip and regular travel rambles - Bali is definitely still happening next year too. That trip will be with my handsome bearded fellow.. but first there will be India which will be just for me and perhaps a girlfriend or two - a time to reflect and grow and learn.

I'll end this with a quote:




"I don't know what the question is.. but I know that travel is the answer"

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