Retreat to India – hear from Elyse and Danielle

In March 2019, a small group of travellers will be making their way around northern India, experiencing the culture, practising yoga daily and soaking up the sights.

Will you be one of them?

Make A Difference Tours is a not-for-profit organisation aimed at improving the future for underprivileged women and children in India by creating awareness and providing educational funding and mentorship. Make A Difference Tours is a small, hands-on organisation dedicated to long-term sustainable outcomes. By joining a MAD Tour, you are choosing to embark on a journey that will be life-changing and enriching not just for yourself, but also for women and children who have hopes and dreams just like you!

This trip is a transformative experience where you will make memories and friendships to last a lifetime. But don’t take our word for it – read on to hear from two travellers who took the tour in March 2018, Elyse and Danielle.

Essence of Living (EOL): Tell us a little about yourself!
Elyse: I’m Elyse. I started yoga at Essence of Living about six years ago when I first moved to the Gold Coast. I currently have a building company called Highlife Homes with my partner James who is a builder. We also started the company when we moved to the Gold Coast, and in recent years we’ve added on our own property developments and have a real estate agency as well. Outside of the business I’m much more of a creative and artistic soul and will be making a transition to something more aligned with that over the coming year.
Danielle: I have been practising yoga on and off for 15 years. I also do a lot of Pilates and did my teacher training last year at Essence. I am children’s’ services coordinator for Byron Council. I manage four centres, I am a teacher and it’s definitely my dream job. I love working with children. Always have.

EOL: What called you to go on this trip?
Elyse: I’ve wanted to go to India for a while but my partner wasn’t that keen on India and I wasn’t that keen to travel India alone. I feel like this India trip was definitely meant to be. My partner and I usually travel together at the end of the year when the construction industry shuts down over Christmas, but this recent Christmas we could not agree on a place or an adventure. James wanted to do a motorbike trip across Vietnam but I had already been to Vietnam and was also sufficiently scarred from coming off our motorbike on a road trip in Thailand we did a few years earlier. I wanted to go on a spiritual/yoga retreat – where I didn’t know. So we decided that instead of compromising we would both just do whatever we wanted, and that’s when Michelle posted about the India trip on her Instagram. I thought, “oh, that’s interesting”. And then as soon as I looked it up and read the itinerary, I knew I had to be there. It included everything I had hoped to experience in India – daily yoga and the international yoga festival, Holi festival of colour, hiking the Himalayan mountains, the Taj Mahal, up-close experiences with elephants, a personal glimpse of the lives of people in India AND it’s a not-for-profit that gives to Indian people and organisations. I had never seen a tour like this before, it seemed so amazing, and I was sold instantly.
Danielle: I have always wanted to go to India and see the spiritual side of yoga. Michelle and I developed a bond when I first met her. I couldn’t think of a better person to see India with and practice yoga!

EOL: Trip highlight?
Danielle: The International yoga festival and Holi day. Rishikesh is amazing. Beautiful people, so much love amongst so much poverty.

EOL: Something transformational that occurred:
Elyse: The entire trip was transformative for me. Connecting with the elephants was amazing, to be so close, and to look deeply into their eyes as they look back into yours, was a soul-enriching experience.
To learn more about Indian culture and, in particular, the caste system that is still prevailing today, was insightful and gave me a different perspective on the culture as I interacted with Indian people during the trip. Going to Mother Miracle school and seeing the amazing work they are doing there to raise up impoverished and lower caste children, was inspiring, and meeting the young girl being sponsored by the MAD Tour we were on, really brought the experience to a personal level.
Meeting the women of Sheroes Hangout was both heart-wrenching and heart-warming at the same time. I felt sympathy for the women as victims of acid attacks and yet I also felt proud of them for finding purpose and fulfilment in their lives, in spite of, and because of, the attacks.
Lastly, India is a place full of juxtaposition and, more than ever before in my life, I felt the contradictory nature of life. There were so many instances in India that I could see good in the bad and bad in the good. India is known to be visually colourful, but I also think it is metaphysically as well, as there is no black and white way of looking at things in India, everything contradicts itself and questions its own definition. Perhaps this is why India is the home of so many spiritual thinkers.
Danielle: Being able to just be me. As a full time working mother, it was my time to reflect, practice yoga and embrace being a strong confident woman. I had so many laughs and made lifelong friendships. It was a pretty special experience for me.

EOL: A learning you took to heart (about India, yoga or yourself):
Elyse: While gestures can be different in different cultures, a smile is a universal kindness.
Danielle: It is a magic place. It feels spiritual, it can at times feel like an outer body experience. So much to see! Yoga at the top of the Himalayan mountains was spectacular. I learnt I can do anything I put my mind too.

EOL: Something unexpected that happened:
Elyse: Something unexpected I found over there was the calm amongst the chaos. India is full of noise, colour, smells, hustle and bustle, and people, and yet everyone seems at ease with it. In Australia, we have so much space to ourselves, it is not very densely populated at all, and I think, with that, comes an expectation of personal space. In India, everyone is amongst each other and yet nobody seems bothered by that or the sensory overload of their surroundings. After the first couple of days, I too felt at ease in the pandemonium that is India.

EOL: What would you tell someone considering joining the 2019 trip?
Elyse: Absolutely do it. I have travelled to nearly 30 countries and this trip has been one of my all-time favourites. I will never forget the people, the places, experiences, and the pure joy I felt the entire time I was there.
Danielle: Definitely do it. So much fun.

EOL: Your top tip for someone coming on the 2019 trip:
Danielle: Expect the unexpected. It’s definitely an eye-opener. The culture of India is amazing, sad, happy – all of the emotions in one day.

EOL: Anything else you’d like to add?
Elyse: This could not have been a trip of a lifetime without all the beautiful women on the trip. Everyone brought a different inspiring energy to the group and everyone got on amazingly, it really was like travelling with your soul sisters.
I think what gives MAD tours that special something that I have never experienced on a trip or tour before, is Radha, the founder of MAD tours, who has created this tour out of pure love and a vision of helping people in India. Every aspect of the trip reflects her love of India and so, by seeing India through her eyes, we all fell in love with India too.

Find out all the details for the 2019 tour with Michelle Cassidy here.