Walking with the Buddha
Pilgrimage to India & Nepal
with Tempel Smith & Tricycle: The Buddhist Review
September 29–October 13, 2020
Explore the circuit that the Buddha walked in his time, from Lumbini to Kushinagar and each important pilgrimage site in between.
Trip at a Glance
- September 29–October 13, 2020
- Daily teachings with Dharma teacher Tempel Smith
- Accompanied by a representative from Tricycle: The Buddhist Review
- Escorted by BJ Graf & Lauren Rathvon, owners of RetreaTours
- Explore the iconic, transformative locations where the Buddha lived & taught
- Limited to 20 pilgrims
- Early bird price of $4999 (USD) per person (based on double occupancy)
- Please see “Price & Inclusions” tab below for more details
- Price includes carbon offsetting for your entire journey
How to Register
- Review this entire webpage for details
- Complete Registration Questions and Contract
- Submit deposit by check or credit card (via PayPal)
Click to Jump to…
- Itinerary at a Glance
- Daily Itinerary
- Price & Inclusions
- Payment Details
- Registration Questions & Contract
- Travel Insurance
- Packing List
- Reading List
- About Tricycle: The Buddhist Review
- About Tempel Smith
- About Wendy Joan Biddlecombe Agsar
- About RetreaTours
- About Carbon Offsets
- Testimonials from past ‘Walking with the Buddha’ pilgrims
- Video album
- Photo album
There are four places that a pious person should visit and look upon with feelings of reverence, said the Buddha.
Lumbini is where the Tathagata was born.
Bodhgaya is where the Tathagata became fully enlightened in unsurpassed, supreme Enlightenment.
Sarnath is where the Tathagata set rolling the unexcelled Wheel of the Dharma.
Kushinagar is where the Tathagata passed away into the state of Parinirvana in which no element of clinging remains.
These, Ananda, are the four places that a pious person should visit and look upon with feelings of reverence. And truly there will come to these places pious monks and nuns, and laymen and laywomen to reflect on the life of the Tathagata.
~paraphrased from Mahaparinibbana Sutta
Itinerary at a Glance
September 29 Arrive in Kathmandu, Nepal (overnight in Kathmandu)
September 30 Explore the UNESCO World Heritage site of Boudhanath Stupa, a spiritually electrifying place of pilgrimage (overnight in Kathmandu)
October 1 Fly to Lumbini, Nepal, the birthplace of the Buddha (overnight in Lumbini)
October 2 Discover the peaceful grounds of the Maya Devi temple and Lumbini Park (overnight in Lumbini)
October 3 Explore Nepal’s Kapilavastu site, where the Buddha spent his first 29 years (overnight in Lumbini)
October 4 Enter India overland & continue on to Kushinagar, where the Buddha entered Mahaparinirvana (overnight in Kushinagar)
October 5 Visit Vaishali, the site where the Buddha first ordained nuns (overnight in Patna)
October 6 Explore the wealth of Buddhist sites around Rajgir, including Vulture’s Peak, the Bamboo Forest, and the ruins of Nalanda (overnight in Rajgir)
October 7 Continue on to Bodh Gaya, the site where the Buddha attained enlightenment (overnight in Bodh Gaya)
October 8 Explore the Mahabodhi temple and the Bodhi Tree that commemorate Buddha’s liberation (overnight in Bodh Gaya)
October 9 We’ll visit the nearby Mahakala Caves, where the Buddha practiced asceticism for years before discovering the Middle Way (overnight in Bodh Gaya)
October 10 Our path takes us to Varanasi next, along the banks of the holy Ganges River (overnight in Varanasi)
October 11 Today we discover Sarnath, the site of Buddha’s first sermon which address the Four Noble Truths (overnight in Varanasi)
October 12 We’ll spend today along the ghats of the Ganges River, soaking in the sights and sounds of rituals that the Buddha would have experienced in his day (overnight in Varanasi)
October 13 Today we fly back to New Delhi where you can continue your adventure or head home to reflect on your experience of Walking with the Buddha
The beginning of our journey!
Walking with the Buddha 2020 Daily Itinerary
This practical daily itinerary is an outline of the sites we will be visiting. Join RetreaTours founders BJ Graf and Lauren Rathvon, a representative from Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, and an expert regional guide for this journey. Buddhist teacher Tempel Smith will lead daily dharma discussions, meditation, and will weave a powerful narrative throughout all of the sites we experience.
Throughout this entire journey, we’ll have time at each site and along the way to share stories of the Buddha’s time in each of these locations and the importance of each site. Our newly-formed Sangha will share in discussions, dharma discussions, and group meditation experiences; there will also be some time for independent exploration, study, and practice. Don’t forget to check out the Video Album toward the bottom of this page!
You’ll arrive in Kathmandu, Nepal on September 29th and stay in a comfortable guesthouse just a few minutes walk from Boudhanath Stupa. This UNESCO World Heritage site is one of the largest stupas in the world, and the surrounding neighborhood is a relaxing and beautiful place to begin our journey. After all, the Buddha was born in Nepal–it only seems right to start here!
We’ll take the 30th to discover the local Boudha area and set the foundations and intentions for our journey together. On October 1st, we’ll take a short flight (~30 minutes) to Lumbini, the birthplace of the Buddha. We’ll stay in Lumbini for three nights, giving us plenty of time to explore the gems here. We’ll visit the Maya Devi temple early in the morning and watch the endless prayer flags emerge from the morning mist. This is thought to be the spot where Queen Maya Devi gave birth to Siddhartha under a sal tree. These peaceful gardens, home to a pillar of Ashoka and a sacred pond, are a lovely place for meditation.
While in Lumbini, we’ll also take a drive (90 minutes) to Tilaurakot, a site that many people believe is the true location of Kapilavastu, the kingdom where Siddhartha spent his first 29 years. Standing on the ruins of the ancient city walls and looking out at the countryside, one can only imagine what Prince Siddhartha might have been feeling as he left his family and embarked on his quest for liberation.
On October 4th, we’ll continue our journey and enter India, heading toward our destination of Kushinagar (~4-hour drive from Lumbini to Kushinagar, plus time for the immigration process and lunch). Kushinagar is the site where the Buddha achieved Mahaparinirvana and was then cremated. The 20-foot long reclining Buddha statue inside the Parinirvana Stupa is simply mesmerizing, dating from 637 CE or earlier.
The next day we’ll visit Vaishali en route to Patna, where we will spend the night. (The drive from Kushinagar to Vaishali is ~4 hours, then 2 more hours to Patna). The Buddha spent much time in Vaishali, and this is the place where he first ordained women as nuns. Vaishali is also where he preached his final sermon before moving onto Kushinagar.
On the 6th we’ll drive to Rajgir (~3 hours) where we’ll spend the night. The area around Rajgir is extraordinarily rich in Buddhist heritage sites. We’ll spend time at Vulture’s Peak (Gridhrakuta) which is said to be the favorite of all the Buddha’s retreat locations. We’ll visit Venuvan (Bamboo Forest), where the Buddha spent his 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 17th rainy season.
We’ll also explore the nearby ruins of Nalanda the following morning, the ancient center of Buddhist learning from the early 5th century to 1200 CE. From Tricycle: “In [Nalanda’s] prime it had over 10,000 students, 2,000 staff, and denied 80% of its applicants. It would be hard to overstate how big time it was, and not just in Buddhist history. Dating back to the fifth century, it was one of the first institutions of higher learning in the world. Scholars came from all over the world to study philosophy, medicine, astronomy, and other subjects.”
Our next destination in the footsteps of the Buddha is Bodh Gaya, where we’ll spend the nights of October 7th, 8th, and 9th. The Mahabodhi temple at Bodh Gaya commemorates the spot where the Buddha attained enlightenment. This temple complex, which draws pilgrims from different Buddhist traditions all over the globe, is home to a direct descendant of the original Bodhi tree under which the Buddha meditated. In the Jataka Tales, this place is recognized as the “navel of the earth,” the exact spot where Siddhartha attained enlightenment.
“Here on this seat my body may shrivel up, my skin, my bones, my flesh may dissolve, but my body will not move from this seat until I have attained Enlightenment, so difficult to obtain in the course of many kalpas.”
We’ll share in group exploration and meditation at the Mahabodhi temple. In addition, our Bodh Gaya hotel was carefully chosen because of its proximity to the Mahabodhi Temple, allowing you to revisit during your free time.
During our time in Bodh Gaya we’ll spend time at the Dungeshwari (Mahakala) caves (~45-minute drive). This is the site where Siddhartha Gautama lived on the banks of the Nairanjana River with five ascetic followers for four to five years, practicing austerities. After he realized that these austerities could not lead him to enlightenment, he abandoned them. We’ll also visit Senani village, where Siddharta walked after leaving his ascetic companions. Near death from starvation, here he was offered milk rice by a Brahmin girl named Sujata.
On the 10th we’ll continue our journey to Varanasi (~6-8 hours, depending on road conditions). The next day we’ll take a short drive (*~30 minutes) to Sarnath. This is where the Buddha came after his enlightenment in Bodh Gaya, and it is here that he encountered the five men who had been his companions throughout their austerities. He preached his first sermon in the Deer Park to set in motion the ‘Wheel of the Dharma,’ the founding of Buddhism.
On October 12th, we’ll focus on the banks of the Ganges River in the holy city of Varanasi. Mark Twain once remarked that Varanasi “is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend, and looks twice as old as all of them put together.” Our sunrise boat ride will give us an insight into the same Hindu rituals that the Buddha would have witnessed in his day. We’ll have the opportunity to witness the time-honored tradition of cremation along this holy river, as well as the unfolding of daily life along the ghats.
On the 13th, we’ll fly back to Delhi as a group (90-minute flight), where you can continue your Indian journey or head home to contemplate all we’ve experienced as a Sangha. If you’d like to continue your journey in India, Nepal, or even Bhutan, we can help arrange your itinerary.
Please click the title of the desired tab to open it.
Other Trip Details of Note
- We will be traveling extensively by private vehicle on this journey to cover much of the ground that Buddha wandered in his life. It is necessary to travel by private bus (as opposed to flying) due to the remote locations of these important sites; please refer to the daily itinerary above for approximate drive times between sites.
- This trip has a minimum of 10 registered guests and a maximum of 22 guests, in addition to BJ and Lauren of RetreaTours and a representative from Tricycle: The Buddhist Review. Once we reach our minimum of 10 registered guests, we can start advising on international airfare and trip extensions.
Price & What is Included
This early bird retreat fee is $4999 USD per person (double occupancy). After May 1, 2020, the price increases to $5299.
This price only covers the actual retreat, not international airfare (for a full list of inclusions, please see below).
A $1000 deposit holds your space. The second installment of $2500 is due by May 1, 2020 and the balance is due by July 1, 2020. The single supplement ($950) is due along with the last installment.
If you prefer to have your own room, the single supplement is $950 USD and will be added to your last payment. (Click here to understand why this single supplement is necessary). Please note that we cannot guarantee you a roommate for this trip, and if you room alone, you will be responsible for the single supplement. This single supplement, although high, is actually subsidized, and your entire supplement goes to cover the other half of the hotel rooms that a roommate would be covering.
- All accommodation in India and Nepal, from the night of September 29 until October 12
- All meals in India and Nepal, from dinner on September 29 until breakfast on October 13
- All ground transportation within India and Nepal
- Flight from Kathmandu to Lumbini, Nepal
- Flight from Varanasi to New Delhi, India
- Airport transportation upon arrival
- All site fees
- Tips at hotels and restaurants
- Funding to the Tricycle Foundation
- Carbon offsets for your entire journey
Price does not include:
- International airfare (although we can and will be more than happy to help you decide on arrangements). We recommend flying INTO Kathmandu and OUT of Delhi on a multi-destination flight.
- Indian visa fee (we will advise on the entire visa process, but please budget $150 to $200 USD to a 10-year visa; this visa must be applied for before the journey)
- Nepal visa fee ($30 USD), on arrival in Kathmandu’s airport
- Travel insurance (required)
- Tip to local guide and bus driver (General guidelines: $60-$100 USD for the guide per person and $25-$50 total for the driver; USD or Indian rupees are fine!)
- Laundry services
Please refer to the Price tab for specific information about price & what is included on your journey.
We accept payments via check and credit or debit card (via PayPal) for our American guests. For our guests outside the U.S., please write [email protected] for transfer details.
- Paying by Check: Checks can be made out to RetreaTours and sent to 8821 NW 14 Street, Pembroke Pines, FL 33024.
- Paying by Credit Card or PayPal balance: You can pay with credit card, debit card, or PayPal balance. All PayPal transactions must be in USD. Note that you do not have to pay with your PayPal balance; please click here if you’d like further instruction.
We will email you an invoice via PayPal before each installment’s due date.
Registration Questions & Contract
At the end of the form, please press “submit” to finalize your answers. Your spot is not considered reserved until you have completed these questions and contract and submitted your deposit.
FAQ: Visas, Health, Hotels, Food, Money & more.
- Passport and Visa information
- Health & Vaccines, Altitude, Travel Insurance
- Money & How to Get Local Currency
- What do I need to know about the visa?
First and foremost, your passport MUST be valid at least 6 months beyond the end date of the trip (that is, April 12, 2021), and you’ll need three empty pages in the Visas section of your passport (make sure they are in the Visa section, not the Amendment or Endorsement section).
You will need to arrange an Indian visa before you arrive; we will provide you more detailed information before you apply for your visa. You will get your Nepal visa upon arrival in Nepal for $30 USD.
- I have special dietary needs—can I be accommodated?
Vegetarians should have no problem anywhere on our travels. The only thing that might prove difficult is veganism in India. Although meat is entirely avoidable, India is the world’s largest consumer of butter, and it is almost unavoidable in most of their curries, stews, and even breads. Many vegans that we have known to travel through India adopt what is locally referred to as a “pure veg” diet: no meat, no eggs, but it allows for dairy consumption. (It is worth nothing that some of the reasons for avoiding dairy consumption in the west is slightly mitigated here, as there is less factory farming and antibiotic use in livestock.) Milk can be avoided by not consuming creamy dishes or milk tea.
Gluten is also avoidable in India by choosing rice over chapatis and other local breads. Celiactravel.com has GREAT printable cards in local languages to present to restaurants and hotels about your intolerance of gluten. Click here for the Hindi version. If you have multiple dietary needs, it may be worth your while to check out these specialty cards, available in 60 different languages.
When you register for a trip, you will answer a set of questions, including a question about food allergies. We’ll take a look at your answers and let you know if we have any suggestions or concerns.
There is typically a large amount of Western/”Continental” food available at meals, for those of you who aren’t in the mood Indian food.
- Can I drink the water?
In a word, No. Although many cities around the world are getting more advanced public water systems, we don’t recommend it. Not only from a pathogen standpoint, but it’s a different set of bacteria than your body is used to. Why risk an upset stomach if you don’t have to? We recommend drinking only bottled water, and you will want to rinse your toothbrush off in bottled water.
For those of you who wish to use your own filtration system (LifeStraw bottle, etc), you can definitely bring them, which will save on the plastic of water bottles!
- What vaccines do I need?
None are required to enter India, but we suggest you work with your physician or your area’s travel health expert to decide what options are best for you. You can read the CDC’s recommendations here and the UK NHS recommendations here.
- What about malaria?
You may or may not wish to consider anti-malarials, so please work with your physician or travel doctor when making these choices. Please see our blog about this topic for more information. Here is an NHS malaria map for India and one for Nepal. You’ll see on the maps that the areas we will be visiting are in the low to no risk” areas, although BodhGaya is on the border of “low to no risk” and “low risk.”
- What are the physical requirements for this trip?
Participants should be able to comfortably climb stairs, slowly but in a stable fashion. Guests should be able to walk unassisted for 1 mile at a time. Guests should be comfortable sitting for 2-3 hours at a time on the bus without a break. We won’t be at most sites for more than 2-3 hours at a time, and even then there will be benches or low walls to take breaks on. Guests make wish to bring an inflatable meditation cushion for meditation opportunities.
- Do I need travel insurance?
Yes, travel insurance is required on this trip. Please find out what must be covered in the “Travel Insurance” tab on this page. You must give us your travel insurance company name, policy number, and emergency number before the start of the trip.
- How much money should I bring?
All of your meals and transportation are covered once you arrive (except your $30USD Nepal visa and tip to local guide/driver), so you just have to gauge how much you want to spend on extras (laundry, souvenirs, and alcohol when available [only in Nepal]). Please see the “Price and Inclusions” tab on this page for all the specifics.
- How do I get the local currency?
You can either exchange cash in Nepal and India or use a local ATM (which we personally prefer for ourselves). Just make sure you call your bank and credit card company to let them know you’ll be traveling in India and Nepal, so they don’t put a hold on your card when they see it being used halfway across the world. Most smaller shops will not take credit cards.
- What kind of hotels will we be staying in?
Each of our hotels will have a private ensuite bathroom, air conditioning, and WiFi access (although sometimes the connection will not extend to the rooms, but only be usable in common areas like the lobby or restaurant).
We will be sending out a list of hotel names to guests several months before the journey.
- About many Indian/Nepali bathrooms…
You will have a Western toilet in all of your rooms (as opposed to a squat toilet). However, it is worth noting that many Asian bathrooms are considered “wet rooms”—that is, the shower shares the entire bathroom space with the sink and toilet (as opposed to having an inset shower stall or bathtub with a curtain or shower door). You may also find, in addition to a traditional showerhead, a large bucket and a smaller dipper for a “bucket bath.” This is a great way to save water, and we’ll tell you all about it in our orientation!
- Will I be able to charge my electronics (phone, iPad, etc)?
Yes, just be sure to bring along a Universal Travel Adaptor that can go with you anywhere in the world!
- Will we have WiFi?
We will have access to wifi at all of our hotels, but please know it may be strongest (or only functional) in common spaces like the lobby or the restaurant. WiFi speeds may not be what you are used to at home. We will be asking that you download WhatsApp for communication on tour, in addition to communcation with family back home, as it works remarkably well on very little internet connectivity.
- Should I get an International phone plan? What about a local SIM card?
Please check with your cell provider about international options that might work for you. If you have an unlocked smartphone, you can purchase a SIM card upon arrival at the airport in Kathmandu, but we are only in Nepal for a few days. Since we are crossing overland into India, there is no convenient place to purchase Indian SIM cards. If you land in New Delhi first, though, you can purchase an Airtel SIM card there for our time in India.
- How can my family get ahold of me in an emergency?
Before the trip begins we will give you a contact for our hotels; in addition, we will give you our Indian phone numbers and WhatsApp numbers ahead of time, as well as an American number good for text messages and voicemails.
If you are traveling with RetreaTours, we require that each guest carries travel insurance that covers emergency medical treatment and emergency evacuation and repatriation.
We suggest trip cancellation insurance, as well, as you never know what obstacles life can toss at you leading up to a trip. However, we do not require this coverage, we only suggest it highly.
Below you will find some options to look into, if this is a new world to you. However, we ask that you carefully consider your choice in travel insurance. What works for some people may not work for others, particularly if you have any pre-existing conditions. Please do take the time to consider the best policy for your individual needs.
World Nomads provides medical coverage for guests under 70 that includes trip cancellation, as well. You can use the box on this page to get a quote and see coverage.
InsureMyTrip.com is a good place to see and compare many policies at once, and you can refine the options by what coverage you would like.
It may also be a good idea to check with your credit card companies, especially American Express, to see if they offer any medical coverage for travel.
About your International Flights
We are more than happy to recommend international flights, but ultimately you will make the purchase yourself directly through the airline website or through a 3rd party site like Expedia or Kayak.
We recommend flying into Kathmandu, Nepal and out of New Delhi, India as it can save you time and money. It is, however, possible to fly into Delhi round-trip and get a separate flight to Kathmandu before the start of the pilgrimage.
We are scheduled to land back in New Delhi at 5 PM on October 13th. To account for any flight delays, we’d recommend not making any flight reservations out of New Delhi before 10 PM on the 13th. However, if you need to get back to Delhi earlier than 5 PM for on onward flight, we can help you get on an earlier flight from Varanasi to New Delhi (there may be a small additional fee depending on the flight price difference).
Expected temperatures & Suggested Packing List
The expected and historical temperatures on this journey range between 60°F (15°C) at nights and 95°F (35°C) during the day. This means mornings and late evenings might be cool (primarily in Kathmandu), but temperatures will regularly get to the mid-90’s in the afternoons. This is not a rainy time of year, although it will still be humid.
Why did we choose this time of year?
We chose early October for several reasons. As you approach November, you run the risk of running into more air pollution in India, due to the Diwali festival fireworks and [illegal] seasonal crop burning. In addition, winter months typically see extremely heavy fog in these rural areas, which can double drive times!
There is no required reading for this trip, but for those of you interested, here are some reading materials to help familiarize yourself with the historical footsteps of the Buddha. BJ can recommend many more books if you have already read these!
About Carbon Offsetting
Please visit our Environmental Statement page to learn more about what we are doing to mitigate the impact of our collective journey.
Tempel Smith began practicing vipassana and metta meditation in 1989 within the Theravada Buddhist tradition at Insight Meditation Society (IMS). Tempel focused his younger years on service and activism within nuclear disarmament, environmental protection, and working in crisis shelters for homeless and abused youth. In 1997 he spent a year in Myanmar (Burma) as an ordained monk with both Ven. Sayadaw U Pandita and Ven. Pa Auk Sayadaw, and later practiced in silence for a nine-month retreat back at the IMS.
Since 2001 Tempel has begun to teach meditation and Buddhist psychology to a wide variety of people including prisoners, activists, youth, service providers, and those with severe and chronic illnesses. He founded the B.A.S.E. House in San Francisco – a residential community dedicated to living a socially engaged Buddhist life. Tempel spent a year in volunteer service for Zen Hospice, and in 2003 he initiated an international meditation retreat and program for teenagers and young adults which became iBme (Inward Bound Mindfulness Education). Tempel worked for the Buddhist Peace Fellowship in Berkeley coordinating the B.A.S.E. and Young Adults programs and also has lead pilgrimages in Thailand, Burma, and India for the past ten years.
In 2008 Tempel joined a four-year teacher training program run by Jack Kornfield, Spirit Rock Meditation Center (SRMC) and IMS, and now leads the 2-year Dedicated Practitioner Program. The Dharma Tempel teaches is informed by western sciences and psychology, Theravada Buddhism, and somatic based trauma healing. See more at TempelSmith.info.
Established in 1990 as a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) educational organization, The Tricycle Foundation is dedicated to making Buddhist teachings and practices broadly available. In 1991 the Foundation launched Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, the first magazine intended to present Buddhist perspectives to a Western readership. Tricycle soon became the leading independent journal of Buddhism in the West, where it continues to be the most inclusive and widely read vehicle for the dissemination of Buddhist views and values.
Our readership includes longtime practitioners, those who are curious about Buddhism or meditation, and those who do not identify as Buddhist but value the teachings of wisdom and compassion that Buddhism has to offer. By remaining unaffiliated with any particular teacher, sect or lineage, Tricycle provides a unique and independent public forum for exploring Buddhism, establishing a dialogue between Buddhism and the broader culture, and introducing Buddhist thinking to Western disciplines. This approach has enabled Tricycle to successfully attract readers from all walks of life, many of whom desire to enrich their lives through a deeper knowledge of Buddhist traditions.
Tricycle has been recognized with the prestigious Folio Award for Best Spiritual Magazine three times, and has twice garnered the Utne Media Award, most recently in 2013. As part of our commitment to our readers who are seeking to implement or sustain Buddhist values and practices, Tricycle accepts advertising only from teachers, programs, centers, and businesses whose offerings we believe will support those aims. Because of this selective policy, we depend on donations to support ever-rising printing and production costs, content updates to our website, and life-enriching programs. The Foundation also hosts occasional pilgrimages that provide opportunities for new and experienced practitioners to explore sites of importance to Buddhist history and practice.
The mission of The Tricycle Foundation is to create forums for exploring contemporary and historic Buddhist activity, examine the impact of its new context in the democratic traditions of the West, and introduce fresh views and attainable methods for enlightened living to the culture at large. At the core of the Foundation’s mission is the alleviation of suffering that Buddhist teachings are meant bring about. Tricycle is an independent foundation unaffiliated with any one lineage or sect.
A three-wheeled vehicle aptly evokes the fundamental components of Buddhist philosophy. Buddhism itself is often referred to as the “vehicle to enlightenment,” and the tricycle’s three wheels allude to the three treasures: The Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, or the enlightened teacher, the teachings, and the community. The wheels also relate to the turning of the wheel of dharma, or skillfully using the teachings of the Buddha to face the challenges that the circle of life presents.
Wendy Joan Biddlecombe Agsar is Tricycle‘s editor-at-large and has served in various roles since 2015. Wendy began her career in journalism covering crime, courts, and local politics for the Tampa Tribune. She then worked as a general assignment reporter in New York City and as a local contributor to her neighborhood newspaper in the Bronx. She spent most of 2007 living in Pondicherry, India, and is looking forward to exploring the Buddha’s footsteps with you.
About BJ and Lauren of RetreaTours
BJ & Lauren created RetreaTours in 2010 with one goal in mind: to make world travel accessible, authentic, and astounding. In order to focus fully on this passion, they moved out of the U.S. in January 2013 to reside full-time overseas. Each day is spent exploring new destinations, strengthening local ties & relationships, and creating memorable and transformative retreats and tours (aka, RetreaTours!)
BJ & Lauren take great pride in the itineraries they plan, as they can personally vouch for every hotel, every restaurant, and every activity that you will experience. They craft each element of the trip with intention, and they understand that it is this careful attention to detail that sets them apart. Fueled by their passion, armed with know-how, and supported by knowledgeable local professionals in all of their destinations, BJ & Lauren set the scene for the vacation of a lifetime. The dynamic duo are available to answer any and all questions before the trip begins. From giving advice on the best flights and travel insurance to providing a packing list, FAQ, and even a tiny “phrasebook,” BJ & Lauren pride themselves on these ‘nuts & bolts’ of personalized service.
In addition, as a guest, you receive free travel consulting services (normally a $300 value) should you choose to extend your travels. As one of their most ‘frequent fliers’ put it recently, BJ & Lauren make everything easy for you. Once you arrive in your destination city, your trip is all-inclusive—your meals, transportation, lodging, site fees, donations, and tips are all taken care of. The research has been done, the itinerary carefully laid out, the reservations made, the t’s crossed and the i’s dotted. All you have to do is show up and take in all your destination has to show you! So….let’s get going!
What are our past Walking with the Buddha pilgrims saying?
Click here to see testimonials from our 2019 Pilgrimage to India & Nepal
BJ and Lauren earned every bit of the trust I placed in them in signing up for this tour. Their ever present attention to detail and awareness of the needs of every member of the tour leaves me speechless. Their passion for what they do in developing and planning these excursions resounded in every aspect of the tour process from the initial application for the tour, the ongoing communication, their ability to make every member of the tour feel welcome and valued and the personal care and attention the smallest detail. Their extensive knowledge and the groundwork they do in preparing for the tour resulted in creating the complete experience. They deliver 100% of what they promise on their website. I cannot find words to describe the level of praise for BJ and Lauren. I would travel to the ends of the earth with them. ~B.H.
If you’ve considered taking a tour of the places most connected to the Buddha, I’d strongly recommend traveling with Lauren and BJ. They go the extra mile to smooth and sweeten the journey with their warmth, unflappable openness to the momentary unfolding of reality, and respectful attention to people, places and particulars. Two thumbs up! ~P.M.
RetreaTours organized and superbly executed the best tour I have ever been on. Their attention to detail, deep knowledge of the locales we visited, unrivaled communication skills, and a genuine caring for their clients make them a clear standout compared to most other tour companies!! ~J.B.
Journeys that are most meaningful and heartfelt for me combine visiting historic sites in a respectful way, opportunities for deep learning, creating community with fellow travelers, and lots of fun along the way. Retreat Tours has surpassed my expectations on both trips I’ve taken with them and I’m hopeful I’ll have the opportunity to join them again! ~B.C.
BJ and Lauren are amazing tour organizers. Every detail was carefully thought out and organized. They also made adjustments as needed based on unforeseen hiccups along the way. In particular, their sensitivity to and understanding of the Buddhist path provided the space for all of us to continue our practices on this trip. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this trip to anyone interested in a pilgrimage type of retreat. From the hotels, to the food, to the actual travel requirements, their service was/is impeccable! ~T.M.
RetreaTours takes care of you, before, during and after the tour! Well-planned, excellent guide and teachers provided. Deeply satisfying and beneficial, spiritually and in so many day to day adventures. ~E.T.
Lauren and BJ are the two people I would follow, trust them 100%. Their hearts and minds are in every step. Would not go any where with out them. ~M.C.
Thanks to the planning, the guides and all of the attention to detail BJ and Lauren handled, total attention could be paid to the amazing sights, sounds and surprising experiences encountered along the way. It transformed what could have been a difficult, overwhelming trip, into an informative, fascinating, amazing adventure! ~N.S.
Please enjoy these videos, taken by BJ on-site at each location.
To enlarge each of the videos after pressing play, please click the square icon in the bottom right-hand corner of the video.
Want to see our other Pilgrimages with Tricycle?
We love traveling with Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, and we know that you will enjoy these transformative journeys, too. Please click here to see all of our current Tricycle Pilgrimages at a glance.