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From the Himalayas to Your Higher Self

A Spiritual and Cultural Journey

with Jennifer Matthaei Cottrell

June 28 – July 9, 2018

Trip at a Glance

  • June 28 – July 9, 2018
  • Daily practice with Jennifer Matthaei Cottrell
  • Escorted by BJ & Lauren of RetreaTours
  • Explore the ancient Kingdom of Ladakh, nestled high in the Tibetan Plateau
  • Discover the precious gem along the Ganges, Rishikesh
  • Limited to 14 guests
  • Early bird retreat price of $3399 per person (based on double occupancy)
    • Total price including international airfare and visas will be ~$5000; please see “Price” toggle below for details and inclusions.

Itinerary & Highlights at a Glance

June 28  Arrive in Delhi and stay overnight

June 29  Fly over the Himalayas to Leh, Ladakh and settle into our guest house at Thiksey Monastery.

June 30 – July 4  Over the course of the next 5 days we will have the opportunity to experience:

  • Daily practice in a sacred prayer hall
  • Meditation at morning puja with Tibetan Buddhist monks
  • Volunteer (seva) at Thiksey Monastery
  • Hiking around Thiksey Monastery and surrounding areas.
  • Shared meals with the monks in their homes and in the Monastery dining hall
  • Exploration of the Indus River Valley and the Tibetan Buddhist monasteries that dot that rugged landscape.
  • Blessings from the head Lama of the Monastery (contingent on his travel schedule)
  • Shopping for Tibetan Buddhist artwork, textiles & handicrafts in Leh

July 5   Bid farewell and fly back to Delhi in the morning; drive from Delhi to Rishikesh that afternoon

July 6 – 8   Relax in the holy town of Rishikesh along the brilliant Ganges, fresh out of the Himalayas. During our time here, we will take in:

  • A local cooking class
  • Yoga at local ashrams
  • Ganga Aarti, a fire ceremony along the Ganges
  • Exploration of the famous Beatles Ashram
  • Shopping for beautiful Indian clothes, jewelry, handicrafts & more

July 9   Return to Delhi by vehicle & fly home

Itinerary at a Glance

June 28  Arrive in Delhi and stay overnight

June 29  Fly over the Himalayas to Leh, Ladakh and settle into our guest house at Thiksey Monastery.

June 30 – July 4  Over the course of the next 5 days we will have the opportunity to experience:

  • Daily practice in a sacred prayer hall
  • Meditation at morning puja with Tibetan Buddhist monks
  • Volunteer (seva) at Thiksey Monastery
  • Hiking around Thiksey Monastery and surrounding areas.
  • Shared meals with the monks in their homes and in the Monastery dining hall
  • Exploration of the Indus River Valley and the Tibetan Buddhist monasteries that dot that rugged landscape.
  • Blessings from the head Lama of the Monastery (contingent on his travel schedule)
  • Shopping for Tibetan Buddhist artwork, textiles & handicrafts in Leh

July 5   Bid farewell and fly back to Delhi in the morning; drive from Delhi to Rishikesh that afternoon

July 6 – 8   Relax in the holy town of Rishikesh along the brilliant Ganges, fresh out of the Himalayas. During our time here, we will take in:

  • A local cooking class
  • Yoga at local ashrams
  • Ganga Aarti, a fire ceremony along the Ganges
  • Exploration of the famous Beatles Ashram
  • Shopping for beautiful Indian clothes, jewelry, handicrafts & more

July 9   Return to Delhi by vehicle & fly home

Ladakh Itinerary

This is intended as a brief outline of our activities while in Ladakh, in addition to the opportunity for daily yoga practice with Jennifer Matthaei Cottrell. As we will be a small group, we are blissfully flexible, fluid, and will base each day’s activities on the wishes of the group and the schedule of the monks and their families.

You’ll be met at the New Delhi airport on the evening of June 28th and you’ll be staying at a nearby 5-star hotel in order to rest up before your gorgeous flight on the morning of the 29th. The flight from Delhi to Leh is only 50 minutes long, but it’s one of the most picturesque flights on the planet. It will take you directly over the Himalayas, allowing you a rare, lofty perspective on this part of the world.

Upon arrival in Leh, you’ll take a short but beautiful drive (~35 minutes) to Thiksey Monastery to get settled. We’ll spend this day acclimating to the altitude and leisurely exploring some of the magnificent grounds. We will stay at Thiksey monastery’s guesthouse for the duration of our stay in Ladakh. Some of our activities during the rest of our journey include:

  • A thorough exploration of Thiksey Monastery, one of the most beautiful and influential monasteries in Ladakh. We’ll attend special pujas in the Protector Temple, as well as morning pujas in the Prayer Hall. We’ll see the old nunnery and its ancient paintings, as well as the old library and its clothbound volumes
  • If his schedule permits, we’ll have a private audience with the head lama, Rinpoche Kushok Nawang Chamba Stanzin.
  • Dialogue with the monks about Tibetan Buddhism & Philosophy.
  • Fun, informal cooking and cultural lessons with the families of the monks.
  • Walks around Thiksey monastery and surrounding areas.
  • An informative photo tour around Thiksey monastery with BJ Graf.
  • Shopping trip in Leh to peruse Tibetan handicrafts, art, and textiles.

There are scores of monasteries in Ladakh, and we will pay a visit to some of our favorites, time permitting, including:

  • Hemis Monastery, Ladakh’s largest monastery, tucked away in a picturesque gorge.
  • Stakna Monastery, situated on a hill overlooking the Indus river. Stakna, a Drukpa monastery, is renowned for its beautiful, vivid murals.
  • Matho Monastery, the only Sakyapa Buddhist monastery in the area. This monastery, beautiful in its own right, also provides stunning vistas across the Indus Valley.
  • Shey Monastery and Shey Palace, which houses a beautiful 3-story Shakyamuni Buddha statue. At one time, Shey was the capital of the Ladakh region.
  • Stakmo monastery, a small but beautiful gompa under the care of Thiksey and said to have been founded in the 11th century.

On the morning of July 5th, you’ll fly from Leh to Delhi (one more chance to see that gorgeous vista!) and then start the drive to Rishikesh (~7 hours).

Our Accommodation in Thiksey

We will be staying at Thiksey Monastery’s guesthouse, with a gorgeous view of the monastery itself.  In fact, this is where the Dalai Lama stayed during his August 2016 visit to Thiksey (we’ll let you know if you stay in his room!) Although the monastery’s guesthouse is simple, it is clean, and each room has ensuite bathrooms and hot water. Wifi is sporadic, due to our very remote location, but available whenever possible.

Our guesthouse has an on-site restaurant, featuring Tibetan specialties & northern Indian classics (including the best dal makhani ever!)

Most importantly, we are an extremely short walk to the monastery, which is beneficial for early morning pujas and class time. Pictured here: A view from inside one of the 2nd floor guest rooms towards Thiksey Monastery. 

Rishikesh Itinerary

Welcome to Rishikesh, one of Hinduism’s holiest cities and “gateway to the Ganges.” Upon arrival in Rishikesh, we’ll experience a very special Vedic welcome ceremony with a Hindu priest. We’ll explore all that Rishikesh and our practices have to offer in this “Yoga Capital of the World, and we’ll take advantage of the local yoga classes in the many ashrams that dot the landscape along the Ganges River.

We will witness the Ganga Aarti ceremony at the Parmarth Niketan, an ashram that hosts the International Yoga Festival. Ganga Aarti is a devotional fire ceremony that takes place every day at sunset on the banks of the Ganges river.

You’ll enjoy a local cooking class, learning the ins and outs of Indian spices and cuisine, both culinarily and medicinally. Creating a home-cooked meal is a great way to share your experience with your loved ones after your retreat!

We can also pay a visit to the Beatles Ashram which just reopened to curious visitors in 2015. The Beatles visited the ashram of Mahareshi Mahesh Yogi in 1968 to learn how to meditate. It’s said that they wrote more than 40 songs during their stay, including some that were later featured on “The White Album” and “Abbey Road.” The ashram now is a hauntingly beautiful collection of ruins and innovative street art.

Rishikesh is rich with Ayurvedic treatments and nourishing massages that you can take advantage of during your down time. The shopping around Rishikesh is also a delight for those interested in local art, jewelry, textiles, and more.

On July 9th, we’ll drive from Rishikesh back to Delhi (~7 hours) where you can begin your journey home or continue your adventure elsewhere.

Our Accommodation in Rishikesh

Our hotel in Rishikesh is perfectly located in Ram Jhula, close to the Ganges River, markets, and local sites of interest. All rooms have ensuite bathrooms, air conditioners, hot water, and wifi access. There is a spa on site that offers numerous Ayurvedic and western treatments and massages.

Extend your stay–let us help!

If you’d like to extend your journey before or after this RetreaTour, we would be more than happy to help you plan your stay!  We can advise you on hotels, flights, and itineraries, whether you want to arrive in India early or stay on afterward (or both!) We can also set you up for a tour of beautiful Bhutan, Nepal, or anywhere else in South or Southeast Asia. We offer our RetreaTour™ guests free travel consulting, a $300 value. Some ideas:

  • Side-trip to beautiful Bhutan: all-inclusive & fully guided!
  • Explore more of India–perhaps the Taj Mahal, Varanasi, or Amritsar, just to start!
  • Kathmandu, Nepal
  • Pokhara, Nepal (hiking in and around the Annapurna range)
  • Anywhere else in South or Southeast Asia that your heart desires!

Please click the title of the desired tab to open it.

Price & Inclusions

This retreat fee is $3399 per person (double occupancy) before November 30, 2017. After November 30 the price is $3699. This price only covers the actual retreat, not international airfare (for a full list of inclusions, please see below). When your flight, visa, and travel insurance is taken into account, the cost for this journey will be approximately $5000.

If you prefer to have your own room, the single supplement is $350 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.

An $800 deposit holds your space.  The second installment of $1200 is due by February 28, 2018 (120 days before the start of the trip) and the balance is due by April 29, 2018 (60 days before the start of the trip).  Single supplement ($350) is due along with the last installment.

Price Includes:

  • Roundtrip airfare from Delhi to Leh
  • Roundtrip ground transportation from Delhi to Rishikesh
  • All accommodation
  • All meals
  • All site fees
  • Donation to Thiksey Monastery
  • Daily classes with Jennifer Matthaei Cottrell

 

Price does not include:

  • International airfare (although we can and will be more than happy to help you decide on arrangements)
  • Indian visa fee
  • Yoga mats and accessories (except blankets) are not included in this journey.
  • Travel insurance (required)

 

NOTE: 

  • There is a minimum of 6 guests that must sign up in order for this trip to take place. We will hold your deposit & payments until the minimum number of guests have signed up.  Please do not purchase any airfare until you get the go-ahead from us that we’ve reached our minimum number of participants.  
  • If the minimum number of guests have not signed up 3 months prior to the departure date, we’ll give you the option to transfer your reservation to another tour or fully refund your money.
About your Daily Practice

We will be practicing in unique venues in these very special locations, including a sacred temple at Thiksey Monastery that is at least 400 years old!

We will have daily practice in a Hatha/vinyasa flow style. On travel days (especially the Leh to Rishikesh day), we will do our best to fit in asana practice but we may have to be flexible (pun completely intended).

In Rishikesh, we can take in yoga classes at local ashrams, experiencing the depth of this spiritual city along the Ganga, considered the “Yoga capital of the world.”

About the Altitude

Our home base at Thiksey Monastery rests at a lofty 11,500 ft (3350 m) (and Rishikesh rests at 1,220 feet). We plan our first few days in Leh very lightly, to allow you to acclimatize.

Some pre-existing medical conditions are known to worsen at high altitude, so it is imperative that you discuss your pre-existing medical condition/s with your physician. Certain medications are utilized to aid acclimatizing to high altitude; please discuss these options with your doctor or a local travel physician.

Click here to read BJ’s take on how to prevent altitude sickness, as someone who has traveled extensively at high altitudes and never had ill effect, and is an avid reader on the subject.

Click here to read Lauren’s suggestions to natural therapies to begin before your trip. Lauren is a Board-certified Acupuncture Physician and Doctor of Oriental Medicine with a specialty in the world of dietary supplements.

 *All of the information here is for reference purposes only and is not intended to substitute for advice from a licensed health care professional. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any health condition or disease. If you are experiencing medical issues, you should contact your medical healthcare provider.

Suggested Packing List and Weather

Based on historical averages and 2016’s temperatures, the typical temperature while we are in Leh, Ladakh will be 60 degrees to 90 degrees Fahrenheit, and although rain is not likely, it is possible. It can feel quite hot in the sun and very chilly in the shade, so layers are going to be your best friend on this trip! In Rishikesh, the weather will be warmer, with the historical averages being 80 for a low and 98 for a high.

While this is Rishikesh’s rainy season, it most often rains in spurts, not as an all-day affair. For better or worse, the best times to visit Ladakh (summer) can be challenging times to visit the rest of India due to heat and/or rain. However, equipped with an umbrella and a can-do attitude, Rishikesh can be delightful (and less-touristed!) this time of year. 

Click here to see the current weather in Leh, Ladakh

Click here to see the current weather in Rishikesh

Note: the weight limit on your internal flights (from Delhi to Leh and return) will be 44 lbs (20 kg), not the 50 lbs that you may be used to domestically in the USA. If you prefer to only bring a carry-on, you’re welcome to do that, as well.

One more tip: Using packing cubes may make your life easier. BJ and Lauren swear by them, and they’ve been living out of their suitcases since the beginning of 2013!

Clothing

Although more and more Indians are adopting Western wear, traditional clothing is very prevalent and modesty is the name of the game (particularly around the monastery!)  Please do not wear clothes that are tight, transparent or show too much skin or underarms. This means no tank tops or mid-riff baring tops (even for your yoga gear). We also discourage wearing form-fitting “skinny” jeans and shorts/skirts above the knee. Instead, we recommend wear loose fitting clothing such as long skirts, pants, capri-length pants, and blouses or Indian kurtas.

  • 8+ pairs undergarments; you can always have them washed or wash them yourself in your bathroom.
  • 3-5 pair pants or long skirts.  You may want to bring leggings or long johns (2 or 3 pair) to wear under your long kurtas, tunics, skirts or pants on chilly mornings or evenings (again—it’s all about the layers!) Fleece pants might be nice, and good to sleep in (remember, the nights are going to be in the 40’s to 50’s)
  • 4-5 cotton t-shirts, blouses, or long sleeve shirts.
  • A thicker sweater or jacket for cold Ladakh mornings and evenings. A windbreaker or shell might prove useful if your jacket doesn’t protect you from the wind or rain.
  • Cormfortable clothes for yoga
  • A warm hat and scarf for chilly mornings and evenings.
  • 2-3 pairs of socks. Wool (like SmartWool) or tech socks work very well, but whatever socks you have will be just fine.
  • Warm sleeping attire
  • Comfortable walking shoes. Boots aren’t necessary and can be cumbersome when going in and out of monasteries and temples. Sneakers or comfortable slip-ons will suffice.
  • Walking sandals (such as Teva’s, Chaco’s, or Merrell’s) also work very well here.
  • A hat with a brim is a very good idea for our daytime adventures.

Accessories

  • Photocopy of your passport and your visa, just in case you need them.
  • Ear plugs and eye shades to help you sleep better and recover from jet lag more quickly. BJ swears by thisclick here to read an article he wrote on the topic.
  • Good sunscreen is CRITICAL at this altitude. Lauren prefers mineral-based ones: good for you, good for the environment. How do you know if it’s mineral based? If the active ingredient is either titanium dioxide or zinc oxide—that’s it. MyChelle and Devita make good ones.
  • Daypack or camera bag. (If you need a recommendation on a camera, BJ would be happy to help, depending on what type of photography you like, how much you want to spend, and how much you want to carry around.)
  • If you do bring your camera, don’t forget extra batteries or your charging cord. You may want to think about an extra memory card, too.
  • Toiletries (including shampoo and conditioner, if required)
  • People tend to think they need to bring toilet paper to India—not true! However, bringing a few packs of travel tissues is a good idea, to keep on you for public restrooms.
  • Wet wipes or hand sanitizer.
  • Any necessary feminine hygiene products.
  • Plug adaptor for electronics: you’ll need a 2 pin adaptor common across Europe. Here’s a nice example of a great universal adapter and here’s one with USB ports, as well.
  • An external battery charger, such as this one, may be useful for USB-powered objects. Given the remote location of this retreat, electricity can be finicky, so it is best to have a secondary way to charge your phone or camera.
  • VERY IMPORTANT!  A print out of your RETURN airline ticket itinerary; you’ll need this to enter the airport to get home. You can also have a copy (we recommend a screenshot) on your phone.
  • A small travel umbrella is a must. It can work for rain OR as a parasol. You may also consider a lightweight rain shell for Rishikesh.
  • A small flashlight or headlamp for pre-sunrise or post-sunset exploration (or just getting back to your room!)
  • Notebook and pen for journaling purposes
  • Enough of any prescription drugs you need, as well as over-the-counter needs.  We recommend Imodium (anti-diarrheal), a probiotic (Lauren is a BIG fan of Jarrodophilus EPS), as well as melatonin and Benadryl for jet lag purposes.
  • The guesthouses we will be staying in have wifi, but outages are not uncommon all over Ladakh. Nevertheless, we encourage you to bring your smartphone or tablet, and please don’t forget your chargers! We recommend setting up Skype, FaceTime, WhatsApp, or another wifi-based calling service before leaving home, and familiarizing your loved ones with it before you leave.

Payment Details

Please refer to the Price tab for specific information about price & what is included on your journey.

We accept payments via check (which we prefer) and credit card (via PayPal). For our international guests, we can accept wires, which we find is the most economical solution for everyone; please contact us for wire details.

  • Paying by Check: Checks can be made out to Insight Travels, LLC and sent to 8821 NW 14 Street, Pembroke Pines, FL 33024.
  • Paying by Credit Card or PayPal balance: You can pay with credit card or PayPal balance through the following the red buttons below.  Please click the appropriate amount to be taken to PayPal’s homepage to complete your transaction. All PayPal transactions must be in USD.  Note that you do not have to pay with your PayPal balance, but can pay with any debit or credit card.

Final installment due on April 29, 2018. We’ll provide you the amount and invoice via PayPal before the due date.

Click here to pay the $800 deposit by credit card (via PayPal)

Click here to pay the $1200 installment by credit card (via PayPal) [due by February 28, 2018] 

Registration Questions and Contract

Please click here or the green button below to complete the registration questions and contract. Your spot is considered reserved when you have submitted your deposit and completed these questions.

Please click here to download to view and download PDF of the contract for your records.

Click here to access the registration questions

FAQ: information about your visa, vaccines, money, food & more

PASSPORT/VISA

  • 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, January 6, 2019), and you’ll need two 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.

Please read this section carefully! On this itinerary, you will only be entering India once, making you eligible for a Visa on Arrival. (Please click here to make sure your country is eligible for a Visa on Arrival).  You can apply for a Visa on Arrival 4 to 120 days in advance of your arrival on this website. Please click here to read our blog about how to apply for this visa. 

If you plan on staying in India longer than 30 days, you can apply through Cox & Kings Global Services, but you must allow more time for this process (start at least 3 to 4 months before the start of the trip).

FOOD

  • 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.

Note: Due to its holy nature, Rishikesh is a vegetarian town, although it is possible to get eggs. No alcohol can be consumed in Rishikesh.

Click here for our very own Indian Food Primer!

  • 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.

HEALTH

  • 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 Scottish NHS recommendations here.

  • What about the altitude?

Please see our separate toggle on this web page about the altitude.

  • What about malaria? 

Malaria is not a risk in Ladakh or Rishikesh, but again, we request that you work with your physician or travel doctor when making these choices. Please see our blog about this topic for more information.

  • What are the physical requirements for this trip?

Participants should be able to comfortably climb stairs, slowly but in a stable fashion. Our guesthouse is at the bottom of the hill Thiksey is built on, and the prayer hall and upper temples are 8-10 stone staircase flights above.

  • Do I need travel insurance?

We require that our guests carry travel insurance because it just makes sense.  It’s a relatively small expense but affords huge peace of mind!  When choosing a travel insurance policy we require that you are covered for medical expenses including emergency repatriation. We also recommend you take out trip cancellation insurance, as this may cover cancellation penalties in certain circumstances if you have to cancel your trip unexpectedly due to illness, injury or unforeseen circumstances. We like

We like World Nomads, but ultimately you have to choose the one that is right for you. If you’re 70 years old or older, you’ll need to use a different company. We’ll be asking for confirmation of your travel insurance 60 days before your departure. Please click here to get a quote. We love the services of these companies so much that we became affiliates, so we would ask that if you do choose to purchase these policies, you do it through our links.

MONEY

  • How much money should I bring?

That is entirely up to you and how much shopping you want to do in Leh and Rishikesh.  All of your meals and transportation is covered, so you just have to gauge how much you want to spend on extras, like shopping, alcohol, massages, etc.

  • How do I get the local currency?

You can either exchange cash in India or use a local ATM (which we prefer). Just make sure you call your bank and credit card company to let them know you’ll be traveling in India, so they don’t put a hold on your card when they see it being used halfway across the world.

HOTELS

  • What kind of hotels will we be staying at?

We will be staying at the Monastery’s guesthouse (with a gorgeous view of the monastery), and although it is simple, it is clean, has hot water, an attached bathroom with a western toilet, and the occasional wifi (just being honest!) Most importantly, we are an extremely short walk to the monastery, which is beneficial for early morning pujas and class time.

In Rishikesh, we’ll be staying at a hotel on the east bank of the river, near to Ram Jhula. It, too, is simple, clean, has hot water, an attached bathroom with a western toilet, air conditioning, ceiling fan, and wifi.

  • Will I be able to charge my electronics (phone, iPad, etc)?

Yes, just be sure to bring along a 2-pin European style converter. Better yet, grab a Universal Travel Adaptor that can go with you anywhere in the world!

COMMUNICATION

  • 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 Ladakhi phone numbers ahead of time, as well as an American number good for text messages and voicemails.

Even if you have an international plan, chances are you will not get cell coverage in remote Ladakh. This is a very isolated part of the world, up high in the Himalayas, but we will do our best to ensure you are as connected as you want to be. Communication in Rishikesh is much easier due to its connectivity and abundant wifi. If you choose to bring your cellphone or tablet, you can use VoIP services such as Skype, WhatsApp, and FaceTime to connect with your loved ones at home, as well.

Travel Insurance

We require that our guests carry travel insurance because it just makes sense.  It’s a relatively small expense but affords huge peace of mind for very little cost. When choosing a travel insurance policy we require that you are covered for medical expenses including emergency repatriation. We also recommend you take out trip cancellation insurance, as this may cover cancellation penalties in certain circumstances if you have to cancel your trip unexpectedly due to illness, injury or unforeseen circumstances.

We like World Nomads, but ultimately you have to choose the one that is right for you. If you’re 70 years old or older, you’ll need to use a different company (we can advise you if you like). We’ll be asking for confirmation of your travel insurance before your departure.

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    About Jennifer Matthaei Cottrell

    After 15 years in the video sales business, which included 12 years as the Eastern Regional Manager for Orion Pictures Corporation, Jennifer Matthaei Cottrell started her own business, You’ve Got It Made, specializing in promotional products, advertising specialties, and imprinted apparel. In its 17th year of operation, You’ve Got It Made has provided branded products for such diverse companies as Central Atlantic Toyota Distributors, Catholic Charities, and DARCARS Automotive Group.

    In addition to being a successful business woman, she is a registered yoga teacher (Yoga Alliance) who has over 35 years of involvement in the Yoga community. She holds a 200-hour Certificate from Yama Studio in Baltimore, MD, and is certified in Radiant Child Yoga levels one and two, Meditation Facilitation, and Ayurvedic Wellness Counseling with an additional certification in Ayurvedic Pulse Technique. As of June 2017 she will have achieved her 500-hour RYT certification, with an eye towards becoming a Yoga Therapist.

    She currently teaches Yoga in Harrisonburg, VA at James Madison University, The Center Yoga, Rockingham County Parks and Recreation, as well as in private classes at her home studio, where she also conducts meditation classes and Ayurvedic wellness consultations.  Previously, she taught in Virginia at Blue Ridge Community College, and in Maryland at The Westminster Family Wellness Center, Yama Studio, and Carroll Community College – [email protected] summer camp program.  She has also presented Ayurvedic workshops at Yama Studios in Baltimore, MD, and at Skin and Zen, in Harrisonburg, VA.

    An arts and crafts lover from early childhood, Jennifer recently discovered Zentangle, and in October of 2013 became a Certified Zentangle Teacher. She offers this wonderfully meditative instruction through James Madison University’s Life Long Learning Institute, and Rockingham County Parks and Recreation, as well as private parties and lessons. Jennifer is always seeking opportunities to enhance her teaching of holistic wellness.

    After a recent life-changing trip to India and Nepal with RetreaTours, Jennifer has decided to share her passion for adventure, Yoga, and spiritual growth with willing fellow travelers.

    Click here to email Jennifer directly.

    About BJ and Lauren of RetreaTours

    Lauren & BJ with their dear friends Chamba (L) and Stanzin (R).

    RetreaTours is perfectly suited to facilitate your time in Ladakh. BJ Graf has been traveling to Ladakh and Thiksey Monastery since 1995. He was invited as Thiksey Monastery’s official photographer for the Dalai Lama’s Summer 2010 visit to Nubra Valley and again for HHDL’s August 2016 Thiksey Monastery visit. In addition, one of BJ’s portraits of Thiksey’s head lama, Rinpoche Kushok Nawang Chamba Stanzin, graces the cover of his recent biography.

    Having developed deep and personal connections to many lamas (monks) at Thiksey, BJ and Lauren have secured access to sacred prayer halls otherwise inaccessible to the public.  In addition, you’ll experience a warm welcome into the homes of the monks and their families in the village for tea, dinner, and thought-provoking discussions about Tibetan Buddhism.

    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 and HHDL 2

    HHDL & BJ at Thiksey, July 2016

    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 $200 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!

    Photo Album

    Please click a photo to see an enlarged version; you can use your arrow keys or mouse to navigate within the album. All photos have been taken by BJ and Lauren during their travels in these areas.