Pilgrimage to India & NepalWalking with the Buddha
with Tricycle & Andrew Olendzki
December 3-18, 2022
Walk in the footsteps of the Buddha as we explore the circuit that he walked in his time, from Lumbini to Kushinagar and each important pilgrimage site in between, on this carbon negative journey.
Trip at a Glance
- December 3-18, 2022
- This journey is triple carbon offset
- Facilitated by Buddhist scholar, teacher, and writer Andrew Olendzki
- Accompanied by James Shaheen, editor of Tricycle: The Buddhist Review
- Escorted by BJ Graf & Lauren Rathvon, owners of RetreaTours, with expert help from a local Indian guide
- Explore the iconic, transformative locations where the Buddha lived & taught
- Engage with your ‘travel sangha’ of 15 to 23 like-minded pilgrims
- Price per person of $5499 (based on double occupancy)
- Please see “Price & Inclusions” tab below for more details
- Price includes triple carbon offsetting for your entire journey
How to Register
Please click the button below to give us your name, email address, and rooming preference. Lauren will reach out to you with registration and deposit information if there is space available.
Please note that from July 22 through the end of August, we will be leading a tour in Madagascar with limited internet. We will respond to your registration interest as soon as possible and we thank you for your patience!
Click to Jump to…
- Itinerary at a Glance
- Daily Itinerary
- Price & Inclusions
- Payment Details
- Our Carbon Negative commitment
- About our Hotels
- Travel Insurance
- Packing List
- Reading List
- About Andrew Olendzki
- About James Shaheen
- About Tricycle: The Buddhist Review
- About RetreaTours
- Testimonials from past ‘Walking with the Buddha’ pilgrims
- Video album
- Photo album
Notes on COVID Protocols (click to open)
We understand this may be your first international journey since the pandemic, and we will walk you through any requirements. We welcome any questions or concerns you may have; please email Lauren@RetreaTours.com.
Proof of COVID Vaccination + Booster
RetreaTours requires all guests to show proof of vaccination and one booster before your registration for this journey is complete.
For those who have not been able to be vaccinated for medical or religious reasons, we’d be happy to help you plan a private journey that follows the same itinerary.
Requirements for Entry to India and Nepal
We will keep you updated regarding India and Nepal’s entry and/or exit COVID testing requirements.
Please keep in mind that these requirements may change and we will let you know if they are updated. Please also be aware that your home country may have testing requirements to fly home. We can help arrange these tests, although they are not included in the trip cost.
Depending on local regulations at the time of the trip, face masks may be required at points during this journey (and you are always welcome to wear them whenever you like). We will keep you informed as the trip gets closer.
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
From Andrew Olendzki
“I have been to India several times, originally as a young man in 1979 with a one-way ticket, no agenda, and a taste for adventure. I later spent some time doing research in Rajgir, an ancient capital in the time of the Buddha, where I was focused on using the descriptions and stories from the early texts to imagine what his experience in the region might have been like.
“I led a Tricycle tour of Buddhist sites in 2007, and among other things read some of the Buddha’s discourses in the very places where they were originally delivered—both in English and in Pali.
“I am interested in leading an experiential exploration of the classical pilgrimage sites, joining meditation sessions each day, giving talks at each of the important sites we will visit, and facilitating discussion groups in the evening (all voluntary, of course).
“I look forward to sharing another adventure with you all.”
Itinerary at a Glance
December 3 Arrive in New Delhi, India (overnight in New Delhi) We have also arranged a pre-pilgrimage trip to the Taj Mahal, December 1-3.
December 4 Fly to Varanasi, India, the sacred city along the banks of the holy Ganges River (overnight in Varanasi)
December 5 Today we discover Sarnath, the site of Buddha’s first sermon in the Deer Park (overnight in Varanasi)
December 6 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)
December 7 Today we’ll drive to Bodh Gaya, the site where the Buddha attained enlightenment (overnight in Bodh Gaya)
December 8 Explore the Mahabodhi temple and the Bodhi Tree that commemorate Buddha’s liberation (overnight in Bodh Gaya)
December 9 We’ll visit the nearby Mahakala Caves, where the Buddha practiced asceticism for years before discovering the Middle Way (overnight in Bodh Gaya)
December 10-11 Explore the wealth of Buddhist sites around Rajgir, including Vulture’s Peak and the Bamboo Forest (overnight in Rajgir)
December 12 Wander the impressive ruins of the ancient university at Nalanda, a center of Buddhist learning (overnight in Patna)
December 13 Visit Vaishali, the site where the Buddha first ordained nuns, then continue on to Kushinagar (overnight in Kushinagar)
December 14 Today we’ll take the time to explore the sites of where the Buddha entered Mahaparinirvana (overnight in Kushinagar)
December 15 Cross the border into Nepal and continue on to Lumbini, the birthplace of the Buddha (overnight in Lumbini)
December 16 Discover the peaceful grounds of the Maya Devi temple and Lumbini Park (overnight in Lumbini)
December 17 Explore Nepal’s Kapilavastu site, where the Buddha spent his first 29 years (overnight in Lumbini)
December 18 Our journey together ends today. We’ll help arrange a flight from Lumbini to Kathmandu. You can continue your adventure in Nepal or head home and reflect on your experience of Walking with the Buddha.
The beginning of our journey!
Walking with the Buddha 2022 Daily Itinerary
The practical daily itinerary below is an outline of the sites we will be visiting.
Throughout our time together, Andrew Olendzki will lead discussions, meditation, and will weave a powerful narrative throughout all of the sites we experience. You’ll also be joined by Tricycle editor James Shaheen, as well as BJ Graf and Lauren Rathvon, the owners of RetreaTours. An expert Buddhist Circuit Indian guide will lead us along this journey, imparting historical and cultural wisdom.
Welcome to India!
For those of you interested in a pre-pilgrimage journey to the Taj Mahal from December 1-3, please see the “Taj Mahal Extension” tab below for details.
You’ll arrive in New Delhi, India on December 3. We can help you make arrangements to arrive before then, if you wish to explore or get a jump on jet lag! We’ll stay in a comfortable hotel in New Delhi’s Aerocity near the airport, and we’ll get a good night’s rest before tomorrow’s 90-minute flight to Varanasi, the sacred Hindu city set along the Ganges River.
Sarnath & Varanasi
On December 5th, we’ll take a short drive (~30 minutes) to Sarnath. This is where the Buddha journeyed after his enlightenment in Bodh Gaya, and it is here that he encountered the five men who had been his companions throughout his austerities. He preached his first sermon in the Deer Park to set in motion the ‘Wheel of the Dharma,’ the founding of Buddhism.
On December 6th, 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.
Tomorrow we’ll drive to Bodh Gaya (~6 hours), where we’ll spend the nights of December 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.”
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.
Rajgir & Nalanda
On the 10th we’ll drive to Rajgir (~2.5 to 3 hours) where we’ll spend two nights. 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 seasons.
We’ll explore the nearby ruins of Nalanda on the morning of the 12th. Nalanda was 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.”
After our Nalanda exploration, we’ll head to the city of Patna (~2-hour drive), where we will spend the night. Tomorrow morning we’ll visit Vaishali (~2-hour drive) en route to Kushinagar (~4 hours), where we will spend two nights. 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 on to Kushinagar. 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.
On December 15th we’ll cross the border into Nepal and head to Lumbini, the birthplace of the Buddha (~4 to 5-hour drive, plus time for immigration at the border). 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 morning 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.
Our pilgrimage ends on the morning of the 18th in Lumbini. If you wish to explore the beauty of Nepal’s mountains, national parks & wildlife, and rich culture, let us help! We can even arrange a private trip to Bhutan, a short and scenic flight from Kathmandu.
Please note: This journey ends in Lumbini, Nepal. When this journey was first planned, flights were slated to open from Lumbini to New Delhi. Sadly, those flights are now a year behind schedule and have not started. However, we have acquired a group ticket from Lumbini to Kathmandu, Nepal. You may wish to extend your time around Boudhanath Stupa in Kathmandu. You can fly home from Kathmandu, Nepal, or you can fly directly from Kathmandu back to New Delhi if you have a roundtrip ticket from your home airport to New Delhi.
Please click the title of the desired tab to open it.
Taj Mahal Extension
If you’ve always wanted to see the Taj Mahal, we can help! Here is the pre-journey itinerary we’ve created for a visit to this iconic monument:
- December 1st: You’ll arrive in New Delhi. A night at the Aerocity Novotel is included, as well as airport pickup. (This is the same hotel you’ll go back to on the 3rd so if you wish to leave your luggage there and just bring an overnight bag to the Taj Mahal, that is fine!) Dinner is included tonight. (If you arrive earlier than December 1st, we can help arrange a hotel for you.)
- December 2nd: In the morning we’ll drive to Agra. We’ll be using as many comfortable SUVs and/or minivans as we need instead of a larger vehicle so we can get there much more quickly. The drive will be approximately 4 hours. We’ll tour other sites in Agra today, including Agra Fort and other sites as time allows. Your night at the Taj Convention hotel is included, as are all meals today.
- December 3rd: This morning we’ll wake up early and pay a visit to the Taj Mahal at sunrise, a magical time to be there! After our visit, we’ll eat breakfast drive back to the Novotel in Delhi to meet up with the rest of our sangha and begin our pilgrimage. (Your hotel and dinner tonight are included in the Walking with the Buddha journey.)
Included on the Taj Mahal extension
All meals (starting with dinner on the 1st), hotel night in Delhi on the 1st and Agra on the 2nd, all entry fees to sites, and all tips (although you may wish to give more to our guide Harsh if you love his services!), as well as our usual triple carbon offsetting.
As a bonus, BJ and I will actually be joining you on this journey; we absolutely couldn’t stand the thought of you being in India and us not hanging out with you! We’ll be on hand to take photos of you at the Taj Mahal (fun!) and although our local guide is 100% capable and amazing, it can’t hurt to have two more folks smoothing the way for you on your first days in India.
Cost per person, with a roommate: $425
Cost per person, private room: $539
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 on foot in his life. It is necessary to travel primarily 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 15 registered guests and a maximum of 23 guests, in addition to BJ and Lauren of RetreaTours and a representative from Tricycle: The Buddhist Review. Once we reach our minimum of 15 registered guests, we can start advising on international airfare and trip extensions.
Price & What is Included
This journey’s fee is $5499 USD, with a single supplement of $995 (please read further for more information about the single supplement).
This price only covers the actual retreat, not international airfare (for a full list of inclusions, please see below).
When registration opens, a $1000 deposit holds your space. The second installment of $2500 is due by June 15, 2022 and the balance is due by August 1, 2022. The single supplement is due along with the last installment.
If you prefer to have your own room, the single supplement ($995) 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 particular single supplement, although high, is actually subsidized by RetreaTours, 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 December 3 to December 17
- All meals in India and Nepal, from dinner on December 3 until breakfast on December 18 (*except one lunch on December 4 at the airport)
- All ground transportation within India and Nepal
- Flight from New Delhi to Varanasi, India
- Airport transportation upon arrival
- All site fees
- Tips at hotels and restaurants
- Tips to local expert guide and driver
- Funding to the Tricycle Foundation
- Triple carbon offsets for your entire journey (door to door)
Price does not include:
- International airfare (although we will be more than happy to advise you!)
- Flight from Lumbini, Nepal to Kathmandu ($100 USD)
- Indian visa fee (we will advise on the entire visa process; a 30-day visa will cost ~$25 USD)
- Nepal visa fee (~$30 USD)
- Travel insurance (required)
- 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 Lauren@RetreaTours.com 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.
FAQ: Visas, Health, Food, Money & more
- Passport and Visa information
- Health & Vaccines, 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, June 18, 2023), 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 and use tap water in 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-malarial drugs, 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’ll provide us with 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), 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.
- 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 communication 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 New Delhi for our time in India. However, as we are crossing overland into Nepal in a rural area, there is no convenient place to purchase a Nepal SIM card for our 3 night stay there.
- 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.
About our Hotels
We have carefully chosen each hotel based on comfort, location, and safety. These are our intended hotels for each stop on our journey:
- New Delhi: Novotel Aerocity
- Varanasi: Hotel Madin
- Bodh Gaya: Hotel Anand International
- Rajgir: Indo Hokke
- Patna: Lemon Tree
- Kushinagar: The Imperial Kushinagar
- Lumbini: Buddha Maya Gardens Resort
Each of our hotels will have a private ensuite bathroom, air conditioning, and WiFi access (although in some locations the connection will not extend to the rooms and will only be usable in common areas like the lobby or restaurant).
About many Indian and 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.
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. You may even wish to consider a “Cancel for Any Reason” policy.
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.
Because the new flights from Lumbini to New Delhi have not begun yet, a flight into New Delhi and out of Kathmandu is your best bet. However, if you wish to purchase a roundtrip ticket to New Delhi, you can fly from Kathmandu to New Delhi on the evening of the 18th (after your flight from Lumbini to Kathmandu).
Expected Temperatures & Suggested Packing List
The expected and historical temperatures on this journey range between 55°F (12°C) at nights and 85°F (29°C) during the day. This means mornings and late evenings might be cool, but temperatures will get warmer 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 December because the temperatures are quite pleasant and we avoid the fog (that can slow drive times) typical of January and February.
Updated packing list coming soon!
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.
Our Carbon Negative Commitment
Please visit our Carbon Negative page to learn more about what we are doing to mitigate the impact of our collective journey, including a triple carbon offset credit to cover not only your time in India and Nepal, but travel to and from your home.
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We purchase triple carbon offsets for your travels with us—that’s from your home, through the entire tour, and back to your home again, times three!
You may have heard the term “carbon neutral,” which means that a company offsets as much carbon as it produces. With this 300% offset, RetreaTours is actually offsetting more carbon than we produce each year, making us “carbon negative” (or “climate positive,” which has a nicer ring to it!)
Since 2012 we’ve focused on making travel safe and easy for our guests; with our triple carbon offset tours, we’re pleased to make our trips as sustainable as they are memorable.
Please write to Lauren for any questions you may have about this journey. If you have not received a reply within 48 hours, please do check your spam folder.
About Andrew Olendzki
Andrew Olendzki is a professor at Lesley University in Cambridge MA, and the director of its graduate program in Mindfulness Studies. He is a scholar of early Buddhist thought and practice with a special interest in Buddhist psychology and its relevance to the modern world.
Prior to joining Lesley he worked for more than 25 years in Barre, MA, first as the original executive director of the Insight Meditation Society and then as executive director and senior scholar at the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies, where his focus was upon the integration of academic study with the practice of meditation.
He has taught at many New England colleges, was a senior scholar at the Mind & Life Institute, and is on the board of the Institute for Meditation and Psychotherapy. He writes regularly for Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, has contributed chapters to a dozen books, and is the author of Unlimiting Mind: The Radically Experiential Psychology of Buddhism (Wisdom 2010) and Untangling Self: A Buddhist Investigation of Who We Really Are (Wisdom 2016).
About Tricycle: The Buddhist Review
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.
About James Shaheen
James Shaheen is editor of Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, an international quarterly magazine devoted to making Buddhist teachings and practices accessible to the general public. James joined Tricycle in 1996 and in recent years has focused on developing new programs to bring Buddhist teachings to a Western audience. James also currently serves as executive director of the Tricycle Foundation, the not-for-profit that publishes Tricycle.
About BJ and Lauren of RetreaTours
BJ Graf and Lauren Rathvon have traveled the globe year-round since January 2013, researching, designing, and leading impactful journeys. We are deeply grateful for the trust that our guests place in us to save them time and resources while they enjoy a memorable journey.
We are committed not only to our guests, but to our host destinations and the planet. We engage with local businesses and guides to keep money within the community, and we triple carbon-offset each of our tours.
We invite you to visit our Testimonials page to see what other people have to say about us!
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.
Please click a photo to see an enlarged version and the location; you can use your arrow keys or mouse to navigate within the album.
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.