This time we will have a look at the Himalayas Sacred River Tour in our study abroad segment Around the World, The St. Mary’s Way. The Himalayas tour is led by our very own Religious Studies Associate Professor Daniel Meckel and his co-leader, Professor and Director of Music Studies Scott Sater from Minnesota. This year Meckel and Sater will be going on their most extensive trek yet through Northern India, where they and a group of students will practice yoga and meditation, fully immersing themselves into the culture of India by way of religious studies.
As Professor Meckel mentioned during a recent interview, “When it comes to India the study of religion is the study of life; it’s that deeply ingrained into every aspect of the day for the indigenous people furthermore you cannot know the world without knowing religion.” Amanda Hastings, a student who attended the last tour, said, “This tour was amazing and kind of life changing, especially if you like the outdoors and exploring new things. I still vividly remember having conversations with other students, the tour leaders, and people we met along the way that radically changed my world view. I am honestly a better person because I went on this tour.”
Graduating senior Mary Ann Gill states, “If you’re going to India, you should know that it’s not for the faint of heart. There will be language barriers, “squatty potties,” poverty, illness, very relaxed driving rules, catcalls, heat waves, and tourist traps to cope with. The good far outweighs the bad, though, and you will be so grateful you went outside your comfort zone!”
That statement sums up this entire experience where you can have the full spectrum of amenities, from bathing in rivers and barrels to living like a Raj in his palace. Temperatures can vary greatly from the extremely hot to the bitter cold; but the good news is during your hiking there is a kitchen crew in addition to the trail guide and porters that mean you won’t have to carry anything, set up a tent, or cook a meal; however, be warned you should probably still pack light. According to Amanda, “You won’t have to carry your whole bag up a mountain, but you may have to carry it on your back for several city blocks.”
Mary Ann gives similar advice to students who may be interested in attending the upcoming 2017 Summer tour; she says she “would recommend that students strategize to gather a set of durable, modest clothing that will mix and match easily without over packing. There is a great packing tip that, in my experience, works well for both clothes and accessories – make a pile of everything you think you will need and then only pack half!”
Beyond weather, peer recommendations, and concerns, which, beyond the ones listed by Mary Ann, are few and far between, this adventure is available for all students. It is recommended you be in decent physical conditioning—for those who get tired on the main pilgrimage trails, horses can be provided; there is also a comfort food option with every meal for those who do not take to the cuisine right away and need a short adjustment period.
Unlike our last issue, which covered the SMCM Greece Tour, India does require you to have a visa; however, the entire cost for the trip is also only a little below four thousand dollars. Quite the deal for spending more than three weeks halfway around the world. In the next issue we’ll be covering the theatrical side of jolly ol’ England as well as many more St. Mary’s College of Maryland.