A Soul-Stirring Place That Leaves You Wanting More

Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
On May 24, 2014, my fiancé, Andy, and I got married in New York City. A week later, we hopped on a plane with two carry-on suitcases and two one-way tickets to Paris. We had just pressed pause on our careers, sublet our apartment, and moved all of our things into storage. The only plan was to have no plans at all — and we ended up traveling for 394 days through 25 countries, stopping in nearly 100 destinations. Over the next few weeks, come along on this crazy journey to learn more about how we did it — packing, plotting, budgeting — and see some of the tens of thousands of photos we took along the way.

Our trip to Morocco marked the beginning of a whole new chapter in our journey. We were starting to explore countries and cultures truly foreign to us and we felt all of our senses heighten. What is this new smell? What is this new taste? What is this new sound? Everything in Europe had been quite familiar and easy, but after Morocco, we were in a constant spin cycle of change, confusion, excitement, admiration, discomfort, awe, and wonder.

No country put us through the roller coaster of these emotions more than India. People always ask us if we have a favorite destination, and we always say it’s an impossible question to answer because each location and culture is so wildly different and special in its own way... But then we seem to always follow it up by saying, well, India. After being home for nearly five months now, I can confidently say that it was the one place that really got under our skin. Both Andy and I were so curious about this country we knew so little about, that we gave ourselves an entire month to explore it before heading to Nepal for 10 days. It was the longest we stayed in any one country on our journey.

India is a land that has lived a thousand lives, has spectacular art and history, some of the most unique and flavorful cuisine in the world, a beautiful devotion to religion, and a strong sense of community. It proved to be as colorful, vibrant, and alive as I imagined, but I wasn’t prepared for just how chaotic and seemingly lawless parts of it could be. It is a country of contradictions and contrasts.

What also made India stand out was the mutual fascination and shared curiosity that we hadn’t really experienced yet on the trip. While I was fascinated by their customs, religion and dress, people in India wanted to know what we did for a living, how we met and dated, and how young we were when we got married. It was humbling to tell them we were traveling across the world, when many people we met couldn’t afford to even leave their state. The modest hotel rooms we could afford felt like mansions compared to the corrugated-steel sided shanties we passed on the road. Carrying our fancy electronics and gear seemed utterly materialistic when so many people just wanted clean water. And yet, every person we met was incredibly hospitable, humorous, and generous. They were proud of their beautiful country, its illustrious past, and its current wave of economic and technological growth. This openness, discovery, and dialogue is what travel is all about, and is what made this trip stand out above the rest for us.

India put a lens up to my lifestyle and the extreme advantages so many of us take for granted. It changed me, my perception of the world, and my place in it. There’s no more powerful experience to have than that.



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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
Our first stop in India was the city of Mumbai. We would spend two quick days here before flying to the southern state of Kerala. We were amazed by the efficiency of the people. We saw the famous Dhobi Ghat, which is the largest open air laundromat in the world. All of the clothing is washed by hand, beaten against stones, and hung to dry. It made you wonder if you had ever worked a hard day in your life.

In addition to this, we saw men pushing huge wheelbarrows full of lunch pails through the streets of the city. Our guide explained that these men, called dabbawalas, are part of a lunch delivery service. They take hot, home-cooked lunches from the homes to the offices of hundreds of thousands of people every day. Many of them come from small villages and lack reading skills, so the lunches are labeled with a numeric code that gets them from A to B. They are so famous for their accuracy, I’ve heard that they make one mistake in every six million deliveries. Take that, Seamless!
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
The word thali literally means plate in Hindi, and that’s exactly what this dish is — a large platter filled with small portions of various dishes in a range of flavors. I’d like to say that Andy and I weren’t complete Indian food novices when we arrived in Mumbai, but I remember slightly panicking when this platter was set down in front of us. I wasn’t really sure how to approach this. What goes with what? I didn’t want to be the clueless person doing the equivalent of putting sugar on top of my French fries. I prodded the waiter for tips, but he just plopped more (and more) food onto my plate. You often received endless portions with this platter. In the end, I did embarrass myself by accidentally dipping the garlic naan into my pudding.

It’s common in India for people to eat with their hands (always one and typically the right) and we did try that many times, but let me tell you, it is a fine art to break apart naan bread and scoop up curry with just the fingertips of one hand. We were always excused for our lack of dining skills and happily offered some silverware.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
With its endless festivals, India can feel like it’s in a constant state of celebration. Our very first night in Mumbai was also the first night of the Hindu festival Navratri. Navratri lasts nine days and 10 nights, and is dedicated to the worship of the Hindu deity Durga. That night we blindly wandered out of our hotel and stumbled down some barely lit roads until we came upon a little neighborhood bursting with lights, music, and people dancing in the streets. We hadn’t been there more than five minutes when a little girl came out of the crowd and begged us to join her dance circle. There were about 20 young people dancing together on the street with music blaring like a real life musical. We were so shocked by her openness and desire to share this experience with total strangers. It was an all-inclusive celebration of life.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
After our short stay in Mumbai, we flew down to Kerala which is known as “God’s Own Country” for its abundance of natural beauty. There’s also a mix of religions, such as Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity, co-existing there. Kerala is a land of lush greenery, brilliant beaches, exotic animals and spices. And in contrast to bustling Mumbai, it felt serene and laid-back.

We began a road trip through the state from the coastal city of Kochi. We rented a car and hired a driver through a tour agency a friend of ours had worked with on his own visit. That might sound like a very luxurious way to travel, but in India it was more than reasonable for the amount of miles we were covering, and for the lack of reliable public transportation. We spent two days exploring the historical town of Fort Kochi, which has been drawing explorers for over 600 years. Because of this, Kochi is an interesting mashup of Portuguese houses, Chinese fishing traditions, and relics from the British occupation. Here, the ubiquitous tuk-tuk sits under a massive tree near the coastline.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
While in Kochi, we caught a traditional Kathakali performance. Kathakali is one of the oldest forms of theater in the world — originating in the area that is now known as Kerala over 1,500 years ago. It’s based on Hindu mythology and combines music, dance, drama, costume, and elaborate makeup. The performers do not speak, but use purposeful body movements and exaggerated facial expressions to convey the story. This performance began with the two artists sitting on the stage applying their makeup — which was an artform in itself. Then, one performer went through a facial expression exercise which boggled our minds. He displayed how he could shift his eyes up and down at a rapid pace. That might sound simple, but try darting your eyes up and down about 10 times without feeling like you’re going to faint. Finally, we got to experience a shortened version of this elaborate performance, which can sometimes last for days.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
From Kochi, we drove through Athirapally, where we stopped to view some famous waterfalls. Our next stop was the town of Munnar in the Western Ghats mountains, known for its tea production. I’ll never forget winding through the narrow, slippery roads of this densely forested area for hours as rain pounded down on us. We could barely see what was in front of us. The rain finally stopped, the mist cleared away, and the thick forest opened up to tea fields for as far as the eye could see — endless rolling hills of these perfectly manicured hedges.

We passed the field and began winding up and up the cliffside roads until we reached our hotel, which was so high that it actually felt like it was in the clouds. Every morning, the mist was so thick that we couldn’t see even five feet out our window. But in a couple hours, it would completely dissolve, and sun would shoot across this surreal landscape. We ended up getting a tour of an old tea factory and learned that India is the second largest producer of tea in the world after China.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
We made a quick stop in Thekkady before driving on to Alleppey, the home of the backwaters. Exploring the network of canals and waterways that make up the backwaters was an activity recommended to us by multiple sources. So, we decided to splurge on the experience and rented a houseboat for one overnight stay. These fully equipped floating hotels include a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, and little lounge area in the front. There was also a crew that manned the boat. It was slow travel at its finest. We just cruised along the river, observing the daily life on the backwaters.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
A pop of pink.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
Andy, taking in the views.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
On our drive from Alleppey to the coastal town of Varkala, we zipped past what appeared to be a massive festival right along the main highway. What really caught our eye were these giant bulls at the center of the activity. We asked our driver, who spoke very little English, what was going on and he pulled the car over to the side of the road and encouraged us to head in and find out…
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
We passed under this archway, which we came to learn was part of the ancient Ochira Temple in the Kollam district of Kerala. The festival was Erupethettam onam, which is celebrated every year in Ochira on the 28th day of the Onam festival. Onam is a harvesting festival, and the national festival of Kerala, and lasts for 10 days. We were seeing the cattle portion, which includes a procession of these gigantic idols of bulls made out of cloth and hay. In very Indian fashion, it was sensory overload — an explosion of people, celebration, and color.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
This is of my favorite photos and one that so accurately depicts the camaraderie on full display in India. It’s not unusual to see little boys and grown men holding hands or embracing in public. In Indian culture, it’s a common demonstration of friendship. It’s amazing how something so simple and pure could feel so foreign to me. I couldn’t help but do a double take whenever I saw two teenage boys in a tight embrace on the streets, but I loved it. I’m all for shipping this philosophy worldwide. I think we just need more hand-holding in America.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
When I think of India, I can’t help but think of these beautiful, electric-colored flower garlands. You see them sold on every street corner, decorating tuk-tuks and trucks, in women’s hair and littering the streets. They’re used in festivals and weddings, and as offering to the Hindu deities in daily worship. Marigolds are commonly used, like these garlands being sold at the Ochira Temple, but I loved the ones made of fragrant jasmine. I saw that picking up your string of garland in the morning was a ritual as common as grabbing your morning coffee in the West.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
After our pit-stop in Ochira, we made it to the beach town of Varkala. And like so many destinations on our journey through India, what I so vividly remember was the color. The land along the coast went from a gradient of rich, red earth to vibrant green algae on the rocks. The dense foliage was punctuated with colored huts and in some areas patches of black sand sliced across the light.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
We learned that the little cliff-edge town was a bit of a backpacker haven, so we were quite content at our hotel which was more removed from the scene. We stayed in a bungalow right on the beach and spent most of our time lounging, reading, watching these epic sunsets, and eating the mind-blowing food prepared by our hotel. We had loved pretty much everything we'd eaten in India, but this hotel took it to the next level. In the mornings, we’d watch local fishermen sail out into the water on a little dingy made of three curved wooden logs roped together. They would retrieve their fishing nets and return with buckets full of fish that they divvied up on the beach. Andy had a meal here that turned out to be one of the best things he’d eat on the whole trip — an enormous whole butter fish, covered in masala and cooked in a banana leaf. It cost an unbelievable $8.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
Our last stop in Kerala was the little beach town of Kovalam. Then, we hopped on a flight to the city of Udaipur in the northern state of Rajasthan. While we loved the nature and laid-back vibe of Kerala, we were in awe of the cities of Rajasthan. It’s the fantastical version of India you probably have in your head — grand palaces, maharajas, men and women in beautiful and elaborate dress. Here are views of Udaipur from the City Palace, which was built in 1559 by Udai Singh II, the Maharana of Mewar and founder of the city. It’s the largest royal palace in the state and famous for its intricate mirror work, mosaics, and murals.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
Details of some of the glass inlay work on the palace walls.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
Udaipur is known as the city of lakes and one of the most romantic cities in the world. Even the influx of tourism can’t spoil the beauty of this city that feels like it’s floating on water. We took a boat tour on Lake Pichola, a man-made lake that borders the City Palace. The reflection of the buildings in the water made it look like there were two cities sitting on top of each other.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
We had lunch in this lovely window seat with views of Lake Pichola. In the left you can see a sliver of the famous Lake Palace, which was built in 1743 under Maharana Jagat Singh II as a family resort. It was built on top of a little island in the lake called Jag Niwas, so the building appears to be floating. The structure has been turned into a luxury hotel now called the Taj Lake Palace.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
I love this photo, because it sums up the chaos of the city streets. Outside of grand palaces, this what so much of India looks like.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
En route to the city of Jaipur, we stopped in Chittorgarh where we visited the Chittorgarh Fort. Built in the seventh century, it is the largest fort complex in India and a World Heritage Site. We learned the rich history of the fort and heard tales about famous Indian warriors, beautiful princesses, and jauhar — which is basically when queens and female royals choose suicide over being captured. This terrible act happened three times over the fort’s history, ending the lives of thousands of women. These stories have made Chittorgarh Fort a symbol of courage and nationalism in India.

It was refreshing to be at a site that was slightly off the beaten path, and where most tourists seemed to be local Indian people. Here, a line of visitors heads toward Vijay Stambha, Tower of Victory, which is a victory monument built of red sandstone dedicated to the Hindu deity Vishnu.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
As we strolled through the fort complex, we were often greeted by some hard stares from local tourists. Men like my 6-foot-4, white, red-headed husband are probably not a common sight around those parts, but as in many places we visited, staring wasn't considered rude here. I couldn’t help but stare back sometimes, although I usually tried to do it when people weren’t looking. I was absolutely in love with dress in Rajasthan. Unlike Kerala, where the style is more simple elegance, the sarees in Rajasthan are bright, patterned, and often decorated with mirror work or embroidery. I got the opportunity to admire a few when this group of women was looking toward the palace of Rani Padmini. The story of Padmini seems to be a mix of history and folklore. She was the queen of Chittor in the 1300s and her famous beauty incited an invasion of the fort by the current king of India. The tale ends with Padmini throwing herself into a fire to avoid being captured, another example of jauhar — which seemed to be common theme at Chittorgarh Fort. Yikes.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
After Chittorgarh we stopped in Bundi, a city famous for its blue washed buildings and 800-year-old Taragarh Fort. (You’ll have to Google that. I wish I could share every picture!) Then, we started our drive toward the small village of Bijaipur. Since our journey through India was really two big road trips, we spent hours driving, and hours just looking out of our windows. The amazing thing is that we hardly ever spoke, but we were never bored. I think we were just transfixed by the sights we saw and the world going by — how people lived, how they worked, and how they played. On this particular drive, I was shocked to see how many women were out in the fields doing back-breaking farm work in the beating sun. Not only that, but they were doing it draped in their elaborate sarees.

After hours of countryside, we finally arrived at Castle Bijaipur, a 16th century castle which was converted into a hotel by the ruling family in 1991. It was by far the coolest place we stayed on our journey through India. You couldn’t help but be transported to another time. See me on the bench in the front? It helps put the scale of this castle into perspective.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
During our stay, we decided to explore the little village outside of the castle. Maybe tourists never wander out of the castle complex, because we were literally stopping traffic as we strolled the streets. We even had a few school children, following us around and giggling for a while, until they finally pointed to our camera and confessed to wanting a photo taken of them. India certainly marked a turning point in my photography. Until then, I had been very wary of taking photos of people. We had some unpleasant experiences in Morocco where people would shout and demand money, even if you were just taking a photo of an object near them. But in India, they were excited and flattered to have their photos taken, and it gave me the confidence to approach more people. When there was a language barrier, I just raised by camera and smiled, and they would just nod back. An unspoken agreement was made. I had a pretty strict rule of only sticking my camera in the face of people who had agreed to it. Otherwise, I felt like I was taking something from them, using them somehow. These wordless exchanges resulted in some of my favorite photos from the trip — an authentic moment of pride, happiness, or in this case, curiosity and shyness.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
The streets of the village in Bijaipur.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
Okay, let’s talk about these trucks! They’re everywhere. They’re hand-painted from top to bottom and are often adorned in garlands, lights, streamers, and glitter. The reason for this is that the truck serves as its owner's home, tool of the trade, and often referred to as his “second wife.” They’re simply beloved machines, so why not decorate them? Our driver couldn’t seem to grasp why I found this so amusing. I tried to explain that trucks, and homes, and many things in America are, like, white, brown, gray…

My dad is a truck driver, so I may still have to try to get him on board with this philosophy.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
One of my favorite things about road tripping through India is the sights you would see out your window on the highway. Number one, cows. Cows are sacred in Hinduism, so they’re plentiful in India… and lazy… and pretty much fearless. We had to swerve around a herd of cows lounging across multiple lanes of the highway a few times. Number two, balancing multiple people and animals on motorbikes. We saw families of five go by on one bike. We even saw a guy with two goats strapped across the back seat cruise by once. (I actually think he wins.) Number three, camels! Why not…
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
Number four, the death-defying clown car move. Keep in mind that we’re going 60 miles per hour down a highway. I realize that many people can’t afford to own a car, and so they’re making the most of the situation, but this kind of anything-goes transport is shocking when you can get a ticket for just about anything while driving in America.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
We finally made it to Jaipur and were greeted by this scene on the outskirts of the city. Sadly, this is an all too common sight in India. It’s really hard for me to even explain the sanitation and pollution issues in this country. I saw little toddlers playing in it, cows eating it, and tuk-tuks rolling through it. What’s really shocking and upsetting about the garbage situation in India, is that this country produces a fraction of the waste that America does. All I could think about as we drove past this scene time and time again was where does it all go in America? We’re rich enough to hide the byproducts of our mass consumerism, so we don’t have to think about it, which is why so few people care about or make an effort to curb our wastefulness.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
Jaipur is known as the Pink City because of the color of the sandstone used in many of its buildings. I’d say it’s more of a salmon/coral. Here is a shot of the famous Hawa Mahal, or Palace of Winds, which is actually an extension of the City Palace. This structure is deceiving because it looks like a five-story building, but it’s really a large facade covered in 953 small windows. The windows are covered in tiny latticework screens which allowed the women of the royal household to observe life in the street without being seen.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
One of the most impressive structures we saw in this region was the Amber Fort. The complex stretches across four sections, each with its own entry gate and courtyard. Here is a shot of the detailed Ganesh Pol entrance. I could create a whole album of photos just of this spectacular palace. Each space was so unique and so lavishly decorated.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
Outside of the Amber fort in Jaipur.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
The intricate gardens in the Amber fort.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
Another impressive attraction was Jantar Mantar, a site with a collection of architectural astronomical instruments, built by Sawai Jai Singh in 1738. Here we are with the world’s largest sundial.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
A common street scene with the pink walls of Jaipur as a backdrop.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
Jaipur was one of our favorite cities in India. We loved the architecture, the markets, the art and crafts, but mostly we loved the people. We were lucky enough to be in India for the beginning of Diwali, the annual festival of lights, and most important holiday of the year. The history of the holiday is based on the legend of Lord Rama and his wife who return home after defeating the demon king Ravanna. The main spiritual concept is the victory of light over darkness or good versus evil. Since Diwali also marks the beginning of the new financial year, many Indians honor Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, during the celebrations.

We decided to hop in a tuk-tuk one night and ask the driver to just wind us through the city streets so we could see the lights on display. We lucked out by hailing our friend here, who was more than eager to share a bit of his culture with us. He gave us the grand tour of decorations and pulled the tuk-tuk over multiple times so we could all hop out and sample market treats. He even bought us some rock candy he said we must try. He was a funny guy and a straight-shooter. He nearly ran over a man on a bicycle and then cursed him out for not driving safely. It was the characters like him who really made a place.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
From Jaipur, we drove onto the city Agra, the home of the Taj Mahal. We thought we might beat the crowds by heading over to the complex before the sun rose. We walked from our hotel through the pitch black streets with that now familiar smell of the ashes of burning garbage still in the air. When we arrived, we were surprised to find that a line that already formed by 5:30 in the morning. I got the feeling that were very few peaceful times to see this world famous structure. It was quite surreal to walk through the large gates that lead to this scene. Its image is so famous, it almost seems fake in front of you. This particular morning was a bit misty and our photos capture the dreamy haze that surrounded the building.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
The Taj Mahal was built in 1632 by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan to house the tomb of his favorite wife Mumtaz Mahal. This up-close shot of one of the archways on the side of the building gives you a sense of its scale. What impressed me the most about the Taj was the intricate carving and inlay work that covered absolutely every inch of the exterior and interior of the building. The most stunning parts were the passages from the Qur'an in calligraphy that appeared to be painted, but were actually black marble inlaid in white marble. Talk about attention to detail!
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
Andy getting the scoop on the Taj from our guide with a pretty impressive backdrop.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
From Agra, we took an overnight train to the holy city of Varanasi on the banks of the Ganges river. Varanasi is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world with great significance to several religions. Buddha is believed to have founded Buddhism here. And Hindus believe that the waters of Ganges is sacred and make pilgrimages to come and bathe in it or cremate their loved ones. They believe that dying in the city will bring salvation or moksha (release from the cycle of birth and death.)

Before heading to the river, we went to explore the area known as Sarnath, where Buddha gave his first sermon. This is an image of the prayer wheels besides the Buddhist temple Mulagandha Kuti Vihar. It would be the first of many times we’d see them as we headed further east into Asia. Prayer wheels are hollow metal cylinders, mounted on a rod, which contain a scroll with a mantra printed on it. Buddhists believe that spinning the wheel is just as effective as reciting the prayer aloud, so many people walk round and round these rows of wheels giving each wheel a spin.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
By sunset, we, and the rest of the city, starting making our way toward the Ganges river. Not much can prepare you for the chaos of that mass movement. It felt like the entire city was moving through the streets at once — people, tuk-tuks, cars, and cows all shoulder to shoulder. We finally got to the main ghat (steps that descended to the river) and it was lined with people, some very healthy, some who looked very sick, and some begging for money. Young boys ran up to us and tried to sell us votive candles. All the while, the elaborate nightly fire ceremony, aarti, was being performed by holy men in honor of the river. We got into a little dingy, with the rest of the tourists, and looked back toward the steps in awe of the scene in front of us.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
After the ceremony, our little boat started to sail slightly farther down the river. We lit our magnolia votive candle and released it onto the holy Ganges with a wish. Our boat pulled up to the ghat where the cremations take place. It was one of the most chilling and moving things I’d ever experienced. There was a great fire burning, very clearly a body in the pile, a congregation of family and the individuals who work the cremation grounds. These men were born into this occupation through the caste system and are known as doms. The cremations happen around the clock, 24 hours a day, and allegedly the flame of the fire has never gone out. I suddenly felt somewhat ashamed of being there, of gawking at this ritual. I couldn’t imagine anything more personal or sacred. I’m still amazed that they let tourists into the city. But the thing that surprised me the most about Varanasi was that I didn’t feel death everywhere, I felt life. The burning of the body isn’t supposed to a sad event, but a celebration. The city actually felt alive with the celebration of life.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
The next morning we went back down to the Ganges for a sunrise cruise along the river. The same scenes were even more surreal in the beautiful morning light.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
It may go without saying that the Ganges is one of the most polluted rivers in the world. Our guide told us that if you die in Varanasi, you get to be cremated along the river. In which case, the last bone left in the fire is actually what is thrown into the river. But if you die somewhere else, your ashes can brought to the city and poured in the Ganges. Some people can’t afford enough firewood for their cremations, and therefore don’t burn all the way, but their bodies are still thrown into the river. I understand the symbolism, but it’s a pretty chilling thought. We didn’t see anything that graphic, but I was just amazed by the people’s devotion to still get into the river.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
Sun peeking through a narrow alleyway in the streets of Varanasi.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
Men and women often shave their heads as a spiritual purification before bathing in the Ganges. Here, a group of freshly shorn women walk behind Andy.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
With Varanasi under our belt, our time in India was officially spent. It was the most profound send off I could imagine. I had never been to a place that powerful, that intense, that foreign to me. It summed up India beautifully — the devotion to religion, the community, the color and the celebration of life. If India moved me, Varanasi shook the hell out of me. It was one of our favorite, if not our very favorite, stop on our trip.

From India, we flew to Kathmandu to spend 10 days traveling across Nepal. On our first day in town, we went to visit the Boudhanath Stupa, the largest stupa in Nepal and the holiest Tibetan Buddhist temple outside Tibet. A stupa is a mound-like structure that usually contains a holy relic and is a place of meditation in Buddhism. The stupa is adorned in prayer flags and the base is encircled by prayer wheels.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
When we arrived in Nepal, the Hindus were still celebrating Diwali. Here is a beautiful rangoli (art created on the floor using sand, rice or flower petals) of Lakshmi we saw on a sidewalk.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
A monk in prayer.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
From Kathmandu, we drove to the city of Pokhara which is the gateway to the Annapurna mountain range and its world-famous treks. We were suddenly immersed in a world of backpackers and adventure seekers. On our first morning in town, we woke before dawn and drove up to the little village above Pokhara called Sarangkot to see the sunrise over the Himalayas. We had just left steamy India and were a bit unprepared for the morning chill. There was a shop near the lookout that sold us milk tea, very similar to the heavenly masala chai we drank in India. The shopkeeper lent me this yak wool shawl and I happily drank my warm tea as we waited another hour or so for the sun to shoot across the tips of the Himalayas. It was a magic kind of morning.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
This is what most of Nepal seemed to look like — very cubic architecture, bright paint and tile work, chrome gates, and half-finished buildings.

Unfortunately, we didn’t do much adventure-seeking Pokhara. On our last day in India, we had called our travel doctor in NYC to get advice on when to start taking our medication to prevent malaria. She sounded shocked when we reported that we hadn’t gotten sick once in our 30-day journey across India. The very next morning, we were both green. It was like a month worth of eating through India caught up with us all at once. Unfortunately, it put a damper on a lot of our adventures in Nepal because either or both of us were sick on and off for the next week. We did some light sightseeing in Pokhara before we were off for a long drive to the district of Chitwan. We were headed to Chitwan National Park which is supposed to be one of the best wildlife viewing parks in Asia. Sadly, by the time we made it to Chitwan, Andy was really quite sick. The first day we strolled around the village near our hotel, but the rest of our stay we were holed up in the hotel.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
I took this photo in the small village near our hotel in Chitwan. The older woman gave me the friendly smile and nod that it was okay to photograph them and just as I pressed the shutter this little one put his palms together — the gesture of the traditional Hindu greeting of namaste.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
A big attraction in Chitwan is the elephant safari, so it’s not uncommon to see one strolling around the town. In that same village, a gaggle of international tourists were behind me when an elephant came through. They all lost their mind photographing it, but I couldn’t help but notice this local little boy watching the madness. His expression, and the way the shadows of these tourists stretched across the hut and toward him, made them look almost predatory. It became a pretty accurate depiction of how I felt about the behavior of tourists (the lack of respect, the sometimes physical fights to the best photograph, the selfie sticks) by my 394th day on the road.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
After a couple of uneventful, bed-ridden days in Chitwan, we headed on to the district of Gorkha. There, we visited the famous Hindu temple of Manakamana. Perched 4,400 feet above sea level, the fastest way to reach it is by a 10-minute cable car ride. My favorite. But, I must say, there were stunning views from up there.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
This temple is wildly popular. On the day we visited, there was a two-hour wait to get in the cable car. But as soon as we arrived, one of the staff pulled us out of the line and said there was a special foreign tourist ticket that would take us to the front. I’m sure we were scammed, but we paid the reasonable extra fee to cut the wait.

Manakamana Temple is the sacred place of the Hindu Goddess Bhagwati. It is believed that the Goddess grants the wishes of all those who make the pilgrimage to her shrine to worship her. So herein lies the popularity. When we got to the top, there was a line a mile long to get into the temple.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
We finally made our way back to Kathmandu and visited the neighboring city of Patan. This photo is taken inside of the Golden Temple, a Buddhist temple built in the 12th century.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
I just love this cast of characters. I was trying so hard to get a photo of these great hats the men wear in Nepal. After several failed portraits, I succeeded in getting them all in one shot! This photo was taken in Patan’s famous Durbar Square — home to some of the finest templates and palaces in Nepal. Durbar Square is a World Heritage Site and one of the best examples of Newa architecture, an indigenous style of architecture used by the Newari people.

The large earthquake that stuck Nepal in 2015 happened months after we had left, but we were devastated to learn that so many lives and so much history had been destroyed. Many of structures we had admired and explored in Durbar Square, most from the 1600s, had been reduced to a pile of bricks in the quake.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
I was quite fascinated by the traditional eyeliner, kajal, that I saw on babies and young children throughout India and Nepal. I heard the reasons for doing this ranged from protecting the child’s eyes from harsh sun rays to warding off the evil eye. We captured these two as we wandered around the streets of the medieval city of Bhaktapur. I love the look of pride we caught in the man’s face.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
Women sifting grain in the streets in Bhaktapur.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kate Titus.
An afternoon glow on the temples in Bhaktapur Durbar Square.
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