While taking a sip from my chai, I'm listening to a fellow traveller excitingly talk about his yoga training. Two other travellers are playing the Spanish version of 'Hotel California' on their guitars, someone else is sleeping in a hammock and others are laughing.
It's just a typical afternoon on the first floor terrace at Live Free Hostel in Rishikesh, a place where I was supposed to stay for two, three days, but ended up staying over 5 weeks.
The reason for my long stay was because I decided to follow some Reiki and massage trainings, but I could have chosen any hostel in the area. Yet after only a few days, Live Free became a home away from home, a place I didn't want to leave.
This had everything to do with Arpan and his amazing crew of people like Ashish, Sunil, Sagar and Subhash, whom all make you feel so very welcome, are extremely helpful and always greet you with a smile, making you feel like you're part of the family.
During my stay, I had the pleasure of joining some of the tours that Live Free organizes, such as rafting and a sunrise tour with a beautiful hike to Neergarh waterfall. But the highlight for me has to be the Ganga Aarti, a light ceremony at the river Ganges. Accompanied by chanting, the beating of drums and ringing of bells, devotees place small oil lamps on leaf boats in the water. An incredibly beautiful ceremony, and a magical sight to see the lights flow down the river.
The tours, as well as the daily tea at the hostel café and free communal dinners every week, gives the travellers the possibility to get to know each other better and learn more about Indian culture. These moments have provided me with friends from all over the world, including a couple of special life long friendships (Hi Sayaka!) which I treasure a lot.
Rishikesh, or Lakshman Jhula to be exact, is a lovely spiritual place with friendly locals and many options to practice yoga, reiki and massage. There is something soothing about sitting at the river, being surrounded by mountains and watching the sunset or playful monkeys trying to steal ice cream and popcorn from unsuspected tourists.
Live Free is just the cherry on top. It's the perfect place to unwind after a day of being active. It's more than just a hostel, it's home. And I can't wait to come back.