I’ve always believed the best salons feel like tribes. Having Aveda in your salon also makes you part of a bigger tribe. So together with 14 Aveda Tribe members (other salon owners) we traveled through India. The birthplace of Aveda and home to our Ayurvedic heritage, it was a trip of a lifetime!
The key highlights included:
Taj Mahal, Meeting the Dr.S Upadhyay, Visiting Swami Rama Ashram and the Tilwari Water project at the Tilwari Village in Rishikesh.
There’s a difference between traveling and holidays. When you’re on a holiday you could really be at any 4 or 5 star hotel in the world and for this reason I can’t imagine I would ‘holiday’ in India, ever. We travel to go to see what we will be seeing – and it’s relentless. I’m not one who’s ever been on an organised tour, so excuse me if my descriptions sound either normal or old hat. We are talking 5am starts, 4 hours on a train another 2 on a bus etc. My 4 to 5 star hotel temperament/expectation was being pushed to the limit. Yes the Aveda Heritage Journey is full-on travel but like the best version of traveling it was so very rewarding.
Also for Claudia and I it was about connecting the dots. Having Aveda at mien has always had a slightly mythical aspect – there is the Horst legends (the founder of Aveda), the villages that are financially supported with products purchased during Earth month, clean water programs here, Tibetan monks hand crafting gift boxes there, science from a Yoga perspective, chemists who live on the heart of Yoga’s birthplace – it’s actually a lot for the mild mannered salon owner to absorb and take on board. Aveda is a company aligned with legend.
Thanks for reading the blog here. I’ll do my best to give you a day by day perspective on what we were doing!
Driving through Deli is mad; dirty, loud, messy – often resembling a bomb site. Our cab driver summed up the driving experience with a classic phrase ‘Driving through India you need three things good horn, good brake and good luck!’
It was a total shock to the system for me more so because we’d missed a connecting flight (due to a delayed one) and now found ourselves driving four hours from Deli to Agar straight off the plane. Five hours drinking in the Qantas lounge in Singapore didn’t help things either (Frank thank you for the passes and don’t say I never mention you). Reunited with the Australian Aveda team we marveled at the Taj Mahal, ate some fantastic curry and headed back to Deli. Crashed into that hotel bed!!
OMG 5am Bus, then train, then bus again to Rishikesh and never in my life was I so happy to be at a hotel – albeit 6 hours later!
During the trip, Sam, our guide, assures us that India in general is a whole lot more organised and is gaining pace. As big believers of the Aveda mission,our contingent was full of questions about how India is dealing with rubbish, as it’s poor as well as the obvious disorganisation.
Finally in Rishikesh we enjoy a beautiful meal then we get to experience some of the most sublime spa treatments ever! Massive contrast to the trip so far. After all the jostling, bumps and humps of the bus/cow dodge/near-misses some of the Aveda crew are left in tears after their facials and massages. But how was it, the contrast to the conditions and hardship endured to get to the location or the purity of the experience?! All I can say is that for me it was a very unique experience – to be wrapped in a small white piece of cloth and a string, have two therapists conduct a singing 5 minute ritual then drenched in hot oil on a wooden bench – crazy stuff – like being the Maharishi!
Waking up in the foothills of the Himalayas forms the perfect start for a packed day. After a yoga class we begin to get a real sense of the founder, Horst’s inspiration to start the Aveda brand back in 1972. For more information on Horst’s journey click here. We had a morning with the founding chemists discussing the ingredients. The Dr.S Upadhyay and his chief chemist and herbalist had us enthralled with their ayurvedic and scientific perspective on formulations and the direction of Aveda products at an ingredient level. Very enlightening. Later that day we get a real sense of where Horst was ‘at’ when we visit the Ashram where Horst was inspired and found the core message of what he wanted Aveda to represent. Then yoga the following morning and we are feeling more zen like The Beatles did in their 1970 sabbatical here in Rishikesh.
Today is village life day! The day where we get to see some result for all the generous donations and product purchases back home (such as the candle purchases for Aveda’s Earth Month). After a 3 hour bus journey we are given a royal welcome at the village of Dehra Dun. This site was brought clean water in 2011 due to Aveda’s clean water program. In this case a massive pipe bringing fresh water from the national park and allowing the children to be schooled without the past interruptions of having to carry water some 10 kilometers a day for their family. The children and teachers are grateful and very respectful of our association with Aveda. It’s quite a thing. They have a series of dances and speeches to welcome us and a traditional lunch. The children have created a wall of individual artworks focused around water and water bringing life to their village (artworks of which our group offers to and proceeds to purchase). Later we give out toys from home and bits bought along the way. It’s a fantastic vibe in the village which finishes with music and dancing. Girls in one crowd boys in the other (like every other primary school group I guess). Their faces and purely positive energy will stay in my memory for many years to come.
Friday & Saturday:
Nothing like a bit of R and R as the journey finishes up and the Meridian in Deli does not disappoint. Neither ever does our guide Sam (who’s been with us the whole way) who the following morning peppers the sightseeing activities with casual talks which are an invaluable and balanced perspective on the modern day religiosity of India plus the engaging historical summaries of all that is India. We finish the trip with a visit to the sacred site where Gandhi was ‘cremated’ (think Games of Thrones style). After looking at some forts, palaces, the customary shopping trip (of which you may notice some Indian inspired style changes to the spa) and munching on delicious samosas it finally became time to head home.
Hope you enjoyed my story and please leave comments/grammatical tips below. 😉
Written by Simon Barr – Hair Director of mien Salon Spa & Mini Me