Travel during lockdown

by Gisele Theriault May 24, 2020

Travel during lockdown

Hello Dear Friend,

Here we are in India’s lockdown 4.0. Who would have imagined these days the world would stop. It is definitely putting my practice that home is where this body is to a test, for sure. It’s good to revisit what we keep in the core of our conviction. Buddha teaches in the four noble truths that when we learn how to suffer we will suffer less. That it’s our desires that make us suffer, even if it’s the desire for things to be different. Right now, it’s like this. Let go and be okay with what is.

As the temperature in Rishikesh started to pass 40 degrees C, my coping skills started to melt. After the first 21 day lockdown, we would keep asking officials if movement was possible. We would get a different answer from everyone we spoke to. In the third extension of the lockdown there seemed to be some ease. Since we were in a green zone and Himachal Pradesh, where we were suppose to be when the lockdown happened was a green zone, we would be able to get an e-pass to travel by taxi under certain conditions. This information was consistent enough from different police to trust it. 

Grateful for our graced stay in Rishikesh and now very happy to be able to reach our home in Dharmasala, we hired a taxi and got our papers in order. We agreed to the 14 day quarantine. Going to temps in the mid twenties from the mid forties would be worth the journey for my Canadian blood. 

We had a gentle kind driver who knew the mountain roads. It was about a 10 - 12 hour drive depending on traffic, to which of course there would be little traffic. The car was sanitized before we left and we wore masks and gloves. We knew in advance that the state we were going to, Himachal Pradesh was very strict with their entry. We arrived at the state border with little problem. Who are you, where are you going, why are you traveling would be documented then temperature taken and once you were cleared by a few cops and medical in the tent, you were good to go. Phew, twenty minutes and we were on the road. My heart left my throat and retuned to its rightful home in my chest. 

Merrily we drove, believing that was is it for road blocks. Then there was a loud sound and a flat tire followed. Our gentle driver’s shoulders dropped a half inch with disappointment but his graceful demeanour didn’t complain a bit. Even sweating profusely under the beating sun while he changed the tire, he still smiled and apologized for the inconvenience. What a teaching of grace.

We entered another region and were stopped again. Same drill as the first and off we went. Just two hours from our destination when we reached our region of Kangra, we got a completely different story. The e-pass we had wasn’t authorized by Kangra officials and we had no right to enter. Period. They made us wait for up to two hours while we were on the phone with everyone we knew and them with their officials. My heart was pulsing in my throat for the idea that we would be turned around after eleven hours. All hotels and guest houses are closed and the poor driver already drove a long stressful day on these Himalayan mountain roads. 

Our saving grace was our host that was expecting us in Dharmasala. He drives for the Dalai Lama and is both connected and respected in community. He made calls to the various officials to verify that we were expected and that he would ensure our papers were in order. Eventually the clearance made it down the rank, they took our temperature, made us download a tracking app and we were clear to go.

The trip took 14 hours in the end and there were three more roadside stops after the big threat. Never have I been so filled with empathy for refugees who want to simply arrive to safety, to a sense of home, to a sense of acceptance and eventually community. Every human’s right. Imagining this journey for people that are fleeing danger, war and famine breaks my heart open even more. 

As ordered, the driver dropped us off and started back. He promised us that he would pull over and sleep in the car for awhile. He had to return to a home quarantine for 14 days also. I am very sure that he would not have taken us had he known that he’d lose another two weeks of work, work that just started to open up after 55 days. We paid him generously to try and compensate a bit and show our great respect. 

The formalities for us continued for two more days to ensure that we were no threat to the community and that we hadn’t broken any law to be here. The health department sent a group of men to sanitize the property and post a big scary sign on the door. We also needed to go to the hospital to get medical clearance from the state of Kangra. Now I think everyone is satisfied and we are able to spend the next twelve days simply in quarantine.

After such a stressful adventure we will take the time as an invitation to find the stillness in a well of peace that we have been missing for some time.

Yesterday would be the first day of the Italy retreat in the hills of Le Marche. We would have been welcomed by our amazing resident chef with elixirs to calm our travel nerves, get settled into our rooms then relax by the ph balanced pool to the smells of fresh pizza being baked in the outdoor fire oven. We would then gather our small group and outline the week’s intention to practice letting go of what binds us, dive deep into the nectar of our hearts and savour the spirit of life through various experiences with the nurturing land and her extraordinary people. Oh sigh Italy, next Spring.. expect us.

Wishing you a week filled with all you need, be it grace, courage, peace of mind or humour. It’s all important.

From our quarantine in Dharamsala, with love, a bow and a smile to you on your journey,


Gisele Theriault
Gisele Theriault


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