Sophia Bartolini is the mind, body, and spirit that has brought the One Earth Project to life. She is a female filmmaker, with a mission to empower women by giving them a platform to share their stories on a global scale. Through her work, she aims to spread important messages that will create a positive impact on both the planet and humankind.
In 2021, she became the youngest international yoga teacher. In 2023, she received the Congressional Youth Award Gold Medal (the Congress’s highest honor for youth leaders) for her volunteer work and expeditions. In 2024, she is now going for the World Record for the Youngest and Fastest to travel to all countries in the world as part of the One Earth Project campaign.
Sophia’s goal is to inspire young people to take action and make a difference in the world. By visiting all 195 countries, she hopes to see firsthand the challenges faced by women and the environment, and to connect with local organizations and communities working to make a difference.
Here, we catch up with Sophia, to learn more about her yoga, travel, and volunteer experiences and her vision for 2024…..
Yoga Trade: How has yoga and travel changed your life?
Sophia: Growing up doing yoga from a young age with my mom really shaped my daily practice.
As a teen, I struggled with anxiety and panic attacks. So, when I was 14, my parents allowed me to travel alone to Costa Rica to take my first yoga teacher training.
That experience was absolutely life-changing. I left Costa Rica feeling so passionate about yoga and how it could help kids and teens who have anxiety.
Our emotions are constantly coming and going, changing drastically from one minute to the next, and, most of the time, depending on the circumstances or situations around us. Yoga definitely gave me the tools and practice that helped me to let go of relying on external situations to feel happy and, instead, find a sense of inner balance no matter what the circumstances.
During the more challenging times in my travels (having to change plans, missing my family, long days on the road, feeling lost), practicing yoga and meditation keeps me grounded, calm, and grateful.
When I was 15, I started traveling and teaching and, because of this global yoga and wellness community, no matter where I wander, I always feel like there are ways to connect with people locally across the world.
No matter where my travels take me, I try to notice the connection between yoga on and off the mat, like stepping out of my comfort zone in my practice (doing Ashtanga every day for 60 days in India) and, in the same way, challenging myself to travel to off the path destinations, to explore new places and learn new skills.
Bringing yoga with me everywhere I go, and even getting to share it with others, has been the greatest gift!
Yoga Trade: What are the benefits you have experienced from volunteer and work exchange travel?
Sophia: Volunteering and doing work exchanges as I travel, has led to a greater sense of connection and purpose in each place I visit. I can honestly say there is no better way to learn about a place and feel immersed in a location than volunteering or working in the community. And, over the years, some of the most rewarding travel experiences I have had have been time spent doing this while traveling abroad.
From teaching daily yin in the Himalayas for people making a journey to the highest elevation lake in the world, filming a retreat on the stunning beaches of an Island in the Maldives, to teaching kids yoga in Ecuador at an aerial studio, each experience is so unique and unforgettable.
Yoga Trade: What are you most looking forward to during your 2024 journey!?
Sophia: My grandparents, retired Peace Corp volunteers, are one of my biggest inspirations. And my grandmother was the first one in our family to visit India and start doing yoga. Even though she is now struggling with dementia, I enjoy listening to her stories of her travels and sitting in her living room looking at National Geographic & Yoga magazines.
This year, as I begin my world record, I am looking forward to going on a trip with my grandfather, 83, to Uganda on a gorilla trek to learn about sustainable tourism and wildlife conservation.
Hearing stories from my mom and grandparents about living and volunteering through different countries in Africa has made me very excited to visit more of this continent.
I really believe that travel can be done at any age and any stage in life, it is one of the most transformative experiences (whether you’re in your 80s or 18), especially when combined with yoga, sustainability, mindfulness and volunteering.
Something I am also quite excited about is upcoming trips to Antarctica and the North Pole. Doing yoga on the 7th continent will be a dream come true!
Yoga Trade: If you could offer one sentence that every woman in the world could hear, what would it be?
Sophia: “Our external circumstances and past don’t define us, your potential and the impact you can have is truly unlimited, follow your heart, lead with compassion, and take bold action towards your dreams.”
Sophia is devoted to using her life experiences to inspire and support young women around the world to lead, run businesses, and create lasting, positive change in their community.
Learn more about Sophia, her projects, and follow her journey here:
YouTube: SAJ Wellbeing