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Find Purpose With a Mindful Gap Year

Meet Co Founder of Intrepid Gap, Simone Levine. Intrepid Gap is a holistic gap year counseling service that integrates a mind-body-heart approach and builds lasting relationships with all those they work with. Read on to learn more about her inspiring story and this creative work that blends experience, passion, purpose, service, and perseverance. 

What is your definition of a gap year?  

A gap year is when you take some time during a transition in your life to focus inwards by pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone and into the world. Traditionally, this happens between high school and university, but it can also happen after university, retirement, or another time in your life when you are seeking to slow down, focus on your own dreams and goals, and explore the world and yourself. According to research, 2 months or longer is the recommended time to really dive in and immerse yourself in experiences that will be both enriching and meaningful, with lasting results.  

Did you personally have a gap year experience? What were the results?  

I did! After university I was unclear as to what I wanted to do with my life. Having just spent basically my entire life in a classroom studying some subjects that I enjoyed, and many that I didn’t, I knew I needed to get out into the world and learn more by doing. I bought a one-way ticket to Buenos Aires, Argentina and started out with a TEFL course. This turned into a year of me teaching English to Argentinian adults, learning Spanish, and in my down-time traveling around South America, including Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia, and Peru. The results?! Well…I learned that regardless of the country or language, we are all basically in search of the same things: love, happiness, and connection. I learned how to communicate across cultures and barriers. I learned about my own innate strengths and talents. I finally got direction for how I wanted to spend my energy in my career: in cross-cultural exchange and training.   

Is it possible to integrate practicing and/or teaching yoga within a gap year?  

Absolutely! First off, yoga can happen anywhere and everywhere, whether that be through a personal practice or through immersing in a yoga teacher training or teaching job. For me, I always have a yoga mat rolled up and attached to the outside of my backpack. There are retreat centers, teacher training courses, spas, and hotels all over the world that are always seeking yoga teachers and practitioners to come and join them. I’d say that one of the most direct ways to incorporate reflection, self-actualization, and mindfulness into your gap year is by participating in some sort of yoga-inspired opportunity for at least part of your gap year!

A lot of students dream of gap years but have difficult times figuring out how to make the finances work. Any suggestions?  

I completely understand how challenging the money conversation can be. Many people believe that taking a gap year has to cost an arm and a leg, but the reality is that there are many different options depending on your budget. You can spend upwards of 50k USD on a gap year and at the other end of the spectrum you can actually make money on your gap year! One way to do a gap year on the cheap is to look for work trade opportunities (working in exchange for room and board). Work at an organic farm picking fruit, teach yoga at a retreat center, lend a helping hand at the reception of a hostel, B&B, or hotel, or be an au pair or nanny for a local family. You can see more suggestions here:  Gap Year Options That Won’t Break the Bank 

What are some resources you would recommend for someone who is interested in taking a gap year?  

The gap year industry is quickly growing, which means that there are more and more options out there each day. That said, it can be challenging to know which ones are legit and which ones not. Our best recommendation is to work with a gap year counselor who has specific, safe, and vetted program partner relationships and can walk you through the process.  However, if you want to do the research on your own, you can find a lot of free information available through the Gap Year Association

What makes Intrepid Gap unique?  

We are holistic gap year counselors — meaning we set people up with gap year placements around the world that are in line with their own individual passions, dreams, strengths, and goals. We integrate a mind-body-heart approach with every individual. Not only do we connect you with customized, vetted, and meaningful experiences around the world, but we also support you emotionally from start to finish. Most gap year counselors just set you up with a placement and then send you on your way. Taking a gap year can be challenging both physically and emotionally, and we are here to guide you through the process in order to make it meaningful, intentional, and exponentially worth your while. In addition, we are environmentally conscious, socially aware, and culturally sensitive.  

What are some of the most inspiring gap year opportunities you have heard of lately?  

Good question! There are so many options and each person will be inspired by different experiences.  However, that being said, my personal favorites are:

-Teach yoga at an amazing retreat center through yogatrade.com

-Monitor lions, hyenas, leopards and mega herbivores (elephants and white and black rhinos) at a national park in South Africa, as well as contribute towards anti-poaching initiatives and collect data to assess the health of the park ecosystem.

-Volunteer at an intentional community in Southern India with building maintenance, renewable energy, primary and secondary education, village outreach, architecture, organic farming, animal care, and more.

-Intern along the Great Barrier Reef in Australia doing admin, writing, social media, and multimedia projects to conserve the reef.

-Backpack through the Andes mountains with a small group while learning about the outdoors and yourself.

Take your gap year to the next level and visit us at INTREPIDGAP.COM

 

 

Simone Levine is the Chief of Endless Opportunities and Lead Counselor at Intrepid Gap. She is an explorer, a photographer, a student and teacher of yoga, a group facilitator, lover of the ocean, and a believer in our capacity as a human race to create positive change in the world. After working in the gap year and experiential education industries for her entire adult life she decided it was time to turn her own dream into a reality (start a business doing what lights her fire!), and there was born Intrepid Gap.

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IG:  intrepidgap

 

If You’re Waiting For A Sign – This Is It

We’re told as children to “dream big” and that we can be anything we want to be. And with the imagination curiosity of a child, we do dream big. We dream of becoming astronauts, or performing on the stage or silver screen, or of becoming a great lawyer or a successful veterinarian. What did you dream of being when you were growing up? Our souls grow and change as we grow and change. If there is a dream you never said “yes” to, perhaps now is the time to think long and hard about why not. Oh, and maybe it’s time to give it a try.

You don’t have to chase a dream. You can plot a course, track your progress and achieve it. The universe is telling you to go for it. Are you listening?

 

Breathe

It’s so easy to get caught up in our day-to-day routine. We are creatures of habit, but sometimes our habits become monotonous. Do you make a daily habit to focus on your breath? Tuning in to your breath is one of the simplest ways to check in and see what you’re really feeling. As you learn to listen and evaluate the breath, the faster you’ll be able to recover from any stressful situation and move through your life with a greater sense of peace. Your breath will provide the sail for your soul searching to drift upon. Learn to control it, and you’ll be a better captain of your own life’s vessel.

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Get Outside

Nature is one of the world’s most wonderful teachers. Connecting with the outdoors can be a very centering way to better listen to your intuition. The natural world has so many amazing things to see that we have forgotten about. The concrete jungles we live in have created an unnatural box that we are confined to. Our smartphones occupy much of our time, and we forget that “unplugging” can be a most restorative experience – one that’s truly needed to determine our next steps.

 

Say “Yes”

We all have the thing we’ve always wanted to do but never do. Why? You may have constructed an alternate reality of the “stuff that may happen.” You can’t know the outcome all the time. That’s scary for a lot of people. What’s the absolute worst case scenario? Is that scenario going to cause you or another harm? No? Then what’s stopping you? Create a memory. You’ll be surprised at how many times you look back on the experience and are glad you went for it instead of standing on the sidelines.

 

Be Present

Don’t let dreaming of the future get you ahead of yourself. While you’re preparing for the dream, enjoy the moments along the journey. You’ll look back on your life and remember the smallest moments – ones that may seem really inconsequential at the time. You may get to the end of your journey and realize that it wasn’t about the dream at all, but the work of getting there that was your true calling. It may not be about achieving something. It may just be about becoming who you were meant to be. This is it.

 

We are educated with thought systems based on fear. This fear can cause us to stay in jobs we hate, continue in unhealthy relationships, and be generally anxious about everything. If your soul is calling you to something greater, take a breath, don’t let the fear take over, and see just how far you can go.

 

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Sara Sherman is a freelance writer, yogi and accidental island girl living on St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Contact Sara via her website at www.SaraMSherman.com, and read more about her island adventures at www.IslandersFromIowa.com.

The Happy List: How I Found My Path, Passion, and Purpose

Guess what day it is? It is Monday… And this is me listening to Alex & Sierra’s “Scarecrow” and writing these lines. No stress, no rush, no Monday blues. I am in Thailand working as a Yoga and Meditation Instructor and putting my marketing and business development skills to work for a fitness, yoga and detox center. My feet are hanging in the pool and the sun is shining on my face. It is my day off, today. My current life situation is a real blessing. Everyday I can create a beautiful balance of business thinking, movement, mindfulness and yoga on and off the mat. Yoga has changed my life in so many different ways it is almost unbelievable to me – and I was there for every step of the way. So how did I get here?

Thinking back to days in the office in Berlin, Germany with snow storms outside and only approximately 2 hours of daylight (that’s how it felt) each day – I am now more than DCIM103GOPROG3799553.happy with every decision I have made in the last two years to take a leap and change my life according to my needs and my life callings. How did this all come together? I remember one winter day, when I sat in my room in Berlin on the wooden floor listening to music and feeling a little blue. Things were going well overall with my job, friends, family and I had my free time well organized to be a balanced mix of sports, teaching yoga, farmers market visits, art and music shows, and cooking dates with my flat mates. Pretty good life, but why does it feel heavy and strange at times? Is that just how it is? My decision was to explore this situation and find answers. I took out a piece of paper and wrote down EVERYTHING that makes me happy, makes me smile, things that energize me. My ‘Happy List’ was born.

The list was long and everything was allowed on there, everything that came to mind right in that moment – materialistic wishes or belongings, feelings, random words, colors, people, surroundings and so on. After about 5 minutes I decided I was done for the time being and when I looked at my list I realized that my everyday life here in Berlin is not really a reflection of the things that make me happy. How can that be? I chose this life. I made it all happen.

For a while I forgot about my ‘Happy List’ again. Also, unconsciously I knew every single word on that list and how much meaning it had to me. One more flashback: (hang in there) One Monday morning back in the office in Berlin I found a YogaTrade IMG_5837Newsletter with a job opening popping up in my inbox: Yoga Instructor Wanted AND Retreat Manager Wanted. Two positions that sparked my fire! ‘If I could do both, I could create a great balanced life for myself.’ And needless to say it wasn’t located anywhere close to the German winter but in sunny Cambodia. Traveling and exploring new countries happened to be things on my ‘Happy List’. In 5 minutes total I put all my power into an email to this center in Cambodia, explaining why I was perfect for both positions and sent all my information over. As I was typing the words seemed to jump on the screen and very effortlessly formed this lightly put direct email. It simply felt right. Click: SEND. Done. A smile flickered over my face before I had to rush off to a new project at work, phone calls, meetings and work emails.

For the next few weeks I didn’t think much about the job in Cambodia, as I was very busy and I didn’t really want to get my hopes up. This whole thing felt so far away from where I was and what I was doing. Emails are a funny thing to me as well – it doesn’t feel very personal to me sending emails. You send it off and wait. Maybe I haven’t fully adapted to the cyber age of communication and other elements of life.

Long story short, I was offered the position a few weeks later! Basically both positions and it made me jump. It was very exciting. I looked at my piece of paper and the only thing this job didn’t include from my ‘Happy List ‘ was water close by, a lake, or the sea. But that was fine with me, all the other 20 things are part of this new life. I quit my job the next day and prepared for my trip. Flights, insurance, canceling my contracts in Germany and full of anticipation started to get very light in my everyday life in Berlin.

Ever since, I began living a life that I love with all my heart. A life that took me to Cambodia, Bali, Gili Islands, Thailand and so many other places. I found a healthy lifestyle with enough room for my personal development, yoga, and a job. A life full of purpose, connection and sun, based on a piece of white plane paper with black maker scribbles all over it. It has been a journey of self discovery and love. Something very simple like the ‘Happy List’ and the world’s timing changed my life. The ‘Happy List’ and a moment of pausing and digging deep to understand the true motivation of my heart and spirit.

Get to know yourself and write a ‘Happy List’.

What is on your ‘Happy List’ and where will it take you?

Thank you Yoga Trade for great opportunities and connection. It is a true inspiration.

 

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Maike, from YogaWithMaike, is a traveling yoga-entrepreneur, a seeker, inventor, and life lover. She has been teaching yoga in many forms and shapes. Her love for holistic living and balance leads her to new adventures every day.

Connect:

yogawithmaike.com

You Are Exactly Where You Are Supposed to Be

We are all looking for a life full of amazing experiences, fulfilling relationships and work that feeds our soul. But looking for these things may actually be what’s holding you back. A life that is everything you’ve dreamed of and more is not only possible and attainable, but you may already have it in front of you.

 

A Work In Progress

Everything you have done, experienced and felt before this moment is part of your kivafamjourney. Each heartbreaking memory, every fantastic triumph and every emotional mountain have molded you into the amazing being that is existing right now.

Taking time to evaluate your headspace is meaningful for growth. Reflection is a powerful tool to honor your past and be able to learn from it. Your mental energy should be spent on creating a world where your passions are manifested in a fulfilling way. Your emotional energy should be spent on fostering supportive relationships. Any energy spent with people and activities that aren’t helping you become the person you were meant to be isn’t serving you. Life is hard. Be realistic, but know that you are always a work in progress and that you always have room to grow.

 

Perspective Matters

Have you taken a look around you lately? Not just a harried glance at your stack of bills, or a mindless drive to your job, but a good look around your life. If you have a roof over your head and aren’t struggling to put food on your table, you are in a better place thanphoto (52) much of the world’s population. Sometimes a journey to a different part of the world can open our eyes to all the things we have to be grateful for. Check out some really amazing opportunities for an energizing retreat or yoga work trade experience here.

Sometimes our ego tells us we should have more than we do. This voice convinces us we need more stuff, better friends, faster cars, or a stronger yoga practice. If you do take the time to look around and realize that you have everything you need, then your work is to figure out why you weren’t able to recognize it.

 

Everything Is Temporary

The universe is cyclical. Everything changes at some point. Flowers bloom, then die. Leaves turn colors, then fall. And life charges ahead. If you’re going through a stressful time, know that it ends. Being able to be uncomfortable – feeling it all – and come out on the other side is a sign of mental strength. The ability to be present with your feelings and know that everything is temporary will create such a calm fluidity in your life you’ll be able to take on anything.

 

Trust The Process

The hardest part of creating a life you love is letting go. Learning to release expectations and accept whatever comes is one of the greatest gifts you will give yourself. Trust all of it. Trust that your past actions have brought you to this moment, and that you have the power to change the next moment, simply by harnessing your own energy. Speak your dreams into existence. Conquer goals with gusto and an open heart. Take every lesson that comes to you and know that you are exactly where you are supposed to be.

 

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Sara Sherman is a freelance writer, yogi and accidental island girl living on St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Contact Sara via her website at www.SaraMSherman.com, and read more about her island adventures at www.IslandersFromIowa.com.