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Work Trade, Travel and Yoga

Work Trade is an incredible way to experience the world. Whether you head off to an exotic destination, or simply make a new connection in place closer to home, you are opening up to growth. It can be a chance to get a little (or a lot) out of your comfort zone and explore your edges both externally and internally, especially through the lens of a yoga practitioner.

There are really practical reasons to explore volunteering, work trade and paid positions to extend the length of a trip as well as open access to a variety of destinations. Plus work trade is also an incredible opportunity to delve deep into your yoga practice, to gain new lessons and reflections through selfless service, karma yoga and mindfulness. It’s one thing to visit a place as a traveler, tourist, an outsider of some sort; and it is very different to actually slow down, spend time and actually “be” in a place.

Expand your horizons

Meet people from different parts of the world, different countries, and a variety of cultures. This exposure leads to improving your social skills, and the ability to speak and connect with strangers. You’ll grow as an individual, learn many new things as well as form some very genuine bonds with these new friends.

Acquire experience in the field

Taking advantage of opportunities to do work trade can really boost your confidence and ease the performance pressure if you’re newer, or brand new, to your field. Learning and growing while actually doing the work is incredibly valuable, it equates to on-the-job-training. This adds a great deal to your career and life path with expertise and a great set of skills.

Get out of your bubble

Make new contacts. See what else is out there, network and mingle with new faces and places. It is a wonderful thing to feel supported and connected in a community, and it is equally fantastic to go out into the world and discover community everywhere. You will be inspired by the people you meet, and that stimulates genuine energy and creativity in your life. You might find yourself surprised at the new interests, skill sets and influences that are discovered along the way, and you will no doubt meet people that will become part of your lifelong story.

Better sense of accomplishment

One thing about volunteering is you often find yourself liberated to do the best that you can, and not to overthink, or add anxiety to your work. There is a great sense of contributing, and that is one of the greatest motivators. It leads to job satisfaction and pride in your work in a way that allows the work to flow through you, unencumbered.

Only way to do it is in person

When you stay somewhere long enough to get to know your surroundings, and can tap into a sense of actually living there, your perspective changes. You begin to see some of the same people daily and form relationships, as well as have the opportunity to get to know the local food, culture and landscapes. It feels more intimate to be a part of a place rather than to only pass through. And you’ll often find yourself having actual free time to live life, rather than feeling caught in the intensity of busy-ness and daily grind of your normal routines and stressors.

As you take advantage of evolving, growing and receiving wisdom from opening up it shapes your yoga practice. Being immersed in the present moment, fostering the ability to pay attention, concentrate and develop more awareness all add incredible fuel for igniting your yoga fires! This can manifest in witnessing both the challenge, and liberation, of shedding old layers of thought, habits, and patterns – which is priceless. What an incredible call to practice yoga on the daily? Plus you get to give back a little piece of your heart and soul in the exchange, and receive direct experience in the art of karma yoga. Karma yoga is living your life as your path. Open up to your life as a spiritual being having a human experience – ALL OVER THE WORLD!

Photography by: Lanny Headrick

 

 

Aimee Joy Nitzberg has been an avid lover of yoga since her first classes back in Boulder, CO in 2000. She knew she had a problem when she was skipping out of work to go to yoga class. She decided to plunge in, quit her job and set off on an incredible adventure which has included daily practice and working full-time in the yoga field for almost 20 years.  This opened up great opportunities to study with extraordinary, masterful teachers and to travel around the world.  She loves sharing yoga as a way of serving and honoring the grace of all the gifts that she has received, and as one of her favorite ways to connect and share with others. Currently, she resides in South Lake Tahoe with her mountain man and spends as much time outdoors as possible with their yogi doggie.

Diving In: The Yoga Trade Journey

I am not certain who introduced me to Yoga Trade, although I wish I knew so I could write them a thank you letter. It was shortly after my first 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training in Montezuma, Costa Rica at Anamaya Resort. “OMG…a website filled with yoga teaching jobs all over the world, holy crap!” My mind was blown. Moving forward, I spent my evenings scrolling through hundreds of volunteer opportunities that awaited me.

I began my Yoga Trade journey in Ubud, Bali, without a plan. I was unhappy working back home and took the leap impulsively. I blame the Full Moon for my beginners luck since I literally got the first job I emailed. The job opportunity was at a retreat center in Bali, at one of the nicest resorts in Ubud. I spent the next two weeks living like a princess and getting paid to do it. It was one of the most magical two weeks of my life.

After the Bali retreat center gig, I was back on Yoga Trade. This is where my Yoga Trade journey gets interesting. The bar had been set for me with this first experience, so I had high standards to say the least. Future Yoga Traders: don’t be picky. There are pros and cons with every job opportunity and every opportunity will be much different from the one before. Considering I had my own private luxury room and bathroom, my standards were now at a certain level. Unfortunately, this held me back from potential opportunities. After the hundreds of dollars I spent on food and accommodation in Ubud while searching for my dream job, I finally realized, I needed to get a job asap and it didn’t matter if I had to share a room.

After a few weeks I finally found my next position theu Yoga Trade at H20 Yoga and Meditation on Gili Air, Lombok. It was such a relief to not pay for accommodation and was totally worth living in a dorm. The other yoga instructors and I would take turns taking photos of ourselves teaching our classes and I gained legit Instagram photos of me teaching. I used my free time to work on my website, projects, and social media.

After my time at H20 Yoga and Meditation, I stumbled upon an ad on Yoga Trade for a Reiki + Yoga retreat with Jaclyn Keoh on Gili Air and made another connection! The fact that I was already familiar with the island and just a boat ride away put me ahead of the game. Apply to jobs closest to you and show up. Ads on Yoga Trade receive emails shortly after an opportunity is posted. Making yourself stand out and showing up is the best way.

After the retreat, I flew into Phnom Penh, Cambodia and took another opportunity I found on Yoga Trade at Bohemiaz Resort and Spa. While teaching at Bohemiaz, I was able to check out the The Vine Retreat near Kampot, Cambodia, which ended up being another job opportunity I found on Yoga Trade. Keep your options open! Upon meeting the owner of the retreat center, I was able to apply my ever growing business skills, make a good impression and shake on a deal. The owner is allowing me to use his space to host a retreat without a down payment since the center is so new. So basically my situation is that I am teaching at Bohemiaz in exchange for food and accommodation and working on my Semi Silent Self Love Yoga Retreat + Organic Farm Feast at the same time. It really is the perfect setup for achieving my goals.

Now that my Yoga Trade life story is out of the way, here is some advice if you are ready to take the plunge:

Save enough money before you head out. I took my Yoga Trade journey when I was not financially prepared due to my mental state. Money simply didn’t matter to me at the time, pursuing my passion and gaining happiness was all that mattered. I encourage anyone who feels they desperately need to get out of a western cubicle to do it immediately. The Universe will provide. Otherwise, save money before you go.

Be sure to consider what part of the world you want to be in a while and research visa requirements. I chose southeast Asia and intend to stay in southeast Asian countries the remainder of my time. However, I did not research and consider visa requirements before I left and my lack of knowledge definitely threw me off track. Be sure to plan jobs and timing the best you can. If you want to work in one place for longer than a few months, you will need to purchase a working visa and working visas are not always cheap.

Keep in mind, you are basically running your own business. Typically, resorts and yoga studios are flexible and normally need your help, so be sure to talk yourself up with business, as business skills are just as important as yoga experience. At the same time, don’t skip out on your yoga experience and be sure to create a yoga business CV. Once you get going do not focus on the cons. Remember, use the space for your business, have fun, and if things don’t work out…move on! There are infinite other opportunities out there thanks to Yoga Trade.

Thank you Yoga Trade for playing such a significant role in my life. I will continue to use this service and grow as a human. Yoga Trade not only enabled my business skills but held me while I healed. May the light in my Yoga Trade journey shine light on your Yoga Trade journey.

Namaste Yoga Traders.

 

Kelsey Kosmala’s journey began in Southern California, where she studied Social and Behavioral Sciences and had a lot of fun…She spent about 4 years heavily participating in drugs and an unhealthy lifestyle. Eventually, she got involved in fitness, which lead to her interest in yoga. After a few months of yoga classes at the gym, she was hooked and decided to get her 200 hour YTT certificate in Montezuma, Costa Rica. This is when she “woke up” and her love for yoga and travel began. She spent 5 years studying yoga, holistic living and spirituality in India, Thailand, Mexico and Austin, Texas. She has over 850+ hours training and has taught over 1000 classes and workshops. Her style consists of interlacing her studies with her own style. She incorporates Ayurveda, Trauma Therapy, Mindful Dance and Reiki Energy Healing into her work. She feels blessed as her turbulent background gave her the motivation to help others. Her specialty, given her past experiences, is holding space for people to transform, heal and be themselves.

Connect with Kelsey:

FB: @kelseyjaneyoga

Join Kelsey on retreat:

9 Practical Things to Consider Before Traveling to Teach Yoga

So you’re thinking about traveling abroad to teach yoga. Perhaps you’re considering doing it for an extended period of time, or maybe you’re looking at doing a few months here and there. Traveling the world while sharing your knowledge of yoga, meeting new students, exploring different cultures and taking your practice to new places is an exciting opportunity. But here’s the thing, there are a few steps to take before you embark on that journey such as creating a compelling CV and building a profile on yoga job websites like Yoga Trade. There are also a few key points that you need to think about to ensure that your time is well spent and that the role is exactly what you expected and agreed upon.

A little about my personal experience: I completed my 200-hour training in San Francisco at the end of 2015 and was in the midst of a major career shift and relocation back to Hong Kong. At this point, I wasn’t 100% certain if I wanted to make the jump and transition into teaching full-time and already had a few trips planned and booked throughout 2016. I began looking into different short-term opportunities overseas via Yoga Trade – I love to travel, and I love yoga; mixing the two seemed like a no-brainer! So I put together a profile, paid the membership fee and submitted applications to work at hotels, retreats, surf camps and studios around the world.

One of the key things that you should know about traveling abroad to teach yoga is that it can be competitive. Of all the places I sent my yoga CV off to, only two got back to me. I ended up interviewing with one hotel, and guess what? I am wrapping up teaching five weeks of yoga in Vang Vieng, Laos! I realize that I was extremely fortunate to have landed a great opportunity in a beautiful town that was looking to shake off its party hard past, and excited be a part of growing Vang Vieng into a spot for wellness and yoga in Southeast Asia; but it doesn’t always work out this way and there are a few key factors that I think anybody looking to travel and teach yoga overseas should seriously consider before taking the leap. Here’s what you need to think about:

1. Cost of flights and travel

I applied to places in Nicaragua, Mexico, Portugal, Morocco, Bali, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Laos. But what I really should have done was look into how much time and money it would have taken to travel to each of these places, and decide whether I was comfortable paying these costs out of pocket before sending off my application. Luckily, teaching in Vang Vieng was worth the two flights, layover in Bangkok and slightly terrifying seven-hour bus journey to get there. Here’s the thing, most employers looking for yoga teachers to teach for a few months are not going to foot your transportation or visa expenses. So consider whether you’re willing to pay for your flights to work hundreds of miles away.

2. Seasonality of the destination

Now that you’ve decided on where you might want to travel to and where the opportunities may exist, think about seasonality. As an example, I ended up teaching in Laos during rainy season when tourist numbers are at its lowest. In practical terms, this meant that in some classes there was only one student, in others there were about seven or eight, but I also had to cancel a few classes because of no-shows. I enjoy teaching 1-on-1 and small group classes so it didn’t end up being a massive issue, but when you’re paid by the number of classes you teach or number of students that attend, this can seriously affect your income so bear seasonality in mind.

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3. Number of students and general level of classes you are expected to teach

Some retreat centers may expect you to teach a dozen or more people per class, and some know that their class sizes tend to be much smaller. Some places cater to people who have been practicing yoga for years, whereas other places host classes where the majority of students have either never attended a yoga class in their life, or have been to one or two classes back home. Ask your potential future employer what the typical class size and level is so that you can ensure that you know what to expect. While you’re at it, find out if there’s any flexibility to decide what style of classes you will teach, or if there’s a fixed schedule to stick to. At Yoga in Vang Vieng, teachers are given the responsibility of putting together the schedule and entrusted to decide what they want to teach on each day.

4. Time commitment

How long is your gig for? Most places will ask for a 1-3 month time commitment, especially if accommodation is being provided. This also ties into the issue of whether you will need a work visa as some countries are extremely strict. How many classes will you teach per week? How long is each class? Are you the only teacher or are you splitting the teaching responsibilities with others?

5. How much will you be paid? Fixed salary? Per student? Per class?

We’re getting down to the nitty-gritty parts: not every position will be paid. In fact, it is quite common for some places to offer accommodation in return for teaching two classes a day, six days a week. There are lots of arguments for and against this type of arrangement, but my only point would be this: whatever the arrangement is, make sure you’re comfortable with it. If remuneration is being offered, find out if it is a fixed salary, if you’re being paid per class or if you get paid a certain amount per student. While you are discussing issues related to pay, find out if there are other opportunities for you to generate some income through private lessons, workshops, seminars and so on.

6. What else is part of the package?

Will accommodations be provided? Is it a shared room or will you get your own space? Is the accommodation on-site or elsewhere? Are your meals provided or will you be given a per diem? What about your stinky, sweaty yoga clothes – will laundry be taken care of or will you have to potentially hand wash your leggings in the shower?

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7. What do you really know about your potential future employer?

Doing your due diligence for a yoga-related job is the same as applying for any other job: what do you know about your employer? Find out what to expect by speaking directly to who you will work with via e-mail and Skype, ask to speak with other teachers who are currently working there and also see if you can get in touch with any former teachers to find out what their experience was like.

8. Insurance

Do you need liability insurance? In my experience, the concept of liability insurance for yoga teachers has not really caught on in many parts of Asia, but it is essential in many parts of the U.S. and Europe. It’s always better to find out if where you are looking to work has you covered on that front and whether students are asked to sign a waiver.

9. Confirmation of your job

If possible, ask for a confirmation of your job or work trade in writing; it should include your start/finish date, number of classes you will teach per week, remuneration and so on. While these may not always be enforceable, it gives a valuable opportunity to get everyone on the same page. The last thing you want to happen is to have a different start date in mind or god forbid, book nonrefundable plane tickets for a job that isn’t 110% confirmed.

The experience of traveling abroad to teach yoga can be extremely rewarding: I met some truly wonderful people, continued to work on my teaching skills, chased a few waterfalls and explored a part of the world I otherwise probably wouldn’t have visited. But here are the key takeaways: be clear on what you’re hoping to get out of the experience, and know exactly what you’re signing up for. What are some other things you would encourage teachers to consider before they travel abroad to teach yoga? Share your thoughts below in the comments section!

 

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Florence is a wanderlusting yogi who calls Hong Kong home, but these days you can find her at Yogawinetravel.com and on Instagram where she writes and shares photos from her yoga journey and travels around the world.

6 Steps to Land a Yoga Job Overseas

It can be nerve-wracking applying for an exotic yoga teaching job. It can also be kind of boring, monotonous and confusing. For me, the first Yoga Trade application process was filled with thoughts like these: “Well… I’ve only been teaching for a year, am I qualified?” “I’m sure there are so many people who want to apply. Is it even worth it?” “On the other hand, maybe nobody wants to teach in Costa Rica this year. I should probably just be super casual about it… Right?” Maybe you feel the same.

Well, whether you’re full of optimism or feel like you don’t stand a chance, here are 6 simple steps that can help you land a yoga job overseas.

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams…”

1. Choose wisely

You can’t have your dream job if you aren’t a little bit selective. Finding an intention for your time abroad will help you narrow things down. What is your aim? Is it to serve? Maybe, you want to work at an eco lodge associated with an animal rescue. Do you want to focus on living a more sustainable life? A permaculture resort and farm could be a great place for you to learn more. Do you just want a break, solace, refuge and spiritual reboot? Perhaps, you should look into a quiet retreat center with vegetarian food and daily meditations. This intention will carry you through all of the decisions you make. So, find your cushion, sit down, close your eyes, breathe deep and get clear.

 

2. Express yourself with a vision board

It all starts by giving the person on the other end of the computer screen a clear and personal view of the amazing you. Think back on the intention you set above. Pick 3-8 images that visually express your vibe along with the intention for your time abroad. These can be anything. Use patterns, places, faces, art, etc. Then, find some words to describe yourself(i.e. fun, artsy, silly, spiritual, calm). Lastly, pick 3 colors repeated in the imagery above. You can print images out and pin them to your wall or create a digital collage. While this may seem arbitrary at first, it’s so important for the look and feel of your brand. If you don’t decide what your aesthetic is, Microsoft Word will decide it for you and no one wants that.

Below is an example of a vision board that I created for my most recent trip to Costa Rica. The words I used were service, peace and adventure.

NATURE1

 

3. Turn those images into an awesome resume

A clear, concise and beautiful resume is key for showcasing all you have to offer. To turn your brand into a resume, I recommend using a site called Canva for simple and eye-catching designs. Check out their Resume Guide, to start designing your resume. The key is customizing all of the info and styles to fit your look. Maybe the words you used above were fun, silly, and simple. To visually translate these words, you might want to pick two fonts, a standard like Helvetica for the body and a more whimsical font for your headlines. You could change each headline to be one of your brand colors or use colorful shapes to outline your headings. Keep playing until you’re happy with the result.

It’s worth noting that a web presence in the form of a simple three page website with your info, photos and experience can be a way to showcase all of the above in a professional and interactive format.

Not sure what to include on your resume? Here’s a link to check out, http://www.iseek.org/jobs/resumecontents.html. Make sure to include any additional information that could qualify you, for example languages you speak and courses/workshops that you’ve taken.

 

4. Update your Yoga Trade profile

Input your basic info, experience and qualifications on your profile. Linking a Facebook profile isn’t a bad idea either. The more info you give, the better. This saves miscommunication open both ends and creates a better fit. Make sure to have a high quality photo for your profile picture, a yoga shot with some personality and a view of your beautiful face.

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5. Be intentional and purposeful in your interactions with future employers

When intentions aren’t aligned, you won’t get the most out of your experience, and when you’re job fishing, your intention won’t come across clearly. After visiting the opportunities website, tailor your application message to specifically address whomever is receiving along with what has brought you to them. It could look something like this, “Dear Ocean Sol Resort – I am very interested in traveling to Costa Rica. I have a love for all things sustainable. I see from your website that you have a farm, composting toilets, and rainwater harvesting. I would love to see how it all works and learn from you during my time abroad.” Keep it short and super sweet.

 

6. Polish out the details

Reread the posting for details about requirements and timing. If the posting wants an individual who is fluent in Spanish and available for mid-May, your availability in June and your desire to learn Spanish isn’t exactly what that posting is looking for. Not saying it won’t work out, but you will probably need to make a strong case to be considered. Be professional and personable in all your emails and proofread, please.

When you’re finished, do a quick overview of everything to check for balance. Make sure you connect your high-up dreams and aspirations with a down low groundedness and clarity of your skills. How do you hope to show up emotionally and practically everyday?

Yep, you may have a lot to work on and that’s okay! Good things take time, energy and attention. Let me know if you have any questions by commenting below and share this article with a friend who could use a little motivation to get going.

“… Live the life you have imagined.” – Henry David Thoreau

 

 

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Meg Jamison is a yoga teacher, brand designer, and Spirit follower. Meg loves helping others uncover their incredible story and using their skills to be of service. Connect with her at megjamison.co and on follow her journey on Instagram @megjam_.

10 Ways Volunteering Abroad Will Change Your Life

Have you ever asked yourself, “Is this it? Is this all there is?” There’s a big world out there, and it’s easy to feel like a tiny, insignificant cog in the world’s giant machine. If you’ve been feeling less than yourself, or like the universe is calling you to do something bigger, consider volunteering abroad. Aside from the immediate impact you’ll make on the communities you work for, your outlook on life will change – in a good way – forever.

Clean Fresh Water Scarcity Symbol: Black Girl Drinking from Tap

 

You’ll appreciate what you have

 

It’s a pretty privileged life out there for many of us. We have air conditioning and regular cable and don’t really worry about taking a long shower. When all of the comforts of your cushy life are gone, you’ll realize that billions of people around the world live with much less – and are sometimes happier for it. You don’t have to sell everything you own and become a hermit, but volunteering abroad will show you that you’re pretty lucky to have what you do.

 

You’ll savor small pleasures

When you get home, even the smallest convenience will feel like a luxury. It could be plentiful hot water for a shower, or being able to drive or take reliable transportation to another destination. Being abroad shows you that life is about really small moments that ignite happiness, and you’ll learn to savor each of those moments as they come.

 

You’ll learn you’re not a slave to technology

 

Group Of Friends Relaxing Outside Tents On Camping Holiday

It’s true. Your iPhone is not an extension of your body. Your volunteering experience will teach you that technology is a luxury, and that plenty of people live without it. While your friends and family will love seeing your pics and videos when you come home, taking some time away from all the screens will reshape how you look at your life. Connectedness doesn’t come from social media; it comes from being social.

 

 

You’ll love trying new things

When you’re forced out of your comfort zone, you have to try something new. New foods, a new culture and new ways of doing daily tasks will instill in you an insatiable curiosity for learning something different. You may not like everything you try, but the thrill of the unknown will keep you wanting more.

 

You’ll become comfortable in your own skin

Figuring out who you are is a lifelong journey. An experience abroad and doing something for others will help you carve out a little more clearly the essence of your true self. You’ll realize that you’re a pretty awesome person, just the way you were created. Allowing yourself the time to recognize, utilize and appreciate your unique skills and talents will give you confidence to face anything.

 

You’ll become a better listener

It can be easy to assume that your ways are the best ways. I mean, you’re going abroad to help them, right? Learning to actively listen to another point of view and actually making an effort to empathize with that view will change your life. Even if you meditate like nobody’s business and you’ve got Deepak Chopra on speed dial, you can always improve. In the end, you don’t have to agree with another’s opinion, but you’ll return a much more open-minded person if you take the time to really listen.

 

Your resume looks bomb

Employers like to see a well-rounded set of skills and experiences when searching for new staff. A volunteering experience – especially abroad – shows your willingness to step out of your comfort zone and an ability to think outside the box. Exposure to other cultures shows your ability to adapt and a level of tolerance that will be appreciated wherever your career takes you.

 

You’ll experience difficulty, and come out on the other side

 

Volunteering abroad won’t be a cakewalk. It will be hard. There will be doubt, and times when you want to throw in the towel and go home. But going through adversity and realizing that everything is temporary will give you a well of strength to draw on in future hard times. Plus, you’ll feel like a badass.

You’ll make lifelong friends and make a difference

handsome teen volunteer cleaning streets with friends

Your efforts will make a difference in the lives of the people you meet. Not only within the program you volunteer, but in the friendships you’ll make along the way. The work you do will forever leave a positive impact Volunteers make up a unique community of do-gooders that take on challenging things and do their best to make it better. Once you join that community, you’ll form friendships that will last the rest of your life.

 

You’ll come home changed, and nobody else will get it

Experiences like volunteering abroad can’t be replicated or explained. Your friends and family will want to hear all about your trip, but they’ll never truly understand what you’ve been through. And that’s ok. A life-changing event is one that you alone can have and cherish. Being able to learn from your experiences and then share the positive light that comes from it will begin a ripple effect in your life. You’ve been changed by volunteering abroad. Now it’s your turn to be a change in your world.

 

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Sara Sherman is a freelance writer, yogi and accidental island girl living on the island of St. Thomas. Learn more and contact Sara via her website at www.SaraMSherman.com, and read more about her island adventures at www.IslandersFromIowa.com.

Benefits of Creating Volunteer Opportunities

There are infinite benefits of creating volunteer opportunities within your organization or business. It can help your organization grow, will bring zest and new insights to your business, and creates a “positive feedback loop” of giving and receiving. Here Yogi Aaron (Founder of Blue Osa Yoga Retreat + Spa) shares his wisdom and experience on creating a successful volunteer program.

“If you want an unhappy volunteer, give them the job of cleaning toilets.”
volunteer4I quickly came to know how true this statement really was. Even a paid employee never really wants to clean up after messy guests. At the conception of Blue Osa, we always had the dream to include volunteers – to invite them to be a part of our daily life. But very quickly we realized three things:

1.We did not need or want volunteers to be cleaning toilets, rooms, washing dishes, or even raking leaves. We had competent employees who could do it better.

2.We did not want to manage volunteers.

3.We did not want to give away essential jobs to volunteers.

Being an Eco-Friendly yoga retreat, part of our mission was to support the health of the local economy and ‘eco-system’.  Most gringo local employers hire their employees seasonally. The local people work for six months and then are off for six months. This has detrimental effects on the economy. Blue Osa made the decision that if we were going to hire employees, it was for the whole year. 

 

Thus, the volunteer program was shelved. Until one day, after four years of being opened, I reached a state of burn out. I was burnt out from all of my responsibilities. I was burnt out from carrying the weight of Blue Osa. As my business partner Adam was still in NYC running his own business, I was left shouldering the burden of Blue Osa on my own. I was responsible for everything, including the marketing.

And the marketing was not volunteer1only getting left behind, I felt that all my creativity was completely used up. I literally cried out to the universe to please send me someone to help me.
 
And then I took action. I set out to place a notice on our Blue Osa Facebook Page and my personal page: Marketing person needed at Blue Osa – If any of you know of a person who has marketing skills – SEO, Adwords, phone skills, a people person, creative, not afraid of taking on projects and would like to live at Blue Osa for a few weeks or months and volunteer, can you have them contact us!

Within hours I had more responses than I knew what to do with. But the key was in finding the right person. And then it happened. Lynan Saperstein from the Big Factor contacted me.

When asked why she wanted to come and volunteer, she replied….“I am in a place in my life where I want to take a pause to reflect. And I want to give back.” In speaking with Lynan in our original interview and planning, we both decided that having a few extra writers and copy writers at Blue Osa would be a great idea. Somehow, we managed to attract a team of five amazing people who came and spent the entire month of March with us. In that time, we did many things. The biggest gain for us was the creation of an entirely new website for Blue Osa.

5 Tips on Having Successful Volunteers:

1. Never make them a part of your critical operations, i.e. your business will not fall apart if they have to pick up and leave all of a sudden. Hire people for that. (A lot of businesses stupidly have volunteers to run critical operations and then are really disappointed when the volunteer doesn’t fulfill their expectations. It is bad business to have volunteers fill these kinds of roles.) Your volunteers should be helping with the projects that you can never get to, or that you dream about having done. For example, Adam (Blue Osa Founder) and I would love to create signature music playlists for each day of the week. But we don’t have time and we have been putting this off for seven years. So we placed an ad on Yoga Trade and found the person we were looking for within two days.

2. Get really clear.  Here are the things you MUST be clear about and upfront with them. If you follow these simple things, your life will be easier when they arrive and EVERYONE will be happier. And you will most likely get what you are asking for.

volunteer3– Is there any compensation? Stipends? Are you clear with them about how much spending money they might need to bring?

– Why are you asking for volunteers. Is it because you support a bigger cause? Or are you trying to save money. Either answer is fine, just be up front, honest and clear.

– Where are they going to sleep? Are they sharing a room? Are they sharing a bathroom?

– What is the food situation?

– Are they allowed to have relationships with your guests / clients / employees? What is your policy?

– Do they have access to your kitchen? If not, what arrangements will you make?

– What hours will they work?A big part of our volunteer program is writing copy. In having so many writers here, I initially gave them assignments and then waited for them to complete them. This did not work. People inherently procrastinate and do not work well without structure. It is better to have set hours in a designated location where everyone can see them and know when they are working for you.- Is there any nightlife nearby? What is there to do or not do where you are located.

– Do they need to provide for any of their own equipment: computers, cameras, or gardening supplies? Or will you provide these things for them?

– Will they be picked up at the airport / train station / bus station? Do you include transportation?

3. Set the tasks and then give your volunteers the space to make it happen. In other words, don’t micromanage them. Each volunteer will bring their unique brilliance to the table. They want to share it with you. They want to give it to you. Let them!
volunteer5
4. Take care of your volunteers. Your volunteers need to be taken care of. If they don’t feel taken care of and nurtured, they will not be happy and not produce. On the flip side of that, if they are not living up to their end of the bargain, don’t be afraid of asking them to leave. There was one volunteer we had stay for three months. After the first two weeks, we knew it was going to be rocky. The biggest regret we have today was in not letting this individual go, thus creating issues in our community.

5. Ask for what you want. Don’t be afraid of asking for it. Just ask for it with clarity and honesty. My first mistake in starting the volunteer program was in not being clear.Overall, we have had a lot of success and the most amazing people who have come and graced Blue Osa with their presence (Lynan being at the top of the list). But there were a few who did not need to cross our threshold. I do not blame them, I blame myself for not being clear enough in asking for what I wanted, and in setting clear expectations for them. Being clear and asking for what you want and need will attract the right volunteers to you.

Creating opportunities for volunteerism in your establishment is an excellent way to engender community. We have been so blessed over the past two years to be surrounded by so many amazing people, most of them coming to us from Yoga Trade–each of these people unique and so willing to share their gifts, willing to step up to the challenge of helping us achieve the mission of Blue Osa.

Aaron
Yogi Aaron brings passion and a spirit of adventure to his teaching. Thus inspired, he guides students to secret, far-flung locales, which not only empowers them to realize their own limitless potential but also makes yoga relevant and accessible for the modern world. Since 2002 he has been traveling and leading retreats worldwide. He currently serves as the Yoga Director at Blue Osa Yoga Retreat + Spa in Costa Rica. 

 

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