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Can Yoga Lead the Way to Sustainable Tourism?

As I walk through the streets of Zurich, Switzerland, on a sunny Saturday in early June – about a month after the Swiss Covid-19 lockdown ended – I overhear two women sitting in a café talking about the summer vacation plans they had to cancel (Well, I guess we can go to the nearby mountains, could be fun if it’s just for one year!), and a young couple strolling in front of me, loudly telling each other how they couldn’t wait to get to the beach. Travelling has become an indispensable part of our modern lives, and it is not going away anytime soon; Covid-crisis or not. 

Between 1950 and 2018, the number of global international tourist arrivals has increased 56-fold, from 25 million to 1.4 billion. According to a 2018 article published in Nature Climate Change, tourism’s global carbon footprint accounts for 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions, with transport, shopping and food being the main contributors. The United Nations World Travel Organization projects in a recent report that only the transport-related CO2 emissions attributable to tourism will grow 25% by 2030. Against this background, the UNWTO states that it is “committed to accelerate progress towards low carbon tourism development and the contribution of the sector to international climate goals”. How? Well, that is yet to be determined. Awareness and optimization are the path forward, according to the UNWTO; yet, as of now it seems as if we had not even crossed the starting line of such path. 

In order for global emissions to be brought under control, we are going to rely increasingly on travelers whose world view revolves around sustainability. Maybe the global travel ban that was forced upon all of us by Covid-19 opened an opportunity to reflect about why and how we travel, and to make more mindful decisions about our travel activities. To determine what sustainable and mindful travel could look like, it is worthwhile examining the practices of traveling yogis, a small but growing fraction of global tourists whose lifestyle (including travel) choices have been innately sustainable as part of their belief system for a long time. 

In recent years, yoga has become the new trendy fitness hype that claims to not only make you stronger physically, but also healthier mentally and spiritually enlightened. There are so many offerings of yoga classes all over the world (and since Covid-19 even online) that it is possible to quickly throw in a 45-minute power yoga session in between business meetings, that should be a workout substitute, balance out emotions, and calm the mind all at the same time. It is no wonder that in this context, there is less space to learn about the original teachings of yoga. 

The Yamas, constituting the first of an eight-fold path to a purposeful and meaningful life, are the moral and ethical guidelines of yoga. They are often translated and interpreted as: (1) non-violence or “do no harm” (also known as ahimsa), (2) truthfulness, (3) non-stealing, (4) self-control or a voluntary restraint of power, and (5) non-possessiveness. In comparison, the most pointed definition of sustainability I have come across is “living in symbiosis with our ecosystems so that we minimize our negative impact, instead building positive relationships that replenish the environments (including social ones) around us.” 

Thinking about what it actually means to live by the Yamas, the overlap with sustainable living according to the above definition is remarkable: (1) Sustainable systems seek to minimize negative impacts on others and the environment, and hence minimize harm. (2) Achieving sustainability goals requires understanding how the systems we live in function, interact and depend upon each other, and being truthful about our own contributions to the systems’ functioning or failure. (3) Taking something from the environment requires giving something back; lacking restoration, what we actually do is stealing from the environment and other creatures living in it. (4) Sustainable systems require that we not take more (and exercise the power to take more) than we need, thus practicing self-control. (5) Living sustainably requires re-assessing the way we ascribe meaning to things (possessions) and consume them. (see footnote at bottom)

Hence, sustainable living is deeply ingrained in the yoga teachings, and yoga practitioners who take their practice and philosophy seriously will be challenged to think critically about the carbon footprint and other unintended negative consequences of international travel. 

I was curious and interviewed over 25 yoga retreat leaders, yoga teacher training leaders, retreat participants, and yoga retreat centers (from the Americas and Europe), asking them how they think about this seeming friction. It turns out that the answer is quite nuanced. The yoga teachers and retreat leaders are in pivotal positions because they are the ones who choose the destinations and places to visit, and they get to shape the type of education that they convey to their participants. Most retreat leaders stated that their students often do not specifically ask for a “sustainable retreat”. They just want to immerse themselves into their yoga practice in an energetically rich location and serene surroundings away from their everyday life. However, over 90% of the yoga retreat leaders interviewed named environmental sustainability as a mandatory criterion when choosing the destinations and retreat centers they visit, and 80% specifically look for centers / hotels that offer organic, vegetarian, local food (which also leads back to environmental sustainability).

Importantly, most retreat leaders explained that while their participants might not go into the retreat with a focus on sustainability, this experience very often initiated a shift in their mindset, and they started changing their life choices and embarking on their own sustainability journey after a retreat. This was attributed partly to the educational piece about social and environmental sustainability that is ingrained in the yoga teachings, but mostly to its combination with the fact that the participants could experience and see first-hand at the retreat center what it means to have implemented sustainable practices, and how they themselves can take action.

Traditionally, most yoga retreats originating from Europe have been oriented towards India, Bali and Thailand as travel destinations, whereas, according to the European retreat leaders I interviewed, more European retreat centers have emerged in the last couple of years and there is an increasing demand for local retreats that can be reached not only by air, but also by other means of transportation such as train or cars shared between several retreat participants. From a US perspective, while Bali has also been a popular destination, retreats in Latin America are much more common due to the proximity relative to Asian countries. Costa Rica is nowadays one of the first and most established retreat destinations, with other countries such as Mexico and Brazil rapidly catching up. 

A country that has gained a lot of popularity in recent years is Peru. Since the 1990’s, the number of tourists visiting Peru has increased from below 0.5 million to 4.4 million in 2019. According to data published by the World Travel & Tourism Council, the contribution of tourism to Peru’s 2019 GDP was 9.3%, and 7.5% of all Peruvian jobs were in the travel and tourism industry. Especially in Cusco, the closest city to the World Heritage site Machu Picchu, tourism is critical for the economy and has helped alleviating poverty significantly. 

Cusco and Peru’s Sacred Valley having become a hub for sustainable yoga retreat centers, I focused part of my research on their sustainability practices. One example is Willka T’ika, founded in 1995 as one of the pioneers in the region with a mission towards sustainability, community and Quechua heritage protection. In addition to using solar panels for energy generation, its buildings are constructed from local adobe material which is energy efficient to reduce the need for heating and cooling. 80% of the ingredients used to prepare the vegetarian meals are organically grown in its own gardens (whereas the rest is sourced from local farmers), and all employees are Quechua from the neighboring community, most of whom have been with the retreat center for two decades. They also teach sustainable farming and irrigation practices to local communities, which has proven to be particularly important during the pandemic, since it increased food security and resilience among the local population. Currently, Willka T’ika is implementing a “zero emissions” program which provides an opportunity for guests to offset all carbon emissions from running the retreat center and transportation within Peru.

There are many examples around the globe that show how tourism can greatly benefit nature and wildlife (a sample is described in a blog post by Sustainable Travel International). This does of course still not deal with the carbon footprint from fuel-based travel, particularly air travel. But as one yoga teacher put it: Everything is a sacrifice. You always have to give something up to get something. What we need to do is start thinking more thoroughly about what kind of travel is worth leaving such a large carbon footprint and what’s not.” 

Covid-19 may have been a trigger for many to reconsider which flights and what travel activity is worth exposing oneself to the risk of infection. If we also started weighing our personal desire to consume against the effects thereof on the planet (do we really need to fly from London to New York for a weekend shopping trip, considering that the amount of CO2 generated per passenger exceeds the annual carbon footprint of an average person in 56 countries?), chose the places where we stay when travelling more wisely, and returned home not with a suitcase full of new consumer goods, but rather with new ideas and inspiration about leading a more responsible, purposeful and meaningful life as described by the Yamas, this could go a long way. 

 

 

Marie-Cristine is currently pursuing an MBA and MS in Environment & Resources at Stanford Graduate School of Business / School of Earth and Environment. Originally a lawyer from Switzerland, she embarked on a journey of continued education and personal growth, striving to work towards sustainable development goals. She loves being active, especially outdoors, colorful food (such as fruits, veggies and ice cream) has found yoga practice as a way to balance herself.

 

 

Footnote:

https://amaramillerblog.wordpress.com/2015/08/18/taking-yoga-off-the-mat-sustainability-and-the-yogic-path/ 

https://www.sustainablelafayette.org/post/the-correlation-between-yoga-and-environmental-sustainability

https://www.yogitimes.com/article/how-yoga-take-care-environment-go-green

 

4 Key Predictions for the Future of Retreat Travel

Yoga and wellness retreat offerings ground to a halt beginning in March 2020, as resorts closed worldwide and global travel came to a near stand-still.

A recent study by retreat registration & payment platform WeTravel found that 50% of retreat leaders have cancelled between half and all of their scheduled retreats, trainings, and similar destination-based offerings for the remainder of the year. Some hope to forge ahead with travel plans in late 2020, while others have moved their retreats online or postponed them until next year.

According to the same study, however, there’s reason to be optimistic. Wellness travel providers are generally confident about retreat travel’s rebound, especially when compared to travel operators more broadly.

Retreat leaders have been more resilient and creative in dealing with the current realities; for example, in quickly pivoting to online programming to stay connected to their communities. Their survey responses also show that they see the timing and strength of the industry’s rebound in a more positive light.

So, what does this mean for the industry rebound and the future of retreat travel in the longer term?


Prediction #1: Virtual Retreats Are On The Rise And Here To Stay

While virtual retreats are currently the only option in many geographies where people are still mandated to shelter in place, they are also an innovation many industry insiders believe will outlast the current COVID19 pandemic.

For new retreat leaders, they provide a low-stakes option for breaking into the industry. For newer and veteran players alike, they represent a means of supporting communities still in lockdown, while carrying reduced logistical burdens and financial costs.

For retreat participants, they stand to provide relief from months of sheltering in place. Furthermore, for those who have long-term health, mobility, financial, or circumstantial constraints to travel, they may present the first feasible route to participation in a retreat experience.

Even if online retreats don’t have quite the same feel as “being there,” creative use of technology can greatly enrich the virtual experience. Retreat leaders can activate the senses and invoke the sights and sounds of nature with carefully selected audio and visual material. They might also opt to provide suggestions for in-home rituals around taste, smell, and touch (e.g., recipes, essential oils, and self-massage).


Prediction #2: Yoga & Wellness Retreats Will Be On The Leading Edge Of Travel’s Rebound

According to WeTravel’s survey, most respondents are confident that business will pick up again before the end of the year. Close to 50% of rescheduled offerings are slated to occur between September and December 2020, with the majority of the remainder scheduled for early-to-mid-2021.

On the demand side of the equation, masses of people are now in acute need of time and space to decompress, detoxify, and take a step back from the intense pressures of professional and domestic responsibilities. Retreats are an ideal space for this work and healing.

Likewise, local retreats timed for the early COVID-recovery period are a feasible option for many organizers. As the destination itself is often secondary or supplementary to thoughtful retreat programming that promotes mental, physical, and spiritual wellbeing, retreat leaders may find highly suitable venues close to home.

In these cases, participants are more likely to be able to use personal rather than public transportation. The logistical and financial considerations involved make close-to-home retreats inviting to a wider audience.

Options for local retreats generally include both urban, suburban, and more remote destinations. The latter, which inherently offer a greater degree of physical distancing, as well as the opportunity for reconnection with nature, are likely to go over well in the coming months.


Prediction #3: When Global Travel Returns, There Will Be Changes To How Retreat Leaders Select Service Providers

As retreat leaders hatch retreat plans for the post-COVID era, they will undoubtedly pay greater attention to the contractual responsibilities and obligations of their partners, including retreat centers, logistics managers, transportation providers, and insurance companies, amongst others.

Considerations for retreat venue selection are likely to include deeper research into recent or upcoming facility refurbishments, hygiene policies, and foodservice methods (e.g., less reliance on buffet service). Guests may have preference for single rooms and/or the availability of compelling outdoor recreation and practice spaces.

The retreat insurance industry, and travel insurance industry in general, have been forever changed by COVID-19. Industry experts predict an uptick in demand for “cancel for any reason” policies; while these have always been among the pricier options for travel insurance, they are expected to become more expensive in the future. Retreat leaders and participants alike are encouraged to shop broadly for insurance going forward, read the fine print, and purchase accordingly.


Prediction #4: Retreat Groups Will More Closely Examine Their Ecological Footprint and Local Economic Impacts

In the wake of the height of the COVID19 pandemic, many wellness professionals and practitioners alike have paused to reflect on the relationship between our own physical wellbeing and the wellbeing of the systems, natural and commercial, that support us as travelers.

As a result, retreat groups are bound to give more careful consideration to the ecological footprint of their travel plans. Additionally, they are likely to be more mindful of sustainability considerations and the possibility of overtourism.

In the ideal situation, visitors will consciously support sustainable business models that play an active role in safeguarding local foodways and ecosystems, and justly share the financial rewards of travel with local populations.

Responsible consideration of these factors is crucial to sustainable travel that supports human well-being across the board, rather than simply for those who have the means to visit destinations aboard in hopes of enriching their personal well-being.


 

Jen Corley (CYT-500) heads the wellness travel division at WeTravel.com, the operator of an online booking and payment platform for retreat travel. When she’s not traveling, she enjoys spending time with her husband, Evan, and French bulldog, Taco.

Find What You Love and Love What You Find

The life of a freelance yoga instructor, self-defense teacher and adventure sports writer involves a lot of free time. I used to devote an embarrassing amount of that free time to trawling the Yoga Trade website. The secret to using the site well is to know when to daydream about an opportunity, when to seize it, and to love what you find. So when I saw a listing looking for yoga teachers to assist hiking retreats in Norway, I knew it was time to pounce. I just didn’t know that pouncing would change my life.

I’ve always wanted to visit Norway but it’s notoriously expensive and I’ve never had the money to go. I’ve lived above the 60th degree latitude so I knew what I was getting into. I’ve worked as a hiking guide, I’m a natural history nerd, I have wilderness first responder training, I’ve been teaching and practicing yoga for over 30 years. I knew I was perfect for the job. I just had to convince the woman running the retreats that I was perfect for the job.

I was at a yoga retreat in Bali when I saw the listing, so I had limited internet access and no cell reception. I crafted a carefully worded letter of introduction, gathered my CV and a few yoga photos and tried to send them off. The message didn’t appear to land, so I bombarded this poor woman at every portal I could access: YogaTrade, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and her personal email. I don’t know if she was impressed or annoyed, but she called me within a day. After a week of communication I was able to convince her to stop looking at other applications and bring me to Molde for the month of August.

As I sweated through a stint teaching yoga at a retreat center in southern Spain and traded yoga classes for surf lessons in Portugal I kept thinking about the crisp air, lush forests and sparkling vistas that awaited me in Norway. I researched the bare essentials: Molde sits on a fjord, facing south, about halfway up the coast of Norway. It’s home to 26,000 people and famous for roses. The hottest day of the year sees a balmy 60 degrees. I could expect between five and eight days of rain during August, and seventeen and a half hours of day light at the beginning of the month.

I neglected to research my remarkable hostess. Pille Mitt was born in Estonia when it was part of the USSR. She grew up under an authoritarian regime that denied the most basic freedoms I often take for granted- the ability to choose where I want to live, travel, and pursue an education or career. With the collapse of the Soviet Union Pille was able to offer exercise classes and eventually open her own gym. On-line dating brought her to Molde, Norway, where she lost the guy but found a new home. A yoga teacher training in Rishikesh opened new windows, and now she teaches at both yoga studios in town and offers yoga and hiking retreats in various locations throughout the year. “I have to stop having such a good life!” she jokes. “Time flies when you’re having fun, so my life is passing too quickly!”

I also neglected to research the hikes. The first day we warmed up with a casual stroll out of town which led to the ascent of a nearby peak. Then we hiked a mountain overlooking the next day’s destination, with the option of climbing a nearby twin summit. One day saw us ascend steep muddy slopes to the Troll’s Church, a limestone cavern with a 40 ft waterfall inside. We traveled by ferry and car, climbed mountains, crawled through caves, jumped in alpine lakes and swam in the frigid Atlantic. Each day brought stunning vistas, the option to picnic and relax or hike as hard as we could. One day was a glorious road trip up a series of hairpin turns to a precariously perched restaurant and café. We dispersed like a flock of birds and came back together to meditate on a quiet ridge.

The first group was all female, and we bonded like the loving family I never had. Two Lebanese women and an Israeli woman broke bread together every day; they are not allowed to travel to each other’s homes and would probably never have met otherwise. We pushed each other to hike harder and relax more deeply, comforted and inspired each other, learned from shared stories of triumph and failure. I’ve led groups from southeast Alaska to Southeast Asia and never experienced one with more authentic love or less bitchy drama.

Over the following month my life fell into a simple rhythm: wake up, meditate, plan yoga classes, do yoga, eat breakfast, hike all day, teach yoga, eat dinner, fall asleep, wake up and do it again. Rainy days invited a road trip, a philosophy discussion, an extended yoga class, a shorter hike. After the first group left, Pille and I had two half days free. We scheduled an outdoor community yoga class, shopped for food and went for a hike. When you’re doing what you love, you never want a day off.

Pille and I cried when I boarded the bus for Oslo. We are both intense athletic tomboy powerhouses, and were afraid we wouldn’t meet another kindred spirit until our paths crossed again. Fortunately that won’t be long. We plan to lead yoga and hiking retreats together in Alaska, Norway and California in 2020. Guests from last August have already signed up, eager to hang out with us again. We are considering offering a yoga teacher training together in 2021. The only bummer is I don’t have time to daydream about opportunities offered on Yoga Trade anymore. I’m too busy living them! Love what you find!

 

 

Leonie is an RYT-500 Yoga Alliance certified instructor who has been teaching yoga and meditation for 15 years. She loves introducing students to the joys of being present in their bodies and her teaching style skillfully combines her spiritual practice, athletic ability and infectious enthusiasm for life. Her award-winning Mindfulness and Empowerment workshops reach over a thousand students every year.  When she is not teaching, Leonie is a passionate plant-based wilderness athlete who loves to ski, surf, climb and cycle.

Join Leonie on retreat in Alaska in 2020:

https://www.mittyoga.com/retreat-in-alaska.html

 

The Yoga Trade Podcast

We are so excited to share with you our latest project: The Yoga Trade Podcast! Follow along as we travel around the world exploring spirituality, wellness, sustainability and more.

Our host, Audrey Billups, Yoga Trade’s vagabond filmmaker, will be capturing the inspiring stories of wellness practitioners, yoga teachers and change makers she meets along her travels. From Tibet to Bali to Los Angeles, every two weeks, we will share with you interviews and stories from all different corners of this Earth.

Listen to Episode 1 by clicking HERE

1: So the Adventure Begins

In this first episode, our host will tell you a bit about her spiritual journey and how she began her traveling lifestyle. From living in a tent on an organic farm in Hawaii to winning Yoga Trade’s photo competition and starting to work as their videographer, it has been quite a journey!

Theme Music, Sound Editing & Mixing:

Thomàs Young, Fine Crafted Sound

 

 

Want to take part? Please send us your Yoga Trade story and we may feature it on the podcast! It’s easy, just record yourself, snap a photo, and shoot us an email. Want us to advertise your retreat, training, or product on the podcast? Reach out to us! Email: audrey@yogatrade.com 

IG: @thenomadicfilmmaker

5 Ways My Yoga Trade Experience Made Me a Better Yoga Teacher

One of the most rewarding, fulfilling, and altering experiences I have had in my journey as a yoga teacher has been the time I spent teaching abroad. For years I dreamed of the opportunity to combine my two favorite things: travel and yoga. This past year I made my dreams into a reality, thanks to a platform called Yoga Trade. In reflection, my time spent teaching abroad was one of the most influential and expanding experiences. It was a catalyst for me to become the teacher I am today. Here are 5 ways my Yoga Trade experience offered me the space to flourish and grow.

Practicing with Yoga Teachers from Different Backgrounds

There are many travel destinations all over the world that offer a strong yoga community. These communities are filled with yoga teachers and practitioners from all different countries, lineages, languages, etc. Each teacher came from a different training or framework. This allowed me to look at yoga from new angles, to hear different backgrounds of connection to this practice, and to open me up to other dogmas.

I live and teach in an average American city. I feel there is little diversity within the yoga community. Most people have been trained between the same few studios, under the same teachers, and practice within the same circles. Being able to get out of my bubble expanded my relationship and understanding of yoga.

Freedom to Try New Things

Teaching yoga in a tourist location made for an influx of students everyday. There were only a few people in the area that came regularly to my classes. Most of the students were on holiday, therefore they were only in that location for a few days. This gave me the chance to constantly try something new. I found when teaching in a hometown studio you seem to get the same clientele. It can sometimes feel like they have more rigid expectations and ideas of what your teaching style offers. Tourists that come to class are looking for an experience and probably do not have any preconceived ideas of what you offer. You can try out different breathing techniques, cueing, meditation styles that you may not normally have the confidence to try in your home teaching spot. I think we grow the most from those times when we feel uncomfortable and go for something new. If you fall flat on your face chances are those students may be moving onto the new destination the next day anyway. Learn from your mistakes, recalibrate, and keep going.

More Time to Work on Your Craft

Many yoga teachers can relate on the desire to want to have more time to spend in our own sadhana or improving our teaching techniques. In Western culture, it can be challenging to financially support ourselves while only teaching yoga. We juggle many different jobs or roles to make it all work, and the energy left over can go into our personal growth and practice. My Yoga Trade gig allowed me to financially support myself while abroad so I could shift all my attention to yoga.

In my experience I was receiving accommodation for free and a little money per class. This money was enough to feed me and indulge every once in awhile. I was actually able to slow down and focus on just teaching yoga. My list of responsibilities abroad greatly diminished. I wasn’t constantly pulled in so many places, so I had extensive time to spend becoming a better student and teacher.

Exposure to New Styles of Yoga and Modalities Healing

Living in a diverse yoga community creates a wide range of spirituality offerings, workshops, lineages of yoga, modalities of healing, etc. People from all over the world sharing their personal knowledge, truth, and practice. There is ample opportunity to try something you have never even heard of before. From these experiences you will gain a more open heart and mind. You may even find your new calling.

Teaching People from Different Cultures

As a yoga teacher, you probably can relate what works for you at one studio, may not work for you in another. We are constantly working to give our best offerings, but even in your hometown it can be different based on age, demographics, locations, etc. Teaching people from different cultures can be another learning curve. Will your cueing make sense to someone who’s second language is English? How can you get really clear and intentional with your message so a wide range of people can receive it? Being able to work through these types of questions and scenarios only sharpens your teaching skills and makes you more accessible to a wider range of people.

 

 

 

Colleen is a 500RYT, lifestyle blogger, wellness warrior, jetsetter, bohemian fashionista and soul searcher. She has traveled to 37 different countries and has studied or taught yoga in 8 of them. She is always looking for a new adventure, a challenge for personal growth, and a hip outfit. You can find her at www.mindbodycolleen.com or IG: @mindbodycolleen

7 Mindful Reasons to Live #VanLife

#VanLife. This catchy phrase has become a worldwide sensation, and for good reason. Perfectly placed Instagram photos of cozy quarters overlooking landscapes seemingly made by the gods. The thought of whisking away on a whim at any given day to whatever location is calling, alluring, and sexy. Who wouldn’t want to live that nomadic lifestyle? It certainly drew me in, which is why I quit my 9-5 cubicle job in the city and moved to New Zealand for a year in 2017.

Why van life? There are so many reasons to quit the monotonous everyday life to live and work remotely in steel on wheels, but I’m here to tell you living in a van isn’t easy. And it usually isn’t a perfectly tricked out space with power and a water heater and storage and a kitchen (unless you have a lot of time and money). Converted vans are high cost, so sometimes it’s a half hazard attempt. My story included converting a 1997 Honda CRV that cost $2,000 with a $200 additional budget into a ‘camper van’ and made it work for myself and my somewhat spacious partner.

Van dwelling is not about taking impeccable photos and showing everyone how enlightened you’ve become. It’s about letting go and allowing yourself to fall back in love with everything inside of you. It’s about knowing the discomfort of wet shoes, wet socks, wet blankets, one foot of headroom, little storage space and never knowing when it’s going to stop raining. Yet, still finding love at that moment. It’s about forgetting to change the oil and breaking down in the middle of a mountain pass, 20 kilometers from the next village only to find out the village has no mechanic.

There are pros and cons. Sometimes it’s impressive cliffs jutting from the ocean and night skies so clear you feel like part of the stardust. And other times it’s stealth camping in a gas station parking lot with your lawn chair and bunsen burner, while people getting gas stare at you. Because the area mechanic won’t be in until the next morning to give you a tow. Do not decide to leave your life to live this so called “dream” because of the hashtag and to follow a modern-day trend.

Live in a van because…

You’re sick of wasting so much…

Wasting water, wasting food, wasting electricity, and wasting time. All of these things are so precious, but we waste them every day. How many times have you gone to the grocery store hungry and bought so much food that some of it goes bad? Do you shower every day or leave the water running down the sink when you brush your teeth? How many hours a month do you spend sitting in front of the television, use a blow dryer, a microwave, or forget to turn off a light? We’re all guilty on occasion, but the best way to learn is just to do. You know you’ve done away with wastefulness when you look in your food box or mini cooler and see a pack of Spicy Thai Noodles, a carrot, some oatmeal, and raisins and feel you’re living a gourmet lifestyle. Or when you and your friend casually wash each other’s hair with your water bottles at campsites. When you have less you waste less and this is a principle I’ll take with me through the rest my travels.

You want to foster personal growth beyond the span you ever thought possible…

When you give up luxurious things for a minimalist lifestyle, knowing they’re just one job application away but choose to stay in your current state of discomfort, that is growth. When a wet, smelly, cramped car becomes cozy and safe compared to a kingsize bed and apartment, that is change. You begin to look at the world, your self, and your relationship with the things that surround you differently. Van life essentials are food, water, sleep, a good book, and a warm beverage. You don’t need a shower every day, wearing a pair of leggings for two weeks is okay, and it’s uncanny the number of meals you can cook with one pan and one pot.

You want to feel so uncomfortable that you can’t remember what it’s like to put on a pair of dry socks…

Eventually, you’ll grow to find so much love in so many varieties of discomfort. Experience the pains of loneliness, the craving for more than one sharp knife, the inability to sit up straight in bed. Unfortunately, the discomfort heightens in inclement weather. I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced a week straight of New Zealand rain in the Southland…but it doesn’t stop. Everything is wet, hiking becomes dangerous and many times you can’t even see the road in front of you. You can only do so many activities from the comforts of your passenger seat, which fosters immense amounts of creativity. Finding gyms with a pool and sauna, going to see a movie, or checking out a book at a library. When’s the last time you even went to a library? You learn many ways to keep all the essential parts of your body clean and how to do laundry in bathrooms. Sometimes you pull up to a McDonald’s and buy a coffee and use their bathroom. Sometimes you use gym locker rooms, and sometimes you get lucky and find cheap campgrounds with coin showers. And occasionally you break down and stay in a hostel.

Because you’re tired of wanting MORE…

We live in a world of constant mores. More money, more clothes, more amenities. More space in cars, apartments, shopping centers. You get the point. Are you tired of always feeling the need for more? Well, let me tell you. Living in a small space with limited amenities gives you the ability to understand what you actually need to survive and be completely content. Clothing? I survived out of a 50-liter backpack and actually gave a lot of things away as I was traveling. A fancy kitchen? A fold-out table with a propane burner, one pot, one pan, a few cheap knives and utensils, and cutlery will do. And to be honest, cooking out of my SUV was a challenge. It took major trial and error to figure out how long I could actually keep fresh food and the most viable way to cook a full meal with one burner. People living and loving van life may not have fancy things, but what they do have is freedom, stories, extra money, and time for travel.

Because you’re missing connection…

I’m talking about real connection. With nature, with people, and with yourself. We are so enveloped within our day to day hectic lifestyle that often times we don’t take a minute to stare at the blooming hydrangea outside of our office. Or admire the perseverance of a baby goose learning from her mother. Hell, a lot of times we don’t even have time to give our grandmother a call. But between the push notifications, emails, alarms, and constant immersion into the land of modern humans, we need a release. Seriously, or you’ll burn out. Connecting with nature is good for us, science says so. There are these things called positive and negative ions that are in everything we see. Positive ions come from things like cell phones and microwaves, negative ions are in nature, especially moving water and forests. We need the energy from negative ions to keep our circadian rhythms intact, to release stressors, and to have a healthy relationship with ourselves and those around us.

To find love and gratitude for the little things…

If you’re looking to be so moved and so challenged and so uncomfortable that you can’t possibly muster up any other emotion than raw love, #VanLife is for you. There was this time I was traveling alone around Wanaka and Queenstown and was having the best time of my life. The sun was shining, I made a kick-ass dinner and reconnected with friends from earlier travels. Then, something felt a little off, a little funky in my tummy, and as you can imagine I was nowhere near a pharmacy. By midnight I’d already taken several trips to the one campsite bathroom, which was a good 30 meters away. Things were coming out of both ends, not nice things and this persisted all night long. Then this sweet woman was washing her hands around five in the morning, she must have either heard me or noticed I looked like the walking dead and offered me peppermint tablets for my stomach, electrolyte packets, and crackers. She was a godsend. After I was able to muster up enough energy to drive another 10 kilometers from the campground to Wanaka and check myself into a hostel for a night. I don’t think I have ever appreciated a private bathroom with a flushing toilet so much in my entire life.

But mostly, do it for yourself…

You are ultimately the one affected most by this paradoxical shift. Not your parents, not your friends, not your Instagram followers…you. This decision will undoubtedly shift your way of looking at yourself and society as a whole. I wrote my first published article while living in a van. I decided I wanted to become a yoga instructor, I realized living in a big city no longer suited me and neither did a cubicle. I reflected on attachment issues, selfish tendencies, and stubborn habits. I fought introverted loneliness and sand flies and a stomach virus. But I emerged myself. My real self. The self I’d been searching for 25 years to find.

The concept behind a van life of doing whatever you want when you want while traveling is a myth. Factors like weather, vehicle break downs, and money are real things. Van life is about growth and connection and learning to live with simple things, like tiny sleeping quarters. Adventure is being open to the road and the Earth and the people you meet along the way. It’s a lot of free campsites and rolling with the punches and learning to allow control to be a thing of the past. Tapping into the ebb and flow of the world around you changes you, it molds you. Van life brings about what you need over what you want.

In all honesty, I prefer it that way.

 

 

Nicole Sheree grew up surrounded by forest and Michigan’s Great Lakes, so it’s no wonder she ran away from her marketing career in the city for New Zealand with just a backpack and yoga mat in 2017. She rediscovered herself, her love of writing, and passion for yoga while living in a 1997 Honda CRV on the South Island. She is now a 200-hour RYT, photographer and content writer for Book Retreats as well as a contributor to publications such as The Thought Catalog. Her art features the human experience through a yogic lens. When she’s not striking a pose in a country far far away you can find her munching on mangos or sipping a strong cup of coffee while lost in a forest or swimming in the nearest body of water. 

IG: @nnicolesheree

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.

10 Insights From the One Who Thought They’d Never Teach Yoga

I remember very vividly, standing on the beach with a couple of my girlfriends about to go surf. It was one of those complete cloud-free sunny mornings. Far off, the waves broke over the reef.

“It looks okay, but I’m so tired and sore,” one friend complained. “I still have noodle arms from surfing twice yesterday.”  Two-a-day sessions were the norm for these girls, and yesterday having been dragged around by their enthusiasm, I shrugged and half-agreed. My arms were pretty much toast too.

“We should probably stretch before we paddle out,” the other suggested. “Hey you do yoga, lets do that.” “Yeah, you teach us.”

“Ha .. . no way! I don’t teach yoga,” I blurted out. “Are you crazy, I would never be a yoga teacher.”

In the moment, what I said felt to be complete and utter truth.

Sure, I liked yoga. And sure, I practiced. But was I the beginnings of a teacher? Err, doubt it. Did I even like yoga that much? Uhh well . . .Let alone the talking? To groups of people? To tell them what to do? For at least an hour? Agrhh, no thank you!

Hmm. We stood there, staring at our toes buried in the sand, still hesitant to paddle out.

“Fine, we can do a few things,”  I said as I probably rolled my eyes. Then for the next few minutes I stumbled awkwardly  through leading a few stretches that, at times, resembled yoga asana. Soon after, we paddled out into the icy Pacific . . .

And while my words that morning, “I will never be a teacher”, left an impression deeply etched into my psyche, flash-forward a few years later, something else deeper within would beg very differently of me. Just after the New Year, I broke the news to my same surfer friends.

“Ladies, I’m out. . .I can’t do this anymore.  I’m quitting my job. . . ” I hesitated and then told them my plans, “I’m off to yoga teacher training in Mexico. I already turned in my notice, I leave next month!”  

With large eyes and disbelief, “you’re doing what?!” they asked. Sure they were open-minded, but they weren’t exactly the type to forgo the stability of a salary and leap completely into the unknown.  I wasn’t sure I was that type either, but here I was about to do it.

Eight years later and here I am, a yoga teacher. Mine isn’t a story of overnight success, but more of a bumpy road, ups and downs, twists and turns, periods of teaching, periods of hibernation, periods of discovery and re-inspiration. It hasn’t been clear cut or logically defined, but still, I lean into this journey of becoming a guide for our yoga practice.

So for the ones who thought they’d never teach yoga, but then listened to a different calling deep in their heart. . .

And for those who started this journey, but are now questioning why. . .  

Here are a few insights that I will tell my younger self when time travel becomes a reality. Until then, perhaps they will help you as you forge your unique path.

1. Begin

Start here, where you are. Start now. You don’t have to teach yoga everyday, but you must begin.

At this point, consider yourself a guide as you lead class. And let yourself think out of the box to find a comfortable space to teach in and gain experience.

Try getting out of the studio and teach in less intimidating locations for less intimidating audiences. Hold a class in nature – at a park or at the beach. Offer some lunchtime yoga at your work. Host an informal class during a weekend getaway with friends. Not all classes have to be 90 or 60 minutes. Maybe 30 minute practices are the perfect place for you to start.  

So begin, and little by little, you will become more comfortable with your voice, your instructions, your sequences, your knowing and your not knowing.

2. Get on the schedule

After you log those initial hours and sub some classes at your local studio, step up and get on the regular schedule. Teach.

But also know that sometimes plans, ideas, and goals change. And this is okay.

For example, during my early yoga years, I loved fast vinyasa classes. My favorite classes were led by talented teachers who moved us quickly through inspiring flows. They guided us effortlessly (it appeared) through well thought out sequences, each unique day in and day out.  

That’s the kind of yoga I knew.  That’s the kind of yoga I liked. That’s the kind of yoga I expected to flow out of me as I taught. But, reality check, that kind of yoga didn’t.

I kept at it for awhile, stumbling, refining, improving little by little. But eventually I decided to stop trying.

. . . for awhile (like more than a year awhile).

But guess what?

3. Interruptions and pauses are OKAY

Stepping away from what you were trying to be or trying to achieve is fine. These breaks can turn into periods of learning, refinement, re-dedication and growth. These breaks are a hibernation of sorts, where if you give yourself time and support, your inspiration to walk the teachers path will come back in the right way and in the right time.

For me it was while rediscovering yin yoga. During one such hiatus, a few years after my original yoga teacher ambitions, I last-minute enrolled in a yin yoga training and it shifted everything.

4. Be yourself. Find an aspect that you believe in, something that draws you in and be with that

In yin, I found a great balance of being able to teach slow and to talk less – a way of teaching that was very fitting for my natural introvert personality. In addition, I was able to more solidly grasp the main teachings and less complicated practice. So when I taught yin I kept it simple and my critical, perfectionist self was much more able to tolerate my teaching ability.

Additionally, in the yin practice, I admired how it gave students space. Lots and lots of space to feel your body, to observe your mind, and to go within slowly to be with what was. The practice pretty much forces you to slow down, and then naturally invites you to move deeper into the inner space.

Sometimes I feel this aspect of yoga is lost in western vinyasa flows, but is so needed in our fast-paced modern culture. So in my rediscovery of the yin approach, I was lured back into wanting to share this type of experience of yoga with others.

So when you’re re-inspired and reconnected to why you want to teach . . .

5. Get on the schedule (again)

That’s right, when the time feels right, get on the regular schedule again. Then, give yourself time to teach and evolve your craft. Teaching over time is how you gain experience.

6. Evolve

When you are ready, immerse yourself into your next level of teaching. Sometimes this takes initiative on your part. Sometimes it happens with a gentle push from those you work with.

For me, the next phase in my teaching came while living in Costa Rica.

Teaching abroad can be magic for a few reasons.

If you are not teaching frequently then these short term opportunities are a great way to immerse yourself and teach more consistently, perhaps even daily.

In addition, many of these opportunities are for teaching travelers. This means you will get to teach a wide variety of people, at many levels in their practice. And sure sometimes you will be thrown waaayyyy out of your comfort zone, but luckily you will figure out how to handle this. In fact, as you step into it, I bet you will surprise yourself.

Teaching abroad allows you to get out of your normal surroundings and step into teaching yoga in a whole new way. So yes, hello yoga trade opportunities!  

But that reminds me . . .

7. Don’t quit your day job (in the beginning)

If you are fresh out of a YTT, do yourself a favor and don’t create more stress than is necessary. Having multiple streams of income while you are gaining experience and refining your craft is key.  

For me, having remote web design work has allowed me the funds to cover expenses and to continue to invest in my yoga education. I have also been able to find a nice balance between creativity on and off a computer, while escaping burnout from either side.

Plus, in the beginning, it was very helpful to not have to force myself to teach before I felt ready.

And who knows, maybe those at your current job are great students for your first teaching gigs. I have many times been surprised by who is curious and interested to see what this yoga thing is all about. Could it be you to introduce them to yoga? Could it be your experience and view of yoga that inspires them into the practice?

So again, it’s key to know what  aspect of yoga you really want to share. What messages are you passionate to teach?

8. Know what excites you

If you more consciously know what excites you about the practice, and more consciously weave those messages through your teachings, then you will effortlessly stay within your realm of inspiration. When you are connected to your inspiration, others will resonate and be inspired too.

In the beginning, since I am not a huge talker and speaking in front of groups is out of my comfort zone, I struggled with understanding why I actually wanted to teach.

But eventually, I realized I was excited and wanted to talk to students about the energy healing benefits of yoga and the related practices of sound healing and Reiki.  

Sure, I enjoy yoga asana, but what lights me up is sharing my understanding of certain benefits, for example, how movement and breathwork prepare you for meditation, how your subtle energy body has time to balance and heal itself, how you can use sound for reaching deep states of peace, how you can be fully with your experience to transform it. . .  

These are the conversations that I get excited about. And these are the sparks of joy, that as a teacher, are so important to feel.

Not every student will be sparked on your idea of this or that. But you will resonate with some. And if you make a difference in only one life, wouldn’t that still be success?

So what lights you up?

9. Know and then be. Experience, evolve and expand

There’s no need to be rigid in claiming what you believe in and what you have to share through your teachings. Keep immersing in the practices. Keep learning. Keep growing. Let your message and depth evolve.

And whether you’re sure or not sure if you have truly discovered what lights you up, stay open to your next level of growth, as a person, as a yogi, as a teacher.

You don’t have to figure it out in one day, you probably will be unraveling this your entire life. This is a life practice with bits and pieces of delicious goodness to taste and savor along the way. Give yourself time to experience. To practice. To learn. To grow. To connect with community, to connect with spirit, to connect with your deepest part of self, your soul essence.

This will lead you to the true magic of your soul. And upon touching into this, you will understand, this is your gift to share with the world, through your teachings.

10. Start here. Start now. Go on, take your next step . . .

Here are a few upcoming opportunities for learning, growth and connection within the YT community:

1 – Deep Ecology of Wellness  

2 – Yoga Trade + Membership 

3 – Learn Reiki energy healing & surfing on Retreat w/ Neomi 

Cover Photo:  Shaka Costa Rica 

About Neomi:

 

Neomi simply wishes to help make the world a more beautiful place by helping others to discover the love that rests deep within their heart. Sometimes this love is hidden, very far out of sight and under many layers. But, with the practices of surf and soul – especially the energy healing practices of sound and Reiki – she believes all people can access and experience their soul essence, their soul power, their soul light and love.

 

 

Join Neomi for a SurfSoul Retreat this August in Costa Rica. Throughout the week you will journey into your next level of wholeness – a vibrant expression of feeling deep happiness, love and joy for life through yoga and surf adventures.

In this small group retreat, you will dive into both inner and outer adventures. You will learn to surf, practice yoga and meditation, experience crystal singing bowl sound healing and learn the sacred art of Reiki energy healing.

Check out her website for more information about this: Surf and Soul Adventure 

 

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:

Our Thirst for Experiential Travel

The very essence of travel has always been about seeking unique and memorable experiences. However, in recent years, we have become ever so dissatisfied with the same old well-trodden tourist trails. More than ever before, we are actively seeking to expand our horizons and dive deeper beyond the worn pages of a guidebook. We have developed a near-insatiable thirst to wander unique pathways and to connect with local cultures and real people. Rather than merely sightseeing or ticking off popular bucket-list itineraries, our travel plans are made with the desire to authentically immerse ourselves within a destination.

It is no surprise that experiential travel is the most significant, systemic trend in worldwide tourism today. The term ‘experiential travel’ typically refers to the idea of having a more immersive, local, authentic and/or active travel experience. While travel is inherently experiential by definition, how we travel and what we want from our bursts of nomadic living has seen a dramatic shift over the last decade.  

For many of us, experiences now far outweigh material possessions, and alongside this thirst for seeing the world is a global demand for travel that resonates on a deeper emotional level, more than a mere physical level. More than mere consumers, we seek to navigate our own journey and emerge at the other end transformed in a significant and memorable way.

This exciting shift is driving the travel industry to become more adventurous, more personalized, and more attuned to what makes each destination unique as they strive to convey a meaningful experience to travellers in a short period of time.  

The notion of the pre-packaged travel brochure has long seen its heyday. The hunt is now on for an experience that is unique, enriching and as far from the beaten path as possible. The one-size-fits-all package is now no longer appealing or relevant to the modern savvy consumer. Rather than sit by a pool with cocktail in hand, we want to have life-fulfilling journeys that closely align with our own personal values. Where travellers once talked about what they saw or did on a vacation, we now focus more intently on whom we met on the road and how a journey offered us a new worldview from which to ponder our own life and existence.

Earlier this year, Airbnb launched ‘experiences’ which are offered alongside the overwhelming amount of popular holiday rentals. This addition to the platform allows you to not only select your vacation property from any far-flung destination around the world, but to also choose from a diverse range of activities in that region, all offered by the local community. These can range from making crepes in Paris, to a graffiti tour of Barcelona, to a fabric workshop in Mexico, to a DIY tattoo session in Shanghai, to photography cycling tours through Prague and anything and everything in between.

Holiday companies around the world are following suit, expanding their offerings to meet this new demand. Travellers can try chocolate making in St. Lucia, sunrise yoga on a sandbank in the Maldives and street food safaris in Vietnam. Across the board, companies are creating fresh appeal for modern travellers by opening up opportunities where they can connect with local people. Whereas traditionally hotels have always devised ways to tempt their guests to stay within the hotel grounds to maximize revenue, the boom in experiential travel has encouraged hotels to act more like community portals, introducing guests to popular local experiences outside the realm of the hotel boundaries.

The Millennial demographic, perhaps more than any other, are driven by exotic locales and hands-on, adventure activities that push their boundaries and offer both transformational and also ‘insta-worthy’ moments. While there is a great deal of focus on Millennial travel trends, older generations are also driving significant demand for more experiential and adventurous travel options. The modern traveller, regardless of age, wants to forge deeper connections to the people, traditions and customs of the places they are visiting, adding a more meaningful and memorable component to their vacation. Travel companies are witnessing rising trends for new and more remote destinations within Asia, South America and Africa. This older generation of travellers are also inspired by personal interests; it’s not about seeing the Leaning Tower of Pisa or the Colosseum, it’s about learning how to make homemade tiramisu or stomping grapes during harvest season.

In the luxury segment, travel has become more focused on total curation and customization. Guests are encouraged to craft their own itineraries and high-end hotels and luxury travel companies are letting go of strict timetables and pre-determined plans to allow travellers to set their own agendas. If money is no issue, savvy travellers can create the most exclusive journey tailored to their wildest dreams; from Porsche ice-rally driving in Sweden, to luxury sea-kayaking trips around Indonesia in search of legendary komodo dragons, or a designer glamping safari tour along the Congo River from Kisangani to Kinshasa. Wealthy vacationers have often been the pioneers of adventurous travel into emerging destinations, proving again that adventure and experiential travel is not only for hearty youth, willing to risk life and limb for heart-stopping thrills.

The concept of experiential travel has also dramatically reshaped the wellness industry. The days of massage and wheatgrass shots have been surpassed by life-changing wellness journeys, meticulously crafted and seamlessly executed. Health and yoga retreats have dramatically multiplied in recent years as the demand for combining an exotic vacation with a healthy holiday has skyrocketed. At the click of a button we can browse a plethora of five star Ayurvedic resorts in India, exotic health spas in Thailand, guided luxury treks through Nepal or yoga sailing expeditions through the Greek islands. Popular health resort Six Senses, has recently introduced new multi-lodge wellness circuits that offers roaming wellness journeys that are set to redefine the wellness travel experience like never before.

So, what’s driving this new era of experiential travel? Chances are you have already guessed correctly. The dramatic interest in experiential travel can be primarily accredited to the predominance of social media in our modern lives. More than ever before, we are connected. We are acutely aware of what is going on around the world, we communicate daily with people in various time zones, we are bombarded with tens of thousands of images every single day; our horizons have dramatically expanded, primarily through the screens we are attached to and subjected to 24/7.

The frenetic nature of modern society induces a sense of urgency and desire. The rise of FOMO – the popular acronym for ‘fear of missing out’ – has driven us to want more, need more, and experience more, now. Driven and steered by social media, we are constantly searching for inspiration, gratification and happiness in unique ways. With our horizons broadened, experiential travel has stepped in, luring us to faraway lands. We are not only influenced by the happy travel snap shots offered by close friends and family. We are powerfully swayed and coerced through our infatuation with social media celebrities. Images of distant lands, people and cultures infiltrate our news feeds and inadvertently, our minds. Cliché vacations to Bali or Mexico no longer hold our interest when we are presented with glamping tents in Morocco, underwater hotels in the Maldives, clifftop cabins in Patagonia or luxury treehouses in the desert plains of Kenya. Digital nomads, millennials, Gen X’ers and Baby Boomers alike are all dialed into these latest travel trends which inspire cultural immersion far beyond the traditional UNESCO World Heritage Site lines.

When presented with these incredible global image hooks we have the means to search, click and book in moments. Platforms such as Bookings.com, Tripadvisor, Airbnb, and Sky Scanner have taken the power out of the travel agents hands, and delivered it directly to us, the consumer. But even as we roam further off the grid, we still want to stay connected. We want to update our status through our real-time experiences. With live Instagram stories, location pins, shared hashtags, and ‘checking in’ on Facebook, social media has become our publicly accessible travel diary and is an integral part of the modern travel experience.

The influence of experiential travel has also come to infiltrate our regular daily lives. No longer are we content with grabbing a coffee from Starbucks; we want to visit our local roaster, perch on handmade crate furniture and know which village the organic coffee beans have been ethically sourced from. No longer do we enjoy a glass of wine at home with our girlfriends; we want to visit the winery, do a tasting course, pick the grapes and understand the fermentation process. No longer do we eat out at the restaurant down the road; we take a Sunday drive to a free range farm where we pick our own greens from the garden, smell the bread baking and watch the chooks peck seed meters from our communal table. As we become tourists in our own cities, there are limitless ways to engage in experiential travel, whether it’s for a month, a week, a weekend or an hour.

If this trend is anything, it is optimistic. It proves that as a society, we want to connect, explore and broaden our knowledge and understanding of ourselves and one another. It proves that we want to push our boundaries and that we want more than the 9-5 with the annual family camping trip. It proves that we are drawn towards new horizons and that we are inherently programed to transform. It proves we want to be more than mere consumers on a predetermined path and we want to create our own journeys that we can filter and hashtag accordingly. It proves that we want more than mere stamps in our passport. It proves that we want to look back on our life, and be deeply moved by the people, places and journeys that we experienced.

 

 

Kelly Alexander is a passionate yoga teacher, plant-based chef and writer who has traveled and worked extensively across the world in health resorts, detox centers, raw food restaurants and wellness retreats. Kelly completed her 200hr yoga teacher training in Byron Bay, Australia in 2008 with Rachel Zinnman. She has a Raw Chef certification, is a qualified Holistic Health Coach, a published author and has a degree in Media & Creative Writing. A nomadic traveler and lover of nature, you are most likely to find Kelly upside down on her yoga mat, chasing a sunrise, or wandering through a local farmers market on the hunt for new culinary inspiration.

www.raw-by-nature.com

IG:  @_rawbynature_

 

Join the Yoga Trade family April 9-14, 2019 in Costa Rica for an immersive travel experience!!!

DEEP ECOLOGY of WELLNESS: Weaving the love of yoga and travel with regenerative lifestyle design.

https://yogatrade.com/deep-ecology-of-wellness-2019/

 

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