In May and June 2018, my partner and I went on a ‘Yoga Trade’ as a surf guide / yoga instructor duo to the island of Himmafushi in the Maldives. A dream-like place of wonder where the waves peel perfectly off a right-hand reef break above crystalline seas teeming with life, just steps from shore. Where guests travel across the world to dive with giant manta rays and black-tip sharks. And where Islamic tradition is shrouded in a thick cultural barrier, virtually inaccessible to a Western-bred feminist like me.
It was a world of paradox I found myself slipping serendipitously into. Where I’d begrudging cover my arms, chest and legs to brave the 200-meter walk – barefoot above soft, crushed-coral white sand – to the locally owned mini-mart for a sweet mid-afternoon snack. Only an hour or so before hopping off the boat in my teeny bikini, scoring some of the best waves of my 12-year surfing life, nearly naked to the sky; no qualms, no questions.
Where foreign visitors can shed their sarongs on a patch of sand designated ‘Bikini Beach’ and can only access alcohol aboard boats with liquor permits or resorts on other islands with special tourism licenses. Where most men would not shake my hand and young local girls would sneak over to our pool and dare a dip in their long pants and long sleeves, before their dad showed up, both timid and angry. Where the local surfer boys reminded one another not to hit on me because I was already someone else’s property.
And where I’d lead the guests at our adopted surf and yoga villa in a guttural round of Sanskrit mantra, just as the sunset prayer began to bellow from the speakers of the mosque. When time stood still in an incommensurable reverence of difference, across cultural lines, spiritual constructs, sun-kissed skin and silken shroud. Despite the distinction in our choice of song, I loved those impeccable moments of simultaneous prayer, mingling among the seaward breeze, mantra colliding with Quran in an otherwise impossible skyspace where I imagined the spectrum of god(s) and goddess(es) smiling joyfully from the heavens, shaking their heads at the perfect conundrum that was my task as yoga teacher and US-born, Costa Rican-bred surfer girl stuck smack-dab in the middle of an Islamic island nation, standing somehow steadfast in her integrity at the heart of the Indian Ocean.
And I’ll be honest – I struggled, most days, with how to be woman in that magical island world.
I mean, look. I’m a Western-born Jewish white girl, freedom-loving feminist, practically sensitive to cultural nuance, yet unabashedly thin-skinned beneath the blazing sun of gender inequality, repression, and injustice – anytime, anywhere, and however veiled by the social dictates accepted by most, even when they’re socio-historically determined by only men and institutionalized in religion and other forms of under-the-radar patriarchy. Add in my 16 years of yoga practice and deep regard for the yogic traditions, and you’d think it was a miracle I didn’t collapse into a mid-life identity crisis right there on the beach, 11,000 miles from my home.
Most of the time, despite myself, when I walked the white-sandy streets of town, I chose to follow the rules, keep a low profile, hide my skin in earth-length skirts and long sleeves, out of respect for a people I knew nothing about in a place I was only passing through. That whole ‘when in Rome’ thing. And truly, I was glad, and even honored, to do it – like an (uninvited) guest in some else’s grandmother’s home.
In reflection, there are parts of that experience I find beautiful, and even empowering. I appreciated that men didn’t ogle or eye-fuck or cat-call at will. A far cry from the soul-crippling streets I frequent in Central America. And I liked that the women would say hi to me when I took their customs seriously. I acknowledge the purity in human interaction where booze and drugs and boobs and butts are not precursors for self-expression or casual conversation. And I liked that both men and women looked me in the eye without the underlying misogynistic pretext of competition, domination or sexual objectification.
But I’ll be real in admitting that wearing long sleeves and long skirts in that heat was a hassle, and I chose to stay inside the villa bubble in my booty shorts on more than one occasion, rather than suit up at noon and sweat my skin off just to feel a little bit free from too many chastising eyes on me. And that didn’t feel empowering at all. In fact, it felt a little like prison in my skin.
In the beautifully sticky, blessedly uncomfortable space I lived for two months in the Maldives between cultural respect and my personal brand of feminist freedom, I found an everyday sense of solace, and soul-felt gratitude, in my home-away-from-home, the sea. Where I could surf as naked to the sky as I wished to be. Not because I wanted to feel sexy, but because – like it or not – my skin against the breeze is my definition of free.
Join Tara for Immersion 2019: Surf + Yoga + Writing Retreat for Women this March in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica, ideal for aspiring writers ready to share your stories with the world; and at Yoga Trade’s Deep Ecology of Wellness in April, where she will be offering workshops on sustainable yoga travel and journaling as a practice of personal transformation.
Immersion retreat link: www.tarantulasurf.com/surf-trips-retreats
“One’s destination is never a place, but always a new way of seeing things.” – Henry Miller
Bali and Costa Rica are amazing spots for retreats, but they’re not exactly the world’s best kept secrets. For a destination that will satisfy your wanderlust tendencies and need to heal, consider checking out these less-visited locales. Whether it’s health, adventure, cuisine, or culture that’s calling, here are six spots sure to inspire transformation.
Widest Variety of Accommodations: Southern Italy
Southern Italy offers up some truly unique group accommodation options, from monasteries in Sicily, to trulli in Puglia, to caves in Matera. Points south of Rome offer good value for money; check out the mainland provinces of Abruzzo, Basilicata, Calabria, Campania, Molise, and Puglia plus islands Sardinia and Sicily. In many of these areas, visitors are more likely to encounter Italian tourists than throngs of foreigners. Nationwide, the Italian government supports a thriving program of state-sponsored agriturismos, or independently owned farms that open their doors to independent travelers or groups. While not generally equipped with amenities like yoga props or meditation cushions, they can make great retreat venues as they offer plenty of space for movement and mindfulness practices. Food is generally excellent, making generous use of hyper-local ingredients as a rule. Though agriturismos span the budget-to-luxury spectrum, rates are overall very reasonable and usually include breakfast and dinner.
Most Exciting Food Scene: Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka’s cuisine is flavored by the influences of its native Buddhist, Hindu, and Muslim traditions as well as those of its Portuguese, Dutch, and British colonists. The country has only been open to tourists since the civil war ended in 2009, so tourism hasn’t yet totally diluted the cultural picture; with the exception of a few beach towns, you aren’t likely to find yourself in a sea of tourists. Like many Southeast Asian countries, Sri Lanka has a thriving street food scene. There’s a culture of “short eats,” or snacks available by the dozen in both restaurants and shops. Especially in a group setting, these are a great way to try small portions of different foods. Between meal times, feed your soul with a visit to one of the country’s stunning temple complexes. “Can’t miss” sites are the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, the Dambulla Cave Temple, and the Koneswaram Temple.
Best Island Destination: Iceland
Many retreat-goers first look toward the tropics when thinking about island destinations. However, what Iceland lacks in palm trees and sun-drenched beaches, it makes up for in glaciers, waterfalls, and rugged mountains. It’s easily accessible from both North America and Europe; there are direct flights from 25 US cities by carriers IcelandAir, Wow, Delta, and United. High season is June to August, but you can save significantly on airfare and accommodations by visiting during the colder months. Time your low season visit right and you may be lucky enough to see the Northern Lights, generally visible September to April. Whether you visit in summer or winter, consider complimenting your daily retreat practices with time in nature. Iceland offers cold water diving, whale watching, glacier hiking, snowshoeing, horseback riding, and much more. Even close to the capital, Reykjavik, you can enjoy its famous geothermal pools; two good choices are Nauthólsvík geothermal beach and the complex at Laugardalslaug.
Greatest Healing Power: Ikaria, Greece
The residents of the world’s five Blue Zones enjoy unparalleled longevity, which has been linked to lifestyle factors such as a plant-based diet, strong social and familial bonds, spiritual engagement, and moderate physical activity. Ikarians eat a variation of the Mediterranean diet, with lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, potatoes, and olive oil. They drink antioxidant-rich tea and wine, as well as goat’s milk, which is lactose-free but provides nutrients like potassium and tryptophan. Some speculate that Ikarians’ regular afternoon naps also contribute to longevity by ensuring they get enough sleep and helping keep stress at bay. The climate, with warm, sunny summers and mild, rainy winters supports outdoor tourism as well as thriving agriculture on the island. Locals grow and harvest the food they eat year round, enabling true farm-to-table living. Ikaria is well-known among Greeks for its “Panagiria,” celebrations of saints’ feast days and other religious holidays, which take place all year long, but especially during the summer. Don’t miss these unique opportunities to mix with locals while trying traditional food and wine, live music, and non-stop dancing.
Easiest Logistics: British Columbia, Canada
British Columbia invested heavily in sporting and transportation infrastructure as host of the Vancouver Winter Olympics back in 2010. Visitors today should breeze through their travels in, out, and around the province. Vancouver is both a foodie’s paradise (worth a visit even if it isn’t your final destination) and home to a major international airport. Travelers also have the option of flying to Seattle and driving north; it’s about a three hour drive from Seattle to Vancouver. British Columbia is a great spot to retreat year-round, drawing visitors to its striking coastline during summer (don’t miss Tofino) and to its alpine areas in winter (notably, ski and snowboard destination Whistler. B.C. beaches are amazing for lounging, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding while the mountains have world class skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and ice skating. It’s tempting to think of the coast as the place to be during summer months and likewise the mountains in winter. However, look for shoulder season deals on the coast and don’t underestimate mountain areas’ summer potential. Mother nature offers plenty of opportunities for multi-season activities, including hiking, climbing, cycling, horseback riding, and ziplining.
Most Culturally Immersive: Morocco
While Morocco’s coastal resort towns and Marrakesh (one of the country’s four imperial cities are heavily touristed, there are many inland areas and smaller towns largely untouched by outside influences. The strong culture of hospitality in Morocco means you’re likely to be well fed and cared-for throughout your stay. The country doesn’t have many traditional retreat centers, but tented desert camps and riads, or traditional houses offering bed and breakfast-type accommodations, often cater to retreat groups. Morocco is a complete visual pleasure in that it isn’t just major tourist sites where you’ll experience breathtaking architecture. The craftsmanship that goes into the tile, plaster, metal, and woodwork of basic buildings like riads or hammams, not to mention that of mosques, palaces, and city gates, is simply stunning. Though meat-based dishes are often showcased in restaurants, most Moroccans eat meat sparingly. Fresh, raw salads and long-simmered, produced-based dips, soups, and stews often kick off meals, with vegan- and/or vegetarian-friendly couscous and tajine dishes to follow.
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.
At Yoga Trade, we love learning! We believe that one of the most important pillars for yoga teachers is to embrace the seat of the student as well as the teacher. Continuing Education enables us to learn, grow, and tends the inner fire! Check out these recommended educational yoga experiences in 2019. We wish we had superhuman powers and could attend all of them:)
Starting in January 2019, 300 HOUR ADVANCED YOGA STUDIES in the U.S.A.
with Vira Bhava Yoga
Have you been thinking about doing a 300 hour training but not sure of the right one or unable to take a month off to do so? Vira Bhava Yoga offers powerful and thorough trainings that are held over 5-6 weekends within one year’s time at cities across the states. Trainings starting in Sacramento, CA and Atlanta, GA this upcoming January! In this training you will learn practices and gain tools that you can: take with you for the rest of your life, implement in your day to day, and enhance your practice and purpose in the world.
January 27-February 7, 2019, SPANISH LANGUAGE COURSE FOR YOGA TEACHERS in COLOMBIA
with Yoga Internships
Comprising eight classes of 2.5 hours, plus free attendance to all our Spanish language asana classes, this language course will prepare you to communicate effectively in Spanish during a yoga class. It is estimated that over 400 million people in the world speak Spanish as a native language, putting it second behind Mandarin and ahead of English in the rankings. It can be a huge competitive advantage to be able to work bilingually. Not only can you cater to the Spanish speaking population in your own country, but you can travel and work in Latin America, where yoga is just beginning to explode, or in Spain – a wildly popular yoga-tourism destination, with many well-established studios. So join us for this fun, interactive and practical course to get you started with your career as a Spanish language Yoga teacher!
February 18-28, 2019, KUNDALINI AND THE RADIANT BODY in INDIA
with Kia Miller
Step away from life as you know it and join Kia Miller for a special practice driven immersion in the foothills of the Himalayas, the birthplace of yoga. This is a unique opportunity to accelerate and stabilize your practice. Access deeper levels of connection and wisdom, facilitated by specific Kundalini kriyas, pranayama, and meditations.
February 21-March 2, 2019, SEVA SAFARI + Y12SR TRAINING in KENYA
with Mary Tilson
“Look Forward, Give Back”. This 10-day journey to Kenya offers personal growth, opening the hearts and minds of participants while creating a sustainable impact on our local community in the process. Plus you will participate in and bring the powerful Y12SR (Yoga for 12 Step Recovery) training to 60 Africa Yoga Project teachers and experience this transformational program alongside them.
Also, check out Mary’s MENTORSHIP program for yoga teachers by clicking HERE
February 23-March 11, 2019, PERMACULTURE DESIGN COURSE in COSTA RICA
with the Yoga Farm and Friends
Come as a student, leave as an ecological designer! A wonderful complimentary certification for all yoga teachers! We will be leading a small group of permaculture students on a whirlwind of experiential and lecture-based learning. You will take home a solid foundation in permaculture design, the building blocks of a regenerative lifestyle, and a deep appreciation for natural systems. Daily yoga classes. Upon completion of the course, all students will receive a Certificate of Permaculture Design.
March 1-8, 2019, FREEDIVING LEVEL 1 COURSE + YOGA in BALI
with Blue Chitta and Come One Yoga
Freediving and Yoga! Discover your true potential in this unique 7 days all-inclusive Retreat by the Sea led by Gabrielle GQ & Natalie Rudman. You will be breathing a lot; exploring various pranayama that can be applied both in the practice of Yoga and Freediving, connecting your mind and body through Yin Yoga and Vinyasa Flows, eating delicious local vegan/vegetarian food and learn how to explore the ocean on a single breath! Participants will receive their Level 1 Freediving certification thru Apnea Total.
March 22-30, 2019, SACRED EARTH in PERU
with Sarah Kadel
Deep in the Sacred Valley… High up in the Andean Mountains… Journey to the Sacred Inca Valley in Peru. Open up to the magic of the mountains. Walk through the Ancient Forest, feel the vibrations moving through your feet. Open up to the mysterious stories of the Ancient people. Absorb the incredible beauty and healing power of Nature. Restore harmony within yourself and with Mother Earth. Discover a deeper Love for yourself, nature and the divine. Recognize the sound of your heart calling you home to greet your highest self! Remember that everything is Sacred.
March 23-30, 2019, SURF COACHING, YOGA and SUSTAINABLE LIVING in COSTA RICA
with Rochelle Ballard and Yoga Trade
Refine your wave riding skills with former WSL Professional Surfer, Rochelle Ballard (also the founder of Surf Into Yoga) as she takes you through a week of understanding the flow of riding waves, tuning into your body and the parallel life lessons that surfing and yoga can teach us. Co-hosted by the founders of Yoga Trade and the Yoga Farm! Surf playful beach breaks and long left hand point breaks. Practice daily yoga designed for surfers to create strength, flexibility, and restore and regenerate the body and mind. Eat healthy all week, make new friends, and learn about sustainable living as we share living space off the grid in beautiful Southern Costa Rica.
April 9-14, 2019, DEEP ECOLOGY of WELLNESS in COSTA RICA
with Yoga Trade and Friends
A unique and special retreat gathering! Join the Yoga Trade family for six days and five nights at Punta Mona, Costa Rica: an off-the-grid botanical center where the rainforest meets the Caribbean sea. A space for Yoga Teachers, Wellness Professionals, Permaculturists, and those with a desire to learn from around the world to come together in an intimate and natural conference setting. Enjoy Movement, Yoga, Nature Connection, Community Building, Continuing Education, Storytelling, Permaculture, Regenerative Design, and Joy. An incredible line up of passionate teachers and magic in this land. Let’s share our wisdom and grow together!
June 9-16, 2019, 75 HOUR ADVANCED TEACHER TRAINING in ITLAY
with Anton Brandt
This 75 hour, 8 day module dives deep into The Katonah Method. Katonah incorporates classical Hatha yoga with Taoist theory, geometry, magic, mythology, metaphor, and imagination — in a practical framework designed to potentiate personal and communal well-being. Learning refined alignment + biomechanics is a given on our trainings, but we don’t stop there – be prepared to explore things like personal development, confidence, and speech. At the core of the The Sacred Fig philosophy is connection + community. Not only do our thoughts affect us in tangible ways, but we also have the extraordinary capacity to affect those around us, and the environment we live in. And so as yoga practitioners and teachers, we strive for the extraordinary, so that we may serve as a beacon of possibility for those around us. We see the divine in everything around us, but we also know that it lies within us. So before trying to shape & control everything outside of us, we first look deep within, and do the work ourselves.
September 7-28, 2019, FOUND EXPERIENCE in BALI
with Jake Paul White and Friends
It’s time to find a better way to live with more balance between work & your wellbeing. In this immersive 21 day experience we will guide you towards being the founder of your own life. If you have a vision for where you want to take your life, we can help you discover the right path. You can become the founder of your chosen life, by enrolling on this immersive 3-week experience, and learning by living the life you want rather than studying it in a book. Our mission is to help you take control of what your lifestyle looks like now, and for the future. We’ll guide you through setting the foundations of your own business, and building it around a lifestyle of wellbeing, community and travel, ultimately leaving you empowered to continue the journey alone.
Do you know of additional evolutionary and educational experiences in 2019, you’d like to recommend to the Yoga Trade community!? Post about them in the comments below!
Today is December 18th, 2018 and we have picked the winner at random. Big CONGRATULATIONS to Yoga Trade member @bevinking !!! YOU WON! See you in the jungle! Big thanks to all who participated! A few more days to sign up with our earlybird pricing. Use the discount code AMIGOS at checkout to receive $200 off before December 20th!
Yoga Trade is excited to announce our Deep Ecology of Wellness GIVEAWAY!
One lucky member will receive free admission (5 nights shared glamping accommodation, three meals a day, all workshops and classes) to Deep Ecology of Wellness, April 9-14, 2019 at Punta Mona, Costa Rica. ($950 value)
Deep Ecology of Wellness is a unique and special retreat gathering (limited to 100 participants max). It is will be held at an off-the-grid botanical center where the rainforest meets the Caribbean sea. A space for Yoga Teachers, Wellness Professionals, Permaculturists, and those with a desire to learn from around the world to come together in an intimate and natural conference setting. Enjoy Movement, Yoga, Nature Connection, Community Building, Continuing Education, Storytelling, Permaculture, Regenerative Design, and Joy. Check out the incredible line up of passionate teachers HERE.
HOW TO ENTER:
(Please read directions carefully, it’s a 3 step process)
1. To enter, log into your Yoga Trade account and LEAVE A REPLY (post comment) below at the end of this BLOG post. In the comment, state why you are excited to attend the Deep Ecology of Wellness event! Within your comment, feel free to also share about your own experiences with Yoga Trade. You must be a Yoga Trade member to post a comment. (If you are not currently a member, you can sign up at yogatrade.com)
2. Visit the Facebook page for this event (https://www.facebook.com/events/329849784255275) and mark that you are either ‘GOING’ or ‘INTERESTED’.
3. Finally, SHARE about this BLOG/EVENT GIVEAWAY post on at least one social media platform of your choice (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc.). You must share this link: https://yogatrade.com/deep-ecology-wellness-giveaway/
That’s it. You’re Entered!
Thank you for contributing to this flourishing community. We look forward to growing together!!!
The WINNER will be chosen at random (random.org) and will be announced on December 18th, 2018.
*Only ONE entry allowed per person. You must be a real human to enter. The giveaway is only valid for persons age 18 and above. The event ticket is not transferable to another person if winner is unable to use. The event ticket includes full admission (shared accommodation, food, and classes), and does NOT include transportation to the event or other travel costs. The event ticket is not redeemable for cash.
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.
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.
Versed travelers know well how difficult it can be to stick to your regular daily preferences when you go away for a few days, or even weeks. You fill those hours with as much sightseeing as possible, trying to see, taste, and feel the energy of this new destination you’re visiting. Is it, then, realistic to find the time and the patience you normally have for staying true to your yoga practice and healthy eating choices?
Surprisingly for many, it actually is quite possible and doable. In fact, if you need further convincing to continue with your yoga morning flows even when there’s an exciting tour for early birds, keep reading to inspire yourself and stay healthy and fit on the go.
Immersing yourself in the moment
Unlike many other forms of exercise, yoga combines incorporating your natural breathing pace with the movements and asanas you perform. As an essential ingredient to a healthy yoga practice, breathing represents an opportunity for increased, deepened mindfulness. When you let yourself enjoy the present moment, while soothing your body and mind through controlled breathing, you can truly experience your adventure on a new level. Take some time in the morning to start your day with yoga, and it will help you retain that awareness of your surroundings and the joy of new experiences. With better awareness, you can do your best not only to rejoice in the beauty of those new localities you visit, but also to stay mindful of your carbon footprint, in an effort to become a more sustainable yoga traveler.
Connecting with the local culture
Although Asia is known as the birthplace of many notable philosophies that focus on peace and serenity, many of its local hotspots are now very fast-paced and bustling with visitors. However, when you take a trip to some of its most renowned destinations, you’ll see that Asia strives to retain its Zen essence. What’s even more relevant is that you, as a traveler, are more than welcome to become a temporary part of that community. For instance, practicing yoga in Hong Kong is still a staple of modern life, and it has become simplified with the use of apps that let you join a class you desire, no matter where you come from. That way, you can taste the true life of Hong Kong beyond the typical highlights, and experience its innate, life-loving rhythm that you’d otherwise miss in its urban eco-system.
How many times have you caught yourself overwhelmed by the sheer beauty and authenticity of your travel destination? A yoga routine lets your mind process these events and emotions, and in fact become much more grateful for the opportunity. In the haste to see the world, we often take it for granted. Yoga helps you stay rooted in your ability to appreciate the present moment and the gift of travel, which we tend to leave behind as soon as we hit the road.
Experiencing relaxation amidst stress
As beautiful as it is, travel also often comes with a hefty dose of stress. It may be caused by anticipation, waiting for your next flight, or by the mere change of perspective. We tend to get used to a certain way of life, and leaving it all behind for a limited amount of time can be a challenge for those who like their routines. Whatever the underlying cause may be, practicing yoga can help you soothe your stress reactions and be more resilient to any other potential triggers. This is especially relevant when you visit hectic spots such as Baghdad or Cairo, where the tension is practically palpable. Yoga is a simple, yet powerful way to stay calm in such environments and see the world through a new lens.
Staying healthy and vibrant
Not every journey is a luxurious one, nor it should be. However, when you do put your body through a lot by taking exceptionally long bus rides, spending hours in sweltering heat, or trekking for hours, yoga can help alleviate the pain. Even daily sightseeing can cause sore muscles, and add to that dehydration if you don’t drink enough water, and your body will start craving a soothing yoga session.
Even though yoga in its essence is so much more than a simple stretching, devoting a fraction of your time just to unwind in comfortable stretching positions will help your muscles heal. That way, you can renew your energy for the next day’s adventure and keep the pain at bay.
Sophia Smith is beauty blogger, an eco-lifestyle lover and a food enthusiast. She is very passionate about natural skincare, yoga and mindful living. Sophia has contributed to a number of publications including Mother Earth Living and How to Simplify.
Yoga teaches us about unity; not only of ourselves, but also of humankind. It teaches us to let go of attachments and appreciate impermanence. So does travel. My career in yoga has already taken me across North and Central America. Yoga can be a mobile career, and it’s one that has allowed me to move around, follow my own path and not have to be limited by staying in one place. What’s interesting is that the experiences I’ve gained keep bringing back the same lessons I go to the mat for.
Have you lived a nomadic lifestyle as a yoga teacher? Do you aspire to? Here I’ll share how yoga can help you connect with international communities and find new and exciting work opportunities. Teaching yoga is one of the best travel jobs out there!
When considering yoga as a mobile career, it’s important to note that some places will have more opportunities than others. When you visit a new area, it is beneficial to connect with the local community as they often have existing yoga teaching opportunities. Common places to find short-term yoga teaching opportunities include hostels and tourist destinations that have a “high season.” Meeting people who are vacationing and simply introducing your services can connect you to interested students. However, one of the easiest ways to connect with local communities before you even arrive is through social media, which brings us to the next tool that can help you grow a nomadic yoga business.
Traveling yoga teachers benefit from having a business card that clearly states their website, email and social media accounts. These tools become like a mobile yoga center, a place that students can be present, follow their teacher’s journey, and leave comments and reviews. These tools are helpful to showcase experience and professionalism for traveling teachers.
Teachers hoping to teach in any given location can use social media as an efficient way to advertise. On a recent trip to Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, I turned my one-week trip into a working vacation by simply connecting with the local community’s social media page. I taught classes at a hostel and a yoga center and advertised on the community’s social media page. Advertising this way has also been a successful practice for me when living in various communities in Mexico.
Online yoga work is another increasingly popular opportunity that is becoming more easily accessible to yoga teachers who have an existing online presence. Blog writing, live-streaming yoga classes, and pre-recorded videos all allow teachers to work from anywhere that has a reliable internet connection.
International Trainings and Trade Opportunities
Participating in international trainings and using online resources (like Yoga Trade!) allows teachers to connect to yoga communities all over the world. We never know who we are going to meet or where in the world relationships can take us. In my own experience, completing a yoga teacher training in Mexico led me to teach yoga throughout Mexico and to connect with yoga teachers living all over the world.
Work trade opportunities often open doors to many international opportunities to teach yoga online and in countries throughout the world. The positions can range from a few weeks to permanent teaching positions, many in beautiful tropical locations. Learning another language is also incredibly helpful, but it is common to find English yoga classes in many destinations. Getting out there and getting connected will often open many more doors, allowing you to continue your travels.
What kind of lifestyle are you seeking?
Yoga as a mobile career can look different for everyone depending on preferences and mobility. Some people may love to take a year to travel, live and work in as many places as possible, accepting several short-term teaching opportunities along the way. Others may prefer to live a mobile lifestyle that is ongoing and slower paced. They may choose to stay in places longer, spending time building local connections and a client base, or accepting longer-term trade opportunities. Some people have a yoga career in their home city, but would love to have regular opportunities to leave their routine for travel, growth and learning.
Yoga teaches us about community and connections. It’s a beautiful lesson that many nomadic yogis are able to connect to on a deeper level. The opportunities are out there! You just have to be open to them.
In the middle of the Californian desert, I found myself at a heart-centered celebration: Shakti Fest.
For three days, men and women from all corners of the world gathered to sing sacred music, grow their yoga practice, and honor the divine feminine in us all. My most significant take-away was the power of community for spiritual growth and support. Take a look at our video as we catch up with Shakti Fest’s executive director, Sridhar, and yoga teachers, Kia Miller and Govind Das to discuss the alchemy of gathering in community.
Video Music: Jai Ma (Down to the Sea Mix) by Govind Das & Radha
Filmmaker: Audrey Billups
Meet Co Founder of Intrepid Gap, Simone Levine. Intrepid Gap is a holistic gap year counseling service that integrates a mind-body-heart approach and builds lasting relationships with all those they work with. Read on to learn more about her inspiring story and this creative work that blends experience, passion, purpose, service, and perseverance.
What is your definition of a gap year?
A gap year is when you take some time during a transition in your life to focus inwards by pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone and into the world. Traditionally, this happens between high school and university, but it can also happen after university, retirement, or another time in your life when you are seeking to slow down, focus on your own dreams and goals, and explore the world and yourself. According to research, 2 months or longer is the recommended time to really dive in and immerse yourself in experiences that will be both enriching and meaningful, with lasting results.
Did you personally have a gap year experience? What were the results?
I did! After university I was unclear as to what I wanted to do with my life. Having just spent basically my entire life in a classroom studying some subjects that I enjoyed, and many that I didn’t, I knew I needed to get out into the world and learn more by doing. I bought a one-way ticket to Buenos Aires, Argentina and started out with a TEFL course. This turned into a year of me teaching English to Argentinian adults, learning Spanish, and in my down-time traveling around South America, including Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia, and Peru. The results?! Well…I learned that regardless of the country or language, we are all basically in search of the same things: love, happiness, and connection. I learned how to communicate across cultures and barriers. I learned about my own innate strengths and talents. I finally got direction for how I wanted to spend my energy in my career: in cross-cultural exchange and training.
Is it possible to integrate practicing and/or teaching yoga within a gap year?
Absolutely! First off, yoga can happen anywhere and everywhere, whether that be through a personal practice or through immersing in a yoga teacher training or teaching job. For me, I always have a yoga mat rolled up and attached to the outside of my backpack. There are retreat centers, teacher training courses, spas, and hotels all over the world that are always seeking yoga teachers and practitioners to come and join them. I’d say that one of the most direct ways to incorporate reflection, self-actualization, and mindfulness into your gap year is by participating in some sort of yoga-inspired opportunity for at least part of your gap year!
A lot of students dream of gap years but have difficult times figuring out how to make the finances work. Any suggestions?
I completely understand how challenging the money conversation can be. Many people believe that taking a gap year has to cost an arm and a leg, but the reality is that there are many different options depending on your budget. You can spend upwards of 50k USD on a gap year and at the other end of the spectrum you can actually make money on your gap year! One way to do a gap year on the cheap is to look for work trade opportunities (working in exchange for room and board). Work at an organic farm picking fruit, teach yoga at a retreat center, lend a helping hand at the reception of a hostel, B&B, or hotel, or be an au pair or nanny for a local family. You can see more suggestions here: Gap Year Options That Won’t Break the Bank
What are some resources you would recommend for someone who is interested in taking a gap year?
The gap year industry is quickly growing, which means that there are more and more options out there each day. That said, it can be challenging to know which ones are legit and which ones not. Our best recommendation is to work with a gap year counselor who has specific, safe, and vetted program partner relationships and can walk you through the process. However, if you want to do the research on your own, you can find a lot of free information available through the Gap Year Association.
What makes Intrepid Gap unique?
We are holistic gap year counselors — meaning we set people up with gap year placements around the world that are in line with their own individual passions, dreams, strengths, and goals. We integrate a mind-body-heart approach with every individual. Not only do we connect you with customized, vetted, and meaningful experiences around the world, but we also support you emotionally from start to finish. Most gap year counselors just set you up with a placement and then send you on your way. Taking a gap year can be challenging both physically and emotionally, and we are here to guide you through the process in order to make it meaningful, intentional, and exponentially worth your while. In addition, we are environmentally conscious, socially aware, and culturally sensitive.
What are some of the most inspiring gap year opportunities you have heard of lately?
Good question! There are so many options and each person will be inspired by different experiences. However, that being said, my personal favorites are:
-Teach yoga at an amazing retreat center through yogatrade.com
-Monitor lions, hyenas, leopards and mega herbivores (elephants and white and black rhinos) at a national park in South Africa, as well as contribute towards anti-poaching initiatives and collect data to assess the health of the park ecosystem.
-Volunteer at an intentional community in Southern India with building maintenance, renewable energy, primary and secondary education, village outreach, architecture, organic farming, animal care, and more.
-Intern along the Great Barrier Reef in Australia doing admin, writing, social media, and multimedia projects to conserve the reef.
-Backpack through the Andes mountains with a small group while learning about the outdoors and yourself.
Take your gap year to the next level and visit us at INTREPIDGAP.COM
Simone Levine is the Chief of Endless Opportunities and Lead Counselor at Intrepid Gap. She is an explorer, a photographer, a student and teacher of yoga, a group facilitator, lover of the ocean, and a believer in our capacity as a human race to create positive change in the world. After working in the gap year and experiential education industries for her entire adult life she decided it was time to turn her own dream into a reality (start a business doing what lights her fire!), and there was born Intrepid Gap.
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