How Did I Get Here? The Unexpected Fruits I Found After Giving Up the Reins
A Yoga Work Exchange Story
It was my last night at Palmar Tent Lodge and the sky was painted with an array of burnt oranges, pinks, and deep blues. I stood close enough to the water so I could feel it on my toes, and as I watched the sun set I felt my heart so full of love and happiness that it seemed like it would overflow. I inhaled a deep, salty-aired breath and tried not to think about saying goodbye to a place that was now home. A place that felt like I’d forever be returning to in my mind.
I looked over at Palmar’s sleepy little lodge a few yards away and watched as the guests began to trickle in for cocktails and cheap rum shots. So many late nights had been spent there in the past three months. The booze, the laughter, the celebration of new friends, life, and the thrill of travel, all the memories I tried to run through one by one so I could hold on to them tight. After a few moments my boyfriend walked out from behind the bar and made his way down the beach to join me. We stood there together, silently watching the waves, the island, and the setting sun, and I felt completely whole. My life was different. I was different.
My expectations for what I would find on Bastimentos Island were hilariously square. When I got news that I had been hired as the resident yoga teacher at Palmar Tent Lodge in Panama, I thought I had a pretty clear idea of how my trip was going to go. To ensure this, I immediately told myself the stipulations and expectations of my journey. Six weeks. Work. Live. Make friends. NO BOYS. Practice every day. Meditate. Relax. Be a model teacher. And when it was all over, go home. It would be a well-deserved graduation gift to myself before beginning my next chapter into adulthood.
The trip, however, had its own plans. Apart from only doing a few of the aforementioned things, my six-week-turned-three-month journey became a long strange trip, weaving itself into an experience that was something much greater than I could’ve conceived. While at first I fought to fit my experience into the box I thought it should be in, I slowly began to do something I wasn’t fully comfortable with and just let go.
I pushed myself to do away with how I thought I should and shouldn’t act in my role as “the yoga teacher” and the things I should and shouldn’t do to get the most out of my travel time. Rather, I just tried to be. Much to my surprise, the more I let go of the reins, the more the good stuff began to flow.
Allowing myself the freedom to explore and let go of my parameters helped my quirks and offbeat humor shine through my day to day life at Palmar no matter if I was teaching, serving tables, or having a friendly conversation with someone on the beach. By letting go of some of these deep-seated perceptions of what defines me and what I need to be happy I began to experience deeper and more fulfilling connections with others and myself. I fell in love. I made lifelong friends. I taught good classes and bad. I partied, practiced, cried, skinny-dipped, stayed up all night and slept in too late. I ate horrible junk food and ridiculously fresh fish. I celebrated birthdays, the arrival of friends, the departure of friends, and everything in between.
Many nights I’d wake up with a spider scurrying across my skin or a bat hanging above my head in the bathroom. The bug bites were out of this world and at times the heat could be unbearably stifling. And none of it really seemed to matter because I can say, without the slightest bit of hesitation, that it was the time of my life.
Before I knew it three months had gone by. I was laying in bed at the volunteer house, watching a small boa constrictor moving its way about the rafters, and it hit me; this was me living that weird, crazy, and exotic life that I had always read about cooler, more Instagram/blog savvy yoga teachers doing. This was the life that I was wholeheartedly seeking but was too afraid to let go, be myself, and receive.
Now, stateside for a solid five months, I wake up every day and think about traveling again. My old life and my old self don’t quite fit anymore. I feel like the world has opened my door and is constantly beckoning me to come outside and play.
Next up is Southeast Asia and I’m trying to not set such rigid guidelines for myself or the journey like I did before. All I know is this: my best friend (the boy from the beach) will be by my side, I’ll be carrying my life in a backpack, and I will be holding on to the unbridled belief that something amazing is out there waiting for me to let go and welcome it in.
Bren is a is a lighthearted, happy-go-lucky yogini that has reaped the many joys of teaching abroad and at home for the past four years. A sort of “jane of all trades,” she can be found twirling fire, cooking, or hula hooping at any given moment.