Traveling is never without its lessons and over the last 16 months of travel, I have learned some invaluable ones. You may think traveling is as glamorous as the next best Instagram photo, but there’s a lot more to it than that. Something happens when you step outside your comfort zone in a foreign country and learn to share your passions on a wider scale (in my case, yoga and aerial). It brings you into the present moment, the only place where life exists.
These lessons have shaped my life and my yoga teaching and rocked me to the very core of my being, changing me for the better.
When I left the United States on June 29, 2016, I was broken. I was 30 years old and I felt like I was having a midlife crisis. My car had just been totaled, I was recovering from a severe shoulder injury and I quit all my jobs teaching Pilates and aerial to kids (which I loved). I was left wondering what am I doing and why? I then broke up with my boyfriend at the time and flew home to Florida only to have a major falling out with my family and inflicted more damage on myself by jumping out of a moving vehicle… in front of my grandmother… over politics.
This is not easy for me to admit. And at the time, my family thought I needed mental health therapy. I don’t blame them, looking back.
Even though I have taught and practiced yoga for most of my adult life, I have also been in and out of therapy and counseling. I knew that if I tried this yet again I would be putting myself into a box. I have a spirit that never gives up and my spirit knew there was something for me to learn out of all this. I had to do it my own way.
An opportunity to teach yoga in Nicaragua appeared right at this time and I took it as a sign, even though there were several factors that tried to prevent me from going. My family was bewildered that I wanted to continue on this trip even though I had gone to such extreme measures of hurting myself. But ultimately I realized that this traveling path was my own personal path of self-healing and forgiveness. I just needed the time and space for it to unfold.
Now here I am today, over a year later, on a journey I never thought I would be in. I am still trying to figure it out day-by-day, but the biggest things I have learned are:
- I am a wellspring of knowledge, creativity, and experience
- I must value myself accordingly because of this
- I have immense faith in the universe/God that I will be taken care of and always have enough
San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua: Self-Worth
Home to some of the most incredible sunsets in the world, my first stop was San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. Here I was teaching yoga and aerial around town and making things happen for myself, but the money wasn’t coming in like I wanted it to. I realized I had been teaching yoga and movement arts for nearly 10 years at that point and asked myself, “What am I doing living in a tiny, dirty apartment with a roommate I may as well have been sharing a bed with in exchange for teaching yoga at a hostel?”
Sure, it’s cool to be in a foreign country and everything, but I have standards and I knew I was better than that. I quickly found my dream job at a nearby resort (which has, in fact, turned into finding multiple “dream jobs” around the world teaching at some of the most AMAZING places in the world). All I had to do?
Value myself. Realize that I AM WORTHY. That I have put a lot of time and effort into developing MY skills for MANY years and I deserve decent living conditions AND teaching conditions to share my arts and practices.
Redonda Bay, Nicaragua: How to Slow Down
Unfortunately, as I had mentioned before, I had been recovering from a shoulder injury. I hadn’t given myself much time to rest since I had injured it in March of 2016 (maybe 1-2 weeks off from aerial practice at most but I was always teaching so it never fully got a break. I couldn’t “afford” to, or so I had thought). It was a really hard choice for me to leave the position where I was teaching aerial in San Juan, knowing I would not have access to aerial equipment for awhile. My spirit flies and aerial soothes my soul. But I had to learn to let it go.
My inner guide knew I needed a break to heal and I had not been listening for far too long. And unfortunately, during my time in San Juan, I sprained my ankle pretty badly twice. And then I had some excruciating hip and lower back pain come out of nowhere, probably from compensating due to my ankle injury. My entire body was in constant pain.
I had to keep teaching, of course, but what I learned the most was that I needed to rest. I needed to NOT do vinyasa or Ashtanga. I had to practice yin, restorative, meditation, and pranayama. These styles are NOT my favorite.
This was really challenging for me. I do not like to hold poses for long periods of time because I like to MOVE.
There were moments during this time where I could barely do Chair Pose, a lunge, or even a reclined twist because of my ankle, hip and back pain. My house was on a big hill and I remember hobbling up that hill often. I still to this day do not know what any of my injuries actually were, but several months later, they were all almost completely resolved (EDIT: I have now received a complete diagnosis of my musculoskeletal conditions at a clinic in Goa, India 1 year later). I still have some occasional issues but nothing quite as debilitating as what I was going through there. I sincerely believe these injuries were a physical manifestation and elaboration of many of the mental and emotional trauma I had been going through, which have since eased off.
Peru: Willpower, Divine Trust, Forgiveness
My next step in this journey took me to Peru. I was, in no way, shape, or form, planning to head below the equator when I first set out on this trip. However, yet another injury I received in Nicaragua while surfing pushed me to this place where I felt I needed to seek out a healer. They say Mother Ayahuasca calls you… and she certainly did at this time.
When I left Nicaragua, I wasn’t completely healed from my injuries, but I still managed to travel around Peru for a month and do a lot of hiking. I went deep into the jungle with my shaman, alone, far from civilization, to experience the healing power of ayahuasca. It was here that I began to truly understand the power of manifestation, which I will write about in another post because it’s a BIG one!
I will say, however, it was through the ayahuasca experience that I was finally able to begin working on FORGIVING myself for all of the hurt and harm I did not only to MYSELF but also to my family. This process continued until I finally went home, 9 months after I initially left.
I also received the message that I had to truly desire for whatever it is I wanted to create out of life. I had to WISH and BELIEVE in exactly what I WANT, otherwise, it will never happen or I will never take action if they are only half-hearted.
And so here I was, traveling for a month!
After this amount of traveling, I was hooked. And now, a year later, I have officially “worked” 8 months out of the year and traveled for nearly 4 months out of the year (which doesn’t mean I’m not working). I’m not a millionaire or a trust-funder, I make it happen because it is what I desire to do… and I get a lot more than 2 weeks vacation!
At that time, I didn’t know how I was going to continue to sustain myself overseas and the thought of running out of money abroad is always a scary one! Ultimately, the experience in Peru helped me align my intentions and my actions so that I could continue teaching yoga abroad and opened a new creative and fulfilling source of income for me that also helps me continue to live overseas as a digital nomad: writing online!
Granada, Nicaragua: Community and Self-care
When I returned to Nicaragua again after Peru, I dove back into teaching and practicing after a month off. I was teaching at a small boutique hotel and we had several guests who were in long-term apartment rentals for the duration of my stay. And it was here that I was able to cultivate a sense of relationship with my students again. That was something I had missed previously when teaching at the resort and hostel- it was often people in and people out- within a span of a few days.
The opportunity to teach people over an extended period of time and witness their growth was such a beautiful thing, and the gratitude I received from them was a reminder that I do have something special to share with the world and CAN help people to better understand their bodies, no matter what their ‘ability’ is.
Also, during this time I re-introduced the concept of self-care into my life. This has been an ongoing process as I still work to figure out what exactly I need, although the truth is, for me, it changes on a daily basis. Some people need the discipline of a daily Ashtanga practice… for me, I like to wake up and decide which pranayama I want to do and which crystals I want to meditate with depending on how I FEEL and what I may need for the day/week ahead. It’s more of an intuitive practice. That’s not to say there is not a discipline to it, often I do have to make myself do a specific practice over and over again until I get truly comfortable with it and feel I have mastered it… then I can turn my sadhana (daily practice) into living art.
The art of self-care is a discipline that needs nourished daily. I started developing a morning routine when I could (still not always successful at this because I don’t like to wake up before 8 am and the rest of the world and yoga classes like to start early. No, I do not live on yogi time and I don’t pretend to. I think the yogi’s outlined a path for enlightenment but ultimately I think we can carve our own unique path through self-study).
Not only this, but I began investing in my own personal self-development again. As I had focused more on performing over the last few years, I had dropped a lot of things I used to do to take care of myself mentally and emotionally. So I signed up for a ton of online courses, including this one by Deepak Chopra which helped me immensely!
Costa Rica: Authenticity and Love
When I got to Costa Rica, though, I was in for a real test and had many lessons to learn. I had been continually trying to shake the skeletons out of my closet during this journey through deep self-inquiry, and I had to learn how to show up fully in my power… which actually didn’t happen until my next step in the journey.
I also experienced a deep love with someone, and through this process, learned to love myself deeper. I felt love as a reflection of the Divine.
I also learned I shouldn’t do anything I’m not 100% completely invested in, but that I can keep trying even if I fail, because eventually through failure, I will figure out what I CAN and WANT to do. And expectations create immense disappointment, so it’s better to have none at all in order to avoid suffering.
Koh Phangan, Thailand: Self-affirmation and Divine Trust (again)
The moment I left Costa Rica, it was like a weight lifted off my shoulders. When I got to Thailand, I started teaching on my first yoga teacher training. Immediately I felt that I AM valued and have immense knowledge to share.
Going to Thailand was yet another huge leap of faith that I completely trusted the universe for. I was ready to go home after over 9 months of travel and booked a plane ticket back to my family in Florida for a break before I was going to Sri Lanka, but still had about 6 weeks of time left (I had the job in Sri Lanka lined up for months). Going home at this time was necessary and helped me to seal my issue of forgiveness.
I put it out into the world that I was seeking work in Thailand and almost immediately I was offered a position teaching on a yoga training by a woman who also took a complete leap of faith on ME, to fly all the way across the world to teach for her. I had to pull some serious strings to make this happen, but the universe kept rewarding me with signs that it was taking care of me. Three examples:
- I met a woman on my flight from Hong Kong to Singapore who invited me to stay at her apartment where I could shower and sleep (I had a 20-hour layover there) and she treated me to an all-expenses-paid trip with food and taxi cost, too! She also dropped me off at the botanical gardens, Gardens by the Bay, while she had a work meeting. ALSO, she was an avid meditator and taught me some really cool meditations to connect with your Akashic record and also divine presence.
- My main suitcase was lost when I arrived in Koh Samui, Thailand. However, this turned out to be okay because I had to take a shuttle and 2 boats (a ferry and small “longtail” boat aka little motorized dingy boat) to get to where I was teaching and I already had a backpacking bag, laptop bag, and 4 hula hoops. The universe knew all of that was going to be too much to carry after a 3-day journey to get there!
- When I sat down on the first ferry, I ended up right next to a few of my students I was going to be teaching!
I also received my first Reiki attunement here on the island as well.
Sri Lanka: How to Break Negative Life Cycles and Build Positive Ones
Sri Lanka was like magic for me. Here, I finally had the time and space to make some serious personal and physical breakthroughs. Now that my body was no longer hurting and I was going to be settled somewhere for a few months, I could work on my own yoga practice, writing, business building and go deeper into my own self-development. I suddenly got my half-press handstand and by the end of my time there, could do eka pada bakasana (single leg crow). I contribute a part of this not only to regular practice, of course, but to the fact that for the FIRST time in over 10 years of practice, I actually BELIEVED I could do these things.
I took the time to look at my life objectively and what I had been doing for the last 10 years as an adult. I learned what my cycles were and that I need to break them. I spent most of my 20’s in relationships that were not in my highest good and had gotten into the habit of literally running away from my finished relationships instead of learning to cope with them. The pattern was: I would break up with a boyfriend, move cities, start a new job, and then BOOM! The cycle would start all over again. It happened 3 times over a period 7 years, where I moved from Athens to Columbus, Ohio, then from Ohio back to Florida, and then California to travel the world. I’m still in the process of working through this, but the realization is the first step!
And I knew I had to fill in the hole of this samskara (an embedded unconscious karmic reaction) as I worked to release it.
It was here that I developed an even deeper self-practice. I began practicing Reiki self-healing every day and read Kundalini Tantra by Swami Satyananda Saraswati which completely changed my life as someone who has worked with chakras and energy for a long time. I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I have never been good about having a routine before I leave the house in the morning. In the past, I would always wake up 30 minutes before I had to go, rush through my necessities, eat a granola bar, grab my coffee, and whiz out the door to go teach yoga. But here, at Talalla Retreat, I forced myself to wake up at 6:15 am every day I taught yoga to take care of myself FIRST. And what a difference it made, not only in my classes but also for me personally. I’m still not enough of a morning person to actually wake up for a sunrise though… only if I happen to be up all night for one 😉
India: Dignity and Truth
Well, I’m still in India, so I’m going to keep this section short. What I have learned here so far is that my knowledge is power, so I must uphold my values with dignity and speak my truth.
I can manifest anything I want in life when I work in conjunction with the universe, which helps me release what does not serve my highest good and bring in that which does.
I need to dream bigger to make all the small dreams happen!
Overall, it’s often the people in your life and the company that you keep that make it awesome.
In the end, it’s you, me and everyone else in the world who shape this experience… we are in it together LITERALLY…
And finally, to wrap up! Teaching overseas has helped me figure out what my message is. It has clarified my vision by giving me the space to grow and the time to focus on my ideas. I hope you will find inspiration through my story if you are seeking change in your life today!
Have you ever traveled extensively overseas? What are some things you have learned? Comment below or send me a message! I would love to connect.