Cycles

Life is a cyclical experience. We undergo 24-hour cycles, weekly cycles, monthly cycles, yearly cycles, and so on. It is no wonder then, that our growth, healing, and circumstances are not linear, but rather cyclical themselves.

In one day, one week, one month, one year, we may encounter numerous ups and downs; happy and sad moments; positive and negative experiences. This is a natural and beautiful gift of life to constantly learn from different situations. It is only in our thinking, in our minds, that these experiences attain a label of “good,” “bad,” “positive,” “negative.” Without such labels, they would simply be part of our cyclical experience as humans. It is interesting then, to not deny our less energized, darker days, but to flow with them. To experience them without judgement.

We seem to put less attention on the days we feel excited, and light, as if these are our normal. So why not put less attention on the opposite as well, and accept that all is our normal?

To let go of our expectations of any day, any cycle in our lives, and to go with it is to experience the beauty of life. We do not need to quickly change our thoughts if something unpleasant comes up. We can allow, flow, and be kind to all thoughts. Give all thoughts their moment, and then move on with the flow of our cycles. The more we learn to move with the waves of life, the more we are able to relax, float, and enjoy.

Woman

Forever flowing and growing like the oceans at high tide
moving with the wind;
freely and effortlessly.
Changing direction with ease;
growing like a tree reaching high toward the sun
and deep into the earth as she discovers her roots.
Always finding a way to adopt to her environment
and not allowing storm clouds to obstruct her way.
She is the earth and the stars, the moon and the seas.
She has the power and beauty to conquer the world;
yet the humility and grace to live harmoniously within it.
She is fierce.
She is gentle.
She is woman.

She is you.

‘Finding Yourself’ – A Cliché or a Transformative Phrase?

We hear the term ‘finding yourself’ quite often in our modern age. It is a byproduct of a time in which liberty and exploration due to economic conditions and access to resources are being experienced on a large scale (though this is certainly not the case for many people who do not have the same opportunities).

It is a catchphrase, often used to patronize others, “she went to India to ‘find herself’” – when someone takes a step away from their daily life to travel, introspect, or otherwise look for something beyond themselves.

It purports that I have yet to know myself and that I must search outwardly to find who I am; however, this is a misconception. This phrase indicates a journey into the self.

Finding yourself is not the same as searching through the mall to find the perfect dress for an occasion. It is about journeying inward, clearing away the clutter, clearing the conditionings of a life influenced by societal information, and coming back to who we are. It is about finding what we’ve always had yet forgot or misplaced along the way.

Finding yourself is similar to washing the dust and dirt off an old glass frame, revealing a beautiful piece of artwork that has always been there, yet was covered by debris from years of hanging on a wall. It is searching deep within ourselves, dusting ourselves off and revealing the beautiful artwork that we all are.

It is not a graceful journey either. It is painful, uncomfortable, lonely, and vulnerable. It is difficult to shed the layers we have grown to protect ourselves from life. It often feels like we have exposed a wound before it is ready, and we want to reach for the gauze to cover it back up. But it is in these most vulnerable, uncomfortable times that may bring us clarity and allow us to become comfortable with the uncomfortable. It is in these lonely experiences that we are forced to sit with ourselves and become reintroduced to who we are.

‘Finding yourself’ may be a cheesy cliché, but there is true value to this phrase. It is when we begin to know ourselves fully and deeply; when we sit with our darkness and our lightness; when we learn that our internal world influences everything outside of ourselves, that we can transform our lives. In finding ourselves, we find our true expression, our true authentic self, and learn to love ourselves fully as we are.

One Year as a Yoga Teacher

One year ago today, I completed my 200-hour yoga teacher training (YTT) in the beautiful country of Costa Rica. I cannot say exactly what drew me to my training beyond simply wanting to deepen my own practice. I had no desire, or perhaps no confidence, to ever teach yoga. I had practiced on and off for a few years, but it wasn’t until I went through a painful heartbreak that I found myself devoted to my practice and desiring the deeper meaning behind the physical yoga asanas.

So, after two intensive weeks of training, which were not only physically and mentally draining, but also very emotionally taxing, I became certified as a yoga teacher.

Now what?

I didn’t think I would be able to find a job teaching, nor did I think I was good enough to teach. I compared myself to others, looking at the Instagram yogis who lacked any body fat and could bend like pretzels, and I allowed this to fill my mind as proof I would never be worthy. Thankfully, one of the trainers at my YTT took me aside toward the end of the two weeks and instilled hope and confidence in me with his belief I could and should be a teacher.

So, I left the training with his voice in my mind, while attempting to push aside my many doubts, and I wasted no time before practicing my newly learned skills.

I still had many months of traveling ahead, so I began teaching yoga in a hostel on the island of Ometepe in Nicaragua. I found the teaching difficult and I was dreading it more than enjoying it. I had a taste of “yoga politics,” in which other, more experienced teachers made me feel very incompetent. However, I used this as a lesson and tool to help push me forward, and I continued on. I then made my way back to Costa Rica where I taught informally at another hostel I worked in.

When I arrived back in Canada, I assumed the chances of being hired as a yoga teacher were next to none, as yoga studios expect two or more years’ experience, and usually a recommendation from another teacher.

I was very lucky to find a job rather quickly though, and I began teaching a few classes a week. At first, I felt resentment and frustration because I took over for a teacher who had taught the same class for over 15 years, and her students were not happy to see her go. I was met with a lot of resistance and found it difficult to find my own way of teaching these students.

It took a few months to finally feel confident with my own teaching style, and I could see the students noticed my new found confidence, meeting me with enthusiasm and willingness.

I have now been teaching yoga for one year, and I have learned so much in this time. Being a new teacher is one of the most challenging and emotionally vulnerable things I have ever done. I am constantly met with people who either love my style or who want it to be quite different. It seems that there is not one way to please everyone – which is obviously true in more than just a yoga class.

I have begun to feel more confident in my abilities, in who I am as a person, and I am opening up and allowing others to view my vulnerabilities.

It is truly a challenge to show up, no matter what is going on in my personal life, and lead a meaningful practice. It takes a lot of courage to stand in front of a group of strangers and speak, move, and guide them. I find teaching now to be immensely rewarding, and often find that after a class I feel I just experienced a transformative therapy session. To be so vulnerable, to be willing to make mistakes in front of groups of people, and to welcome criticism is such a difficult, yet humbling experience.

I am so grateful to call myself a yoga teacher, and I am eternally grateful for all those who have led me to this point in my life. Teaching will never come without challenges, doubts, and fears, but it is a beautiful path to be on.

Dietary Restrictions, Food & Travel

One of the biggest difficulties in my life is centered around food. You see, not only do I consume a plant-based diet, but I also have numerous food intolerances and a sensitive gut which dictates what I can, and cannot eat. This is usually okay when I am living at home as I cook all my own meals, but what happens when I go out, or when I travel for months at a time?

Whether you follow a plant-based diet like myself – which consists of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and completely avoiding meat, fish, dairy products (yes, cheese is included in this), eggs, and animal by-products, you have food sensitivities, or have any other dietary restrictions, it is certainly still possible to travel.

When I set off to Central America I was very worried about what I would eat on a daily basis. I pictured many hungry nights, stressed out grocery trips, and dreaded restaurant visits. To my surprise and delight, not only did I find enough to eat each day, but I actually met a whole community of people with similar diets to myself.

So how do you travel with food and diet restrictions?

1.Be Open to Trying New Local Foods

It may be difficult to find some of the staples you eat at home, however, you may be pleasantly surprised by how many delicious new foods you can try as you travel that fit into your dietary restrictions. When I first landed in Costa Rica I had never tried papaya, fresh coconut or plantains. Who would have thought these would end up being part of my daily diet while I traveled through Central America? All I am saying is, try new foods, you might discover a whole new world of possibilities.

2. Ask for Recommendations 

The best thing I ever did was ask locals if they knew of restaurants and other places that could accommodate my food requirements. I ended up with such long lists of spots to try that I couldn’t get to them all. I also discovered many hidden gems by extending my question to others.

3. Cook for Yourself

If you are a backpacker then chances are you’re looking for cheap accommodations, so this one will doubly benefit you. Many backpackers choose to stay in budget hostels as they travel, which offer a bed in a dorm shared with other backpackers. It doesn’t sound ideal if you have never tried this out, but I can vouch that staying in hostels is such a great way to travel and they have provided me with some of the best experiences of my life.

Anyways, another added bonus of hostels is they usually come with a kitchen. This is not always the case, so you must do your research before booking, but they are quite easy to find. This provides the opportunity to cook for yourself, which if you are anything like me takes a lot of the stress out of eating. I feel most comfortable when I can cook my own meals so I know exactly what goes into my food or what does not go into it. 

Whether you travel with some food staples in your pack, or hit up a grocery store to grab some fresh fruits, veggies, grains, etc., you’ll be surprised by how easy it is to whip something up in a hostel kitchen. Not to mention, it is also a wonderful place to connect with other travelers, and you may even end up sharing a meal and making a friend all while accommodating your dietary needs.

4. Learn the Words

When I arrived in Costa Rica I felt very overwhelmed because I did not know more than a few basic words in Spanish, and yet I needed to eat, obviously. The first thing I did was search for the ingredients I did not want in my food, such as milk, meat, eggs, and so on. I wrote the Spanish translation of these words down, and I practiced saying them over and over again. It took me a lot of courage to say these words in restaurants when I ordered food, and luckily I had met travelers who could speak Spanish and helped me to get my message across. However, with time I became confident with these words and spoke up for my dietary needs.

5. Don’t Worry so Much

When I think back to the months leading up to my trip, I remember constantly feeling worried and stressed out about traveling on a plant-based vegan diet. I expressed my worries constantly, and I truly thought I was going to live off of lettuce and rice. We humans have this tendency to stress ourselves to the brink of illness over things we may not have all the information about. I had a hard time finding vegan options online before my trip, and that alone led me to think I was the only person on a vegan diet who ever traveled to Central America. I know right? 

Overthinking, stressing, and assuming does not do anyone any good. Of course, it is scary to travel somewhere we haven’t been before, but it is exciting and part of the fun of getting out of our comfort zones. Regardless of your dietary restrictions, you will find what works for you, and you will not starve to death, I promise.

2018 – The Year of Self-Love

Happy New Year and 2019!

I am so excited and grateful for the start of another year, and for the opportunity to experience growth, renewal, and expansion.

However, before I dive into 2019, I think it is a good idea to reflect on what brought me to this point, to be thankful for my progress, and to contemplate 2018 – my year of self-love.

2018 was a year like no other for me. I left on January 4th for a trip to Costa Rica, where I completed my Yoga Teacher Training and volunteered in hostels. The sudden urge to book this trip was murky, if not completely unknown to me. I woke up one day with an overwhelming need to travel to Costa Rica and within two days I booked a plane ticket. Though somewhat unexplainable, this trip was detrimental to my health and well-being. Perhaps it was not the travel specifically that I needed so badly – it was the change of scenery, the expansion of my world-views and the reintroduction to myself.

When I arrived in the little surfer town of Puerto Viejo, where I planned to live for a month, I noticed how kind and happy the people living there were. Of course, the sun, warm weather and a home in paradise contributed to their glow, but there was something more to it. There was something else that brought a sparkle to their eyes and an extra friendly smile to their faces. It was their love.

It hit me like a brick-wall when I realized – no, I felt the love these people were emanating. I felt so cared for and surrounded by so much warmth. And yet, I didn’t understand why people who barely knew me made me feel so warm and loved and why I had never felt this way before.

It dawned on me that the reason my new friends had so much love to give others was because they worked on loving themselves each day. It began when I told one of my new friends that I was “so stupid” for whatever I did – a very common retort I’d use when speaking about myself after the most minor infraction – and she looked at me and said, “Love, you don’t deserve to be spoken to that way.”

I began noticing the comments I consistently made to put myself down and how unnecessary these words were. It didn’t end with little put-downs after I made a mistake either; I constantly criticized my body, personality traits, and I would compare myself to others with the notion that I would never measure up. The more I became aware of my habits, the more I realized I never actually had a nice thing to say to myself.

My epiphany, followed by guidance from the amazing women I met, led me to a place where I was able to question the way I have treated myself my entire life, and my ingrained belief that to speak with self-confidence means you are narcissistic and self-absorbed.

During those months of travel a lot of things came up that I had to deal with and overcome. I had to talk myself through a lot of insecurities, a lot of traumas based around old relationships and this constant feeling that I was not deserving of my own or anyone else’s love. I spent a lot of time alone, and a lot of time in stillness, which effectively led to a weight gain, causing even more body-image issues to surface and work through.

Of course, this is an ongoing process that I did not overcome in one year; however, the first step is to become aware of our toxic patterns, and I certainly did in 2018.

Since this discovery I have felt changes in myself. I have begun to develop a healthier self-image and my thoughts are shifting from criticism and discontentment to kindness and patience. When my internal chatter starts listing off perceived reasons why I am not good enough or why I am incompetent, I redirect my thoughts to focus on positive aspects of myself, and I remind myself that every mistake is an opportunity for growth. I have started telling myself “I love you”. I have begun questioning the social norms, advertisements and messages I have grown up consuming that indicate we can never be happy just as we are.

I have begun to work on being happy just as I am.  

2018 taught me the importance of reminding myself I am good enough and I am deserving of love from others and from myself. It taught me that love starts from within and flows outwards to others, and in order to exist within a place of love, we must work on loving ourselves first. 

Taking the Travel Plunge

Traveling the world is easier than ever with quick access to worldly destinations, online bookings, GPS, and social media. We can essentially plan an entire trip from the comfort of our couch or while browsing the Internet at our work. The world is quite literally at our fingertips, so why not plan a trip if it’s so easy?

Booking travel may be simple with today’s technological advantages, but I am constantly told by people – whether these be family members, friends, acquaintances, or someone I happen to converse with in the grocery store – that they wish they could take off, but they just can’t. My answer?

If you want to then you can.

And then I am bombarded by reasons, excuses, anxieties, you name it. Of course, there is truth to the fact that not everyone can travel the way they wish they could. A new mother probably isn’t going to take off on a six-month backpacking trip – though I am sure she could if she really wanted to. Someone with thousands of dollars in student loans probably should not fly to Asia and forget about their debts, but even they can, if they want to.

The point is if you want anything badly enough then the only obstacle truly in your way is you. If you really want to travel then save your money, figure out a timeline that works for you, figure out a situation that works for you, and then take the travel plunge.

My best advice is to not worry over every minor detail about traveling. I hate to break it to you, but no matter how much you plan, you cannot control every situation. And you may realize you don’t want to.

When I was 21 years old, my best friend and I decided to plan a six-week trip to Europe. When I say “plan” I really mean we planned this trip, down to the day. We made an itinerary of everything we wanted to do in each city, we booked all our flights, hostels and Airbnbs beforehand, and we even talked about any and all the “what-ifs” we could think of. Needless to say the entire trip went smoothly, we did not encounter any issues, and we were quite pleased with ourselves. However, one thing that was missing from our trip was spontaneity. We knew exactly where we would be on any given day of our trip, and though it worked for us given our long list of places we wanted to see and tight time-line, I felt we may have missed part of the point of traveling.

So, after University, I decided I needed a slightly different trip. I asked myself where I wanted to go, somehow chose Costa Rica, and then I booked a round trip flight. I arranged to volunteer in a hostel for one month, and I booked a Yoga Teacher Training course. At the time, I thought it was wild of me to book a round ticket three months apart without knowing what I would do for a whole month of the trip. But I took the plunge and when January 2018 came, I took off with my backpack and I set off to Costa Rica.

Little did I know I would fall absolutely in love…

I fell in love with the country, the town, the hostel and the people that I came to call family. I extended my one-month volunteer position to two months and I had difficulty saying goodbye when it was time to leave for my yoga teacher training. I knew I needed to go elsewhere after my training, but it did not sit well with me to fly back to Canada in less than a month. That is when I decided that I would not take my flight back in April. So, after my training, I went to Nicaragua to teach yoga, met more amazing people, and then I went back to Costa Rica to volunteer in the same hostel. I then went to Guatemala and Mexico, spending a total of six months in Central America before returning for another month in October.

When I first decided to travel I did not expect my trip would turn out as it did. I met so many kind, beautiful people, had life-changing, unforgettable experiences, and as cliché as it sounds, I learned so much about myself and grew as a person.

Though taking the travel plunge was terrifying at the time, it was the most important decision I have thus far made in my life. Of course, there were times I had to confront fears such as running out of money, being alone, getting lost, being a victim of a crime, or becoming extremely homesick. And perhaps it was not all glamourous. There were some very difficult and trying times, but it was so worth it.

I hope that for those who want to travel, they know they can. Whether it be a two-week trip, or a two-year trip, the decision to travel is always in your hands. And if you have that itch, I say take the plunge.

The Truth About Travel

Travel is not all beautiful scenery and wild adventures.

It is not all delicious meals and magical sunsets.

Travel is long days on cramped sweaty buses.

It is unsanitary, toilet paper-lacking bathrooms (if you’re lucky).

It is days of rice and bread, dorm-room snorers, and parasites taking over your digestive system.

Travel is wearing dirty clothes, and feeling anxious and vulnerable as you navigate unfamiliar streets in languages you cannot speak.

Travel is feeling lonely and forgotten.

 

In the time that I spent traveling my grandmother died, I dealt with a heartbreak, learned which friends are genuine, and spent days lost in the enthralls of my mind.

There were days that I hid in my bed thinking through what felt like every event in my life.

There were days when I felt alone and misunderstood, and days that I felt completely disconnected from everyone.

In this time of deep introspection I also learned to let go – of people, expectations, control, my past, and my future. I began to heal. I began to trust again.

I fell in love with people, places, cultures, and more importantly with myself.

I began to see the world in a new light. I learned so much from the people around me, and from myself.

I began to appreciate the difficult parts of traveling, and even invited them in as lessons and opportunities for growth.

 

Travel is long lonely days spent internally navigating and processing  the workings of the mind.

Travel is meeting beautiful souls and realizing distance means nothing when it comes to the connectedness we have with one another.

It is learning to trust your instincts and to love yourself for all your flaws.

It is learning to see each moment as a blessing and a lesson.

Travel is letting go of fear.

Travel is recognizing that we are never truly alone when we lead our lives with love.

A Travel Guide to Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

Head on an unfamiliar pillow. Eyes flutter open to the first peaks of the morning sun. Ears fill with exotic sounds of howler monkeys roaring in distant trees and tropical birds singing their morning melodies. The world is calm and slow to wake. The mind is clear and relaxed. The days are unhurried and laid-back, incorporating Latin, Caribbean, Indigenous and Hippie vibes at the core of the culture. The lush rainforest meets the vast and unforgiving sea – providing both grounding and free-flowing energy. This is where the beautiful surfer town of Puerto Viejo de Talamanca lives.

This is where magic lives.

Puerto Viejo de Talamanca is located along the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, in Limón Province. This small reggae surfer hippie town neighbours the area inhabited by BriBri, a large indigenous population, as well as a few other beach towns that span across the main road.

Getting There

Puerto Viejo is accessible by local bus for about $10 USD or by shuttle, which costs around $55 USD; both of which drive directly from San José to Puerto Viejo in about five hours.

As the bus drives across the small bridge and into the town of Puerto Viejo you can immediately feel that this is a special place. From the reggae music that fills the streets, colourful shops, Pura Vida vibes, excited tourist, local surfers lounging on the beach, veggie carts selling local produce, cyclists dodging motor bikes, and stray dogs looking for scraps to eat, this place has room for everyone.

Getting Around

To get around the small town of Puerto Viejo many people choose to rent bikes for the cost of about $4 USD a day, though it is certainly easy to walk the town in a few minutes.

For the Beach Dweller – Local Beach Spots

As the main road of Puerto Viejo runs along the sea, there are many beaches to choose from if a beach day or a surf lesson is calling your name. Playa Grande, or Black Sand Beach, is known for its dark sand and picturesque sunset views. Salsa Brava is the main beach in town and features an abandoned ship and beach bars. Playa Cocles is farther from town and a popular beach to spend the day laying in the sun, grabbing a surf lesson, or playing some beach volleyball. Outside of Puerto Viejo lies Playa Chiquita, Playa Punta Uva, and Playa Manzanillo, which are easily accessible by bike and provide beautiful and relaxing beaches to swim, tan, and snorkel.

For the Spiritual Seekers and Healers – Yoga, Kirtan, Reiki, and More

Beyond the world-famous waves and relaxing beaches, Puerto Viejo has a wide variety to offer travelers. Yoga classes are available throughout town, many of which are free or donation based. Kirtan, a form of chanting, is organized occasionally, and it is not difficult to find different healers providing Reiki, Thai Massage, and other therapeutic services.

For the Adventurer – National Parks, Waterfalls and Jungle Hikes

For the adventurous type, Cahuita and Manzanillo both offer national parks which are accessible by local bus and offer an array of tropical animals, beautiful beaches, and easy walking trails. Bribri, located in the mountains behind Puerto Viejo, is rich with beautiful waterfalls, both touristic and secret ones that range from a short bus ride and walk to a few hours of hiking into the jungle.

For the Party Animal – Puerto Viejo Nightlife

If you are one to party, the nightlife in Puerto Viejo is always vibrant and thrilling. A mix of reggae, Top 40, Latin and rap emerge from the speakers in the various bars around town. Monday to Thursday the bars feature “ladies’ night” where ladies drink for free and men flock because, well, the ladies are there. Locals battle it out in beer pong against tourists and the dance floors fill with drunk girls . Fire shows featuring talented performers provide alluring and mesmerizing entertainment, and a walk along the beach is never far from reach.

For the Animal Lover – Sloths, Sloths and More Sloths

A close bike ride from Puerto Viejo lies the Jaguar Rescue Center. The center is the home to orphaned and injured animals until they can be released back into their habitat. There haven’t been any jaguars in many years, so not to worry – you won’t run into any newly released jungle cats on your way there. For those who specifically want to see Costa Rica’s favourite (and my favourite) animal, a short bus ride to Cahuita will take you to the Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica – and this time the residents of the center are true to its name!

Of course, it is not necessary to visit a center to see the best of Puerto Viejo’s wildlife – you are in the jungle after all! A simple bike ride to the beach is usually accompanied by the appearance of several sloths hanging upside down as they lazily munch on leaves, howler monkeys as they gaze below looking for their next target practice, lizards, birds and many other creatures.

This all sounds great, right? But what about this magic that was mentioned?

The magic of Puerto Viejo goes beyond the activities you can do and the places that you can see. This magic is found in the beautiful souls who inhabit this land, as well as those who are attracted to the area. It is a place where open-minded, spiritual, kind, intelligent people flock together to create an environment of acceptance and love. Whether your country of origin, ethnicity, education, sexuality, religion, purpose and experiences, you are accepted, appreciated and loved.

The magic of Puerto Viejo lies in the warm Caribbean air and the nourishing rains that keep the jungle green and abundant. The magic lies in the salty cleansing sea, and the soft warm sand.

The magic lies in the powerful vortex of Puerto Viejo that sucks travelers in for months at a time, fills them with love, and gives them a second home to come back to time and time again.

View this post at https://travelista.club/guides/a-travel-guide-to-puerto-viejo-costa-rica/