Posts in travel
The powerful truths about travel

I recently became a 'traveller'. After spending my 20’s too scared to get on a plane on my own, by the time my early 30’s came around curiosity had got the better of me and I took my first solo trip abroad. It was hugely daunting but ultimately a profound and pivotal moment in my own journey of personal discovery. 

Then last year my New Years intention was to create a year of 'experiences' and what then unfolded was a year of travelling, of culture, of embracing the tiny everyday details of life with fresh eyes.

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My entire experience of life changed profoundly, my comfort zone was blown wide open and my personal growth skyrocketed.

Over the last 12 months or so I have spent time with the Merkaba Community in Portugal, the ISKON community in Spain, the Madhyamaka Kadampa Meditation Centre Buddhist community in York and the Osho Leela Community in Dorset. Each time it has offered me a beautiful insight into alternative perspectives, routines and norms and in many cases really challenged my thinking. 

Living the lives of other communities teaches me so much and allows me to observe my own day-to-day world more powerfully than the nature of travelling on trips and holidays and observing from the peripheries.

Understanding that their way of being is not 'temporary' and that this is what real life is like, makes it all the more real for me. Going back to my 'normal' reminds me that the small (I admit sometimes frustrating) details of everyday life- however permanent, essential, ingrained and routine they may appear, are all within our control to change and shift. Nothing is permanent. The way we live our lives is for the most part based upon nothing more than a series of habits and social conditioning that we always have the choice to step into or away from. 

In moments of frustration at myself, at society, at the rut I may feel stuck in, at the 'shoulds' in my decision making... remembering this is all a choice for everyone of us in each and every moment is both an incredibly powerful and humbling reminder. 

As I began to create this blog post in my mind, I decided to reach out to other professionals in the world of self development, to understand how travelling and time spent with other communities and cultures had also enriched their lives and how their own personal development had evolved more deeply as a result.

What quickly became apparent and intriguing is the patterns that began to show...embracing the unknown, the subtle appreciation of another's culture, a shift in viewpoint, inner trust, a guiding intuition... These fundamental gifts found here through travel can be universal to us all, gifts that money cannot buy and that age, race and gender don't touch.

I'd love to share their beautiful stories with you...

 

Kama Frankling - Photograher

Travel Removes The Blindfold of My Mind. Travel opens my eyes to what is possible. While travelling I am reminded of how confident and capable I am when I need to be. Each moment is unpredictable and unfolds as it unfolds. While travelling I lose the false perception that I have control. There is no choice but to be with what arises as it arises. Travel keeps me in the present moment reminding me that life is only in each moment. Travel reminds me that everything is changing constantly, that each moment in life is precious and to be savoured. Travel gives me fresh eyes to see the world as if seeing it for the first time. Travel is the perfect awareness practice, moments in time so appreciated that they awaken the senses and remind me to live each day without the blinkers of my mind.

www.hatehavingmyphototaken.com  |   facebook.com/Hatehavingmyphototaken

 

Fiona Cooper - Motivational Life Coach

Living and working all over the world has been a privilege which I’m becoming ever more grateful to have had. I have lived in a generation where freedoms were real and where nearly all of the world was open to us. Many of my friends travelled to Kashmir and Afghanistan before they were closed and I have lived and worked in all continents apart from Africa. Being a motivational life coach, I’m fascinated by the way we use language to define ourselves and to create our reality.  Living overseas it has become more and more evident that every nation uses language differently and the words we use are key to how we live our lives and see ourselves. 

In France “bon appetit” is at the beginning of every meal and food is central in the language and culture. In Canada and North America (for the most part), sarcasm and irony are not understood (making our British sense of humour completely lost on most people) – but this leaves an honesty we are perhaps lacking sometimes in the UK – in the States you know where you stand.  New Zealand has a “can do” attitude which I haven’t seen matched elsewhere in the world – they have a phrase “the No 8 wire” which basically means you can fix anything with the right attitude.  Knowing and understanding these nuanced differences has made me all the more aware of our individual differences and the importance we should put on the actual words we choose to express ourselves particularly when we’re using words to define ourselves (something we do the whole time).  What words are you using to define your world?  Are there any words you might want to change?

Fiona Cooper is a Motivational Life Coach helping busy parents build the life of their dreams.  Her website is ficooper.com and she has a group on facebook called Dream Weave Achievers.

 

Kat Gal - Holistic Life Coach & Health Writer

To me the ultimate act of self-love is freedom: allowing myself to experience freedom, allowing myself the freedom to be my true self, the freedom to follow my heart and my intuition, the freedom to follow my dreams, the freedom to walk my own journey, the freedom to change direction whenever I want to or need to, the freedom to be present moment, the freedom to let go of all expectations, the freedom to let go of comparisons, the freedom to be vulnerable and authentic, the freedom to trust the process, the freedom to take risks, the freedom to feel alive, the freedom to be free, and the freedom to just simply be. Freedom has always been one of my highest values, and as a nomad I have valued my freedom for years. Self-love was something I had to learn and develop as an adult, and I am still learning every single day. When I realized that freedom and self-love ultimately meant the same thing for me, it was a life-changing a ‘aha’ moment.

Traveling allows me to practice freedom and self-love. Being at a new place, especially when traveling solo, I arrive with a clean slate with a childlike curiosity, with the opportunity to discover the world and in the process get to know myself. Returning to a familiar place - perhaps home or a place I know well – or being with familiar people allows me to practice this same freedom and self-love in an environment where society (and my past self) has already hung multitudes of labels on me. My travel experiences help this process greatly. Besides travel, ecstatic dance, writing, running, nature walk and family constellations are the most helpful tools to experience freedom and self-love as result.

facebook.com/arawtransformation  |   website: https://becomeahealthcoachblog.wordpress.com  |  Freelance writing: http://katgalwriting.weebly.com

 

Shelly Najjar - Bucket list and travel blogger

I am bolder because of my travel experience. Much of my fear comes from The Unknown, in life or when traveling... and there are plenty of unknowns in travel. It’s probably good that my first introduction to it was when I was very small, before I knew to be afraid. We continued traveling as a family as I was growing up. It showed me that traveling was safe and that The Unknown holds great opportunity. From my parents’ example, I learned how to be flexible and to deal with situations as they come up. At home, I’m not what anyone would consider a flexible person, and that’s often because I’m trying to control everything. However, when I travel, I can be my “travel self”: the person who approaches challenging situations with the mindset of “That’s just part of traveling. I can figure this out.” I’m finding that the more I travel (both independently, and with friends), the more my “travel self” is becoming my “home self” - I’m more flexible and less afraid, and I have the grace and confidence to face the things that make me nervous.

www.thegoallist.com   |   facebook.com/thegoallist   |   IG: @thegoallist   |   TW: @goallisttweets

 

Francesca Gentille - Certified Clinical Sexologist

I used to think I would travel when I had more time, money, health, lost weight, or the right partner. At 55, I was done waiting. I made a commitment to myself to do it. I bought a roundtrip ticket to Italy for 5 weeks. Now at 60, walking with a cane, waiting for a hip replacement I'm still rockin traveling, teaching, & enjoying my friends in Italy & Malta.  Traveling has taught me that when I can combine vision and action, I can do anything. “Until one is committed, there is  hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too." Goethe.

www.francescagentille.com   |    www.facebook.com/francesca.gentille   |   @Francescadiva

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Silvia Martin - Breakup Coach

Wherever you go, there you are. Traveling makes you expand that comfort zone. It exposes you to all types of situations, some pleasant, some not so pleasant. We travel to learn, we travel for an adventure. We also travel, in many cases, to escape. We think that, maybe, under a different weather, a different language, different foods… we will be able to leave “that” behind once and for all. It hardly ever happens this way. 

Traveling has the capacity to expose us to exactly what we don’t want to face. It’s nearly ironic how we always end up having to face the very own fears we are trying to run away from. It is as if life was saying to us “look darling, I am not going to leave you alone until you are able to overcome it!” 

Being able to get through “that” thing we are running from is, in my opinion, the biggest benefit of traveling. Once you are done, you are ready to board towards your next destination. 

www.shizencoaching.com   |   IG: @shizencoaching   |   FB: facebook.com/shizencoaching   |    TW: @shizenduende

 

Ann Skinner - Coach and Creator of The Contributionist

One thing that travel has taught me is that if you want to go, just go. 25 years ago I decided I wanted to go backpacking but I had next to no money to my name. Still, I picked a date and got enough money to buy a ticket and to see me through the first month. I ended up travelling in some form or another for the next 18 months. It taught me a valuable lesson that has been proven time and time again; there is no need to plan and schedule beyond the basics as the best experiences have nearly always been the unplanned, unforeseen ones.

Travel has taught me to jump in the deep end and trust my gut and to be ready to expect nothing but the unexpected. You don't have to have it all figured out before you leave, nor do you need to have a whole load of cash in order to live a champagne and oyster lifestyle! In fact, the best currency in the world has been my smile, which I found has been freely available to me on most days.

My smile has given me more than money could ever buy and was the catalyst for many of my adventures and the start of numerous short- and longterm friendships, including a very generous champagne loving oyster farmer who kept me and my partner happily fed and watered for 6 weeks without needing anything in return beyond the pleasure of our company.

www.thecontributionevolution.com   |   FB:facebook.com/thecontributionist  |   FB group: thecontributionevolution   |   IG: @thecontributionist  |   TW: @Contributionist

 

Tess Vergara - Money and Fulfillment Coach

Recently, a client shared that one obstacle that keeps him from moving forward with his business was not having a decent place where he can conduct client meetings. He realizes this is keeping him stuck as he needs to see clients in order to get out of the place he is in right now.

I smiled and shared how for the past 2 years I'd been living a digital nomad lifestyle. My clients still love me even when I show up with no make-up, wind-blown hair wearing beach wear instead of one might expect from a business coach.

I make no apologies for coaching right on the beach with the crashing of the waves in the background.

I also shared with my client one story where, while in Santorini, Greece, I remember feeling so torn to stay in and do client calls from the hotel but at last minute took a huge risk and went with my instinct against my rational mind.

Carried up by a donkey right on the edge of the cliff of Oia, breathless and thirsty after literally crawling in scorching heat, I arrived at the peak just in perfect time to find a quiet spot away from the crowd to where there was a strong phone signal. It was so freeing and exciting to connect with my intuition that way that allowed me to meet my need for adventure as well as deliver on my commitment. A story that emboldened me to follow my path to freedom.

www.openheartmindcoaching.com   |   FB: facebook.com/OpenHeartMindCoaching   |   Unlocking the Heart of Money Facebook Group   |   LinkedIn: @openheartmindcoaching

 

Gloria Coppola -  Lifestyle Consultant Clarity Coach & SoulPurpose Sage

We stand at the gateway and often don't walk through, doubting, fearing or unsure of what is expected if we do! When we make the decision to take the chance, to listen, our lives will forever change and a gateway of wisdom will be shown to you.

Travel has influenced my mindset, my insights and allowed me to explore unknown parts of my self.  One of the most impactful experiences was a trip to Egypt that would forever shift my perception of life....and death!  I Arrived in Egypt approximately two months after the tragic and unexpected death of my spouse while I was still in a deep and dark depression.

I recall standing on the  hotel viranda as the sun set, thinking how did I get here? The pyramids were surreal and I had no idea what I was about to experience.

Had I tapped into the great mystery?

Was I experiencing an altered reality? A dimensional shift?

A subconscious paradigm? A dream? 

Was I walking between two worlds?

Whatever this was, I was able to walk with my ancestors. To hear them guide me with words of wisdom. My loved ones would embrace me and I would be at peace.

Travel elevates me! Inspires me! Teaches me and taps into my soul more deeply than any book or workshop ~ It's a living history, an envelopment of spirit beyond words ~ it is transcending.

www.GloriaCoppola.com/blog   |   FB: facebook.com/soulFULLpurpose


Let us know what comes up for you as you read these stories and reflect on your own. Have you travelled or would you like to?  

Can you relate to the experiences of your own life adventures even if you haven't travelled... sometimes the biggest adventures of our lives are to be found in our own cities, neighbourhoods, homes and hearts.

Much love,

 

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Vegan food in Thailand!

I wanted to write my foodie experiences in a separate post to this one so here you go!

Fist thing I'm gonna put out there... Fruit! So much amazing fruit!! For example, on the last day I bought 4 beautifully sweet ripe locally grown mangos for the equivalent of less than £1 - you wouldn't even get one mango for that in the UK and it would not have tasted anywhere near as good either.

I also want to briefly mention here (though I'll also be writing a separate post at some point) about water! In Thailand everyone drinks bottled water. I knew it would be hot and I didn't want to be caught short. It just so happened a couple of weeks prior I had a conversation with a colleague about a water filter bottle called Puritii that is so sophisticated, you can even filter swamp water if you wished! Of course I was intrigued and I knew my trip to Thailand would be a perfect opportunity to try it. He gave me a bottle to put through it's paces and so I'll fill you in on that in due course, plus it makes an ideal opportunity to talk about water quality- a topic many have asked me about recently.

Anyway, back to Thailand food! Here are my overriding thoughts (obviously these are purely based on my limited experience)...

Things I found tricky/surprising about Thai food:

  1. Not many people understood what 'vegan' meant- vegetarian is very common but vegan not so. It seemed a little odd to me since it's a culture that naturally doesn't use dairy so it's only the egg (and fish sauce) that would need consideration.

  2. There is fish sauce and egg in many meat free dishes so I had to be very careful as it wasn't always obvious.

  3. In hindsight I should have got familiar with the phrase for vegan- which is 'jai' however his refers to Buddhist veganism which also does not include garlic or onion and I feel that would have been even more limiting in options and flavour.

  4. There don't seem to be any beans and lentils anywhere! The veggie protein of choice is tofu which is eaten in abundance. I do not eat it much at home, but was happy to switch whilst I was there. I did miss lentils and beans though!

  5. Even though there is an abundance of veggies, their are very few leafy greens- I found I was craving some spinach and kale. Morning glory is the only readily found leafy green in the markets so I ate as much as I could.

  6. Chocolate- it did not seem to exist! I was surprised that I missed it, not so much in a craving for sweet things as there was so much sweet stuff, but more as a desire for a little indulgence since there was no dessert I could eat- other than fruit, or mango and sticky rice (so good!) I did cook a chocolate cake though- see below!

  7. Thai people put added sugar in everything, even many of the fruit smoothies have added sugar unless you specifically ask for them without. All the seemingly herbal teas come sweetened with syrups as well. It seems crazy to me since the diet is naturally sweet.

Things I loved about Thai food:

  1. The amazing fruit needs reiterating here! I also tried durian for the first time- an acquired texture, much more creamy that I anticipated. I also loved their mini bananas, much sweeter then what we have in the uk.

  2. Lots of veg heavy dishes with light sauces. Limited gluten as most are accompanied with rice or noodles of some description. I liked the lightness of the meals (but I did eat a lot!)

  3. Lots of veggie/vegan restaurants in Chaingmai, once you knew where to look. They all served plenty of delicious vegan options which made life much easier! One of my favourite restaurants we went to was Bamboo Bee. I tiny little research with only 4 tables and a lot of customers- we had to wait an hour before we could be seated. The place is run by Bee herself and the dishes are organic vegan, yet such amazing value. A huge meal for 4 people (and we ate a lot of dishes) was well under £20. She also has an book with all recipes that I plan to buy and recreate- particularly the sauces as I could do with some new ideas in that department.

  4. Fresh coconut- I reckon if you were stranded on a dessert island you could survive a long time on coconut, drinking the water and eating the meat-such a perfectly packaged food!

  5. Mango and sticky rice. This was one of the first dishes I had at a little open air market. So so good, made with sticky rice, coconut milk, sugar if some kind and a whole fresh mango. Yes I know, total carb alert! I would love to try and make my won versions as a treat.

  6. I didn't feel very bloated through my trip, even though I was eating so much much sugar fruit, which is great as travel and change if routine often affects my digestion.

 

I made two big jugs of delicious fruit smoothie to share with everyone on my last day, the recipes are below of you fancy recreating some of your tropical bliss as we move slowly into summer!

I also made my much loved banana chocolate cake for both a leaving party and a birthday... I made 4 cakes in total (following the same recipe I first made here in Lanzarote!) I had very limited utensils, no oven (only a microwave) and no measuring tools BUT it still worked surprising well and everyone loved it! It certainly helped satisfy my chocolate craving.

The original choc-banana cake!

The original choc-banana cake!

My version making the best of what I had! (that say's '27' on top)

My version making the best of what I had! (that say's '27' on top)

I managed to track down the cake ingredients at a local market... But it took ages as hardly anyone understood what I was trying to say! We had to use a translation app on the phone and show them the Thai phrase each time. Even then we went from stall to stall until we found what we needed. I thing the stall holders were quite bemused ;-)

I did eat a lot more carbs during the last two weeks that I have in a long long time. However in the past when I have tried a carb heavy diet (a year ago I experimented gin 80/10/10) I felt very bloated and it did not work for me well at all. Yet I did not feel at all bloated in Thailand. The two main differences were lack of beans- not sure if this combination of food works better!? And also the difference in climate. I am a big believe in eating locally grown foods in accordance with climate for optimal results. I now feel as though it's less an issue of the ratio of carbs/fat/protein but more an issue of the relationship to climate. Something I'll be export more. 

I'll leave you with a few foodies photos taken thought out my time in Chaingmai. All photos were taken on my phone. 

Plus scroll down for my smoothies recipes... 

The only photo I took of the smoothies (alongside a yellow watermelon - how cool?)

The only photo I took of the smoothies (alongside a yellow watermelon - how cool?)

For the smoothies I used fresh coconut meat which was amazing as it left little chewy pieces of coconut in the smoothie. This was in large part accidental due to the power of the basic blender I was using, if using a more highly powered machine it will be smoother, unless you stop blending whilst there are still some visible specks of coconut.  

Recipe: chocolate, banana, coconut smoothie

Makes approx  1 litre

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup coca powder

  • 5-6 mini bananas (approx 3-4 regular)

  • Flesh of half a coconut (approx 1/2 packed cup)

  • 1 cup ice

  • 1 cup water

Recipe: banana mango, coconut smoothie

Makes approx 1 litre

Ingredients:

  • 1 large mango

  • 3-4 mini bananas (approx 3 regular)

  • Flesh of half a coconut (approx 1/2 packed cup)

  • 1 cup ice

  • 1 cup water

Do you want to know what my favourite meal was.... yup, mango and sticky coconut rice served from a street trader ;-)  I already have my sights set on recreating the recipe... but since I haven't yet had time since returning this recipe looks like an easy start... though this one is more traditional!

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Reflections on my Thailand experience

Sitting in the departure lounge at Bangkok airport at 1am in the morning.... and it is the perfect place to begin writing this post. I can stay in the moment as I reflect on my experiences instead of the contemplating the hours of travelling that lay ahead.

My volunteering experience in Thailand almost didn't happen at all. My mum and I had originally planned a trip to visit my sister who is currently working in Bangkok, I wanted to extend my stay after the family holiday time together and found a yoga retreat centre. However what I failed to realise was that this particular centre was a 12 hour bus ride away and totally unpractical. So at the last minute I scanned the Workaway website (a more recent amazing discovery) and found an opportunity to volunteer in the construction of a yoga centre a short drive from Chaingmai city itself. 

It seemed perfect, and it did not disappoint!

I spent seven days at Yoga House getting involved with gardening, artwork and cooking. Most days I woke with the sunrise just before 6am and cycled to the early morning market for fruit- so much amazing fruit! I watched the sun come up whilst siting on the deck drinking hot water with fresh lime and eating some of the fruit, then got to work for a couple of hours before the heat of the day truly hit. Even though the temperature was over 40C most days I found it surprisingly ok, in fact without air conditioning my body acclimatised a lot better. I have never been a fan of air conditioning and this experience reinforced that.

The bedrooms were simple shed-like structures. I'll be honest it took me a couple of days to get used to the multiple frogs and lizards sharing my room every night (I felt like a contestant in 'I'm a Celebrity' initially). I was glad of the mosquito net 'shield'. I was also very glad to have taken eye mask and earplugs- who knew wildlife was with so loud!! There was one slightly amusing incident (amusing more in hindsight) in which I was in the middle of a coaching session with my coach and the lizards on the ceiling and walls were much more active with the light on. One fell off the ceiling right on front of my face and I leapt up launching my phone (on which I was Skyping) across the room!

We took part in yoga everyday during early evening, the warm glow of the setting sun bathing the floor tiles of the space with a golden hue. My flexibility improved in that short time and I nailed a couple of new moves- scorpion arm balance and headstand-to crow-to chataranga. Both of which I was very to happy to come away with and has re-motivated me with my yoga practice.

Scorpion (screen grab taken from a video clip)

Scorpion (screen grab taken from a video clip)

Ma, owner of Yoga House taught all the classes and had built the centre from scratch over the last year. I hugely admire his energy and vision and the generosity he extended to us all, with just two hours a day of work and a 100baht (£2) contribution towards all food each day. With other volunteering opportunities it is more typical that you work 4-5 hours each day without paying a supplement for food. I was more than happy with the arrangement at Yoga House, and even though the menu was typically vegetarian, I was well catered for with vegan food.... plus the fruit ;-)

I spent my days with a beautiful group of fellow volunteers and a couple of guests who were also staying at the centre. We prepared and ate all our meals together, and enjoyed so many random and interesting conversations around the table, sharing stories and teaching each other words from our languages. This is what I loved so much, the energy of the time together gathered around a table sharing bowls of food we created. 

This was a very similar experience at the Buddhist meditation centre and one of my greatest memories there also. I have lots more to talk about when it comes to food of course, but I'll save that for a separate post!

A few photos of how I spent my week, to give you the essence beyond that which words can say... 

A personal highlight was a trip to the local national park wth a beautifully clear waterfall steam that we swam and played in. After a couple of hours it thundered and as we made our way back to the truck the sky opened and it poured! The journey back in the open topped truck was an experience as we were pelted by rain!

The uniqueness of travel and volunteering in this way, is such that people flow in and out of your life, and I within theirs. You quickly create bonds and friendships, then those people then leave and others flow in. A beautiful dynamic, a test of attachment, of letting go, of appreciating the moments for what they are and the inevitable process of ebb and flow. 

There were between 4-6 other volunteers/guests at any one time, with a shift in group dynamic every few days as people came and went.

The other thing I loved, again similar to that I experienced at the mediation centre, is that some of the volunteers/guests are living there longer term. It reminds me that 'it could be me' if I choose to do so. When you go on a typical holiday abroad, the setup is such that it is a finite bubble of bliss. A luxury experience. It is not a real life setting and more simply a respite from 'real life'. The beauty of this paired back, cost effective experience is that it could become 'real life'. You are literally spending time in another persons real world. Yes, I may have left after a week but the setup was such that I couldn't have stayed indefinitely if I had wished...

Another big difference for me personally (and one in which I fully appreciated in jumping without pause from holiday mode to volunteering mode) is that holidays are for DOING, yet the volunteering experience is for BEING. I've touched many times on the shift between those two aspects of life and my own endeavours to spend more time BEing and as such become more heart centred in my approach to life.

The Yoga House created a beautiful space for that process. Set in a small village area outside the bustle of Chaingmai city, with old bikes to take out, hammocks hung from trees, a deck to perfectly view the sunrise from and a yoga den to use all day long. It created so much space to simply be. I appreciate not all volunteering experiences would create this same level of quiet reflection, and that many users of the workaway site would use the opportunity to find city centred locations to explore the surrounding beyond their work times. However I think the overall sense of doing away with luxury, pairing back to simplicity and coming to know yourself is still deeply embedded.

Travellers interest me. I had never realised that in previous years since I had never travelled! I am now beginning to see what I was missing out on! My motto, the words I wear around my ankle on a red chord, read: 'always be curious'. This last week I surrounded myself with curious people. People who not only want to explore but have actually stepped up into doing it. 

Interestingly, it is less the sense of physical exploration that I refer to (but of course that plays a part with interesting stories and insights to tell) but more the mental sense of exploration, of growth and change as a person. In being around others on this path, it raises my own excitement, energy and inner confidence to continue to do the same.

Travel changes you significantly, there is no doubt about it.  From my experiences so far, it has presented me a whole new window on my life and on my world that is difficult to grasp quite so profoundly any other way. When you are outside of your own culture, comfort zone and norms of society you become more consciously aware. It is impossible to run on autopilot when your ingrained social context is taken away. You get curious and question more and assume less, something I am striving to do more in my everyday life.

I'm smiling softly as I wrap up the draft of this post, now flying somewhere over Moscow only a few hours away from landing on home turf. I feel there is so much more to say as the energy is bubbling up inside me, but that can wait until it finds its moment. 

I smile because not only have I left this week with a host of beautiful memories, but also with the notion this can happen all over again as soon as I want it to. I design my own life, on my own terms. I now plan to prioritise travel in my life, to deeply enrich my personal growth and my mind-body connection, but also in equal part enrich and strengthen my offering as a coach, my work with 1-1 clients and also in the creating of retreat experiences and the longer term dream of creating a 'centre for BEing'.

I am home for just seven days before I take off again for the biggest experience of my life so far. As a gift to myself for my birthday next month, I decided to step fully beyond my comfort zone and live for the entire month of May at Rainbow City in Portugal. In saying 'yes' to this opportunity it brought butterflies to my stomach, it still does! I have no idea what to expect, but at the same time fully acknowledge that to be the beauty of the experience. Open mind, open heart. I can't wait to report back from there soon!

Here again are the links to Yoga House and Workaway in case you want to explore them for yourself (neither of these are affiliate links in any way). I loved every minute of my experience, and highly recommend volunteering as an incredible cost effective way to explore the world (or even just the UK as I did at the mediation centre) and meet inspiring people, and maybe in the process find a little more of yourself.


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My time at the Buddhist Meditation Centre

Finally I have written a blog post about my experience... just three weeks later!  

Every time I had sat down to do so I'd be distracted away from distilling my throughs into words. Then I had a story to finish that i'd be invited to contribute to a book which involved me digging deep and re-living a lot of emotions. It is only now I have the energy to focus in what this experience taught me.

So, as you may recall in my last post, that in January my focus for the year was to explore 'experience'. That was the word I gave myself. I wasn't sure how it would manifest at that point but I knew there would likely be some travel involved as I'd already booked a flight for April to see my sister in Thailand and volunteer as a yoga centre.

March rolled around and I felt the urgent need to 'expand'. That is probably the best word I can use to describe it!  I found Madhyamaka Buddhist Mediation centre a few hours drive from me near York that takes on volunteers in return for bed and food. It sounded perfect. So with just a few days notice at the beginning of March, and no idea what to expect, I went to live there for a week.

A little bit of everything captured!

A little bit of everything captured!

It was incredible! It's hard to put into words how it felt. I loved living as part of their community, hearing their personal stories, spiritual debates around the dinner table, going to meditation sessions 2 to 3 times a day in the beautiful ornate meditation rooms. There were a few other UK guests and also volunteers from around Europe whilst I was there and we all hung out together sharing cultures, language, jokes... it was such an enriching experience.

It was also the small things that made a huge impact, like the huge sash windows with the beautiful sunshine streaming through in every room as I worked on my laptop. The beautiful grounds and rolling hills of the countryside. I was so lucky to have such a sunny week, but even it it hadn't been I would have still been amazing to appreciate nature in all it's true glory.

I was working in the reception/shop a lot and designing flyers for them at the same time which was lovely as I was able to use my skills (I also run a design business on the side). All in all, I gained so much from the whole experience and would love to go back again sometime... watch this space! ;-) 

Spontaneous handstands in the fields with a fellow volunteer!

Spontaneous handstands in the fields with a fellow volunteer!

All together...Volunteers and guests on my final evening!

All together...Volunteers and guests on my final evening!

The most interesting thing for me, was that as someone who has always struggled to meditate in the traditional sense of sitting quietly. Doing that in a room full of others (whether it was 5 people or 50) felt so different. Even though my mind was wandering all over the place, it didn't matter so much, I was able to relax into it as I felt as though there was such an intense focussed energy in the room form the others, their 'beingness' infused and supported my own. 

The biggest thing for me at the moment is the realisation that I need to live from the heart not my head. I have spent most of the last 32.5 years getting caught up in my mind and letting my head and it's little inner chatter dictate my life, whereas now in those moments when I'm living from the heart everything just flows. Life is easy and uncomplicated.

I am so much more aware of the dynamic between the head and the heart than ever before and this is what I feel is my duty to explore in myself and enhance in my own life and therefore in time to come support clients exploring the same. Nutrition still forms a huge part of this as I feel nutrition is the gateway to your optimum self in terms of supporting clarity of mind and body.

Whilst I was at the meditation centre, I was privileged to be able to take part in a two hour meditation session as part of the monthly ‘Sunday Out’ program.

In a room packed full of 60+ people, all with open minds and a willingness to explore, the energy of the space was amazing. We were led into a number of guided meditations, but one visualisation in particular stood out for me, and after the session I found a quiet space to record some notes to later remind myself of the teachings. 

It was only this week I found the recording on my phone and listened back to it, it gave me the incentive I needed to put this post together and so I've typed it almost word for word as I had originally recorded it…

Sunday Out Meditation:

He (the monk) talks about clearing our mind and being more in tune with who we really are. He used the analogy of your back garden and your front garden… if you have limited time, which one do you choose to maintain? Often we may choose to maintain our front garden as that’s the one that people see, so we create a show for those who pass by our house to give the impression of a beautiful, proud space. 

But actually we let the back garden go to ruins behind the scenes. If over time this is left uncared for, the roots may grow and undermine the foundation of the house, the ivy may grow up the walls and begin to pull the bricks apart. Yet we keep this show up for the side that people can see our front garden, and hide our back garden away from the rest of the world.  

He likened this to the external side and the internal side of ourselves he asked: Which one is more impotent to you personally, the part that those can see- the tip of the iceberg or the internal side that no-one sees but is super important to our wellbeing. The balance to where we put our energy is imbalanced.

He also mentioned that when we first meet someone we might typically ask their name, where they’re from and what they do. In those three questions we think we have them figured out but actually we hardly know them at all. This is likened to the inner work and the outer work. It is our inner world that we need to put more effort in to, for a rich and fulfilled life.

The 'inner world' fascinates me as this is the realm which has the capacity to be so life changing. We are born with everything we already need in life, but get distracted and overwhelmed but the glamour of our external world and those around us. Everything we need is already inside, we simply need to learn how to better tap into it!  Isn't that incredible?


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Travel far enough and you meet yourself

I have mentioned 'travel plans' quite a bit recently, in conversations and social media posts, and a few have you have got curious and had conversations with me about it. So I wanted to share with you all a little more of what is going on for me in my life right now.

At the beginning of this year I didn't set a typical New Years Resolution, but instead I gave myself a word to focus on this year, a word to live into.... My word was 'EXPERIENCE' and my focus was (and still is) to have as many 'experiences' over the course of this year as possible. Many, but not all, of these experiences will involve travel so that I can immerse myself in another life, another community, another person's world. I am seeking 'experience' in the widest, most openminded context possible.

I want to bring all these experiences back to my own evolution, living from the heart, and the ways in which I can most powerfully show up and serve my clients, friends and colleagues.

Last week, I was volunteering at Madhyamaka Kadampa Meditation Centre (I still have so much to say in another post about this experience) and next week I am flying out to Thailand to visit my sister but then also spend time volunteering as a yoga wellness centre.

For May I decided I would take the biggest leap yet. It still gives me butterflies in my tummy just thinking about it. For my birthday month I wanted to do something monumental, something that I would remember all life long. For the entire month of May I am visiting Rainbow City ... I have no idea what to expect, but I know it will be an amazing opportunity for growth, soul searching and powerful inner creation. My heart is wide open for what may lie in store.

Remembering back to this post last year when I had just taken my first solo flight abroad makes me realise just how far I have some in my personal growth. I would not even have considered doing this just a few months ago. It would have been so far out of my comfort zone and my awareness of it even being an option on my life.

If you'd like to connect me as I travel, I am continuing my work with clients (and simply curious people) so please do get in touch and let's set up a conversation.

 

P.s Here is a little taster of the incredible, sustainable, off grid community that is Rainbow City...


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Day to day you can always find me hanging out in these places:

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