For the majority of the year, I am in Europe, which makes travel on this side of the world both easy, short, and inexpensive, compared to coming over from the states. I have been taking advantage of being based in Europe by making trips to Mallorca, Istanbul, Nice, and Amsterdam, just to name a few. In a few weeks I'll be packing up for Dubai to teach at the Dubai Yoga and Music Festival, and after that I will be going to India.
For me, traveling started early. When I was sixteen, I participated in a study abroad program in Costa Rica. I lived with a wonderful family, attended school, immersed myself into Costa Rica's warm and vibrant culture, and made lifelong friends. The trip wasn't without its troubles, though. I got very sick from the water at first. My friends and I once had no other choice but to hitchhike. When someone finally picked us up, we rode in the back of a pick up but we were too sunburned and exhausted to care. I traveled on public busses with three people to a seat and the middle aisle jam packed. It zipped through winding roads high in the mountains with no guardrail. There were times I silently prayed to safely make it home. My experience there was exhilarating and scary and wonderful all at the same time.
Years later, I found myself alone in northern Thailand. I spent a week adjusting to the time change before making my way to the yoga teacher training. That week was dizzying. The jet lag was draining, and venturing out on the streets of northern Thailand, where it so different from anywhere I had ever been, was an adventure. While hunting for a yoga mat at the market, I passed buckets of wriggling eels, squid, and sea creatures I could never name. There were thousands of people milling about the market maze, making me instinctively clutch my bag closer to me even though I knew Thailand to be extremely safe for solo female travelers. I waded through the people, through the plumes of smoke - incense mixed with car exhaust, topped with fried food and fish. The heat of the morning made my head spin and I gave up and decided to go to the mall for my yoga mat.
The first tuk-tuk driver, an older man with bronze skin and a kind face wouldn't take me for more than 300 baht, so I went to the next tuk-tuk driver and successfully haggled until we agreed on 150 baht. I was hot, and tired, and confused and jet-lagged, but I got in the tuk-tuk and we cruised through the sticky heat. I was so alone, I knew no one in the entire country. But I felt so alive. So deliriously tired, but so alive, in a perfect balance between the known and unknown.
That's basically how I'd describe travel, for me. There are always uncertainties. Sometimes things in other cultures are so different from my own that I can't help but notice my heart begin to race, or feel a gnawing pit in my stomach. But sometimes cultural norms are so beautiful that it brings you to tears. Sometimes the kindness of strangers restores your faith in humanity and ignites an inspiration to be more kind toward others.
The yoga practice is so much more than what happens on the mat, and travel offers the opportunity to surrender to whatever happens and test personal limits. So today I'll pack some GAPS snacks, and drive to Hamburg to apply for my tourist visa for India.