London, England

A Hop Across the Pond to Kick off a 3 Week Tour of Europe

IMG_20151016_141812

 

Less than 24 hours after arriving back home in Canada from my summer spent in Nicaraguamy friend Meghan had convinced me to re-pack my bags and accompany her on a 3 week-long tour of Europe. Surprisingly, my boss was very supportive of my new travel plans, and also urged me to get out and explore more of the world.

34 days later, Meghan and I would be running through the JFK International Airport in New York with our luggage as we struggled to make our connecting flight to London, England’s Heathrow Airport.

I had been to Europe before when I was 17 as part of a high school Latin class trip to Italy and Greece, but now I was more mature and able to appreciate the history, architecture and culture of my foreign surroundings. And of course, what I looked forward to most of all for this trip would be the varied cuisines between countries — my last trip to Europe resulted in a trip to the hospital when I’d arrived back home, as my then “vegan diet” included an abundance of sweets in place of any animal products, which lead to an unhappy gallbladder. But now I knew better, and understood the importance of a healthy lifestyle that included  lots of vegetables but treats in moderation.

We arrived in London, slightly disoriented and jet-lagged from our 6 hour flight across the Atlantic ocean. Weeks of carefully planning what to pack  and sharing clothes and other necessities between our bags, we were certain that we hadn’t overpacked. But, already exhausted and having to haul our heavy luggage from the airport to the Underground rail systems and then through the streets until we finally found our hotel, we were starting to second-guess our need for certain items in our suitcases. To make matters worse, we became further irritated once we arrived at the hotel, and were told we wouldn’t be able to check in for another 3 hours.

Desperate to make the most out of a less than ideal situation, we decided to duck into an authentic British pub, and indulge in some fish & chips and wash it all down with a pint of English lager (despite the fact that back home in Canada, it would have only been 5:00am our time)!

IMG_20151016_075219

Eager to “sample” every country’s traditional dish, I made a simple promise to myself: not to overindulge in unhealthy foods — whether it be fried, dairy, red meat, or savoury sweets. I knew my digestive tract and my inflammatory trigger foods, and didn’t want to waste any time sitting in my hotel room with gastric cramping and nausea. It’s funny how after over 10 years of not really being able to go near certain foods, I’ve pretty much lost interest in junk food and anything that at one point in time had a heart beat. It was somewhat of a chore for me to eat half of my fish & chips, but I happily inhaled my side salad (or was that a garnish?) along with what Meghan left behind.

Once our bellies were full, we sleepily tried to make our way back outside to marvel at the city streets of London. Everything was so foreign: cars driving on the opposite side of the road, double decker buses whizzing by, the different noises the sirens of emergency vehicles made, fruit vendors on every corner, the currency (and sadly, our measly dollar comparison), the friendly locals,  the gorgeous architecture and  building character…it was all so much to take in, yet we could barely keep our eyes open. We realised that we had spent a fair amount of time in the pub, and as it was finally time to check into our hotel, we would go back to our room for a short cat nap. We would be able to appreciate more of our surroundings once we were better rested, had clearer heads, and were no longer carrying our various heavy suitcases.

Of course, our bodies craved more than a 45 minute nap, and we somehow both managed to sleep through the alarms we’d set to wake up at 2:00pm. Instead, we woke up several hours later and it was already dinner time, the sky pitch black and daily sight-seeing tours ended. We hurriedly got dressed, and made our way back to the streets to try to find something “British” to do before the day had ended and the shops had closed. Out of luck, we settled for a nighttime stroll through one of the beautiful city parks to  appreciate its gardens, and then we made our way to a tea shop to partake in some scones, bikkies and sweets.

As London was our first stop, we unfortunately were only in the UK for a mere 24 hours before we had to embark on our European tour and check into our next hotel in Amsterdam. Fortunately, England wasn’t at the top of our Travel Bucket List, so we weren’t too concerned about missing some of the major attractions. In hindsight, I do regret not at least doing the Hop On Hop Off tour on one of the many double decker busses to see Buckingham Palace, London Bridge, Big Ben and the London Eye. I suppose part of me feels guilty for not wanting to explore more, especially since I grew up in Stratford, Ontario — a community obsessed with William Shakespeare and his life.

But, I have an entire lifetime ahead of me if I so choose to go back and see what I missed out on.

IMG_20151016_141921

Advertisements

Preparing for Yoga Training in Nicaragua (PART II)

This post is part two of a three part series.

Continued from My Journey Towards Becoming a Certified Yoga Teacher – Part One

I have to admit, I was a bit sceptical at first about travelling all the way to Central America by myself. I had been to Nicaragua before with my boyfriend, and his family made frequent trips there several times a year, so I knew the country well enough. But this was my first solo trip anywhere and to add to my anxiety, my Spanish was no bueno.

I decided first to do some research on the yoga school in Nicaragua to make sure it was indeed a legitimate program, and to see what my accommodations would be like. Nicaragua is a third world country, and more often times than not, most people have difficulties even pointing it out on a map. Since the country gained independence in 1821, it’s seen many periods of political unrest — most recently in the 1970’s. That fact alone is usually enough to put a sour taste in one’s mouth and deter them from ever visiting the country, let alone living there.

MapOfNicaragua

But the Nicaragua I knew was full of peaceful, helpful, laid-back people who you’d never think of as violent at all. In fact, quite the opposite as locals would sometimes invite gringos and complete strangers into their family homes to share a meal with them. So clearly, I wasn’t concerned for my safety at all. I think if anything, I was worried I’d be lonely and homesick.

As it turns out, the shala where I’d be learning was inside of a bed and breakfast called Casa Aromansse located at the base of an inactive volcano called Laguna de Apoyo, which over thousands of years had naturally evolved into a volcanic lake. Coincidentally I had also visited this lake in my previous travels, and I knew from memory that its tranquillity would set the perfect tone for some rest and relaxation. The research I’d done on the B&B revealed a beautiful retreat with plenty of outstanding reviews and the teaching instructor, Serge, seemed to be loved by all of his students. I promptly contacted him and as my old journalist instincts kicked in, I realised I was interviewing Serge and asking every question I could think of.

After weeks of intense research, email correspondence with Serge, planning, and budgeting, I had enrolled in my first 200 hour Registered Yoga Teacher Training and purchased my plane ticket. Nicaragua’s climate is hot yet dry, and our classes would be spent all day outdoors. August in Canada can see the hottest temperatures we’ll experience all summer, but I’d be arriving in Nicaragua during their wet season, invierno (winter). So although the temperature wouldn’t feel humid, I did run into the possibility of experiencing a tropical storm. This of course, meant I’d have to get creative and carefully plan out my outfits when packing for my trip.

yogaInThePark

Leading up to my departure, my free time was spent attending Moksha’s yoga in the park, and unrolling my mat in my backyard and on the beach so that I’d be more accustomed to practising outdoors.  Outside of the office, I lived in my yoga leggings and a breezy shirt so that I could move more freely, and most of my disposable income went towards purchasing more gear to bring with me for the 6 weeks I’d be away. 

The big day finally arrived for me to fly out, and I said goodbye to my friends, family and co-workers. Everyone was extremely supportive of me going out on my own and eager for me to come back with new accomplishments (solo travel & a certificate!), so off I went on my 8 hour-long journey to Laguna de Apoyo. 

…Little did I know, I was in for a rude awakening.

Click here for the final chapter of My Journey Towards Becoming a Yoga Teacher (PART lll)

My Journey Towards Becoming A Certified Yoga Teacher (PART l)

Ashtanga Opening Mantra
Ashtanga Opening Mantra

August 2015 was an incredibly challenging month for me. I chose to trek 6000km to Laguna de Apoyo in Nicaragua to complete my Ashtanga, Vinyasa and Kriya yoga teacher certification. 13 hours of intense mental and physical yoga every day for 30 days left me exhausted, and I will admit there were a few times where I wanted to throw in the towel and book a plane ticket back home, but I’m proud of myself for sticking it out. I learned so much about myself, and the experience alone was one that I’ll never forget.

IMG_4927

I had first discovered my version of “yoga” when I was a teenager. My mother must have read about the “exercises” as she called them (which I would later learn to realise were called asanas), and she began to start her mornings off with a modified version of Surya Namaskara A. Intrigued, I would watch her do her stretches, then go to the privacy of my own room to practice them myself.

However, I never really practised consistently. Always curious about new exercise fads though, I remember picking up magazines and reading about different (albeit easy) asanas to try. It wasn’t until years later once I was diagnosed with stress-induced seizures that my doctor recommended I consider trying out a real yoga class.

Soon after that, I ended up picking up a job at a health club working as both the manager and a nutritionist. I quickly befriended the office administrator who coincidentally had the same passion for health as I do, and before I knew it, we were looking for other fitness classes to explore that our club wasn’t offering. She stumbled upon an introductory month-long pass to Moksha yoga and that night we excitedly drove to the studio with our yoga mats to enrol in hot yoga. I fell in love with the structured class and the way the asanas flowed together beautifully. I finally felt as if this was the yoga I’d been told of all this time: a mental practise over a physical practise — which was exactly what I needed.

BeachYoga

After a few years of being a regular “Mokshi,” and becoming more and more submerged in a holistic lifestyle, I decided I needed a long vacation to find myself and get out of the house for the summer. I figured that a yoga retreat would be the perfect getaway but I couldn’t find anything that lasted long enough, or for a decent price. Using my favourite Moksha instructor as my muse, I thought maybe I could just go for my teacher certification? She makes teaching look so easy! Plus getting my certification could also help my career as a nutritionist by opening some doors!

And so began my hunt for a yoga school recognized by the Canadian Yoga Alliance.

The organisation listed 15 schools in Canada which were weekend courses only and would have taken 5 months to complete. To my surprise, they listed one school outside of Canada in Nicaragua which offered free accommodations and a fast-track 6 week program which would allow me to obtain my teaching certificate at the end of the summer.

But was this a safe decision? And where exactly in the world was Nicaragua?

This post is part one of a three part series.

Click here for part 2 — Preparing for Yoga Training in Nicaragua