My Sweet Spot: Bali

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Bali is breathtaking and diverse in landscapes, cultures and the people its attracts.

The island is unique with roughly 90% of the population Hindu followers. The familiar (good) scents of India - the burning of sandalwood and nag champa mixed with the sultry breezes of fresh flowers follow you down the streets. As you explore the island, you weave through sidewalks lined with small poojas - banana leaves, incense and other offerings for the gods. These poojas are such small, yet profound reminders of why I love the Eastern cultures and their practices. In Bali, these simple rituals hold deep meaning and remind us of our potential to connect with the Divine in any moment.

Besides the beauty of the local culture and ancient traditions, this island is a hotspot for those looking for a diverse paradise to play, create, learn and simply be within. 

Below are my favorite things about Bali and my top suggestions to include in your journey!

1. Get lost in Ubud:

Ubud is a magical, bustling little town filled with locals and foreigners who are both a part of a rapidly growing eco-friendly community. It's become a hub for creativity, attracting a blend of travelers, healers, artists and everything in between. It's eclectic and bohemian vibe has put it on the map as one of the most inspiring places in the world. It's abundant with cozy cafes offering high quality organic plant based food, juices, smoothies and sweets. Rich with art and culture, yoga studios (with internationally recognized teachers) and ample wellness spas, boutiques and funky bars, Ubud is one of the most diverse places to get lost in. Minutes outside of the hustle and bustle of the center, you are surrounded by pristine nature - rice paddies, jungles and lush gardens are immersed within ancient temples and ruins. 

Stay: You can easily stay at one of the hundreds of home stays (most families live in little complex's off the main roads with gorgeous courtyards and gardens, and often rent a private room with bathroom to guests) which is a nice way to stay reasonably in the heart of Ubud. There are also many beautiful boutique hotels and bohemian style eco-resorts for all sorts of budgets.

Eat: Kismet, Kafe, Soma, Bali Buda, Down to Earth, Lotus Cafe, Anomali (coffee) Seniman (coffee), Gaya Gelato stand and so many more!

Yoga: Yoga Barn for classes, workshops and trainings: live kirtans, Tibetan bowl meditations, estatic dance parties, Ayurvedic & holistic healing workshops, and so much more! 

Culture:

The Green School is world famous as it is built out of 100% sustainable resources (mostly Bamboo) and focuses on teaching children life skills, awareness about the earth and academics. Watch the TED talk here.

Gunung Kawi Temple is nestled deep in the rice fields are the ancient ruins of the temple. You can spend hours here enjoying the landscape and soaking up the peaceful energy.

Tirta Empul Water Temple is a prominent complex of water temples, rich with sacred and holy mountain spring water. 

2. Chill out in Bingin' Beach:

Bingin' is a stunning beach with dramatic views from limestone cliffs, overlooking the brilliant blue Indian ocean. Bingin' is a surfers paradise with world class waves that go on for miles. The town is still somewhat sleepy which appeals to those looking for somewhere quiet and serene to spend vacation time. There is just the right amount of artists and funky shops, high quality food and local Warungs, as well as chill out cafes and bars to soak up the sunset from. Bingin' is slowly becoming more widely known for more than its surf as an enchanting place which attracts a diverse blend of travelers and tourists. 

Stay: You'll find a blend of small boutique resorts, private villas and guesthouse bungalows, which are walking or scooter distance to the beach. My top favorite is The Temple Lodge is a beautiful hidden gem. This boutique hotel is unique with it's rustic Balinese charm - old doors and artifacts painted soft pastels and lush gardens give off a dreamlike vibe. The Temple Lodge sits high atop a cliff with a pristine pool overlooking the unmatched sea views and volcanoes in the distance. The hotel boasts relaxation and well-being with daily yoga, healthy food and peaceful grounds. 

Yoga: The Temple Lodge

Eat: The Cashew Tree, Kelly's Warung, Drifter, La Baracca, Bukit Cafe, Single Fin, Coco & Poke, and so many more!

3. Sunset at Uluwatu Temple:

This mystical temple is perched on the southwestern tip of the peninsula, atop sheer cliffs that drop straight into surf below. With an arched entrance, adorned with statues of Ganesha, the walls inside are covered with intricate carvings of Bali’s mythological creatures.

The views of the endless swells of the Indian Ocean from cliffs are expansive and soulful. At sunset, walk around the clifftop to the left (south) of the temple to more quiet and less busy areas of the temples and soak up the setting sun.

4. Play in Canggu:

This up and coming beach village is mixed with sophisticated spa resorts and boutiques, as well as earthy and chilled cafes, yoga spaces and surf shacks. It's a mecca for surfers and sun-worshippers, and has a thriving culture of chic venues, bars and parties offering a lively and creative vibe that attracts a diverse mix of travelers. 

Eat: Betelnut, Canteen, Crate Café, Milk & Madu, Watercress Cafe

Yoga: The Practice, Samadi Bali

4. Bliss out in the Gili Isles:

These pristine isles lie off the coast of Bali (2 hours by boat) and are known as the 'banana pancake trail' by travelers, because they are small, flat and filled with banana trees. These islands are truly unspoiled and feel like a hidden paradise, as there are no cars or motorbikes, only bicycles and horse drawn carts. Bask in the sun, snorkel and dive, practice yoga or lounge in a hammock - these islands are made to relax and invite you to nourish by doing little or absolutely nothing at all!

Gili Meno is quiet and the most basic out of the three islands, with incredible snorkeling directly off the beach - turquoise waters & colorful red, blue & yellow corals entice the eye. 

Gili Trawangan is more lively, with lots of backpackers and beach parties.

Gili Air is a blend between the two - not the full bustle of Gili T, but not the simple and minimalist vibe of Gili Meno. For many it's just right!


LAUREN LEE E-RYT 500 is passionate about living with purpose, exploring the world, and empowering others to live as their most authentic, radiant Self. Founder of Raise Your Beat, dedicated teacher and forever student on the path of yoga, she leads transformational workshops, retreats and trainings to awaken the individual and collective consciousness. Read more about her here

Santa Teresa: a slice of heaven

One of my favorite places in Costa Rica is Santa Teresa which lies on the Southern Nicoya Peninsula. It's an enchanting and and eclectic surf and yoga hotspot, located in one of the worlds 5 Blue Zones: a geographical area where people live the healthiest and longest lives. 

Some of the best things to do in Santa Teresa is so soak up the sunshine and local flavours. Bohemian boutique hotels and design shops, organic markets, bakeries and juice bars, wellness centers and surf hostels sprinkle the main street and hidden dirt pathways leasing to the jungle and ocean.

The area is infused with a blend of expats and Costa Ricans, sharing in the like-minded mentality of 'Pura Vida' or 'Pure Life'. It's a unique beach village that creates a dynamic hub for those looking to immerse themselves in an international community who value a slower pace of life, connected to nature and inspired by the energy of an international crowd.

Santa Teresa is truly a small slice of heaven and there's something for everyone! It's powerful energy comes from the raw elements of the wild Pacific coastline, and it boasts a magic in the air from the diverse travelers and creatives it attracts. 

Below are my top suggestions on what to experience while in Santa Teresa!

Sunrise/sunset: The beach becomes a daily playground for health enthusiasts at these sacred transitions during the morning and evening. Surfers, runners, yogis, hula hoopers, dancers and everything in between show up to embrace the greatest show on Mother Earth.

Local organic market: This small market comes alive once a week boasting fresh fruits, vegetables, homemade cheeses, yogurt, natural food products and artesian goods. 

Green World Store: Health food store with superfoods, natural products and fresh produce!

Natutilus/Olam: Stay at one of my favorite small boutique hotels! Nautilus is the perfect size with 6 villas and a cozy garden area, located in one of the best parts of Santa Teresa. They have the most amazing cafe (Olam) with the best salads and smoothies under the sun! Enjoy the entire menu which plant based and curated with heart and intention. Practice in their shala and experience various types of yoga.

Earth Cafe: Cute bohemian style cafe with healthy eats - delicious fresh smoothies, acai bowls and breakfast/lunch options for Vegans/Vegetarians!

Zwart Cafe: A funky little cafe, sprinkled with artwork and a lovely menu for breakfast/lunch.

Katana: Delicious menu of all flavors Asian with many beautiful Vegan/Vegetarian options!

Koji's: Sushi lovers this is for you! A rustic shack which boats a cozy atmosphere and has a menu filled with beautiful, fresh seafood options. 

Bakery: Conveniently located in the heart of the center (near la Crusa) this small but busy bakery has all the delicious treats and coffees you could ever dream of!

Pranamar Yoga Retreat: Stay onsite in their Balinese inspired cabanas, show up for daily practice in their shala or simply enjoy their beautiful fresh plant based menu! Practice with the incredibly seasoned yogini, Nancy Goodfellow, who leads students deep into their heart through a creative flow, mantra, mudra and philosophy. Pranamar is a sanctuary not to be missed.

FlorBlanc: Daily classes in their shala space with Stefano, a charming Italian yogi who will lead you through traditional practices blended with his own unique charisma.

Rocamar: Sunday evenings are great for all ages as they often have a DJ, bonfire on the beach, hula hoopers and games. 

Banana Beach: Lounge in one of their chill outs at sundown with a cocktail, and soak up the beach vibes by doing nothing at all! The perfect spot to unwind. Often they have live music and reggae throughout the week. 

Montezuma Waterfalls: Get lost on an ATV ride through the jungle and arrive in Montezuma with idyllic postcard beaches and coves along with a 3 tiered waterfall with a swimming hole! 


LAUREN LEE is passionate about holistic health, exploring the world and empowering others to live vibrant and happy lives. Founder of Raise Your Beat, dedicated yogini and sun seeker, she lives for creating connection and enjoying simple pleasures. Read more about her here

Transformation of Solo Travel

 Photo by Megan Kathleen

Photo by Megan Kathleen

I have been living a nomadic lifestyle over 5 years now. At times I have a home base for months and other times it is for days at a time. I have traversed the globe in various contexts - from teaching yoga at luxury island retreats centers overlooking grand vistas, to eco-communities hidden away in lush jungles. I have traded in monthly rent for plane tickets, and employment applications for visa forms. I have stepped away from what other people think I should do, and instead listened more closely to what I want to do. A dedicated yoga practice for over a decade has supported me with strength and clarity to uncover my purpose and highest capacity to impact the world. 


At times my travels are filled with a loving partner beside me, family and friends who meet me for a week of relaxation, or community I meet along the way, however the reality of my travels is that I spend a lot of time on my own. I am often asked if I am ever afraid/bored/lonely and the simple answer is yes. There are plenty of times when I wish my loved ones could experience the magic of the tropical sunset before my eyes, share the same taste of exotic foods, experience the freedom felt from riding a motorbike through vast mountain ranges, or feel the same joy that permeates through me after a yoga practice in nature. 
And of course there are times when I miss the comforts and support of home — familiar faces and rhythms, my own language, accessibility of fresh water and foods at my fingertips, and the safety and ease of the small town in New England where I grew up.


However the more I travel, the more I become comfortable within the discomfort…

The challenges are slowly becoming sacred spaces that grant me the practice of observation and acceptance. They are the tiny moments on a day to day basis that have big potential to show deep rooted patterns, fears and limitations. They invite me to embrace fully, shift my perspective and make more skillful decisions. While this process is not unique to traveling, they are personally most potent when I am on my own. 


Traveling solo is a priceless experience, rich with opportunities of inner transformation. 

It encourages us to move fearlessly into unknown territories and ignites our intuitive capacities. It demands that we fully trust and surrender — to remember that there is always a way to overcome obstacles. It opens us to a higher grace that reveals connection with everything and everyone, even in the most foreign of contexts. 


But most importantly, when we are on our own, we are invited to embrace ourselves fully and to love ourselves unconditionally…


When I long for familiar faces, the people I love, and the comforts of home — I return to self-love. I sit with myself and allow the feelings of unknowing to be washed away by what is familiar and unchanging...my steady breathe, the rising sun and moon, a flat bit of earth to lay my mat out, and the practice of letting go and looking for the good. This practice brings me back time and time again to my inner sanctuary and sparks moments of contentment, peace and gratitude. 

Sometimes the most transformational times during travel are the ones we don't expect or necessarily enjoy. Often they are the times when we are face to face with ourself and must look within for guidance. This process of recognizing, accepting and embracing all that is with an open heart is truly where the journey deepens. 

As seen originally on Yoga Trade
 


LAUREN LEE E-RYT 500 is passionate about living with purpose, exploring the world, and empowering others to live as their most authentic, radiant Self. Founder of Raise Your Beat, dedicated teacher and forever student on the path of yoga, she leads transformational workshops, retreats and trainings to awaken the individual and collective consciousness. Read more about her here

Tips to stay Healthy during Travel

With a passion for adventure and a desire for deep connection, travel has become engrained in my lifestyle. I have created a life which fuses together my passion for teaching and travel, leading retreat immersions (in some of the most gorgeous places on Earth!) which means I spend a lot of time moving between countries and time zones. Besides my love for travel, movement is inherent to me as my main Ayurvedic constitution is Vata (air + space) which means I naturally move quickly, adapt easily, take on too many projects at once and talk...a lot! With a lifestyle that rarely involves set structure and planned routine, it's vital for my health to follow simple, yet transformative routines. 

When we travel our bodies and minds are stimulated with change in environments and energies. Our senses are exposed to new sights, sounds, smells and tastes which can lead to over stimulation and imbalances. Imbalances show up differently for all of us, however the most common during travel come in the form of exhaustion, stress, anxiety, insomnia, digestive issues and even disease. Our bodies naturally have amazing physical capacities to heal, however, it takes awareness and effort to stay grounded, healthy and balanced in both body and mind.

Below are my top tips for accessible practices that personally help keep me feeling vibrant on a daily basis, no matter where I am in the world! 

1. Hydrate hydrate hydrate!

Water is one of the most over looked and simplest ways we can nourish. Water naturally cleanses, moisturizes, maintains and rejuvenates our entire body - organs, muscles, joints, skin. Reduce your caffeine intake (especially when on long distance travels!) and instead drink water or soothing herbal teas.

During Travel: carry a BPA free bottle by your side as a reminder to hydrate and refill when there is fresh water supply to save money and reduce wastes! Carry herbal tea bags with you - they are light and barely take up space, and may be a life saver when in rural areas!

2. Eat more color! enjoy as many fresh, unprocessed foods and remember, less can be more.

Almost anyone who has an interest in their health (and tastebuds!) is aware that a balanced diet is imperative to our health. Ayurveda believes that each meal should incorporate the six tastes (sweet, salty, sour, pungent, bitter, astringent) as each taste produces a different effect on our body-mind physiology. A variety in diet will represent all food groups, nutrients and will leave you feeling more satisfied. 

Each person's diet will vary depending on their body type (it's okay if you cannot survive solely on a vegan/vegetarian diet) however, as a general rule of thumb, eat more fresh, local and unprocessed foods. 

In traditional cultures it is believed that our health begins with a strong 'hara' or 'agni' or the internal fire, known as the digestive system. Simply put, when the body's digestive 'flow' is working well, you releases toxins and absorb nutrients needed to fuel your body and mind. 

The most transformative way to shift your diet is to eliminate and reduce processed foods and unhealthy substances (white sugars/flour, alcohol, caffeine) for more wholesome foods (raw/coconut sugar, pure maple syrup, whole wheat, grains, green/rooibis/chamomile teas). Reduce your intake of heavy foods to digest such as dairy (cow milk, cheeses, yoghurt, ice cream) and instead begin to incorporate alternative plant based foods (almond/oat/rice milk, tahini, nut spreads) - you may surprise yourself at how quickly the cravings subside and your body begins to ask for healthier options! 

During Travel: bring a small emergency stash of nuts, seeds, goji berries & dried fruits which won't expire and are nutritionally rich. Homemade raw 'granola' bars filled with all of these ingredients are also great options. Some of my personal favorites are GoMacro or Perfect Bar.

3. Indulge in juices: An easy and delicious way to boost immunity is through juicing, especially when you don't have time to prepare fresh foods or don't have access to them. Drinking your veggies and fruits in liquid form gives your digestive system a break from eating solid foods and allows a natural cleanse to occur, releasing excess toxins and re-energizing your organs. Look for cold pressed juice or juices which have no additives (sneaky sugars) or preservatives (dangerous chemicals) so you get the benefits of living enzymes from your juice. Soak up Mother Nature's vitamins and super foods to stay energized, mentally alert, and vibrant!

During Travel: treat yourself to juice when its available, even if it is a fresh squeezed orange juice - a healthy dose of Vitamin C is always great for immunity! 

What makes cold pressed juice so special?

The fresh fruits and vegetables are pressed using a hydraulic press juicer that applies a tremendous amount of pressure to extract the nectar directly from the pulp. The pressing action (instead of blending or grinding) won't oxidize or degrade the fruits and vegetables and will keep the nutrients and enzymes intact. With a blender, the fruits and vegetables are being cut and ground by a blade and are exposed to heat, which removes many of the essential vitamins, enzymes, proteins, and minerals that we want from our juice. Pressed juice is simply the closest thing to raw, pure fruit or vegetables, and allows you to get a concentrated amount of nutrients that would otherwise be difficult to achieve just by eating raw fruits and vegetables alone.    - Pressed Juices

4. Touch the Earth: Get grounded physically. Immerse yourself in nature with a swim in the sea, walk barefoot or sit in a garden. Get as connected directly to the earth as possible for it least 20 minutes a day. Spend time outdoors breathing in fresh air and soaking up the sunshine. Nature has incredible healing properties which can help us to slow down, reconnect and relax.

During Travel: find sunny places to sit, attune to the rhythm of your breath and take off your shoes to feel a connection with the ground. 

5. Move your body: Visualise your body as a beautiful map full of highways, roads, trails, rivers, lakes, streams - these act as communication pathways to entire physiology and must stay clear and unblocked in order to transport nutrients and circulate blood, fluid, oxygen and energy. Pathways become easily blocked without continual movement (especially joints, when traveling and sitting for long periods of time during transit!) which leads to a build up of tension and strain. 

Movement is one of the simplest ways to keep the circulation of healthy bodily fluids and energy flowing. Our bodies should have a minimum of 30 minutes per day of cardiovascular strengthening to maintain a healthy heart. Walking, running, hiking and playing sports are all ways to include intervals of movement. Include a holistic practice which encourages breath in alignment with therapeutic movements and mindfulness, such as Yoga, T'ai Chi and Chi-gong. It's vital to begin or sustain a holistic practice for body-mind-spirit health. Create a self-practice which is accessible and enjoyable. Your self-practice is yours - it doesn't need to 'look a certain way' or even include 'postures or forms'. You can be as playful, creative and open minded with your body as feels good. 

During Travel: opt for the stairways instead of escalators, walk rather than take a taxi, rotate joints (neck, wrists, elbows, ankles) and stand up every hour while on long journeys. Choose the same time daily which you can dedicate to your self-practice and start slow -- 10 minutes a day is better than none! Buy a thin travel yoga mat which can be easily folded - my personal favorite is Manduka! 

6. Let your body be still: use your intuition and listen to what your body/mind is craving - there is a time for movement and a time for stillness. Both are important to our longevity and must be incorporated equally for optimal health. 

Start with a healthy sleep pattern. Despite disrupted sleep schedules during transit, aim for 6-8 hours of restful sleep to feel alert and energized. Restful sleep means that you’re not using substances to sleep and you are sleeping soundly through the night. If you feel energetic and vibrant when you wake up, you have had a night of restful sleep. The best way to ensure restful sleep is to follow a pattern that follows the natural rhythms of nature: rising within an hour of the sun and sleeping before midnight when the hours are most rejuvenating. 

If you're feeling tired and need to nap during the day, do so. It is more important to give yourself rest then to over extend and reduce your immunity.  

And as important as physical sleep is for our bodies, peace and quiet is vital for our minds. The best way to still your mind, enhance your focus and energize is through meditation.

It can be done anywhere, anytime and for any length. 

Meditation is proven to have higher results when practiced daily. Begin to incorporate a short meditation each morning/night of 5 minutes. With time you can slowly increase the time you sit as you become more comfortable. 

During Travel: place a cushion or a pair of jeans (evenly folded) under your hips to encourage a lengthened spine for your meditation. Before travel download a relaxation app or sound healing songs on your phone so you can plug in and tune out, even when you don't have your own personal quiet space.

7. Create sacred spaces: create spaces which are comforting and inspiring. It can be as simple as putting something you love in the space you are inhabiting, such as a fresh flowers/plants, seashells or photos of loved ones. Open windows for natural light and fresh air and keep spaces as physically clean as possible. You will feel more in tune with your personal space (which is so important when traveling and outside of your normal comfort zone!) and create a sense of bhakti or devotion which will keep you feeling safe, nourished and connected.

During Travel: organize your belongings and unpack as much as you can, make your bed and light your favorite inscent, candle or make a soothing essential oil spray blend with water to clear the space. 


LAUREN LEE E-RYT 500 is passionate about living with purpose, exploring the world, and empowering others to live as their most authentic, radiant Self. Founder of Raise Your Beat, dedicated teacher and forever student on the path of yoga, she leads transformational workshops, retreats and trainings to awaken the individual and collective consciousness. Read more about her here

How to Evolve through Travel

Travel illuminates our entire being. When we travel we are exposed to new ways of living and perspectives. We have the opportunity to connect and learn from those who may seem foreign at first, but soon realize that we are all unique in our gifts, but similar in our desires. Travel challenges us and encourages us to question or values, and possibly reassess our way of thinking and living. It is a healthy platform for self-reflection and provides space to disconnect from all that we know, in order to reconnect with a deeper innate intelligence within.

Travel opens our eyes, minds and hearts to the vast and incredible world that is all around us...and while living a life infused with travel is not always the easiest option, it is certainly the most rewarding. Life is too short to stay comfortable and stagnant! If you are feeling called to expand and explore, then travel is one of the most inspiring and invigorating ways to do it.

If so, offer yourself the priceless gift of experiences and memories which will last far longer than any material item you own.

Below are tips to manifest a transformational travel experience today, on any budget! 

1. Travel to an unknown destination: stepping outside our comfort zone is where the real learning begins as we have no other option than to reflect, integrate and expand in how we think, speak and act. When we are in new places with unfamiliar traditions or languages, we engage our intuitive capacities through social intelligence and compassion in order to connect. We don't necessarily have to agree with everything we experience or learn, but instead we will gain a healthy perspective on how to treat and values others with respect. Traveling to unknown places creates a sense of presence, adventure, courage, humility and an overall deeper sense of connection to the world.

2. Travel mindfully: Travel with an intention and purpose. Journal the reasons that you are traveling and ask yourself what most excites/scares/inspires you about the trip. This may help you uncover what type of travel you feel will best support you, whether it is to self-nourish through healthy lifestyle choices on a spiritual retreat, building community/integrating through give back, or immersing yourself in history/nature/culture. When you take the time to reflect on what it is you most desire at this moment in your life, your decisions and experiences while traveling will be more aligned, even if you are planning as you go. 

3. Travel on a budget: travel isn't only for those who have extra thousands of dollars lying around...travel is absolutely accessible for anyone no matter what your financial situation is! If you have a strong enough desire to travel, you will find ways to make it happen. When you travel on a budget, you are more likely to appreciate the experience as you have put in effort in order to make it happen. Get creative in how you save money and the way in which you travel:

+ Sell your stuff! Let go of what is no longer relevant in your life. If you haven't used/worn it in the last 6 months, get rid of it. If you can live your life without it, then it's time to reassess why you are holding on to it. This will help to pay for your trip and creates less baggage which physically and mentally blocks you from living the life you want. Consign your items, sell them on Etsy or Craigslist, host a garage sale or flea market. Start with smaller items if you have a hard time letting go, eventually the process will become more normal and start to feel incredibly liberating! 

+ Make exchange a vital part of the process! To offer and receive is what make the world go around. This vital exchange creates feelings of reward, gratitude and fulfillment. Participate in a work trade or volunteer program (Work Away, Yoga Trade, Woofing, Helpx), house-sit or do a house/apartment exchange. 

+ Get a job! Working abroad is one of the best ways to fund your travels, integrate into the local culture and gain a sense of purpose. Some of the best options for jobs overseas are teaching English/Yoga/Diving, becoming an Au pair or tour guide. 

4. Travel authentically: In every place that you travel, set an intention to experience things as the locals do, and to interact with local people every day. For example, take local transportation or walk/bike around cities, taste local foods, go to the local markets and ask locals what it is they recommend you experience while in their home country. Don't be afraid to talk to locals and ask questions about their culture, as long as you are also willing to open up about your culture/beliefs/life. Most locals will be as intrigued by you, as you are by them. Gaining local perspective and knowledge first hand is one of the best ways to learn about a place! As with anything, use your discernment and know when you should follow the guide books, other travelers advice or your intuition.

5. Travel alone: When you travel on your own, you are required to move past any fears or limitations to make skillful decisions and overcome obstacles. You become your own'daily boss' and are empowered to determined exactly how it is you want your time to be spent. But most importantly, when you travel alone you become your own best friend. Spending time alone can be incredibly uncomfortable for some at first, however this is where you will truly learn to love yourself unconditionally. At some point you will have to face your personal judgements, negative patterns or boredom...which is a healthy part of self-reflection and growing. You will have to be okay with silence and learn to stimulate/nourish yourself in ways that other people can't. Journaling, reading, writing, meditating and creating art are all soul-fueled practices which we often neglect when we have the distraction of others. 


LAUREN LEE E-RYT 500 is passionate about living with purpose, exploring the world, and empowering others to live as their most authentic, radiant Self. Founder of Raise Your Beat, dedicated teacher and forever student on the path of yoga, she leads transformational workshops, retreats and trainings to awaken the individual and collective consciousness. Read more about her here

 

The Travel Hangover

After returning home from recent travels in Bali, I decided to set a Sankalpa (intention) for myself: to maintain my 'Bali Bliss' and feel as healthy, joyful and inspired in my daily life as I did while in Bali. I knew it would take two key steps:

1. To acknowledge what it was that actually gave me the positive sensations? 

2. Commitment to cultivate daily practices into my life to maintain these sensations.

I began to journal everything that was coming to mind from my time in Bali...streams of consciousness came out in my notebook through scribbled notes, bullet points and doodles. I listened to songs I had played during the trip and flipped through my camera to visualize my journey. 

I came to the conclusion that my 'Bali Buzz' was thanks to three aspects:

1. I was in a training course which gave me the opportunity to deepen my understanding of Yoga and my own personal development. I began each day with self-practice, listened to lectures which sparked my interest and was surrounded by teachers, mentors and fellow classmates. 

2. I ate high quality vegetarian (and mostly vegan) foods daily. I ate more fresh foods (and less in general) leaving me feeling light and clear. I consumed far less sugars and caffeine than in my normal diet and found those cravings diminish over time, which meant less time thinking about food and more time/energy spent on other things. 

3. I felt nourished from being immersed in nature, the tropical heat and weekly massages. I felt nurtured and energized in both my body and mind. 

Although I am no longer in Bali, my current practice is to accept and surrender to the present moment to make the most of it. I know that it takes effort to maintain the inner abundance even if my physical environment has changed.

As many of you are avid travelers, you can relate to returning home from life-changing experiences abroad and feel as if you have a 'travel hangover'. The hangover can include feelings of boredom with the familiarity of home, and/or as if our very home (the place we thought we knew so well) suddenly feels strange, unaligned with our ethics and like an unfamiliar place.

Trust that this is all normal and part of our personal evolution as humans. We are constantly going through experiences to help us learn, grow and open our hearts and minds. We experience this transformation at home, but most often this growth is amplified when we are traveling as we feel the contrast of two cultures/rhythms/lifestyles. Upon returning home we can feel heavy with feelings of resentment, discontentment, disconnection or fear.

Remember that the practice begins mentally and extends into our physical existence, everyday, through positive mindset shifts and daily actions to help maintain the joy that we feel when our sense are awakened in foreign lands. To cultivate balance and spark your inner radiance (in any place, any time!) takes dedication. The following practices are simple, yet profound when practiced. They are used to reflect on reality and help us to reconnect in times when we need it most...

  • Look back at times when you felt happy and states of well-being. Recognize what is from time period that brought you those feelings. Journal everything that comes to mind. Next to each item listed make a checkmark if it is something attainable in your current situation. If not, draw an arrow and write an alternative action that you can try instead. You may find at the end of this journal exercise that most of the things you have listed may be possible in some capacity. For ex: if you wrote 'Hiking a Volcano' from your recent trip to Hawaii, yet you are currently in a flat part of the world without mountains, you may find that the experience of 'Hiking a Volcano' brought you a sense of adventure which you can find through trying a new experience...kayaking or indoor rock climbing. 
  • Look forward at all of the positive possibilities your current situation can offer you. Create a vision board with magazine cutouts with images (realistic or conceptual!) that you want to cultivate in the next year. If you aren't feeling as creative, simply journal all the things that you are grateful for in your current situation. Place the vision board or journaled list beside your bed or in your work space so you are reminded daily of your potential. 
  • Look around at your relationships. Actively choose to spend time with loved ones who truly support you and those who have a positive approach to life. Reach out to someone who inspires you and seek their friendship and guidance if you don't feel that you have anyone in your life that is worthy. Think quality over quantity...spend less time socializing in situations that leave you feeling depleted, and spend more time in 1:1's or small groups where you are all fully present and feel rejuvenated from the positive dynamic. 
  • Look within to self-reflect and build your intuition. Develop the practice of Pratyahara (turning inward) to focus on what specific qualities you need to feel more nourished. Remember that you are in complete control of your life experience and at any time you can make whatever changes (subtle or great) that are needed to bring you into a state of bliss. Yoga, meditation, journaling, time in nature and self-care rituals are all ways in which you can spend time with yourself and reflect on what is lacking in your life and ways in which you can recalibrate. It may mean ending a relationship, going back to school for studies or packing your bags and taking time to soul search in a new part of the world.

LAUREN LEE is passionate about holistic health, exploring the world and empowering others to live vibrant and happy lives. Founder of Raise Your Beat, dedicated yogini and sun seeker, she lives for creating connection and enjoying simple pleasures. Read more about her here

The Yoga Farm

After a 10 hour drive South of the city, the local bus crept along the dusty dirt roads through Pavones. It eventually turned off the engine at the end of the dark road and the driver smiled and told me I had reached my destination: Punta Banco. Through the darkness I heard the waves crashing beside the slightly raised road. As my eyes adjusted to the night I could barely make out the 'steep hill' (the website does not lie!) which is the only route to The Yoga Farm. 

20 minutes later, after a sweaty hike up the hill, I saw the glow from the kitchen and recognized the familiar sounds of eating, laughter backed by a symphony of forks and knives. I emerged out of the darkness to a group of people sitting together at the two communal tables as they shared stories from the day and devoured the colorful foods on their plates. I was so exhausted I passed on dinner and was guided up (another very steep) stone pathway to the main house. Few times in my life has bed felt this good...so I let my bones and muscles sink deep into the mattress and closed my eyes. 

I rose with the darkness and the sounds of the jungle: lively birds, fierce howler monkeys and a soft rainfall. Minutes later the sky transformed and light enveloped the dense clouds covering the rainforest. My eyes absorbed all the green that surrounded me as I glanced outside through the open walls. It took me a moment to remember where I was and realize that I wasn't deep in a dream: I was in Punta Banco, at The Yoga Farm, teaching yoga for the next 10 days. I felt extremely privileged and sat for a moment in bed taking in all the new smells, colors and sounds. 

Over the next 10 days I grew very accustomed to jungle life at The Yoga Farm. Mornings began with the sunrise and a yoga session from 6:30 - 8. Days were spent on the empty beaches of Punta Banco, exploring nearby waterfalls and getting involved in kitchen projects...peeling cacao beans, preparing meals or simply entertaining the chef of the day (volunteers rotate cooking for the entire group). 

Breakfast, lunch & dinner were always the best times of the day...not just for the vibrant, homemade vegetarian meals, but for the chance to spend time with other guests & volunteers that make up this very special community. 

Life on the farm is a kula or family where everyone shares responsibilities that help to create a self-sustaining atmosphere. Seasoned volunteers/guests become friends instantly with new arrivals and take them under their wing; explaining daily routine, offering insight on using compost toilets or sharing the best swimming/surfing spots.  

The Yoga Farm is a collective project which has been thriving for nearly a decade. Pat & Christie, a lovely couple from Florida have been living onsite for the last 7 years. They are avid surfers and are the backbone of the farm. They organize bookings, create projects for volunteers onsite (and are also very involved in them) and have an honest passion for living a healthy, happy and alternative lifestyle. Collectively, Pat, Christie and the volunteers from around the world (travelers from Sweden to New Zealand!) are a huge part of bringing this retreat center to life. 

The Yoga Farm is 100% off the grid which means they use solar power for the few lights in the kitchen/main house, and oven. The farm has rain-water and spring-fed water systems, composting for kitchen & human wastes, a flock of free range chickens which provide eggs and on site gardens which grow beautiful fruits and vegetables. The main house is dorm style, although most nights everyone opted to set up their mattress & mozzy net upstairs on the  yoga deck in slumber party fashion to enjoy the breeze and an awakening to the Pacific. Compost toilets and an outdoor shower are immersed between birds of paradise, pineapple bushes and 2 meter high ginger plants. The land is both physically and energetically rich. 

The farm overlooks the black sands and blue waters of Golfo Dulce, an area abundant with land and sea creatures, probably due to the unspoiled environment. The beaches from Pavones to Punta Banco (about 6 km of coastline) are open and empty. I shared the beach with a few locals who would spearfish, the occasional tourist who set up their hammock under a swaying palm or surfers embracing the clean water and rolling waves. The beach is a maze of perfectly molded and eroded drift wood, just waiting to be taken home as abstract art. The land off the beach is very underdeveloped with a few local houses, cabinas for rent, a mini-super (with the freshest ceviche I have ever tasted), a small church and a few restaurants.

The busiest day within the 6km range is on Saturdays when a small organic market is held in Pavones with about 8 tables set up to display the baked goods and food from expats (banana bread, carrot ginger muffins, shaved coconut vegan chocolate cupcakes) and local made coconut oil, honey and crafts from the indigenous community. The market is a great way to meet other travelers or locals and is the perfect amount of indulgence for your tastebuds and wallet. 

From the people I met in this area it is obvious that most are like-minded and have immense respect for the land and culture. Being back in nature and embracing the 'glamping' (glamorous camping) lifestyle was a gentle reminder of how powerful, therapeutic and energizing the Earth can be. My body quickly slipped into sync with the solar and lunar cycles, rising early with the light and sleeping soon after darkness approached. These natural cycles are imperative for proper health...allowing the Earth and our physical/mental bodies to shut down for restorative sleep. The continual sound of the surf matched the flow of my breath, reminding me to slow down, breathe deeply and relish in the beauty all around me. 

Throughout my travels in Costa Rica, I have not encountered many places that are still this pristine and rustic. If the idea of washing your clothes by hand, sleeping in an open air house and using a compost toilet is too basic, then this may not be the destination for you. However, if homemade food prepared with intention and love, practicing yoga daily, observing wildlife from your mattress, and becoming a part of this unique community in the jungle sound like the adventure you have always been waiting for, then get involved today! I truly believe that new experiences (especially ones out of our comfort zone and daily routine) while challenging, will always benefit us by uncovering new layers of ourselves on all levels: physically, mentally and spiritually. I would highly recommend a trip to The Yoga Farm, for any amount of time...one week to one month. Give yourself a chance to cleanse and heal naturally: log off and learn to live more simply in harmony with nature.


LAUREN LEE E-RYT 500 is passionate about living with purpose, exploring the world, and empowering others to live as their most authentic, radiant Self. Founder of Raise Your Beat, dedicated teacher and forever student on the path of yoga, she leads transformational workshops, retreats and trainings to awaken the individual and collective consciousness. Read more about her here

The Travel Spirit

You have returned from a journey so expansive and beautiful the world is vibrating in different shades of light. Your heart was blown open, you met, saw and tasted the most magnificent things. You evolved and shifted and are now on a totally different level then when you first boarded that plane. Then you arrive “home”. While the initial homecoming may be heart warming and lovely, I have personal experiences and observed many friends (even ones rooted in a strong yoga practice) that struggle with the adjustment and are not really sure whats happening to them. 

Symptoms include: Restlessness, Exhaustion, Waves of strong emotions, Trouble connecting with people at home,  a confused sense of identity, confusion about your current life situation, tears, feeling generally uncomfortable and spontaneous physical ailments

I recently returned from an epic seven month journey through Europe, India, Nepal and the Eastern coast of the US. Of course throughout these incredible travels there were challenges. Many challenges were the natural experiences that travel offers, while some were my own challenges that I place upon myself. However, by the time I returned to New York, months and countries later, I was sure that some of those negative mental patterns had been left far behind in a foreign context. For example, I have been prone to wicked anxiety and waves of insecurity and sadness my whole life, but after all the living and healing that had taken place abroad I felt like those days were completely gone, and even more so since these challenges hadn’t presented themselves in years. 

After my first week home I began to slip into some kind of funk, I embraced the impermanence of my feelings, dove head first into my practice and Indulged in all things that felt good. I stayed present and grounded in my current situation, yet I began to fall deeper into these depressive states. Refusing to come to terms with the fact that I was not feeling well at all, I dismissed my feelings without giving them any recognition. I couldn't understand why, with the abundance of beauty and comfort my current life situation presented I was feeling down. It made me feel guilty. How could it be that I had been living in bliss while trying to sleep on overcrowded sleeper buses stuck in traffic through Dehli, living off 5 USD a day and not always having access to clean water but could not find my authentic, peaceful selfIn my beautiful little cottage in East Hampton, New York. 

This is when I learned a very important lesson. You have to validate your own feelings before you can let them go. I was so deep in denial of my sadness that I never took the time to acknowledge how I was truly feeling. Isn't that what its all about? Being completely honest with your self in every capacity? So I had a really honest conversation with my Heart. I asked myself how I felt without any kind of judgement. 

I felt lonely, I felt so disconnected with the people I love so much It made my heart hurt. I felt sickened by the amount of waste we produce in the west and the amount of money spent on useless shit. I felt like everyone was missing the point of life and human existence floating around in clouds of material illusion. I missed my travel tribe, I missed authenticity. The thing that was eating away at me however was the guilt. I felt so guilty for feeling this way that it became this awful self perpetuating cycle. How could I feel so crappy when I had It so good? It seemed absurd.

The journey doesn’t end when you get home, it evolves into a whole other trip.

In the past two months I have learned more about myself than I ever knew possible. I finally understood that the greatest Journey you will ever embark on is the journey within, a voyage of self discovery. 

I pulled myself out of this hole by acknowledging I was in one to begin with and then was careful not to give it any unnecessary attention. I observed my situation and began to evolve with it. I kept possessions from my travels close by, so their high energy was always close to my heart. I made active efforts to reach out to my tribe and connect on a soul level. I realized I was not alone and many of my friends were experiencing similar things. I dived into the now, into my practice. The most important shift I made, however, was embracing this strange hurdle as a beautiful blessing. I was being given the chance to learn so much about my self in such a safe place. I journaled everything, every time my heart, soul, body and mind felt heavy I would unload it with ink into notebooks. I got creative in every way - painting, playing, making. I spent time in nature, bare feet in the ground, rooting myself into my current placement on this planet. 

I gaze at the same stars, the same moon and the same sun. It is the same moon that I watched rise over the Himalayas and knowing that, makes me feel in my heart that it is all the same. We travel to facilitate inner growth but the journey is within. I connected with the cosmos and found peace there. We are always traveling, we are traveling thousands of miles through space now. 

You decide when the trip ends, maybe now is the time to decide it wont. Maybe now is the time to make a commitment to bliss, happiness and growth and keep the momentum. Propelling yourself into a whole other dimension of discovery. The trick to avoiding a travel hangover to to keep traveling within your mind, body, spirit. To embrace the different facets of this long trip we call life. keep going, keep exploring, keep loving. 


CHRISTIANA Is a full time traveler, yogi, song writer and dream manifester. She is passionate about fresh food, vibrant cultures, holistic health and the ocean. Her greatest wish is for everyone to listen to their inner teacher, follow their intuition and fall in love with their lives. Follow her here: www.instagram.com/christianaeva

Top 10 places to travel: Costa Rica

Whether you are lost in the central bustle of Paseo Colon or navigating your way through the lush jungles along the coast, you will be greeted by locals with a smile and 'Pura Vida', an expression meaning 'pure life'. The uses for Pura Vida are endless...hello, goodbye, thank you, to express emotions or gratitude. It is a phrase that goes beyond the words and is representative of the lifestyle in Costa Rica: happy & positive with a deep appreciation for family, friends & nature. 

Costa Rica is a country the size of West Virginia or Denmark, yet despite its small size, it is rich in culture and boasts an abundance of natural beauty. Ranked as the worlds 'happiest country' they are also one of the worlds 'greenest' (environmentally sustainable), and have the worlds largest Blue Zone, an area that is one of the healthiest due to lifestyle and nature. Costa Rica is considered a biodiversity hotspot with 1/4 of the country protected as national parks, reserves and conservation land. Rolling hills and rugged mountains, tropical rainforest, volcano peaks, wild and unspoiled beaches and lush river valleys make up this diverse southern paradise.

Costa Rica neighbors Nicaragua and Panama, yet has its very own unique atmosphere, probably due to the abolishment of the military in 1948, instead, using military budget for education, health and culture. Costa Rica has maintained its culture despite the development in certain areas of the country, such as the capital city, San José. For every Wal Mart, there are countless 'sodas' - family run restaurants where you can find some of the best (and cheapest!) local food. Despite the paved maze of road systems throughout the city, drive 10 km out of San José and you will find winding dirt roads leading to farms in the countryside. While the older generations seem to carry on Costa Rican traditions through food, holidays and an obvious love for their country - the younger generations are slowly shifting the mentality by sharing diverse and creative ideologies. A more liberal, open-minded demographic of students and entrepreneurs are helping to create an even more progressive culture - bringing awareness to the importance of art, holistic health and business with social impacts. This demographic also includes the many foreigners who now call Costa Rica home for their families and businesses, and contribute to the diversity within the country. 

To say Costa Rica is white sand beaches, palm trees and cold Imperial beer is ignorant and strips the country of its character. While some may visit in search of those three things, I have faith that my readers are interested in the real Costa Rica: a charming country with much more to offer than 5-star resorts and piña coladas, (although they grow the best pineapples in the world, so it's not a bad idea to try one of the famous juicy fruits...with or without rum!) so if you are interested in traveling and learning then read on...below are some of my favorite places I would highly recommend. Let your wanderlust take over, begin your journey mentally and add this incredible country to your adventure list! 


1. Mauel Antonio National Park

Boasting some of the best beaches in the country, this small national park is abundant with wildlife, white sandy beaches and sparkling blue waters. Walk along the dense tropical trails to easily spot monkeys, sloths, deer, reptiles and macaws. The surrounding area feels quite touristy due to its small size, however you can find all types of accommodation and restaurants depending on your budget and preference. 

2. Santa Teresa

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One of my favorite spots in Costa Rica, Santa Teresa is truly a small slice of heaven! A beach town bustling with international travelers and expats in search of the Pura Vida lifestyle and perfect waves. Culture in Santa Teresa is a medley of relaxed tropical Tico time and foreign influence in food, art and mentality. Santa Teresa has a wide range of quality restaurants (Koji's Sushi) and cafes (The Bakery) allowing you to nourish yourself with healthy vegetarian cuisine one day (Olam, Chop it) and the best thin crust Argentinean pizza (El Pulpo) the next. Santa Teresa is overflowing with yoga and international teachers...some of the best shalas in town are Flor Blanca, Pranamar and Tropico Latino which are all beachside and surrounded by lush gardens. During sunset, Santa Teresa's beach becomes a colorful show with surfers in the water and friends gathering on the sands to watch the sun drop. 

3. El Caribe - Puerto Viejo

The Caribbean Coast is like traveling to another country within Costa Rica. The culture and energy shifts with the strong Afro-influence, gifting the streets with the sounds of reggae and rasta vibes, and restaurants with some of the best seafood and 'rice and beans' - a take on gallo pinto with the rich flavor of coconut milk. The main road from the town of Puerto Viejo takes you on a 12km journey to Manzanillo, a wildlife refuge. This road is lined with unique beaches and bays, each with their own personality and beauty. Development is secluded with most hostels, B&B's and eco-lodges small and hidden off the road. Rent a bicycle and spend your days exploring this strip of jungle. Discover Punta Uva, a lagoon like beach and enjoy amazing wholesome food at Bread & Chocolate & La Botanica Organica. 

4. Santa Rosa National Park

One of the oldest and largest national parks in Costa Rica, this 91,926 acre park protects many species of mammals, birds and plants. The park has scrub grasses and thorn trees giving it a less tropical feel and instead a rugged dry terrain. The beaches that lie at the base of the park are some of the worlds best surfing - Ollies Point & Witches Rock and are usually empty as the only way to access the beaches are by boat or 4x4. There are great trails for hiking and camping sites with trees for shade, bathrooms and fresh water. 

5. Nosara

The Nosara area has become a popular destination for active sport loving tourists and families. While the traditional village of Nosara is 6km inland, most tourists and expats find themselves in Playa Guiones or Playa Pelada where the tourism is oriented towards surf, yoga and health. If you love adventure and want to have a wide range of activities, then this is a great place to make your home base...zip lining, quad escapades, jungle trekking and stand up paddle board tours are few of the many ways you can explore nature. The beaches aren't the prettiest in Costa Rica, however they are full of people utilizing the sand and surf which creates a lively and energetic atmosphere. Indulge in homemade ice cream and veggie specials at Robins Cafe. Treat yourself to a passionfruit mojito for sunset at La Luna, overlooking the horizon in their outdoor chill out. Check out Nosara Yoga Institute or Harmony Hotel for great drop in yoga classes.

6. Playa Grande

One of Costa Rica's best kept secrets - Playa Grande lies only a few kilometers North from the overdeveloped Tamarindo, however it is a world of difference. Playa Grande is turtle reserve, home to the famous Baula turles (they grow up to 2 meters big!) and has little to no development on the beach. The beach is wide, open, usually empty and always boasts perfect waves for beginners - intermediate surfers. There are loads of private residencies, small B&B's or hostels to choose from for accommodation. I recommend El Manglar hostel, meters from the beach through a small pathway with affordable rooms, a pool, outdoor kitchen and laid back surf vibes from its youthful owners. 

* On your way to Playa Grande, pass through Liberia and stop 20 minutes outside of the city for some of the most secluded and spectacular waterfalls 5 minutes directly off the highway: Cataratas de Cortés *

7. Punta Banco

A hidden gem in Costa Rica (probably due to the off the beaten path and Southern location boarding Panama) Punta Banco lies a few kilometers from Pavones (a tiny pueblo which exists almost entirely for surf) and is even further off the tourist track. Punta Banco has stunning vast, volcanic black-sand beaches which offers an incredible color contrast to the vibrant lush green palms. The empty beach is perfect to lay low and relax. Pavones and Punta Banco are both extremely laid-back with a few restaurants, Super minis and accommodation options. Much of the surrounding area is protected nationally and privately, therefor many locals and expats take pride in sustainable living and protecting the wildlife. Check out The Yoga Farm for an unforgettable stay with this community of holistic minded travelers. 

8. Montezuma beaches

The Little hippie town of Montezuma is a great spot to stop and chillout for a few days. However, the market style main street which hosts rastas selling homemade crafts, shell and macrame jewelry is a small aspect of Montezumas beauty. Rent a bicycle or quad and get lost on the dirt coastal roads that wind along untouched clear coves - idyllic postcard beaches, a 3 tiered waterfall with a swimming hole and unnoticed local villages make up Montezumas real magic.

 

9. Cartago

Some of the most natural and untouched parts of Costa Rica lie minutes outside of San Jose. Cartago, once the capital of Costa Rica is now a small city (in comparison to San Jose) that boasts mystical ruins of an old church, and outside of the city, agricultural villages and lush mountainous terrain. Take a drive to Terrazu, where Costa Rica’s tastiest coffee is grown and experience a tour where you can learn the process for growing & producing some of the worlds finests coffee – I garuntee you will appreciate your daily cup much more! I have gotten lost while exploring these beautiful and highly underrated countrysides and I am always grateful to enjoy a local meal at a Soda where your waiter is also your chef and friend - it is a refreshing change of scenrary and pace of life from the beaches.

10. Monteverde

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Known for it’s iconic cloud forests, Monteverde offers the best ziplining and sky trekking through hanging bridges that float amongst the misty canopy.  Monkeys, sloths, butterflies and bugs, hummingbirds and the famous quetzal bird are abundant in the cloud forests. The town is small and full of backpackers and families looking for a bit of adventure...accommodations range from simple hostels to 5 star eco lodges tucked away from the main town. 


¡San Jose Bonus!

 

Eat

Kalu & Kiosko - a bit pricey but worth the colones for the modern but tranquil atmosphere and creative local design shop

Ravi – a small Gastropub which has a NYC vibe with its funky, mismatched art and delicious international vegetarian menu

Al Mercat – market to table gourmet eatery which uses local and seasonal ítems for a fusion and globally inspired menu

Café Del Barista – a hidden cafe which you must look for to find, boasts some of the best coffee, accompanied by a lively atmosphere and home baked goodies

Play

Feria Verde – every Saturday houndreds of locals, forgeiners, farmers, vendors and creatives join forces to bring this magical market to life. Home made foods, drinks, crafts, clohting, fruits & veggies, flowers & live music are only a small taste of this unique market. A great place to practice your Spanish (foreigners), taste test healthy & delicious foods (everything is available and encouraged to indulge your senses!) and people watch – bring your camera and immerse yourself in the flow of people and positive energy

Andamio – A school of movement which offers dance, yoga, zumba & antigravity yoga in hammocks (try an antigravity class after a long flight - go upside down in the comfort of a silk hammock, decompress your spine and watch the tension melt away!) – visit Melania, a wonderful teacher who’s spirit will welcome you and encourage you to sweat with a smile on your face

Parque España, Parque Nacional – Traverse through these lush parks in the city center in between coffee breaks and grafetti hunting

Stay

* Look for places in or near Barrio Amon or Barrio Escalante - a prime location for exploring the city center yet immersed in quiet neighborhoods with quant cafes, organic food, yoga studios and parks

Casa Botanica – a refurbished old house, this beautiful B&B is located in Barrio Aranjuez, an up and coming neighborhood with surrounding cafes, restaurants, bars, parks and interesting areas filled with street art. Enjoy the comforts of a private residence with homemade breakfast (included in price), a garden terrace and incredible art and artifacts throughout the house 

Hotel 1915 – conveniently located close to the airport and local buses in Alajuela, this B&B is reasonably priced (in house breakfast option) with comfortable rooms, chill out lounges for reading, courtyard gardens and free wifi


Enjoy the travel recommendations while creating your own journey along the way...Costa Rica has endless possibilities to satisfy everyones soul! 


LAUREN LEE E-RYT 500 is passionate about living with purpose, exploring the world, and empowering others to live as their most authentic, radiant Self. Founder of Raise Your Beat, dedicated teacher and forever student on the path of yoga, she leads transformational workshops, retreats and trainings to                              awaken the individual and collective consciousness. Read more about her here

The flow of Travel

The reoccurring theme in anyone’s story is the ever present adventure and mystery of life: the constant changing states of our relationship to our environments and ourselves which is the necessary flow of life.

Throughout travel, this ever-changing flow is amplified when you find yourself in a new environment. No longer with the safety net of our comforts, familiar faces and routines, unknown places present us with magical mysteries – often times challenges, but more often are the sensations of excitement and exploration, inner strength and courage, inspiration and connection.

Our minds and hearts are blown open by new cultures, languages, rituals and rhythms.

We take in each experience as new and as if it were the first time we ever sat for a sunset, laid in the grass or exchanged a heartfelt conversation with another human.

That is the beauty of travel…

In a new city, country or continent, our senses are heightened and untouched territories, untold stories, exotic experiences provide the wanderlust high of venturing into the unknown.

This is the true ebb and flow of travel…

So jump in feet first and ride the waves of mystery. All you need is an open mind and to trust your intuition. The rest will fall into place sweetly, as it always does, time and time again.

Travel teaches us to surrender and soften when things don’t go as planned.

Travel offers us simple pleasures in a whole new light and encourages awareness and gratitude.

Travel gifts us the comfort and support from another human or community, in the most unexpected times.

Travel restores our independence and activates our internal wisdom. Travel represents reality…that while world is a big and beautiful place, we are all seeking the same universal truths and qualities of connection, love, happiness and health.


LAUREN LEE E-RYT 500 is passionate about living with purpose, exploring the world, and empowering others to live as their most authentic, radiant Self. Founder of Raise Your Beat, dedicated teacher and forever student on the path of yoga, she leads transformational workshops, retreats and trainings to awaken the individual and collective consciousness. Read more about her here

Arriving home

After multiple continents, many challenges, numerous mind-blowing experiences, and almost a year of living, loving and sharing around the globe, I returned full circle to a sweet Seacoast town to settle in for the summer months. 

As a yoga teacher, born with wanderlust, and the urge to experience life in big ways, travel has been an integral part of my life for the past decade. 

And by travel, I don’t mean sitting poolside drinking a piña colada in a fenced in property…my philosophy behind true travel is the raw (not always photograph worthy), authentic and eye-opening experiences. It is reality, which is both beauty and sadness. Poverty and sometimes death. 

And so while it’s easy (therefore we often think it to be the more preferable experience) to sit on an empty beach overlooking crystal waters, or get lost in mountain treks through fields of wild flowers - the true depth - the expansion of our perspectives and the opening of our hearts takes place when you are faced with the unknown and find yourself in an uncomfortable situation. 

These are the soul-shaking moments which define and solidify who we are…and most of the time we are sweetly surprised when we survive the unknown by uncovering deep layers of strength, clarity and wisdom from within. 

And if we don’t sail smoothly through it, we learn very quickly how to better prepare ourselves for the next time and accept this as a path of growth.

This is the powerful rhythm you find yourself in when traveling outside of your comfort zones, embracing and absorbing the mystery that is presented every single day, often without much support or guidance. You may not have your immediate community nearby or even a travel partner, and you may even be on your own. Solo journeys always invite the silence and inward teachings of yoga into your adventure, making space for deep changes. In these times, your independence and intuition become your best friend as they are a necessity for survival.  

Normally, after arriving back to America after many months abroad (often times living more simply and/or just living at a different pace and context) I find myself really resisting the convenience and abundance that is so prevalent in areas where I grew up. I sometimes even catch myself with feelings of confusion and anger that so many people don’t share the same world views and ethics as I do. 

How they be so content without experiencing other places and cultures? Don’t they get bored speaking the same language all the time? Why aren’t they aware of deeper realities? 

These questions and sensations that arise, began as harsh judgements and with an added ego. But throughout the past decade, enduring the same culture shock over and over again, and experiencing all of the feelings associated with it, leads me to the beginning of a profound shift. These questions and sensations are now taking form into concerns and action. Instead, of pointing fingers at who and what is not doing as ‘I feel they should’, living responsibly for myself by living my truth and leading by example with full love, compassion and authenticity is the most powerful shift that will begin to create ripples within the pond. 

This shift feels as if its a process of refinement. Refinement of sensations that once stayed within me and only created more of a separation. However, through yoga - the practices of observation, acceptance and training lead me to a place where I can transform myself, to be of service and make a difference and honor a greater sense of unity.

And so when I returned to this gorgeous seaside paradise, as I have many times in the past after long travels, instead of finding it hard to connect or feeling as if I didn’t belong and wanting nothing more than to run away to some place ‘more exotic’ - I find myself in deep gratitude for the safety, the cleanliness and the supportive environment that surrounds me. Acts of kindness from family and friends, plentiful organic produce and drinkable tap water, a cozy twin bed to sleep, and most important, a community of yoga practitioners who have embraced me whole heartedly. 

With this gratitude, comes a sweet surprise. 

I realize that it’s okay to need rest and softness. I see now the importance of taking in love and support, and not just being around it, but actually accepting and embracing it. I am beginning to understand I don’t always have to be so far away to feel inspired and alive. I have begun to re-discover and appreciate all the beauty that is here, as if I were a tourist, basking in the unfamiliarity. And this is one of the biggest lessons I have learned from travel. Not to judge one country, culture or human based on one negative experience. When you are challenged during travel, our first instinct can be to run, to move on to the next city or island, simply because we can…but most often when you sit with the experience a little longer and stay open to all the beauty that surrounds you, shifts occur, clarity and perspective come and you grow as a person. 

So when we find ourselves back to square one (at home in your native environment) this can often translate to travelers as mundane or ‘easy’, but know that this is part of the journey. This is the ebb and flow of travel. Allow this to become your yoga practice, embracing the ease and comforts of home without judgements, while staying true to your morals. Take the time for rejuvenation, self-study and connection to lands and communities you have not seen in months. Use the space to get really clear on how to move forward in life. Acknowledge your wild and free heart, and know that travel always calls us back and will remain part of your history and future. 


LAUREN LEE E-RYT 500 is passionate about living with purpose, exploring the world, and empowering others to live as their most authentic, radiant Self. Founder of Raise Your Beat, dedicated teacher and forever student on the path of yoga, she leads transformational workshops, retreats and trainings to awaken the individual and collective consciousness. Read more about her here

Top 6 cafe's in Rishikesh

Rishikesh is a vibrant and bustling small city in North India. It lies in a valley at the foothills of the Himalyas and offers refreshing clean mountain air and surrounding green hills, a turquoise colored Ganga (when it hasn’t been raining!) and a relaxed pace. Rishikesh is one of the spiritual hubs of the world (due to the Ganga which is one of the holiest rivers in the world) and attracts equal amounts of sadhus, saints, travelers and tourists. The influx of diverse people adds to the unique character of the city, supporting spiritual seekers, musicians and artists and many long term travelers who are looking for a more peaceful and integrated experience within Northern India. The emphasis on holistic health — satsangs with spiritual teachers, yoga, meditation and organic cafes creates a healthy and inspiring ambiance, which is the perfect backdrop to immerse yourself. Countless courses are offered, from yoga, meditation, cooking to dance. Rishikesh truly provides something for everyone — and if your just passing through, you can easily soak up the cities vibe with long meditative walks along the Ganga from Laxman Jula to Ram Jula bridges, observing the devotion that is continuously taking place along her flowing waters. 

Ramana’s Organic Cafe, Tapovan

Amongst an orphanage lies the best kept secret in Rishikesh. An organic cafe, only open for lunch offers a set menu option or a la carte. Green kale salads, homemade raviolis and momos, tulsi teas, and the best dark chocolate truffles in India(!) are some of my favorites. Saturdays they have healthy pizzas and documentary nights and Sundays offer acoustic jam sessions with musicians from across the globe. The prices are a bit higher (in comparison with other cafes) however it is well worth it as most of the proceeds go directly to the kids. Long term travelers can volunteer if they would like to give even more. 

Tavola con Te, Tapovan

A short hike above Tapovan leads you to the sacred garden and authentic Italian eatery. The menu is literally thin crust pizzas, pastas and deserts — but it’s all you need to enjoy their fusion of ingredients which create classic mouthwatering Italian dishes in India. The tiramisu is like a dream and not to be missed! Go early as space is limited and this is a popular spot. 

Zorba Organic, Laxman Jula

Overlooking the Ganga with cozy chill out spaces, Zorba has an extensive menu which offers organic and vegan items. They offer a juice cleanse package which includes super food smoothies and wheatgrass shots. For the more touristy restaurants, Zorba has a nice environment and consistent quality foods. 

The Juice House, Ram Jula

This must be my favorite place in all of Rishikesh! The Juice House is a cozy, packed juice cafe which has room for about 12 people to sit inside. Vegetables, herbs and fruits are the constant aroma as their juice machine is nonstop working. The young guys who run the place are friendly and have mastered the menu…not only are juices and smoothies are made within minutes, but they are always delivered with a smile. The Juice House is known for its infamous ‘fruit, muesli, soya/curd’ salads which have perfectly ripened tropical fruits, figs and fresh mint and coconut. The fruit is cut and prepared fresh with every bowl they make. Hint: order a half portion as the fruit salads are packed with nutrients, energy and love…a full portion is enough for both breakfast, lunch and dinner! The cafe is charming as it boasts like-minded travelers who have an appetite for health and will welcome you to join them at one of the two tables. 

Anna Prem, Tapovan

Run by the deciphers of Baba Prem, this cafe doesn’t look like much, but has an amazing view over the Laxman Jhula bridge and the frenzy of activity crossing it all day long, along with a healthy (mostly vegan) menu.

AyurPak, Tapovan

A mini garden oasis nestled in the midst of dusty streets, Ayurpak is an authentic Ayurvedic restaurant which serves incredible food, thali’s and tea infusions. A well known spot among reoccurring Rishikesh travelers (and often busy) however its lush green property creates a sacred and shanti atmosphere, perfect for a lazy lunch and your book/journal. 


LAUREN LEE E-RYT 500 is passionate about living with purpose, exploring the world, and empowering others to live as their most authentic, radiant Self. Founder of Raise Your Beat, dedicated teacher and forever student on the path of yoga, she leads transformational workshops, retreats and trainings to awaken the individual and collective consciousness. Read more about her here

Top 5 places to get lost with your camera in India

Being a recurrent traveller to India I often get asked why it is I keep going back and what it is about the country that I love? To those that have not been, most often I simply reply, ‘It’s an interesting place, you should go.’

To fully explain would never do it justice, it’s a country that needs to be experienced first hand.

Sure, there’s the friendly locals, interesting travellers, the incredible beauty, chaos, colours, noise, mysticism, smells, food, scenery, history, spirituality, it’s a country full of adventure that tests and comforts in equal measure, no two days are the same, and every street corner has a view to tempt your senses. But there’s also something else, something almost ethereal and invisible, an energy that never ceases to amaze and inspire me.

It would be wrong of me to offer a ‘Top 5’ places to visit in India without acknowledging that a list of places to visit in India is surely one of the most subjective lists of all. Every traveller will have their own favourite places, all justified for their own specific reasons, however big or small.

My list consists of places that inspire me and suit the way I travel; slowly. They allow me to capture photographs that document everyday India. Places that would, or do, exist with or without foreign tourists, places that the locals would rather share a conversation and a chai than offer me a t-shirt/safari/cousins brother's guesthouse. Places that the longer you stay, the more wonder you receive, but more importantly, they offer a good chai shop or quiet corner to watch the hive of activity before you, the chaos, colour and laughter.


Varanasi

Nowhere, for me, embodies India more than the holy Hindu city of Varanasi. As raw, congested and feral as it is on the surface, bubbling away just beneath is the beauty, serenity and friendliness is what makes this city great.

Most tourists breeze through in two or three days to see the ‘Burning Ghats’, where Hindus are cremated on the banks of the River Ganges to claim moksha, (freedom in the afterlife) or enjoy a sunrise boat ride on the famous river, but Varanasi is so much more. It is claimed that Varanasi is the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world and standing amongst its feverish splendor it is not difficult to see and feel that history. Its atmosphere continually amazes me, from the sounds of early morning chanting to the evening puja ceremonies, and all that happens in between.

Varanasi is a microcosm of the true beauty that makes India magical.

Days can be spent wandering the narrow alleyways that form behind the openings that converge on the River Ganges, the ghats, or chatting to the chai sellers and many Hindu holy men, Sadhus, that live by the river. As a photographer I am yet to find a place richer with scenes of inspiration and intrigue than Varanasi. My camera is eternally grateful.  

Best time to visit: Oct, Nov & Feb, March

Rishikesh

A well known spot that is famous for The Beatles visiting in the late 1960’s, Rishikesh, situated on the River Ganges and close to the rivers source, is where western tourists come to immerse themselves in holistic pursuits and Indian pilgrimages come to pay respect to the holy and divine Ganges. The mix of these visitors adds a vibrant and joyful atmosphere that is felt for the entire stretch of the pathways along the river.

Whether its meditation, yoga, ayurveda, reflexology, cooking, dance, kayaking, tabla, harmonium (the list is almost endless), there are courses for everyone. No visit is complete without a quick dip in the fresh, cooling Ganges, which is said to rid you of any ailments, although depending on where in India you dip and who’s telling the story, it just might add a fair few ailments too.

Rishikesh is a perfect example of when tradition and tourism work in harmony and just 5 hours by train from Delhi it’s the perfect respite from the polluted city streets.

Best time to visit: Oct, Nov & Feb, March

Orchha

Dotted with ancient forts, ruins, an active Hindu temple and surrounded by woodland and farms, Orchha, which sits beside the River Betwa, feels like it’s jumped right out of a storybook. It’s hard to believe how few people actually visit, and out of them even fewer actually spend more than an afternoon, as most visitors stop off on tour buses en-route to nearby, and forgettable, Khaujarho.

The friendliness of the locals adds a warm atmosphere to the peaceful streets, with very few signs of modernity it feels like India of old. Every view provides a different architectural gem to admire, some in better condition than others, but all with their own beauty.

The active, centrally located Rama Temple is not to be missed for its atmosphere, walking through you’ll hear the murmur of devotional chants, the occasional sound of traditional music and a few confused, playful smiles directed at you.

Best time to visit: Oct, Nov & Feb, March

Puri

This beach side town was on the hippie trail in the late 1960’s that followed the famous Silk Road, and some of that charm still lingers in the breezy sea air today.

Laid-back, friendly and full of atmosphere, one draw back for a lot of foreign tourists might be that the beach is not a place for sunbathing and swimming, but more a hive of activity for the locals. Makeshift dwellings line the beach, fisher-wives sell their husbands early morning catch, children play, huddles of squatting men chat; it’s a beach far from Western ‘ideals’ of sun loungers, parasols and beach bars and, in my opinion, so much better for it.

A short wander down the beach road leads to a number of Hindu temples and a splattering of orange clad Sadhus passing through on pilgrimage.  A rickshaw ride into the centre of town leads to the mighty and impressive Jagannath Temple, an exquisite piece of architecture that looms large over the town.

Best time to visit: Oct - March

Hampi

In an attempt to balance out the North / South India divide I’ve added Hampi to the list. Sure, it’s changed over the years and some of its serenity has been lost, but its natural, unique beauty still remains.

Hire a scooter or bicycle and head off into the otherworldly landscape of Hampi, winding roads pass through high-rise assortments of boulders, swaying palm trees and friendly villages.

It’s been dubbed an extension of Goa with its laid-back atmosphere, good restaurants and western influences, but Hampi is also an important Hindu pilgrim site with a steady stream of devotees flocking to its temples and riverside. One word of warning to unsuspecting visitors; a 3 day trip can easily turn into 3 weeks and you might leave wondering where exactly your time went.

Best time to visit: Oct - March


JACKSON GORE is on a mission to start his own permaculture inspired holistic retreat, and can be found in India or Europe photographing his surroundings on a £3 plastic camera. Follow him here: www.jacksongore.tumblr.com

South Goa, India

South Goa is a teeny bubble of magic, offering plenty of nature and many more travelers interested in holistic health than raves. Goa is a gentle way into India, providing sandy beaches and foreigners in bikinis, international diversity in cuisine and traditional South Indian charm. Goa is a great way to begin your journey into India, or even better to end your travels, with a sigh of relief as you reach ocean and enjoy more relaxed, beachy bohemian vibes.


Eat

 

The Space Goa, Patnem

Known for its Mediterranean inspired menu (mezze style), fresh salads, vegetarian/vegan deli items and raw vegan deserts, this is an ultimate foodies paradise. Set in an old Goan home, The Space is nestled off the main road with plenty of shade and lush plants to create a beautiful cafe and ideal working environment. It also doubles as holistic retreat hosting daily yoga classes, weekly workshops (everything from Ayurvedic skincare, women's circles, kirtans to raw food classes) and spa treatments onsite. 

Zest, Patnem

This quaint cafe is cornered on the the main road of Patnem Beach. It’s simple, white washed interior provides a zen experience as you enjoy one of their many healthy vegan specialties. Think homemade vegan ‘cardamon chai’ and ‘mango vanilla’ ice creams and healthy, tasty superfood smoothies. Get there early as space is limited and this little gem is usually packed! 

Magic View, Colomb Bay

This may be the only restaurant with plastic lawn furniture that has a cue down the road and sells out of pizzas — yes, its really that good! Owned and run by an Italian family, Magic View creates simple, thin crust pizzas, homemade pastas and sauces & deserts. The food is fresh, light and always consistent. When you have had enough spices, Magic View is the perfect place to tempt your tastebuds. Go before sunset and walk past the restaurant to the small path that leads you out to the rocks over looking both Patnem and Colomb Bay for a secluded sunset spot. Pizza begins from 6:30, arrive on time if you are serious about your food!

Blue Planet, Agonda

A vegetarian/vegan cafe which is set 2km from the beach and surrounded by jungle. Blue Planet is run by a lovely family who create intricate dishes which flavors always surprise me, in a wonderful way. Enjoy veggie juices, creamy smoothies, fresh green salads, millet chapatti with avocado cream and definitely leave room for their famous gluten free chocolate cake or carrot coconut cake! Blue Planet also offers daily yoga classes, luxury huts and a Watsu therapeutic pool.

Home, Patnem

Surrounded by lush coconut trees, meters from the sea is Home, a Mediterranean infused restaurant and chill out. Brunch is a favorite with potato rosti, poached eggs and strong coffee. Home was also known for its incredible deserts (the once head chef is no longer there but word is that he has passed on his recipes to the current staff) chill out music and oversized hammocks which are luxurious and deeply relaxing. 

Explore

Agonda Beach

More quiet than Patnem and Palolem, Agonda is the perfect place to escape the busier beaches, but still enjoy plenty of restaurant and cafes, beach bungalows to stay and a wide open beach to enjoy.

Turtle Beach

A reserve for the turtles which nest each year, this beach is protected and has little development on it. Only 15 minutes by scooty from Patnem, yet this beach provides an entirely different experience and is a sweet drive along the river through local villages.

Cancola Beach

Once a best kept secret, this small bay is a mini paradise. Walk down old steps among the lush coconut grove and you find yourself on a small beach which is wild with palms, black volcanic rocks, deep clean blue waters for swimming and the best part - it's usually empty. There is one local restaurant with a few huts, hammocks and swings from trees, and if your lucky you will be the only one enjoying this teeny slice of heaven. 

 

Sleep

Khaama Kethna Eco-Retreat, Agonda

A back to basics experience, Khaama Kethna is the host of Lotus Yoga Retreats and provides an authentic holistic jungle retreat, complete with yoga, treatments and Ayurvedic cooking. Perfect for couples or single travelers...anyone who is looking to immerse themselves deeply in nature and detox from technology and modern day luxuries.

Art Resort, Palolem

A charming boutique beach hut resort which overlooks the Arabian sea and includes evening events of art, music and culture. 

La Mangrove, Turtle Beach

Luxury tents along the calm river provides a relaxing and zen atmosphere. Perfect for couples or if you are in need of a few days off the beach and away from the business of India.


LAUREN LEE E-RYT 500 is passionate about living with purpose, exploring the world, and empowering others to live as their most authentic, radiant Self. Founder of Raise Your Beat, dedicated teacher and forever student on the path of yoga, she leads transformational workshops, retreats and trainings to awaken the individual and collective consciousness. Read more about her here

Lessons from the Jungle

Arriving back into Mother India (after having spent a couple of years away) I have been instantly been brought back to ‘earth’. From the moment I landed, all was like a familiar dream - the chaos, the simplicity, the incredible sense of freedom and openness that permeates every cell in my body. There is something powerful about being in tropical weather and immersed deep in nature, something magical about weaving on a scooter through a family of carefree cows, and something deeply rejuvenating about walking barefoot and letting my curls soak up seawater and coconut oil. 

I have spent 3 months at Khaama Kethna, eco-retreat which is nestled in a lush valley of jungle and forest. I have felt myself get grounded, quite literally as I spent my time living in an open air hut, and my feet continuously covered in the fertile red earth. I have been spoiled with fresh foods - so fresh the chef collects it from the organic gardens and passes through the restaurant with bundles of color cradled under her bosom. I have indulged in some of the deepest sleeps of my life, falling and rising with the mysterious jungle sounds which somehow meld into one melodic rhythm. I have taught yoga to diverse and unique individuals from all over the world who leave their daily lives behind and arrive for the same universal sense of connection. 

It has been an absolute retreat in all senses (for both myself and students) as modern luxuries and ‘comforts’ are stripped away, which can be a shock to the system at first, as we become more exposed, more raw and more genuine as we journey closer to freeing the mind from conditioning. As we begin this process of cleansing, it’s as if we throw away all the ‘junk’ (negative emotions, stress, ego) and layer by layer we uncover (or come back to) our true being. 

This true being is our most authentic self…the part which lies within the heart center and is inherently connected to our unique purpose and life all around us. 

Experiencing a foreign culture (such as India) and immersing yourself in nature both bring us closer to this place of authenticity, truth or being. 

In a country like India, life is more simple, and its accepted. The majority of the population still cook over a fire and take showers with cold water using a bucket. Many do not have a car, or use modern electronics such as toasters, refrigerators or washing machines. Most go to the vegetable market and local shops each morning to purchase their daily amount of milk and produce. 

Without the need to ‘consume’, life becomes more sacred and more free. Most work to provide shelter, food and support their families. There is time for prayer, play, cooking and community -  and this is honored as a culture.

Experiencing a world and lifestyle unknown (or unnatural) is key in expanding our perspectives, appreciating our own circumstances or maybe even aid us in observation of unnecessary aspects of our own lives.

When we find ourselves in nature, we are reminded of the power of ‘prana’ or natural intelligence which surrounds us each and every moment. This prana is what moves life and it instantly connects us with this place of authenticity. 

 

It is why turtles return to nest their eggs in the same spot. 

It is why whales migrate thousands of miles.

It is why ants can carry up to 5,000 times their weight.

It is a seedling sprouting from the earth to follow the light.

It can be seen in a cascading waterfall.

It is the sun and moon rising.

It is the tides of the ocean.

It is the climate and seasons.

It is life and death.

It is the flow of communities and societies. 

It is the life that moves us, guides us and supports us.

It is within and around us.

 

Living in harmony with nature, washing my clothing by hand, enjoying daily morning chai before the sun rises, sweeping the leaves from the yoga shalas, lighting sandalwood incense and reciting a simple mantra of ‘love, trust, surrender’ have become my daily rituals which are simple and sweet. They have helped me to find more gratitude, devotion and love. 

Of course living simply in nature and in a foreign context has its challenges, some days more than others, and when things don’t go ‘as planned’ I have found laughter to be a powerful practice. 

I am working to extract the positives from living in a foreign culture (which at times feels very unnatural) and becoming aware to life's lessons, big and small, which are found in every moment when you open your eyes. 

I am grateful for this space to retreat and reconnect. To live without internet and without walls. To experience new people and places. To let go of any plans and definitions of who or what I am ‘supposed’ to be, instead urged to slow down and let go. Through this surrender I have become more clear in who I am and what my purpose is…and more awake to the pranic flow of life and beauty that is around us each and every day. I am leaving the jungle feeling blissed and blessed for this experience, and look forward (without attachment and identity) for whatever life brings.


LAUREN LEE E-RYT 500 is passionate about living with purpose, exploring the world, and empowering others to live as their most authentic, radiant Self. Founder of Raise Your Beat, dedicated teacher and forever student on the path of yoga, she leads transformational workshops, retreats and trainings to awaken the individual and collective consciousness. Read more about her here

A journey through Brazil

Northeast: Lençóis Maranhenses, Jericoacoara

Brazil, a country slightly smaller than the United States has been a mystery to outsiders for years. Images of scantily clad beauties, lush rainforest, relentless drug gangs and dismal poverty plaster international magazines and newspapers without really revealing anything else extraordinary about the country. While these stereotypes obviously exist, there’s a lot more to Brazil than soccer, samba and Copacabana beach. Currently, with hordes of international attention from the mega-sporting events, the country is slowly becoming recognized for it’s incredibly impressive landscapes.

The northern, southern, eastern and western corridors of Brazil couldn’t be more different than regions in the U.S. or Europe. The north is predominantly Afro-Brazilian where religions like Candomble and dances like Capoeira rule the hot, arid and extremely poor region. Further west lays the endangered rainforest where rivers gush with sediment and treetops scrape the clouds. Stretching to the east sits cities like Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo where life for some is full of privilege, while the remaining finds existence nearly impossible. Yet, they all occupy the same tropical beaches and steamy asphalt sidewalks usually with ease and little conflict. The south of the country could easily be mistaken for parts of Western Europe with grassy hills, cool temperatures, and large immigrant enclaves of Germans and Italians.

For Latin America travel enthusiasts all these regions are spectacular and worthy of exploration. Nonetheless, if you seek remote places whose sole existence serves to allure the eyes and calm the mind, a trip to the Northeast is a certainly a trek you will not regret.  

The splendors of the Northeast region of Brazil, from the state of Bahia north to Maranhão, seem worlds away from the boisterous cities. Wild beaches, fine sand, historic cities and tranquilo attitudes are classic characteristics that merely skim the outer shell of Northeastern adventures.

Salvador, Natal and Fortaleza are all heavily traveled urban destinations in the region and well known outside Brazil. Nevertheless, destinations like Lençóis Maranhenses and Jericoacoara are beginning to attract international tourists who crave a paradisiacal escape from the populous beaches like Ipanema and Florianopolis without the costly price tag.

Though, both spots are popular amongst off-the-map travelers, they are quite tricky to reach due to the indirect sandy paths. Visiting Lençóis and Jeri (local nickname for Jericoacoara) requires some planning and flexibility, as the path between the two is not well defined.

The Lençóis Maranhenses are white sweeping sand dunes bending 1,500 square kilometers around green lagoons that closely resemble the Arabian Desert. Jeeps rip through the thick forest before arriving at the edge of the oases where clouds swallow the sky and white sand form hills before your eyes. The park’s vastness, silence and the unique colors lure visitors to explore the grounds, sunbath and ponder the creation of these sand mounds.

After spending a few days in Barreirinhas, the longest leg of the journey to Jeri will require at least one day of traveling. The 385 kilometer trip is long and bumpy due to the sand roads and frequent stopping to allow herds of animals to cross.

The village of Jeri is unpretentious with its semi-Caribbean vibe and naturally stunning landscape. Fresh restaurants, boutique hotels, dive bars and youth hostels align the sandy alleys where locals and tourists mingle, dance and drink caipirinhas every night at dusk. People are kind. Beach is plenty. Activity is everywhere. And somewhere in between the hours, the mind gently drifts out to the Atlantic.  

The real world seems light-years away when the sun is setting over the sand dunes in Lençóis or across the horizon in Jeri. The mind is free of external influences and pent up energies we gather from living in cities. In places like Lençóis and Jeri, we are left to think or not think in peace without judgment and in communities of travelers and strangers all of who possess so much love and gratitude for where they are at that very moment.


KENDALL grew up in New England, yet started traveling at a young age and developed an internal compass which has grown into a voracious appetite for exploration. Throughout her travels learned to foster an open-mind, be kind to everyone and never just take one picture, but thousands. She is passionate about writing, photography and being around those she holds near and dear to her heart. Follow her here: www.instagram.com/kennie_lane

Stay or Go

This has been a topic of many open ended conversations in our household lately ...

But this is what I've discovered:

That if you have any inkling to go, it usually means that you should. It means you are asking questions in your head which if not honoured, end up being answered by "What if?". Feel a little deeper into ‘What if?’. I believe all life, including you reading this, are worth more than asking ‘what if?’.

That at the moment there is a huge universal shift happening. Many of my friends are making relatively big decisions in their lives which are based around this one question: to stay or to go? They are contemplating leaving their jobs, partners, current accommodation, old thought patterns. They are looking to move interstate, internationally, to the nurturing space of another loved ones' bosom, to a healthier way of existence. 

That life is short, and that if you go and it doesn't work out, you know you need to keep moving. It is not possible to move backwards in life. It can't be possible. No moment that has already past can be retrieved. Focus on the present moment and go in the direction of your dreams. I read a quote this morning that said "a head full of fears has no space for dreams". Sometimes, though, the dream becomes reality and then it's not so attractive anymore. Not laced with the sultry juice you imagined it would be, or the amount of money you'd hoped for, or the prestige you thought it would bring. And then it's time to go. Again.

That of all the times in my life I've gone, I've rarely gotten to my destination and been disappointed. For what has awaited me is a new experience, a new horizon, a new day in a new place. 

I've travelled a fair bit but I've never been very good at letting go. So I keep throwing myself in this situation knowing all the while that it is one of my favourite feelings to journey onwards and arrive somewhere new to find a whole new world lies in waiting for you to explore. It's a challenge, yes, but one that is worth the final prize. 

That there will always be people you leave behind. But no-one ever really leaves you. People remain in our hearts and in the very fibre of our being simply because we have (or had) a relationship with them. People never really leave one another, they become one another. Everyone who has been a part of my life has become part of me, long after we have physically split. Following some of the most momentous breakups in my life have been the most incredible breakthroughs - pivotal moments in my life that have enabled me to become who I am today. Without them I would have been a different person, but still myself. Amen. 

That each decision we make doesn't define who we are, or even who we will become. But how we deal with it does. How we wear the choices we've made, whether it be to go or to stay. There's never a 'right' or a 'wrong' choice: there is simply the choice you made. What might fit one day, may not a year later, so choose with compassion and move with love. 

That each physical place on this Earth offers a totally different experience to another. That even though I can recount the view from my window of every single place I've ever lived, there will always be another view. As long as the sun continues to shine there will be shadows and light. As long as the wind continues to blow there will be leaves rustling in the wind. As long as the clock continues to tick time will simply go on and on and on, no matter where you are on the planet. 

So, jump. Jump even if it seems like the most frightening thing you've ever done. Jump even if you're not too sure where you'll land. Jump even if you are not 100% sure that it's the right thing to do. 

Mistakes are allowed in this journey we call life, but if we don't make them - we would just continue to stay. 

GO.


KATE PIPPOS is a mother, lover, yoga instructor, spiritual growth story teller, poet, creator and birth Coach. She lives in Sydney with her ever evolving young family,  discovering inspiration in the whisperings of waves that flow through her mind daily. Her mission in life is to cultivate and radiate inner peace, wisdom and compassion so that she can be an inspiration to her children and help build an even more beautiful world. She looks forward to sharing her stories with you, here, there or somewhere, but mostly in the space between our hearts.  Follow her here: lovespirityoga.blogspot.com

The future of Parisian Cafés

What does good coffee mean to you? Is it your daily 1€ espresso straight from the coffee machine at the brasserie before work? Is it your filter coffee at your local French café using the cheapest coffee that can be found?

Personally, I want to know exactly what I am drinking. I want my cup of coffee to be a complete mind-body experience. An experience that feels right on multiple levels: coffee which is rich in flavour, fresh in ingredients and full of soul.

Enjoying 'speciality coffee' is one way that I have attained this experience. It is coffee which encompasses the entire process and ethics behind each bean, beginning with its extraction, origin, brewing, roasting process and its fair trade arrangements with unknown or small-scale coffee growers.

In Paris, a vibrant and creative city, lies Belleville Brûlerie, a roastery set up by three experienced roasters; David Flynn, Thomas Lehoux and Anselme Blayney. They have created the perfect coffee, which is the epitome of specialty coffee. Not only is the coffee fair trade and high quality, but it is locally roasted with super fresh coffee beans and sourced from small scale coffee growers in Latin America who handpick their own beans. Belleville Brûlerie’s idea is to change the future of coffee in France by promoting this locally roasted, high quality coffee and to show that coffee can be enjoyed and presented in a range of different ways.

My love for quality coffee, along with Belleville Brûlerie sparked the inspiration for this post. I encourage you to explore the exciting, new coffee culture in Paris.

Here are my top 5 for you to indulge in carefully crafted coffee, prepared with love by experienced baristas from around the world. 

Be good to yourself, drink good coffee. 


1. Fondation Café

Where: 16 Rue Dupetit-Thouars, 75003, Paris

When:  Mon – Sun 8am – 6pm

What: Flat white & a slice of their homemade cake of the day

 

2. 10 Belles

Where: 10 Rue de la Grange aux Belles, 75010, Paris

When: Mon-Fri 8am – 6pm/ Sat & Sun 9am – 7pm

What: Allonge cafe & a sandwich herbivore (if you pick the right day!)

 

3. Lockwood

Where: 73 Rue D’Aboukir, 75002, Paris

When: Mon- Sat 8am – 2am

What: Flat white and their fruit and museli breakfast

 

4. Clint 

Where: 174 Rue de la Roquette, 75011, Paris

When: Tue – Fri 8:30am – midnight/ Sat – 10am – midnight/ Sun 11am – 6pm

What: Café filtre & the figue and almond granola

 

5. KB CaféShop (Kooka Boora) 

Where: 53 Avenue Trudaine, 75009, Paris

When: Mon – Fri 7:30am -6:30pm/ Sat & Sun 9am – 6:30pm

What: Cappucino & the organic KB home made granola


LISA ELIAS is devoted to traveling, passionate about food and infatuated with people. She spends her time exploring the world, sharing her passions with others and socialising in and around Paris. As an ambassador for a social media platform in sharing experiences, she is always in the know of the latest trends and is currently building her social network in Paris. Follow her here: www.instagram.com/lisajelias

6 tips for a transformational travel experience

Traveling (especially backpacking) is life changing, amazing and everything in between. It pushes your boundaries and opens room inside of you for immense growth. This wouldn't be possible, however, with out those nerve racking moments that test your limits and bring you face to face with your ego. During my recent travels through Costa Rica and Europe I was placed in situations I really thought would push me over the edge. This is what I took away from them, little gems of advice that keep me calm, collected and enjoying the present. 


1. I am exactly where I need to be

Yup, right here, right now. Even while in your car in the bus lane of a busy European city. You are in the right place. Take a breath, do the next right thing and know that at the very least this insane situation is going to make a great story. There are hundreds of times I have been at an absolute loss for what to do next. Heading out of town on the wrong train, lost in a new city after sunset or eating in a giant grimy restaurant serving exclusively males…what? In hindsight every one of these situations leads to something really cool. Life has a funny way of getting you exactly where you need to be, it just takes the winding scenic back roads. 

2.  I am my own sacred place

When you have no personal space because the woman next to you is wearing 3 kinds of bad perfume and the man across from you is eating various forms of unidentifiable fried meats on a 10 hour bus ride with no air conditioning...remember this, you always have YOU. You have the ability to make a sacred space inside yourself. Try this; close your eyes and drop inwards, Imagine your whole body is an empty vessel filled with light and clean air. Curl up in fetal position and rest inside your own body. Visual meditation is magic, no deep breaths required. 

3. I allow my life room to live

While traveling and especially when cramming a lot of places into a small time frame, I have a tendency to map out all my plans. Heres my advice (to you and myself) relax and just enjoy, you have made it! You’re traveling! Making 'fixed' plans has the ability to prevent significant spontaneous experiences. Instead, make intentions and let the expectations go. Out of all the incredible things that have happened to me while traveling, none of them were the result of my planning. Have an idea of what you want to do (general location, times etc.) then let go. If it's meant to happen it will happen, if not there is probably something better in store. Intuition is always the best guide book. 

4. I have a Voice

When your magical traveling experience is loosing its sparkle dust and your stamina is waning, it's easy to loose our authentic selves. It can be so easy to keep quiet when the waiter brings 2 giant servings of polenta and strong swiss cheese, instead of the 1 you specifically requested to share with your friend. Rather than compromising, find the subtle and strong inner voice which is always there for you. Remember, you’re not a bad person for having a budget and wanting what you ordered. You are not an obnoxious tourist, and most likely a local would send it back too. You are responsible for your experience, make it a good one.  

5. I am a global citizen

We are all members of this planet, the land belongs to no one. Traveling is a great opportunity to share your ideas of unity and connect with incredible people. Respect cultural boundaries but never automatically exclude yourself because you assume you’re unwanted. Taking that leap and sitting with the cool local artists on the church steps in Barcelona will probably be one of the better decisions you’ve made. Just do it, don't let yourself catch a bad case of the “What ifs”.

6. Trust the Process

This is my ultimate travel mantra. The totally frustrating thing that may be happening right now during your travels is a necessary part of the experience. Keep the faith and go with it. The most memorable locations are ALWAYS down bumpy dirt roads. Hold tight and enjoy the scenery. 


CHRISTIANA Is a full time traveler, yogi, song writer and dream manifester. She is passionate about fresh food, vibrant cultures, holistic health and the ocean. Her greatest wish is for everyone to listen to their inner teacher, follow their intuition and fall in love with their lives. Follow her here: www.christianaeva.com

Do date a girl who travels

Do date a girl who travels. Stroke her messy, unkempt, sun-bleached hair when she's asleep and you’ll feel her whole being unfold in your arms. Trace the map of her wounds, scars and wrinkles with your fingertips until you know it by heart and you’ll understand her story. It’s not easy to follow and there are more exclamation and question marks than full stops and commas, but it’s worth reading for not a single word is empty of meaning.

Do date a girl who travels and you won't be bored. She'll make you close your eyes, jump out of a plane, talk to strangers, watch the moon, climb rocks, hike mountains, dance barefoot, chat until sunrise, skinny dip, sing karaoke. She won't be easy to keep up with. She won't be easy to please. But every day you'll be grateful for her endless energy, free spirit and infectious zest for life for it will make you live fearlessly, mindfully, blissfully.


Do date a girl who travels. You won't need to buy her expensive dinners or gifts. You won’t need to prove you’re worth her. Walk with her, hold her hand, talk to her, laugh with her. Keep it simple. Be genuine and never try to impress her with anything else but who you are and who you're working on being. And remember that she won't be fooled. She's seen it all.


Do date a girl who travels for she will show you the world you never knew existed. The world where the sky is no limit. The world of dreams made into reality. The world where willpower and determination are the only prerequisites for success. Success which is not measured by fame or material possessions, but by finding your purpose and living your truth and passions. The world often stripped of order, logic and analytical thinking, but full of intuitive decisions, spontaneous changes and internal conviction. Do date a girl who travels for she'll knock out all the walls you've built around yourself and find her way to places you'd never let anyone into.


Do date a girl who travels. She won’t need you. She won’t be scared of losing you. She’ll be with you because she chose to. Because life is simply better with you.

Trust her. Learn when to follow her and when to let her go. If you manage to touch her soul, she'll be back. And when she is, hold her so tight that all the beautiful, wobbly, faulty, mismatched pieces of her stick together. And every day you'll thank the universe for bringing her your way.

This is a rebuttal to "Don't Date a Girl Who Travels"


MAGDA turned her organised life upside down when she moved to India to follow her passion for yoga. This decision opened the door to a journey of self-discovery and spiritual exploration. Magda currently teaches yoga around the world. She is a strong believer in the power of smile and laughter, and always trusting your instincts and following your dreams. Follow her here: www.magsyoga.com