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 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