Adventure: Maui

One of the best moments of my life: arriving in to Maui, and seeing my guy for the first time in over five months. This then grew into one of the best weeks of my life, as we took our very first vacation in our six-plus years, just us, together. We spent the week lazing about, playing in water (he tried snorkeling for the first time), roaming the island.

On the way home from Hana

They say distance makes the heart grow fonder…. It worked. Here’s us on the way home from Hana.

We spent a day doing the drive to Hana, and instead of turning around and coming back the way we had come (aka what the guidebooks recommend and 90% of visitors do), we took the long, adventurous way around. This was a somewhat harrowing experience given the road conditions–think several hours on a roller coaster, but worth it for the incredible landscapes (I felt like I had been transported to Ireland) and stunning sunset.

An inadequate representation of the beauty of this Maui sunset

An inadequate representation of the beauty of this Maui sunset

Of course, no trip is complete without yoga, and even amidst my lazing about I fit in a few classes at Bikram Yoga Kahalui. I even ended up teaching my second-to-last morning (surprise!), and had a great time with the students. Nice to flex those teaching muscles again before plunging back in to my regular teaching life at home. When you teach all the time, taking even a week-long break feels like ages. You wonder how much you’ll remember, and then 30 seconds in know that you’ll be just fine. Another time of many in which I am so thankful for our dialogue, which provides a solid (Bikram would say bulletproof) foundation to every unique class.

As a pure bonus and perfect end to my series of adventures, I had one final rendezvous with another teacher training littermate who lives and teaches in Maui. Over delicious food and even more amazing pie, Desiree and I caught up on our last two years– hers has taken her from Maui to Seattle to India and back to Maui. We talked about our lives, our partners, teaching, studio politics, getting by financially through teaching, changing trends in the Bikram yoga mini-verse, our sometimes odd but also lovable students…. basically everything. I look forward to doing it again the next time I visit Maui, because these are the connections that sustain us.

Desiree and I, BYTT'12 love forever

Desiree and I, BYTT’12 love forever

After just over a week in Maui, it was time to return home. I couldn’t wait to see all of my lovely yogis at home, to see and soak in my studios, to get back in to the routine of teaching. I was (and remain) so grateful for my time teaching in Australia and the opportunity I had to travel and experience some of the most beautiful places in the world (no exaggeration). I was (and am) also grateful to have such an amazing home to be welcomed back to after. Lucky, lucky me!

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Adventure: Cairns

Honestly, at this point, I was travel-fatigued and ready for home. Thanks to a mix-up with the Greyhound buses, wherein they had recently changed the schedule and didn’t inform me (I had pre-booked months beforehand), I missed my original bus from Townsville. So I had a few bonus hours in Townsville with Peta, spent the night on the bus, and arrived in to Cairns at 5 AM.

This turned out to be a blessing, since my hostel in Cairns was the worst hostel of my entire trip by far.  Fortunately, I only had to spend a (miserable, awkward) two nights there and I was booked out for full day trips.

Looking out over the Tablelands

Looking out over the Atherton Tablelands

Day one I had a group tour of the Atherton Tablelands. We saw pretty places, our tour guide was friendly and super-interesting, but all in all a very typical tour experience– too much time on a bus, not enough time to play and wander, and too much forced socializing. We got to see tree kangaroos, though! And play in VERY cold rivers. And be served tea and cookies twice. (Tip: tea and cookies will always endear you to me. So long as it’s not that dirt we call Lipton.)

Josephine Falls (also, waterslide yeeeeeaaah)

Josephine Falls (also, waterslide yeeeeeaaah)

Of course, as often happens when people ask you what you do and you say you’re a yoga teacher…. you end up posturing. So I turned it into a teaching moment and taught my tour guide Standing Bow. Because I can be very intense about the things I love, I find introducing people to yoga a little stressful (my inner dialogue sounds like this: “What if I sell it the wrong way and they NEVER try it? THEY WILL LOSE OUT ON SO MANY AMAZING THINGS. OH GOD MUST EXPLAIN PERFECTLY AND CONVINCE THEM!”). Luckily, I practice yoga (as always, my saving grace), so I can step back from my crazy, chill out, and play around a bit.

Standing Bow at Milla Milla Falls (don't worry, he enjoyed it more than this photo lets on)

Standing Bow at Milla Milla Falls (don’t worry, he enjoyed it more than this photo lets on)

Day two I spent on a tour of the Great Barrier reef. As we learned in The Whitsundays, boats are not my favorite. This time, thankfully, I was on a giant catamaran, and so our time was therefore both short-lived and relatively smooth. We went out snorkelling to two different areas. The first was fun, apart from the minute where I saw two tiny jellyfish, freaked the eff out that they were Blue Bottles (whose stings are widely thought of as the most pain you will likely ever experience) and did a panicked turnabout as fast as my fins would take me. They were only baby jellyfish, but by the time I had figured that out mentally my limbic system had already taken me for a joyride. At the second location, we got to swim to a small sand island in the middle of the ocean used as a turtle breeding ground and watch the turtles in the surrounding waters.

A horde of snorkellers

A horde of snorkellers exploring the Great Barrier Reef

Overall, two beautiful days at the end of a beautiful month.

Next up: Farewell to Australia, hellooooooo to Maui!

Adventure: Townsville

After three weeks almost entirely on my own, I gratefully arrived in to the bus station in Townsville to be collected by my friend, Peta, and her husband, Dan. This moment was a long time coming, dreamed and planned and finally realized.

Although Peta and I hadn’t seen each other in ten years, and had only ever met in person for about two weeks, our friendship continued from afar: she was the first Australian I ever knew, and from the moment I knew I was going to Australia I was determined to see her again. Visiting Townsville was non-negotiable in my travel itinerary.

We spent our days and nights talking (years and years to catch up on) and marathon-ing our way through Parks and Recreation. My favorite chicken-soup-for-the-soul show, the show that never fails to make me feel better or laugh no matter how many times I watch it–and one I had been unable to watch since arriving in Australia. This mix of wonderful company, tried-and-true entertainment, and comfort was like a magical balm to my adventurous but at this point fatigued and lonely heart.

Peta and me

Peta and me: Friends thanks to the Internet. Thanks, Internet!

I spent a day on nearby Magnetic Island, happily trekking up and down the length and breadth of the island. As best as I can calculate, I hiked upwards of 12 km over the course of the day.

Enjoying one the many beautiful, rather isolated beaches on Magnetic Island.

Enjoying one the many beautiful, rather isolated beaches on Magnetic Island.

In addition to getting to see and stay with Peta (in a house! with a real bedroom!), the day I arrived coincided with the grand opening of the first Bikram yoga studio in North Queensland, opened by a lovely couple from my very own Teacher Training.

ANOTHER Spring 2012 Teacher Training reunion: Myself, Dayna, and Jason

ANOTHER great Spring 2012 Teacher Training reunion: Myself, Dayna, and Jason

I got to take class from both, and even had the opportunity to teach a class. Because the studio was brand-spanking new, most of the students were, too. This meant that practicing I was as much a demonstrator for those behind me as I was a practitioner. But my favorite part about new students is their bravery and enthusiasm. Trying out Bikram yoga, much less making it through the first class, takes courage. Similarly, opening the studio on their own, with no yoga community around for hundreds of miles, required HUGE amounts of bravery and perseverance on the part of Dayna and Jason. I admire them so much, and was so happy to get to support them and cheer them on for even a few short days. They’re working wonders out there on the yoga frontlines!

Although I spent over five days in Townsville–more than in any other single place besides Sydney (to the bafflement of my travel agent)–it felt all too short and was easily by far one of the best legs of my trip. It was a beautiful reminder that the most beautiful places in the world still matter less than who you’re with, wherever you are.

A view of Townsville (and Magnetic Island) from the top of Castle Hill

A view of Townsville (and Magnetic Island) from the top of Castle Hill

Next Up: A final hurrah in Cairns

Adventure : The Whitsundays

Lesson learned (or perhaps just reinforced): I am meant to play IN the ocean, not be ON the ocean. I spent 2 days and 1 night aboard the Siska, a sailing yacht that was once the fastest in the world, has circumnavigated the globe twice, and is now “retired” and escorts tourists around the incomparably beautiful Whitsundays Islands. I was fine as long as I was above-deck (apart from a hellish two-hour slog where I huddled and shivered in the wind in my wave-soaked clothes, desperately trying to do a little pranayama breathing and/or channel the memory of the hot room). Below-deck, however, I immediately become nauseous and seasick…. so I stayed up top as much as possible. If we were anchored or just cruising, that was fine. When actually sailing, it meant all of us looked like this:

(Stock photo of the Siska, not actually be on board there)

(Stock photo of the Siska, not actually be on board there)

Dramatically tilted on one side with no support for long periods of time. I felt rather trapped, not being able to walk around or be alone. I also had my elbow knocked badly by the mainsheet (read: hunk of metal about the size of a cantaloupe with a lot of momentum from the sail) at one point when the crew was tacking and it swung around just as I happened to bring my arm out. As a result, I bruised the bone and couldn’t really straighten my arm for a few days and even felt it practicing (Locust: even less fun than usual).

I was so happy when we anchored at Tongue Bay for the night. Got to watch the sun set and then stare at the stars (no light pollution out here) for hours.

I was so happy when we anchored at Tongue Bay for the night. Got to watch the sun set and then stare at the stars (no light pollution out here) for hours.

Nevertheless, I am glad for the experience! It’s something I probably never would have done except that, like Fraser Island, it was included in my tour package. I got to go snorkelling twice, we saw tons of turtles in the morning, but most importantly we got to play on Whitehaven beach–one of the top beaches in the world, but accessible only by water. It’s made of white sand of 98% silica, so fine that it doesn’t heat up from the sun. I could describe it, but pictures do better justice to its beauty:

Looking down on to Whitehaven beach (the long strip across the center)

Looking down on to Whitehaven beach (the long strip across the center)

The water was actually this color, no joke.

The water was actually this color, no Photoshop tricks involved.

Although I wished I could have stayed all day, we had just a few hours to play around and wander (the highlight of this excursion, for me). Naturally (because it’s me), yoga posture pictures were taken.

Can I get sponsorship from Lalaland Comfywear (aka, my favorite yoga-clothes-turned-swimsuits ever) yet? K, thanks.

Can I get sponsorship from Lalaland Comfywear (aka, my favorite yoga-clothes-turned-swimsuits ever) yet? K, thanks.

Next Up: Reuniting with friends in Townsville

Adventure: Fraser Island

This was my best unforeseen highlight of the trip. I was not invested in visiting Fraser Island, despite the insistence and rave reviews of the Guide Book Authorities. I just didn’t really care. But luckily for me, my tour package included a 3 day/2 night guided tour, so off to Fraser Island I went, and I’m so glad I did.

A little background: Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world at 75 miles long and 15 miles wide. It also has tons of pristine freshwater lakes, and is well-known for its elusive dingo population.

For example, Lake McKenzie, with sand of nearly pure silicone... even with approaching rain, one of the most stunningly beautiful places I've ever been.

For example, Lake McKenzie, with sand of nearly pure silicone… even with approaching rain, one of the most stunningly beautiful places I’ve ever been.

Obviously, there was no Bikram yoga studio on the island. Thus, I created my own. I got along surprisingly well with my tour mates (this was the exception that proved the rule throughout my Eastern adventure– I was booked in with the young people (accurate for my age, not for my lifestyle since I had zero interest in drinking and partying). When they found out I was a yoga teacher, a few English girls asked me to teach them, and so I led them through the Standing Series at sunset on the beach. Hard life, eh? Naturally we weren’t rigorous about alignment or even balance, but it was fun and brought on stares and enthusiastic enquiries from our fellow tourists on the beach.

Yoga on Fraser Island

Standing Bow Pulling Pose on Fraser Island

This was our view for "class": an amazing Fraser island sunset

This was our view for “class”: an amazing Fraser island sunset

I also got to try Stand-Up Paddleboarding for the first time–from which I learned that although I may not be a natural when it comes surfing (need to work on my agility skills), I am a natural at SUP (thank you yoga balance!). Even with no instruction, minutes later I was happily paddling around even giving pointers and advice to my tour mates. Two of us tried to make it across Lake Birrabeen, but got 3/4 of the way in 45 minutes and turned around because we were running out of time.

SUP master!

SUP master!

 

On the whole, this was exactly what I envisioned for my travels: lots of playing in water, rambling about, hiking. I generally dislike guided tours (I never get to move enough or wander enough to make me happy because they’re always so focused on seeing everything and shuttling us everywhere; I usually find other tourists irritating and the endless small talk tiring; I get nauseous on buses)– but not this time! Our tour guide was really interesting and very fun (Example: driving the remaining 5 of us to the dock to take our ferry off the island, when we were too shy to pick the music, he started blasting “Let It Go”…. who would’ve thought he’d have had that on his iPod? Which was then followed by Spice Girls. Surprisingly hilarious). For no reason I can tell–I certainly didn’t pay more for it–I was assigned my own private room with my own private queen-size bed (after weeks of hostels, this felt like the height of luxury). We were given time to swim and climb and explore (helps that this tour was geared towards the Under-30 crowd, thus assuming general fitness). We got to see a whole family of dingoes, including three pups (very rare and very lucky). Plus, we perfected our Standing Bow on our last stop at Lake Wabby and the Hammerstone Sandblow.

Disclaimer: Mine sucks because I was watching them to make sure they were okay and didn't have time to fully kick out. Oops! :)

Disclaimer: My Standing Bow (far right) sucks because I was watching them to make sure they were okay and didn’t have time to fully kick out. Oops! You can clearly see the one who’d done Bikram yoga before–second from the left. 

Next up: Sailing the Whitsundays Islands and visiting Whitehaven Beach, world-renowned for its beauty.

Adventure: Brisbane & Noosa

In visiting Brisbane, I was lucky enough to be welcomed to teaching by both Nundah and the Gabba for my few days in town. The students were disciplined and a joy to teach. Every time I return from a break in teaching, no matter how long or short, I experience this odd swirl of trepidation mixed with relief and gratitude to be back where I belong. It’s the latter that’s truly incredible–any studio in the world, and I can feel at least a little like I’m coming home. So although my teaching schedule did not allow me to do much sight-seeing while in Brisbane, I am still glad and appreciative of my time there. Brisbane grows some excellent Bikram yoga studios.

Behold, the perfect work-life balance: Absorbing the sun at Southbank, Brisbane's manmade lagoon, AND refreshing my dialogue for my afternoon classes

Behold, the perfect work-life balance: Absorbing the sun at Southbank, Brisbane’s manmade lagoon, while refreshing my dialogue for my afternoon classes

Most rewarding (or at the very least heart-warming), being in Brisbane meant I got to see two of my group-mates from my Teacher Training. For those of you who have never been to Teacher Training, your group-mates are like your family. You sweat and suffer and struggle together, and you support each other. Two and a half years later, it’s fascinating to see the diverging paths each person has taken since Training, and lucky when we get to converge for even a few short hours.  I adore both James and Julie, and I am really proud of them– both have dealt with some serious stuff since I last saw them, but they are tenacious. It meant quite a lot to me to see them again, and introduced a theme into my travels: they were the first of several Spring 2012 BYTT reunions.

Julie and James (and me), sweetly, briefly reunited!

Julie and James (and me), sweetly, briefly reunited!

Then, it was onwards to Noosa, where I got to reunite with another good friend from Teacher Training, Nzinza–originally from Detroit but in the middle of a global teaching adventure (I love how this happens!). We got to take each other’s class, eat Tim Tams, share teaching philosophies, wander on the beautiful beaches of Noosa, and eat some delicious seafood.

Nzinza's powerful Standing Bow

Nzinza’s powerful Standing Bow

(Apologies: between my travelling schedule and my (lack of) internet access, I am now updating well after the fact…. but chronicle I will!)

Next Up: Teaching yoga on Fraser Island ….at sunset ….on the beach

Adventure: Byron Bay

Three days in paradise.

Byron Bay Beaches

Truly, paradise (the beaches of Byron Bay)

First, in recovering from a 12.5 hour bus ride from Sydney which included little sleep and of even less quality, I wandered the beaches and trekked my way out to Bikram Yoga Byron Bay to practice and put my body back to straights.

The next two days, I had surfing lessons for the first time. The verdict? I am not a natural: I’ve never been a quick learner (rather a persistent one). However, as I suspected, I loved it. Loved the challenge of it, the patience of it. So incredibly fulfilling and satisfying. So much like yoga: both require concentration, determination, patience, and physical strength (though surfing is more agility than flexibility). To excel, you must be mindful.

Extreme Concentration: if you blink your eyes, you might lose your balance!

Extreme Concentration: if you blink your eyes, you might lose your balance!

Small anecdote: in the morning, practicing yoga outside my tent to warm up before my second day surf lesson, I was about to put my head down in Standing Head to Knee pose (the most difficult moment for me to maintain my balance) when two wild turkeys rush past me, chasing each other. And by ‘past me,’ I mean ‘two inches from my standing leg foot.’ In that moment, I learned the limits of my concentration. I lost my focus, therefore lost my balance and fell over. Such a hilarious way to learn that lesson though!

Next Up: Teaching Yoga in Brisbane and Noosa

Adventure: Sydney & the Blue Mountains

And so it begins, my grand East Coast Adventure (ECA).

I flew into Sydney and spent the subsequent days walking the length and breadth of the inner city. On average, I covered upwards 10 km per day in my flip-flops, visiting the CBD, the Rocks, Harbor, Wolloomooloo, Potts Point, Darlinghurst, Surrey Hills, Newtown, Glebe, Haymarket/Chinatown, and Darling Harbour. I walked the Harbour Bridge, I saw the Opera House, I meandered the Botanic Gardens, visited Taronga Zoo, studied design at the Powerhouse Museum, and perused the NSW State Library. I even spent one wonderful beautiful day hiking, strolling, and soaking up the sun on the beaches and paths of Manly. In short, I took in as much as I could of Sydney: its layout, its personalities. And of course I squeezed in a few yoga classes (the nearest studio: Bikram Yoga Darlinghurst).

Sydney Harbour View

Sydney Harbour View

Looking out from Observatory Park

Looking out from Observatory Park

the Manly beachfront

The Manly beachfront

Sydney definitely wins at grandiose, stunning vistas, but it did not capture my heart like Melbourne. My dear Melbourne, with your ubiquitous, charming little cafes. Your mostly lovely public transport (I find buses odious). Your public art and graffiti murals. Your diversity of humanity. Your small-town character but big-city resources.

Amidst people (always so many people), I was silent and isolated, and could go almost the whole day without stringing five sentences together. I felt separated, odd. In contrast, my overnight trip to the Blue Mountains found me more in my natural environ: amazing views, long hikes, and peace and quiet with a touch of mountain charm. While the routine was similar (wake up early, walk everywhere, eat a big lunch or dinner, turn in early), the effect was opposite: here the quiet was natural and normal, and I felt so connected to everything around me. I feel more connected to the world, less connected to people.

Backbends over Wentworth Falls in the Blue Mountains

Backbends over Wentworth Falls in the Blue Mountains

Which, of course, with me, has been a wonderful exercise in practicing the yoga quality of staying present, of letting go of fear, of expectations, of routine. No hesitation, no anticipation. (And on that note…..)

Next up: Surfing in the highly recommended Byron Bay