Wanderlust. It tugs at the core of your being, urging you to break free from the safety of your routine and instead dive into the unknown of exotic territories. It’s a feeling that seems to plague us yogis more than others; perhaps because our practice inherently encourages us to “live in the flow.” We strive to be aggressively self-searching, open-minded individuals, rooted in our connection to the earth. It only makes sense, then, that we receive callings to pack our bags and explore this beautiful planet, as we simultaneously explore and challenge our innermost selves.
I know the feeling of wanderlust like the back of my hand. I live in the flow and have subsequently spent more of my adult years wandering the globe than I have settled at home. I’m a gypsy—a travel addict—one whose feet simply cannot stick in one place. Despite the instability that this lifestyle creates, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I am who I am because of my wanderlust. My year in India is to thank for my deep sense of spirituality; my months in Sumatra for my sense of warrior; my time in Ecuador for my ability to love. Every travel has added a new layer to my sense of self, ultimately creating the being who I am today. And I’m never without my yoga mat; it’s my practice that keeps me grounded when my feet are not. My yoga mat is my home.
The cliché is true: You find yourself through travel. If wanderlust is tugging at the core of your being, it’s time to pack your bags and go discover yourself. It’s a little scary but only while you are still at home. Once you are actually on the road, the fear quickly subsides as the unknown becomes the known. To help you take that first step onto foreign territory, here are my top eight tips for living on a yoga mat.
As I mentioned, the scariest part about travel is the time leading up to your departure. There’s so much uncertainty when you’re visiting somewhere new for the first time, especially if you’re flying solo.
Put your mind at ease by carefully planning your first week or two abroad. Book a yoga retreat or a cooking course. Line up a WWOOFing job or explore other volunteer work. Enroll in some sort of program that allows you to connect with locals and fellow travelers to ease into foreign culture.
Aside from your first week or two abroad, I suggest planning nothing and instead going with the flow. You never know who you will meet or what opportunities will arise along the way. This is how I travel, and my lack of plans have led me to places and people that I never could have imagined. If you create too rigid of an itinerary, you will inhibit the universe from working her magic and her desire to guide you exactly where you need to go.
The most perfect chai spot in the whole world. If you ever find yourself alone in India with no plans and nothing to do, sit down and have a chai. Something magical will always happen. Too many wonderfully crazy adventures in my life have started with a cup of chai. ✨ #indiaincredible #indiaphotos #ayurveda #yogilife #yogateacher #yogaoffthemat #gypsysoul #globetrotter #wanderlust
It would be a shame to skip over some of the most beautiful parts of the world just because its locals don’t speak English. Absolutely do not let language determine your itinerary; you’ll be just fine in non-English speaking countries. It’s not always easy, but we humans can communicate in other ways, such as through gestures, body language, and pictures. You’ll find a way to get your point across when needed.
Before you leave, send out an email to everyone you know and love, and ask if there’s someone who they know and love in your destination countries. Take advantage of any contacts given, because at some point you’ll likely be in need of a familiar face, or at least a friend of a friend.
Travel costs money, but there’s always a way to do it on the cheap. I’ve gotten by on $7 a day in India and $12 a day in Thailand. It can be done, and you don’t have to starve yourself or sleep on the streets to make it happen. Go with what money you do have and leave when the money runs out. Simple. Or do as I’ve done, and pick up work here and there: teaching private yoga classes, working at a bar, or teaching English.
I’m not one to town hop. I do, however, meet tons of travelers who spend one night here, two nights there—speeding through countries as if they’re out to tick boxes rather than immerse themselves in a foreign culture. This is no way to travel. In order to truly understand a land and its people, you need at least 10 days in a place. That’s right, 10 whole days. I prefer even longer stops, and often stay in towns for over a month before hitting the road. This allows you to synchronize yourself with the rhythm of the town, make friends with the natives, discover hidden local spots, and feel at least somewhat grounded.
This is my personal mantra while traveling abroad. I find myself using it often in challenging countries like India and Indonesia, because travel can be tough. You get cheated, trains and buses don’t show up, or you arrive to a new town and every single hotel room is booked. You must take these situations in stride or you will fall apart. Don’t resist the flow; the universe will guide you through these tough times as long as you remain open-minded.
The time in Sumatra when my overnight bus was halted by a landslide and I was left stranded. What was meant to be a quick 8 hours of travel turned into four days that included another bus venture getting stuck in the mud (paved roads don’t really exist in Sumatra), hitchhiking with this lovely family who didn’t speak a lick of english (naturally we did end up becoming best friends anyway), staying at their sweet auntie’s house for a few nights where I bathed in a fish pond, and having their car break down 4 times on our way! Oh, travel. It really teaches you to go with the flow and get over trying to control your situation! Something I need to work on now that I’m back in LA. #sumatra #indo #indonesia #gypsy #bohemianlifestyle #vagabond #yogateacher #letgo #gypsysoul #traveltheworld #travelingindonesia A photo posted by Julie Bernier (@mahimata) on
I’m sure you would anyway, but do bring your yoga mat with you. My yoga practice is what reconnects me to myself when I’m feeling unsettled by travel, and I think you’ll find the same. Unroll it wherever you find space; don’t let lack of a studio be an excuse to skip your practice.
Some of my most magical travel moments have taken place on my yoga mat. Once, in a time of profound loneliness, just after breaking up with my boyfriend, I found myself practicing yoga on a small deck amidst a wild, tropical New Zealand forest. As I lifted my forehead from my mat, after saying a deeply grateful “thank you” to the forest and mother earth for just being, it began to pour. It was so strange and beautiful—so on cue—as if perfectly timed to ensure me that everything was going to be just fine.
Au revoir, beautiful being. Pack your passport and go with the guidance of the universe.