Settled in Seattle

Seattle, taken from the NG Sea Lion

Yes, it’s been awhile. I haven’t written on whereonearth in several months for several different reasons. The last time I posted a blog was way back in March when I was traveling around Ecuador!  One of the reasons I’ve been on hiatus is that I recently started school again, which means that my travels and adventures have virtually stopped (although I did have an awesome two week cross-country road trip and I plan on doing many, many mini vacations!). School also magically and dramatically cuts down on free time… Another reason is that I felt like I had to write a post everyday or at least five days a week. It was a lot of pressure on myself and even though I like to write, I didn’t necessarily want to write everyday. So this time around, it’s going to be a lot less stressful. I want to write posts that I don’t rush through and not just put them up because I feel like I have to put something up. I also want to work on my writing skills because I’m taking a writing course next quarter (writing about food and health to be exact), and I would like to – maybe, possibly – start writing for magazines and/or online blogs or publications. So we’ll see how it goes!

Now for an update on where I’ve been and what I’ve been up to for the past few months. I mentioned in this post that I’ve decided to go back to school. Well, I’ve officially been back in school for three months and I love it! Bastyr is a really great school and even though this quarter has been a quarter of sciences  because I’m in the post-bacc program, I love that I’m learning (academically) again. After a year of post-bacc classes, I’m hoping to start the Master’s in Nutrition and Clinical Health Psychology.

Along with going back to school, I’ve also been exploring my new city: Seattle. Being in a new city is not so revolutionary for me (check out this series of posts), but what is new to me is the fact that I’m staying in this city, for more that a few days or weeks, at least. I love discovering new places and getting lost amid the gridwork of city streets (as long as I have a map or GPS). Here are a few places that I’ve discovered and love about Seattle:

The Burke-Gilman trail – runs from Ballad to Kenmore and connects to a number of other paved bike trails/lanes. I can bike to Bastyr almost entirely on the trail!

Sutra Restaurant and Yoga Studio – an all-vegan, set-menu, local-food restaurant. What more could I ask for? Also attached to the restaurant is a yoga studio. I’ve been volunteering at the owners farm in Monroe for one day a month in exchange for free yoga. Perfect! Here’s a pic of a greenhouse that we helped build.

Chocolati in Wallingford – my go-to study spot. Amazing almond milk hot chocolate!

Value Village – not very classy, I know, but you can find some amazing discoveries there. Sometimes. A lot of the times it’s all junk, but I’ve gotten some pretty nice plant pots and kitchen stuff for cheap!

I’m still exploring and still discovering, so these are only a few of the places I’ve found. There’s lots of great restaurants and things to do and see in Seattle, so keep checking back! Now on to studying…

The Next Lindblad Model?

Finally! Off the boat at last! It’s been a long two months down here in Costa Rica and Panama on the Sea Lion, but we made it through and now we’re in San Jose relaxing at the endearing Hotel Aranjuez (thanks, mom, for the recommendation). We left the Sea Lion just after lunch yesterday amid the turmoil of a new rotation coming in and an old one on its way out. It was good to see people I haven’t seen for awhile, but I was also ready to start my vacation!

This past week was actually a rather memorable one for me, though, in terms of Lindblad trips. I had a very light work week massage-wise (which I wasn’t sorry about), so I went on a few more outings than I normally do (I can go on any hike or Zodiac cruise I want to when I’m not giving massages, but I typically stay on the ship and work out or catch up on emails). It was a photography-orientated trip, so we had two guest photographers – Ralph Lee Hopkins, a National Geographic photographer, and Richard Maack, a professional freelance photographer from Arizona. The guests ranged from point-and-shooters to semi-professionals with two or more SLR’s strapped around their necks.

Towards the beginning of the week we stopped at a new beach in Coiba National Park that I’d never been to. The landing was difficult – our Zodiac drivers had to bring the Zodiacs in stern first on a rolling wave – so catching the Zodiacs when they came in was exciting and drenching wet. The beach was also home to massive hermit crabs and tide-pools that harbored strange-looking nudibranchs, sea stars, little fish, and snails.

For my last week I also got to lead the horse-back ride at Caletas, just outside of Corcovado National Park. There were about six riders plus myself and we had a nice morning riding along the rainforest trail and out onto the white-sandy beaches as the waves crashed into the rocks.

Later that day I was recruited by our National Geographic photographer – Ralph Lee Hopkins – to do a brochure photo shoot at the base of a waterfall at San Pedrillo. I’d never done a photo shoot before, so I was excited! He had me wear a bright blue top, black carpris and a safari-style hat with a chinstrap. Before taking the brochure photos (for Lindblad’s expedition catalogue, although the photos we took will probably never make the cut), he shot me doing some yoga poses with the waterfall at the background. It was so much fun! Maybe my next career will be a yoga model???

So now here we are, enjoying the expansive breakfast at Hotel Aranjuez, with no plans for the day expect to relax, maybe walk around if we feel motivated, enjoy a nice dinner and perhaps a movie. Tomorrow we board a plane that will take us to Ecuador and our mountain biking/hiking escapade and Galapagos adventure!

Top 10 Yoga Retreats I’d like to Visit

I’ve had a lot of time to daydream and surf the net these past few days while we’ve been at dry dock in Colon. The spa is clean, the library inventoried (which took me all day to do yesterday), and disposing of the massage chair because it was growing at least 7 different varieties of mold. Everyone I have asked has said they don’t need any help, so I have been left to my own devices, which has mainly included reading, doing crosswords, and browsing the Internet. One of my favorite things to search for are yoga retreats around the world and then I daydream about spending at least a week in a beautiful places with fresh, healthy food, and practicing yoga on a daily basis – something I’ve been sorely missing. So here is a list of my top ten yoga retreats that I’d like to visit. I’d love to know of any others you have found!

1) Samudra – Dunsborough, Australia
An Ashtanga yoga studio and live food cafe set on the beach in sunny Western Australia? I can’t think of a more perfect combination.

2) Purple Valley Yoga – Goa, India
Another yoga retreat specializing in Ashtanga yoga. This one draws teachers from all over the globe for workshops and retreats and also has a wide array of Aryuvedic treatments

3) Ashtanga World – Ubud Bali
I love all styles of yoga, but as you can probably tell, my practice consists mainly of Ashtanga. So if there’s an Ashtanga retreat center or studio, it moves right to the top of my list.

4) Flor Blanca – Santa Teresa, Costa Rica
This is way out of my budget, but it looks amazing! Even despite the fact that I’ve spent so much time in Costa Rica.

5) Ak’Bol Yoga Retreat – San Pedro, Belize
Belize will always have a soft spot in my heart as a result of a great family vacation to Ambergris Caye and Ian Anderson’s Cave Branch. This yoga retreat looks just as stellar, so hopefully someday I’ll get to visit!

6) Luna Lodge – Carate, Costa Rica
Another yoga retreat in Costa Rica. I’ve been to the Osa Peninusla with the ship, but it would be nice to be able to relax and do some yoga instead of helping people in and out of Zodiacs

7) Yoga Plus – Crete, Greece
Another retreat for Ashtanga yoga! This place looks absolutely amazing

8) Pranamar – Santa Teresa, Costa Rica
One more yoga retreat I can’t afford, also in Costa Rica. I can dream, right?!

9) Yoga Holidays in the French Pyrenee’s – France
Hiking, yoga, good food… I’m there.

10) Gaia Retreat – Byron Bay, Australia
Founded in part by Olivia Newton-John in 2005, this place looks like a great retreat to visit for a week. Or a month.

And now that I have spent entirely too much time looking a yoga retreats online, I have to get back to the ship. I think the galley is making us a nice meal for dinner (not sure what that implies for the vegan) and after C and I have a shopping date. He needs some black shoes, a black belt, and some t-shirts and I’d like to pick up a few pairs of water shorts. I’m not looking forward to it – Colon is a rough city and I can think of a few places I’d rather be.

A Full Day of Yoga and Such

As part of our volunteer benefit package, we each get one full free day to experience Wanderlust as we wish, without having to stand on the sidelines watching a yoga class or pick up trash. Yesterday was my free day and I took full advantage of it.

My morning started out with a Mysore Ashtanga practice. Because I had taken a class with the teachers (Kristin and Barbara from The Shala in NYC) the previous day, they knew I practiced Ashtanga and thus placed me and another girl at the front of the room so those who didn’t know the sequence could follow our movements. I know I’m supposed to be moving beyond the ego, but it felt good to lead the class.

After Mysore, I grabbed a coffee and settled into the Omega Speakeasy room to listen to Adam Kelinson talk about how a diet of good, fresh, local whole foods is essential for optimum health. It was interesting and informative, but I didn’t learn much apart from what I already know – processed food is bad!

My second yoga class of the day was with Byran Kest from Santa Monica, California. Before I go into detail and the class, I forgot to mention that I ran into someone who I haven’t seen for six years! When I was in Kenya with the St. Lawrence program there was another girl from Vermont – Kristi Post – and as I was doing my Greening shift, she and I ran into each other. It was great to catch up and hear about her travels (Vietnam and Tanzania). We both took Bryan’s Power Yoga class, which was challenging , but hilarious. He is an amazing teacher and the jokes he cracks in class help you to forget the burning in your legs and arms and the sweat dripping down your nose.

After Bryan’s class I moved to the Kripalu yoga space for a workshop on pranayama, or breathing, exercises. It was relaxing and made me motivated to pick up my own pranayama class again. My goal is half and hour every morning!

Finally, my last class was a goal setting lecture back in the Speakeasy room. It was led by a Lululemon ambassador who challenged us to think about where we want to be in ten years and how we want to get there. It was helpful to map out our goals and make plans as to how we want to get there. I’m sure you’re all wondering what my goals are, so my biggest one is to get an apartment or space of my own within a year so I can stop living out of a backpack 🙂 I just need to figure out where I want that place be…

I had a few hours to relax and walk around (and have another go at slacklining) before the music events started. First on stage were the Mayapuris, a group of drummers, dancers, singers, and symbol bangers who got the crowd pumped up and dancing, despite the light drizzle. After them, Shakti Sunfire came onstage with two fire-rimmed hula hoops and performed, without flaw, a spectacular routine.

Finally, after a long wait, Michael Franti and Spearhead took the stage just as the clouds cleared and the stars came out. As much as I was looking forward to seeing him and as much as I enjoy his music, I was a bit disappointed. It was SO LOUD and I couldn’t make out any of the lyrics. He had a lot if energy on stage and was fun to watch, but I left after a few songs with my eardrums throbbing. I guess that just emphasizes my dislike for large crowds and loud places!

All and all, though, it was a great day. No surprise I woke up stiff and sore the next morning!

Island Hopping

It has been a couple of days since I left the craziness of Bangkok and entered the craziness of Krabi, a province down south on the Andaman Sea. I’m staying in a town called Ao Nang, aka Tourist Central, with the rest of the Gap Adventures group (more on that later). At first I was horrified and couldn’t wait until we move on, but after I got settled in a bit I realized it wasn’t that awful. Part if traveling is taking the good with the bad and so far I’ve had a whole lot of good.

I met the rest of the group (10 of them) in Bangkok on the 6th of December and had a few days to explore the city some more. The group is really nice, but they like to drink and party, so I don’t hang out with them much at night. I did a yoga class with several friends from Yoga Thailand who were still in the city and after, we randomly met up with some more classmates in a sky-train station. Small world. Aoy, who lives in Bangkok treated us all to an amazing lunch at a vegetarian Japanese restaurant.

On Tuesday we traveled down south by overnight train, but I didn’t get much sleep because the lights stayed on the whole night (we had curtains, though) and I was either too hot or too cold. Like I said before, Ao Nang is very touristy and the beaches are packed, so on the first day I set out by myself to explore and hopefully find some solace. At the end of the beach I came to a trailhead and followed the rickety stairs up a steep hill and down the other side. I found myself at a private resort with an empty beach. Mission accomplished.

The second day in Ao Nang (yesterday) two friends (Jo and Dan) and I took a fishing boat over to Railey Beach, a 15 minute ride from Ao Nang. Again, I was disappointed with the masses of white bikini and speedo clad tourists, but we found a spot on the beach and spent a few hours swimming and soaking up the sun. We were about to leave when Dan offered to show us where a troop of monkeys liked to hang out (he’s been to Krabi before). We set off down a worn dirt path and soon came across the monkeys (I have no idea what kind they were). We decided to keep walking down the path and head over to the other side of the island. Unlike the beaches we just came from this side had no white sandy shore, only mangroves and dirt. I liked it better, though, because it was less crowded, more laid back, and had a backpacker/traveler feel. Krabi is world famous for its rock climbing because of its tall limestone bluffs and as we made our way down the shoreline, we saw why the area draws so many climbers. At the end of the beach we came to some limestone caves, which were really cool with the stalagmite and stalactite formations. We also came across a “trailhead” that supposedly led up to a viewpoint and secret lagoon. When I say “trailhead” I mean a slippery red clay path the leads almost straight up with jagged rocks as foot holds and a knotted rope to hang on to. I had to try it. Dan and Jo weren’t so keen (although Dan did end up going after me – I met him as I was going back down), so I set off on my own. It really wasn’t that bad, just muddy (or clayey) and quite steep. I asked a few others I met on the way up about the lagoon and they said it was too difficult to reach. So I settled for the look out, which I reached about 20 minutes later. It was so beautiful and definitely worth the orange hands and feet (I went barefoot). The view was out over the two sides of the island, so I could see both beaches with the limestone cliffs in the background. The drop down was probably about 500 feet. It was incredible. Dan said looking over the edge was the scariest thing here’s ever done, but he also thought the climb up was particularly difficult.

Today was another adventure. Nine of us hired a speed boat to take us around to some of the islands. At the first stop we snorkeled with the fish and around the reefs. Then we headed to Maya Bay which is where The Beach with Leonardo DiCaprio was filmed. It was more than a disappointment. The beach was absolutely packed and there were some many speed boats that the air was polluted. Maybe it would have been beautiful if there weren’t so many people and boats. The next stop was better, though. We had lunch on Phi Phi Don island (yes it’s pronounced pee pee) and after eating I headed out to explore. The beaches were still crowded, but it had a more laid back, island feel, so it was nice. Then the last stop of the day was my favorite. We went to Bamboo Island and after wading to shore, I once again took off by myself (I’m starting to realize that I’m quite different from the average traveler who doesn’t explore farther than what they can see). I wasn’t complaining though because as soon as I walked around the bend an climbed over some rocks, there was absolutely nobody. White beaches and turquoise waters all to myself. The only problem was that I didn’t know how big the island was and we only had an hour and a half there, so I couldn’t stop and relax. I found some really cool stones, though, and eventually, after climbing over sharp rocks, tip-toeing over scorching sand, and wading through waist deep water, I made it all the way around the island with lots of time to spare (unfortunately! I would have like to have spent more time on my own private beach).

Tonight is our last night in Ao Nang, then tomorrow we take mini-vans down to Malaysia and the island of Penang. I can’t wait to do some more exploring!

It’s the kings birthday

Which means that entrance into all the temples is free, Tuk Tuk rides anywhere in the Old City are 20 baht (about 80 cents), the army marches down the street in full regalia (including 2-foot high furry hats), and everyone is walking around in pink polo shirts – apparently the color of royalty, resembling his good health.

I know I just posted a blog, but after being dropped off at 5:30 this morning and not being able to get into my room until 12 at the earliest, I decided to explore a bit. My plan was to go to Wat Pho, a temple that is also home to a massage school. I did make it to the temple eventually, but is was a circuitous route. Let me explain. About ten minute after leaving the hotel, I stopped on a street corner to consult my map and determine the best way to get to Wat Pho (which I knew included hazardous street crossings, traffic fumes, littered sidewalks, and hot, sticky air). I must have looked lost because a young Thai man came up to me and asked me where I wanted to go. He promptly took my worn map and circled several temples in the area and told me I should visit them because it’s the kings birthday, and they’re free to get into. Then he hailed a Tuk Tuk and told the driver to take me to the sites for 20 baht – no more. I spent the morning riding from one temple to the next (with several souvenir and tailor shops in between because the companies have a deal with the Tuk Tuk drivers if they bring tourists – we “only have to look – no buy”). After four different temples, I finally found myself at Wat Pho and said goodbye to my Tuk Tuk driver – giving him a generous tip that amounted to $3.50. The Wat is quite big and impressive and I was surprised that there weren’t many tourists. I spent about an hour walking around, but decided against the massage since I was hot and tired and wanted a shower more than a massage. So I walked back to the hotel and thankfully was shown to my room.

I’m already going through yoga withdrawal, so I’m meeting two friends tomorrow for a Mysore class at 9 and possibly for dinner as well, depending on what my Gap Adventures itinerary look like. I guess I’m back to my busy life!

Dance Party and Qi Gong

What happens when a 65 year-old woman gets in front of a roomful of yogis? It turns into a full out dance party. That’s what happened this afternoon, at least. It’s Friday and everyone was tired, especially after a two and a half hour practice this morning and then sitting through four hours of anatomy lecture this afternoon. So when Dorian, the resident “guru” came into the shala dressed in a bathing suit and leggings, we didn’t really know what to expect. Then the music came on and she started to dance. I mean really dance! Pretty soon everyone was doing the steps, legs were flying, hands were in the air, and sweat was spraying in every direction. It was hilarious and so much fun. Dorian is amazing. She started yoga and meditation after a bad car accident in which she should have died, but walked away unscratched. She took that as a sign to change her life before she really did end up dead. So now she lives at Yoga Thailand and does counseling and therapy, as well as kicks off the occasional dance party. I doubt there are many 65 year-old women who can do the moves she came up with today.

After we were spent from dancing, Dorian led us outside to the beach where we calmed down and cooled off with several Qi Gong exercises. It felt kind of surreal, with the ocean before us, the white sand under our feet, the sunset lighting the sky red, gold, and pink, and 39 sweaty yogis doing Qi Gong on the beach. Something I’ll definitely remember.

After, we plunged into the salty water, clothes and all, then squeezed some more sweat out in the steam room. And tomorrow we have a day off!