By Tess DiNapoli
It was a Friday. I had spent the last six days practicing yoga in an outdoor yoga pagoda at Hotelito Los Suenos in Sayulita, Mexico, salt on my skin from sweat and sea. I was walking from the beach after my surf lesson with six other yoginis, probably smiling like a fool. My skin had darkened not with a tan but with freckles, and my hair was in between unshowered and ocean-kissed; I was OK with that. Each morning, I unrolled my mat and sipped my Mexican coffee with a touch of brown sugar, and I practiced.
I take this mat everywhere. It’s small, thin, lightweight, portable—simple, no frills and cost much less than the passport I neurotically safeguard (if only because I misplace everything). The passport and the yoga mat allow journeys far beyond your comfort zone, and when you use both to step past the borders of the familiar, horizons expand. I’ve learned about letting go and riding the waves of my breath while attempting to surf in Mexico. On another trip, while navigating a deceptively arduous trail in the Cinque Terre of Italy, a smooth, even breath and steady, calm mind—and some high school Italian—helped me approach a group of strangers for help with my mother who was suffering from heatstroke.
Although the dust on my mat from Tuscany and the traces of sand from Mexico have washed away, the memories from unrolling it on random floors far and wide are still there. I’ve covered my mat in memories.
When you pair yoga with travel in yoga retreats, you can devote yourself to your practice, to your teacher or maybe a teacher you’ve never met before. You don’t need to travel far and you don’t need to put a big dent your wallet; explore locales in your home state and consider weekend getaways or maybe a road trip to a place in your country you’ve always wanted to visit. Devote yourself to opening to the possibilities travel offers, keeping in mind that some of those possibilities are not always comfortable. Your work on the mat translates to how you go about your adventures. Commit to living completely in the moment, because the only place you have to be is there.
Study the world map. Where does your gaze go? Go there. Get curious about yourself and your world. Explore more. Here are some tips for your next journey:
Not sure where to go? Get inspired. Buy guidebooks for your dream destinations. Make a vision board of your travel bucket list. Seek out your favorite teachers’ yoga retreats on websites like SeekRetreat. com, the online marketplace for all things wellness-, travel- and yoga-related.
Bring one inspirational yoga book and one “fun” book. On the last retreat I went on, I brought Judith Lasater’s “Living Your Yoga” and juggled it with Christopher Moore’s “Sacre Bleu: A Comedy d’Art”, a murder mystery about Van Gogh and the 19th century Parisian art world. The yoga text will deepen your practice while you’re traveling and deepen your work with svadhyaya. The more frivolous read is because it is, after all, a vacation.
Be open to change. Agendas, schedules and plans don’t always go as, well, planned. Resistance to change can affect your enjoyment of the trip. Take a big breath in. Pause at the top. Let it go. Big sigh. It will be OK. The best travel memories are born from spontaneity.
Vow to unplug for at least one day of your vacation or yoga retreat. If you’re on a yoga retreat, it’s possible the retreat organizers have that planned for you. But even if they don’t, make it a priority to detach from your toys and sit and people watch and swim and just be where you are, now.
Write. Journal. Doodle. Even if you’re not well-versed in journaling or self-reflection, write what goes through your mind after a day of snorkeling and practicing yoga, or write your reflections on your wanderings through Italian cities or Egyptian marketplaces. Express the colors of your hike in Utah with pastels; express your travel experience with more than just Instagram. You’ll connect to each place in a much more profound way. And your latent creativity might surprise you.
Tess DiNapoli is a yoga teacher, writer, freelance editor and artist living in Los Angeles, CA.