The Yoga of Travel

I’m still riding my post-vacation high from my b-day trip to Iceland, and the hubs and I have been reminiscing about our favorite parts. It’s fun and a total freagin’ blessing to keep the energy of that experience alive. Especially, as ya know, cuz covid. We got a wild hair in late November to do bucket list items, and Iceland surfaced. We wanted something beautiful, epic, and different. We had never seen the Northern Lights, and I had always wanted to soak in their waters and be in Reykjavik in the dead-ass winter for my birthday during their Winter Lights Festival. Also, we wanted to see it before global warming fucks it. So, we booked it.

There are lots of ways to travel, and I get that it is a big ol’ privilege to be able to travel internationally for pleasure. So, I want to engage in responsible tourism that respects the country and compensates local people and businesses. I’ve also learned that I really like shit being taken care of for me so that I can enjoy myself. As fun as planning out each trip detail can be for some folks, I prefer not to do that. I plan enough other stuff. I prefer to have a travel professional map out my itinerary and escort me to places I’ve never seen. I prefer to be surprised.

So, G and I went with G Adventures. That seemed like a no-brainer. They have a three-day, four-night Northern Lights and Golden Circle Package that started and ended in Reykjavik and took us out into the Icelandic countryside for two full days of it. This was not our first experience with G Adventures. In 2019, Suzie and I led a Bali Yoga Retreat through them. That felt like a trip of a lifetime, cuz it was. And that’s also how Iceland felt.

There were a couple key differences between our Adventures. First, I did zero yoga while I was in Iceland. That wasn’t part of the gig.

Second, unlike Bali where I already knew almost all of the 25 peeps on the trip — and many of them already knew each other — we had no idea who we would be adventuring with. Our travel companions would be a crapshoot. If you know me, you know I’m not a gambler, or at least I don’t gamble anything that I’m not willing to lose. But I was willing to bet that the folks attracted to G Adventures might have a mindset about such things similar to my own, and holy fire and ice batman, did we ever score! The 13 dynamic, engaging, and genuinely enjoyable humans that showed up from the UK, Germany, Switzerland, and the US made the whole trip! And our jocular, knowledgeable, Viking of a CEO (Chief Experience Officer) graciously hosted us in his country and coordinated every detail.

However, if I have to pick “my favorite part” or “the biggest highlight” (which I don’t really like to do cuz I love different things for different reasons), for me it was all of us eating meals together — from our first one at Reykjavik Kitchen to our last bittersweet one at Old Iceland. And mostest especiallyest, our evenings at the country guesthouse (that was also an Icelandic horse farm) making family-style dinners, drinking wine, laughing, talking, playing cards, cooking, eating, dancing, and constantly running outside to check for the Northern Lights.

The first night we saw them around 12:30 AM. There was a bell on the desk at the entrance, and if anyone saw the lights, they were to run up and down the hall ringing it. I think it was Christian, the adorable 23-year-old Swiss musician and university student/middle school math and science teacher, that saw them first; but the honor of the bell-ringing went to Victoria, a lovely British university admissions officer in love with a man back home named Joy. (I had some good fun teasing her about that one.) When we heard the bell, we bolted up outta bed, grabbed our boots and coats, and stood in the crazy cold with our new friends oohing and aahhing over the ribbon of light above our heads. That lasted for a little bit until the clouds came through. We got a few good photos then went back to bed knowing we had one more night in the countryside to call in more magic.

The next day Karl, Viking CEO extraordinaire, escorted our excited asses to Thingville (Thingvellir) National Park, Geysir, and “some amazing Falls” before bringing us back for another family dinner at the guesthouse. This evening he was excited to share with us the pickled shark and vodka chaser he used to cure some childhood malady. Then, we all pulled a slip of paper outta a bowl and proceeded to carry out our dinner assignment. This night I got “potatoes,” which was sweet cuz I’d seen someone already wrap them in foil. What I didn’t know was they prepped them early because they needed extra time to cook in an underground firepit that seemed way too far out on the tundra once I’d had my second glass of wine.

Getting to experience new things in a new part of the world with new, lively, kind-hearted humans made the trip for me. Humans having novel, shared experiences creates bonds that nourish the soul. And this human needed that.

When Karl asked each member of our group to share why we were there, I said I wanted to see beauty. And I saw it. In the landscapes, in the art, in the food (dude, for real, fish stew is amazeballs), and especially in the people.

I found myself so joyfully listening to Jill and Steven from Sussex that I wondered if they thought me an idiot for the giant rapturous smile I must’ve had on my face. I found myself shedding a few tears at Christian’s impromptu piano solo. I found myself giggling at Ali a lot — especially at his choice of “trainers” as his preferred Icelandic footwear.

I found myself finding myself and reconnecting to pieces and places that had gone dormant.

I guess yoga was part of the gig after all. :)

Cuz, like Ali, we all make choices. We could let fears (or cold feet) stop us — or we can be darn thankful the world’s people have handled covid the way we have (no thanks to the US horseshit response), trust the process, do the protocol, and travel. We had to jump through a few extra hoops and follow some rules to be responsible global citizens for each other, but that’s a small price to pay for the privilege of rejoining the land of the living — ironically, in the land of the white walkers. (GOT fans, oh my gosh!)

So, we’re doing it. I turned 49 in Iceland. After years (decades) of feeling like shit, I now feel fit as a fiddle thanks to living a yogic and ayurvedic lifestyle. I’m doing — and will continue doing — the things I dreamed of as a girl. I’ve studied the world and its people, and now I’m gonna go be with them. I’m doing the yoga of travel. Next stop: Peru.

After having to reschedule it twice, Suzie and I are leading a nine-day Peruvian Yoga Retreat with G Adventures this April. Rather than whisking you off to a single resort location, we will be traveling the country with 25 fun-loving people and experiencing different places — AND doing morning flow and evening restorative yoga at all of them! In Bali, we stood in mountain pose while gazing at an active volcano and sat in meditation looking out over a misty, sacred valley. We did yoga asana, then we got up off our mats, hooked into our adventure companions, and did the yoga of travel.

We've got three spots left for Peru. If you’ve got cold feet, channel my friend Ali. We don’t have to be ‘ready,’ we just gotta show up.

Cuz that’s yoga, ain’t it?

And, also, some opportunities happen only once. Seize them. Just sayin’.

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