SOUL HAPPY

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So you’re eating a diet of immaculate nutrition and following a vigorous balanced exercise plan, practicing yoga and meditating first thing, getting 8 hours of sleep each night and ticking everything off your to do list each day.

But,  you can’t remember the last time you properly laughed from your belly, or went outside just for the joy of breathing in the air and taking a walk with no music and no distractions.

It isn’t often you sit down and have a heart-to-heart walls down chat with someone, because its much easier to just skim the surface and have the same conversation each day, and anyway you have to get to yoga/ the gym/ a meeting/ your phone. You spread a smile on that face and carry on, finding comfort in the structure of your day. You go home, you go to sleep and you do it all again the next day.

You do this over and over, in pursuit of a sense of wholeness and completeness that constantly evades you, that is always just around the corner, because each day you are so busy planning forward and sticking to the plan that you forget to live, now. Your mind lives in the future, imagining what it will be like once you’re in a better place, when you have more money, when your body looks different, when somebody loves you.

You don’t even recognise that your bank account is full enough for what you need, you don’t notice the beautiful man who holds the door open for you every day, you don’t notice how good your food tastes. You don’t notice the innate wisdom of your body as it protects you and supports you.

There can always be more, better, bigger, richer, happier. But we never get there, unless we enjoy being here. Wholeness is here and now.

Life is messy. Happiness is messy. A whole and happy life is messy, unpredictable, it’s colourful and psychedelic and a lot like a children’s collage or finger painting of flushed cheeks and sandy toes, of sleepy lazy mornings and surprise evening visitors, of things not going to plan and being even better than you could have planned. Surely, the universe has something more creative in store than we could find in the depths of our imagination?

Happiness is when you snort tea out of your nose because your dearest friend makes you laugh so hard that you lose all decorum, and all control. When you get blisters on the backs of your heels from walking in hiking boots the wrong size, because you loved the walk so much you barely noticed the discomfort. When you get completely lost in a new city and instead of feeling scared, you feel intrepid and inspired. When you are so deeply immersed in something that bares your creative soul that five hours trickle by without you even feeling the time passing.

Perhaps theres a little something missing in your picture of perfect health, if it all feels a little too clean and concise, if there’s no room for spontaneity, for cake fresh from the oven, for the occasional ugly laugh.

Happiness isn’t all clean lines and airbrushed skin. Happiness is imperfection, and complete acceptance of that imperfection, right here and now. Happiness is believing that something wonderful is about to happen, and accepting that it will look and feel so different from anything you ever could have planned.

Happiness is here and now.

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Yoga Lessons from my Grandparents.

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My grandparents are some of the biggest yogis I know, and I don’t believe they’ve ever done an asana class in their lives. They run off these basic, old-fashioned principles of kindness, fairness, a brisk walk in the fresh air and good wholesome food.

Theres something very grounding and eye-opening about spending time with your elders. Something that reminds you that you don’t need too much to be happy, and you don’t have to tell everyone how happy you are in order to validate that happiness.

What fills you up when you feel empty? It may or may not be that $10.99 mystery smoothie purchase from the alternative supermarket that has opened up next to the bikram yoga studio down the street. It’ll more probably be simmering on Nanny’s stove all afternoon, laboured over with love and heady spices and and it probably won’t have high protein chia seeds in it but it will have a good blob of butter and will make you feel like you’re snuggled up in bed on a cold rainy day. What could be better for your sense of comfort and contentment in life?

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Nanny’s House.

I had a conversation with my Poppa about a month ago, sitting in the garden with a mid-morning cuppa, after he caught me doing a headstand in the garden after hanging out the washing.

P: “So… do you do yoga every day then? It must be very good for you!”

R: “Well. Usually I do, yes, but sometimes I do other things that I feel like are more important in that moment. Like going for a walk with my family, or swimming in the sea, or taking a nap mid afternoon then drinking a glass of wine and rolling up my trousers in the back yard to catch some rays. A different kind of yoga. Sometimes I start doing asanas then I just lie face down on my mat and call it savasana.”

P: “Yes, well, you don’t want to be a slave to anything, do you?”

Exactly, Poppa. My sentiments exactly.

Ahh yoga. Bendy, self-accepting, health-embracing, intuitive-moving, universal-loving yoga. Have you noticed a strange dichotomy between what yoga says it is, and what it actually appears to be on your Instagram feed? Teeny little white girl bends into thirds, sips on a juice made from pureed spinach (my family know I love a good spinach beverage, I ain’t no hater) , and scribes underneath “yoga is about progress, not perfection”. Nobody knows what perfection is, but if our perfection looks like her progress, then we start to second guess ourselves.

Shake it off. Stamp on it. Sit on it and squash it with your dimply bottom. This shit is what cheapens the profound impact that yoga can have on our lives.

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Let’s pause for a moment and imagine our grandparents doing a headstand on a beach, sunset glowing in the background, in their high waisted modest one piece swimmers, getting each other to take photos of each other, taking hundreds of shots until they get the perfect one, then getting the photos developed and writing “#yogaholiday” underneath each in the family photo album? Nah. Nope. It was more likely to be a grainy shot of Nanna and Poppa pressing cheeks up against one another, beaming, looking happy and content and in the caption it would say “Holiday at the Caravan”. Keeping it real, since ages ago.

Don’t get me wrong – I love the physical practice of yoga, and everything it brings with it. I’m obsessed with it. It makes me feel incredible, and is the springboard into living yoga in other aspects of my life. That should be all that matters. How it makes you feel, and whether it makes you happy.

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Cheerful, contented, tickled, intoxicated, jolly! Just a selection of the synonyms for “happy”.

Cheerful? Strolling down the street after a lovely morning of doing your favourite yoga poses in your back garden with no bra on and some sweet tunes jamming and nobody caring what you look like or whether you shaved your legs. A little secret with yourself. Beaming to passers-by. You’re a mystery, you, a glowing mystery.

Contented? Happy with this present moment, with what you have, without feeling the need to blast it to your social media gremlins. Like when you leave your phone at home and wander up the hill with your dog to just walk, not take aesthetically pleasing photos, just to think, and you pick up the poop and carry it swinging at your side, feeling like a wonderful, altruistic human. Shit doesn’t get you down.

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Tickled? When you play a game of scrabble and you get a really good word and everyone says wow, you smarty pants, and you smile humbly and cross your hands in your lap and feel both dignified and intelligent in the company of others without asking for their kind words. Quietly pleased with yourself. A little tickle on the inside.

Intoxicated? When you’re a wee bit smashed after spontaneous wine drinking and cheese eating with your hilarious, mismatched, curious friends, new and old, who know you for you in that moment. High on life, high on the present awesomeness, not thinking about the past or the future, only how your fingers are tingly and you feel fabulous, darling, and that energy pumping through your veins comes from the beautiful people and the fun that lies ahead. Drunk in love.

 

 

Jolly? Belly laughs and ugly tears of joy and double chins and bouncing bosoms and slaps on the back and table banging and a good old knees up and red cheeks and joy, falling on your face when you try to go upside down on your mat and just owning it, laughing at yourself. There’s nothing more appealing than a person who doesn’t take it all too seriously. A certain lightness in your step.

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This is yoga. When you are happy in this moment, happy enough that nobody else needs to really know quite how happy. You are powerful butt lifts, radiant cheesy smiles and a swig of ice cold sauvignon blanc on a hot summer’s day.

Nanna and Poppa probably don’t even think about this shit. They just get on with it. Ultimate yogis, with the knowledge of balance, of not comparing your lot in life with another’s, of the importance of a square meal. I’m not idealising the good old days – we all have our fair share of crap in life, but we can learn from them in how to deal with it. When you need some life lessons, leave your phone at home, put on some baggy old trousers and a dorky hat and go help Poppa in the garden picking his raspberries.

Eat every third raspberry and contemplate just how good things are when they taste exactly how they look (red), when they’re unique (with some lumps and bumps) and not trying to be anything other than what they truly are.

Tasty as fuck. That’s you, #yogababes.

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Whole & Happy Yoga Retreat in Thailand!

Beyond excited to be teaming up with one of my favourite teachers to offer a 7-day yoga and meditation retreat in paradise!

Located at the breath-taking Faasai Resort and Spa in Chanthaburi, Thailand; nestled between lush mountain greenery and the clear, blue sea. I wrote about this place in a previous blog post after having spent two weeks there soaking up the healing energy.

Come and experience the power of nature, community, laughter and yoga in rejuvenating your mind, body and spirit! Delicious farm-to-table cuisine, luxury bungalow accommodation, and a beautiful seaside village to explore. Click here for more details.

Hope to see you all there!

Love & Light,

Rosie

Loving and Leaving

I can’t quite believe that my one month in Luang Prabang, Laos, has trickled past so quickly. In a hazy blur of yoga, sunrises, sunsets, a birthday, lush countryside, new friends, some illness and homesickness, but most of all an overwhelming feeling of contentment and gleeful disbelief that my world right now allows me to work, travel and live like this.

There’s something very special about Luang Prabang, in a way that you can’t quite put your finger on. It is the kind of place that just keeps ticking along – you come, you settle in, then you leave, and it just keeps going without you, which is both sad and comforting at the same time. A month is too short a time to fully experience life there, at least in the way it needs to be experienced. The most captivating part of Luang Prabang life for me is that life feels easy. Nothing is too far away, you have culture, religion, outdoor adventure, nature, comfort and a bounty of good, cheap food on your doorstep.

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I was there for a month, teaching yoga daily for Luang Prabang Yoga, overlooking the Nam Khan River, through rain and shine, sunrise and sunset, to whoever passed through. I had some regulars – people staying in town for a while, expats, or returning visitors who went elsewhere and decided this was the place to be. I was teaching most classes at Utopia, which is just as it sounds – a chilled out, everybody welcome kind of place with good food, interesting people, cosy seating overlooking the river, a volleyball net and a yoga deck.

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One of my favourite evening activities was to visit one of the temples at around 6.30pm and join the monks and novices for their evening chanting and meditation. From 6.30 – 7pm they would chant Buddhist verses, then from 7 – 8pm they would meditate in silence. I would do my best, sometimes sneaking out a little earlier, because an hour and a half is a long time to sit without stretching out your legs. The feet are considered the lowest part of your body in all respects, so its very rude to stretch your legs forward and face the soles of your feet at Buddha. If you want to stretch, you have to awkwardly poke your legs to one side. One time I made the foolish mistake of wearing a wrap around skirt to meditation, and quickly realised that I couldn’t sit cross legged without baring my crotch to the Buddha, which is generally deemed inappropriate in Buddhist tradition.

At the end of the meditation sometimes the novices would turn to practice their English with any westerners in the temple. They were very inquisitive about our lives and how we can travel, and in exchange I asked questions trying to get a grasp on the day in the life of a monk or novice. It’s a lot of discipline for these tiny little boys, and one night in meditation I opened my eyes to just watch them sitting. Some of them are so small and their heads keep lolling forward, then they catch themselves and try to sit upright again, only to keep falling asleep every few minutes. It’s adorable and kind of sad and also very impressive all at the same time – as teenagers these kids have more discipline than many of us might learn in a lifetime. At their age I was running around half naked in a field, building tree houses and singing at the top of my lungs. The contrast is pretty eye opening.

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The food… People say that Laos food is nothing to write home about. I found some gems in Luang Prabang that made me rethink – my particular favourite breakfast at Delilah’s consisted of a little bamboo box of sticky rice, a Lao omelette with dill and vegetables, steamed vegetables and a pot of spicy eggplant dip which was the best in town. I would go there for brunch after teaching, use the Internet, and just watch people passing by. It was a weird little place, they would often be blasting the music at 9am, even if I was the only customer, but I took my food outside and they took a shine to me because I tried out my rudimentary Laos on them every day and they thought I was hilarious.

Some places in town make awesome Laap or Laab – made with either chicken, fish or tofu/mushroom, mixed in with fresh herbs and served with greens and sometimes sticky rice, it makes a refreshing lunch or dinner. Street side stalls have grilled bananas, fresh fruit, tiny pancakes, sandwiches, and fruit shakes. I discovered an alleyway in the night market offering a buffet selection of vegetarian food, where you grab a bowl, fill it with as much as you can pack in, get them to heat it up for you, chuck an egg on top and pay a tiny 15,000kip (less than 2usd). You can also choose to wash it down with a big beer Laos, at the average price of 10,000 kip. Cheap and cheerful.

A favourite was also the Sin Daad or Laos BBQ, with baskets of vegetables, noodles, raw meat or tofu, pots of broth and dipping sauce. You grill your own meat or tofu on the hot pot which is built into the table, pour the broth into the little most and fill it with vegetables and noodles, and then scoop it out bit by bit into your bowl and try to get it in your mouth with chopsticks. An awesome social way to eat, pretty cheap, and there are places around town that offer an all-you-can-eat situation, including icecream for dessert, and you can just stay there for several hours to see how many meals you can squeeze in for your kip.

It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows in Luang Prabang for me, though. I got a nasty burn on my leg from riding on the back of my friends motorbike, which I was terrified was getting infected, especially when it started bleeding and looking quite worrying. Luckily a friend had some medical supplies and it has started to heal nicely. Apparently they call them “Laos burns”, because everyone gets a burn in the same place from bumping against the exhaust pipe on their bike.

I got a weird bite or something suspicious on the back of my other leg which became a curious texture and felt all squishy when I touched it, but I just kind of ignored it for a while (out of sight, out of mind) and it seems to have gone away. Phew.

I also had some nasty stomach issues which still haven’t quite been resolved – a sensitive stomach at the best of times can struggle in Asia, with all the hidden ingredients and language barrier when you ask for certain things to be excluded/ added to your meal. Laos has come a long way, but if you’re looking for gluten free dairy free vegan chia seed muffins, this is not the place. And maybe that’s a good thing.

In general, being sick when you’re away from home is pretty much the worst thing. Every tiny little inconvenience of living in Asia comes to the fore – you can’t find the medicine you need, you can’t drink from the tap, there’s a power cut and you lie there all feverish with no air con, nobody understands what you’re saying (to the point where you think perhaps you are delirious and rambling), the thought of noodle soup makes you turn green, and everything comforting and familiar is far away.

Nobody ever talks about the shitty hard part of living and working away from home. It’s like it’s a little bit unacceptable to admit to being unhappy while you’re living in sunshine paradise and working your dream job. It’s natural that there are ups and downs, and being sick makes you realise that your health is the single most important thing, coming before everything else. If you’re not well then you can’t enjoy everything that your surroundings offer.

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And THAT, my friends, is the time to go to Chiang Mai, a vegan/ vegetarian/organic/ gluten free/paleo Mecca for anyone with awkward dietary requirements. It was very sad for me to leave Luang Prabang, where life was easy, and faces had become familiar, but the time has come, and I’m looking forward to starting a Thai Massage training in Chiang Mai and having the resources around me to get my glow back.

I’m currently up in Pai, a chilled out ‘hippie town’ north of Chiang Mai, where I plan to spend several days doing just that – chilling out, doing yoga, catching up on some work and exploring the lush surroundings. Next week I start my course, where I will learn to massage bodies.

✌️

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Two Weeks in ‘Nam

  
“I lubb.”

Toothy grin, eyes mischievous.

“Hmmmm?”

“I LUBB”

Persistently.

*i turn to his friend, questioningly*

*wrinkly finger jabbing towards my face* 

“He lubb you” 

“Oh…. Thankyou? I lubb you too… ” 

*hurrying away*

Ahh Vietnam. A place where you can walk aimlessly in the streets, only to be stopped by a man pointing at your shoes and grimacing, as he whips your shoe off your foot, leads you to ledge on the pavement and starts gluing and re-soling your shoes as you look with a mix of curiosity and dismay.

I wanted them fixed anyway, I guess. I wasn’t expecting a declaration of love, but that’s a nice bonus. 

After an early morning stroll, I sat by Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi to ponder life and watch all the little old ladies doing tai chi in their matching patterned two piece outfits. I arrived in Hanoi on Labour Day weekend, when most of the locals were heading out of the city, so I decided to stay put and explore by foot,making advantage of less traffic and less humans. Sitting by the lake reading my book, I was approached by a young toothy Vietnamese man with glasses and a friendly face. 

  
“Hello! Hahahaha! Would you mind ever so much when I could sit with you a little while and speak talk with you hahahahaha!?”

“…..that would be lovely!”

*sits down next to me and pulls out his notebook*

“SO what is your name? Where are you from??”

“I’m Rosie, I’m from New Zealand!”

“Cool cool that is in Neverland is not it! My name is Dai but everyone calls me Kevin! Hahahahha Kevin! Yes!”

We continued in this way for about 20 minutes, me finding it a relief that I could talk to him knowing he wasn’t trying to sell me things, and him overjoyed to find a native English speaker sitting idly by the lake at 8am.

Our conversation ended with him asking for a photo, adding me on Facebook and asking for one piece of life advice.

“Miss Rosie if you had give me any kind of advice in the life in a very smart and good way what would it say????”

“Oh shit Kev, I’m not the person to ask. *tells him story about a wise old fisherman and a businessman*

“Ohhhh hahahahahaa good okay very nice story veryyyyyyyy nice I write down take notes! *writing* happy…. Fisherman…. Family…”

Kevin leaves me to read my book, he wanders away with his head in his notebook, repeating his new words, looking for his next conversation. Bless his cotton socks. This is perhaps one of those places where you sometimes just have to sit still and let the entertainment come to you. 

My first couple of days in Vietnam were not so lovely. A little bit emotional and exhausted after fare welling my Hariharalaya family in Cambodia, a job I loved more than any job ever, and a country that 100% worked its way into my heart. Arriving in the middle of Saigon late in the evening, affronted with taxi drivers who scammed me of a lot of money and streets where I couldn’t walk without feeling like I was going to lose a limb, the noise, the smells. I was not prepared, mentally or physically, for the sensory overload that  is Ho Chi Minh City. A rapid and uncomfortable reminder that the world outside of our lovely yoga retreat would test me in every way possible, and it didn’t care if I did yoga every day or meditated or I was a nice smiley person with good intentions, the world around me did not change to match my happiness or inner contentment. All the crazy goes on around us.

*I AM AN OASIS OF CALM, I AM AN OASIS OF CALM* I repeat to myself as I trundle down the street, monster Brutus backpack on my back, crumpled map in hand, sweat pouring down my face, street vendors standing in my path and waving bananas in my face, me holding back tears at having lost 80 precious dollars to the taxi man and his currency exchange friend, and still not having been taken to the right place where I can rest my weary head. 

This is why we meditate.

After the madness of Saigon, Mui Ne was a beach paradise with very little to do apart from eat, sleep, beach, repeat. I made friends with a fellow traveller on the bus and we spent the next few days together in this pattern, including  a trip to the sand dunes and a few sun rise/sunsets. Every time we walked down the street the men selling things would ask: 

“hello, sir…. Motor bikes?”

“No thank you!”

*whisper*”………marijuana?”

But overall Mui Ne was pretty quiet, with no one trying to sell us anything on the beaches. I basked in the freedom of not having to get up at 6am every day, and it slowly started to sink in that I actually wasn’t going back to Hariharalaya. 

   
 

Next stop was Nha Trang, a bigger beach city, sometimes called “Happy Hour by the Sea” which sounds lovely but in reality was full of Russians. I had one full day there and it was quite enough, and I left with a desire to meet some normal non -Russian speaking humans. As I was leaving, I met an English guy who was also escaping on the same bus as me. We took over the whole back row of the night us, watched a very terrifying and violent film, stumbled out of the bus at random intervals to pee into the darkness, coming face to face with a street food stall with bald, boiled chickens dangling upside down, looking sad and sweaty and uncomfortable. Needless to say I passed on food that evening. I passed out for 6 hours, grateful for the ability to lie down properly, and miraculously slept through the assistant bus driver’s snarfling and snoring in the aisle. A true miracle, considering that I usually sleep as if I’m next to a construction site – eye mask, earplugs, scarf on my face. This is what 6 months in a noisy Cambodian village will do for you.

  

Hoi An – a little haven of colourful lights, incredible food, cobbled streets, pagodas, beaches and friendly people. A lot of street hagglers and people trying to sell you things but really you can’t blame them. We arrived from the night bus at 6am and couldn’t check into our hostel until 2pm, so we had some time to kill. We hired a motorbike and braved the streets, heading out to the beach, and discovered a string of luxury resorts. We strolled in as if we belonged there, slightly dishevelled after twelve hours on a night bus, but beautiful nonetheless, and nobody asked any questions as we sprawled on sun beds and swam in the infinity pools. Living the high life, on a backpacker budget – only in southeast Asia. Also,we had one of those nights where you wake up in the morning and are entirely unsure whether you dreamt the kidnapping of a street dog, running into a big group of people from your hometown in an “all you can drink” situation, making friends with the Asian Mr Bean and eating mysterious prawn(??) pancakes at 4am on a street corner.
  
   
 

I spent the following five days with my lovely mother, who came bearing brand new UNDERWEAR which was one of the most exciting things to happen in some time   – I promptly disposed of all of my aging undergarments and now I am a new and improved woman (underneath my deceptively hobo holey outfits….). Obviously there were many, many more wonderful things about mother coming to visit me in Vietnam, but new underwear put a shine on things. We spent vast amounts of time drinking tea/gin/wine, wearing our complimentary robes, and reading our substantial novels, and we came to the conclusion that we could live quite happily as two little old ladies as long as we had all of the above plus perhaps the regular jaunt outdoors/ to fine food establishments/to be massaged. Love you mum – I’m a chip off the old block.

  
  

Mother left, I weeped in a trembly, blobby kind of way and scared off all of the neat and compact Asian humans that surrounded me in the airplane. Result! I got three seats to myself. 

And I landed in Hanoi for three final Vietnamese  days of hanging with old and new friends, walking the streets, eating for less than $5USD a day, drinking for 5000 VND a pop (less than 25c) and generally just enjoying the Vietnamese culture through its food, beer and coffee. If you’re not afraid to eat in a hole in the wall with steel tables, red plastic chairs and a little old man asleep in the corner, then you’ve got yourself a cheap and delicious meal. My favourite food man was so delighted to see me return a second time with a friend that he piled my plate extra high with a selection of exciting mystery meats! He smiled his proud toothy grin and gestured for me to “eat up nyam nyam!”…. And so I did. I am unsure to this day what precisely I ate, but I survived, even after 6 months of primarily vegan life. 

   
 
I will say, if you’re planning to go to Vietnam, take your time. I could have stayed another two weeks and seen a whole lot more but I wanted to get to Bangkok to party with one of my favourite humans. 

I’ll be back for sure – in the meantime, THAILAND ✌️

Retreat Yourself

This month has been one of  transition, of challenge, of merrymaking, and of ants.

I will start strong and tell you all of my recent nightmare involving an army of ants, my sleeping body, and the eeriness of a full moon.

I recently moved into a new home, away from my sweet but small and noisy hut on the other side of the retreat. I had to farewell my pet gecko Fred – we had developed a strong relationship based on him pooping in the corner, and me pretending to ignore it. Now I live in a comparable mansion, which is perhaps one metre larger, with solid floors, walls that turn into windows, a door that shuts fully and completely, and more places to put things! I also have replaced Fred with a pet frog who waits for me on my light switch every night. A slimy suprise. Needless to say, I was the happiest girl when I moved in at the beginning of this week. I was pumped for a big, good sleep in my awesome bed with the full moon streaming in my open window, a gentle breeze tickling at my feet.

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I awoke at 3am, feeling itchy. Things were crawling upon me. I was sure I was dreaming and kept swatting at the irritation, until I was fully awake, then realized it is not normal to have things crawling on you in your sleep.

I turned on my torch and gasped murderously as a stream of bolshy ants paraded  up and down my exposed arm, infiltrating my clothing, delving into the depths of my bosom crevice. I leapt out of bed, getting all tangled in my mosquito net (which, I will say, has NO POWER against the wrath of ants), and placed my feet on the floor, instantly realizing that I was standing in a SEA of ants, they began to climb my legs, clinging to my feet as I fled the room.. The entire floor had become one big ant.

I returned in desperation, trying to spray them and get them out of my bed , also pouring half a bottle of insect repellent onto the floor – they seemed to enjoy the challenge of the liquid, and began to build rafts using eachothers bodies, all the while advancing on me with menace in their eyes. I went to sleep in another accommodation, and returned in the morning to find they had nest’led into my clothes, my bedsheets, and my soul. I put on my yoga pants and instantly regretted it, feeling a tingling, itchy sensation all up in my legs that would last for days. Fun fact – apparently ants do not bite – they PEE on you, and that is what stings.

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The retreat staff came to exterminate the ants who had infiltrated my home, spraying toxic stuff all around the outside, and hopefully this will ensure they never return. The girls did point out to me that ants like coconut oil, and I had a big old jar sitting on my bench. I had also covered my entire body in the stuff before sleeping that night, so they probably smelt me and came running.

I have never written the word ant this many times and it is beginning to look and sound strange, so I will stop talking about that now.

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I am learning the ways of Siem Reap, some life hacks, so that on my days off I maximize my time and minimize expenditure.

I have stayed in the same $12 guesthouse for the past couple of weeks, where they greet me with a smile and rent me a bicycle for my time there. I love riding my bicycle – the tuk tuk drivers don’t hassle me, I simply cruise past with a look of superiority and independence on my face. On my day off, I like to venture to a nearby luxury hotel, where they charge 10dollars to spend  the day by the pool, with access to the spa, sauna, hot showers, Jacuzzi and ginger tea! Or, if you’re like me and many of my Siem Reap acquaintances, you just glide in as if you belong, wearing your least hobo clothes and with a posture of dignity and tremendous wealth.

I spend a good 70% of my time off  immersed  in some type of water. I always feel quite dirty here – even when I shower I am instantly sweaty again, and my hair is comparable to a frizzy hedgehog. It is the humidity I suppose, and the fact that washing in cold water all week long hinders cleanliness.

Last week, however, was very cold indeed! A cold front came through from somewhere that experiences an actual winter, and we all shivered and huddled over our tea for several days, (it was like 19 degrees Celsius, but its all relative). I secretly loved being able to light the firepit in the yoga hall every morning, and put on another layer of clothing. At night, I pulled my blanket over my shoulders, which is a miracle in itself.

I am now adjusted to the 6am starts, sometimes 5.30am on a good day, and I have to ensure I am tucked up in bed by 10pm. I often take a daily nap in the late morning or early afternoon, but I can’t nap for too long because then I wake up all sweaty and disoriented. The only clothing I wear these days are yoga clothes, and some may say this is the best job in the world, because yoga pants are the most comfortable pants ever. I haven’t worn jeans in 3 months – I didn’t even bring any with me.

Highlights from this week were teaching outdoor yoga at a nearby temple, next to a lotus pond, and also teaching a partner yoga class. Nobody can get through this class without exploding into giggles – especially when men partner up with each other and I get them to make love hearts with their bodies and “breathe with each other”….

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Every week I seem to say something hilarious when I’m teaching – something that is NOT acceptable and people tend to laugh and fall over a little bit. For example, in a water themed class this week, we were rolling around in the ground in a “happy baby”pose (legs up in the air, on your back, rocking side to side), and I called out “have a little fun with your body….. it’s always available to you”……. Needless to say there were some stifled giggles.

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Our guests are from all walks of life – high season at the moment means there are around 30 people on each retreat, young people, old people, couples, boys, girls, beginners and people that have been practicing for 30 years. It is a challenge and a joy to create classes that suit all levels, and the feedback I get from people tells me that I am definitely in the right place.

So I will be here a while longer… What began as a 2 month internship has expanded into a 6 month role, learning all aspects of the retreat environment – teaching, administration, guest relations, and learning to live in a community in a bamboo shack, surrounded by nature, eating vegan food, and meeting people from all walks of life.

I’m writing from a riverside cafe in Siem Reap on my day off, soaking up the sun, and the caffeine which is contraband throughout the week. The good thing about limiting yourself to a coffee every 7 days is that IT REALLY HITS YOU  and you GET SHIT DONE.

On that note, I’m off to cruise on my bicycle, head held high, in search of a pool with free wifi and cool asian hats.

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Visit me for a 6 day integral yoga and meditation retreat at Hariharalaya

 

 

 

Butt Ugly

Feeling a bit prudish? Avert your eyes. 

In my past week working on a naturist resort in southern Spain (tick that one off the list), I have witnessed many different types of body in their naked prime, and it is safe to say that everybody differs wildly. I mean WILDLY. 

  

 We get very used to our own bodies, we know which bits we like and which bits we would quite like to chop off and flush down the loo never to be seen again. But all these other bodies! My sweet baby Jesus! Saggy old man bottom, thigh hair that you could have , nipples that would poke your eye out if you got too close, terribly awkward tan lines, strangely protruding belly buttons.. The list goes on. So the next time you think that your bottom is too big – it probably is, but at least it doesn’t hang down behind your knee caps. You have that going for you. 

It has, all in all, been a tremendous end to my time in Spain. Bit of cleaning, bit of drinking wine, bit of food prep, bit of dog feeding. Andy, the charming host, spends his life travelling, setting up shop in one place for as long as it feels right then moving on. It’s a constant, ever changing adventure and his welcoming nature makes everyone feel at home. As a volunteer, we get fed and watered as well as the guests, and spend the days preparing for meals, cleaning up, sunbathing nakey by the pool and entertaining the guests with gin & tonic,  yoga and magic tricks (all at the same time).

My last evening we consumed a vast amount of wine, goats cheese, and fancy chicken things, then watched as Andy tied two of the other helpers together with a rope and instructed them to find their way out. Just your standard Monday evening really. I told Andy I was going to relay this event to my mother; “mum, the host of the naked place tied up his female helpers and watched as they tried to untangle themselves, all the while swilling his wine and laughing jovially!” Oh, how we laughed.

   
 I decided that the time was right for a dip in the hot tub, and naturally (haha) our guests wanted a go too, so I found myself bobbing around, butt naked, with an elderly English couple, discussing naturist retreats in New Zealand and whether in fact you really need a place to be naked, or if we should just be able to get our kit off anywhere. I think there is a time and a place, and it is generally not socially acceptable to bare your bottom in the workplace, for example, or in the supermarket, because we only want fresh meat from the deli man, please and thankyou. 

  
We settled in for a while, my bottom would not quite touch the bottom of the pool because I am short in length , so I floated and imagined I was in outer space. Mike spread his arms across the back of the spa pool, and his face was contorted into an expression that I mistook for great pain, so I asked him what was wrong and he said “ah, no, I’m just relaxing”. Let’s not relax too much Mike. 

Janet floated around like a curvaceous pale angel, and her legs kept emerging above the water, and she kept looking down and crying out “ooh go down leg! You naughty thing!” She was a few wines in at this point. She let go of her wine glass and we watched, awestruck, as it floated across the surface of the pool, like an alcohol boat, and then there was a fireball that flew across the sky, and all was good in the world.

  
 I decided to leave Janet and Mike to relax naked together in the hot tub, my time had come, and I sloped off to bed to bask in my last night of nudity and try to ignore the tiny itchy things that nestled into my bosom crevice while I slept.

I awoke this morning, dressed myself, said goodbye to slobbery Dino the Great Dane and Billy the Goat Whisperer. 

   
 
Now I can’t help but look around me at all the other humans on the airplane and idly wonder, “how hairy is HIS back?” , or, “what’s hiding under THOSE fetching brown corduroy trouser legs?”

What have I become! A… Naturist? Or a perve? You decide.

Shits and Giggles

It may be the worst thing in the world, getting sick when you are far far away from mummy and home comforts. Where is mumsie to make you hot water bottles and cold flannels for your brow?

It is, at least, a lesson in harden the f**k up. But it isn’t fun. Especially when you share a bathroom with 10 other travellers, many of whom also have the illness, and when said bathroom is a solid 30 metres away.

You know it’s bad when you wake up curled around the base of the dubiously cleaned toilet, and you don’t even have the strength to be scared of the spiders minxing about in the corners.

I was lucky enough to have my darling Irish friend take me into her home and feed me soup and electrolytes, and let me use her bathroom and sleep in her bed. You know they’re a good friend when they give up their bed for you, whilst they sleep in the tent in the backyard.

If I’m looking on the bright side (which I usually am), I suppose it was my body’s way of telling me it needed 5 days of sleeping, free of alcohol, coffee and pretty much all food. I shall view it as a detox, and promptly get back on the wine wagon.

Having recovered from a sprained ankle, a damaged wrist, a vommy bug and some nasty hangovers, I have a new found appreciation for my health. And my appetite. Food tastes so good.

So what have I even been doing this past month? Not writing blog posts, that’s for sure. I’m sliding off the face of the earth on this island. My day goes roughly like this:

Wake up at 10am. Perhaps do some yoga, perhaps go back to sleep for an hour.

Eat a strange assortment of breakfast foods from the Helpers kitchen. We’re a healthy bunch this year, so the foods in demand seem to be flaxseeds, oats, soy milk and honey. Get em while you can!

Make a variety of glutenous pastries that I cannot eat due to intolerance but I would like to smush my face into, such as lemon meringue pies and buttermilk scones.

Get flour all over my clothing, get flustered if I receive more than one order at a time in the cafe, basically make it up as I go.

Squeal with glee over tip money that equates to one drinkie.

Finish work at 6pm. Occasionally go for a walk, a run, or most likely a nap.

Shower myself, or at least dry shampoo my head.

Sit in pub talking shit with various people. Increase my bar tab. Stay up too late. Go to bed at 3am. Tell myself I will get up early tomorrow and do activities. Secretly know that I will sleep for as long as possible.

It’s a whirlwind of activity, and the days slide by far too quickly.

A couple of weeks ago my homegirl Jeananne and I took a trip to Clare Island, moseyed around, drank a lot of tea, did some naps in the ditch and got rained on far too many times.

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This weekend I’m running away for a few days to do a cycle trip, which will include party time in Galway and then cycling through Connemara, wild camping and cooking food on a tiny camper stove. I’m very excited, and hoping that the heavens will not unleash their rainy fury on me too regularly. I don’t think my Primark raincoat would be able to handle it.

We have sporks, so I think we are pretty prepared.

When I return I promise to write a marvellous post of all our adventures. There will probably be a lot of pictures of me, sodden and downtrodden, regretting the decision to go camping and cycling in Ireland.

I shall leave you with these images of me and my compadres, drinking to excess and having a tremendous time.

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Seeking the sun

After a week of strenuous planning ( I say strenuous like it’s hard, figuring out whether I want to go to Italy or Spain next), I have come up with a rough plan for the next 5 months. I am the kind of person that will agonise over every little detail for a few days, toss and turn at night, then suddenly make a snap decision and that’s it. Done. Sorted. The decision is the hardest part, the actual planning is generally smooth sailing!

Next Wednesday I’m heading to Barcelona for 3 nights, to see the city just because it’s somewhere I’ve never been and have heard wonderful things about! Through Couchsurfing I’ve been invited to drinks and a ‘language exchange’ evening while I’m there – I think they expect me to speak a small amount of Spanish, which is awkward, cos I don’t. But that’s ok – maybe I’ll meet someone who’s willing to teach me.. They may regret it. I thought about Couchsurfing in Barcelona and put up a open request for a couch, but I just got about ten messages from 30 year old men, with their entire profile filled out in Spanish apart from their life motto “impossible is nothing!!!!” and, “I’m here to show you how to PARTY DOWNTOWN.” Not entirely sure what they mean by that. I’m all for partying, but…. Nah..

Then I am heading down the coast of Spain to work at this yoga retreat in the hills, near the beaches of Costa Daurada. I will be sleeping in a tent, being vegetarian again, doing yoga every morning and of course helping with the retreats. I just have my fingers crossed that there are no aliens there. I can’t wait for SUNSHINE!

I’m there for about three weeks, then I’m going to France, to HelpX at this place that runs wellness retreats and camping/ gités over the warmer months. They also have horses, which I’m super excited about! Mariken is a yoga teacher and they drink green smoothies in the morning, I will be right at home.

Then it’s my birthday, which I weirdly almost forgot about when making my plans. I may head back to the UK for a week or so to catch up with people, then it’s over to Ireland for 2 months, back to the Valley House where I spent 6 weeks last summer.

The last few weeks have been a bit of downtime, recovering from my weird experiences in Devon and generally just eating meat.. I’m excited to get on the road again!

Earlier this week I wrote a blog post on meditation for my aunty Kath, who runs a wonderful business called designed2enable, which sources stylish assistive products for people with disabilities and physical difficulties. You can read it here. Their pill boxes are a handy gift for people with lots of medication to take!

Tonight I made Socca, which are chickpea pancakes that are very popular in Nice in the south of France. Credit goes to Aimee who I met in Devon – she made these one night and I was hooked.

Here’s the recipe for y’all – goes nicely with spicy Indian dal, or Mediterranean vegetables (just change up the herbs in the pancake). I like things that are easy to make and don’t stress me out by requiring a million ingredients. Which is why I like these!

Makes about two pancakes – double the recipe for more.

1 cup chickpea (gram) flour
1 cup water
1 1/2 tbsp EV olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin/coriander, or mixed herbs for a Mediterranean filling

Just cook them up like normal pancakes, then shove one in your mouth.

I hope you likey.

p.s. Exciting news of the week- I got two of 750 civilian passes to go to Gallipoli for ANZAC Day in 2015. You have to put your name in a ballot, and over 10,000 people entered. Woohoo!

P.p.s. The thought of packing up my backpack again is just exhausting. At least this time I won’t have to take all ten of my winter jumpers, because I’m heading to the sunshine! I’ll just take three. Three chunky jumpers will do, Rosie.

 

 

Gidday Mate!

Heyyyyyy everybody and welcome to my blog! I’m glad you’re here, you are probably the only one so far….. This blog is mostly for me to document my travels and share them with everyone at home, and for people I meet along the way to follow my adventures.

I finished my BA degree in Wellington in 2012- I studied History and German- then worked as a history research assistant for a while, all the while thinking about travelling overseas..

The funny thing is, I don’t yet know what my next adventure will be. All I know is I am on the opposite side of the world from home, it cost me a lot to get here and I really want to make the most of it, rather than sitting in front of a computer for 40 hours a week, saving to get home again! The London underground makes me feel dirty, I want to escape it…

I arrived in the UK in May, the day after my 21st birthday. I had money in my pocket and I was rearing to go! I spent six weeks hanging out with family in Surrey, then took myself off to Ireland for my first HelpX experience. I will put up a link to HelpX but basically it’s a website for work exchange opportunities, all over the world, where you work a couple of hours a day in exchange for food, accommodation and a cultural exchange. The two months I spent on Achill Island at the Valley House were some of the best of my LIFE! If you’re looking for a way to travel on the cheap, this is it.

After that I hitchhiked my way around the West Coast of Ireland, much to the dismay of my mummy. (Sorry mum). After a few experiences of being dropped in the middle of a country road at dusk by various elderly couples and truck drivers who thought they were being helpful, I learned to get on the road earlier than you think is necessary…. I don’t know if I would hitchhike anywhere but Ireland, the people are the friendliest you will ever meet and they will generally go out of their way to be kind and helpful. And hitchhiking is an amazing way to get around the countryside where there’s little to no public transport.

Eventually I tired of the voice in my own head, just in time to meet up with some girls from NZ who I would be travelling around Europe with for the next 6 weeks. We met in Galway, took a rainy, green to the gills trip to the Aran Islands, then took our little hire car back to Dublin for a final meal of chicken wings and cider. The next day we flew to the South of France, and began our trip through Nice, Marseille, Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels, Bruges, Prague, Berlin and finally Munich for the world famous Oktoberfest. I can safely say I have never consumed so much beer in my whole life, and I probably looked like a pretzel by the end of it,but it was so worth it. After a 6 hour non-stop hungover bus ride to Frankfurt, a dodgy Ryan Air flight and some late night bus adventures through London,we arrived home to the reality of an impending English winter and the depleted state of our bank accounts.

Plenty of stories from our trip around Europe, but I will save that for another time.

Now I’m busy working in England, eating lots of vegetables and dreaming up my next adventure. Any suggestions are more than welcome, preferably including a strapping Irish lad, vast beaches, sunshine and yoga…

Rosie Posie

Keel Beach, Achill Island, Ireland
Keel Beach, Achill Island, Ireland