You could say that the paradox of modern travel is that while the soul travels at the pace of a camel, our bodies travel at the speed of a jet plane. Since March of this year, I have flown to Bali, Indonesia; from Bali to Sydney, then to Perth and Margaret River in Australia; to Singapore; back to Bali, then Hong Kong, then Vancouver and finally our coastal paradise of Ucluelet / Tofino; which is currently home.
I know I’m exhausted just writing this. But, the trip lasted 3 months and we traveled with our 3 year old son. And if you want your soul to linger longer in one spot, hang out with a child who demands your full presence.
In fact, one of the constant discussions (read arguments) that I have with my husband, is: “isn’t it so much easier to travel solo without family in tow, especially on yoga teaching trips?”
He argues that while it is more “complicated” with us there, it is also, for him, more enjoyable.
On my part, the jury is still out. I find that parenting on the road is rife with minefields, from navigating my son’s relationship to digital media – especially on flights longer than 5 hours – to having healthy, organic foods available; and being able to create a sense of rhythm and stability on the move.
We are/ I am still figuring out systems that make this jumble of life and work smooth, because let me tell you it is not always easy. Yet, I am grateful for so much. For the fact that our son knows how to say thank you in hindi (from spending time in India in january of this year), in bahasa and “aussie;” that he understands that when the sun sets in Canada it is already a new day in Bali and Australia; that amongst his favourite foods he counts Nasi Goreng, Dal Chawal and Salmon tacos; and that he understands that plastic on the beach is as they say in Bahasa “tidak bagus” (not good). I am also grateful that with what we do, i.e. teach yoga; we’re surrounded by happy, positive people who shape his idea of the “adult” world.
Since our return to Canada, we have been following the rhythm of the long days here on the west coast doing the simple things that ground us, before we set off for yet more adventures. For me, that means my yoga practice and cooking in my own kitchen, catching up on work and returning to writing and blogging. For our son it means reconnecting with his toys: “Mama, are these mine?” is a happy refrain, seeing his “local” friends and wandering to the beach for hours to collect shells and rocks and throw them back into the ocean. For my husband it meant yet another teaching trip that he is momentarily back from.
In the spirit of summer and the travel probably coming up for you, here are some choice lessons I learned this last trip:
1. Life reflects your state of mind:
I knoooow…. it’s so simple, but we forget. If you are calm, life even when frenzied is somehow miraculously drama free. If you want to test this, try arriving late at the airport because you were a friend’s engagement party at a secluded beach house in Bali. Then make it, breathing easily to the airport. Remind yourself that this is why you do yoga.
2. Your child’s behaviour is also a mirror (most often) of your state of mind:
If you are a parent, know that when you are most likely on the verge of losing it, your child will spill his glass of milk in the airplane, or decide that he needs to unpack all his toys that you just packed for the next trip, or say “No” very loudly for seemingly no reason at all.
3. Adapt or stay at home:
This is the lesson I try to drill into myself every time we rent a new airbnb place – which has become our preferred way of travelling with a child. Navigating someone else’s kitchen or bedroom is an evolving experiment in human psychology. Why would you place the tea towels here and not there? Why would they choose those lamps for reading lights? If you have sensitive (read specific) design ideas as I do, travel with all its continued surprises is very good for you. In the yogic world, it’s like switching from your daily, primary series ashtanga practice to a free flow vinyasa – shocking and yet so disconcertingly good. It’s about embracing shifts, and responding straight faced to the “how you going?” of peppy Australians; “great, just great” even while secretly giggling inside.
4. Rhythm is possible + essential even on the road:
This is what I try to practice every trip. To beat jet lag, we try to eat meals as we “should” according to local time, even if we may not be super hungry. We follow Ayurvedic principles, eating our main meal in the daytime and lighter foods at night, especially before and after a plane journey. We try to wake up and sleep at the same times, (give or take a little), no matter where we are; and we try to create a rhythm of playtime, outdoor time, reading time, quiet time for our son, whether we’re in a too small Hong Kong hotel room, or an expansive villa in Bali. As long as we have a sense of rhythm, our son is happy, which means we’re happy too.
5. A Travel First Aid kit is nice to have around:
I keep the following with me: some arnica for cuts and hurts and general “I don’t feel good” symptoms, some belladonna for fevers, traumeel a homeopathic cream for aches and some Thomas the Train bandaids. These do the trick, even for us. Also, some lavender oil for a soothing bath and bedtime; tea tree oil – a great antiseptic; and citronella – mosquito repellent.
6. Daily Ayurvedic Oil Massage counters the chaotic effects of travel:
This is essential. We want our nervous system to remain calm to counter the stressful impact of fast-paced modern travel. I travel with a small bottle of almond oil that fits into my carry on. In the winter, it’s sesame and when in the tropics, I use extra virgin coconut oil. Start by taking a tablespoon of the oil, warm it in your palms and then start applying it in light strokes from your extremities to your core. This should take you about ten minutes and your mind and body will thank you. Do this even when you don’t travel.
7. Practice a familiar ritual no matter where you are:
When everything is swirling into the unknown, it is so nice to have one familiar something to turn back to. It can be anything. Perhaps you love a certain kind of tea – if you do, travel with it and brew it and drink it in the most unlikely places. It will ground you and allow you to appreciate all the newness around you. Your “familiar” ritual might be your yoga practice, a run, a swim, or it may be your daily time to journal. Try to let this one thing be a non-negotiable.
8. Laughter solves everything:
It even lightens the weight of your bags :-). We arrived at the Hongkong Airport this June for the Asia Yoga Conference, at the end of our Asia/ Australia travels with 5 suitcases, 3 surfboards a stroller and a rolled up hammock that was a separate carry on. As we waited for a van to pick us up along with other yoga teachers who would also be teaching that weekend, I wanted to hide (from our bags). When the organisers put us in a van with 3 other teachers who flew in just for the wknd from the US – whose overnight, rolly bags easily fit in the trunk with room to spare, i cringed. And then when i learned that they transported our luggage in a separate van, I cracked up when I thought about the luxe ride our luggage enjoyed to the hotel. 🙂
9. Traveling together cements collective memories:
You will remember time captured and the memories will spurt forth at unlikely moments for months to come. For us, in no particular order, these include: early morning beach walks in Bali by a glassy, surf ready ocean; a late night encounter with a kangaroo on a windy road in western australia; eating sublime, delicious avocado toast for breakfast in Sydney, hugs from my parents when they arrived in Bali to see their grandchild, trying to imitate the graceful silver-haired tai chi practitioners in a Hong Kong park; attending a protest against a spate of recent violence against women in Bali with our son; taking him up to the Hong kong Peak because he wanted to ride the steep railway on a muggy, hot, crowded Sunday; and even the being squished into our row of airplane seats for yet another flight, because this meant we were together, undistracted and present, making our way across the world.
NAMASTE. Thank you for reading. More posts coming this week, including my favourite new green smoothie recipe and some v. interesting interviews. I am happy to be back. I hope you are as happy to hear from me. 🙂
ps. To get a visual feed of all our amazing adventures, follow me on instagram here: instagram.com/yogue8