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The Traveler & The Athlete

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The Traveler & The Athlete

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A traveler seeks exploration and rich life experiences much like an athlete pursues physical strength and personal growth. Both seek emotional and psychological benefits from traveling and exercising, and both face unexpected challenges along the way. The athlete and the traveler choose to throw themselves into uncomfortable situations (high intensity cardio vascular interval training workouts, or 22 hour flights around the world, for example), and both have a deep and specific understanding of why they choose to do so.

Before our trip to Thailand, my goal was to go on an adventure in a new part of the world that I've always wanted to visit, but I was also hoping for personal enlightenment along the way. "I'm giving myself until the end of Thailand to figure out my next move," I told myself and my friends. I wanted to go to Thailand to explore, to get out of my comfort zone, and to learn. I needed to learn what it is about the world and my existence within it that I want to absorb, share, and give back.

Being a SoulCycle instructor fulfills me in ways that I could never have imagined; I am grateful for where I am and what I have the privilege to do for a living, but I also know there is always more to give. The reason why I travel, why I teach, and why I choose to be an athlete through and through, all comes down to my desire to grow and give more.

Looking out on our balcony in Koh Phangan on our last full day, I searched for that idea... that answer to my desire for more.

One of my mentors, a senior master instructor at SoulCycle in NYC, gave me some teaching advice recently. She said that we often ask our riders to set an intention at the beginning of class, then ask them to focus on that intention throughout class as a means of staying connected throughout the journey. But the truth is, sometimes we need those 45 minutes (or 10 days in Thailand) to gather our thoughts, shift our perspective, and get inspired. So, perhaps the intention doesn't happen for us until we are done—until our experience brings that intention to light and we carry it with us from then on.

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My trip to Thailand feels more like a test than an answer.

After spending a day taking care of elephants at Patara Elephant Farm, I came down with what can only be described as the worst case of food poisoning I could ever imagine. When you've traveled over 22 hours to arrive at a destination where everyone has glowing reviews about the local cuisine, you can imagine how disheartened and empty I was feeling.

We woke up at 6am the next day to catch the Super Bowl at a local pub in Chiang Mai. Still unable to eat, I did my best to make the most out of an uncomfortable situation. I cheered on Lady Gaga, rooted for the Falcons (just because they were the underdog I suppose), and unsuccessfully attempted to hold down some Gatorade while all the people around me slammed mimosas.

After that, we took a Bangkok Airways flight to Koh Samui where a private boat took us to Koh Tao. When I say "private boat" I know how that sounds—and it was exactly that! We spent a stupid amount of money to treat ourselves to an upscale transportation experience and I was so anxious about being able to enjoy this special treat I had planned for us. I hadn't eaten in about 2 days but I was able to hold down a scoop of ramen noodles at the airport, so I was hopeful.

There was champagne offered on our boat and wonderful looking food. I had all these expectations set for how I hoped that boat ride would go. Champagne, snacks, fun... but what if I puked again? What if it was all a big waste of money and my own physical body was going to keep me from enjoying it—or even worse, ruin the experience for Nick as well.

Funnily enough, this reminded me of my first spin class.

I puked after my first spin class about 5 years ago. I was the newest rider in the room; I didn't own spin shoes so I had to use those old school baskets and I'm sure my bike settings were a mess as well. I pushed myself, but I couldn't keep up. I was miserable and all I kept thinking was "how do all these people actually enjoy this shit?" As soon as class was over, I bee-lined for the bathroom and evacuated my stomach.

Yet, somehow, I went back. I puked again after my second class, but I still went back... again and again and again, I went back... now 5 years later, I teach full time in San Francisco and it's truly my dream job.

As we board our cushiony speed boat, I see it: the champagne. "Dear Goddess, please just let me enjoy a glass of champagne on this overpriced boat with my love." He poured, I sipped... the boat was going so fast that Nick and I could barely drink anything without half of it splashing all over us. We sipped and we laughed. We started taking pictures and Snapchats and I started to breathe.

"Breathe like an athlete," I told myself.

I looked out at the ocean—in through the nose, out through the mouth. I breathed like an athlete and I drank like a traveler—messy, slightly uncomfortable, but joyful.

Koh Tao is beautiful. It took another day for my stomach to finally settle but I could feel myself finally healing. We enjoyed the beach, read our books (I highly recommend Born a Crime by Trevor Noah), and as empty as my stomach felt I could feel my spirit come back to life.

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We spent a day scuba diving at "Shark sland" which was an incredibly invigorating and slightly terrifying adventure. Then we took a water taxi across the Gulf of Thailand to Koh Phangan where we would spend our final four nights. My mother would not be happy about that boat ride. It was basically an oversized canoe with a single engine and no life jackets in sight. Luckily, after about three hours, we arrived at Koh Phangan and our hotel, Buri Rasa, was truly a dream come true.

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The beach, food, and gorgeous hotel room made me feel like we had finally made it; we were exactly where we needed to be.

Now that I was feeling much better, I was back to my goal: Why am I here? What can I do next? I felt the self-inflicted pressure, similar to the pressure I feel as an athlete. "You haven't come this far to only come this far." So what is my next move? How do I use this experience, take it home, and use it to do more? My mind told me that I needed to sign up and complete my NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine) certification, and my heart told me to relax and stop being so damn hard on myself...

Then Nick got sick, so I spent our final day playing nurse and taking care of him. Our original plan was to go to the full moon party, but I was surprisingly relieved to have a day of rest and reflection. Maybe traveling isn't necessarily about having the picture perfect moments, but going through the challenges and unexpectedness of it all.

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I found my answer in the waves I saw from our balcony that morning.

Water, waves, oceans and human beings—we are always moving, growing, expanding, swelling, and crashing. Yet the ocean doesn't play mind games with itself to make certain waves, grow to a certain size, or choose whom it invites. Traveling without meeting high expectations is like working out in order to feel well instead of just burn calories and lose weight.

My goal now is to stand grounded where I am and continue to further my education as a fitness professional while working toward offering more of love, acceptance, and guidance to others and myself.

This idea does not come with one straight answer; I will have to pursue more open-mindedness, try new ways of connecting with people, and learn how to become the most compassionate and empathetic human being I can possibly be... one day at a time, every day.

Like the waves rolling from the deepest parts of the ocean to the shore, it's all a process.

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First things first, time to complete my NASM certification and continue pursuing my goals as a SoulCycle instructor and fitness professional.

So I ask you, how do you strike a balance between being where you are and getting where you want to be? How do you develop and pursue your intentions? Can you describe any similarities between being a traveler and an athlete? Let's keep the conversation going! Subscribe to my blog, comment below, and sign up for some of my SoulCycle classes in San Francisco and Marin this week!

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Surf Yoga Beer: Playa Maderas, Nicaragua 2016

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Surf Yoga Beer: Playa Maderas, Nicaragua 2016

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When I signed up for a fitness retreat through Surf Yoga Beer over Thanksgiving week, I thought that I was just trying to get away and explore a new part of the world with my boyfriend. I was excited about the beach bootcamps, surf lessons, and yoga sessions that I already knew would be part of the experience, but I truly had no idea how life changing this trip would be. Among the 22 participants, the only two people I knew going into it were my boyfriend and my friend Mantas, who I went through SoulCycle instructor training with about four years ago. Everyone else was new to my world, and each person gave me a gift that I will hold in my heart forever. Throughout our lives we learn to wear certain costumes—versions of ourselves that we believe are socially acceptable and desirable. When we arrived in Playa Maderas, Nicaragua, you could tell immediately that everyone felt safe enough to take off their costumes, and present themselves to one another in a real & vulnerable way. After all, when you're being woken up at 6am every morning by a disco ball speaker blasting music in your bedroom and Mantas getting you to dance yourself awake in preparation for that morning's beach bootcamp workout, you don't have much time to think about impressing anyone.

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As we began that first workout together—full of relay races, team building exercises, and partner workouts—we began to develop our relationships with one another right away. We cheered each other on while pushing ourselves as hard as we could, not because anyone asked us to, but because we knew that we were participating in something much greater than simply working out and burning calories. We were inviting one another into our world, seeing ourselves as one team working together & celebrating every single moment for exactly what it was... messy, sweaty, challenging... and there were zero complaints.

After our morning workout, we enjoyed a healthy breakfast at the main house before heading back down to the water for surfing lessons. Some people, like myself, were beginners, so those with surfing experience became our teachers, our coaches, and our motivators. When I was finally able to stand up and ride my first wave, I could hear myself screaming from the inside out, "YES!!! YES. YES. YES." 

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Everything about this trip was a huge YES.

There were so many incredible moments throughout the trip, like the night we had a bonfire on the beach. One of our SYB teammates, Phil, brought his guitar and performed while we all sang along to songs we knew and loved, then he taught us the Surf Yoga Beer theme song that he wrote while on another retreat in the Amalfi Coast. A real life praying mantas came to visit, landing perfectly and precisely on Mantas' head. We all smiled and stared in disbelief. It was one of many signs from the Universe that we were exactly where we were supposed to be. We looked into each other's eyes, listened intently, and shared openly. I learned things about my new friends that I suspected few people in their worlds at home knew. I stood up at the bonfire and decided to vocalize my gratitude for sharing our lives with one another, telling the group that it's because of people like them that keep us all learning and growing as human beings. "I cannot become greater without learning from you, and I hope that learning from me somehow helps you become greater as well... all we really need in this life is community and water." 

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On Thanksgiving morning, we didn't let a little hurricane warning stop us from going on more adventures. Half of our group went zip lining through the jungle, and the other half went on an ATV tour. Zip lining was a huge highlight of the trip for me, especially when a Canadian woman inspired our whole group to try zip lining upside down! "Could you imagine if we hadn't met her? We could have done the whole thing right-side-up and never realized that there was a whole other way to experience it." After the zip lining tour was over, we grabbed some road beers and headed to town for lunch. As soon as we sat down, however, the hurricane alarms sounded and the entire town was evacuated.

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Once we made it back to the house, Eddie, our personal chef and SYB leader, was clearly concerned. It was Thanksgiving day and we were unable to go to the store or any restaurants for food, so we waited as the SYB team began to brainstorm some ideas for getting everyone fed and keep the positive vibes flowing. Liza, our cocktail expert from New York, began teaching everyone the basic components for creating a well-balanced cocktail, while Eddie used everything available to him in the kitchen to create a unique, yet totally satisfying, Thanksgiving meal. The rain began to pour as we sipped on blended cocktails, ate full plates of pasta and grilled veggies, and listened to one another—sharing stories of fear, heartbreak, and life experiences that helped shape us into who we are. It was a beautiful thing to recognize that many of the challenges we think we have have faced alone, are the similar challenges that others have faced as well. This experience taught me so much about the importance of leaning in, asking seemingly hard-to-answer questions, and deepening the conversation so that it becomes more real & authentic than just surface level information sharing.

The next morning, the storm had cleared and we were once again woken up by our SYB leaders, Mantas and Carl, breaking into our rooms at the crack of dawn for beach bootcamp. This time, however, we knew much more about one another than on that first day.We were a family now—a tribe of SYB warriors, and we wanted to celebrate this togetherness as much as we could on our last full day in Playa Maderas. When Mantas asked my boyfriend, Nick, to lead the group in our final workout, it reconfirmed the importance of collaboration throughout this adventure. Nick played football for UC Davis, something everyone learned about during one conversation or another, so Mantas invited him to teach us some of the football drills he used to do with his teammates. Nick taught us how to call out the drills, then invited others to lead the drills from then on. We all took turns leading a drill that some of us had never done before, but we did it with the excitement and enthusiasm that radiated throughout our journey together. We high-fived, smeared mud all over each other, and assembled a human pyramid to finish the morning strong.

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Our unbelievably powerful bond was solidified that night at our final dinner in town. Before we ate our food, Mantas took us down to the beach and handed out an award to everyone, praising their best moments on the trip and gifting them with some sweet SYB swag. As we celebrated each person, it was clear that these people had all affected our lives in incredibly inspiring ways. From powering through workouts with the best attitudes, to making sure everyone felt heard and included, there wasn't a single person that didn't play an integral role in making this trip truly life-changing for everyone. We were all a bit nervous to say our goodbyes the next day, but instead of succumbing to our anxiety, we DANCED. Phil went on stage and performed, but unlike his bonfire singalong, this time he had the entire restaurant band backing him up. The smiles were relentless and true. No one was faking it. We were all so genuinely happy to have experienced everything together and we just wanted to make every moment last a little longer that night... which eventually turned into a late night game in the pool called "tequila carwash," but you'll have to learn how to play once you sign up for a retreat yourself!

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Surf Yoga Beer Nicaragua changed my life in a way that I never could have predicted. It renewed my faith in humanity and reminded me about the importance of listening to others and learning from our shared experiences. We can look at someone and think we know their story, but human beings are so much deeper than the costumes we wear. We are all complicated, imperfect, inspirational people who have lived a lot of life and have so many stories to share. "The only way to recognize the greatness within ourselves is by recognizing the greatness in others." Striking a balance between hard work and having fun is what Surf Yoga Beer is all about, but turning that idea into a reality is where the participants come in and make it happen.

I am so inspired by this trip and will continue to use the lessons I have learned to develop into the woman, friend, leader, and lover that I was put on this Earth to become. But as I have learned, I will never accomplish this goal alone. It will take more people, more stories, and continuing the relationships that began in Playa Maderas to keep the momentum going.

To the 22 people who became one huge friend family for life, thank you for filling me up. Thank you for listening to me, thank you for sharing yourselves with me, and thank you for reminding me what life is really about. We are forever connected and now we have a responsibility to continue our roles as leaders in our hometown communities. It is never goodbye, just see you later... I love you all with my big, full heart.

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If you are looking to go on a trip that pushes your physical limits and heals your heart through physical activity and team work, Surf Yoga Beer is for you. Mantas and his team have retreats running throughout the year, so check out their website if you are interested and sign up! I promise you will not regret it. In fact, I promise you will LOVE it.

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How I Travel And Why It Works

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How I Travel And Why It Works

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Let me preface this with the fact that I am fully aware of my limited knowledge and experience having only traveled through Europe, The Caribbean, and Bali. So, if you're looking for tips on how to plan a trip that includes summiting Mount Kilimanjaro or navigating though Tokyo... this post probably won't help. Planning your first excursion to Burning Man? I can't help you there either, but I can forward you a lengthy email from my dad ("Ranger Osho") in which he gives a detailed list of all necessary preparations. Maybe you're questioning whether or not you should sign up for The Yacht Week or fly to The Bahamas for an extra long weekend... Or, perhaps you would simply like to get away to a beautiful destination for some new adventures and culturally rich experiences... That's where I would like to come in. I think experiencing another culture through travel is one of the most valuable facets of human experience; however, having a full-time job with limited vacation days can make us feel unsure of where to start. We can end up spending more time daydreaming about the exotic vacations we have always wanted to go on instead of investing our time in making it happen. Time isn't slowing down and there is a lot of ground to cover, so I have simplified the vacation planning process in order to help you feel less intimidated by the travel planning process.

1. Choose Your Travel Companions and Set Dates.

Your boyfriend, girlfriend, best friend, new friend, cousins, or siblings... It doesn't have to be your entire squad but it does have to be someone with similar travel interests who you trust. The last thing you want to worry about while traveling is whether or not your friend can play it cool in a foreign country where no one speaks the same language as you. Traveling with a large group can definitely be fun, but the more schedules you try to coordinate, the smaller the window of availability. Some of my favorite trips have been with just one or two other people and we were able to cover so much more ground than we would have if we were trying to accommodate the expectations of a larger group. Where do you want to go? If you could book a flight to anywhere in the world just for fun because you want to, where would it be? Find the answer to this question and invite someone you trust enough to join you on that journey. Look at a calendar, set some dates, send in your vacation request, and—very important—COMMIT to these plans. No one likes a flaky adventure seeker.

2. Invest in the Plane Ticket. 

If you want to travel, travel HARD. I'm not writing this to tell you how to get from California to New York on a budget and a breeze. I'm here to talk about going somewhere far away and dope af. While at an airport in Germany on his way home from Greece, my boyfriend Nick met a Swedish couple who was very friendly and claimed to have travelled most of the world together. He asked them where their favorite place was, then came home and suggested that we plan a trip to Bali. I said yes immediately and just like that we were looking at our calendars and picking out dates. When I told my colleagues about the trip, many were stunned that I was so casual about it. No, its not our honeymoon (LOL). We just wanted to go! Once my vacation days were approved we looked up the cost of flights and started saving up. Getting there is usually the most expensive part of any faraway vacation, so get over the hump of letting that be an excuse not to go and you're on your way. Our Instagram feeds are constantly flooded with inspirational photos of gorgeous destinations, so pick somewhere and set a goal to buy your flights ASAP. Trust that you can usually bank on an affordable exchange rate. Our flights to Bali were not cheap, but you know what was cheap in Bali? EVERYTHING. The way I see it is that if you can travel somewhere and spend less per day than you do going through your everyday life that's a win. Committing to purchasing plane tickets is the first step toward having an unforgettable experience that will teach you more about yourself and the world you live in than living vicariously through the people and social media accounts you follow online.

3. Don't Bring Any Clothes. 

I've never considered myself to be a fashionista so perhaps I'm biased on this one but, under-packing is one of the most liberating things you can do for yourself while traveling. When I travel a long distance I try to keep everything in a carry-on size bag or a large backpack. For one thing, I don't want my luggage to get lost (I have some trust issues with airport baggage claim services) because I don't want to show up to a foreign country without chonies. Speaking of which, CHONIES (also called "underwear" or "panties" depending on how you were raised) are the most important thing to pack when you travel. Start with packing one pair for every day you are gone then toss in a few extras just in case you go swimming in your clothes or wet yourself or something. Second to chonies are socks and bras; pack enough to have a fresh pair everyday and use your own judgment with how many bras you'll blow through (is this an action packed trip or more of a beach bum getaway?). When it comes to planning out the rest of the clothes you're bringing, try to be realistic. We can get excited about all of the fashion moments we want to have when we are on vacation but the truth is, being comfortable is also luxurious and you don't need as many accessories as you might think. I usually lay everything I'm bringing out on my bed and focus on bringing things that mix-and-match well together (one pair of shorts/pants probably goes well with more than one top... get creative). No matter where you are traveling to you only need to bring three swimsuits. If you are cycling through all three you should always have at least one clean, dry one at any given time. Try not to add too much weight to your trip, keep the mood and your luggage light! My priorities are usually comfies, swimsuits, athletic wear (#athleisure), then a couple of nice outfits in case we feel fancy.  Packing light is also a strategy for leaving room in your luggage for some new gear, so if you somehow destroy all three swimsuits before the end of your trip, what a great excuse to get a new one as a souvenir! Otherwise use your spare chonies.

4. Don't Plan Too Much. 

Traveling is fun because no matter where you go there is always a laundry list of things to do, places to go, and food to eat. It can feel overwhelming if you try to cram too many things into your itinerary. When encountering a new culture, try to immerse yourself in as much of it as possible, but keep in mind that the intention is to enjoy your trip, so give yourself room to breathe and recharge. If you are not used to doing 2-3 adventure sports in one day every day for nine days, don't schedule yourself so aggressively. Pick one major goal for each day of your trip then give yourself some wiggle room to explore and go off the beaten path. When Nick and I arrived on the small island of Eleuthera in The Bahamas last year, we didn't have anything planned; however, we did have a thirty minute taxi ride from the airport to our hotel and a friendly driver to gave us the scoop on where to get cash, buy groceries, and catch the "Friday Fish Fry." A constant parade of live music, art, and food, the Fish Fry was one of the most memorable experiences of the whole week, and we might have missed it if we hadn't trusted the locals to guide us to where we needed to go. Give yourself at least one day where you have nothing planned so you can have some time to rest and recover. This might seem like it's defeating the purpose of experiencing as much as possible, but if you don't take time to decompress it's going to be difficult to enjoy those experiences as fully. Use your resources and ask around for as many suggestions as you can so you have a solid base of information before you arrive, but give yourself permission to be flexible.

5. Inhale Intention, Exhale Expectation.

Okay, you caught me. This is a quote from the SoulCycle mantra that's printed inside every studio, but this is true for traveling just as much as it is for high-intensity cardiovascular interval training. Setting expectations on ourselves can rob us of the joy that comes from being in the present moment and set us up for a lot of unnecessary stress and anxiety. Sometimes the most memorable moments happen without a phone or camera handy, so don't let your desire to accumulate a photo album get in the way of soaking in the scenery for yourself. Be self-indulgent with your time and try not to take the simple things for granted. You might not get the best picture of a beautiful sunset but if you allow yourself to enjoy it instead of capture it, that might be more fulfilling anyway. If the most uncomfortable aspect of traveling is doing so without a plan, there is probably a lot to learn from that experience and you should give yourself permission to explore it. Trust your choice of where to go, then go there with an open heart and open mind. Ask locals where they eat, not where they tell tourists to eat. From my experience, many people are excited to share their culinary culture with those who are genuinely interested... just be kind, curious, and polite (manners matter). Obviously safety can be a concern when traveling so use your best judgment when wandering off into a faraway abyss, but don't let fear hold you back from cultivating the sense of self that you can only gain from getting out of your comfort zone and opening yourself up to a new corner of the world.

Now, where do you want to go and what are you doing to get there? Do you have any travel tips that have worked well for you? Please share your story, leave a comment and check out my SoulCycle schedule in San Francisco this week!

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