Author Archives: j2awesome

Adventures in the North

Wondering what I have been doing all these weeks? Presenting, for your reading pleasure and maybe bucket lists, a slightly overdue update on my adventures. And an adventure it has been!

city of palm-ton

I left off in the south- when I reluctantly left the beach in Varkala after two weeks of yoga and Ayurvedic treatments, I headed to the ashram of Amma, the hugging saint. If you haven’t heard of her, you should google her- she tours around the world giving hugs. For real. Apparently it is changing lives all around the globe, and she also does a ton of humanitarian work. When she is home, you can find her at her ashram where she gives darshan (hugs) to the thousands of devotees and visitors residing there. The ashram is gigantic, it’s like the size of a village. She was actually born there and the house she grew up in is now a small meditation temple.  Unfortunately, she was touring around India when we arrived so the ashram was a bit quiet- Amma brought her 800-person crew on tour with her. Squad commitment! However, I met a pair of super awesome twins

thankful for these two!

at the train station on the way there and we had a really great time- went swimming in our clothes (as you have to in India, such a strange feeling), saw a vedic astrologer (he told me a lot of  interesting stuff I can elaborate on later), did a tai chi class, laughed way more than you are supposed to laugh at an ashram and got caught in a tropical torrential downpour. Highlight of the downpour- someone handed us an umbrella and explained how to use it: “this is for the sun, but you can use it for the rain.” Classic India.

The ashram is $5/day which includes your accommodation and three meals. They also have all kinds of other (super cheap) food you can purchase, as well as shops and activities. It’s a pretty cool place, so eye-opening to see how devoted people are to this woman. You are required to do ‘seva’ every day, which is volunteering your time to do something around the ashram- it could be anything from helping with compost to working in the second-hand shop. We decided to try something super fun and stuff envelopes! Someone’s gotta do it.  It was a really interesting ashram experience and maybe next time I can get a hug.

After a few days there, the girls and i decided to hop on a boat to Ko Chi. Of course, we are in India, so after two phone calls to confirm there was indeed a boat, we waited for an hour only to find out there was no boat. Typical India. We hopped in a taxi and made our way to our hostel which had the most comfortable beds I have seen in India, with actual pillows and air conditioning! Dreamy. We slept like babies then woke up early to do a boat ride through the backwaters. 


I was dreaming of cruising on a houseboat, something large and loungey… or at the very least it would have a motor.  We ended up, however, in a canoe. And it was perfect- all day we just cruised through palm-fringed passageways lined with little shacks and people were just doing their thang in the water- laundry, bathing, dishes. It was a beautiful day and I feel so blessed to have met these girls! I had literally just asked the universe for friends I could laugh with and that is exactly what I got.

The next day, I flew to Pushkar which is where I left off- land of the best street food and very best shopping. The ride from the airport was hectic- I was sharing a taxi with a girl I met and our driver took a ten-minute shortcut speeding down the highway towards oncoming traffic- only in India! But you’re not even scared, you just casually note what is happening and trust that it will be fine, and it is. The thing about driving in this country is that since there are no rules,

the prettiest lake in the center of town

everyone is a pretty good driver. You gotta be aware of everything around you at all times so you’re always alert. Dodging the cows is a true art form. You notice the difference from south to  north right away- it is far more hectic here, more horns and cows and motorbikes, and way more garbage. It was so nice to start in the south! The trash in this county is overwhelming- it is normal to chuck trash off the bus into the streets, and animals are always munching on plastic. It is heartbreaking.  However, cows are holy in this country (hence them ruling the streets) so people often feed them which is lovely. I haven’t eaten meat in months and I can’t imagine I ever will again- seeing all these beautiful animals roam free and having so much of India be meatless makes you wonder why our countries are so full of carnivores.

sunset temple hike overlooking Pushkar

The craziness of Holi

Anyways- we arrived unscathed in Pushkar, which is such a  cute town- it has a lake in the middle of town and restaurants overlooking it for some really pretty views. It is one of many holy towns in India so you won’t find any meat, alcohol, or eggs. I went there for Holi festival to meet my first boyfriend ever who happened to be in India and another mate from home. Canadian reunion! It was so great to see some familiar faces. The ‘hotel’ we booked (due to the craziness of Holi), turned out to be a dirty dungeon hellhole but there was literally nowhere else to stay so we grudgingly spent two nights there before we found a new spot. One pro: it was 20 minutes outside of town and was right beside a beer store and an omlette-maker. Small success!

We got ready for Holi not knowing what to expect and made our way into town for the insanity. It is the day they celebrate winter turning into summer, and darkness into light and basically it is a huge street party where everyone wipes bright colours all over each other with the intention of getting as colourful as possible. Your clothes get ruined, it never washes out of your hair and you get touched in places you don’t want to be touched but it is all part of the experience. Everywhere you looked, someone was getting their shirt ripped off and with hoots of glory, was added to the hords of ripped shirts lining the streets. We scaled a wall onto a rooftop (later we found out there was stairs- duh) and took in the view of the streets below: wall to wall mobs of colour all dancing to, what else, trance music. Sun shining, colours flying, indians raving- such a sight to see. Such an interesting experience- I don’t know if I would call it enjoyable exactly but i am so happy to have been there. So many other people I met earlier on my trip had migrated to Pushkar as well, so it was so awesome to have friends everywhere! And the shopping- I bought some pretty things and sent them home and they will be for sale upon my return- heads up! My Swiss babe from Varkala came to Pushkar to meet us and then we all went to Udaipur, another spot in Rajasthan.

Hello Udaipur!

Udaipur is a city (which generally I try to avoid when traveling) but it was cute- the tourist area is full of little laneways and rooftop restaurants and palaces and a really pretty lake.  Corey knew a local guy who not only took us to the most insane local thali restaurant but on a motorbike ride out of the city and through these epic mountains- local secret!  So beautiful and amazing to be outside with mama nature.

our local pal who took us for the most epic cruise

Unfortunately, Swiss babe and I both contracted the dreaded Delhi belly that day which rendered us bedridden for a couple days, and then weak and pretty useless for a few days after that but it’s India!  Par for the course and our bodies probably needed some downtime after so much exploring.

Rajasthan is cool- it’s lakes, palaces, forts, shopping and desert, but SO HOT right now! I wanted to do a camel safari and spend some time in the desert but could not imagine mid-day heat with no body of water nearby… so I will have to sleep under the stars somewhere else!

Bundi fort- old and crumbly but still still so insanely beautiful and fun to explore

We made a move to a little town called Bundi, checked out a fort and drank the most delicious chai in India, and then headed to Jaipur, the “pink city.” I was still sick and Jaipur was so hectic but we did manage to do some sight-seeing, including accidentally ending up in the back of a jewel shop with a really intense clairvoyant Indian man who told me a lot of crazy things about my life. Usually  I love this stuff  but it was actually a bit unsettling, and of course he tried to sell me jewelery after, but he had some good insight and made me think a lot. And no, I didn’t buy anything there, although I have been thinking about emeralds ever since!

After a few days in Jaipur, Swiss babe headed to a silent retreat and I made way for Delhi. My Indian friend I met in Goa lives there so I had great friends and a place to stay! Was such a good visit. He took me to the Taj Mahal which is just as spectacular as you think it is, and in general took really great care of me. Such a gem. I was ready to leave the city after a few days though, so to Rishikesh I came!

Rishikesh is a(nother) holy town on the Ganges River and the foothills of the Himalayas. It is absolutely freaking beautiful. Magical. It is also the land of yoga with literally hundreds of yoga

M-A-G-I-C

schools and studios everywhere so you have your pick. There is tons of great food and tons of the stuff i love: workshops on everything i want to do- tantra, sound healing, reiki, massage and astrology, to name a few. I spent a week enjoying everything there is to do here (like beachside Ganges dips and waterfall visits), ran into some friends, made some new ones, then found a yoga school i wanted to call home.

I have actually just finished my teacher training- WAHOO! One of the best feelings ever, it was such a crazy month. I will have to sit down and write an entire post about that experience, but first, I owe myself some serious relaxation time.  I am coming to the last leg of my trip- I will be home in six weeks! Just enough time for a few more adventures and to eat as much Indian food as possible.

Sending love to all you beauties at home!xo

 

The Rooster on the Table

canadian babes in arambol

I am in India! Sweat factor: extreme. Sometimes it still feels surreal that I am here, even though it’s been two months already(!) This place is unreal in so many ways. It’s such a gigantic country and every pocket is entirely its own world. You could come here on a food journey, you could come here on a textile journey, you could come here on a yoga journey. It has everything.  I flew into Mumbai, which is a big smelly city but as soon as I got off the plane and the humidity smacked me in the face I was stoked. It took me 25 hours to get here and it was the middle of the night but I had arrived! I stayed in Colaba, which is the touristy area by the water, saw the Taj Hotel and the Gateway of India where I was literally a celebrity and everyone and their babies wanted photos with me, ate at Leopold’s which is where they always hang out in that (very long but must-read) book Shantaram, explored some markets, ordered menu items at random to figure out what things were, and settled into the idea that I was on the road again for five months. I met a super sweet Indian boy who took such good care of me (including telling me all the ways I had already been ripped off in the past 24 hours and coming to the bus station with me to make sure I got on safely), which was the best start to this trip. Such an angel. I wanted to go straight to the beach so I booked an overnight bus (which I was totally overcharged for- rip off number one) to Goa and after two days in Mumbai, off I went to check out this place called Arambol that I had heard all about.

sweet lake gang

Arambol is a dream. Hippies and music and sunshine and festival clothes and such a relaxed vibe- you can do whatever you want in Goa. It’s a little paradise with dozens of bars and restaurants and huts lining the beach, a drum circle every day at sunset, and an artisan beach market where anyone can set up shop and sell their pretty things. Apparently not THAT many years ago it was a small fishing village so it’s bananas that it’s so bumping now. I had just arrived in town when I ran into a girl I had met at a party in Vancouver- what are the odds! There was three of them so I had insta-friends as soon as I arrived, the best. Thanks, universe! After a few days of funning and sunning, they moved on and I stayed. I went for a few morning beach runs, did some yoga, and vowed to do at least a few of the zillions of workshops they had going on. There was so many! Huge posterboards everywhere with everything from reiki to ecstatic dance to different kinds of meditation, massages of all kinds, hypnosis, sound healing, breathwork, cooking, you name it. They have it. Turns out I didn’t go to any because how could I choose (and mostly I forgot what was when), but I did make it to yoga, sometimes with Indian teachers which is such an interesting experience. So different than our western flows! They seem a bit more… intense than I am used to but super knowlegable and I am sure I will come home with Gumby-like flexibility if I keep it up!

Met a babe, had a love. Ain’t no short term lovin better than a tropical beach paradise love and that is a fact.

casually zen

I left Arambol and headed to a place called Hampi to meet my Canadian babes. I took a semi-comfortable overnight bus which broke down twice on the way there, smoking engine and all, but they managed to fix it without too much delay. The girls found us a place to stay on Couchsurfing, which turned out to be awesome.  Our host owns a (stunning) piece of property where he’s set up a bunch of tents, so we had our own tent which we were *mostly* comfortable in, and then he has a little restaurant on site so you can eat, drink, and chill there with all of the other couchsurfers. There were 20-ish people staying there, so it was a super social environment with awesome people from all over. The only downside was the pumping music until 3am- not the best when you are trying to get up for a sunrise hike to the monkey temple! Hampi is spectacular- the only way to attempt to describe it is a cross between the Flintstones and Jurassic Park. There are boulders as far as the eye can see- mountain ranges of huge rock formations of every size, and you can run and hike and play (and climb- It’s full of babes on bouldering trips), and you truly feel like you are in another world. We met up with two other Canadian chicks and rented bicycles to explore, such a majestic and stunning ride. We checked out a lake that I felt mildly weird about swimming in (because exposed body parts, and also the signs that said crocodiles) but we swam and lived to tell the tale, and then the next day we hired a rickshaw to take us to all of the temples. And the temples- let me tell you. UNREAL! It’s so interesting to think about what went down at these places. They are so big and beautiful and intricate with sculptures and detail and you can just feel the energy as you explore… so surreal. It’s magical. We spent a few days there and then the girls were headed further south and I wanted more beach time, so I said goodbye to them and on my way to the bus station was caught in standstill traffic. Something was going on. There were drummers, marching down the road. There were robed men carrying torches to light the way. There were fireworks, explosions of color igniting the sky. There was a man on a horse, riding regally down the road. I asked the rickshaw driver what was happening and he sighed. “Rich people wedding.”

A FREAKING WEDDING. Amazing. Let it be known that my India goals include attending at least one wedding, as well as being an extra in a Bollywood film. Just putting that out there.

sunny days erry day

I made my way to a town called Gokarna and made myself at home on the prettiest beach. I spent a week there running every morning, doing yoga every day, swimming, chilling, making friends with all the kids selling stuff on the beach, and even joined the beach market and offered oracle card readings by donation.

At first I was terrified but it was actually so fun. My room was $6 and right on the beach and we

that burn tho

had a great little crew- most of them were from Spain so I practiced my Spanish every day, I barely drank alcohol and I felt great. Except, of course, when you get very badly burned. Such a rookie move.

And of course what do you do when you have been on the health train for a while but take a running leap off of it and back into the party zone. I went back to Arambol and went to way too many trance parties which was the most bizzare experience of my life but an interesting and eye-opening one which made me so, SO grateful for what I have at home! Arambol is such a vortex though, I went back for the weekend and it turned into 11 days! Wouldn’t change a thing though, it was perfect.

After that I was feeling

paragliding!

the need for some serious chill time, so I headed to a place called Varkala in the state of Kerala, super far South with a great beach and tons of yoga. I hunted for a great room (I am a killer haggler- also being a blonde girl helps) so I got a sweet room for a great price and found the best yoga in town. I did my body a favor and found a clean (most important) Ayurvedic spa and spent nine days getting all kinds of crazy treatments. It was always two ladies, I was always naked, and it almost always involved oïl (or rice, or milk, or all three)… I found I was ticklish in places I did not even know about and I felt like a million bucks when I was done. I moved into an ashram after a week because it i

 

snake charmer… only in India

included everything- accommodation, food, and yoga. Ashram lesson: find out what the food and yoga are like before committing. The food was the same at every meal, and Ayurvedic food so no salt, garlic, onion, or flavour. Good for the body though! There were four yoga classes to choose from and the teachers varied wildly so it was interesting. The ashram also offered a yoga teacher training that was only $600USD all-inclusive- I stuggled to figure out if I should stay there and do it (that price!) but it didn’t feel quite right, so I will wait. I also went to a party where they played the best drum and bass ever (and there are rarely, if ever, parties in Kerla- they are actually trying to make it an alcohol-free state) so I was so happy this was happening when I was there! I met a Swiss babe there and hung out with him for the rest of my time in Varkala. He had been there for a while so knew all the best spots, the best! Including… my favorite… the best cheesecake in town! Probably in the country, so that was a treat.

Good morning Varkala Beach!

It’s interesting how much each state differs- the language and the rules, the fashion and the availibility of beer- lots of places they would pour your beer into big mugs and you had to hide it under the table. I did a couple more things in the South before I came North but I will save those for later- right now the most AH-MAZING street food and very best chai right outside the door is calling! I am having the best time here. It is magic. The sychronicities are lining up like dominos and everything is flowing perfectly. India might be my favorite. The people I met read Osho and start their day with Snatum Kaur and know things about yoga and spirituality is just woven seamlessly through this culture. They worship mystical gods and believe in karma so the attitudes and behaviour of the people is unlike anywhere else. It is so much my jam! I am a happy girl. I will update soon, missing my babes at home!

When the Fire Starts to Burn…

#dreamteam

#dreamteam

There aren’t really words to describe Burning Man. Maybe you’ve heard. I can try but words and pictures and videos and stories simply don’t do it justice. It’s impossible to describe the feels you feel when you spend an entire week being as free as you could possibly be. It’s the kind of place you could round up some campmates and go on a nude walk around the neighbourhood,  where people throw down their bikes, strip off their clothes and join you, and nobody would give you a second glance (shoutout to the 2014 fam). It’s the kind of place you can rock up to any camp and ask if they have tequila because you are out and you really want to make a jug of margaritas, and they will send you off with a gatorade bottle full. If you are far from home and haven’t eaten, you can literally ask “do you have snacks?” and someone will feed you. Everyone is so friendly and

THE MAN.

THE MAN.

genuine and open and more full of love than anywhere I have ever been. There are no hand shakes. There are only hugs. There is an insane array of events you can participate in: learn how to safely tie someone up, work on your acro-yoga tricks, craft yourself a sweet hula hoop, visit the pussy day spa (happy ending included), or throw on your booty shorts and participate in the best butt olympics. Things get way crazier than that but you get the idea. Whatever you want. There is so much to do that even when you are doing something awesome, you have FOMO about missing something else, but you are always exactly where you are supposed to be. And sometimes, a girls gotta sleep!

The dream team departs!

The dream team departs!

This year was year three for me and such a different experience than the last two years! Every time, which I realized last year. We camped in a pretty big camp this year and I was in an RV for the first time which was different-nice to have and definitely awesome to drive down in but I don’t even think it’s necessary. Even for the dream team, five people is a lot in a small space. A big tent of your own is totally okay, and our camp had a kitchen and power so people even had air conditioning in their tents. Gangster shit. And

The Dirty Beetles crew!

The Dirty Beetles gang!

then you have your own space, should you bring any company home, and you save yourself like a grand- that’s a plane ticket!  Also, since we had an RV we spent a lot of our time at camp in it so probably didn’t get to know our other camp mates as well as we could have, which is kind of shame because everyone was SO AWESOME! The Dirty Beetles were a bunch of beauties and I am stoked we camped with them… such a rad crew.

 

Juglife goes live on TV!

Juglife goes live on TV!

The first night we were there I immediately ran into a guy I knew from last year who I was definitely meant to see- we had a great chat and he shed some light on some stuff that went down last year which was so awesome- I didn’t even realize that I needed that so it was such a good way to start the week. And to find this person at a festival of 75,000 people is insane. The playa knows what you need! I had a few things I wanted to do this year and I didn’t realize how easy it would be to do them all- by Tuesday I had nailed all of my goals and I thought to myself, well shit. That was easy. I think that was a big life lesson for me this year- set some clear goals, believe them, and achieve them. It’s stuff that I know already but a playa reminder was so powerful. Now that summer is over and I have some time to breathe I am definitely going to be spending some Jaime time figuring out what it is I want in bman1this world…  so stay tuned! After this enlightening lesson, Jess and I started writing our wishes in the sand and day after day, our wishes kept coming true. We were literally writing things like “grilled cheese” and “tequila” and then ten minutes later we would find exactly what we were looking for- all of our friends, a man with a giant grill flipping cheesy sandwiches, and people passing around flasks of tequila. We also obviously wanted to get a picture with Chali 2na holding our jug and representing juglife so we wrote that in the sand, and if I can quote him, he said “Juglife? That’s hilarious!” and we got our photo. Nailed it!

Casual day in deep playa

Casual day in deep playa

You always hear whispers of “the playa provides,” and it does- truly whatever you want or need.  Even things you didn’t know you needed until they appear and you are just dizzy with gratitude because it’s perfect. The synchronicities are boundless. It’s like all these beautiful people vibing on the same frequency turns wishes, spoken or not,  into reality like a magic freaking lamp. It really makes you think what could be possible in the real world if everyone was as open and genuine and real as they are out there… It would rock the world. Jess and I got some photos done at this little portrait studio with the loveliest old hippie photographer and he gave the best explanation I have heard- he said that out there the playa, your brain can’t possibly comprehend all the crazy stuff that’s going on, so instead of living with your head like we usually do, you are have no choice but to live with your heart. People are operating on a soul level because your head is totally (or mostly) out of the picture for an entire week. It’s a week-long choose your own epic adventure where you let your heart and soul lead the way. Now you see why I never want to miss a year ever for the rest of my life, right?! Rational logic doesn’t even exist out there. If it did, the only thing you would be thinking all week is “this doesn’t make sense!” And it’s true. I was actually thinking that the lyrics from that Aladdin song ‘A Whole New World’ sums up Burning Man pretty well. To refresh:

“I can show you the worldbman-7

Shining, shimmering, splendid
Tell me, princess, now when did
You last let your heart decide?

I can open your eyes
Take you wonder by wonder
Over, sideways and under
On a magic carpet ride

A whole new world
A new fantastic point of view
No one to tell us no or where to go
Or say we’re only dreaming”

bman4

Art piece by day, soup station by night

Am I right?! It is like a whole new world out there, sometimes it seems like another planet where anything and everything is possible (and you have to wear masks and googles and there are a million ways you could die) and you just have to be open to it. Something I finally did this year was visit Dr. Bronners foam camp… it’s the most magical place where they have WATER and FOAM (because, in case you don’t know, Burning Man is in the middle of the desert and if you use any water, you have to take it back out with you so showers are limited, if not nonexistent) and you go in, strip down and pile into this chamber where you get sprayed by giant hoses, which, after days of being dirty is life-changing. And then, after you’re soaked, they douse you with thick foam which you

laugh, dance, laugh, repeat

scrub all over yourself in an attempt to remove your thick layer of dust, and then they hose you down with water again and you are CLEAN. C-L-E-A-N! And naked with all your pals plus a bunch of strangers. But wait, it gets better! Then you exit into the main room where there’s a DJ and it’s a giant naked dance party. So you’re grooving around, there’s a few boners which is kinda weird but you’re so stoked to be clean you don’t care, and then someone gives a shout out to ALEX GREY who is working on a giant psychedelic skeleton mural beside you. Well played, Burning Man, well played.

Charlie the Unicorn, our friend and neighbour.

Charlie the Unicorn, our friend and neighbour.

We did a lot of amazing stuff, epic sunrises and deep-playa art exploring and stumbled upon the craziest of things (like a diner way out by the trash fence where they had legit red vinyl seats and the waitresses were men in wigs with little diner uniforms and they served pancakes and coffee), we got caught in dust storms and had our favourite art car and taught everyone we met the juglife dance…  A highlight for me was occupying the shadow boxes at Slutgarden where your silhouettes are  on display to the dance floor and doing the juglife dance while girls were getting down and dirty in the booths beside us… maybe you had to be there but HILARIOUS.  We laughed uncontrollably, danced for hours, climbed in and around the most beautiful

One of my faves! Always pumping great tunes and the best lights.

One of my faves! Always pumping great tunes and the best lights.

pieces of art (the lighthouses this year were by far my favourite piece of art ever), climbed through a big old jet plane turned PARTY where there was a live violinist with a loop machine and you could use the controls in the cockpit whilst looking out at the playa… no biggie. We made friends, we made margaritas and we made memories… a week passes by so fast out there, it’s like a weird time-warp vortex where you plan to do a million things and then all of a sudden it’s Sunday again, the temple is about to burn and you still haven’t taken any pictures or gone to yoga once (whoops!). But so be it- we had the best time and I love my dreamteam and everyone who was a part of my burn SO MUCH. You guys still got it. Everything was perfect and I wouldn’t change a thing… except more lights. The lights on my bike stopped working midweek and I was the biggest darktard in town. Next year I’m getting lit! It was such a beautiful week and it would take hours to explain every magic moment but my heart is still full from my  favourite week of the year. So much love. Let the planning for next year commence! #Juglife

 

The Burning of a Man

 

stagette

Stagette Monday! What a way to start the week!

BURNING MAN. Those two words contain so much! It’s hard to articulate what those words evoke in me exactly. Emotion and memories and fondness and yearning and love and depth and understanding and community, and the sense that I am still processing those seven magic days. It seems crazy that a festival (although that word can’t even begin to describe) can open your mind, create such solid bonds and impact your life so much but it truly is a transformational experience. There is so much to say about everything but I promise not to run away with myself and give you just the goods- my experience, condensed, in an easy to read yet humorous collection of paragraphs, with pictures that are not my own since I didn’t take a single one but gives you an idea. I want to keep this blog alive and what better to write about than motherf*cking BURNING MAN. Game on!

theman

the man and the midway!

So. Burning Man round two. What a doozy! After last year, I thought I knew a thing or two.  I could tell you all about the ten principles, the theme camps, the dust storms, the art (oh the art), the people, the vibe, the essence. Ask me and I could give you a fairly accurate rundown… at least I thought I could. Upon our arrival through the dusty gates this year, however, I quickly realized that everything I thought I knew was just my experience last year and this time, everything was completely different. Which is also the point when I realized that of course it was, and it will continue to be different every single year. Epiphany number one. Of course, many of the same theme camps are there, you will see some of the same majestic art cars, the ten principles remain the same, and there’s a big ol’ man in the middle of the playa, but the city and its inhabitants are a whole new world, literally. The theme this year was ‘Carnival of Mirrors,’ which not only meant there was a carnivalesque vibe of the festival, the streets were named things like ‘Freakshow,’ and ‘Illusion’, you may wander into a tent and see a woman bending giant pieces of steel with her bare hands (found piece of such steel in my tent later- weird),  and there was a giant midway (games included) under the Man, but it was more than that- carnival of mirrors was an invitation for reflection: to reflect on life, love, choices, decisions, direction, on who you are, what you want, where you’re going… Anything. Everything. Going into it, I didn’t think anything of it but now, a few weeks later, I think that’s exactly what happened and dare I say that if you attended, the same would be true for you. So many lessons! Nailed it Burning Man, nailed it. But enough about that for the moment and let’s talk about the festival.

art

Mini Man (don’t ask who made it, it’s a confusing story), and the bear out front of the Canadian Cascading Tiki Lounge!

playa

Black Rock City.

I arrived on Sunday afternoon with a crew of boys I had spent the past few days with- I was seeking a break from the testosterone so I headed to find my Canadian crew who were living just three blocks away. So happy to see them! Ended up spending most of my time with them at their camp (first year as a theme camp!) which was set up as the Canadian Cascadian Tiki Lounge where Canadian beers, cocktails and general Canadian awesomeness was served, not
to mention a couple pieces of UNREAL art of our own. Found a handsome playa buddy who wanted to do all the same things as me every day which was the best- they give you a book when you arrive with all the where’s and when’s of what’s happening around the city, so we spent a substantial amount of time adventuring to entertaining-sounding camps from the book- something I wanted to do last year and then got busy doing everything else instead. Usually in the morning we would set off towards some sort of food and then go from there. If you don’t know: Burning Man is a (temporary) city (Black Rock City, equipped with post offices that I did send mail from- you had to provide them with some sort of entertainment in order to get the postage paid so not only did I tell a joke but we sang a ‘build me up, buttercup’ trio), and it’s BIG. Everyone has (heavily decorated and lit up) bikes that are your main mode of transportation, so when every time you imagine me in transit, I am on a bicycle.

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Bike gang checking out the art

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The Temple of Promise… where the wedding was, where people go to leave messages and letters and grieve and cry and let go, among other things… lots of emotions here!

My very favourite day we woke up, went for pina coladas (might have eaten a waffle on the way, or maybe that was a different day), stopped at Distrikt which is a big, loud, daytime dance party with a major sound system,  sat at the bar and drank (and drank- they had icy cold fruity blended beverages), boogied a bit, adventured down the road for some delicious but strong cocktails (absinth, gin and lemon?!), and cider, kissed for a guy collecting kissing photos, dipped my boobs in an ice bucket to get a pickle, got a banana stuffed in my mouth with whipped cream and chocolate, watched some strong people swing on some big rings that were surrounded by suspended hammocks while getting heckled over a megaphone, rode to the other side of the playa for bbq-d chicken which was right across from the orgy dome, checked out who was coming (see what I did there) in and out of there (more attractive people than you would think and no I did not venture in), rode back to see if the rumour that Skrillex was playing at 5pm at a small but awesome camp called the Duck Pond was true (it was), rode home and was enticed into a camp with the most delicious woodfire pizza (and we had been dreaming of pizza! The playa provides, every time), as well as mojitos and champagne (which we stood in the small lineup for twice), and then made our way home… and that was just the DAY! And not even a special day, it was just sunny and beautiful and I loved everything we did all day. I had also had an epic long cry at the temple the night before and released anything and everything I must have been holding on to so I must have woken up the next morning recharged and renewed and ready for the best day ever! Like a champ.

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dreamin’ big

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White wedding/ camp photo! The beautiful bride is in the middle.

The thing about Burning Man, if you don’t know, is that is is a gifting economy: there is no money exchanged, at all, except for ice (thankfully) and coffee you can buy. So the bars, and the
food, and the love- it’s all included. You just need to carry a cup and it will be filled pretty much wherever you go. Alcohol flows everywhere and you will see costumed people in the streets enticing you into their camps with promises of espresso martinis or margaritas….  truly anything you can think of, really, and not just food and booze. Body painting, pastie-making, costume something-or-other, sex something-or-other, the playa is truly your oyster. On day two I scored a pair of flat, knee-high leopard print boots at one of the camps full of awesome free clothes- the most perfect. But as far as the food camps go- killed it this year. Feasted on grilled cheese, midnight poutine, snowcones, pancakes and bacon and waffles, homemade ice cream, popcorn with all the shakers, hit an organic fruit and veggie camp, pickles a plenty, that delicious bbq-d chicken (twice- and they give you cold beer in the lineup), not to mention a soup camp next door to camp where they served delicious warm soup every night! And it was COLD at night, soooo cold- one night we went to bed early so we could get up for a 5am set at Camp Questionmark but it was too cold to even leave the tent! Freezing, I tell you, however, I continued to wear no pants, ever. Classic.  It was also the dustiest it’s been in a bunch of years- the dust storms lasted for ages, hours, and not just a regular dust storms but full-on whiteouts where you can’t see three inches in front of you. On the way home from the wedding of two of my friends (beautiful and amazing as you can imagine- the ring bearer was supposed to skydive in with the rings but it was too dusty- so unfortunate!), we were caught in one and a few of us stopped to wait it out… when the dust cleared, we were pleasantly suprised to find that someone had topped the kickstands on our bikes with tennis balls, to keep them better upright when parked on the playa. That is the kind of shit you deal with at Burning Man, people just doing amazing and nice things all over the place. But these dust storms- intense. Mother Nature is a force to be reckoned with, that is for sure. Makes you appreciate the clear nights where you can see every star in the sky and the sunshine and blue skied days, and that you made the necessary investment of masks and goggles.

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Art car and creepy but beautiful temple, courtesy of the interwebs

Night time was crazy and so different than last year. My playa buddy had an internal compass dreamslike a boss and eyes like a hawk so I just followed him around all week and didn’t pay  much attention to where I was or where we were going- last year I got lost all the time and had no trouble riding back and forth across the playa in the middle of the night. This year i could not IMAGINE doing any such thing, and I didn’t… I didn’t really have to but it was an interesting lesson relying on someone for something as fundamental as navigation! Especially since once of the principles is radical self-reliance. Epic fail, Jaime, epic fail. However, I only got lost once and then thankfully got found because clearly I had no idea where anything was.  Didn’t hop on a SINGLE art car this year (art cars are what they sound like- an art installation that drives around, usually like a party on wheels with music and you can hop on them if you see one you wanna be on, or you can follow them on your bike and stop when they stop and party with them)- the only trouble with art cars is that you don’t know where they are headed so you could end up really far away without a bike. They come in all varieties and shapes and sizes, from fire breathing octopus to supersize yacht to a set of bleachers to whatever you can possibly imagine. And if you are on the playa thinking “hmm, i haven’t seen a giant fire-breathing leopard art car, that would be cool,” you will likely see one later that day. Just the kind of synchronicity shit that happens out there.

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The most beautiful woman…

There is so much crazy art I can’t even tell you. Such beautiful and intricate pieces full of passion and soul and love…. you get to look at them, walk amongst them, touch them, feel them and then they BURN THEM DOWN! It’s crazy to fathom how much work goes into it, all year long, and them BAM. Engulfed in flames and you just feel so lucky to have been a part of it. I felt a lot of feelings this year, lots of thinking and reflecting (carnival of mirrors, I am telling you), and I had a couple a-ha epiphanies about my life and the people in it. Having no besties there this year was different than last year when I had a glorious handful of my best girls with me, and I definitely could have used one (just one!) a couple of times but I made some incredible new friends, had my playa buddy by my side, laughed a lot, cried, and realized how lucky I am to have such amazing and beautiful souls in my life that love me a lot. Not that I didn’t know that already but having none of them THERE and being there and experiencing it all was like a wake-up call that I am the luckiest! Also acid. Always coming in with the epiphanies. It was such a magical week, it went nothing like I anticipated but everything was perfect. In retrospect I keep thinking of what I would do differently, there was some people I truly wanted to at least attempt to find, but somehow seven days just slip away. And I think you are always where you are supposed to be there, if I was meant to be somewhere else,  I would have ended up there. You don’t get the burn you want, but you get the burn you need, as they say. And I did. So thankful for all the magic moments and happy memories, and the not happy ones too! Already dreaming of next year… am currently in California and I think Guatemala after this so watch this space for updates!

 

 

 

 

Sunshine and Rainbows

Well, that’s it… I am home! I have been home for two weeks and I am going back and forth between being so happy to be home and desperately yearning for lazy beach days and tropical fruit… it’s always the way I suppose. The rain doesn’t help but what does help is knowing summer is just around the corner and I have SO much stuff to to look forward to! In the meantime, I will attempt to keep this tan.

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Rainbows and rice fields! Such a beautiful moment.

But let me tell you about Bali. Beautiful, magical, enchanting Bali. I forgot how magnificent that place is. I suppose last time I was there, I was 21 and all we did was try to out-party all the other backpackers on the block, so I didn’t appreciate it the same way I do now. It is pure magic and I am so happy I returned there. Bali is quite a large island in Indonesia, and it’s Hindu- the rest of the country (for the most part) is Muslim, so Bali’s got a totally different vibe. It’s one of those places where the culture is everywhere- you know you are in Bali. Beautiful temples everywhere and offerings of flowers and incense in front of every doorway, not to mention the friendliest, most genuine people on the planet. They are always happy to help you, happy to chat to you about life and religion and spirituality, happy to haggle to a (mostly) fair price when you are shopping, mostly just happy. I’ve encountered a culture or two in my day, and the Balinese take such pride in theirs and it’s so easy to be a part of it. Just a lovely place to spend a couple of months, if you haven’t been there, definitely put it on the list!

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Okay way to spend an afternoon.

My first stop when I arrived was a small mountain town called Ubud.   It’s where the woman from ‘Eat Pray Love’ went to find herself, and I don’t know what it was like before that book came out but there is an abundance of middle-aged women who have taken up residence there. It’s a lovely place, great yoga and tons of delicious healthy restaurants. There is a place called the Yoga Barn should you ever find yourself there, with amazing yoga classes and great teachers, a delicious cafe and they also offer retreats and accommodation. I had planned to just plant myself in Ubud for two months and just chill out and do yoga, but after a few days I was ready to make a move. Life lesson: don’t plan to stay somewhere before you even get there. Duh. Ubud is beautiful, there are tons of rice fields around and a waterfall, no beach nearby but the vibe is good and the pace is slow. It’s a good place to get comfortable. The vibe wasn’t completely what I expected though, I was anticipating a super chill hippie vibe, which you got a little bit, but it was mixed with a pretentious yogi vibe. There are lots of expensive, western-owned clothing and jewellery shops and the restaurants are some of the most expensive I encountered- still much cheaper than western fare but super expensive for Indonesia, although they have some seriously awesome places to eat. Another life lesson: don’t have any expectations. I feel like I know all this stuff already but I suppose I needed a reminder!

bali4

Caught so many amazing sunsets, drank so many coconuts and had so many magical moments.

After Ubud, I spent two weeks in Canggu, which is a cute little surf community not too far down the beach from some of the more hectic and touristy areas of Bali- Kuta (young drunk people everywhere) and Seminyak (people on swankier holidays than me). Canggu was awesome. As soon as I had my toes in the sand it was like my soul gave a little sigh of contentment. I know I love the beach  more than a normal person but I didn’t realize it could immediately and  significantly increase my happiness levels like that! Powerful vibes, Mother Nature. Another life lesson: never live anywhere that is not near a body of water. I was staying at super cute little homestay with a big beautiful bed and a big beautiful bathroom and a little porch out front, our rooms got cleaned every day and they brought me a pretty motorbike to rent at the rate of $4 per day… you can barely take a bus for $4 in Canada! The bike was shiny and new which at first scared the crap out of me (what if I crashed it?!) but I soon found I am fairly savvy on a motorbike and the best way to learn how to drive it is to just get amongst it. Just get in the throngs of traffic and start honking and eventually you will learn the rules- mostly, that there are none but that it is fine and you will be okay. I did get pulled over by the police on my first day riding it (beginners luck!) and had to bribe them out of a much larger fine, but that is the norm there and I only paid them the equivalent of $15. Travel tip: you can bribe the police to give you a piece of paper saying you  have an international drivers license (which is what they commonly pull over foreigners for not having) and then you won’t have to pay any more imaginary fines. Some Canadian friends I  met

Those sunsets though.

Those sunsets though.

did that and saved themselves a ton of cash because they got pulled over on the regular. There were a few fellow awesome travellers at my homestay which was so nice and just made it so easy to laze the days away… the only thing about Canggu is that it is quite spread out, you definitely need a motorbike but it’s super fun. There’s a big expat community there as well, and there are lots of good places to eat and it’s not as touristy as the other busy spots in Bali. Nice beaches and I even tried to surf. I should really surf more often, with the amount of time I have spent in cool little surf towns, I would probably be one solid surfer if I had put more energy into it! I had to extend my visa to stay for another month, which meant I had to go to the immigration office not once, not twice, but three times, a bit of a hassle but I was happy hanging out in Canggu so it wasn’t really an issue. I was, however, afraid to drive my motorbike all the way to the immigration office in case I a) got lost (very likely) or b) got pulled over by the police again (also likely).  Luckily I made a friend with a car and she was such a gem and drove me to deal with my visa stuff all three times! Perfect. My visa got extended and then I was ready to leave Canggu.

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Calm after the (crazy and insane torrential downpour) tropical storm.

My heart still wanted to be at the beach but I wanted to be somewhere smaller and more chill where I could just relax, do yoga, and be healthy. I headed to Gili Air which is one of three small Gili islands not far from Bali and it was exactly what I had in mind. No paved roads, no motorized transport, just beach bars and restaurants lining the white sandy beach, a few horses and bicycles, and good vibes. They have a yoga and mediation centre there called H2O that I had the pleasure of volunteering at for a couple weeks which was perfect for my life and my bank account- free yoga and accommodation! Boom. I met some beautiful souls there and did exactly what I wanted to do- yoga every day (sometimes twice), got up with the sun and ran around the island almost every  morning (it’s about 5 kilometres around the island), was off the booze and just spent my days hanging with new friends, reading, sunning, snorkelling (there is an unreal reef that runs along the side of the island so you can literally snorkel at any point in your day), drinking delicious fresh tropical juice, indulged in some happy mushroom shakes a couple times (there are no police on

#livingthedream

#livingthedream

this island which is fabulous because drugs can be punishable by death in indonesia), and just replenished and revitalized and reconnected with everything. My intention was to do some serious self work on this trip and I think I did pretty good- it’s easy enough to get stuck in a backpacker circuit where you just get drunk with new people every night, but it’s all quite superficial and you end up feeling like you need a holiday from your holiday cuz all you have been doing is partying! Been there, and I never would’ve thought I would see the day but I am (practically) over it! I love how healthy and awesome this adult Jaime is turning out to be! Since Gili Air is a  small tropical island, you do have to be prepared for some things: regular power outages,  to encounter trees absolutely crammed full of gigantic spiders, and for insane tropical storms to occasionally soak you to the core. As long as the spiders aren’t in your bed (or if they are that there is a nice boy to remove them for you), you’re in business. I spent three weeks in this tropical paradise and was sad to leave, but I know I will be back and I had a new adventure to embark on!

I headed back to the beautiful, spider-free and clean guesthouse in Canggu and a cool boy I balimet in Australia came to meet me. We spent a couple days there and then headed to an island called Nusa Lembongan-  sooo beautiful in an entirely different way than any other part of Bali that I have seen. It’s a bit less developed and that is part of the charm.  It has beautiful, white sandy beaches but they are all small and nestled in between massive, majestic cliffsides, so you can find amazing private spots and there are way less people! So much cool exploring to do there. The roads are a bit hectic, they are riddled with potholes and loose gravel and there wasn’t a helmet in sight, so driving seems bali9to be a bit more challenging but it’s worth it- the views are outstanding and the sunsets were spectacular. You have your choice of beautiful resorts you can hang out at, order a drink and use the facilities all day, which we did nearly every day. When in Rome, right? There is also a cool little spot called the Yoga Shack with great yoga (we did one class where we were blindfolded the whole time- interesting experience), and the teacher is Canadian! Always nice to hear a Canadian accent on long travels.

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Sunshine, brews, and a private infinity pool! Whose life IS this!

We spent a night in Kuta after that, which I hope to never have to visit again. it’s a main tourist hub, close to the airport so it is kind of hard to avoid completely, and it just brings in the worst breed of people, mostly Australians (due to the close proximity of their country) who go there just to party and they are just everywhere being loud and obnoxious and drunk and annoying and you get hassled by everyone and offered drugs and every nightclub pumps the worst music  you can even imagine. So. Not a very chill place to be, however, the shopping is great. Anyways, the boy left and then later that day another friend of mine from university happened to be arriving in Bali so we met up and had a super awesome catch-up, and then the next morning headed back up to Ubud for a day before we headed off to a silent retreat.

bali2Being back in Ubud was SO AWESOME and being away and exploring other places in Bali made me appreciate how amazing it is so much more. Especially coming from Kuta, the energy in Ubud is just so different, so  much more chill and peaceful. I was so happy to be back. We spent the day there and then got picked up in the morning to spend my last few days at the Bali Silent Retreat. Total and complete silence all day long. They have meditation twice a day, yoga twice a day, and the most amazing food on the PLANET. The grounds are gigantic and they grow pretty much everything there, so you wander amongst pineapples growing beside you, banana trees above you, and cauliflower and papayas and cucumbers and a plethora of other vegetables all around you, not to mention their herb garden where all the fresh herbs grow! They are actually famous for their food and the stuff the chef thinks of to make it just ridiculous. You eat what’s in season and what’s growing that week and they make every single thing in their kitchen, down to the (dairy free) milk. A cookbook is coming out soon and I think everyone should buy it. All of it was

Brew your own herbal tea with goods from the garden.

Brew your own herbal tea with goods from the garden.

vegetarian, lots of vegan stuff and raw food and fresh juices and the most amazing deserts… it’s difficult because every meal is a buffet and you want to try everything but you also don’t want to get fat. So. Picking and choosing is the name of the game. I wish I took pictures of the menu every day! This retreat is ongoing, so you can just book in for whenever you feel like going, and stay for as long as you want. There is no structure really, you can choose to go to yoga or meditation, or not, and the eating times are pretty open. The last silent

Labyrinth walking meditation which was one of my favourite things to do there every day,

Labyrinth walking meditation which was one of my favourite things to do there every day,

retreat I was at was quite structured, with a daily schedule and you were expected to do each activity (which included like seven hours of meditation every day), so this was not as difficult, you just couldn’t speak. Pretty peaceful.  You were also allowed to read and write, which was awesome but also a bit of a distraction from your inner journey… But I read three awesome books and write a shit ton in my journal and learned a lot about myself. You would be surprised what comes up when you can’t speak! It was a really great way to end my trip, I would have loved to stay in Bali for longer, but alas, all good things usually come to an end and my bank account was calling to be replenished, so home I came, and here I am! Home, employed, happy. My intention is to put some time into writing (I am thinking articles for some online publications) and keep up this blog, so watch this space! To be updated soon.

 

Adventures Down Under

Time flies when you’re having fun! Can’t believe I have been gone for nearly four months and it’s 2015! I swear I try to update this more often but I am unbelievably busy for someone with no job! Busy being awesome, that is. Full time job. I’m in Bali now but i will have to tell you about that later-  I spent three months in Australia and haven’t updated about it yet! Australia was awesome, but let me start at the beginning. So. After the Philippines, I flew to Sydney, where I only planned to stay for a week or two before I headed to Melbourne. Somehow, I ended up staying for two months. First imagelesson that I know already- never make any plans. I am so happy that i stayed though! It was SUCH a great couple of months. I was staying with one of my very best friends, Taigen, and her (hilarious) husband in their beautiful home in Surry Hills. I had my own room, Taig gave me her bike to use (which was awesome once I got over the unsettling feeling of riding on the other side of the road), I got a job and the sun beamed down almost every day. I was doing lots of yoga, saving money, beaching tons (Sydney has over 100 beaches- a beach bums ultimate dream), and feeling awesome. How could i leave? I caught up with some old friends, made a bunch of new friends, and had so much solid bestie time with Taig. Also knowing it was raining in Vancouver every day made me appreciate every beach picnic and bike ride a little bit more.

I was working at a German restaurant that was crazy busy which was surprising- I had no idea Auimagestralians had such a massive love for schnitzel! Working there was good, I liked everyone I worked with, with the exception of the manager who successfully brought a black cloud of negativity with him wherever he went… Just the worst. I knew I wasn’t going to be there for long though, so i tried to kill him with kindness (unsuccessful) and be awesome at my job (successful) and I didn’t feel bad when I text in sick to enjoy my last weekend in the city. I can’t really share what happened that weekend but it was truly one for the books.

Sydney is a great city, full of colorful neighborhoods- Taig and Ollie live in Surry Hills which is super cool and trendy- where else would Taigen live, imagereally. It’s super central and full of good eats, funky bars and cool shops, and i could ride to work in under ten minutes.  I also discovered a personal new favorite hood, Newtown! It’s like an Australian version of Commercial Drive, but with more street art and Asian cuisine. Killer graffiti and the best pad thai in the city? So good. I even got food poisoning from a thai restaurant there and I don’t love it any less.

And the yoga in Sydney! Just need to talk about this quick because this blog is called Yogi on the Road, after all. I decided to hit up a couple studios for their into pass- usually a month of unlimited yoga for a discounted rate. The first studio I went to is called Body Mind Life (30 days for $50), and they have a studio in Surry Hills and one in Bondi. What a beautiful studio! Big and bright, on a quiet road and great classes running all day long- if you are ever there, check out Michael’s class, he is awesome, I also went to a couple great classes by Vanessa, and Noelle if you want an ass-kicking of arm balances and inversions. When that month was up,  I joined  another studio in Surry Hills called In Yoga ($25 for two weeks). There is a teacher there named Nicole who is awesome- i think maybe she owns it actually but she is great. An interesting thing about both studios is that most of the classes are heated- and Sydney is HOT! Seems a bit unnecessary to heat the rooms when it’s 35 degrees outside, but you do leave feeling like a million bucks. A million of the sweatiest bucks.

imageAustralia definitely has some killer ideas Canada could adopt. One of my favorite things is that tons of the little restaurants are BYO wine, so you can bring in a bottle (or two) and they just charge you a small fee (around $2) to drink it!  Another thing is that the pubs there (and there are loads) don’t do table service, you just order your food at the bar, and then they give you a little buzzer that goes off when your food is ready. You can sit wherever, join whoever, and just go to the bar when you need another drink instead of waiting for your server to come back over. It’s way more social and you aren’t confined to one table, I loooove it. You also don’t have to tip in Australia, and the tax is included in the price on the menu, so you just pay exactly what is says! Imagine that. The wages are way higher there too, so if you work in the service industry you actually make enough to live on… Without tips! Another fun fact is that employers are supposed to pay you MORE when you work on the weekends! Your salary goes up on Saturdays, and even more on Sundays. Personally i think working on Sundays should be illegal all over the world, but at least a bigger payday softens the blow!

I bid farewell to Sydney and came to Melbourne on the 23rd, just in time for imageChristmas with the Canadians! Three of my Canadian friends have been living in Melbourne for ages, and then two more came from home  for the holidays so we had a little Canadian Christmas crew. We had a big party and drank sangria, ate soooo much food, exchanged some gifts, cooled off in the pool and danced the day away in the sunshine.  So awesome to celebrate with some of my favorite people in the world, on the other side of the world! A couple of days (and one block rocking drum and bass show) later, three of us imageborrowed a car (from ANOTHER Canadian friend- we are everywhere!) and some camping supplies to do a little road trip down the Great Ocean Road. With a name like that, you can’t NOT drive down it, right? It was awesome, so beautiful and so nice to get out of the city! We camped overnight and saw SO MANY KOALA BEARS. Trip MADE. We arrived home on imageNew Years eve and had a mostly chill evening  because we had a crazy daytime festival to go to the next day and we wanted to be in tip-top shape! We woke up feeling good (probably the first time ever), got ready and then the festivities began. 24 of us took a giant hummer limo to the festival, which took place on the grounds of this insane mansion. There was five (I think) stages, the sun shone all day,  and I wasn’t even the first person to fall asleep at the afterparty! Also met a boy. Killing 2015 already! I just had so much fun in Melbourne, so much good friend time and fun imagedays and great parties and tons going on.  I was sad to leave but after not working for three weeks and having all the fun, I had to come to a cheaper  country. Bali is way cheaper and i am back by the beach and could not be happier! I will update with my indonesian adventures soon. Sending love and sunshine home.xo

The adventure begins!

Technically, the adventure began a month and a half ago, but I haven’t found the time to sit down and write about it, so here we go!

First things first- I bought a website! It has a long way to go and I don’t know the first thing about web design or anything like that, but I was grouse grinding on a beautiful August day and had the bright idea to take my usual travel blog one step further and create my own website- I figured I was going to be galavanting around doing a lot of great stuff, and whoever wants to keep up with me can do so here. And Yogi on the Road is such a rad name and kind of sums up my life.

So introducing… Yogi on the Road. Welcome!

Where to begin! The past seven weeks have been so good. I started my adventures in the Philippines which was awesome- I flew with Philippine Airlines so I had a stopover in Manila, and instead of staying for 12 hours I stayed for two weeks. I flew into Manila (after a three-hour flight delay, a cry,  and an uncomfortable nap on the airport floor in Vancouver), which was humid, dirty, and smelly. Exactly what I expected. I met some Canadian boys at the hostel (we are everywhere!) and spent the day with them, and booked a flight to the tropical island of Boracay for the next day. The Philippines consists of over 7,100 islands, so you have to fly everywhere- it significantly increases your budget and I was trying to travel like a backpacker so it was tough, but you don’t have much of a choice! And the flights aren’t expensive, maximum $100 I paid, but it adds up. I got to the airport early and was bumped onto an earlier flight that was leaving right away. Fabulous. I arrived on Boracay to a beautiful afternoon and wandered image-6around looking for affordable accommodation. I couldn’t find any, so I settled on a hotel room  that was about double what I had planned to pay but it was literally steps away from the three-kilometer white sandy beach, and who can put a price on that. There is one long, main strip running parallel to the beach on Boracay, and it’s divided into three sections, aptly named  section one, two, and three. There are bars and restaurants and beach massages and vendors and hair-braiders and travel agents and tattoo shops and everything you can expect on a touristy island lining the strip. And touristy it is- it seemed like a big holiday destination forimage-5 other asian countries. There are lots of resorts and everything is tourist-priced. It is, however, stunningly beautiful, and you can do whatever you want! I met some Canadian girls on a pub crawl my first night on the island and we were immediately new friends. We spent a few days on the island eating delicious food, smoking hookah on the beach, drinking cocktails, and hanging out- tropical island living at its finest. We made a friend named Pat who sailed, so one day the four of us along with a crew of locals sailed over to another small island and spent the day in the little local village of Napan. We hit up the market for a feast of meat and headed to the home

jaime1of one of the locals to eat. It seems like typical Filipino cuisine is meat and rice. I didn’t see a single vegetable for most of my time there, although the mangos and pineapples are plentiful and cheap! There were some kids at the house that were so intrigued by our white skin- in fact, almost everyone in the village stopped by at some point during the day to check us out. We were definitely the talk of the town! After the biggest feast of chicken, pork, tuna and rice, we went on a little hike up a mountain to the most spectacular birds-eye view of the village and the island, with Boracay in the distance. You feel so far away from home when you are overlooking the lushest, greenest tropics as far as the eye can see. We worked up a sweat on our hike so decided to go back to the boat so we could swim and snorkel, but our tuk-tuk got a flat tire so we decided to walk, and stopped at a bar for happy hour on the way, where we got checked out by more locals and treated our new jaime2friends to some brews.  It was such a great travel day, spending time with locals is so special and seeing into their life and the way they live is so eye-opening and beautiful and genuine. It’s such a different life to our lives in North America, and after squatting over a hole in the ground and pouring water down it to flush, you are so immensely grateful and humbled by the luxuries of life at home.

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My Canadian friends had met another local they’d gone island-hopping with earlier in the week who had invited them to come stay on his island, a small island called Tablas. We spent another sunshiney day in Boracay and then decided to take him up on his offer. The three of us and Zandro, our guide, took a hectic ferry ride over to the island. It was a small ferry that should have taken two hours, but due to crazy weather and a large quantity of rice on board, it took almost four. People were getting seasick everywhere and we thought the journey would never end, but finally we arrived, in the rain, to the island of Tablas. We put on some ponchos and hopped on motorbikes and drove to the village of Santa Maria, where we would be staying. The drive was beautiful, even in the rain! There is something about cruising on a motorbike and taking everything in, the sights and the smells and the newness of it all, that fills your heart right up. Rice fields and goats and chickens and palm forests and broken english, all blending together in one solid ride. We arrived in Santa Maria and checked into our accommodation, which was just a room with beds and a bathroom with no running water, which was just around the corner from Zandro’s house where he and his family would prepare our meals for us and we would eat. Our first meal was a full chicken each- the traditional way to welcome visitors. It was probably the best chicken I have ever had, raised in the grass outside and just killed that morning (sorry vegetarians). Most of the food we were served was pretty good, with the exception of pigs ear… yes. The actual ear. Good on them to not be wasteful but it still looked like an actual ear. Yuck. waterfallWe spent two nights on Tablas and on our first day we motorbiked to the most beautiful waterfall… there was nobody there but us and we spent the day sunning and swimming and taking tons of photos. Such a great day. On our way home we got caught in an absolutely insane torrential downpour so were all soaked to the bone by the time we got home… when it rains, it pours, but it was so fun and funny and such a regular part of daily life there, we were so glad to have the experience. It’s a good thing they have unlimited rice to dry out your wet phones.

We left Tablas and hopped on a plane to Cebu, a smaller and less hectic version of Manila. We spent a couple of days there, spending way too much time in an Irish pub and getting the creepiest $6.00 ‘massages,’  and then headed to a small village called Oslob where we were going to- wait for it- swim with whale sharks! We splurged on a beautiful resort, mostly image-3because there was no other accommodation in town but also because it was so cheap- $35/each for our room. The resort had two infinity pools, which is when the end of the pool looks like it connects to the ocean and it’s just blue water for days. So beautiful! We spent a lot of time in the pools, treating ourselves to delicious food and of course cocktails. The girls were leaving in a couple of days, so it was a glorious last day in paradise. When the bill came the next day, it was not so glorious but again, you can’t put a price on fun!

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Swimming with the whale sharks was so amazing. A trip highlight, and maybe even a life highlight! There was a lot of them, at least six that were swimming around and they are get so close to you! You aren’t supposed to touch them but sometimes they are literally in your way and you can’t help it. Such beautiful, majestic, gentle creatures. It was just us three Canadians and one other guy from our resort, and it felt like we were in the water for hours… such a  image-8

good way to start the day! After Oslob, we headed back to Cebu and had one last night in the Irish pub before my Canadian lovelies headed home. It was so great to meet them and spend time with them, I often travel alone and always, always meet beautiful amazing people to travel with. The universe definitely has my back and gives me the people I need in my life! I decided to head to an island called Bantayan for a few days on my own before my flight to Sydney. I arrived in Bantayan and wouldn’t you know, met the loveliest Filipino boy as soon as I got off the ferry. He took me around the island for a couple days, showed me some beautiful spots and we spent the nights singing karaoke with his friends… such a good experience. We also sang karaoke one night in Tablas, it seems like people of the Philippines are fond of singing their hearts out. I had such a nice time in image-4Bantayan and was sad to leave, but Sydney and friend time were calling! I had to spend one night in Cebu before my flight back to Manila in the morning and it happened to be Saturday night and I happened to meet some nice girls in the hostel and it happened to be one of their birthdays so I ended up sleeping in and missing my flight in the morning! Disaster.  I have never missed a flight before and headed to the airport to see what I could do- I had to get back to Manila and catch my connecting flight to Australia. Long story short, all of the flights to Manila were fully booked, I cried (again), but of course, as it always does, everything worked out and I got to Manila on time. Lots of lessons learned that day though, and lots of gratitude to kind strangers.

And that is it for the Philippines! I have been in Sydney for a month already but will have to update you about that at a later date. Missing you lovelies at home.xo