Home.

Well. I’m home in New Zealand, but not without great effort. I booked my flights home in a frantic interval between Laos internet failures, and ended up booking the wrong flight altogether, leaving me with two days less than I planned in Melbourne, a whirlwind yoga workshop and friend catchups, 4am wake up calls and a 12 hour layover in Kuala Lumpur Airport overnight. Pat on the back for Rosie! Life is nothing if not a messy adventure, right?

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Arriving in Kuala Lumpur, after wandering aimlessly for an hour, trying to find a spot to rest my head, I discovered just the spot for me.  I slept under a staircase on my overused, dubiously stained yoga mat with a security barrier propped up to conceal me, looking like a wayward homeless person. I used my scarf to cover me, popped my eye mask on  and jammed my earplugs in, one hand clasping my backpack and one hand trying not to touch the ground in fear of germs. I had to move a large pot plant to get into this wee nook but it was definitely the best seat in the house.

Wearing hiking shoes and long black tights tucked into my hiking socks to try and stay warm in the freezing cold air conditioning, I rested assured that nobody would come over and try to snuggle up next to me in my hiding spot, because I really did not look all that appealing. Adoring my body was a large thin beige jumper (the warmest thing I owned in Asia), a floral mandala sarong, a flower scrunchie and a look of confusion and exhaustion on my face. Probably even as I slept.

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Life in technicolour

Finally I made it onto the plane, where I promptly realised I was travelling budget style on Air Asia – they don’t even give you a glass of water… Luckily I had smuggled some peanuts on board, and I splashed out on a bottle of water to prevent severe dehydration. Two small asian women were wedged in next to me, both of whom had some small digestive problems, sneezing and belching their way through the 8 hour flight to Melbourne, but they offered me a chewy sweet thing to eat so I felt fondly toward them. Every time my neighbour burped, she would cover her mouth with her hand and gasp as if in astonishment that her body was capable of such a thing!

Shortly after lift-off, the “Happy Birthday” song came on the loud-speaker. It wasn’t clear whose birthday it was, so everyone clapped in time for a while, then trailed off awkwardly and looked around the cabin, tucked their hands underneath them and retreated into their little airplane bubbles. It was a nice communal airplane moment.

When I arrived in Melbourne, my friends met me at the airport, and one of the first things they said to me was “we have wine and cheese!” These are true friends. I shed a tear or two. Wine and cheese are two things that I love dearly and that are not readily available or of high quality in Southeast Asia. The perks of the western world.

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My first taste of Flat White goodness

I have returned  home with the same sense of wonder that I left with several years ago, except this time I’m curious about my own country, all the things that I always took for granted now call me home with a new appeal. I’m curious about how a different version of me can integrate back into the place that reminds of everything I’ve come from.

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En route to NZ

Ahh, home. Family gatherings, barbecues, beach walks, hill walks, swimming in the river, drinking good wine, eating local produce, visiting the Saturday markets, the smell of the earth when it starts to rain, hot days and cool nights, wearing a warm jumper, sunrises, sunsets, cooking in my own kitchen with music on, late nights in the beer garden.

This incredible Southeast Asia adventure has left me with a much desired sense of balance in my life, after a long period of swaying from side to side, pretty happy, but slightly off centre (who am I kidding, I will always be slightly off-centre….I am a Gemini, after all).

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Nelson Harbour

Whilst working and living in Europe I went from extreme to extreme – from partying hard in Irish pubs, staying up all night socialising, laughing my arse off, meeting some incredible, adventurous, kind people and being a social butterfly, but never quite feeling my healthiest version of me, and sometimes sacrificing my physical health and the important components of self care for the ‘craic’. I never seemed to be able to nail the balance between living freely and looking after me.

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So then, at the end of each Irish season I would run off to work on a yoga retreat, a farm in the middle of nowhere, or a vegan wellness centre where there was nothing unhealthy or distracting to lead me astray from my devoted practices. I would spend several months being very healthy, practicing yoga, learning about a holistic and alternative lifestyle, how to make amazing vegetarian food, barely drinking anything, creating natural beauty products and learning how to grow medicinal plants. I would go for bush walks and do sun salutations each morning and develop a radiant glow by moving my body and avoiding all stimulants and toxins. It was an all or nothing lifestyle, one that experienced both fully but couldn’t exist side by side.

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Brenazet, France

I loved both parts of my life, and spending time in one made me look forward to the other, but I started to feel that these two sides of me couldn’t be reconciled – how can I be a social butterfly who likes to drink a wine, eat cheese, and stay out all night dancing, but also live mindfully, starting each day with yoga, wondering about the world and nature, getting to know my body and how much sleep and what kind of food it needs, reading about people doing inspiring things and wanting to live a big, full life?

After completing a yoga teacher training in Spain and living a pure life for six weeks, then promptly spending one month travelling around the UK with a group of heavy- drinking dudes watching the Rugby World Cup, I’d never felt more unbalanced and confused about which was more “me”. I was making decisions and doing things that felt a little incongruous with my values, but I wasn’t too sure yet what my values were.

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The discovery that life doesn’t have to be all or nothing to be real and purposeful was a lesson I was only ready to learn here in Asia. Before this I was too busy immersing myself completely in the two different sides of myself, one at a time, getting to know what I liked and what I didn’t like. I like the Irish because they are great craic, they are social humans just like me. But I didn’t like how I felt physically after the long seasons in Ireland – too much partying, not enough self care.

I loved working on retreats in Europe and immersing myself in yoga and wellbeing, educating myself on all of the tools I had at my fingertips to heal and improve myself. I met some lovely people, and I also met people who I felt had taken this lifestyle so far that they were at a point of obsession, they couldn’t forgive themselves if they slipped up, they had alienated themselves from much of the community around them because of their unforgiving and rigid attitude to health and what was “the right thing to do/ be/wear /say/eat”. I found myself taking what I wanted and what resonated with me, and leaving the rest. It’s necessary to be disciplined, but I always find that people who are too disciplined are not actually that fun… And that’s just not my cup of tea.

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Can we be fun, and focused? Can we be a wee bit wild, but with a sense of  purpose? Can we find the point inside of ourselves that is balanced and content, no matter the environment or the situation?

Coincidentally, post- Rugby World Cup, at my point of great confusion, was when I got an opportunity out of the blue to move to Cambodia for a yoga teaching job. The universe provides the answers, because this was without a doubt the best decision I ever made, but it was also one of the hardest. Leave the comforts of western life and take the plunge by travelling alone to a foreign third world country? Ahhhh sure. For many people, going to Southeast Asia might seem like running away from real life, but for me, it felt like running towards it. It was a move that I made with absolutely no knowledge or expectation, I only knew I had to do it, because if I didn’t, I would be stuck in a cycle of partying and purifying, without understanding of the centre in which I belonged.

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Asia gave me a lot of gifts. Unconditional, open smiles, that don’t ask for anything except maybe a smile back. Generosity and kindness, a curiosity, a willingness to help. Confidence that I’m on the right track. It’s the place that taught me I don’t have to fit into a neat little box, in fact, I’m much more interesting if I just go wildly and messily in the direction of my dreams, staying open to the possibility and the potential of each situation, whether good or bad.

I learnt the art of balance in my life, because people came into my world who are just like me – they believe that life should be lived fully and not just in sections, and they believe that each little piece of life can build a big beautiful mosaic of colour and vibrancy, that each complements the next, and you can’t be quite whole if you deny yourself of one piece. You will always feel the lack, the sense of imbalance, if something is missing.

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I discovered the things that are important to me and perhaps to everyone, if we dig deep;

Friends – Family – Laughter – Purpose – Love – Indulgences – Challenge – Connection and Community – Kindness  – Spontaneity & Wildness – Art – Creativity – Nature

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I worked in places in Asia that were immersive yoga retreats but that attracted people who were just like me. Travelling, exploring, curious, but not quite ready to commit to any one part of themselves just yet.  I tried to be very open about the fact that even though I was teaching them, I was learning as well, and I really didn’t have all the answers, but I did have a sense of humour about the physical hilarities of yoga and I managed to laugh at myself when I mispronounced things in front of 30 humans, saying things like “shit your hips” instead of “shift your hips” then everyone collapsing into giggles. I’ve always felt that people who don’t take themselves seriously are the best kind of people, so I shall always try to maintain this in my life.

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I would work hard all week, then on my day in between retreats I would relax by the pool, have a glass of wine, eat what my body was demanding (vegan or very not vegan), sleep many hours, go dancing, whatever I wanted. The lifestyle demanded balance between putting energy out there for others, then bringing it back to myself. If I wasn’t looking after myself, I was no good to anyone else, so self care became a huge priority. I had the realisation that self care could take a lot of different forms. Some days it meant doing yoga, meditating, eating well, and sleeping 8 hours, but other days it meant skipping evening meditation to cycle down the dusty roads at sunset with my best friend and eat coconut pancakes and laugh our faces off. Sometimes it meant standing up for myself. Sometimes it meant surrendering, backing down and retreating. It meant not attaching to any of these things as “the right way to take care of myself”, but rather detaching from the idea of right and wrong, and moving intuitively from day to day.

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When you arrive home from a long time away, its very easy to fall back into habits and mindsets that you thought you had left behind.  I resisted doing any yoga for my first few days at home because it just felt incongruous with my surroundings. I was resisting change. I lost my balance. I felt on edge and overwhelmed and I didn’t manage to maintain my usual sunny disposition. Maybe no-one else noticed, but I did.

It is different to be home. It’s cold, it smells like trees and river, there are different pressures on my time, I have to keep appointments and dates to meet people, its all very confusing and busy and fast.  There are many varieties of cheese to choose from, there are old friends and new friends, there is family, there are boxes in the garage of shit that I forgot existed, waiting to be opened and unpacked. People have different priorities and responsibilities. I kind of feel like a sham, like the wayward traveller who has returned home but doesn’t quite slot back in, and perhaps thats because I don’t want to, deep down, because I don’t want to let go of my last few years and surrender to this. But being here doesn’t discount where I was before.

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The way through this transition for me is all about staying true to the things that make me feel like myself. I can create adventures here, just like I did overseas.  I can surround myself with inspiring people. I can meet people on mountain tops and talk about travel as if I’m a foreigner too, and feel a little sense of smugness when I remember that actually, I belong here.

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This morning I woke up, pulled on some long leggings, socks, a thermal top, made a cup of tea and lay out my mat on our balcony, looking out over the garden and up at the hill behind our house, the centre of  New Zealand, and I did a practice that was no different, no more challenging, no more profound than it has been in Asia or in Europe, but it felt so, so different. Maybe because its about 20 degrees colder here, maybe because there are many more layers separating me and my mat, maybe because after my practice I go and drink a cup of coffee with my mum, and two worlds collide.

So now I am slowly surrendering to the idea that I can be anywhere in the world, in any situation or environment, and I can be sad or happy or excited or nervous, I can be beginning a day of introversion or interaction, it doesn’t matter – I can always come back to that little calm place at my centre, untouched by people or places or feelings. And when I’m in that place, I cannot be swayed in either direction. This is where I find my balance.

Home is where the heart is, and right now my heart is, officially, home.

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Head to my website or Facebook Page for details on upcoming summer yoga classes in Nelson, and Thai Massage offers.

Facebook: Rosie Glow Yoga

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Talking to Strangers

As soon as I arrived back in Thailand a month ago, I felt instantly happy and content. I find Laos such a beautiful place, but it doesn’t seem to agree with me long term – the two times I have taken jobs there, I have ended up getting so sick and not feeling like the happiest, sparkliest version of myself.

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Several days I felt like an introverted hermit woman floating around in the swimming pool and lying on my air conditioned bed. I had a wonderful time, teaching yoga in an incredible space, teaching English to a Laos family and learning Laos in exchange, meeting volunteers, being surrounded by beauty in people and nature. Sometimes, though, I think there are places in the world that have a certain energy, and maybe that energy is misaligned with your own, in that it doesn’t build you up, it brings you down, and I’m just glad I can recognise that now. We have to find the places that support our happiness and health on all levels.

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When that happens, its time for Thailand. We spent about ten days in Chiang Mai, staying in an AirBnB with a firm mattress on the floor, a balcony, a rooftop for practicing yoga and free breakfast and bicycles in the Old City – a perfect spot for us.

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I think the best thing we did was ride our bicycles everywhere – this is the way to explore the Old City. We convinced ourselves that it was our task to go out and do as many social things as possible in order to meet people and spread the word about our retreat.

The atmosphere in Thailand was a little different this time, because of the death of their King. No live music in any of the bars, everyone wearing black, a little more reserved and sombre than usual. There was a worry prior to visiting that it would be seen as disrespectful for tourists to visit Thailand during this period of mourning but in fact the Thai people were very welcoming and appreciated our respect.

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I am just blown away by the beautiful kindness of the Thai people – they are having fun with every interaction, their eyes glitter with mischievous laughter and their kindness and selflessness, innate to their Buddhist culture, brings a cycle of good energy exchange and onward flow of good karma. Free buses, sharing their meals with you, fixing your things that are broken, helping you when you are lost, being curious about you and your home and precisely how long it takes to fly there on an airplane, giving you free beers when its 1 AM by the river and you forgot to hit up the 7-11 before midnight so you ask where they got theirs. Every single interaction soaked in kindness and generosity. They will give you a smile, without asking for anything in return.

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I am currently going through a stage in my life where I talk to anyone and everyone, because I truly believe everyone wants to make friends, and we are all just curious about one another. So my task in Chiang Mai was to talk to as many interesting people as possible. As I like to say, “if it’s not a good time, it’s a good story”.. I’m very sorry to my mother, because this story involves many stories that see me talking to strange men in strange situations. But this is a great joy in life – the unknown. What will happen when you say hello?

Natasha and I went to the park in the corner of the Old City one afternoon for some yoga and sunbathing, and we noticed some pretty interesting characters surrounding us. A man came along and set up camp behind us, spreading out his bamboo mat and sipping on his sugarcane juice, his muscular tattooed chest bare. He began to stretch and practice some yoga, so I decided to take him a card about our retreat and ask him some questions. The tables turned quickly.

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“I am from France. My name is XAVIER. What is this card? You want me to come do yoga wiz you?”

“Yeah, you would love it! SO much fun!”

“You want me to show you some things that you do not already know about yoga? I know many breathings. Zey are good to practice in public places, to eradicate the ego, so zat everyone knows you do not give the shit what they thinking of you!”

“Haha….okay sure. Oh you want me to kneel with my knees out wide like that? Oh okay… cool.”

“We are practicing ze lions breath. You sucky sucky in your belly and stick out your tongue and gaze at your third eye and roar to release all the air in your body and SUCKY SUCKY BELLY raaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaar waggle your tongue!”

“Rarrrrrrrrrr!”

“LOUDER NOW!”

“RARRRRRRRRRRR!”

“Excellent. yeeeees.”

A small Thai woman having a picnic behind us gazes at me with astonishment, suppressing laughter.

“Now you lie down.”

I lie down, he takes my hand, and begins to caress it very gently, either the softest acupressure or the creepiest hand hold ever. Then he promptly drops my hand, stands up and walks to the other side of the park, and stands gazing at a tree for a short while. I sit up, dazed, and look around me, as if emerging from a dream.

“Cheers Xavier! You should… become a pranayama teacher! That was truly profound. I must go now. Bye bye….”

Xavier was right – I realised that my ego did not want me to do that, to protect my coolness, of which I have a lot. He gave me a sense of awe at people who just truly do not give a shit what people think. It must be very freeing.

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Another hilarious interaction was with a complete stranger from Canada. We met on the street, we drank beers by the river (which were gifted to us by a kind group of Thai people who just wanted us to have a good night), we saw a few rats and cockroaches and exclaimed on how fat and happy they were.  He was about half a year younger than me, and exuded this youthful enthusiasm that reminded me exactly of how I was at the beginning of my travels, and reminded me to find the excitement in all the little interactions. He exclaimed with disproportionate excitement for a stranger I’d just met, when I told him I was working in Southeast Asia and leading a retreat in just a few weeks time. He was like a reflection of myself and lit a little fire reminding me to enjoy each moment, after a brief period of feeling very tired of Asia in all its glory. I mostly enjoyed his self deprecating humour and ability to laugh at himself, telling me a story of himself when he was little, that he wore an eye patch and was a little chubster, a wee fat pirate, and I thought to myself that it was the most attractive story a man could ever tell me. Maybe this is what I’m into?

He told me he always pats the stray dogs even though they probably have rabies and fleas, because he believes they deserve a little love too, which made me think he is the male version of me. He turned to me at one point and said “can I kiss you”? And I just laughed in his face and he took it remarkably well. It wasn’t that I didn’t think he was a handsome chap, I suppose I’m just not that kind of girl. I have left his name out of this because maybe he doesn’t want his mum knowing he went on a date with a hobo girl in a tie-dye dress on a bicycle.

I drove home with him on the back of my bicycle, he rode glamorously on the back, I tooted my bell at passers-by, then I left him on the street and conked out on my bed next to Natasha. When I woke up I felt that it was all a dream. I checked my inbox and he had written a message ending in “wishing you nothing but the best.” Gave me something, asked for nothing (much, haha).

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Natasha and I visited Zoe in The Yellow (the place to party in Chiang Mai) one night and ended up hanging out with four Spanish guys. Two of them were policemen from Spain, and were probably the most genuine dudes ever. They were so nice to each other, saying to me “wherever he goes, I go.” Two huge, muscular guys with so much kindness. They ran alongside our bicycles on the way to Spicy club, waited for us at each door, offered us drinks not to get us drunk but because they wanted us to have the best time possible in their company, they cleared out the mens toilet in the club and stood by the door so that I could go to the bathroom. They carried a bag of souvenirs for their family back home with them all night, little bobble-heads and fridge magnets, which I believe says something about a person. They wanted nothing from us other than to spend time in our company and it was such a refreshing notion.

Then one night we were sat in the night market eating our nightly feast of pad thai and papaya salad, and I noticed a man sitting a couple of tables down from us by himself with a large beard and a pensive look on his face. I recognised him instantly but I couldn’t put my finger on how. We made eye contact a couple of times, Natasha went to leave and go home and I decided to stay and chat to him. I wandered up to him and said “HI! How are you? Have we met before?”. He looked mildly astonished at this bold girl approaching him wearing a floral onesie, no makeup, a slightly troll-like hairstyle, and no hidden agenda other than a genuine curiosity about what was behind his man bun and sad eyes. I told him he looked sad, and he just laughed and said, “Shit! I think I was just really involved in my dinner”. That makes sense, but also, how unfortunate to have a sad dinner face?

He had been living in Chiang Mai for almost 6 months, so I definitely had seen him before. I never forget a face. We sat at this rickety table in the night market for over four hours with no food, no drink, no phones, no music, just two people sitting opposite one another conversing authentically, which can be a hard thing to find these days. He told me he could tell as soon as I approached him that I didn’t want anything from him. I’m just a curious child. He told me he learned years ago that he was surrounding himself with people and situations who wanted something from him, who wanted to take away from him in some way – sex, drugs, alcohol, love, money. He made a complete lifestyle change, quit drinking and drugs, and started to build himself up rather than allow himself to be drained. He chose to spend time only with select people who he knew were good for him, who encouraged positivity, and who understood the importance of a healthy energy exchange in life, of karma and the consequences of actions.

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So we rode his motorbike up into the mountains in the dark, which in hindsight sounds like a bloody terrifying thing to do, but my gut was telling me to just go with it. We wandered into some abandoned temples, found some people praying for the king by candlelight, we drove to his apartment and sat on his balcony and he played me some songs on his guitar, including a song he wrote himself, which he was quietly proud of, I could tell.

We snuck into his apartment sauna after hours, then realised it was turned off, so we just sat there in the dark and stared out over Chiang Mai by night. I asked him to take me home, realising suddenly I had left my bicycle in the market carpark, unlocked, and he drove me back. We said goodbye and he thanked me for coming to talk to him – he had been planning to just go home and sleep. We connected on Facebook but I knew we were saying goodbye for good. And that was quite fine.

These people, giving me everything, hilarity and wisdom, insight and protection, without even realising it, and asking for nothing in return.

This is what can happen when you talk to strangers. I guess I just love the possibility of people.

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The Laos Life

I’m sitting on the pool patio, sipping on ice cold water, soaking up the rays through the layer of thick, humid cloud that is concealing the sun. On the other side of the river the builders are blasting Laos pop music at max volume, I can hear the hammering of tools and the occasional outburst of laughter or shouting. The sounds seem to bounce around the hills in the distance, as if we are in a little box of Laos and the hills are the walls.

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Infinity

I’ve found myself back in Laos, this time in Vang Vieng, known for it’s party scene, drunken tubing and half naked tourists wandering confused in the streets after consuming mushroom shakes and taking too many shots at Sakura Bar,in the quest for a free t-shirt, labelled “drink triple, see double, act single”, rules which every bogan backpacker worth their salt will follow on their quest to find themselves in Southeast Asia.

I’m here in the quiet season, and I’m seeing a different side to Vang Vieng. Emphasis is on the beauty of the scenery, the tourists are mostly Korean who cruise down the river in their tubes, occasionally falling out and unable to get back in, they hold onto their tubes and scream with laughter as they bob around, lifejackets and armbands keeping them afloat, all the while holding their phones in waterproof casing and taking selfies with one hand, gripping for dear life with the other.

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Nam Song River 

I’m here for one month, teaching yoga for Yoga in Vang Vieng, based at the Silver Naga Hotel. Myself and my fellow teacher, the lovely Tye from Australia, take turns with our teaching days, me teaching both classes one day, and her the next, which means every second day is a day off! Living the dream? Ahhh yep.

It took a few days for me to settle in here, as I always do. I felt like I had stepped into a dream – after one month of quality, much needed family and recuperation time in the UK, I found myself back in sticky, sweaty southeast Asia with all its lovely sounds and smells and I had to break myself back in to the… different way of living here. My first night here I woke up in the middle of the night to thunder and lightning, very very frightening, and one of the hotel dogs scratching at the door trying to get in for a cuddle. However, I’m not living in a bamboo hut or showering in cold water every day, nor am I getting up at the crack of dawn and teaching all day. I remind myself daily of how incredibly lucky I am to be doing what I love while travelling the world, and I get to live in a beautiful hotel this time, which is the cherry on top.

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The doggy trying to cool his genitals on the floor

I’m up at 6.30am on teaching days, prepping the room and my class, I teach from 7.30-9.00am, have breakfast in the hotel (buffet awesomeness), chill by the pool, hang out in my room, explore the town, get a massage, go for a bike ride, practice my Laos language on the hotel staff (who just laugh at me, shaking their heads like “such a fool, at least she tries), visit a local cafe, plan classes, write my journal, chat to other guests, teach again at 5pm, then go for dinner and chill for the evening. On my days off – same same, except I attend the classes instead of teaching (or sleep in, haha…).

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One of my first days here I visited a cafe in the town for coffee and good internet, and got chatting to the owner, who offered me a job on the spot, “like a homestay! You come here, speak English with us and the customers, help us, eat with us, we speak Laos with you, you drink coffee??”. Obviously I said yes, we shook hands, and every day since I have wandered into Offbeat Cafe, bringing writing notebooks and coloured pens and Laos-English language books and we sit around miming things in attempt to make conversation. They laugh at my attempts at Laos language (my mouth just doesn’t make certain sounds), and they laugh at themselves when they try the English words. They call me their baby Laos, because I sound like a very special baby when I speak Laos, and they also call me “uaey” which means “big sister”, which makes me feel all happy. I call them “nongsau” which means “little sister”. There is Song and Prin, brother and sister who own the cafe, and the three young girls, Tame, Deuy and Daa. They are adorable and all wear their hair in the same high bun and their work t-shirt tied up in a fashionable way.

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Dinner Time!

I’m amazed at how eager they are to learn – when I was in school I don’t think my eyes lit up the way theirs do when the teacher walks into the room. They come running up to me, saying “Jao kin kao ya baw??” which means “have you had lunch??”, and they touch my arm and say “beautiful skin” and I’m like really cos I didn’t moisturise today hahahahaha and they look at me blankly but endearingly, like “she crazy, but we will allow it because she has the knowledge we require”.

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Munchkins.

Mealtimes are interesting. Sometimes I have lunch or dinner with them, and we sit around the table and eat with our hands. The first time I joined them, they put a box of sticky rice, a bowl of vegetables and a plate of meat on the table, pointed to me and said “eat!”. So I sat down, pulled the plate towards me and started to eat, and they started laughing hysterically, “NOOOOOO hhahahahhaah that bowl for EVERYONE!”. Needless to say I felt like a greedy little farang at that moment. Just goes to show that portion sizes in the western world are outrageous, that our normal evening meal would feed a family of four in Asia.

The next time we ate together, Song pulled out a plate of pastey stuff, called “jaeow”, gestured to the sticky rice and said “you eat!”.

Rosie: “what’s this? fish paste?” (It sure tasted fishy.)
Song: “no, no, no fish. Vegetable. And….”
Prin: “Vegetable aaaand…. and…. injection!” *flaps arms wildly*
Rosie: “INJECTION??!” *look of horror*
Prin: “Ahhhh…. Insects!”
Rosie: “mmmmm….”
Prin: *googling furiously…..* “CRICKETS!”

Welll. I ate no more cricket paste that evening, and awoke the next morning with a dubious sensation in the pit of my stomach. My body may not be ready for Laos cuisine in its entirety, but it sure is exciting!

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Green Cookies!

I’m off to swim in the infinity pool. Peace and love from Laos to you all.

La Kon! Goodbye!

p.s. six weeks until our Whole & Happy Retreat in Chanthaburi, Thailand on the 4th of November. Wanna join us? There are still some spaces available. Email me at rosie.moreton@gmail.com to reserve your space, or book online at:

http://wholeandhappyretreat.eventbrite.com

See you there?

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Slice of Weird Pai

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These days, every time I leave my house, I see an elephant. Sometimes five in a row.

As a child, I would leave my house and see a cow, sheep, or on a more exotic day, a goat, and then I would probably either ride it or milk it, which is what us country bumpkins do. Elephants were something I read about in a large novels on the school bus (yes, I was that girl), and certainly not a daily occurrence.

Fast forward to 2016, and this kiwi country bumpkin finds herself in a hippie town in Northern Thailand, living and working on a yoga & meditation retreat, fist-fighting gigantic spiders the size of her face in the darkest hour of night, and overtaking elephants on her moped. I have not yet ridden or milked said elephant, so I’ve really moved up in the world.

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He sat there all night, watching over me. This photo is poor quality because of my shaking limbs.

Pai, Thailand. A backpackers heaven, where you can rent a scooter for three dollars a day, eat  incredible street food for under five dollars a day, and sleep for around the same (depending on your standards!). Strangers become friends when you a share a bowl of steaming Thai soup under the crumbling umbrella of  a street-side stall. Everyone is there for the same reason – to have fun, to relax, and in general to have nothing to do, which is the joy and the downfall of a backpacker – what do you do when you have nothing to do? Drink. And there are plenty of places for that. An atmosphere of late nights, sleepy mornings, and meandering slow-paced days makes this little Northern Thai town a welcome reprieve from bustling Chiang Mai.

There’s a curious duality to Pai. There’s the backpacker crowd, who embark on a windy road from Chiang Mai, unprepared for 700-and-something hair raising, stomach-turning bends they must endure before arriving in the lush Pai countryside. They stay a few days, spend their money on drinks, street food, and scooting about, then head back to Chiang Mai to continue on their travels, another glorious pin in their world map.

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Open Mind Centre, Pai

Then there are the “alternative-lifestyle” nomads who come to Pai because they have heard through the organic grapevine that there is kombucha, coconut kefir and sharing session aplenty. They come with no agenda, other than to spend their days traipsing from cafe to meditation centre, writing in their journals, drawing in their colouring books, purchasing airy, colourful pants, getting tattoos, and partaking in fermentation workshops.  They sit on the pavement in the midst of the night market to sell their handcrafted mandala postcards to fund their travels. They come for three days, and leave three years later, as if emerging from a bubble in time, in need of a good shower.

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“Sharing Session” at Art in Chai, Pai

It’s also a pretty quirky place. As you drive into Pai, coming from Chiang Mai, you pass a handful of kitsch roadside cafes with human-sized letters boldly announcing names like “Pai in Love” and “Strawberry Pai”, which attract hordes of Chinese tourists, doubled up on mopeds, in full length plastic raincoats, seeking shelter from the daily monsoon downpours.

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There is a gigantic white statue of Buddha on a hill overlooking Pai, a cavernous canyon, hidden waterfalls, a bridge left over from World War Two, and a cafe called “Land Crack” on a back road into the hills, where you can buy fruit juices from a five year old pig-tailed girl, no parent in sight. There is a sign encouraging you to “Swim in the crack! At your own risk!” I dare you.

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You can walk down the street and come across a community gathering, which at the front appears to be a casual get-together and barbecue, but enter through those doors and its a discotheque complete with flashing lights, live music in soundproof walls, a curvy Thai woman singing soulful husky tunes to the backing of an 70’s style rock band, wearing waistcoats and beards and holding their guitars like screaming babies. Western women slide wildly across the dance floor, wafting bodily odours every time they lift their arms, but a tiny little Thai girl with some bodily deformities and a lovely dress steals the show with alternative dance moves that demonstrate both creativity and outrageous self-confidence.

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The thing that baffles me the most about Pai, which I will almost certainly never be able to explain, is this: I was driving down the country road in the early evening, heading for civilisation, and stopped dead in my tracks when I saw Captain Jack Sparrow lighting up a cigarette and waiting for his coconut in a roadside bamboo shack. I had consumed no highly fermented semi-alcoholic kombucha before this encounter, and I saw it with my own two eyes. Boots, white blooming shirt, waistcoat, eyeliner, long matted hair, complete with hat and feather, sitting calmly at his table. I sat in the middle of the road, stared for a good ten seconds, then continued down the road, blinking rapidly.

Either he’s been here too long, or I have.

Thai-ed in Knots

I’ve just finished a two week intensive Thai Yoga Massage training, at Sunshine Massage School in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Woohoo!

There were just four of us on our course which was perfect – the week before had around 15 people, so I think we were lucky to get one-on-one time with the teacher.

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All excited about our certificates

On my course was Kay, a fellow yoga teacher and travelling soul from Japan, who is just the sweetest person and shares my love for finding healthy restaurants and yoga studios everywhere she goes – we ate some amazing food around Chiang Mai together, fuelling our bodies for full days of massage and being massaged. She plans to open a yoga and massage studio and coffee shop back in Japan, and I’ll definitely be going to visit in the future. All of the best things combined in one place!

Capu, or Capucine, was my beautiful bunk buddy from the south of France, an effortlessly beautiful human who radiates positivity and sunshine. We spent our evenings swimming in the pool, studying, wandering the Night Bazaar and drinking avocado and mango “Sweet Sunrise” shakes.

Ruben was the only boy on our course, a masseuse from Spain, so he had a head start on the rest of us. He could barely understand what our teacher was saying in her Thai accent, and would look around the room at the rest of us with a quizzical look on his face. She would tell him to do something and he would nod slowly, fully uncomprehending, and then they would laugh and speak the language of massage, talking with their hands and their bodies. Not in a weird way.

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The Team

And Dot – our sweet little pea of a teacher. She is the same age as my mother and I truly felt like she was our mum for the past two weeks, guiding us through the teachings with a cheeky little smile on her face, allowing us to indulge in nap time, and sitting us down for “talks” after the lunch hour, when we all felt a bit sleepy and weren’t ready for massaging just yet. Every morning and evening we sang together, chanted OM three times and did a short meditation. In the afternoons she would talk about traditional medicine, thai culture, how to read the stars, how to lose weight (which she was mildly and hilariously obsessed with, even though she was a tiny human), her favourite colours (gold and yellow!), massage, yoga, temples, the list goes on. At the end of one particular afternoon towards the end of the course, when Kay had just finished massaging me, I fell into a deep, body-stoned dream where I could hear them all talking but I couldn’t move my body. This is what a full day of bodywork will do for you. Dot also spent half an hour one day braiding my hair in the most delicate way, and I felt like a princess.

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Princess Hair
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Me and Dot

Dot would come to the Eco Resort where we were staying every evening to “do her exercises” in the pool – she wore a little unitard and a swim cap and goggles and would peel a mango and sit eating it on a chair by the pool, her pre-swim snack, swinging her legs back and forth like a child, completely involved in what she was doing, every action a meditation. She inspired me to lead a life more simple and focus on the little things.

So now I have finished my course, I am officially certified to give a 2 hour thai massage to a normal human being, and I feel very well stretched.

I’m amazed at how similar thai massage is to yoga. I knew they would complement each other, so its been great to learn how they go hand and hand. Thai massage is a little bit like “passive yoga”, where the masseuse does most of the work and the receiver just lies there like a dead weight, their only task to relax as much as possible. Learning the energy lines in our bodies and the acupressure points on our hands and feet has given me a more informed view on how our bodies are truly wired to heal themselves. Every part of your body, inside and out, is connected intrinsically with another, which explains why holistic medicine is the way to go – we can’t isolate any one part of our body or brain. Healing comes from the whole. It also reaffirmed my suspicions that meditation and mental serenity is the most important thing. We can heal our body through our mind, and our mental state has a direct effect on all of the systems in our body.

Before each massage, the masseur does a prayer, wishing for the happiness and eradication of pain or illness in the body of the receiver. If you as the masseuse are feeling on edge, nervous, irritated or distracted, the receiver will feel that and absorb your energy, even if their eyes are closed and they are half asleep.

Likewise, if you’re the masseuse and your patient is in an emotional state, stressed out or radiating nervous energy or anger, you will feel that and come away from the massage feeling a little off kilter. You have to learn to protect yourself from the energy of the patient, whilst also being able to read it and act upon it. You make your massage a meditation – focussing only on what you are doing, the contact between your body and the receiver’s, radiating compassion and warmth through your hands (and all the other parts of your body used in thai massage – knees, forearms, feet, thighs, anything!), leaving your anxieties and preoccupations at the door. Much like when I teach a yoga class, I find it is the best way to forget yourself and become completely immersed in what you’re doing. Theres no space for anything else. The massage becomes a meditation in motion, a practice of yoga through touch and connection, a mindfulness practice.

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Hippie Central 

There was also a lot of talk on bowel movements and menstruation which was cute and fun – certain series or “families” of massage techniques can’t be done if a woman has her lady time, and there are also certain movements that can help with digestive disorders which was quite helpful for those of us that have been travelling in Asia for some time – the stomach massage was the one I was most nervous about, but proved to be wonderful for my stomach. Our stomach and all of the inside soft lines of our bodies (inner thighs, inner arms, chest)  can be incredibly sensitive, and we hold a lot of emotions here, so we learnt how to balance stronger pressure on the outer lines with a more gentle pressure on the inside lines, listening to the breath and the reactions of the receiver.

So I’ve come away from two weeks of training feeling full of information and some lovely new friendships, and really hoping to do more training in the future.

I didn’t take many photos these past couple of weeks, we were all too sweaty and dishevelled all the time (no changes there, really). I’ve included some from my trip to Pai, a little hippie town north of Chiang Mai which is just heaven.

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Pai Canyon

The next adventure is as of yet unknown – I’m taking my time in Chiang Mai, exploring street foods and little alleyways, weighing up my options and planning our retreat in November in Chanthaburi, Thailand. I’ve been tying myself in knots thinking about what I will do after my course, then avoiding thinking about it, simply because the unknown can be scary and overwhelming.  But it also can be a blessing – I can do anything I want. Sometimes its good to slow down, take stock, and think about what I really want to do next, not just the first thing that comes up. It seems to me that when I get very clear on what I want, its a lot easier to see it. On the other hand, sometimes I don’t know what I want until I’ve got it, and it looks so incredibly different to anything I could have imagined. Hmm.

That’s the joy and the wonder of life. Predictably unpredictable.

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Beautiful Chiang Mai

Anyone who wants to be my Thai Massage practice victim, get in touch.

Rosie Posie xx

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whole & Happy Yoga Retreat in Thailand!

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

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

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

Hope to see you all there!

Love & Light,

Rosie

Loving and Leaving

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

✌️

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