Thoughts From A Traveling Yogi; How Going Abroad Becomes an Integral Part of Spiritual Practice

For as far back as I can remember, I have been a mover and I have been a seeker. The formal ballet training I began as a young girl lead to a performing career in modern dance, and a job as a Pilates and yoga instructor. Similarly, the affinity I had in my adolescence for collecting inspirational quotes, song lyrics, and fortune cookie wisdom evolved into a fascination of both Buddhist and Vedic philosophy. The culmination of these influences in my life currently is the  dedication to the 8 limbed system of Ashtanga yoga. My intense love and commitment to the yogic lifestyle has been rivaled by only one other thing; my love for travel.

I set out on my first international trip in 2013, when I was 27 years old. I was years into an steady yoga practice, I had been meditating consistently for 2 years, and I had even spent time living in an ashram. I had read every book on Buddhism that the local library had in stock. I was volunteering my time to various organizations as Karma yoga, or selfless service. I was desperately trying to cultivate all the virtues I was reading about, such as kindness, non-attatchment, and compassion. This was all well and good, but as most contemporary teachers or yoga or Buddhism will tell you, these skills are meant to be tested out in the world and the convictions that you have because of these practices are meant to be evaluated. My time traveling did just that and more. I was a long time vegan who ate eggs in Vietnam because the chickens they came from were roaming wild and free, and who ate croissants and cheese in Italy because they were handmade with love and generosity by a grandmother named Gilda. I shared rooms and bunks the size of broom closets with other travelers and often went without the luxuries I had been used to at home. I visited the site of the Mai Lai massacre and the war museum in Croatia in order to touch and be reminded of the suffering of others. I put aside my own religious views long enough to be completely awed by the beauty of the Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica. I have seen unimaginable poverty and unimaginable wealth. I healed deep wounds from a past lover who told me that I was boring and had low self esteem when I sat atop a waterfall in Iceland, (the third I had summited that day), and thought, “Hmm, I don’t think those things are true!”. I even remember being frustrated with myself on a trip because I hadn’t been sitting down to practice meditation, and then I realized that I had walked with a 55 lb backpack 2 miles in a rainstorm, slept overnight in a baggage claim, and accidentally left a friend on a train platform, all without losing it, which showed me that I must have been practicing something! My travels have shown me that I am indeed well equipped with the patience, bravery, compassion, and humility that I had been longing to achieve. And it has made me eternally hungry for more.

I know I am not the only one who feels this way, and I do not think it is an accident that a pursuit of a spiritual practice and an affinity for world travel often go hand in hand. There are several reasons I think this is the case, but to put it most simply; traveling puts practice to the test and provides new and more challenging way to practice the skills you have been honing on your mat or on your cushion.

Not only do I believe that my yoga practice has given me the tools to enjoy my travel experiences to the fullest, but having a spiritual practice and philosophy on the workings of the world has only made me want to travel more extensively. Likewise, the greatest influence that travel and exploration has had on me as a human being is that it has affirmed my belief in the necessity of spiritual work. Never again do I want to, nor do I think that I will, see the world as centered around myself and my personal comfort. I am forever growing more concerned and invested in the well beings of others and the way in which my actions have a lasting effect on the environment and the generations to come. I have a reverence for the history and cultures from other corners of the globe that I never quite had despite having been theoretically familiarized to them via textbook. My mind and heart have opened to politics, food, language, and lifestyles in ways I never imagined.

As a teacher of yoga, I am blessed with the opportunity to share what little wisdom and experience I have gathered to my students. I try to impart upon them the immense spiritual value of travel and why it is more than worth the sacrifice to make it happen. To all of you readers, the time is now to deepen your spiritual practice by exploring the world around you. The time is now to align with your own true nature by looking deeply into the lives of others. The time is now to take your practice out into the world, put it to the test, and bring it back in full bloom, watered and enriched by your experiences. Wander. Wander far. Wander with love and with gratitude, and never stop!

The light in me honors the light in all of you…Allison-23

One Response to “Thoughts From A Traveling Yogi; How Going Abroad Becomes an Integral Part of Spiritual Practice”

  1. Ada Hand April 9, 2016 9:17 pm #

    I am bowled over by your depth and strength. Have a wonderful, growth experience. Love, Ada

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