A little word on Kayaking and a recipe

I believe kayaking can change lives. This is because kayaking has changed my life and I see it changing other people’s lives all the time. I like to say “Let kayaking ruin your life”, but I’m more convinced it saved mine. Maybe I’m saying let it ruin your life because I want you to think about that… The concept of it ruining your life. And what for? What does a ruined life look like, exactly? My life is overfilling. Through kayaking I have met my husband, my best friends, I have made a career of the water (haphazardly). I’ve been able to go on week long back county trips, adventures overseas, and kayak some of the most beautiful class IV and V in the country.

Is that a ruined life?

Fourteen women at the Wild Women Wednesday meet on the lake: A women's paddling group my roommate and I created

Fourteen women at the Wild Women Wednesday meet on the lake: A women’s paddling group my roommate and I created

It may seem ruined because my bank account isn’t very big, I don’t have a “stable” job, and I don’t have a permanent address. But if we can all just back up a few feet, and really realize that we get 80-90 short years here to do something, and I’m already a quarter to a third of the way through it, is my lack of a ten year financial plan a real indicator of a ruined life? Or are my abundance of friends a sign of a life well lived?

The little community I live in

The little community I live in

Kayaking has the power to change lives. It causes us to realize how fragile life is (when friend after friend leaves this planet), and how simple life can be (in the middle of a challenging rapid you kind of forget about your mammoth to do list). And the best thing is, kayaking can cause you to feel alive, empowered, and strong. When life is all about struggling to get ahead, kayaking can create a way for you to feel, for a few hours at least, strong and capable and on top of things.

Playing around in Hell Hole on the Ocoee River

Playing around in Hell Hole on the Ocoee River

This bread is delicious and easy to make. The dough is really wet, so be sure to really oil down the pan with coconut oil!

Spelt toast with local eggs and fresh coffee

Spelt toast with local eggs and fresh coffee

Spelt Bread

1 Packet yeast
2 cups water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cups spelt flour
Coconut oil for loaf pan

1) Mix 2 cups slightly warm water with the sugar, yeast, and 1 cup of spelt flour with a spoon. Let sit until the yeast begins to bubble (ten minutes). Add the salt and olive oil, and being stirring in the rest of the flour until it is all incorporated.
2) Knead batter for a few minutes (five or so), then cover with a towel or saran wrap and leave in a warm place until double in size (could take up to an hour, I put mine in the sun and it took 20 minutes, so keep an eye on it!).
3) Turn oven on bake to 400. Liberally grease a loaf pan with coconut oil. Punch down dough/batter, then pour (literally, this batter is really soft) into the loaf pan. Allow to rise again (covered) until double in size. Spread coconut oil or olive oil on top of the loaf and bake until the top is browning and the sides start to pull away. This could take an hour. My oven is really unreliable right now, and it only took 30 minutes, but normally it would be closer to 45.
4) Once the top is brown and the sides start to pull away, remove from oven and place on counter for 5 minutes. Then shake the loaf free and allow to cool on the counter. Leaving it in the pan to cool will trap the steam and turn it into condensation which will result in a soggy loaf. Enjoy with coconut oil and honey!

The Search for Balance

Right now I’m focusing on finding balance in my life. Yoga teaches balance: finding your breath to find balance. The Tao preaches balance: the second principle is dynamic balance, think yin and yang.

But what if my intense focus on finding balance is… unbalanced?

Sometimes I feel as though I am fighting so hard to find balance, I am attacking it with every thought I have. The search for balance is more like a frantic child crying for a second cookie than a calm, even approach towards life.

I sip tea in the afternoon and practice meditation, trying to find calmness in a busy day. I spend my mornings reading spiritual articles and practicing my crow. When I’m upset I try to use cleansing breathes, to calm myself down.

I spend so much time working at being calm and balanced I fear I’m not actually very calm, or balanced.
So how do I balance my search for balance with authenticity? And if I let go of my search for balance for a little while, will I ever find it? Can I find balance naturally, by allowing it to become a part of my life without frantically chasing it?

Learning to find balance in my search for balance is a struggle. I am a woman of extremes, like most women I think. When I find a hobby I love, I throw every waking moment into it. When I discovered yoga, all of a sudden my phone’s background was a yoga quote, my wardrobe became overthrown by yoga pants, and I began ending emails with “Om Shanti”. I didn’t merely stretch in the mornings, I swan dove down, then rose with a flat back half way, then jumped back to plank and lowered into a low cobra.

So when I first began to try to find more balance in my life, I didn’t merely begin accepting things as they come and letting things go with the mental calmness of a monk. I overanalyzed my daily routines, tried to find areas I should relax in or maybe give more energy to. Am I eating enough organic? I should be more disciplined in buying organic salad greens. On that note, I should also be more disciplined in eating a salad every day. And I should be less focused on yoga. Looking up yoga inspirational photos on my lunch breaks is too much.

I decided I needed to walk the dog more, watch online tv less, focus more on brushing my teeth, and spend less money on lattes. I should also meditate everyday, and drink more green tea and less coffee. When situations were stressful, instead of getting stressed and upset, I should be calm and cool. I should be introspective and spiritual, able to rise above the worldly stresses and “mind over matter it”.

The problem was, the more “balanced” I was becoming, the more chaotic I felt. I was getting stressed over not being stressed; I was wound as tightly as a yo-yo, ready to unravel at any minute. I knew this wasn’t the goal. I didn’t feel blissful as I calmly went through my day, and I knew I needed to re-evaluate my plan for becoming balanced.

Somehow I needed to find a way to stop the madness and hit the reset button. I began reading instructions for meditation, since my over-active mind makes it difficult to actually sit still and think of nothing. I noticed a theme that seemed profound to me: instead of trying not to think, merely acknowledge thoughts as they come and then let them go. Surprisingly, this worked. It worked in meditation, it began to work in yoga when instead of breathing into triangle I was menatlly writing a grocery list, and it started to work when I got mad at people.
The next time my husband and I had a disagreement, instead of letting the anger build and turn into resentment, I acknowledged my feelings. I didn’t try to diffuse them with love or rise above them in a peacefully blissful state of understanding. I accepted my feelings and allowed myself to feel them; knowing they were validated and I had the right to experience them. Then, I simply let them go. Well, it wasn’t as easy right out of the gate, but I began to work on the letting go part.

I began to realize balance isn’t simply a state of tranquil bliss all the time. Balance means good and bad, but not too much of both. In my search for balance, I had tried to swing too far into the good zone. But true balance is learning to deal with both sides without allowing it to overrule your life. Trying to live solely in the positive side of life can also be unhealthy.

Learning to let go after fully feeling an emotion turned out to be so much easier then trying to ignore the emotions all along. I simply allow the emotion to come, then acknowledge I have done all I can do in the situation, and let it go. Through learning to balance my search for balance, I have also been able to more fully accept who I am. Instead of trying to tame the wild parts of myself, by pretending to be calm when everyone knows I’m an energetic, sometimes wildly emotional person, I learn to embrace the wildness, then let it go.

After all, balance is about living with the good and the bad, not just simply the good.

Mango Fried Black Rice

I’m back in the gorge. I’m back in my little white house, nestled deep in some of the oldest mountains on earth. I spend my cool mornings drinking coffee and reading, I spend my lunch breaks creeking, and I spend my evenings on front porches scattered throughout the little neighborhood. Thanks to the high amount of rain, the Cascades and other creeks in the area have been running a ton lately. I’ve been getting so many laps on the Cascades and its been marvelous!

Lots of rain means lots of creaking!

Lots of rain means lots of creaking!

My neighbors are all old friends. We are a bizarre bunch. We live in these tiny white houses they built for the workers when they built the dam decades ago. Its staff housing at its finest: we have the guy who enjoys grinding wheat and making homemade pasta, the girl who is studying to be a nurse and get out of the gorge, the guy who loves nothing more than to mow grass, and my Italian roommate from Chicago. We are a communal bunch. We work all day and at night we drift between each other’s houses and porches with beer, cigarettes, and crusty bread dipped in olive oil and vinegar.

Cascades!

Cascades!

The community is what I miss the most when I’m gone. We aren’t built to live alone. We didn’t evolve to all of a sudden be living so separately, in houses too big for one person with yards to separate us even more. We are made to live with each other, on top of each other, in each other’s lives. Here in staff housing, we experience the village way of living. We are a village within ourselves: a family unit created by choice. We drive each other crazy and adore each other.

IMG_1880

And I’m making Mango Fried Black Rice all the time. I wish I had a good photo, but the truth is: think of globby black rice. Hard to photograph well. So just make it and enjoy!

IMG_1942

Mango Fried Black Rice
-1/2 cup black rice, uncooked
-1 mango
-1/2 red onion, diced
-3 garlic cloves, smashed
-about a tip of your pinky size of ginger, diced
-2 tablespoons olive oil
-handful green beans
-2 stalks of kale, cut up
-1 teaspoon coriander
-1 teaspoon paprika
-1 tablespoon sesame oil
-1 tablespoon soy sauce
-1/3 bunch of cilantro, chopped
1) Cook the rice in 1 cup of water (bring to boil, then simmer until water is fully absorbed, about 45 minutes). Set aside to cool.
2) In a pan, heat up the olive oil on medium heat. Sautee the garlic and ginger until fragrant, add the onion and sauté until soft. Add green beans and kale until cooked but still slightly crunchy. Dice the mango and add it as well. Pour the spices, sesame oil, and soy sauce over the mixture and wait until you can smell it all.
3) Turn the heat to high and add the rice, stirring to incorporate. Let it sit and get crusty, and then stir it every few minutes, but not often or it won’t get nice and fried. Bring the heat down and stir in the cilantro. Serve with fried tofu.

Why I Love My prAna Clothing

Recently I took a three-week trip and flew to Bali, Indonesia to meet a friend. Never in my life have I been to Southeast Asia, or traveled that far from home. For almost a year before, I had been saving every penny I could find for the trip, and it was worth it. I flew into Bali at two in the afternoon, and stepped off the little plane into thick, humid air. I had left behind a lingering, cold winter in North Carolina, so the damp air’s warmth felt good- at least for the first few days. After day three, I began to relish the cold showers I was taking three or four times a day to lower my body temperature. I also began to feel really grateful I had packed mostly prAna clothing for the trip.

DSC08013

In my bag I had the Dreaming Tank, Shauna Dress, Mantra Pant, an old Chai Tee, and a full bathing suit complete with the Aleka top and Millie board shorts. prAna had also sent me the Revolution yoga mat for my trip. Yes, I realize this yoga mat is extremely heavy and large (the biggest they make!), but with the Tantra Mat Strap, I was able to navigate through Bali with my giant mat with no problem. From yoga every morning to surfing every afternoon, my yoga gear stood up to the test of a three week adventure involving cheap hostels, moving every few days, and heat that would ascend like a suffocating blanket everyday.

Andrew also wore mostly prAna with the same love for it as me!

Andrew also wore mostly prAna with the same love for it as me!

Full of colorful people and an exotic language, Bali has it all: cheap delicious food, yoga, surfing, and nestled in the center of the island, the hippie-yoga-healthy lifestyle Mecca of Ubud. While in Bali, we spent most of our time on the beach while I learned to surf. Every morning my friend, a yoga teacher, led us in a morning class on the porch of our room. My Revolution mat had plenty of grip for my sweaty palms and room for my lanky limbs. The rest of our days were spent surfing and exploring the surrounding beach towns on our scooter.

I have never surfed before, but knew I would love it based on my love for water sports. At home I’m an avid whitewater kayaker, so I feel comfortable and at home on the water. The ocean is unlike anything I’ve experienced. The best ride I had was two weeks into our trip on the island of Lembongan. We had taken a ferry out to the island and were staying in a small villa with a yoga shack. The crystal clear water looked like the photos out of a travel magazine, complete with a cliff wall in the background. The break is over a coral reef, with beautiful fish and colorful coral you can see through the clear water. I caught a beautiful glassy wave and rode for the longest I had gotten yet, after watching the fish in the clear water beneath me. As I paddled back out to the break, I saw the island of Bali with the lazy clouds hovering over the volcano. This was truly a beautiful place.

DSC08006

My beloved prAna clothes stood up to the test of traveling. I washed the tanks once halfway through my trip. They dried overnight, and were good to go the next morning. Despite dripping with sweat most of the day, the tops rarely smelled. The lightweight fabric helped keep me cool and covered during sweaty yoga classes, pummeling surf conditions, and hot, sunny afternoon exploring. The Shauna dress was a dream come true during the hot days. After a shower, I could simply slip it on and be ready to hit the town in style.

photo 2

My trip to Bali was a once in a lifetime opportunity. My days were filled with yoga and surfing, and a good break from the busyness of life at home. Traveling helps us hit the reset buttons in our lives. Returning to my regular life after a few rewarding weeks of playing hard, I am reminded why I love my job in the outdoor industry. Creating a life we love and filling it with friends, yoga, and traveling is a lifestyle. I am lucky to be able to have the opportunities and the gear to support such a dream.

My old Chai Tee and a new trucker hat from the Spring 2015 collection, standing up to the test!

My old Chai Tee and a new trucker hat from the Spring 2015 collection, standing up to the test!

*Discalaimer: This is a review on prAna products I used while in Bali. I received a free yoga mat from them for my trip as well as a discount on clothing through my job in the industry. I am reporting my honest opinions here, they have not asked or influenced my review on the gear itself. They are a great company with roots in climbing and yoga, and a focus on sustainability and fair trade as well as durable clothing made for adventure and traveling.*

Bali Part Three: Nyepi Day, Island Livin’, and More Surfing

The last and final installment of Bali Part Three comes a little late. This week I’ve been working on moving back to the gorge for the summer, catching up with friends, and enjoying the warm spring outside.

When I left off last time, we were headed to Lembongan. This island is an hour or so ferry ride from Bali. As we got near it in the wooden ferry, bouncing on the waves, I saw a few breath taking things. The edge of the island was lined with steep cliffs, and the water crashing against them was picture perfect blue. It looked like the kind of water you see in travel magazines. Not too far out from a little beach tucked in between the cliffs was a smooth, glassy surf break. Coming from the crowded beaches on Bali, the half a dozen people waiting for a wave looked more than manageable.

Ferry Ride to Lembongan

Ferry Ride to Lembongan

We scrambled off the ferry onto the beach with our bags and went in search of our hostel and a scooter. The hostel was simple, a large bungalow with two beds and an outdoor bathroom. Luckily it had a pool and a yoga pavilion we had access to. Once we got the scooter, we took to the narrow, dirt streets to explore.

IMG_1577

The island of Lembongan is a sudden contrast to where we had been staying. The main island is touristy and busy, full of hotels, fast food restaurants, and traffic. On Lembongan, people were still living in rough shacks with chickens out front. They had the traditional platforms in the front yards to sit on in the heat of the day. They spoke very little English, and there weren’t any cars. The roads were narrow and would charge up the side of a steep hill. Picture a golf cart road made will really crappy pavement ten years ago and then left to erode on a wild island. Even with boots on I don’t think I would have walked up some of them, but our little scooter charged up them.

Downtown Lembongan

Downtown Lembongan

We drove around looking at the rustic way of living, and suddenly popped out from a bunch of trees on a beach. Seaweed grew in squares in the shallow water and dried on the beach. The seaweed they grow here they export for use in things like cosmetics. It’s the second main industry on the island, next to tourism. Tourists come here for the remoteness of the island, and the diving.

Anyway, back to our beach on the scooter. Another island was visible on the other side of the small channel, and a long, narrow, yellow hanging bridge lay in between. The bridge was only wide enough for one scooter, so we checked carefully then charged across it. A dog followed us across, and I couldn’t help but laugh at how funny the dogs are in Bali. They are all so independent. Its as if he was thinking, “And today I’ll go to Ceningan and see what’s going on there.”

IMG_1573

On the smaller island of Ceningan, we kept bouncing along on the unkempt “roads” until Andrew took a sharp right and we passed between an abandoned building and a brick wall. On the other side was a small warung (local word for family owned business, most often a restaurant, usually in their home). It was closed, but Andrew told me it had a cliff on one end of the porch you could jump off. Sadly, it never opened while we were there.

IMG_1586

We found a restaurant that was open and while I stuffed my face with French fries and avocado (its amazing what you crave when you’re traveling), Andrew paddled out to a surf break off the cliff. It wasn’t the one we’d seen when we arrived. This surf break was gigantic and dangerous. The current was strong and the waves were mammoth. It was definitely not beginner friendly, so I was content to simply watch. My time would come.

And it did. The next day, after a long, hot night after the power for the island ran out (this actually happens) and the fan in our room didn’t work, we found the beginner surf break. I paddled out on my board, marveling at the crystal clear water and the beautiful reef and fish below.

The waves are calmer, smoother, and not as strong as I’m used to. The first few waves I miss, but then I start to get the hang of it. Finally, as Andrew paddles over to tell me he’s ready to go in, I caught a wave. This wave was perfect: It was smooth, glassy, and beautiful. I popped up on my board and rode it until the crumbling waves started pouring over my feet, then I kept my balance and rode it until it petered out. As I sunk down on my board, I turned to Andrew who was grinning.

“Best ride I’ve had yet!” I was so happy, floating on air to be exact. We paddle back in to the tiny beach and I return my board. If I had been hooked on surfing before, the glassy waves over the reef had certainly reeled me in even more. The next few days we spent on the tiny break, and I had some of the best rides of the trip out there.

IMG_1596

It turns out we were in town for one of the biggest celebrations of the year: Nyepi day, the Balinese New Year. Luckily we found out the tradition in time to make sufficient plans. Basically what they do (and we heard several stories) is spend a week working on building these giant floats with evil spirits on them. Then they spend a night making noise, carrying them through the streets, reenacting a play with them, and then burn them. The next day the entire island shuts down. I mean, the airport is closed, the electricity in some places is turned off, and you can get arrested if you leave your house. The idea is they will wake up all the evil spirits the night before, then be as quiet as possible to convince them the island is uninhabited and the spirits will then leave.

We didn’t want to be stuck somewhere without a fan for the whole day, so we splurged a little bit and booked a nicer room in Ubud. After our four-night stay on the island, we caught a ferry back to the mainland then a bus to Ubud. Ubud is the city Asheville wishes it could be. Amazing vegan food (affordable as well), yoga everywhere, and an alternative, independent vibe makes this city one of the tourist capitals of Bali. We flew down narrow, crooked streets flanked with colorful stalls on our scooter and found an amazing raw food café on a side street.

Raw Pancakes!

Raw Pancakes!

I’ve always been skeptical of raw food. In Asheville, its always twice as expensive (making dinner out not just unreasonable, but a treat only a millionaire could afford) and most of the time dry, tasteless, and uninteresting (with the exception of Plant in Asheville). Andrew wanted raw so he dragged me into this small café where I was expecting to over pay for a salad and a pile of dull, cardboard- like crackers made from flax seeds and leftover tomato pulp. Instead, I ordered a slice of pizza and carrot cake (and obligatory salad). The slightly moist crust on the pizza was made from seeds and zucchini and the topping was a delicious fresh pesto and avocado. The tiny slice they gave me was packed with flavor and so many living nutrients, it was all I could do to finish the meal and still pack away the amazing carrot cake. I love carrot cake; it’s my favorite kind of cake. Not being able to eat cream cheese icing and not being interested in the over processed, greasy vegan alternative, I never get to enjoy a slice. But this slice… oh my my! To be honest, I ate a second slice that afternoon!

Clearly this café was one of the highlights of my trip. After days of mostly rice, tempeh, and sautéed veggies on the island, my body was craving real, living food. The nutrient dense raw food filled me instantly, and packed an energy punch. I ate there for most of our stay in Ubud, feasting on banana chocolate pancakes with raw coconut ice cream, more pizza, and a “burger”. It was delicious everytime.

Flowers for offerings

Flowers for offerings

But, there is more to do in Ubud then sit at the raw food café. The shopping in Ubud is the best. The touristy souvenirs there are geared towards more hippie travelers, so I was able to get a few things for myself and my friends. We also made a stop at he Monkey Forest where I got to hold a monkey! I’ve never held one before, and spent most of the first half hour squealing every time one got near me. Andrew finally convinced me to let one eat a banana out of my hand… but first it climbed on my head.

IMG_1582

The best were the tiny baby monkeys, clinging to their mother’s bellies as they raced around the treetops. There was a small pool the monkeys were playing in. They would climb trees around the edge and then catapult themselves into the water, aiming for each other. It was an amazing thing to watch, and hilarious.

We were in Ubud for the rest of the weekend. The Nyepi day festival started on Friday night and we went down to watch the show. To be honest, it wasn’t as exciting as we had anticipated. The monsters were amazing and the show they put on was fantastic, but they don’t burn them anymore! So we watched the show downtown and then headed home. We spent the next day inside, completely quiet. We did yoga, read, and enjoyed the forced downtime.

IMG_1655

We spent the last two days of our trip back in Kuta, surfing and eating at our favorite restaurants. The day before we left we got a morning surf session in, ate a fantastic lunch, and headed to Canggu for massages. Not a bad way to end an amazing trip.

Bali, Part Two. Surfing, flat tires, massages, and BAMBOO!

The bamboo floors, doors, walls and ceiling were loud. They don’t keep noise out very well and they creak when you walk worse the old boards in the farmhouse I used to live in. Every morning I tip toed down the noisy stairs, the creaky steps seem to be stretching awake with my joints in the morning light.

Our swanky digs!

Our swanky digs!

The Balinese girls opening the café got used to seeing someone else so early in the mornings, and poured me a cup of strong, dark Balinese coffee. In Bali, they simply grind the coffee to a fine powder and pour the hot water over it in the mug: similar to cowboy coffee. Some of the grinds float up and stick to the edge of the mug, so I used my finger to wipe the rim clean and take a sip.

The amazing alkaline cafe at Serenity

The amazing alkaline cafe at Serenity

We spent quite a few days in the beach town of Kuta before coming to the Serenity Eco Guestlodge in Canggu: a small bamboo hostel with a health food café and yoga on the beach. In Kuta we stayed in a quiet hostel tucked into the middle of the big city, with a little garden in front of our room. I marveled at how quiet our hostel was in the middle of Kuta, the party town of Bali.

The wonderful Serenity Eco Guest House!

The wonderful Serenity Eco Guest House!

In Kuta we had a few reasons to stay as long as we did. The hostel was quiet and cheap (around $3 each per night), the vegan food was plentiful, cheap and delicious, and the surf was within walking distance. As I spent a few days adjusting to the time difference and learning to surf, we took advantage of the money saving town.

The first day I got there my body clock immediately adjusted right into Bali time. The next morning we woke up early and Andrew led us in a yoga practice on the front porch. We walked through quiet streets as street vendors opened their booths slowly, stretching and yawning and guzzling coffee. The beach was a five-minute walk down an alley and across the main road.

IMG_1446

The surf was good, Andrew decided. I rented a board and got my first lesson. Andrew explained how to catch waves, what to look for, and, most important, what to do when I got pummeled. I paddled out on top of my board after Andrew, like a baby duck, and sat in the calm water waiting for waves. They started coming and grew and before I knew it I was getting thrashed in the surf.

At first, it felt terrifying. In whitewater, being out of control in water, especially big waves that take your entire body and spin it under water, is never a good thing. My instincts are to maintain control, to stay in or on top of my craft, and to avoid the pummeling.

IMG_1447

But after popping back up after each wave and finding my board bobbing beside me, I realized they were pretty harmless. I wasn’t even touching the bottom of the ocean. In fact, I was getting spun upside down under the wave, which was a new experience. Knowing I’d just float back up after each wave helped me relax and begin to enjoy the crazy surf that kept coming. I only caught a few rides, and never stood up on the board the first day. But I loved the craziness of the waves, and the addictive glide of catching one.

I was hooked.

After two hours, the waves got too big, even for Andrew. We called it a morning and took off in search of lunch. On our little scooter we weaved in between traffic on the main roads. Scooters whipped by us everywhere: in between cars, over sidewalks, gunning down the opposite lane trying to get ahead before another car came at them. Finally we were out of the big city and on smaller country roads. Andrew turned onto a road through a small hole in a concrete wall and we were suddenly on an elevated brick road driving through the middle of rice fields.

Driving through the rice fields

Driving through the rice fields

Balinese were hunched over in the hot sun, crouching in the mud working. We bounced along the road and then stopped in front of a little villa called Serenity. We had driven to the nearby beach town of Cenggu. The surf here was also suitable for beginners. After a quick lunch, we scheduled massages and then walked to the beach. Afternoon surfing was followed by a massage, then dinner and a drive back to Kuta.

Except for the day where my belly reacted to the recent change in diet, atmosphere, living situation, salt water, sun, and routine, our days began to unfold mostly the same. Morning yoga, followed by surfing at Kuta, a quick drive to Cenggu when the Kuta waves were out for better surfing, then dinner at the vegan café and back to Kuta.

Well, most days ran smoothly like that. One day we started out on the scooter like normal, bouncing down the weathered streets that barely saw upkeep, when the usual bouncing turned into a more rhythmic lumping. Andrew pulled over and I hopped off the back discover a flat tire! Stuck on the sidewalk on a busy street downtown Kuta, I looked around trying to find something resembling an auto shop.

FullSizeRender

In Bali, you buy gas in old vodka bottles and there aren’t places like auto shops. Instead, we started asking around and found a skinny little man in an alley with a clamp and some glue. He didn’t look to be bigger than a ten year old, but lit up a cigarette in his weathered lips as he pushed our scooter up on the stand and started pulling the tube out of the tire to patch it. Twenty minutes later, we were on the way.

And two blocks later, after a delicious raw vegan lunch, the rhythmic thumping started back up. This time we pulled over right in front of another back-alley tire shop. We explained our predicament to the young man using a combination of words and body motions (mostly I came up with an interpretive dance), and before he even took the tire off, another guy had tossed him a new tube.

Twenty more minutes, and $4 later, we were once again on the way. This time we made it all the way to Cenggu and home just fine.

After a few days, we realized we were spending most of our time at Serenity in Cenguu, so made the move for a few days. After our cheaper room in Kuta, a warm, dark room with a large, smelly bathroom, our room at Serenity felt like a five star resort. Made entirely of bamboo, the building we were in was situated above the main complex. We had views of the ocean and nearby houses with gardens. We had a beautiful bathroom with hot water, and a private porch off the back of the room.

Our private bamboo porch

Our private bamboo porch

The café at Serenity served food focused on the alkalizing principles. Always interested in different ways of eating, I immersed myself in the books in the common area: a bamboo room appropriately called “cozy room”, full of giant floor pillows and mattresses covered in red satin. Low tables were scattered around for afternoon treats of homemade banana sorbet and tea.

Headstands on our bamboo porch

Headstands on our bamboo porch

The meals were simple but delicious: guacamole with fresh vegetables and homemade bread, rice stir-fry with tofu and tempeh and vegetables from the garden behind the villa, banana pancakes with fresh papaya juice. We enjoyed massages and beautiful surf sessions.

The waves were beautiful in the afternoon and perfect for beginners. Out on the board as the sun slowly began to fall in to the ocean behind me, I watched the afternoon rays light up the temples on the beach. Behind the temples were miles of mountains. The warm salt water lapped around me as I sat on my board and thought about how incredible the island is.

The beautiful, peaceful beach at Cenggu

The beautiful, peaceful beach at Cenggu

By the second day at Cenggu, I was standing on my board. If I had thought I was hooked before, standing as the waves sped my board along was an incredible feeling. The morning yoga was strengthening my core and mental strength. I would pop up as my board caught a wave, and in my mind I would find an overwhelming peace, a calmness in the middle of the wild ocean.

After three nights in this magical place, it was time to move on to the small, rural island of Lembongan.

Bali: Part One

It was one in the morning local time, and muggy as hell. I knew it would be warm and humid, but wasn’t prepared for how quickly I was drenched in sweat as soon as I walked outside.

I trudged down the sidewalk with my giant pack on my back, and tried to maintain my excitement as my exhausted mind scrambled to figure out where to go for my last flight: the one way hop from Jakarta to the island of Bali.

Taking the ferry to Lemongan, an island full of crystal clear glassy waves and colorful culture.

Taking the ferry to Lemongan, an island full of crystal clear glassy waves and colorful culture.

Once I found the gate and settled in for the next six hours until my flight time, I logged into the free wifi and checked in with my husband. I had several emails and text messages from him in urgent tones: “Call ASAP”. Trying not to indulge the mental images of my precious dog mangled on the road or worse, I immediately called him on video chat.

“Jon Clark is dead,” is all he said.

On the scooter after a fantastic surfing session in Canggu.

On the scooter after a fantastic surfing session in Canggu.

For ten years I had dreamed of coming to Bali. I worked seasonal jobs with the idea of saving money and having flexibility to travel. But every year, something would get in the way. I began to realize I was sabotaging myself: allowing my fear of money insecurity or getting out of my comfort zone to limit my life.

I had known Jon Clark through work at the rafting company I had worked for the past six years. He taught kayak instruction in the summers and spent the winters kayaking in Chile, where he also owned land and a house. Every time I saw him he would tell me to come to Chile for the winter. I had the same reply every time: “next year”.

No more "next year"s

No more “next year”s

I was always waiting on a better job, more financial security, better timing. Sitting in the muggy Jakarta airport, my husband’s stricken face peering at me from my iPhone screen, all my trepidations about this Bali trip began to melt away. Jon was in his mid thirties. He had spent his life chasing every possible adventure; he died wind surfing in the Bahamas with the love of his life while living on a sailboat.

How many times had I told Jon “next year”, not realizing, there would one day be no “next year”?

As I packed for Bali the few nights before, I had had to work to keep the stress at bay: Do I have enough money for this? Am I really making the right decision? Am I sabotaging my job? How will this impact my future career? Should I do this next year instead?

IMG_1476

There I was in Jakarta. I was a mere few hours away from meeting my best friend in Bali for three weeks of yoga, surfing, and doing whatever we pleased. I had spent a year saving money and planning this trip. Every skipped meal out, every latte I didn’t spend money on, every cost cutting budget minded grocery list had led to this.

There I was in Jakarta. The doubt in my mind accompanied the voices telling me I wasn’t being a “good wife” and this was “irresponsible” playing inside my head.

The ticket agent announced our flight was boarding. I stood up, said goodbye to my best friend, my partner in life, and walked toward to the gate.

A few hours later, I landed on the even muggier island of Bali. Damp with sweat, Andrew pulled me into the biggest bear hug of my life. “I’m so glad you’re here,” he said softly. Andrew and Jon had been close friends for years. I pulled back and looked at Andrew’s salt water scrubbed face.

“This was the best decision I’ve made in a long time.”

Monkey Forest in Ubud.

Monkey Forest in Ubud.

Three Tips for International Vegan Travel

As I get ready to leave (TOMORROW) for my trip to Bali, I am packing, repacking, and organizing. As a plant based eater, I know I need to prepare adequately before for any circumstance I may encounter. It may be a few days before I can find some good plant based fats, for example. While I was in Cuba, I ate so many rice and beans meals, I began to wonder what a vegetable even looked like. For this trip I am packing a multi vitamin and also a greens supplement. It contains mostly spirulina, to bump up my iron, calcium, and B12 intake. I also have chia seeds and pumpkin seeds for my journey.

I’m also really happy to report that GoMacro sent me a box of goodies for my trip! About twenty or so mini bars! I’m so grateful for these bars and the support of GoMacro. They are delicious and will be a lifesaver on the long plane rides and hikes!

These are delicious!

These are delicious!

I’m happy to report also that I raced in my first Slalom race on Saturday at the Nantahala Outdoor Center and took home first in my division! I have a new sport for this summer.

Andrew is already over in Bali, getting ready for my long awaited arrival. To help with the packing, he sent me this little article to share with all of you. He is a dear friend of mine, and a soul mate when it comes to this kind of lifestyle. Enjoy!

Andrew3

As I watch the sun go down over the horizon, the turquoise water glistens. The air is warm and humid as I await my Balinese Vegan meal. To me, this adds an extra adventure to my travels: eating food that’s nutritious but also causes minimal harm. I can enjoy this meal fully knowing it was made with love.

This is the experience of an international vegan traveler; however, being vegan/vegetarian also has it’s own set of challenges. With a little preparation, basic knowledge in nutrition and an adventurous/adaptable attitude you can thrive on your next international adventure.

1: Being prepared: Bring food and supplements.
I bring nutrient bars, chia seeds, chlorella tablets, probiotic, flax seed, and B12 capsules. I like Pro bars for the long plane, train, bus, and boat rides. When you need a nutritious meal it’s easy to bust one out and get instant proteins, omegas and calories. Probiotics are to keep the good bacteria coming. It’s keeps all the good stuff in your gut which in turn will make you more adaptable when living in a foreign land. Avoid alcohol, cigarettes and any other activity or substance that will lower your immune system. Give it at least a week before you do so. I personally don’t drink except maybe on special occasions and even then it’s minimal. It’s always a personal choice. The flax seed oil capsules can be taken with any meal to help make food and other nutrition more absorbable. B12 is a modern world issue. If your not supplementing B12 you may want to consider it. Look into it and make sure you bring enough for the duration of your trip as it may be difficult to obtain in country.

Always prepare!

Always prepare!

2: Dissecting a menu
Learning to look at a menu with dissecting eyes can get you a fantastic vegan meal. Look for side dishes as well as ingredients in entrees and you can ask the waiter or waitress if they could add a certain ingredient in your meal. For example, if you’re looking at a salad with feta, cucumbers, tomatoes etc but you want some fats and protein to make it EPIC, ask them to add Guacamole from the chips and guacamole and also add a side of black beans from the side options. No cheese. It’s a skill you may already know as a vegan and you will be happy to know it applies in foreign lands as well ;) The hard part can be the language barrier. Be simple. Say Add tempeh, No meat and that’s it.

A quiet breakfast is Tasmania

A quiet breakfast is Tasmania

3: Pick a vegan friendly country
Most countries have roots in plant based diets mostly in the poor regions but now with the modern world meat seems to be a luxury now even the poor can afford. With the rise of animal products everywhere, especially in touristy areas, you have to be able to navigate markets as well as restaurants. Look for greens of any kind, fresh fruits etc and many restaurants will take the food you found and cook it for you. Many hostels will also offer ways of cooking your own food. Be adventurist and you will be rewarded. If you find yourself not finding much in the way of vegetables and fruits, this is where the chia seeds and chlorella come in. Chia seeds give you much needed protein and omega 3s. Chlorella is a cleanser and offers B-12 among a plethora of other benefits. You get the picture. Countries like India are way different than Argentina. Making food a part of your choice is worth looking at if food is important to you.

So there you have it. No reason to get complicated. Knowing your body and what it needs is a really important skill to have. Knowing you need fats, proteins, certain vitamins, and minerals can help you make wise decisions when it comes to food choices. As an adventure traveler you have to be somewhat adaptable but don’t fret. Depending on the country you visit you may see that animals live on actual farms, plants are more nutrient rich because they are not imported and grown in big Agro corporations. Do your homework and you will have a wonderful vegan experience on your future international adventure!

Andrew

Getting Ready for Indonesia

The countdown is on. One and a half weeks left until I hop on a plane, then three more, and 48 hours later find myself in Indonesia.

This trip has been years in coming. In high school, my first boyfriend was from Bali, Indonesia. We met at the resort we worked at (I cleaned rooms!). I was too independent for him, so it didn’t last long, but it did last long enough for me to become intrigued by stories of his homeland. I’ve dreamed of visiting Bali for the last ten years.

Right now I have so many lists: things to get done, things to buy, work lists. I’m making sure I have called my credit card company, know where my passport is; I’m making sure I’ve got my vitamins, soap, a new toothbrush; I’m setting up things at work so my absence isn’t as huge as it could be.

A new journal for my journey

A new journal for my journey

I’ve got a new journal for my journey as well. One thing I am trying to make sure I don’t do is create really high expectations for this trip. While I know it is going to be the trip of a life time, and most likely a life changing trip, I don’t want to have any disappointment.

This is a life lesson I am learning in general. Learning to accept life as it comes, and to graciously be ok with the things happening is a skill I’m working on developing. I’m a very extreme person. I’m not the best at moderation. But a sustainable life, whether it be financially, physically, or emotionally, depends on moderation and balance.

Learning how to talk with an old soul.

Learning how to talk with an old soul.

Cultivating balance in my personal life is a daily challenge. I am extremely lucky to work for such great bosses and such a great company (shout out to the Nantahala Outdoor Center) that values balance in their employee’s lives. My bosses are great example of balancing a strong work ethic with maintaining a passion for their soul sports. This atmosphere allows me to work hard and play hard.

I’m learning a lot right now about accepting experiences as they happen. I am careful not to create an expectation for my trip to Bali that will cause the whole journey to not add up. I am careful to not get so focused on chasing a bank account that I forget the passions which led me into the outdoor industry in the first place.

I also bought a string bikini for the first time for surfing. I’ve been working out this winter, and am happy to report that my vegan hemp protein and yoga practice has restored my shoulders to their former glory.

Finally building back the strength.

Finally building back the strength.

I’ll keep you guys updated on my adventure and the process of finding balance.

On the topic of Soul Mates….

“Can married people have more than one soul mate?” My friend asked me the other day.

I kind of mumbled an answer, “yes, but it depends on far they go with those other soul mates that determines how ok it is”, but I never stopped thinking about the topic.

I am happily married, (well, most of the time) to a man I want to play scrabble with when we’re 75. But I have several soul mates. There are people who’s presence I crave.

But none of these relationships makes me ashamed or feel like I have something to hide.

soulmate

There is the friend I can spend hours talking about green tea with, who I speak to regularly because I can mumble some dis-jointed sentence and he will automatically know exactly what I’m trying to say.

My best friend moved to Utah, but I can still text a simple word and she’ll know how I feel. We used to get drunk and throw furniture on the roof because we both understood why.

IMG_2738

Last summer I roomed with a girl who would smile at just about everything you said. Just seeing her face in the mornings as she climbed down from her loft bed made me so happy to be alive. We were inseparable from the day we moved in, spending our free time picking blackberries and challenging each other in our kayaking.

Hollywood has kind of messed with the word soul mate. What should be a description of a connection you have with someone is instead a word for a sexual, intimate encounter.

A soul mate isn’t necessarily the one you have sex with. A soul mate is someone your soul finds rest with. A soul mate is someone you can relax with, because if you speak they will listen, and if you don’t speak for hours, the silence won’t be awkward but a time to be cherished.

Sometimes you realize the connection immediately: you meet them at a party, through a mutual friend. You feel like you’ve known them your whole life. It doesn’t stop there; it doesn’t turn into one of those acquaintances you made where you felt like that but never saw them again. You begin to hang out and the easy comfort you find in the new relationship surprises you.

Other times, they may sneak up on you. You may know someone a week, a month, a few years. One day you realize, at first it was slow, but now you can’t wait to tell this friend a little gossip you heard, the new Taylor Swift song you can’t stop singing along to, and you realize you have a new soul mate.

I have my main soul mate, the one that will never leave my life. But I believe that soul mates are meant to come and go. As we need something from each other, we find each other. Being open to this interaction and connection with others doesn’t always mean we are being unfaithful to our lovers or partners, but we are being true to ourselves.