COVID-19 & coming to peace with being at home

I completed two weeks of self quarantine… just in time for 15 90+ more days of shelter in place. Here’s what I’m learning about #stayingin

Follow along throughout my journey on Instagram 

Before you start, if you can:

Ask yourself:

  • Where do I want to be?
  • Who do I want to be with?

Get there, with them, if you can.

Now, set a schedule. And stick to it.

Mine looks like this:

wake up words

Words are important.

Begin each day by reading a poem, quote or phrase. Find a source which will help set the mood up to be tranquil or calming, deep or moving, a little optimism goes a long way. I’ll share some of my favorites on Instagram 

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first meal + focus

Don’t skip breakfast. Start with some fruit and coffee or tea, I love toast with PB or avocado and black pepper or honey and olive oil. While you sip your warm beverage of choice, consider a focus for the day – it can be as simple as being (cyber) social or as big as thanking/embracing your body – let the word(s) come to you which need(s) to and write it down somewhere to keep in the back of your mind throughout today.

morning meditation

Start with three breaths. Breathe in through your nose. Breathe out through your nose. Feel the cool air come in, the warmer air flow out. Feel the cool air come in, the warmer air flow out. Notice the pause between breaths. Let your face relax, let your shoulders relax. Feel the movement of your stomach and chest, out and in, with each breath. Notice, and your breath naturally slows down. Breathe, and everything changes.

For more techniques follow @graceintheworld on Instagram 

yoga every day

Start simple and please pay attention to your body – it often tells you when something is not quite right – I love how simple postures are broken down by Yoga to the People (huge fan of their studios/ethos) and the diversity of levels offered by Yoga with Adriene is excellent, well liked by many fellow yoga practitioners.

I will also provide a pose each day which will fit with each day’s focus, words, work. etc. You know where to get my 14-day guide, right? (email me!)

Most of the time I prefer to practice in the first half of the day but sometimes this feels like it needs to wait until later or be broken into two shorter periods – a few postures here and there – find what works for you and be flexible (no pun intended) with your needs as they will surely vary day-to-day.

A.M. creativity

Creativity demands an active brain and since brain activity peaks in the late morning, best to put all of that good energy into something you’re passionate about towards the front end of each day. I have all kinds of ideas for you: vision boards, creative cooking and more.. here’s a sneak preview of my vision board (for my next 14 days):

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big midday meal #eatingin

Maybe it isn’t so easy to find what you usually buy at the supermarket. Maybe you’re needing to rely on what’s brought to you by a friend or roommate during this time. I wholeheartedly encourage you to embrace this challenge.

If shopping trips are a possibility, think outside of your usual routes and routines – is there a little local market hidden behind the supermarkets most frequent? Does the butcher’s shop offer fresh eggs even when bigger shops are sold out? Innovate, people! Make an adventure of this thing. Some small business owners are innovating as well – a flower shop may offer fresh farm produce or a coffee shop might be your best bet bodega for fresh milk and bread. 

Treat yourself to delivery once in a while, focusing on smaller businesses during peak hours . Or offer a zero interest loan to your favorite local spots via gift card purchase. Beauty salons, boutiques and your brunch go-to’s need your love now. See if a local bookshop is offering a delivery option, support a friend who is struggling by sending them something. Do what you can, intentionally.

So they have one pomegranate and one avocado left in the produce aisle – ever considered topping guacamole with pom seeds? (I did this and it’s delicious!) I dare you to try new things. I encourage you to move slowly and mindfully through the supermarket, taking nutritious foods that many impulsive buyers may have overlooked. Most of you know how much of a foodie I’d like to be and I’d be lying if I didn’t say cooking was one of the most precious activities to mark my two weeks. If cooking is new for you or doesn’t feel so exciting, order delivery! It’s a great time to support local businesses in this way. Treat yourself to nourishing, satisfying meals. (bonus: take your multivitamin to cover any gaps in your nutrition, so important especially during times like these)

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siesta

As a Spanish resident, I must touch on this precious tradition.

I have this idea that people used to take a lot more naps. Before industrialization and modern day demands, before commutes and office spaces and unlimited information at our finger tips, before the coolness of busyness took over our brains and efficiency ruled everything, there was a lot more down time built into the days. I think we’re missing that space between happenings. Maybe you’ll find some of this reappearing during your extended time at home. I love a tiny nap (never more than 30-40 minutes) as a way to reset midday.

work/study/play

One of the first big at home projects I completed was a closet clean out. I do these regularly and clearing out for a fresher space felt like a first priority. I’ll outline how I go about this @graceintheworld on Instagram and/or in my complete 14-day guide email.

Have remote work to do? Want to learn something or study something? Feeling restless and needing to play? Around mid-to-late-afternoon I find myself somewhere between these things. On a good day I can channel the energy into studying Spanish or researching future adventures. For some intellectual stimulation TED talks or a podcast can fit nicely.

page-01-7Sometimes what I need is a blast of physical movement midday: 10 burpees or a good dance to a song played way too loud. I do not have a normal workload to do from home but if you do this is the time to do that. Have a project you’ve been meaning to start/work on (for me that’s this blog topic), give it a shot! However, artist Timothy Goodman says it nicely:

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evaluate/reset

I like to have an afternoon tea. Take a moment around 4P.M. to both reflect on what you’ve achieved and notice how you’re doing emotionally. Care to keep working? Or do you really need to be doing something else right now?

If you can, GO OUTSIDE. Do you have a yard? A balcony? Can you put on gloves and a face mask and walk once around the block? Around the outside of your house? How about a rural getaway or a walk up and down the driveway?

Adding just a few minutes of fresh air or outdoor footsteps in the safest way possible changes everything. In some cases this won’t be possible but if you have the chance and it’s been deemed safe to do so don’t miss this priceless opportunity. For me, grocery store runs become as exciting as they used to be in childhood.

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes” –Proust

Alternatively, fresh air and sunlight when and where you can get it. Move your workspace under the window or wake up a bit earlier to take in the days’ first rays. Nap like a cat on the sofa in the sun. Take it all in (and maybe take some vitamin D?)

connect

“What did you struggle with today and what gave you hope?”

Ask your friends, ask your mom. Call your grandmother and all of those people you always mean to, but somehow never do. This is an amazing time to reconnect with anyone you’ve lost touch with. Set a time to make a phone call, maybe every afternoon before dinner? We are social creatures and isolation is deeply uncomfortable. The power of a responsive voice, of someone listening to your voice or a face on live video chat, you need that. Call somebody every day. Don’t wait for them to call you.

Houseparty app is a fun way to play games with friends and their friends. Why not make new friends from the comfort of your own sofa?

snack

You may be moving differently than you normally do. I usually walk five miles a day and attend yoga or Pilates weekday evenings. Now I’m lucky to get in a half mile and 20-30 minutes of yoga daily. It’s too easy to get concerned about how my body might be changing. Food + control can be a slippery slope. Actress/activist Jameela Jamil spoke eloquently to this, she said,

“I know now might be an unsettling moment as you may be eating different foods, maybe more food, and moving around less, and generally just feeling out of control in life. Know that it’s all going to be ok and that by doing what you are doing you are potentially SAVING lives. Try if you can to look at food as a miracle and a friend, and thank your body for keeping you safe and well in this testing moment. And also thank you for staying in and doing what is best fo the world around you. Nothing matters right now more than ending this pandemic. I see you I am with you. I love you. Unfollow anyone who is making you feel bad about the way you look and focus on the things and people you love in this moment.”

Light tapas-style dinners feel good to me but please do what’s right for you.

relax

Yes, you should stay somewhat informed and no,  it’s not easy to talk about anything besides COVID-19, but please consider allocating some time (especially at the end of the day) to get away from all of that worry and fear and allow your body and mind to relax. If meditation works well for you, great! Do more of that. If escaping into reading or watching a sitcom or realty show suits your style/mood today, now is your moment. Allow yourself to unwind, to check out, to journey into your own secret refuge, whatever that may be. But set a time limit. Too much of these things can turn on us – moderation is key.

Note: on the days when I felt the stress was altogether too much, I silenced all text/call notifications and temporarily removed social media apps and news updates from my phone. I’m now considering media-free Sundays going forward (beyond this virus as well). We all need a break from the frenzy!

Focusing on smells can be a great relaxation trick. Pull out your yummiest smelling lotions and potions and candles – now is the time to surround yourself with the best scents.

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take care

It’s too easy to spend the whole day in your PJs with an unwashed face and messy hair. That might slide on an actual sick day or two but this is longer term and I realized early on that simply putting on a fresh outfit and keeping up with basic grooming (I’m not telling you to wear makeup or shoes unless you want to) seriously improved my mood. Maybe it’s the rhythm of dressing up in something new for each day, but I think keeping a routine provides a reassuring sense of normalcy.

If you, like me, find a little more time that usual in your evenings, level up with a little home spa treatment every few days:

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and don’t tell me you don’t have time to floss your teeth before bed right now.

sleep well

Dedicating a room to sleep is ideal. Many of us may live in multi-purpose spaces where this is next to impossible. I ask you to consider your surroundings – are they hospitable to rest and relaxation? Keep things tidy and focus on a neutral or soothing color pallet (think greens and blues) – update your home decor to maximize comfort – and practice simple nighty routines. I end each day with a cup of herbal tea.

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Times of struggle unearth our deepest truths and the incredible power of our hope reveals itself in human innovation, resilience. To have a roof over our heads and food to eat is the simplest, most precious gift. To be with or communicate with those we love is equally so. Now more than ever I am reminded how important this base is. I knew it but had let myself forget it. I’m also remembering that, above all else, my body is my home. It is a time for boundless care. Maybe this call to turn inwards is the silver lining.

Go in and in by Danna Faulds

Valuable resources relating to this post:

Taking Care of Your Behavioral Health – LINK

Simple Activities for Children and Adolescents – LINK

Psychological Effects of Quarantine – LINK

Identifying and coping with unhealthy thoughts – LINK

Get support regarding your anxiety or stress by speaking to a trained counselor at SAMHSA Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990 or by texting TalkWithUS 66746

Behind the blog:

It took me a long time to gain the courage to post this statement. This is a glimpse into how I was feeling a month ago, it’s a testament to the burden of stigma which is affecting too many and my offering to those experiencing something similar or worse. I ask you to please read not only my words, but the article attached to them as well since it’s with great care and caution that I reveal this personal hardship to you. In fact, this is hardly personal, it’s the whole world’s, and I insist that we face the countless challenges that Covid-19 confronts us with patiently, with sympathy and with an abundance of faith in humanity.

“What we don’t need in the midst of struggle is shame for being human.” -Brene Brown

In February I visited Northern Italy for a wonderful ski trip. Eighteen days after flying back home from Milan I developed a cough. By this time Italy had declared a nationwide emergency and since I work at a school I knew it was incredibly important to stay home (which requires self reporting) immediately to avoid any possibility of spreading the virus should I be a carrier. That decision came with tough consequences. I’ve been in quarantine at home for nine days now. I am confined to one room and bathroom and must keep two meters from my roommates and use a variety of precautions in the kitchen including sanitary supplies which the Spanish government supplied when a nurse came to my house to test me by jamming swabs up my nose and down my throat a couple of days ago. I told some close friends and family as well as my roommates and colleagues about the situation initially since they may be directly affected and I desperately needed some support. Reactions vary. Most are immediately either dismissive or attempt to lighten the circumstance with comedy. Usually after some time the fear and avoidance begins. I understand. I, too, have the instinct to avoid the uncomfortable. I also have the instinct to want to join other humans and I’m fighting this every day in order to respect the quarantine and public safety. I may in fact be dangerous and this is heart wrenching. I am doing my very best to be cautious and be truthful but I am suffering. I haven’t felt physically sick anymore for seven of these nine days (it was a simple two day cough and sore throat, never a fever) but I can’t shake this sick person shame. I don’t get to see what’s going on out there. I hear a lot of fear and I feel so sorry if I’m accidentally/unknowingly part of the problem. As I await a test result everyone asks me for an update. I have nothing. I wait by my phone for hours and shake with anxiety every time it rings. In the meantime I must act as if I am infected as a precaution and it’s scary, alienating. I am grateful for my mother, brother, and boyfriend for continuing to check in via phone but to go so long without being allowed human contact or proximity is crushing. Sharing this is terrifying. I fear mayhem. I fear a blowback which could threaten my safety. I fear eternal isolation. But I want anyone else who might be weighing reporting or anyone else in this awful waiting game, anyone confirmed infected, to know that I know how they’re feeling. It’s not our fault, we’re not unclean, and if I can beg anyone reading this to be brave and do the right thing, to be humane and treat others with respect knowing you’re just as vulnerable, to reevaluate how being dismissive or overly paranoid is seriously impacting people and hurting people, these actions mean everything right now. Phone calls help, but normal conversations only please—I don’t feel sick, I don’t need to rest, I just need to be treated like an equal human being. The world is anything but normal, believe me when I say I know that, but wow do I need a small feeling of normalcy. I’ve used less than half of a roll of toilet paper and no bottled water. I’ve needed yoga. I’ve needed to get offline. I’ve needed a normal weekly amount of healthy groceries delivered by a friend and desperately prayed for patience and autonomy. Please stay calm as you participate in a tremendous act of human cooperation. This could be our amazing opportunity to simplify, to innovate and improvise.. if we choose to go about it that way.. if I’m lucky enough to test negative then my next wish is freedom to choose—where do I want to be and who do I want to be with? —if you’re lucky enough to have those choices right now please take them seriously.

These days I sit comfortably at home. I am healthy and calm and where I need to be with who I need to be with. I too fall into boredom then bounce back into worry or self-care or productivity. It’s rocky, then devastating, then peacefully grounding, uncomfortably comfortable. When I look back on my own words, written in such a state of intense fear and despair, it is gratitude that overwhelms me. We’re all facing the fortune which is good health and the fragility which is life. I hope that we can grow kinder to one another through this understanding. Humans are strange and amazing beings, groups of humans can collaborate to overcome tremendous odds only if they do not fall into the belly of their own fear. If you are suffering or have suffered from Covid-19 and need a safe person to talk to I am here with you, your secret is safe with me. If you’ve realized that you treated someone who was/is/could be sick in a way which was rooted in fear, thank you for realizing that, I hope you’ll take the moment to heart and try to recognize and overcome stigmas whenever, with whomever, they appear next (this goes way beyond Covid-19). Seek and share only sound information, education deconstructs stigma. A patient who is fully recovered from Covid-19 is no longer infectious and should not be treated differently. Be soft with those who are or were suffering. I was in a pretty dark place a month ago, but today I’m ok. I trust us. We will do our best, our best is enough. We will stay home, take care, and give thanks.

Running a blog takes a lot of time, money and effort. Become a Grace in the World patron by buying me a coffee or sponsoring a post! Click this link to donate to my travel fund. Your support is highly appreciated.

Planning my Camino

Walk Through Spain

The Camino de Santiago {with shameless cheats} in 28 days

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Pamplona >> Santiago

 

I share most of my experiences after the fact. This post is different. Despite having planned two trips for my brother then my mother, I have yet to walk this route through Northwest Spain. It’s a trip that has been on my mind for a while and I thought I’d just put the information out there for others who have similar goals. Have you walked the camino? Your comments will be of great help to this post and I invite them below! My goal is to complete this adventure one day and when that day comes you know a follow-up post will be done. Now, a glimpse in the intricate mind of Grace in the World in planning mode…  

Budget 880€ (accommodations/transport 580€+10/day for food 300€)

The Itinerary

Day 1:

(best to start on a Monday) 

Register in Pamplona (optional)

Day 2:

Start walking! Pamplona >> Cizur Menor (amenities, 12th century Church of San Miguel with a fortified tower) >> Alto del Perdon or “Hill of Forgiveness” >> Zariquiegui >> sculpture of pilgrims >> Uterga >> Muruzabal >> Puente La Reina {5 hrs/24km}

Day 3: 

Puente La Reina >> cross the Pilgrims’ Bridge >> Maneru >> Cirauqui (Church of San Roman built in the 13th century) >> Lorca (Hospital de Peregrinos de Arandigoyen) >> Villatuerta >> Estella {4.5 hrs/21km}

Day 4:

Estella (Bodegas Irache wine museum) >> Azqueta and Villamayor de Monjardin >> Los Arcos {4 hrs/19km} 

Day 5:

Los Arcos >> Torres del Rio >> Virgen del Poyo >> Viana (palaces in Plaza de los Fueros + Plaza del Coso + gothic church of Santa Maria de la Asuncion) >> Logroño {5.5 hrs/27km}

 

Day 6:

EXTRA DAY in LOGROÑO

Day 7:

EXTRA DAY in LOGROÑO

Day 8:

Logroño (Puerta del Camino) >>Navarrete (Bodegas: La Rioja wine + Iglesia de la Asuncion) >> Nájera {6 hrs/28km}

Hostal Hispano

Day 9:

Nájera >> Azofra >> Cirueña >> Santo Domingo de la Calzada {4hrs/20km}

Day 10:

Santo Domingo de la Calzada >> cross River Oja/Puente del Santo (Saint’s Bridge) >> Granon >> Redecilla del Camino >> Castildelgado >> Viloria de la Rioja >> Villamayor del Rio >> Belorado {4.5 hrs/22km}

Day 11:

Belorado >> Tosantos >> Villambistia >> Espinosa del Camino >> Villafranca Montes de Oca >> Agés >> Atapuerca (three kilometers away, 800,000 year old human remains were discovered. These are the oldest human remains discovered in Europe! ) {6 hrs/29km}

La plazuela verde

Day 12:

Atapuerca >> Villalval >> Cardenuela de Riopico >> Orbaneja >> Villafria >> Burgos (see the walls of an old castle or the Museum of Human Evolution + the gothic cathedral) {3.5 hrs/17km}

Day 13:

EXTRA DAY IN BURGOS

Day 14:

DAY IN BURGOS + bus to Fromista

Day 15:

Fromista >> Poblacion de Campos >> Revenga de Campos >> Villarmentero de Campos >> Villalcazar de Sirga (Church of Santa Maria la Blanca) >> Carrión de los Condes {4 hrs/19km}

Day 16:

Carrión de los Condes >> Calzadilla de la Cueza >> Ledigos >> Terradillos de Templarios  >> Moratinos {6 hrs/29km}

Hostal Moratinos

Day 17:

Moratinos >> Sahagún >> Calzada del Coto >> Bercianos del Real Camino {4 hrs/19km}

Day 18:

Bercianos del Real Camino >> El Burgo Ranero >> Villarente {7 hrs/32 km}

Albergue San Pelayo

Day 19:

Villarente >> Mansilla >> Villamoros de Mansilla >> Puente Valdelafuente >> Puente Castro >> Leon (Cathedral/Pulchra Leonina) {2.5 hrs/12km}

Day 20:

EXTRA DAY in LEON

Day 21:

EXTRA DAY in LEON + Bus to Astorga {10 euros} (Museum of Pilgrimage/Palacio Episcopal by Antoni Gaudi)

Day 22:

Astorga >> Valdeviejas >> Murias de Rechivaldo >> Santa Catalina de Somoza >> El Gamso >> Rabanal del Camino {4.5 hrs/20km}

Day 23:

Rabanal del Camino >> Foncebadon (place a rock taken from home at Cruz de Ferro to symbolize a burden left behind) >> Manjarin >> El Acebo >> Riego de Ambros >> Molinaseca >> Ponferrada {4.5 hrs/20km}

Day 24:

Ponferrada >> Compostilla >> Columbrianos >> Fuentes Nuevas >> Camponaraya >> Cacabelos (Archaeological Museum + Iglesia de Santa Maria de la Plaza) >> Pieros >> Valtuille de Arriba >> Villafranca del Bierzo {4.5 hrs/20km}

Day 25:

Villafranca del Bierzo >> Pereje >> Trabadelo >> La Portela de Valcarce >> Ambasmestas >> Vega de Valcarce >> Ruitelan >> Las Herreias de Valcarce (The road will start its ascent) >> La Faba >> La Laguna de Castilla {6 hrs/25km}

Day 26:

La Laguna de Castilla >> O Cebreiro >> Linares >> Hospital de la Condesa >> Padornelo >> Alto do Poio >> Fonfria >> Biduedo >> Filloval >> As Pasantes >> Ramil >> Triacastela >> Aguiada >> Sarria

+ Train to END in Santiago

Day 27:

EXTRA DAY in SANTIAGO

Day 28:

EXTRA DAY in SANTIAGO 

 

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Pack LIGHT: 

  • 25L Backpack
  • packing cube/dry bag for clothing (all quick dry)
  • 3 tops (1 long sleeve 1 tank 1 tee)
  • 3 bottoms (yoga leggings, trail pants, hiking shorts)
  • 2 bras, 2-3 pairs underwear
  • 2 pairs socks
  • LBD
  • Hiking Boots
  • Sandals
  • Hat
  • Light scarf/wrap
  • Fleece?
  • Small umbrella?
  • Sunglasses
  • Water bottle
  • iPad + charger, Passport, credit cards, phone, headphones
  • Shampoo/conditioner, comb, deodorant, toothbrush/paste, razor, face/body wash/lotion, nail clippers, tweezers, band-aids + antiseptic, anti-chafe balm, arnica oil, tiger balm, anti-inflammatory, chapstick, Sunscreen, laundry soap
  • Sleep sheet & travel towel
  • A small rock or other token from home to leave at the Cruz de Ferro

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Some general notes about Spain

  • most Spaniards have a light breakfast (usually bread+cookies/cake) first thing in the morning then a second breakfast around 11.00 (a second coffee + tostada/croissant/fruit/yogurt)
  • Coffee choices: “cafe con leche” = 1/4 espresso + 3/4 warm milk (flat white), “cortado” = half espresso half milk, iced coffee is not a thing, neither is filter coffee.
  • lunchtime is 14.00-16.00 (sometimes 17.00) – it’s the biggest meal of the day
  • a “menu del día” is a three-course lunch special Monday-Friday
  • siesta (after lunch) means most villages will be closed 16.00-18.00/19.00
  • dinnertime starts at 20.00 (finishes around 23.00) – tapas style light bites

Accommodations: http://www.alberguescaminosantiago.com/albergues/

Route info: https://www.pilgrim.es/en/french-way/ 

Running a blog takes a lot of time, money and effort. Become a Grace in the World patron by buying me a coffee or sponsoring a post! Click this link to donate to my travel fund. Your support is highly appreciated.

Costa Blanca, Valencia, Spain

Day Trips from Alicante

The city of Alicante itself has a lot to offer but you’d be missing out if you didn’t wander a little further along the coast. These are some of the best destinations – all easy to see in one day. 

Altea

5968D393-B414-4689-8F00-8464CCBBA276Altea is about an hour and a half from Alicante by tram. A whitewashed old town crawls up the hillside to surround a blue dome cathedral which sees the prettiest sunsets. Mountains and the Mediterranean Sea surround.

We two-hour “menú del dia” lunched at Shabby Chic and avoided the tourist shops, opting instead for an abun dance of street photos and hot tea by the sea after the sun set on our wandering. Another great spot is Plant Shack

Tabarca

Tabarca Island is a quick boat ride from Alicante and a lovely, tourist-friendly day trip for some cute street wandering and clear Mediterranean Sea snorkeling (fish and turtle spotting!) we had a good Seafood Paella + Sangria lunch at Don Jeronimo then walked around the island all in a few hours stay.

Villajoyosa

The town of Villajoyosa is very close to Alicante but a wander through these streets will make you feel a lot further away. We came to see the rainbow houses by the sea; what small town Spain reveals is an honest struggling, a sign of the times (high unemployment) but evidence of the Spanish peoples’ ability to live well through hardships. Art peeks around boarded doors and the buzz of daily life seems cheery. A contrast is found beachside, where tourists dine, eating omelettes comfortably. It’s a revealing juxtaposition and somehow reassuring. We can all get through this together.

There’s plenty to do in a day here- great dining- we had lunch at Taverna Valenciana El Pòsit and T-class also looked good. Must stop for drinks at the Centra Friends Bar (beachside, google maps puts it in the city center which is incorrect) or on a patio such as El Bodegó. The Valor Chocolate Museum is also here- top of my list for next time! Gorgeous seaside and pretty, colorful streets for all the photos.. enjoy!

Hike “Sender de la Costa” Villajoyosa to Benidorm

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The walk along the coast takes about 2 hours and is suitable for most since the only real inline occurs upon decent into Benidorm. Ocean views along the way. You can find substantial information here. We walked one way then had tapas in town before taking the Tram (it’s easy to find directions on Google Maps) back to Alicante.

Running a blog takes a lot of time, money and effort. Become a Grace in the World patron by buying me a coffee or sponsoring a post! Click this link to donate to my travel fund. Your support is highly appreciated.

Alicante, Spain (like a local)

This year I’m living in Alicante, Spain.

The foodie in me invites the foodie in you to explore my current home: the coastal city of Alicante, Valencia, Spain. Here’s a curated list of my favorite spots (and more).

Alicante Finds

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Best spots to Brunch:

Sip & wonder and Mish Mish take the cake (and serve it too). Try the salmon Benedict/ “Canadian” pancakes at S&W, Turkish coffee with cardamom at MM….or anything on either menu these are my top spots in town all day everyday.  

For Lunch/Dinner

For Date Night

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La Terreta – reservations recommended, try the shrimp with curry foam

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Terre – a lux option- reserve in advance, start with a cocktail then dinner here was one of my top ten meals of all time

Casual Eats with Friends

Bululú Gourmet – Venezuelan – I go for the mini arepas

Mish Mish – Lebanese, probably my choice place in town

Thai Corner – decent Thai for Spain

Natsu Ramen – very trendy, decent ramen for Spain

Pro Bar – Spanish tapas/small plates to share, homey vibes and friendly service

This list keeps growing. 

If you find yourself in Playa San Juan,

One of or perhaps the best croquettes in Spain can be found at Cervecería La Gamba in Playa San Juan (a short tram ride away from Alicante city and next to the best area beach). It’s cheese + honey in harmony. 

Coffee

Coffee spots are key for me. The best three in order:

  1. Madness – this place is large and it’s usually easy to find a seat
  2. Sip and Wonder – full of expats. Free language exchange Thursdays, concerts Saturday nights
  3. La Más Coketa – often very crowded, good for cake & crepes

Moving onto Cocktails 

Gatsby gets my top choice- this intimate setting offers great drinks for a steal! I like the pisco marg (it’s not on the menu).

Feeling fancy? Head to El Portal for that chic feeling (fancy foods available here too).

Tardeo

Weekend afternoons are big drinking days in Alicante. It’s called “tardeo.” 

Nic has a patio on Castaños street which is the place to see and be seen on these days. 

I have yet to find the best spot for beers – maybe it’s Altabirra? Update on that one soon.. 

And as the night goes on…

catch Hipster vibes at El Coscorrón or grab the Cheapest mojito in town (3€) at Bombay. 

Tapas

Cervecería Sento – a crowded, lively, cash only tapas stop (second location is quieter)

Katagorri – excellent choice for basque pinxos

Treats

Livanti gelato – Sicilian style, my favorite

Rocambolesc – DIVINE ice cream desserts

Have you visited or lived in Alicante? Do you have something to add? Comments are the place to share what you know!
Running a blog takes a lot of time, money and effort. Become a Grace in the World patron by buying me a coffee or sponsoring a post! Click this link to donate to my travel fund. Your support is highly appreciated.

Winter Wanders in Prague, Czechia

Prague is probably my top recommendation for anyone’s first glimpse of Europe. Its beauty is on par with Paris and Florence but it still lends a sense of discovery since the tourists haven’t yet covered every corner (expect more in the Christmas market season/summer). Statues you’d usually find in museums can be found in every corner, crevice, alleyway. The preservation is fantastic. There are many ghost stories & superstitions. Beer is cheaper than water. Best drink: hot spiced wine. 

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For a budget visit, we stayed at the Prague Square Hostel which is steps away from the square. If you’re looking for an upgraded stay try Airbnb. We found plenty of apartments available and settled in the Karlín area which I liked a lot–very hipster and trendy.

Karlín Finds

Můj šálek kávy for breakfast – get there right when they open to avoid a line/please someone order the pancakes

KhomfiNgô restaurant for a casual (Asian fusion/Thai) lunch

Spojka for date night – healthy and delicious (Nejen Bistro was good too)

IMG_2433  Hip-ist coffee stops: Loft & Parlor

Treat yourself – stop in for a massage at Sabai Point – it feels gooood to feel good

Willing to wander in the winter? ❄️ Prague is a top choice year round and thanks to a plethora of cocktail bars and Christmas markets it was easy peasy for me to curate a top picks list.

 

 

 Spots which stood out in/around the center:

EMA espresso bar was a perfect coffee stop at any time of day. San Francisco cool vibes here.

Sansho is probably the best restaurant in Prague. Absolutely unforgettable date night. 

…then let the cocktails commence

Orange Bar feels local but also fancy. Solid classics and a relaxing vibe.

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Aloha – where classy meets tiki. (Tiki Taky Bar keeps it classic)

Anonymous Bar has become a little too touristy… head to Shrink’s Office instead (if you can find your way inside).

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If you’re really down to party…

Prague is known for its club scene. I am not known for mine. We did stop by Cross Club which was very unique indeed.

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Things to see / Places to be

Prague is for wandering. Put down the maps and ignore everything I’m about to say.

Some spots you might see along the way:

Old Town Square – the Christmas Market is fantastic!

Prague Astronomical Clock is very cool (although the hourly event is underwhelming)

The Charles Bridge is unbelievably crowded at most times of day (I heard it isn’t so just before sunrise but could never bring myself to get up and out that early – let me know how that is)

We walked across the Štefanik Bridge instead then along the river via Letna Park which was pretty + local + more relaxing. (Stop by Cafe Letka if you’re hungry in that area)

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You’ll see the Prague Castle but next head up to the gardens of Strahov Monastery (side note: we were told that the library inside is very pretty) for some of the best views of the city.

Across the river…

The Žižkov area is a great place to wander and I recommend seeing the TV Tower up closer (though going to the top isn’t essential at all).

Running a blog takes a lot of time, money and effort. Become a Grace in the World patron by buying me a coffee or sponsoring a post! Click this link to donate to my travel fund. Your support is highly appreciated.

Albania | Berat Yoga Retreat

I traveled to Albania to attend my friend Arta’s yoga retreat. The retreat took place in Berat but there is no airport there so I flew into the Tirana airport the night before and intended to take a bus to Berat from there. Upon arrival I learned that:

A) there is no tourist information desk at the Tirana airport,

B) no buses run in the evening between these two cities,

and,

C) my American SIM card is useless when needed most.

So there I found myself, alone and without any cell connection, in a completely empty bus station; in the dark; on the outskirts of town; next to piles of rubble and groups of taxi drivers (all men) surrounding me. Not my best travel moment. I chose to stand under a lamp post remembering that I once read/heard that light limits rates of criminal activity. When a public bus finally passed by, I chased it down. Once onboard, I asked the driver for help finding the center but he was an older man who didn’t speak English. The ticket assistant (a young guy who spoke English) was called over to help. He asked me where I was staying. I told him I hadn’t booked anything and he got on his cell phone calling hostels for me. They dropped me off in a busy area and directed me to walk down the street.. to the left.. then to the right.. left… right…

…anyways, I went walking in the general direction which had been indicated but when I arrived at the proposed hostel found that they didn’t have a bed available for me. Using the wifi, I found another nearby option but by this hour (maybe 10:30 pm) it was dark and I was getting a little nervous each time a dog barked or a car’s headlights came down the street towards me. After wandering for another 30 minutes/getting lost trying to find this second place I returned to the first hostel and was relieved when they agreed to let me sleep in the staff room for a few hours until 5:30am when I’d be off to the bus station for the first ride to Berat in the morning.

The bus to Berat was pretty straightforward and from the station a bus took me to the center. I walked up a large hill and entered a new reality which was Hotel Castle Park. Straight to the showers I went to wash away that marathon of traveling then began one week of yoga retreat.

Arta and Barbara created an experience for us which was authentic and memorable. We had two yoga classes each day (morning and afternoon-evening) in an outdoor setting. There was a fantastic restaurant on site where we ate delicious local cuisine and a hiking trip midweek. The setting, the practice and the community were all exceptional.

Berat is nestled against the hillsides, built up along either side of a milky green river valley.

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We drove around two hours up a rocky road to get to the trailhead of Mali Tomorr. Getting the 4×4 stuck in the rocks en route was a highlight (all passengers jumped out and a nearby Shepard came to help)! We ascended through damp forests, rocky faces and ferns until a breathtaking view of the mountain was revealed. We encountered sheep wearing bells and some runaway mules.

“Albania is sadness. Albania is happiness. But most of all, Albania is realness”

Arta’s words (above) touch the soul. They speak the truth. Albania is a beautiful place. A place that has experienced a brutal history yet persists. A place of healing, in healing. The Albanian people are inspiring in their warmth and resilience. Things are real, they are raw. I had moments of fear traveling through this country. The lack of infrastructure in rural areas meant reliance on strangers was often a necessity.

This trip brought me feelings of vulnerability much like those I had on my first international expedition to Colombia. I rediscovered the thrill and the learning in a true adventure. It was life-changing.

Running a blog takes a lot of time, money and effort. Become a Grace in the World patron by buying me a coffee or sponsoring a post! Click this link to donate to my travel fund. Your support is highly appreciated.

 

Airbnb Hosting

Teachers need side hustles. Frequent international travelers do too. For over a year now mine has been Airbnb and I’d like to share some learned lessons & tips with you!

My Airbnb is a mother-in-law apartment in my hometown: Missoula, Montana.

You can see it here.

I worked with my mother initially and now partner with my uncle. Having someone physically nearby is essential for last-minute things but I do majority of the managing remotely all the way from Spain. My friend Shaun helps tremendously by doing most of the cleaning — I think finding a reliable hand for cleaning is the first KEY to success.

When considering how to build or select a listing:

  • Participate in your market – Before opening, I think it is a very important note that I had spent significant amounts of time (probably 100+ nights) in dozens of Airbnb/VRBO listings, hotels and hostels all over the globe for a few years. Extensive experience as a guest was essential to anticipating guests’ needs and setting up a successful listing.

I often diversify accommodations while traveling. Rotating through hostels in expensive locations (save your money for upgraded meals, foodies!) , hotels to recover (zzz’s) from bunkbed life and Airbnbs (when traveling in groups especially) helps me see different sides of the travel spectrum — from gritty to glam — plus keeps things interesting!

  • Showcase Your Location – access to public transit and parking are as essential as proximity. Where can people go from the listing and how can they get there? Any area can be interesting to a visitor so noting special area features such as cafes, parks and grocery stores is a means to both showcasing your spot and providing a memorable and easy visitor experience.

As a traveler, I’m willing to stay in the periphery if a host does a good job of outlining the perks of their local area. This is often a great way to both save money and have a slightly more genuine visitor experience (you just can’t beat local tips!) especially in a city with ample tourism. 

  • Meet Experience Expectations -Recognizing guests’ expectations is vital. The people who stay with me are most likely coming to Montana to see the mountains and taste the local cuisine. A luxury hotel can offer them modern design features, marble countertops, and jetted bathtubs. My place is unique because it has those authentic and homey touches which one expects when visiting MT. I wouldn’t necessarily live in the type of interior I designed for this listing (my taste is more minimal, less woodsy) but it adds to the guest experience to see decorative antlers, local art and cozy finishings. I’d be mistaken to design for myself in a review-based setting; guests’ expectations that must be priority.

I stay in Airbnbs instead of hotels because I want to feel the unique aspects of the culture in a real, homey way. My mission as a host must be to provide such a thing for my guests. 

Our reviews reflect how well we understand/value guests‘ wants/needs. 

  • Adapt Your Space – We don’t have a kitchen. Putting in a kitchen would be $$$. Instead of doing this, I opted to make due with the space as it and it really hasn’t been a problem. By providing a sink, fridge/freezer, microwave, toaster, coffee and tea makers and a hot plate as well as basic cups, plates, pans, and cutlery our guests are able to have a meal comfortably but also encouraged to dine locally.

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My local guidebook is available both in the app and on the welcome table.

  • Be a Guide – It’s your job to make sure these guests have a great time in your locality! Don’t make them rely on the internet. Providing a curated guide to the best eats, sports, entertainment options and nightlife spots is a sure way to boost guests’ time in your town and influence both their likelihood of return and your review credibility. Having both an online copy and a book in house it a good way to guarantee your recommendations get into guests’ hands.

I’ve held onto stellar host recommendations from Paris to Lisbon for years — returning to visit great restaurants and shops. There’s a plethora of information on the internet and it’s completely overwhelming. We’ve all been tired travelers lost in the Google Maps abyss. Save your guests, be generous in sharing the best your city has to offer. 

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  • The Beds Need to be Comfy – this isn’t a hostel and the IKEA sofa bed isn’t comfortable. But… adding a memory foam mattress pad to a pull-out sofa bed can increase comfort substantially. Spend a night or two in each of your beds and make sure they make the cut. How is the lighting? The sound? Is the linen smelling clean and feeling cosy? Making minor adjustments such as plush bedding and throw pillows or blankets, table side/desktop lighting can make a big difference without over-stressing the budget.
  • We went a whole year with iPhone images but recently Chad took amazing new photos which seriously improved the listing. I love getting friends and family on board for these things. I’m proud to lead a successful team effort. Do you know artists? Bakers? Woodworkers? Painters? Getting them involved (and always getting them paid for their work!) is both fun and practical. You don’t have to build this thing alone.
  • Price Adjust to Your Needs – In the beginning the goal was review-earning. We priced low and maximized bookings. We provided homemade scones for the morning and a variety of teas from a local shop. Our reviews reflect our efforts. Now that we’ve gained traction we are able to increase the nightly rate and save on wear-and-tear.

The learning doesn’t stop in a first business venture. We’re growing and adapting our listing to be better for guests and run more smoothly. I will update this post as I go.

Do you have an Airbnb? Are you interested in starting one of your own? Tell me about it in the comments below!

Running a blog takes a lot of time, money and effort. Become a Grace in the World patron by buying me a coffee or sponsoring a post! Click this link to donate to my travel fund. Your support is highly appreciated.

Behind the Retreat

Behind Travel and Flow

This summer I’m hosting my first travel/yoga Retreat.

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I’m putting all I’ve got into this project and really want it to take off. I’ll share a lot of picturesque marketing. These images are real but they are just a fraction of the whole story. Exception: this post.

Social media is a world of ideals, just a sliver of a reality which is messy, which makes mistakes, which meets one struggle after another yet perseveres. Here’s how it really happens.

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I got the idea to do a retreat a while ago. I suppose the interaction of two major passions in my life–physical/mental health & traveling– was always coming, but it was the summer before I moved to Spain when such a dream first emerged.

I talked with a friend, Arta, about doing one together but that fell through (our working together, not her Retreat- I attended Berat Yoga Retreat last year in Albania and it was lovely (info here). Truth is, I was bummed when ours didn’t happen but also aware that I wasn’t ready to go for it on my own. So I filed the idea until a later date.

Flash forward a couple of years. Years of experience visiting the “bucket list” European cities: Paris, London, Florence, Milan…then returning for a second time as one can while living in a Europe well connected by discount airlines. Visiting the same cities again encourages wandering. I grew to enjoy going next door to see something just off the standard path; the lesser know. The day trips and villages a car ride away offer a deeper dive into the intricacies of each place. This was gold!

Inspired by small towns in Spain, picturesque villages which scatter the countryside with history and small-town culture, I started to look at a new opportunity in rural tourism.

As friends and family came to visit and travel with me in Europe, I shared my knowledge about booking cheaper/more direct flights and finding memorable accommodations, meals and sights. I gained confidence in planning not only for myself but now others and with that the desire to lead a retreat came back to me.

The interest was peaked but I was still too nervous to act. Then I met Priscilla at a hostel in Budapest. She was fearlessly pursuing her own dream: https://www.greentreestravel.com and had such an authentic and solid approach that she motivated me to dare greatly and do this thing myself, my way.

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Anticipating the amount of work and savvy needed for such things, I decided to pursue a business partner. When I pitched the idea to Tara (of Silly Little Kiwi blog– a fantastic person and thoughtful adventurer too– here’s a link to her site), she not only saw the vision but shared it and agreed to work with me. Her knowledge of social media and marketing along with extensive international travel experience, yoga teaching certification and an impeccable eye for design would seriously benefit the project.

We did work. We scoured the internet for just the right location and accommodations. We polled to find out more about our target customers’ wants and needs. We designed an itinerary and crunched the numbers then crunched again to make things work as efficiently as possible, got the graphics going, the business plan ready, and just when we were ready to post the website…

It was crushing to find out that visa timing would prevent us from pulling off this one as a team (welcome to expat reality). And so, when I was left to decide whether or not to go it alone…

I chose the path which scares me most. I’m doing this thing. 

This may be a great success or a major failure. The odds feel 50-50. Either will mean growth. I’m grateful for the courage, for all of my incredible mentors, friends and sponsors who have contributed to this leap-of-faith moment.

My mom, who took me to yoga class with her when I was 16. Amy, who introduced me to Angie, who first saw a barre teacher in me. Jasmine, who pushed me to learn more and then more and then more again, always. My Rishikesh Yog Peeth yoga teacher training teachers (especially Roshan, Govind and Jeet) and classmates like Serene, Annaling, Depali and more– all of these connections made thanks to a recommendation by Christie. Experience at Montana studios thanks to Stephanie alongside Jordan and Joelle and Kathryn and other amazing teachers/students (Kylie, Dawn, Selena) who continue to influence me.

Basically I wouldn’t be halfway to ready without this major team and I will do my very best to make all of you proud.

Running a blog takes a lot of time, money and effort. Become a Grace in the World patron by buying me a coffee or sponsoring a post! Click this link to donate to my travel fund. Your support is highly appreciated.

Ski the Dolomites (Italy)

It’s my third winter in Europe and finally time to explore some nearby skiing.

This weekend we opted for the Dolomites in Trentino, N. Italy. A 2.5 hour drive from BGY airport, Vale di Sole and Madonna di Campiglio did not disappoint!

We stayed at a very cute and cozy Jägerhaus B&B in the village of Pellizzano which is a 30 min drive or so from the slopes of choice. Since we only had two days to ski (a three day weekend) we went straight to our researched area “good for beginners” but lifts and ski buses in the area provide ample access to the mountains all around.

We picked up some extremely cheap (and fun!) gear at Decathlon near BGY upon arrival.

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Skis, boots and poles were available for rent at the ski school (30/day or 2 days/45). Parking at the base of the Pradalago Express was ideal— 3,5 for the day and easy access to the rental shop, lift, and town. You can choose from lift ticket options by day (50 something), time (2+ hours) or ride (7 per). There’s a ticket office right at the lift and from the Pradalago Express gondola we had access to easy runs and a breathtaking view from the top.

For Apres ski with a view try Ristorante Cascina Zeledria. Share a cheese board and some drinks- perhaps an aperol spritz? If you prefer to pack a lunch and save some money, great snacks are available at Famiglia Cooperativa Pinzolo – Societa‘ Cooperativa.

We found the food to be good but not great (a surprise in Italy but probably because the area is so touristy). Our best finds were local. Back in Pellizzano stop by Casa Del Formaggio to sample and select some fantastic local cheese then stop by any local bakery (they’re not on google maps but you’ll find them if you wander!) for some bread to go with, delish! Another good find was Arnica gel from ANTICA FARMACIA GALLINA FRANCA for sore muscles.

On our way out we spent one night in Milan. Since this was a ski trip and our second time in Milan we didn’t choose to see the city but found Hostel Coconut near central station (for easiest airport access). Dinner at Miscusi (3 pastas and house wine will barely break 30€) was the best meal of the weekend and we’re off to our respective homes as I write this already.

Do I recommend a ski in the Dolomites? Absolutely! In fact, I think we will be back!

Running a blog takes a lot of time, money and effort. Become a Grace in the World patron by buying me a coffee or sponsoring a post! Click this link to donate to my travel fund. Your support is highly appreciated.

Travel + Flow Retreat

Join me

Summer 2021

for

Travel and Flow Retreat

Limited spots available!

Click HERE to Make a 100€ Deposit & Save Your Place Today*

A week of exploration and grounding, this retreat is designed to balance the exciting experience of international travel with a foundational morning and evening “flow”  (yoga/pilates/barre) practice to frame the days with self care. Yoga means union. As travelers and as yogis we will seek to find union with the places in which we are practicing. Through local cultural and culinary experiences we will connect with our surroundings. We will open to new learning and return to ourselves in reflection. This is a chance to build international connections and fully enjoy late summer just off the Tuscan path.

 

Lizzano in Belvedere, Italy

We will spend the week in a holiday home and winery right in the middle of the Tuscany and Emilia Romagna regions in Italy. The daily schedule will consist of two “flow” classes (one morning, one evening) and daily group activities on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Thursday as well as a day of rest on Wednesday and free time Friday. Expect something new every time as each session is catered to students’ needs. Find deep release via active stretching and rapid strengthening of the muscles through a mix of yoga, Pilates and ballet-inspired micro-movement techniques + an occasional introduction to simple meditation. We will share a large countryside villa and a fresh locally-inspired menu: light salad bar style meals will be provided for breakfast and dinner. We will eat lunch on our own, during select events/activities, or outside the house (a local guide will be provided).

Please BYOMat.

  • What to expect:

    • private setting, group support, variety of styles offered, 2 daily meals included, transportation can be arranged, excursions included, one full week, group size 12-14, diversity of practice (yoga, barre, Pilates, meditation available), cultural activities, local cuisine, natural surroundings and more

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Click HERE to Make a 100€ Deposit & Save Your Place Today*

Accommodations

Borgo Pianello Holiday Homes & Winery

Getting There: The 2021 retreat will be held in Lizzano in Belvedere, Italy, located within train’s distance from Bologna, Milan, Venice, and Rome airports. If you’re nervous about navigating, transportation can be arranged. Comment below with any booking questions. We are here to make your experience as easy as possible. 

        • Closest cities: Milan, Bologna, Florence
        • Closest train station: Porretta

Our Itinerary 

Saturday (check in from 3 pm)

Introduction + yoga 18:30-20:00 | Welcome dinner 20:00-22:00

Sunday

Tea 7:30-8:00 | practice 8:00-9:00 | breakfast 9:00-10:30 | activity 11:00-17:00 (lunch break during) | practice 18:30-19:30 | dinner 19:30-21:00

Monday

Tea 7:30-8:00 | practice 8:00-9:00 | breakfast 9:00-10:30 | activity 11:00-17:00 (lunch break during) | practice 18:30-19:30 | dinner 19:30-21:00

Tuesday

Optional: Sunrise Hike 

Tea 9:30-10:00 | catered brunch 10:00-12:00 | free time | practice 18:30-19:30 | dinner 19:30-21:00

Wednesday

Tea 7:30-8:00 | yoga/barre 8:00-9:00 | breakfast 9:00-10:30 | activity 11:00-17:00 (lunch break during) | yoga 18:30-19:30 | dinner 19:30-21:00 | optional: nidra 21:30-22

Thursday

Tea 7:30-8:00 | flow 8:00-9:00 | breakfast 9:00-10:30 | activity 11:00-17:00 (lunch break during) | flow 18:30-19:30 | dinner 19:30-21:00 | optional: nidra 21:30-22

Friday

Tea 7:30-8:00 | flow 8:00-9:00 | breakfast 9:00-10:30 | free time | yoga 18:30-19:30 | farewell dinner 19:30-21:30

Saturday

Tea 7:30-8:00 | Breakfast 8:00-9:30 | check out 10 am

  • Activities will include: a cooking class, winery tour and tasting, village tour(s)/shopping, sunrise/set hike(s) and more
  • Pool access onsite + bikes for hire
  • By balancing activities with free time and wellness with adventure, you will find a fulfilling and renewing experience at Travel + Flow Retreat

Menu

Vegetarian/Vegan-Friendly Whole Food Breakfast & Salad Bar Provided:

Sample menu – breakfast: buffet-style daily

local produce, bread/grains, coffee, juices, milks and tea, eggs, yoghurt, and cheese.

Lunch on own/during activities: your opportunity to try some local cuisine (recommendations provided, food available on site)

Every evening we will offer a locally-based salad bar – fresh produce and grains, cheeses, nuts, water and wine

We will enjoy three catered meals by the Borgo – a pizza night, a brunch and a three course dinner. We will also prepare fresh pasta ourselves as part of the cooking class. 

Coffee and assorted teas available at all times.

Booking

The price of the week-long retreat is 815-900€. This includes:

  • 7 nights shared accommodation with wifi, linens, pool access, local taxes incl.
  • daily breakfast and dinner  (vegetarian, vegan/GF-friendly salad bar)
  • unlimited coffee and tea
  • 12+ flow classes
  • 2+ meditation sessions
  • 4+ excursions (incl. 1 cooking class, wine tasting + two more activities)
  • 3 catered meals
  • Welcome kit with local guide

* A 100€ deposit secures your place and will be applied to your first invoice. Payments can be made through Paypal online by clicking the links (in pink!). Please indicate your preferred payment option in the PayPal note section. Upon receiving your deposit, Grace will follow up with an email invoice corresponding to your chosen payment plan. You will also receive an email with a waiver from Graceintheworld LLC as well as more detailed information about the retreat, support/guidance regarding getting to/from Borgo Pianello, etc. Please direct any further questions to travelandflowretreat@gmail.com OR comment below. 

Click HERE to Make a 100€ Deposit & Save Your Place Today*

Payment options to fit your needs.

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100€ deposit (applied to your first payment) + 715-800€

Pay in full

  • 10% discount
  • 100€ deposit + one time payment of 715€ (at booking)
  • Strict cancellation policy: cancel within 48 hours to receive a full refund.

Pay 50/50

  • 5% discount
  • half to book, half August first
  • 100€ deposit + 2 payments: 330€ (at booking) + 430€ August 1
  • Flexible Cancellation policy: cancel within 30 days for full refund, within 90 days for 50% refund. No refunds for bookings made after 1 September 2020. Graceintheworld LLC will follow up with payment requests via Paypal invoices which are due within 7 days.

Pay in 4 monthly installments

  • early bird option: only available until June first
  • 100€ deposit + 125€ June 1 + 3 payments of 225€: July 1, August 1 & September 1
  • Flexible Cancellation policy: cancel within 30 days for full refund, within 90 days for 50% refund. No refunds for bookings made after 1 September 2020. Graceintheworld LLC will follow up with payment requests via Paypal invoices which are due within 7 days.

I have been practicing yoga for 12 years. After a car accident left me injured both physically and emotionally ten years ago, it was barre and yoga that offered comprehensive healing. In 2016, I added a 200-hour yoga teacher training in Rishikesh, India to my eight years of barre teaching experience. I have taught over 2,000 barre, yoga and mat pilates classes in studios from San Francisco to Montana to Paris and beyond. My visits to more than 50 countries (and counting) inform my life and practice. In my classes, you can expect something new every time as each session is catered to student’s needs. Find deep release via active stretching and rapid strengthening of the muscles through a mix of yoga, Pilates and ballet-inspired micro-movement techniques. Expect attention to detail, a focus on developing body awareness and an occasional introduction to simple meditation techniques.

Running a blog takes a lot of time, money and effort. Become a Grace in the World patron by buying me a coffee or sponsoring a post! Click this link to donate to my travel fund. Your support is highly appreciated.

My Iceland Stopover IRL

My Iceland Stopover In Real Life

I had an image of the island in my mind. I’d heard about the remote natural wonders which friends explored via camper van. I pictured wilderness, expansive and pristine, dotted with waterfalls and framed by glacial peaks. As our plane began its descent through a thick blanket of clouds, sprawls of houses began to appear underneath. This I hadn’t pictured. Roads connect them, power plants stand out in the spaces in between. The spaces in between. 

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I knew a stopover would be limiting. This wasn’t the one-week #vanlife tour of my dreams. I’d treat it as a preview or a scouting trip for future roaming… I didn’t realize how much my time in the small cities would impact me. Iceland limited– by budget and by time- took a second to make sense to me.

First, my plan:

Stop one: 9am arrival at KEF airport, 2 hours to get through immigration and to hostel via bus (11am eta),  shop for groceries at BONUS supermarket and make lunch in an hour… bus into the city (30 mins) for 1pm walking tour followed by a couple of hours at a hot springs then food and live music at Hlemmur Square Hostel (music Wednesday nights) or KEX downtown, head back after dinner to get a good nights rest before the 5:30 AM Fly Bus ($33 book ahead) to the airport the following morning.

…my reality:

Bus 55 to Fjörður in Hafnarfjörður (one hour journey, this is the transfer point to get into Reykjavik) runs every hour except at the time you’ll get through security. 90-minute wait and an $8 USD coffee so strong you can hardly stomach it but don’t panic you can pay onboard with a credit card approx. cost $15 USD… missed the walking tour/starving… walked to the grocery store to buy lunch supplies: pasta with red sauce and tuna (cheap protein) –  took two hours to figure out the “Straeto” bus app ($4 rides, connect to the spotty WiFi onboard and stall the bus driver while you download a timed ticket complete with selfie).

 

 

Sight of the day: the famous Church.

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It’s cool but took literally five minutes. With time left and a craving for fresh air, I decide to walk to the Nauthólsvík geothermal beach. The last bus stop drops me next to another industrial-looking part of town where there’s a path along the water so I follow it for about one mile to find the “beach” which is an old military compound turned kiddie pool with what does look like an interesting hot tub ring in the center but I lose my desire for swimming (mostly due to the overflow of children). After a lot of walking it feels like time to head back to Vibrant hostel by following the highway until I find bus 1.

[Back through Iceland] / Round two:

Plan

Stop two: Late night arrival. Sleep! Wake up early and get on a bus to the base of volcano “mount Esja” hike for a couple of hours then bus to Reykjavik, eat fish and chips for lunch, pick up left bags at the hostel and public bus back to the airport.

Reality:

The Flybus and midnight walk to Vibrant Hostel weren’t bad. It actually was dark but I stayed at the same place last time which made it easy to find my way. Sharing breakfast with strangers after oversleeping was comforting. Too late to hike (the bus there takes two hours and only leaves occasionally) …quick new local plan:

Hellisgerði elf park then a second breaky at a cool café before the local art museum opens at 11. Shorter walk than expected, no elf spottings or clear trail markings/not recommended.

Brikk cafe is lovely- I had a cinnamon roll and the lunch options look good (bread with deli spreads, soups, pastries, and coffee all for under $15. Stopped by the Hafnarfjördur History Museum en route which was semi-interesting (all about fishing) but the Hafnarborg Museum changes things.

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Local photographers lend a different perspective. Suddenly I see the beauty which has been confusing yet surrounding. An artist is able to capture the reflection of an industrial factory in a mud puddle with such vivid detail that it becomes aesthetically pleasing. I’ve been looking at the place all wrong. I leave a changed traveler, suddenly appreciating all of the random bits of beauty persisting amongst humanity. The boulders sitting between houses and random piles of gravel fascinate me.

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Statement Street Art in Hafnarborg ❤

Walking through the outskirts of town amongst metal-clad houses and black basalt boulders, warehouses full of broken things and sparse bus stops here and there confuses me.

The landscape is cratered, carved and covered. Moss so fresh, so lush, that it appears blurry contrasts telltale signs of humanity: roads lined with lampposts, scrap metal, storage facilities… the culture is decidedly Scandinavian. People from an ocean away planted themselves here somewhat recently. Once unsettled, humans + technology have defied the weather and the dark and the isolation to benefit from a lucrative fishery and now tourists flock in to discover the rugged natural beauty. I couldn’t help but feel jerked emotionally by the stark impact that humanity makes against this remarkable landscape. It’s a landscape that fights back aggressively. Boulders surround family homes and most structures show immense signs of weathering. The technologies we develop are impressive and provide a quality of life which has come to feel secure to me, but the collision of man into raw Earth is so explicit on this island and I got to thinking…

Growing up in America then moving to Spain has been revealing things to me. When Traveling to ancient cities like Ronda in Andalucia and viewing a bridge built to appear as if it extends from the cliffside or up high in Pyrenees villages walking stone paths which have been followed by monks and holiday-makers for centuries… there’s a way of building in the thousands of small communities which dot the Iberian countryside using materials and shapes which reflect those specific landscapes. The assimilation, whether intentional or practical, of the people to the land on which they construct, is not lost on me. Then I walk up a hill just outside of my home city and see rows of concrete lining the valley below. This harsh contrast is suddenly jarring; the realization that I’m part of a nation which came into a landscape and forced itself on the beautiful and perfect land/air/water/beings…disheartening 

Conclusions

I’d return to Iceland again. But I’d spend more time (four full days minimum) and rent a car, travel with a buddy, steer clear of the city. 

If you do elect an Iceland stopover either treat it as a rest stop en route and lower scenic expectations/lean into hostel life OR stay a while and get out of the city. See what lies just beyond society. 

These experiences still need to sink in as I learn to understand and navigate my changing perspectives. 

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Missoula, Montana, USA (my hometown)

Getting Around Town

Public transportation is FREE in Missoula. The Mountain Line (public bus) has a great app which will let you know how and when to get where you need to go. Udash is associated with the University and offers late night service from downtown to the corner of Arthur and Sussex Ave. Uber is also available in Missoula (a great way to get to and from MSO airport). 

Grace’s favorites in and around town

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Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner

Grab a burrito from El Diablo (add blue cheese for a unique twist) or Taco Sano (I love their vegetarian tacos or breakfast burritos).

Tagliare Deli is located between El Diablo and Grizzly Grocery. Grab a sandwich from the deli and any small grocery needs from “Griz Grosh.”

Market on Front downtown by the river (and a parking garage- first hour free!) has great breakfast burritos, an upscale assortment of groceries, a salad/sandwich bar (try the hot hippie sandwich or a salad bar sampler) and full selection of espresso drinks, local beers by the bottle and a great selection of wines too. 

Five on Black and Masala offer Brazilian and Indian inspired build-your-own bowls. I love to take these to The Dram Shop where you can BYO food and choose from around 50 micro brews, wines by the glass or kombucha. 

The Good Food Store is like Missoula’s version of Whole Foods. They have organic and bulk foods, a salad bar, deli, pizza oven, wok bowls, smoothies/juice bar, coffee shop, kitchen store…everything! This is one of my favorite places to discover local products.

The Big Dipper has gained national fame and if you haven’t tried it before, a huckleberry cone or shake is a MUST. Sweet Peaks (semi-local from Whitefish, MT) is also delicious. 

Plonk Wine Bar has a gorgeous upstairs patio in the warmer months but I love going to this cozy spot for a cocktail (Love the GFC) or a glass of wine all year round. They have great dinner options which are seasonal and locally inspired. Their Thursday night jazz concerts add extra charm.

Finn & Porter has what I consider Missoula’s best happy hour. I highly recommend going for a drink on the deck (4-6 daily)! You can’t beat a $3 Blackfoot IPA while gazing at fly fishermen on the Clark Fork river. A truly fantastic Missoula experience. They have great dinner too!

Biga Pizza has a seasonal butternut squash pizza which is THE BEST IN THE WORLD. Beats NYC, Sicily, Florence, everything in my opinion! The also have a great portobello burger and basil lemonade in the summer months. I adore the homey vibes and authentic tastes offered here. To me it’s a must. One of my favorite restaurants in Missoula. The Bridge is a good option if you prefer to order in. 

Bakeries are plentiful in Missoula. 

Bernice’s is my personal favorite. Not a birthday goes by without without a Bernice’s cake in our family. Hint: you can also try by the slice during happy hour 4-6 get a free espresso drink with each piece. Le Petite (best baguettes and scones) and The Break (try the pie) are also good.

Brunch

Scotty’s Table (Weekends), Caffe Dolce (Sundays) and The Catalyst (every day) are my go to spots for brunch. Scotty’s and Dolce also offer delicious dinner. Really you can’t go wrong with any of these in my opinion. At Scotty’s I can’t skip the shakshuka. Dolce has very good toast with salmon, minestrone soup, homemade pasta… elegant Italian-inspired comfort. The Catalyst’s huevos rancheros have mole sauce and I can’t help but ordering a personal side of (cheddar) cheesy potato casserole each and every time. The Trough is also very good.

To Drink

Coffee & Tea

If you’d like to sit and sip a tea in house head to Lake Missoula Tea Co. They have a tea bar with an extensive menu and knowledgeable baristas to help you find something unique then you can take it home (loose leaf) to enjoy again and again. 

Please try “Evening in Missoula” by Montana Tea and Spice Trading. Grab a bag from Butterfly Herbs downtown (or Rockin Rudy’s/ The Good Food Store). 

Drum coffee has two locations- one on South Ave (close to the apartment) and another off of Broadway (en route to the Blackfoot river). Artisan coffee- the best baristas in town in my opinion. 

Black Coffee is a great place for drip. They sell beans by the bag and don’t shy away from creative roasts. Try a fancy toast with local honey or avocado and coconut oil… jam and brie.. Always a treat.

Other honorable mentions to Hunter Bay Coffee Roasters, Florence Coffee Company and Liquid Planet

Adult Beverages

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Kettlehouse “South” has an old-school Missoula vibe. It’s located on Myrtle Street. Their “North” location is built in a very cool building near the train tracks and offers shuffleboard and a constant rotation of new and exciting craft beers. Kettlehouse Amphitheater is located in Bonner (about 10 mins outside of town) along the Blackfoot river. If you can score tickets to a show you won’t be disappointed by the views or the brews! Coldsmoke is a must try beer. 

Draught Works is a popular spot – always filled with a good crowd and thanks to a spacious deck outdoor seating is somewhat easy to come by.

Imagine Nation, in my opinion, makes the best beer in town. They have a riverside deck out back and you can order delicious Mexican food from Tia’s across the street (free delivery). 

Big Sky Brewery hosts outdoor concerts in the summer. Arrive early to have a food truck picnic before the show. 

Western Cider is for cider likers (I’m not incredibly into it). I like the riverside location and hipster vibes here… 

Ten Spoon Winery is located in the rattlesnake valley. It’s casual and they often have live music. I enjoy renting the lawn for private events. There are also numerous hiking trails in the area so a hike (Try Sawmill Gulch for an easy stroll) then wine makes for an ideal afternoon. 

Montgomery Distillery is a cool local cocktail spot and you can buy a bottle of local liquor to take a bit of Missoula home. 

The Top Hat hosts live music almost every weekend. It’s my #1 nightlife spot. 

The Rhino has 50 beers on tap. Great Caesar/Bloody Mary. Pool tables here.

Charlie B’s is full of characters and has The Dinosaur Cafe – a cajun spot with a cult following- in the back.

Note: children are allowed in Montana breweries under adult supervision until 9pm. Dogs, unfortunately, are not allowed inside or on patios. 

Hiking

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The “M” is the most obvious choice for a hike with a city view. I usually take visitors up at least once. You get a great view of the University and the city. This is best at sunrise or sunset in fair weather. 

Waterworks hill (aka The Northside Hill) offers comparable Missoula views and is dog friendly. The main trailhead is located just off of Rattlesnake Drive (near Black Coffee and Rattlesnake Creek park – a nice place for a light walk/bike ride) another trail sits right off the Orange Street exit on I-90. 

Blue Mountain has many easy to intermediate trail options and a “folf” (frisbee golf) course. Lots of dogs on the main loop. I’m a regular. 

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Sawmill Gulch is a great hike on a hot day (lots of shade) very level and lined with scenic creekside stop-offs.

Snowshoe or Cross-Country Ski in Pattee Canyon or The Rattlesnake in the winter. (see UM Rec Center or The Trailhead or Gull Ski for rentals)

The wildlife in Montana are, well, WILD. Please be respectful and give them their space. Don’t feed the deer. Bear spray is recommended in Glacier National Park. I often throw a bottle in my day pack just in case. If you see a bear, stop, don’t run, but walk slowly away keeping an eye on the animal as you go. If you encounter a Mountain lion make yourself bigger, louder, scare it off. Moose can also be quite aggressive. Making a little noise will usually keep the wildlife away. Be aware and enjoy sharing beautiful Montana forests with these amazing animals. 

Biking

Rentals available at Missoula Bicycle Works. There is a new bike path from Missoula into Lolo and the Bitterroot valley. Start on Russell and Mount then head South. Lolo Peak Brewing is a fun destination on the path. There are also paths along either side of the Clark Fork River downtown. Mountain biking trails can be found at Blue Mountain and in The Rattlesnake. I love to bike from the apartment through the University campus and across the walking bridge into Rattlesnake Park along the creek, perhaps stopping to dip my feet in the (ice) cool water. 

River Sports/Activities 

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Fishing access is plentiful around Missoula. Rafts and waders can be found on the Blackfoot, Bitterroot and even right downtown in the Clark Fork Rivers. Rock Creek is a destination for fly fishing.

Check out Grizzly Hackle or Blackfoot River Outfitters for guides and gear. 

A fishing license can be picked up at most outdoor stores and even gas stations. Adults need a license for all types of fishing on state waters. 

Info: fwp.mt.gov/fish/license

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Rafting options range from a leisurely float down the Blackfoot river to whitewater at Alberton Gorge. Guided trips available through Pangea and Lewis and Clark Trail Adventures

Swimming in rivers can be dangerous/deadly. Please be cautious of strong currents and take the necessary precautions and preparations. Children always need a life vest.

Other Sports

Public tennis courts are plentiful in Missoula. We recommend Bonner Park, Playfair Park, The University of Montana and Kiwanis Park.

Folf (disc/frisbee golf) at Blue Mountain or Snowbowl (in the warmer months).

Shuffleboard at The Rhino and Kettlehouse Northside (is this a sport?)

There are many yoga studios around town, Inner Harmony and Hot House are good options for drop-in classes.

Bowling at Westside Lanes

Shopping (local)

Rockin Rudy’s is the first place I send people for keepsakes/gifts. The vibes is very quirky and originally Missoulian. I can’t even tell you what you will find here… EVERYTHING! It is a fun but time-consuming shopping experience. Make this stop, you won’t regret it. 

The Green Light is eco-focused and carries Missoula/Montana themed products to take home and remember us by. 

The Trailhead is Missoula’s local version of REI. Grab all of your outdoor essentials and ask for local tips regarding whatever outdoor activities you’re looking to do. Super friendly people and excellent quality of merchandise here. 

The People’s Market happens alongside the Farmer’s Market downtown on Pine street every Saturday late Spring through early fall. Local products/crafts galore! 

Posh Chocolate, The Montana Scene and The Artist’s Shop for gifts.

Art Galleries

On the First Friday of every month galleries and cafes downtown (along Higgins Ave.) host free shows open to the public (often providing wine and appetizers) art and music abide and the streets are full even in the darkest days of winter. Events usually run 5-8pm or so. 

Radius Gallery and Dana Gallery are downtown. The Missoula Art Museum/MAM has free admission. The University of Montana has two small galleries: the MMAC/Montana Museum of Art and Culture and Gallery of Visual Arts on the first floor of the Social Sciences building. All of these are free and open to the public.  

For the kids

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The Missoula Butterfly House and Insectarium showcases bugs in a friendly and enthusiastic environment. Kids can hold and learn about all kinds of cool insects. It’s memorable for all. 

A Carousel for Missoula & Dragon’s Hallow are located next to the Clark Fork river and Caras Park downtown. They are always crowded and (for the kids) it’s worth the hype. Walk by the viewpoint above Brennan’s Wave to see river boarding/surfing/kayaking while you’re in the area. During the summer check out food and music at Caras Park Out to Lunch on Wednesday afternoons and Out to Dinner on Thursday evenings. 

SpectrUM is a science museum featuring interactive and interesting experiments and facts for kids and curious adults. It is run by the University of Montana. 

Kids fishing at Silver’s Lagoon next to MOBASH skatepark and Currents indoor wave pool are fun. 

The Missoula Children’s Theater/MCT has a great reputation for shows- check one out if they’re on while you’re in town!

Sporting Events

U of M Griz Football, Basketball, Hockey etc. draw crowds. 

For tickets: griz tix

MOBASH skate park is located near The Missoula Osprey Stadium. This minor league baseball stadium is located along the banks of the Clark Fork River and osprey nests can be seen from the stands. 

The U of M golf course and Dornblaser field are located steps from our house. See the new women’s softball field or track and field, soccer and more here. Also a great place to go sledding and to cross-country ski during the winter months! (Pick up rentals from Campus Rec at U of M or Gull Ski or The Trailhead).

Go to a Movie

The Roxy is a retro indie option. Here you can sip microbrew beers while enjoying the film. Another fun theater option is the AMC dinner theater (new to Missoula) located in Southgate Mall. Blockbusters can be screened at AMC on Reserve Street. There are also movie screenings at the UC theater (also see Movies on the Oval free movies at U of M)

How to find upcoming Festivals/Concerts 

Top Venues: The Wilma, Kettlehouse Amphitheater, The Top Hat, The Adams Center and Big Sky Brewery

Find a full local events calendar at http://www.missoulaevents.net

Running a blog takes a lot of time, money and effort. Become a Grace in the World patron by buying me a coffee or sponsoring a post! Click this link to donate to my travel fund. Your support is highly appreciated.