“Find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life,” they say. Others work to make ends meet and spend their free time doing things they love. There are endless possibilities and many choices when it comes to crafting your profession, but the question remains: How will you design your life?
I’ve been asking myself this question again and again the past few months. While it’s true that this is a lifelong question, it is particularly relevant for those of us in our mid 20s.
If you’re new to this blog, I’ll take a moment to explain my story up to this point… I’m Jamie, a world traveler and big question asker. I am 25 years old at the time of this writing, and I’ve been blessed to have experienced some pretty amazing things for someone my age. I’ve run with the bulls in Spain, solo traveled to many countries around the world, worked in interesting places like Congress in D.C. and beachside hostels in Puerto Rico, lived in Europe for 3 years, and have generally always been curious and hungry to learn more about myself and this big world we live in. After a year of traveling abroad and working remotely, I decided it’s time to settle down and find a place to call home for a while. This led me to asking myself, “If I could do anything or live anywhere, what would I do and where would I go?”
Initially I chose Denver, Colorado and started applying for jobs. After living out of a backpack for such a long time, it was so nice to have a place to call home. I had a few interviews here and there, all of which were lengthy processes. During the interviews, I noticed the interviewees looked down on my extensive traveling. It simply did not fit their notion of employability. Of course, this discouraged me and made me feel a bit unwanted and unworthy, an outsider even. I continued applying with a wider spectrum of companies. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to work for these companies, but I felt a strong sense of should.I should get a “good” job. I should settle down. I should sacrifice my time and energy and eventually it would pay off…right?
Two months passed in Denver, and I felt more confused than when I arrived. What was this all for? What am I meant to do? Could I truly work at a company that didn’t align with my values? Can someone just please tell me what’s right for me?!
All our lives we are told what to do from grade school to the college path to the bigger picture societal pressures of working up the corporate ladder in order to afford nice things. Not to mention, we probably only want these nice things because a talented marketing team has carefully crafted messages to make us believe we need these things to be happy.
Rant aside; I was seriously confused about what to do next. One morning I got in my car and drove to my old home, the meditation retreat center in the Rocky Mountains. Sometimes when you’re stuck, the only thing to do is look inward. So there I was, meditating in a cozy little room in the Rocky Mountains as I watched the snow softly fall outside. I sat and did nothing. I sat and watched my mind search for a solution. Slowly, my mind settled and the shoulds melted away.
When you sit like this, deeper Truths surface. Like the sun emerging as the clouds part on a stormy day, clarity shines through.
Ah, yes! That’s it! I realized.
I felt the answer rise from within. I was meant to live in a contemplative environment like that of Shambhala Mountain Center and facilitate retreats to help others discover their true nature and authenticity. This kind of environment is also the ideal place for self-discovery, something I highly value.
As I drove back to Denver from the mountains, I was sure this was the path I would take. I looked up the top retreat centers in the United States and abroad and sent out a few applications at the places that seemed right for me.
Within two weeks, I received an offer to work on the Guest Services team at the esteemed Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California. I packed my bags and moved my life once again, but this time with more direction than the last.
The path isn’t a straightforward one. We are meant to get confused, lost, and even feel sad and uncomfortable at times. These are the times when we can truly gain an experiential understanding of self-compassion and trust in the journey. Like my teacher Choygam Trungpa Rinpoche said, “The path is the goal!”
So, my friends, if you’re in a similar situation, take a breath and enjoy the journey. It’s what we’re here for!
Next time you go on vacation, do something truly remarkable. Trade in the all-inclusive resort passes for one of these unique travel experiences. Whether it’s a week or a month, here are 10 slow travel ideas for you on your upcoming trip!
Walk the Camino de Santiago
Find yourself along a medieval pilgrimage throughout the many landscapes of Spain. To walk the most popular route, el Camino Frances, you will need about a month, but you can start from wherever you want or bike it if you have a limited amount of time. Read more about the Camino here.
Take a language course
Learning a language can open doors for your professional and social life. Instead of going to a country and just seeing the sights, you can truly experience the culture of a place by taking a language course. There are language centers in every country that offer courses in week-long increments, so sign up and make it happen. La vita é bella!
Have you always wanted to be bilingual? Invest in yourself and take a language course abroad. Search for independent language schools in your country of choice. Most schools offer classes on a weekly basis and include culture classes in tandem with the language lessons. Si, la vita é bella!
When other families go on vacation for an extended period of time, many times they will offer their home to a house sitter so that they can be assured their home is taken care of while they’re away. There are a few websites to find people looking for house sitters. This can be a great way to live like a local and save cash while traveling!
Do a meditation retreat.
Slow down and look inward on your next vacation. You can find many 10-day Vipassana silent retreats in Asia that are completely donation based. If you’re looking for something more intensive, Kopan Monastry just outside of Kathmandu has a month-long study and practice retreat in November that is highly recommended.
Volunteer at an elephant sanctuary.
Maybe you’re passionate about helping animals. A quick Internet search and you can find numerous elephant sanctuaries looking for volunteers to help with their cause. There’s nothing more rewarding than volunteering with a cause that you’re passionate about. Life is short, save the elephants!
Get ya surf on.
If you’ve always wanted to take time off to learn how to surf, why not fulfill that dream? Visit Hawaii, Costa Rica, or even Australia where there’s a community of surfers to learn from. I have heard of travelers doing a work exchange at surf schools as well. All you have to do is work part time and get free accommodation and free surf classes. Not to mention, you’ll get to meet all kinds of interesting people doing the same thing. As soon as you make the decision to take that leap of faith and make it happen, you will be surprised how many opportunities come your way.
Meet travelers from all over the world by working at a hostel
Hostels often search for people to volunteer via work exchange in order to keep their facilities running. You can work around 20 hours a week organizing tours, running reception, or cleaning. In exchange you get free accommodation and sometimes food is included! Not to mention, you get to meet travelers from all over the world. Pretty sweet deal, right? I use Workaway.info to find these opportunities.
Get connected with the earth…WOOFing
WWOOFing stands for WorldWide Opportunity on Organic Farms. The organization hopes to provide a way for people to learn about organic food, agriculture, and sustainable ways of living. Get your hands dirty, connect with the earth, and WWOOF your heart out.
Offer your skills to an organization you believe in (Teaching, art, etc.)
Just recently I volunteered with Collective Aid, an NGO helping refugees in Serbia and Bosnia. I spent a month working as an Activity Leader at their refugee community center where I taught English and led cultural activities for refugees at a nearby camp. It was an incredible and eye-opening experience. If you are inspired to help with a certain issue, there is nothing more rewarding than giving back!
Do something different for your next vacation. Try slow traveling! It can be eye-opening and inspiring. Get in touch with me for encouragement or planning. I’d love to hear from you!
Life is full of surprises, especially when you think you’ve got things “figured out”. November proved this much to be true. Since I leftColorado in September, I decided to travel and work online for a while. I planned on living in the U.S. Virgin Islands for a month then to Mexico for a month-long yoga retreat. Sounds like a dream, right? RIGHT. Except the Virgin Islands turned out to be more like a nightmare. Three days after arriving, I knew deep down to my core that I couldn’t last another week there. What to do when things don’t go as planned? Follow what feels right, that’s what! I found my way to Puerto Rico, and it was everything I hoped the Virgin Islands would be. I lived and worked at a laid back bohemian hostel in San Juan. With the beach two blocks away and the convenience of nearby restaurants and bars within walking distance (not to mention a 24/7 Walgreens RIGHT ACROSS THE STREET), I was in heaven. Life was good, piña coladas were flowing, and I learned the ins and outs of running a hostel. I found this opportunity through Workaway.infoand worked 20 hours a week in exchange for free accommodation and a weekly food allowance. My tasks included working reception, updating photos for the website, and assisting in event planning for the hostel. Then, of course, just as things started feeling comfortable, I watched heartbreaking documentaries that changed ALL of my plans for the upcoming month. Next thing I knew, I had booked a flight from Miami to Barcelona for the next week. (for only $150, might I add! #Winning) Confused? Here’s the backstory: I watched a documentary about the Syrian war called City of Ghosts. I was so heartbroken that I cried the entire length of the documentary. Then I watched another documentary called Human Flow, which talks about the refugee crisis the world is currently facing. After these documentaries, I couldn’t sleep, so I researched more about the current refugee crisis and how the E.U and U.S. are handling it politically. I stayed up until 5 a.m. without moving from my desk. I was absolutely fixated. I heard about the conflicts in the news many times before, but hearing people’s individual stories impacted me more than I expected. How can I help? I thought. I finally forced myself to sleep, and the next day, I began researching nonprofit organizations that offer humanitarian aid to refugees in need. That day, I decided I’d go to Eastern Europe where there are many refugee camps and organizations helping refugees who haven’t yet gotten asylum in the E.U. So I took the flight to Barcelona, made a pit stop in Ibiza for a few days to celebrate Halloween with my best friends because WHY NOT? Then headed over to a country I’d absolutely never thought about visiting before: SERBIA. For the month of November, I’ve been living in an unappealing, rather depressing suburb of Belgrade, Serbia called Zeleznik. Locals stare at me. Stray dogs follow me around and bark incessantly. There’s enough trash on the streets that I’m not sure what the trash cans are even used for, and it’s consistently 20 degrees, gray, and rainy/snowy with serious communist vibes. LOVELY, RIGHT?
Just out the front door, Shorba and Princess, our stray dogs.
Why the hell are you even there?! you ask me through your screen with the apprehension of a favorite aunt. Well, because there are people over here who could use some help.
There are people who’ve fled danger and violence in their home countries, just to be met with more challenges each step along the way to safety. There are people who are victims of the Taliban or other terrorist groups who are reducing their country to a war zone. There are people who, despite being a victim, are being seen as criminals or problems and are beaten by border police. They are just like you and me with families, friends, hopes, dreams…the only difference is the country they were born. And this just so happens to have led them to a refugee camp in a depressing town in Serbia, so here I am, just trying to make even the smallest bit of difference for humanity.
I’m working as an Activities Leader together with the other volunteers inCollective Aid(formerly known as BelgrAid). I organize activities ranging from cinema night to English classes so that these people who have been through so much can start to feel like human beings again. We also do hygiene and winter clothing distributions as the winter is coming and temperatures are dropping to below 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Donate if you feel called to do so! I know for a fact that this organization uses the donations with the refugees’ needs as the number one priority.
Making hygiene packs in the Warehouse
Preparing flash cards for English classes
And to think, I thought I’d be doing yoga on a beach in Mexico this month. Life is funny, isn’t it?
Thanks for reading! Have questions? Comments? Contact me.
As it turns out, there are many ways to travel the world. You could take a cruise, hopping off at each island to work on your tan. You could get on board with the millennials and backpack through Europe or Southeast Asia, staying a couple of days in each destination before you’re off to see the next country. Or you could try out my favorite way of traveling the world: slow travel.
Slow travel is all about, well, slowing down. Instead of rushing to tick places off your bucket list, you’re placing importance on learning about the culture through firsthand experience. Slow travel is about meeting locals, discovering your favorite local restaurants and cafes, and allowing yourself some space to take it all in.Isn’t said that the best things in life take time?
Here’s a list of the top 5 reasons you should try out slow traveling on your next trip.
1. Experience the Culture First-Hand
There’s a big difference between tourists and travelers. Travelers seek to understand new cultures and learn about other ways of life instead of merely escaping their life back home on a relaxing vacation. Slow traveling allows one to let the unfolding of the subtleties of a country’s culture and customs. You may partake in a local festivity or join in the crowd to watch a traditional dance ceremony. Slow travel also means you are able to befriend locals, and seeing a place through the eyes of a local is an incredible experience!
2. Learn the language
Learning different languages can open doors. You’ll learn the language far quicker by living abroad than taking a course in your home country. If you’re living, say, in France for an extended period of time, picking up the language is almost inevitable. Going to a local market or an evening outing can be an impromptu French course, and you’ll also gain insight to the essence of the French culture and way of life.
3. Get to Know Your Way Around
When you first arrive in a new place, it’s normal to feel a bit disoriented. It takes a couple of days for me to understand the city layout, where to find food, and what parts of the city are safe or unsafe. One of the advantages of slow travel is that you’re able to really get to know a place. You have time to find your favorite spots in the city and can recognize tourist prices when you see them. When I lived in Granada, Spain for a few months, I went to a certain café a few times a week and got to know the baristas, which made me feel like I was really a part of the community.
4. Save money
After backpacking through South America, I felt exhausted from traveling to new towns every other day. I decided to travel slowly, spending at least a few weeks in every spot. I use websites like Workaway to find volunteer opportunities that allow me to have free accommodation and food in exchange for working 20 hours a week. This method saves me A LOT of money in contrast to paying each night for a hostel and eating out at restaurants.
5. Easier on Your Mind and Body
Like I previously mentioned, travel can be exhausting, mentally, emotionally, and physically. In my opinion, rushing through each destination is actually really hard on your mind and body. Instead give yourself a break, kick your feet back, and relax. Spending a couple months in a place gives you time to take it easy, which is an important aspect of self care. You don’t have to rush to see the sights all in one day because you have time on your side!
Have you ever tried slow travel? If not, do you think you’d enjoy it? Contact me and let me know what you think!
What does it mean to live with true bravado? By definition, bravado means to show a vaunted display of courage or self-confidence; swagger. To me, bravado means facing intimidating, daunting tasks with openness, moving into a place that is beyond fear. That is what it takes to do something as audacious as moving across the world knowing no one but expecting the best. It’s what it takes to be true to yourself and follow what inspires you. I invite you to contemplate how you can live a life of authenticity, openness, and fearlessness…a life of true bravado.
“Acknowledging fear is not a cause for depression or discouragement. Because we possess such fear, we also are potentially entitled to experience fearlessness. True fearlessness is not the reduction of fear, but going beyond fear.”- Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche
Hi friends! As I get ready to move on from this chapter of my life to the next, I am taking time to reflect on this summer. May what I have to share be of benefit!
I’ve been living and working at in a Buddhist meditation retreat centerin the Colorado Rocky Mountains. My role is a Program Coordinator where I help coordinate meditation and yoga retreats along with the support of my fellow community members. As a program coordinator, there isn’t one day that’s like the rest. My days are filled with planning ahead and communicating with future participants and presenters, interacting with retreatants and acting as a liaison for the programs and our staff, practicing meditation, reading and writing, hiking the land, and participating in community events.
This dharma center is a place I consider to be my home away from home, and after a pretty devastating breakup, I decided to come “home” to the Rocky Mountains and to myself in many ways.
My time here has been healing, reflective, fulfilling, and with its fair share of ups and downs.
Living in a community of amazing people – This is something I’ve missed as I traveled last year. Living in a community where people are like-minded and speak English has been so great. I love how supported I am here and will miss my sangha when I leave!
Having a place to call home for a while – As a traveler, you have to get used to sleeping in different places quite often. Since I had the opportunity to stay here for the summer, I got a cabin of my own and even decorated the place! It’s been comforting to know I don’t have to figure out where to go or where I’ll stay for a while.
Finding balance & maintaining a solid meditation practice – In South America, there were times when I tried to meditate in my bunk bed in a crowded hostel room. In contrast, living at a dharma land center is conducive to maintaining a meditation practice and spending free time reflecting, reading, and simply being.
Taking Tsoknyi Rinpoche’s program! – I got the chance to do a retreat with a Tibetan tulku, or reincarnated meditation master, whose style of teaching I really connect with and it was an incredible experience. Meeting and learning from teachers like Tsoknyi Rinpoche is one of the best parts of living here!
Living and working at the same place – I touched on this a bit in an article I wrote last year. The fact that I work and live in the same place can be difficult at times. For example, the bathhouse where I shower and get ready in the morning is right in the middle of the “Downtown” area where I work, and to get from my cabin to the bathhouse, participants will often stop me and ask me questions in the morning before I have even gotten the chance to brush my teeth! Boundaries are tricky in this kind of situation.
Processing difficult emotions and not having much of a distraction or escape from that – Often when we are facing strong negative emotions, it’s easy to mentally escape or check out in the busy world we live in. Here in the Rocky Mountains, there’s nothing to do but face yourself fully. There’s no WiFi at my house and no cell phone reception for at least 30 miles. That means there is more time to reflect and process whatever comes up.
“Be here now.” – As I decided that I’d be traveling this winter, my thoughts were consumed with planning and looking ahead. It all felt exciting and fresh. I could barely sit to meditate without my thoughts trailing off to a faraway land. For my last month in Colorado, I am making a conscious effort to be mindful and stay present with whatever is happening in the moment. It is easy to get caught up in planning for the future, but gratitude for what’s good in my life right now can be even more fresh and exciting because it’s actually happening right here, right now!
Self-compassion & awareness – Self-compassion and awareness go hand in hand. To be compassionate towards yourself, you first have to be aware of how you’re not kind to yourself. What is the storyline that you play again and again about yourself? Can you begin to see how that criticism isn’t actually so solid? Can you sit in awareness with your disappointment, loneliness or whatever it may be? What if you looked at your thoughts and emotions with some space in between? And what if you could look inwardly with kindness and curiosity? This is something I’ve been working on this summer and it has been tremendously helpful when dealing with strong negative emotions (loneliness, anger, regret, sadness, you name it!.
Winter in the Colorado Rocky Mountains means cold and snowy weather, which also means I’ll be making my way to warmer places. I am chasing the sun this winter! The first place I’ll go is the U.S. Virgin Islands. I found a lovely host onWorkaway. I will volunteer a little bohemian wellness retreat on Water Island for the month of October through November. There I will help out with social media, online marketing and some artistic projects as the Head of Beautification. The deal is that I work 20 hours a week for free accommodation in one of their open-air cottages. Not to mention, I’ll be traveling with a good friend of mine, so I’m looking forward to that!
After that, I am planning on doing a month-long yoga retreat with an organization called Hridaya Yogain Oaxaca, Mexico. That’s about all I have planned so far. Adventures await!
Thanks for reading! While you’re here, feel free to contact me. I’d love to hear from you. You can also find me on Facebook and Instagram!