Travel

My Journey, Travel

Pura Vida!


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For a few weeks now I’ve been trying to find the right words to put into perspective what I felt, learned, and discovered during my trip to Costa Rica. Countless times I have sat down in front of my computer screen only to be stumped at how I can portray to you readers everything that was experienced in the jungles of Uvita. Upon my return to the States I quickly became aware that I have been transformed, but it wasn’t until the past two weeks that this transformation became apparent. 

At the beginning of the year I joined a book club and our first book was Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes. This book challenged me to step outside of my comfort zone and do something completely unexpected. The unexpected thing happened to be traveling to a foreign country, by myself, to join a bunch of strangers for the Live Your Journey yoga retreat at Selva Armonia. The day I left I surprisingly wasn’t nervous. Normally when I travel alone I get anxious, cry because I’m leaving my family, and am afraid that I will do something wrong. This time around my soul felt at peace and was ready for this adventure. 

Location

After a five and a half hour flight from LAX, and a four hour car ride from San Jose down to Uvita, I arrived in a the most magical place I have ever seen. Selva Armonia sits on thirty five acres in a rainforest that over looks the South Pacific Ocean. As I walked down to the common area I realized that I would be fully immersed in the jungle for the next six days. The entire place was built so that we were outside in the elements for our entire stay. Only the bedrooms and bathrooms had four walls. The location of the property was perfect because as you looked out from the common area you could see the whale’s tail (a sand bar) in the ocean. The most gorgeous, peaceful, quaint place I have ever stayed. 

Being submersed in the jungle for six days was soul cleansing to say the least. I was barefoot majority of the time, only wearing shoes when we went to the beach and zip lining. It felt nice to ground my body with the earth and feel her constantly underneath me, supporting me, and carrying me forward on my journey. The luscious greenery surrounding Selva beats any place I have ever been. Not only are the plants vibrant, but a lot of the stuff you can eat or use. For instance, there is one plant that provides you natural shampoo, and then there is another leafy plant, that when you eat it, tastes like cranberries. 

Living among the vegetation are various animals. Our first morning there a thunderstorm was rolling through and the howler monkeys started to fight. You look at these tiny little things and think they are cute, but when you are woken up at five in the morning by their loud howling you feel like you are in The Hunger Games. I never got to see the monkeys, but I did see toucans, mapaches, frogs, geckos, iguanas, hummingbirds, and many other types of birds. Listening to these animals sing while doing yoga provided serene background music for our practice. 

Food

While staying at the retreat center we were fed three vegan/vegetarian meals a day and started each of our mornings off with coffee, tea and fresh fruit. Our chef, Yery, is a culinary genius! Every single meal was organic, delicious, colorful, and left you feeling completely satisfied. The food tastes differently out there, and I think that has to do with the fact that we were in a rainforest, so the veggies and fruits receive a lot of water. I don’t typically like coconut, but our morning pineapple had flakes of coconut sprinkled over it and the taste and texture were so different.

After our first yoga session of the morning we would be fed breakfast, which usually consisted of eggs, rice, beans, veggies, and fruit. A couple of mornings he made a vegan cheese that was to die for. Each of us girls went back for seconds and piled heaps of it on our plates. Our lunches and dinners all included a jungle salad with homemade dressings. Each of the salads were made up of leaves and other vegetables taken from the gardens in Selva. One of the things I discovered while I was eating the jungle salads is that I like beets. I had never tried them before, but since they were on top of each salad I tried them. Out of all of our meals my three favorite were vegan pad thai, yuka lasagna, and turmeric rice burrito. 

Three of our nights consisted of mouth watering desserts. During our first night there we were sitting down to our desserts when the power went out. I have no idea what the dessert looked like, but it felt and tasted like granola bars topped with chocolate and passion fruit sauce to drizzle on. A few nights later we had a strawberry shortcake type dessert and our last night we had vegan sundaes. We were supposed to do the vegan sundaes over a camp fire, but due to the storm we enjoyed them in the dining hall. We were each given a banana cut in half and we could put in any toppings we chose to. I did chocolate, almonds, and peanuts. After it was warmed in the oven we dove in. It was scrumptious and definitely something I will repeat at home. 

Yoga

Our first night together we gathered on the floating yoga deck in a circle, introduced ourselves, and talked about what brought us to the retreat. In the few hours I had already spent with the other ladies I could feel that this is exactly where my soul needed to be. There we were, strangers, ready to embark on a journey together that would forever change all of our lives. As we sat in the circle we began to open the gifts that Allie so graciously gave us. In each bag there was a journal, a note card that said “Live Your Journey,” a pair of Buddha pants (if you have not tried a pair of these, please do. They are amazing!), and a set of goddess cards. After our gifts were opened we spent some time with our goddess cards and then journaled about our intentions for this trip. 

The next five days we spent our mornings and evenings on the yoga deck doing everything from relaxation yoga, arm balances, inversions, chakra yoga, breathing exercises, 108 sun salutations, meditations, and of course journaling. During our arm balance workshop I was really proud of myself because I got into crow pose for the first time! I did not get myself up into a headstand, but thanks to Sarah and Melody I was able to begin the process of getting into them safely. I think my favorite yoga practice had to be the 108 sun salutations along with working with our mala beads. To me it opened up my soul the most and it showed me my true strength when it comes to yoga. 

I am not as far advanced as majority of the ladies who went on this retreat. A few of them each yoga and others have been practicing for a good chunk of time. I’ve been doing yoga on and off for about two years now. Being on this retreat and doing our daily yoga practices I realized how rejuvenating it is for my soul. A lot of my life I spend on the external, but it was on the yoga deck that I was able to focus on the internal. Surrounded by these women who come from different places in yoga allowed me to witness a time of support, encouragement, and a judgement free zone in my own yoga practice. This is something I have never experienced in a yoga studio.

When I came across Allie’s online yoga, called The Journey Junkie, I knew instantly that she was the instructor for me. She has a big heart that resonates across the screen and she is always encouraging you to put your best self out there. The other thing I love about her is how open and honest she is about her own journey. She is raw with her community, embracing her positives and negatives. This allows each of us to look at ourselves and love ourselves for who we are. This retreat was a first for all of us. Allie was hosting her first retreat and being allowed the opportunity to meet her in person and learn from her was truly spectacular. I am thankful for the community she has created and for making yoga such a big part of my life. Mostly I am thankful she created the opportunity to go do yoga in the jungle. See for yourself in the photos below and you’ll understand why yoga in the jungle is so magical. 

Activities

When we weren’t doing yoga we were either spending time resting by the pool, laying around in a hammock, reading books, or going on excursions. On my travels from the airport my driver stopped at a rest stop that had a bridge you could cross to look at some crocodiles. Those things are massive! The next morning we were supposed to hike to waterfall, however it had been raining all morning and it would be too slippery for the hike. Instead we had a mini spa day. The staff of Selva taught us about home made face masks, healing remedies, coffee scrubs and makeup tips all from the natural plants on sight. After our lesson was over we put on a blue clay mask and hiked down to a mini hot tub they had on the property. In the hot tub they used natural plants and herbs to create an aroma therapy experience. It was super relaxing and neat to learn about how much more nature can provide us than her beautiful scenery. 

On Thursday, our second full day at Selva, we took a trip down to the beach and ate at a restaurant in town. The beach was absolutely gorgeous and I loved how it butted up against the jungle. While we were there Yery came and brought us fresh coconuts to drink from. Man were those things refreshing! I had never drank coconut water straight from a coconut and I am so glad I got the opportunity to. After we finished our coconuts, and capturing some yoga pictures on the beach, we headed to a hostel/restaurant in town. Although this restaurant had chicken and bacon I decided that I would eat vegetarian to maintain a vegan/vegetarian diet while I was in Uvita. I really wanted to see how my body felt while eating fresh, organic, and meat free foods. The restaurant made each of us a smoothie and with the temperatures being hot that day the cold smoothie felt wonderful going down. As we finished lunch majority of us decided to head back to Selva for some R&R, while the others headed back to the beach. 

As we headed into the evening we began to prepare for our sound healing ceremony. Included in the sound healing ceremony was a cacao ceremony as well. As we walked down the path to the yoga deck we were met by the beautiful Tish, who saged us off and asked us to grab a Soul’s Journey card as we entered the deck. In the middle of the deck sat a gorgeous set up of plants, along with the cacao drink we would soon be indulging in. Cacao has a spiritual aspect to it, that when consumed allows us to connect to ourselves and our loving energy. Tish led us in this mesmerizing ceremony, followed by a sound healing meditation. As we sipped our cacao we were to focus on our card (mine was guilt) and our intentions for our future. I learned so much about myself during this time and I wanted to continue to explore what Tish had to offer. Unfortunately she was not able to come back to work with me on womb healing, but I will be reaching out to her eventually to continue working with her. If you ever get the opportunity, I highly recommend experiencing a cacao ceremony on your own. To me it was life changing. 

Friday happened to be my favorite day of the retreat. This was the day we went zip lining!!!! When I first signed up for the retreat zip lining was not going to be one of the excursions so I had planned on doing it on my own my first day there. However, as time went on Allie decided to add it to our retreat package. I am so happy she did because I got to experience flying through the jungle with my JJ sisters! The course included nine zip lines, two rappel stations, two bridges, and a Tarzan swing. My favorites were the rappel stations because we got to rappel upside down :). Sooooo fun!!!!! We even got to see a sloth while were zooming past on one of the zip lines. It was asleep up in the tree, but it was stinkin’ cute! So were the guys who took us on the tour ;-p. They had us laughing the whole entire time and made sure that we were all having a great time. If you ever get down to Uvita, do yourself a favor and check out Osa Canopy Tours. By far my favorite experience on the entire retreat. 

Saturday was our last full day at Selva and I spent it relaxing. Some of the ladies went on the waterfall hike, but I laid by the pool, read, and enjoyed a massage on the yoga deck. That morning we had written down on post-its all of the negative things we wanted to leave behind to throw into a bonfire that night. Due to a big storm that rolled through our bonfire was cancelled. I thoroughly enjoyed watching that storm roll through though. There is nothing more peaceful than being in the middle of a rainforest and listening to the sounds of mother nature all around you as she cries out. We all spent our last evening together sitting around the dinner table enjoying conversation, laughter and sharing memories.

The next morning as we packed up, said our goodbyes, and exchanged contact information, I was reminded that this time at Selva was one of the most special things to ever happen to me. We grabbed our post-its from the day before, burned them in a pot, and released everything to the Universe. Once on the bus for our four hour ride back to San Jose you could see pure bliss on everyone’s faces. We were all leaving with souls open and ready to take on the next chapter of our lives. We were ready to conquer what life threw at us. That night some of us went out to a Mexican restaurant in San Jose and had one last celebration. A celebration of coming home to ourselves!

Post Retreat

As I sat in the hotel on my last night in Costa Rica I felt content. I was ready to head home with a new outlook on life. I did not know, and still don’t know, what life will bring me. What I do know is that I am better equipped with tools to help myself find out what I truly want out of life. A couple of weeks ago I was blindsided by a situation that occurred. Since then I have realized that I am handling the situation a lot different than I would have in the past. I owe that to Costa Rica. I allow myself to feel all of the emotions that I need to, but at the end of the day I am reminded of my strengths, of my JJ sisters and of all of the possibilities out there. Life is not always going to be easy, but it’s in how you handle what gets thrown at you that shows your true character. I feel at peace. I feel happy. I feel renewed, rejuvenated, restored. 

During the trip I lost seven pounds due to the healthy lifestyle I was living while in the jungle. I am trying to maintain that same lifestyle out here. I am not one hundred percent there yet, but I am working towards it. However, in the changes that I have so far implemented I have lost four pounds in the past two weeks. I know what my goals in life are right now and I won’t let anything get in the way. On top of my healthier lifestyle I have been practicing my Spanish every day, seeking out the goddesses when I am feeling lost, doing yoga at least once a week, and meditating every night. It’s all of these positive changes to my lifestyle that are going to keep launching me forward into the best me that I can be. I cannot wait to join Allie again on another retreat, but until that time comes around I want to make sure that I nourish my soul so that I can live out my best self in all areas of my life. Until next time my beautiful readers. Pura Vida!

Love always,

Jess

Travel

A letter to New York


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New York,

A year ago I came to visit you for the first time and my heart was closed off to you. You see, I was here on a mission, to work. I was processing heartbreak and that trip was my first time traveling to a place I did not know, alone. I explored you the way a tourist would. Empire State Building, pizza, Central Park, and a Broadway show. I explored you, but I did not see you. For that I apologize. I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching since I was last here and today I came with an open heart. 

I am currently reading Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed. As I sat on the plane reading this book my heart cracked open to the vulnerability, love, angst, and feelings of pain every person on this earth seems to have in common. As a tear trickled down my face I put my book away and looked with intent at the people surrounding me. I saw two one year olds from different worlds share joyous laughter with one another as their mother’s talked about their sleeping patterns while flying. I saw a mother, and a wife, choose patience over frustration as she spent the entire flight taking care of her two children and her sick husband. I saw this sick man stay calm while he had an accident during the flight. I didn’t even realize he had an accident until he got up to leave the plane and his seat was wet. For five hours us strangers sat on a plane together with one common goal, to get to you, New York. 

There’s this beauty that you behold. So magical that many spend an abhorrent amount of money to live out here while struggling to make ends meet. You, beautiful city, are worth every day of struggle to these people because you open up a world never thought possible to many. Tonight I chose to see that side of you. When I landed at JFK I was greeted with rain, so instead of staying locked up in my hotel tonight I chose to walk outside and feel the sky’s tears fall gently on my face. Your towering buildings felt like a cozy blanket wrapped around me while the rain drops felt like the perfect cleansing to my soul. 

As the sun set and the drops continued to fall, I made my way to Central Park. The last time I set foot in this majestic fortress of yours it was hot, humid, and I had a plane to catch. I wasn’t here to see your greenery, but rather check something off of my list. Tonight as I set foot onto the paths that wound intrinsically through the grand canopies I could not help but lay my heart at your feet and surrender to what you wanted me to see. I saw the towers peaking through the trees reminding us that in a fast moving city there is a spot to be tranquil and leave behind the woes of yesterday. I stopped and read about Shakespeare, Columbus, and many others on your Literary Walk. I walked down to your lake and watched the turtles swim about. The reds and browns that covered their shells were vibrant through the murky waters. I didn’t just explore you this time, I saw you. Every corner I turned, every new path I walked, I took the time to stop, listen, smell, and see what you were telling my heart.

I finished my walk around your enchanting forest with the most spectacular spectacle of all. You brought me upon a group of people drumming and trumpeting to their own beat. These souls were filled with such joy that I stopped, closed my eyes, and felt the spine tingly chords they were producing. These are your people. The ones who see your worth, your beauty, your magic. My soul was meant to be there tonight. I came with my heart wide open to what you had to show me and I left with a love for you that I never knew could have existed. Thank you for giving me a second chance at truly seeing what you were all about. These next few days that I am here I will leave my eyes and my heart open to what you have to show me. And when I leave, I will do so with a little more magic in my heart because you made my heart better by just being you. Thank you!

Love always,

Jess