Discovering the beauty of an imperfect journey 2016-02-04T23:19:53Z http://sarahsomewhere.com/feed/atom/ Sarahsomewhere http://www.sarahsomewhere.com <![CDATA[A home of my own]]> http://sarahsomewhere.com/?p=12926 2016-01-25T15:42:31Z 2016-01-25T14:45:49Z Keep reading...]]> I’ve missed you guys. The last few months I’ve been relatively quiet here, processing the major internal and external shifts in my reality. I’m good. I’m really good. And I don’t say that flippantly with a plastered smile, I say it from my heart. My bleeding, slightly battered, open, hopeful heart.

The heart that is leading me places I never dreamed because I never deemed myself worthy of them; couldn’t even conceive of them being possible.

Until…

I’ve experienced a few seismic shifts in my life. Some have been excruciating – rock bottom; early recovery. Some have been terrifying – uprooting my life in Australia; jumping out of a plane; driving across India in an auto-rickshaw.

Some have been revelatory – discovering Kundalini yoga, writing and running my first e-retreat; organizing my first meditation retreat in Bali.

The most recent shift, however – choosing to continue my journey solo, has been one of the most defining, and yet, unlike many of my previous shifts, has not crippled me emotionally.

That is not to say I have not experienced a sense of sadness, loss or grief. I have. Moments of resentment – indeed. But these emotional states have passed through as they are meant to (e-motion: energy in motion) and left me more whole and intact in the process.

I’m surprising myself.

Life is surprising me too. It’s showing me what I’m capable of and what is possible when I trust in it. In fact, in this last month I have never felt so guided by Grace; so keenly aware that I am being taken of.

That I am truly loved.

Life has shown up for me in many ways, but mostly through people. I like to say it takes a village to raise a heart and that has been true for me these past months. Every, single, day I have received gifts from people. Like, people have physically given me stuff. Lots of stuff. Really freaking beautiful stuff. Stuff like scarves and clothing and candles and flowers; crystals and incense and chocolate.

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Stuff that I love.

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Then there has been the presence, connection and thoughtful conversation. People have been gentle with me. They’ve listened. They’ve let me speak. I have felt seen, heard, encouraged and yes, loved.

And through it all I’ve had the privilege of being able to pass that love on, through my work with other women in recovery, my Divine Dance sessions and heart to heart chats with friends going through their own challenges.

I’ve been channeling that love into preparing a magical, heart opening retreat in Holbox this April for the beautiful women who will be joining me.

And I’ve channeled it into me, becoming aware of all the areas of my life where I have been short changing myself due to a deep seated (and I mean deeeeeeeeep) unworthiness.

I’m seeing things like I’ve never seen them. Every day, more is revealed. Through my commitment to my (gentle, loving) practice of yoga, meditation, dance and self-reflection, as well as nourishing myself with good food and friends, I am being revealed to myself a little more each day.

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I recently turned 35 which is well and truly considered adult age, yet I feel like I am stepping into womanhood for the first time.

I am feeling the power of presence of the Divine Mother calling me into deep healing and expression through Her. I’m experiencing an opening of what has always been here, furled into and unto itself, somewhat dormant.

Waiting for fertile conditions.

I thought I was living and loving before, but there is always more awareness and awakening to step into and I feel like a trapdoor to a Whole New World has been opened for me.

Nothing has been wasted. There are no mistakes and I have no regrets.

Most days I am brought to my knees with gratitude. Not the sort that you check off on a list to feel better, but an inspiring, humbling awe that Life could Love me this much.

That Love is burrowing into my heart, clearing out the debris of unworthiness that I buried there as a child and carried through to all my relationships, particularly my relationship with myself. It’s turning me inside out, shaking me up, removing things and replacing them.

And every time something is replaced it’s better, brighter and fuller.

I’ve also found a home of my own. Finding a decent, reasonably priced apartment during high season in Playa del Carmen has become a laughable pursuit in recent years (yes, I literally had real estate agents laugh at me down the phone), and yet for some reason, I maintained an unshakeable faith, not just in finding a place, but in finding my place.

I looked at a few but none of them felt right and I refused to settle. Despite the pressure to just take anything. Despite the fear of not finding anything else. This is a theme I hope to carry into all areas of my life. Not settling for less than I know I am worthy of.

The words of my first recovery sponsor are ringing in my head, even though at the time she said them I stared back at her through tear-filled eyes of disbelief:

“Sarah, you deserve the best. And you are going to have it.”

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This was meant to be a post about my new home. The home I am living in alone, for the first time in my life. The home I have been filling with color, love, food and friends.

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The home which has received me with open arms and then proceeded to welcome my friends who stop buy with still more plants.

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It’s the home which makes people smile when they say, “You scored such a great place!” or “It’s just so… You!”

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But as usual, this post has revealed more of the internal space I now occupy. The foundations are being re-layed and I can feel myself being prepared for Something. I don’t know what, I just know it.

I’m coming home to my original Self; my whole, luminous, beautiful Self. Moment by moment, breath by breath, step by step. I may be living alone, but thanks to this Divine process, I’m far from lonely.

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Sarahsomewhere http://www.sarahsomewhere.com <![CDATA[2016 – A Manifesto]]> http://sarahsomewhere.com/?p=12901 2016-01-03T17:39:46Z 2016-01-03T17:34:49Z Keep reading...]]> Keep it light – value each beautiful, painful, joyful moment as a masterpiece of the Universe.

Connect then release – share ideas but don’t depend on anyone’s opinion or seek permission to be you.

Seek wisdom – from teachers, teachings and friends, but above all, from within. Your heart center is your soul’s only true guidance system.

Play – laugh, dance, sing and then do more.

Let go – of struggle against change. You will never, ever know what is coming next. Just breathe and welcome what is emerging.

Risk – everything you think you know for everything you don’t. Continually empty out sub-conscious programming so that you may experience consciousness – innocent, awake, aware, creative.

Feed yourself – and feed others. Love and food are inseparable.

Be grateful – because you’ve hit the cosmic jackpot just by getting here.

Make things – to reach the hearts of others. This is your legacy which will succeed your temporary body.

Speaking of which, honor your body – Nourish, love and protect it. It’s your miraculous all-terrain vehicle of physical experience.

Listen – to the whisper of your soul and the loud call of Spirit which will always guide you home to the light of your wise, wild soul.

manifesto

Artwork – a handmade birthday card by my buddy, Karl – a true artist.

I wrote this in my writers’ group last week and thought I’d share it with you. Have you considered writing a manifesto for yourself for 2016? Feel free to share with me!

Sending boundless blessings for this new, new year,

Sarah xxx

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Sarahsomewhere http://www.sarahsomewhere.com <![CDATA[Love After Love]]> http://sarahsomewhere.com/?p=12895 2015-12-30T17:27:21Z 2015-12-30T17:27:21Z Keep reading...]]> Sometimes it’s better to use other people’s words to express yourself, especially when they resonate deeper than your own.

I first read this poem a few years ago and it has remained in my heart ever since. In the last few weeks, I’ve read it over and over again, shared it with friends and allowed the words to further penetrate my heart.

The uncanny and miraculous thing is that while I first heard these words as a distant call, I am actually living them now.

Blue-door

Love After Love

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.”
Derek Walcott

2016 is almost upon us. Tomorrow, I’ll turn 35. My inner and outer life is rich beyond my imagination. I’m feasting on my life.

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Thank you for your support in 2015. Feliz año nuevo and endless blessings for 2016.

Sarah xxx

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Join me next April for a week of Divine feminine connection in paradise. Details of the ‘Journey to Shine’ retreat on isla Holbox, Mexico are here.

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Sarahsomewhere http://www.sarahsomewhere.com <![CDATA[My beautiful, imperfect journey continues…solo]]> http://sarahsomewhere.com/?p=12868 2015-12-20T15:22:38Z 2015-12-20T15:02:27Z Keep reading...]]> I didn’t predict that in the time since my last post I would become a single woman, but then, how could I?

I haven’t predicted anything that has happened on this journey which is what makes it so astounding to me.

So, here I am.

Just over a week ago, Tyrhone flew to the UK and two days before that, we decided to go our separate ways. Those of you who are connected with me on Facebook may have read my update:

“Today I celebrate my time with this guy. We never, EVER did things by the book and our decision to part ways is no exception. We are doing it with love, gratitude and a healthy dose of sadness. What an amazing journey we have had together for the last 9 1/2 years. We are unrecognizeable from the young, messed up kids we were. We are more whole people thanks to each other, and move forward on our individual journeys richer than we thought possible for ourselves. Soul mates come in all forms, and he has definitely been mine. Safe travels in Europe and beyond, Tyrhone, and stay colourful!”

I cannot thank you all enough for your words of encouragement and support to both of us.

I’m feeling particularly blessed right now, humbled and touched by the communities, both online and in person that I am part of.

Ours was an amazing journey. We are both deeply grateful for our time together and the way we helped heal and develop each other.

In fact, we both grew so much during our relationship that we learned what we truly wanted out of life – they just happened to be different things.

What a blessing it now is, all these years, countries and lessons later, to be whole and free enough to follow our hearts, even when it means saying goodbye to each other.

Ours was a sacred soul contract; one which saved my life. I’ll never forget it or not be grateful for it.

We parted in the most beautiful way – full of love and respect and gratitude – and I’m allowing my heart to absorb it all; the joy, the pain and the blessings.

I’m staying on in Playa where I belong for now.

I’m surrounded by so much love, community and support I can hardly believe it. I never thought my life would look like this or more importantly, feel like this.

And while it’s a process – one which I am walking one day at a time – I have never felt the beauty of my imperfect journey more keenly.

Sarah Somewhere Sarah Chamberlain

Wishing you all a beautiful festive season from Mexico – I am truly grateful for you all.

Shine on,

Love Sarah xxx

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Please follow Tyrhone’s amazing adventures on his blog and YouTube channel!

You can stay updated with me by connecting via Facebook and Instagram.

There are still places available for my ‘Journey to Shine’ retreat on Isla Holbox next April. I’d love to meet you and share this week of connection in paradise.

 

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Sarahsomewhere http://www.sarahsomewhere.com <![CDATA[Contracting to Expand]]> http://sarahsomewhere.com/?p=12822 2015-11-18T14:08:55Z 2015-11-18T14:03:55Z Keep reading...]]> We are born into this world via a contraction. Throughout our lives, we continue to experience contractions in order to expand and grow.

It’s easy to look back after one of these contractions and say, “Oh, now I see why I needed to go through that,” but in the moment, it totally blows.

I’ve dubbed these recent months ‘The Summer of My Discontent,’ which I think is pretty clever 😉

It’s so much easier to talk about being discontent when you’ve moved through the worst part of it.

I’m not totally out of the woods, mind you, because this contraction was a real motherfucker that didn’t seem to want to end. That’s how it felt, of course, when really, Life was merely attempting to show me things about myself and my tendencies which bring me suffering so I could let them go.

Like I said, I’m not quite out of the woods, but I’ve hacked my way through a lot of it and can see the light peering through the trees.

And when I emerge, I’ll be lighter than I’ve ever been.

These contractions have – as they always do – birthed some beautiful things.

I’ve become more compassionate to my friends going through a rough time and have forged deeper relationships with those around me.

I’ve been dancing more and have gathered a group of women together for Divine Dance sessions – a liberating practice of moving the way we want rather than the way we think we should.

It’s one of the best things I’ve ever created in my life and if it weren’t for these last few months, I wouldn’t have been desperate enough to push through my fears and do what I know I am here to do – be myself, share my gifts and encourage others to do the same.

Divine dance ladies

I recently celebrated six years of sobriety surrounded by my amazing recovery community. Instead of pretending that everything was rosy, I was able to share something I learned during this year – “It’s okay not be okay sometimes.”

It seems ironic that at a time where I have had more questions than answers, I would be inspired to lead anyone and yet, that is what has transpired. My essential oil family is growing and I am continually surprised by the way my old, closed ideas about ‘selling’ have been blown out of the water by this divinely feminine business model fueled by Mother Nature herself.

My perceptions about so many things – love, money, service, friendship, spirituality – are being broken open to make new for new ones.

I’m attempting to leave behind dependency, people-pleasing and approval seeking to make way for unconditional self-acceptance, inner confidence and detachment from outcomes.

It’s going to be a long road, but one I am willing to walk.

Because I know I’m here to expand beyond my perceived limitations; to burn through my karma both inherited and created.

I’m not here to live by anyone else’s rules, or make people comfortable by meeting their expectations.

I’m not here to live out the dharma of my DNA, but to evolve out of old programming and create new rhythms for living and thriving.

It’s not an easy path. There are many contractions ahead. But I’m willing to face death – of old ideas, beliefs and behaviors – in order to truly live.

Dia de los Muertos

subscribe to sarah somewhereMore news from me:

Ladies, if you are in Playa del Carmen on December 5, join me for a Divine Dance session at Palapa Suuk at 11am.

Interested in learning about the benefits of essential oils? There are great incentives in November for opening a wholesale account with doTERRA. Email me for more info or to set up a free online class.

Tyrhone created this video of our recent Cuba trip.

There are still some places left for my ‘Journey to Shine’ retreat on the spectacular island of Holbox next April. Join me and an amazing group of women for a spectacular week of yoga, dance, relaxation, nature and divine feminine connection.

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Sarahsomewhere http://www.sarahsomewhere.com <![CDATA[Embracing Contradiction in Cuba – Part Three]]> http://sarahsomewhere.com/?p=12760 2015-11-04T15:19:29Z 2015-11-04T14:40:31Z Keep reading...]]> We returned to Havana for our last night to find that the casa we had previously stayed in was full.

Havana street

So we began traipsing around the streets of Havana Viejo looking for a room. After checking out a few that just didn’t feel right, I found myself standing in front of a door with a small, printed sign that read ‘La Terrazza.’

I pressed the buzzer, then heard a voice from above.

A woman was leaning out over the third floor balcony, dangling a key from a piece of black wool and instructing me to catch it.

She dropped the key.

I didn’t catch it.

I picked it up of the grimy street, inserted it into the lock and let myself in, while shouting to Tyrhone (who was a across the street looking at another place) that I was going up.

Two flights of stairs later, I found myself in the home of Christina and her daughter, also named Christina. They were having guests over so another woman, an older man and a young boy of about two years of age were all squeezed into the small living room.

They greeted me warmly and the older Christina led me up another flight of stairs to the room they rent out to visitors.

‘The terrace’ the place was named after was tiled in a colorful mosaic and the room was more like a small apartment, complete with a kitchen, dining area and bathroom. All spotlessly clean and extremely private, I agreed to take the room on the spot.

LaTerrazza Havana

Kitchen La terrazza

Christina broke out into a wide grin, her pride for the lovely casita beaming through cigarette stained teeth. She went into the cocina, retrieved the bottle of rum stashed in the fridge and tucked it under her arm with one swift movement, then lead me back to the living room to take down our passport details.

By this stage Tyrhone had found his way up to the room and was happily ensconced in icy cold air conditioning while I finalized the formalities.

I sat at the dining room table while the young Christina copied our passport details into her ledger and the old Christina busied herself in the kitchen (perhaps looking for another place to hide the rum).

Then she yelled out that she was making coffee and did I want want one, to which I responded with a definitive, “Si, por favor!”

She soon placed an espresso sized cup of strong Cuban brew in my hands, which rattled in a tiny saucer.

I took a sip and felt the caffeine and sugar move through me with a jolt. It was deliciously strong and way too sweet, but the gesture made me feel so good. It was the first time someone had offered me something that didn’t have a price tag on it. Of course, we were renting their room for the night, but there was something about the Christinas that made me feel like they were very different to the people we’d met so far.

While our previous four nights had involved having meals, drinks, tours and transport shoved down our throats, old Christina didn’t even cook dinner for guests and directed us to the local tienda instead of offering us things to buy.

She did, however, make Tyrhone one of her ‘famous’ coffees and watched with glee as he took his first ‘hit.’

That afternoon, when we returned from a long walk around the artisan market, Christina was taking in her laundry which was strung up outside our casita.

When we commented on how pretty the terrace was and what a good job they had done on it, she proceeded to give us a tour of her potted plant garden – detailing the medicinal herbs and plants she grows and uses for day to day ailments like joint pain and indigestion.

We then had a conversation about the Cuban medical system, her family and life in general.

It turned out that Christina was quite the character and had plenty to say about Cuban life, tourism and even the annoying touts. She said she didn’t want to be like that – only talking to people for money, and that it was friendship she valued most.

That night we had dinner at our favorite restaurant again – Habana 61 – which, as luck, or fate or Divine freaking design would have it, was two doors down from ‘La Terrazza.’

habana 61

La Terrazza is accessed by the black door on the left…

We feasted on lobster and freshly baked bread and laughed about the experiences of the last five days.

We both admitted that while Havana had initially rubbed us the wrong way, we would be sad to leave the following day.

The contradiction of Cuba was that it was really difficult, but it’s abrasiveness had softened us toward it rather than hardened us.

Cuba Christina

The next morning, young Christina rang for a cab to take us to the airport. A brand new, registered taxi with air conditioning arrived to transport us, and I had to laugh at the range of experiences during our short stay.

The trip had reinforced something which is becoming more clear as I get older, which is: it’s all good.

‘Good’ experiences, ‘bad’ experiences, challenges, joys – it’s all serving us to be more open and more alive.

Even though I don’t enjoy continually coming up against myself – my ego, my judgement, my insecurity, my fear – it has served me enormously to put myself out there in order to learn and grow.

Travel isn’t meant to be comfortable and neither, I believe, is life. No-one seeks to be uncomfortable and have their prejudices, ideas and beliefs thrown up to be examined, but it is actually necessary in order to evolve.

Some people who read my previous posts about our trip have said, “I wanted to go to Cuba, but now I’m not so sure.”

So I’ll say it again – the purpose of life or travel or any endeavor is not comfort. One of my yoga teachers says, ‘Life needs pressure – to transform the lump of coal into a diamond’.

We all seek comfort – it’s the ego’s survival instinct – but the paradox is that there is really no security in comfort. Life is dynamic, moving, evolving; never stuck or solid.

My judgements about Cuba weren’t actually about Cuba – they were about me.

Habana life

When I began to accept the things I didn’t ‘like,’ they didn’t seem as prevalent. The same process applies to the things about myself which I deem ‘bad’ or unacceptable.

Life is always offering me opportunities to let go of my old ideas about who I am and it’s one of the reasons I travel – not to escape from life but to evoke experiences that encourage my evolution.

And while it is scary, uncomfortable and confronting at times (joyful, exhilarating and blissful at others) I seriously wouldn’t have it any other way.

Malecon havana

Thank you, Cuba!

subscribe to sarah somewhereMore news from me:

Join me and a group of fantastic women for the ‘Journey to Shine’ retreat on the gorgeous island of Holbox, Mexico in April 2016!

Save on pure essential oils in November with amazing offerings from doTERRA, the company I advocate for!

Check out Tyrhone’s latest flying video!

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Sarahsomewhere http://www.sarahsomewhere.com <![CDATA[Embracing Contradiction in Cuba – Part Two]]> http://sarahsomewhere.com/?p=12696 2015-10-19T13:27:44Z 2015-10-18T14:53:22Z Keep reading...]]> Our third day in Cuba saw us scrambling the hell outta Havana. The day before, we’d gone into a travel agency on the main drag to acquire information about how to get to the small, rural town of Viñales.

I cannot tell you the last time I set foot in a travel agency. Perhaps 1988. But there we were, seated at a desk surrounded by curled-edged travel posters, lapping up the free pool of information provided by the agent.

Of course, nothing is really free in Cuba. This came to be a bit of a cynical catch phrase of mine (‘nada por nada’) each time we felt taken for a ride, which was regularly.

This time, however, at least the guy was honest that the ‘ride’ he was offering us was more expensive than the bus, but that it would pick us up from our casa and take us to our next one.

The following morning, we bundled into a gargantuan green jalopy with a familiarity that comes from a childhood spent sliding on torn leather car seats.

Green vintage car Cuba Sarah Somewhere Cuba

Wedged between the sun scorched driver and Tyrhone, I hitched up my knees, planted my feet on the hump which made room for the chassis and settled in for a good old-fashioned (is there any other type?) Cuban road trip.

Cuba Road Trip

About two hours in to the three hour drive, the driver started talking to me. My ears pricked up, trying to decipher his Spanish using my main translation tool – context.

‘Jaah, siii,’ I replied as I nodded my little Latinophile head, pleased as punch that I understood the overall arc of the ‘conversation,’ which was really more of a monologue by him interspersed by a lot of ‘si-si-sis‘ from me.

I was quite chuffed with myself as I listened to his speech about tobacco production in Cuba and guessed that the Dutch couple and the few hundred Israeli backpackers squashed into the back seats must think I was pretty astute to understand all this vital information.

I mean, I know a little something about tobacco. Every Friday evening I used to catch the train into Perth city to snare my weekly pack of ‘Winfield Whites’ from the Asian deli that never asked for ID. I had to get through my final year of high school somehow (but don’t worry, I only smoked when I drank).

That was before I went on to university, feminism and Peter Styvescent lights, followed by my flight attendant years which were drenched in cosmopolitans and shrouded in a haze of Malborough lights (always a light seeker, see?).

When I met Tyrhone, got sober and started thinking about powers greater than myself I went the healthy route and only smoked natural tobacco with my smoothie after yoga.

So yes, I had me some context for this convo – which I might add was the first decent one I’d had with a local since we’d arrived.

As his well-versed prose came to a timely and opportune pause, he cranked the worn steering wheel to the right and deposited us at his amigo’s tobacco farm-slash-restaurant. His left arm extended out the car window, poised to received his gratis ham and cheese sandwich upon delivery of ‘the goods’.

Snap.

Oh, I see, came the realisation of that all too familiar feeling of being taken for a ride… while being taken for a ride.

Nada por nada. Not even a trip down smokey memory lane. 

Tyrhone shut that show down. Usually one to keep the peace and go with flow, Cuba had ignited a defiance in him that I was rather pleased about.

“Does anyone want to do this?” he asked the group as our driver’s friend led us to inspect a meter high tobacco plant growing on the side of the driveway for display purposes. Met with a resounding no, we bundled back in the car. Upon arrival in Viñales, I requested to be taken to the public bus station where I could book our return tickets back in two days’ time.

At our casa, we were given a speech by our hostess about all the wonderful things we could do with her friend, the English speaking tour guide, before making a bee line to a decent looking tapas bar on the main street.

Turns out we hit the jackpot again. Tasty food, genuinely friendly service and good prices gradually restored our faith in our new destination.

Viñales is a small, colorful town overlooking a verdant valley. The valley gives rise to dramatic karst formations reminiscent of Vang Vieng, Laos (minus the drunken tubing). It was dubbed ‘the most beautiful place in Cuba’ by none other than Mr Castro himself and designated a national park by, well, Fidel, of course!

Vinales

Because who else makes the decisions around here?

After a snack of papas bravas and ‘Tu Kola’ (Cuba’s answer to Coca Cola which is actually delicious), we tried to reclaim our positive attitudes with a walk around the quaint town.

It seemed that cynicism had well and truly taken hold, however, as we discussed the decidedly ‘Stepford’ feel to the place. The brightly painted facades of the casas were in stark opposition to the overall atmosphere.

Vinales Cuba

If I felt the economic and creative oppression of old Havana, then I was well and truly channeling it ‘Medium’ style in Vinales. I imagined grim-faced members of The Regime enforcing strict standards of brightly colored paint application throughout the town and yelling at people to smile for the tourists.

The locals, it seemed had only followed through with the former (paint) and not the latter (smiles).

I realise that perspective is everything, but I sensed a deep unhappiness and even resentment from the people of Viñales .

The way our hostess’ face dropped the moment we said we didn’t want to pay for a private guide, the lack of response to buenas tardes we were met with (or rather, not met with) in the streets; the glaring look from the cashier in the local store as she short changed me, and so on.

Vinales store

Pondering this, we bumped into a couple we had already seen twice in Havana but not yet spoken to. Our first rendezvous had been outside a state run restaurant we had the displeasure of eating at. As we were leaving, they were perusing the menu and I gave them the international sign for ‘don’t bother,’ feeling slightly vindicated if not a little nauseous.

The second time was in the fly blown restaurant we’d walked out of. We’d waved across the dreary dining room but not had a chance to chat, and then, poof we were gone.

Third time, it seemed, was a charm, so we had a bumbled chat on the side walk about Cuba and travel and bad food. Turns out that they were on their honeymoon from Germany and driving the length of the country in a rental car. I liked their adventurous style.

It was a light-hearted conversation punctuated by nervous laughter and a friendliness I was craving.

We bumped into Anja and Lutz again later that night in the tapas bar (I tend to give restaurant recommendations to anyone who’ll listen, even within my first few hours in a place). We merged tables and chatted into the grande hours (1030pm is late for us, okay?) resulting in a refreshing exchange over invisible cultural lines.

Lutz: “So, you don’t drink? Did you ever drink?”

Me: “No, I don’t. I did. A lot. But I don’t anymore. It’s better for everyone if I don’t.”

We laughed and joked and talked and at one point, Lutz looked at us a little suspiciously and said, “You two don’t seem jaded by the responsibilities and expectations of life.”

We were a little stunned by this frank observation. I proceeded to tell him a little of our back story to which he responded with a heartfelt, “thank you for being so open and honest.”

Since I had skimmed over much of the minutiae of our misfitted lives, omitting many of the details I regularly overshare on the internet, I thought to myself, “Oh, sweety, you have no idea.”

******

The next day we opted for the hop-on-hop-off bus again as we wanted to avoid as many awkward financial transactions as possible. 5 CUC each gave us seats on a brand new Korean bus, complete with a very informative video expelling the virtues of the bus company, rather than Viñales itself (as if we had a choice about the bus!).

Bus tour Vinales Cuba

We had a big chuckle at this and at us and at the whole trip. It was all so… weird, and actually, we quite like weird.

So when the bus stopped for a photo-op at the Mural de la Prehistoria – a garish and wonderfully out of place mural plastered on the side of a rock face in the national park (thanks to Fidel) – we took it in our stride.

Mural de Prehistorica Vinales

We had a great time on our Korean bus tour and even forked out another 5 CUC each for the 15 minute tour of The Indian Cave, complete with a 5 minute boat ride on the cave’s river system. It was like a kids’ Disneyland ride, but this time, we didn’t feel like we were being taken for one.

Indian Cave Vinales

We chatted with a lovely woman from Israel, and then, as we were making our second round of the circuit that afternoon (because, why not?) we bumped into Anja and Lutz at the picturesque viewpoint of the Los Jazmines Hotel.

Los Jasmines hotel Vinales

Los Jasmines lookout Vinales

Fifth time lucky.

We rode back to town with them in their rental car, stopping to buy a 1 Peso cigar from a local farmer and for a drink at a beautiful little restaurant perched over the valley.

Terrazza Vinales

That evening as we walked back to our casa, Latin rhythms blared from speakers in the main square, dispelling the heaviness we first experienced.

As we crossed the road, the stout bus driver from the Korea-Cuba tourist initiative was heading home. When he saw us his eyes widened and he proceeded to explain that he had waited for us to board the bus at Los Jazmines.

We tried to explain what happened, to which he smiled, shook our hands and wished us a pleasant evening.

We may have gotten off to a rocky start in Viñales, but we finished on a high and hoped to take our elevated attitudes back to Havana the next day.

Lookout Vinales Cuba

Part three of our Cuba saga adventure coming soon… last one… promise.

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Sarahsomewhere http://www.sarahsomewhere.com <![CDATA[Embracing Contradiction in Cuba – Part One]]> http://sarahsomewhere.com/?p=12659 2015-10-08T14:09:31Z 2015-10-08T14:09:31Z Keep reading...]]> It seems fitting that as I was emerging from one of the most tumultuous emotional lows I had experienced in a long time, I would decide to visit communist Cuba… right?

In truth, the trip was booked while I was still in a jet-lagged stupor post-Bali and hadn’t yet traded my travel legs for stable ones. Tyrhone needed a new tourist visa for Mexico, and rather than drive to Belize again we decided to make the most of the cheap low season rates from Cancun to Havana.

The quick just-over-an-hour flight across the Caribbean pond belied the utterly contrasting experience which awaited us there. We’d seen the photos of vintage cars and heard the stories of bland food but nothing would prepare us for the contradictions of heaven and hell contained within Cuba’s staunchly guarded borders.

We fell for it’s charms immediately. Shuttled into a unlicensed vintage car, we paid more than we knew we needed to for a ride from the airport to Habana Vieja, or Old Havana, the tourist haven of the city.

Old car habana vieja

The young driver was friendly and sincere enough, waiting for us as we exchanged our Mexican Pesos for local ‘Convertibles’ or ‘CUC’ which is the currency created for foreign visitors to the country. 1 CUC is equivalent to about 1 USD which is equivalent to about 24 local Pesos (the currency used by Cuban locals).

When he dumped us on the outskirts of the old town and asked us to pay him inside the the car before we got out, we realised that perhaps he wasn’t quite as sincere as we thought. By then, though, I’d already added a tip to our over-inflated flare. Havana saw me coming and she reeled me in, hook, line and sinker.

As we wandered down narrow streets flanked with crumbling colonial remnants of Cuba’s Spanish history in search of our guesthouse, ‘standing out like a sore thumb’ does not even begin to describe the feeling of being completely out of my element.

Sarah travel Havana cuba

Of course, I plastered on my “I’ve got this, I’m totally cool with all these stares from locals and these hustlers chasing me down the road,” shield of armor rather than collapsing into an insecure puddle on the grimy street.

Truth is, I love travel and I hate it. I love experiencing new places but sometimes I hate feeling so foreign and so freaking white. In Cuba, I felt like a dumb tourist because that is exactly what I was.

Turns out it would take me a while to embrace that fact and so I would feel out of my depth for, well, about four out of the six days we were there.

The Casa Particular we had semi-booked via email (we had never actually heard back – internet is extremely scarce in Cuba) was in fact quite lovely. For 30 CUC we sequestered an elegant, tiled room with high ceilings, an antique (a word which is redundant in Cuba) chandelier and a private terrace overlooking Calle Habana.

casa vieja havana Cuba

Sarah Somewhere Havana CubaOwed by a vivacious woman with a mostly male staff, it was a clean and well-run place with a roof terrace-slash-bar where evening meals were served (and, as luck would have it, also home to a litter of kittens).

Kitties casa paticular

Over dinner that night Tyrhone remarked quietly that he had never eaten chicken with so much gristle in it and racked his brain to think of what part of the bird would be so… ‘chewy.’

The cats, however didn’t complain about the extra food.

Deciding to skip breakfast at the Casa the following morning, we headed out into the steamy Havana heat in search of decent coffee.

Enter ‘El Dandy’ cafe, which would prove to be a tiny oasis of style and flavour during our short stay. Excellent coffee. Friendly yet understated service. Simple yet tasty snacks served with something we found missing from much of the food we ate… love.

El Dandy Havana

Cubita cafe El dandy havana

El Dandy cafe – #401 Calle Brasil cnr Villegas

It was so refreshing to discover a place which seemed to care about what they served.

Old Havana is full of fancy-looking state run establishments which are full of uninterested staff serving uninteresting food. It’s actually quite a shock to sit down at one of these places and witness the flavourlessness of the whole ordeal.

And honestly, I found this quite depressing.

Of course, I soon learned why – the government controlled food supply made the basics like flour and eggs readily available, but other ingredients like fresh meat and vegetables a lot more scarce.

Spices and other flavor enhancing embellishments are rare as hen’s teeth (though maybe Tyrhone had found those in his dinner).

Succumbing to our role as naive tourists and weary of ‘friendly’ people on the street trying to wrangle money out of us, we then made a bee line for the hop-on-hop-off bus stop located opposite the Hotel Inglaterra. For two hours we proceeded to sit in gawking, slack-jawed bliss for the entire route around old and new Havana.

havana bus tour

It seemed to me that ‘new Havana’ was indeed a little brighter and more full of life than the old. On well maintained, tree lined streets, art-deco style apartment buildings housed families going about their daily lives in the face of harsh economic and political challenges.

We paid 5 CUC for the ride around town which was all many Cubans would hope to earn in a week of work. No wonder the waiters in the fancy restaurants of Habana Vieja didn’t give a shit. Who among us is going to smile for $20 a month?

Fidel havana

Who Fidel? Who?

Things started making sense but that didn’t make it any easier. That evening, after trying to watch the sunset from the malecon while being accosted by touts, we sat down at four restaurants and walked out of three.

Havana Malecon sunset

There was the fly-blown gringo-filled restaurant on Calle Obisbo (we dodged a bullet there), the ‘Paris bar’ where we were ignored until we just left, and finally, our casa which, as luck would have it, had closed the kitchen for the night just before we dragged our weary asses up the three flights of stairs.

We were left with one final option aside from going to bed hungry – a fancy looking bistro down the street which we guessed was going to be as disappointing as the many places we’d tried.

Turns out our last resort happened to be the best restaurant in Havana. Spotless, welcoming and most importantly, serving up delicious cuisine made with love. As I cut into the juicy fillet of swordfish, expertly cooked and beautifully presented, I could literally taste the passion which permeated through it.

In a town which had been seemingly sucked dry of all genuine entrepreneurial spirit and was forced to revert to underhanded and desperate tactics to make ends meet, we couldn’t believe our luck at finding Habana 61, an alternate universe of creativity, elegance, and… flavour.

After devouring delicious entrees, main courses and desserts, we were able to reward their great work with our tourist dollars and this time, feel really good about it.

Habana 61 Restaurant havana

Thanks for reading! Part Two of our Cuban adventure is coming soon…

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Sarahsomewhere http://www.sarahsomewhere.com <![CDATA[A hard landing]]> http://sarahsomewhere.com/?p=12617 2015-09-23T17:29:44Z 2015-09-23T17:23:12Z Keep reading...]]> The problem with highs (even natural ones) is that there is only one way down.

In the space of a month I have gone from experiencing elation, peace and joy to absolute frustration, confusion and (dare I say) depression.

To say it’s been a hard landing ‘coming down’ from Bali to Mexico is an understatement.

No matter how many times I utter the words, ‘this too, shall pass’ during the difficult times, I never quite want to accept that it it rings true for the good ones too.

Adding to the jet lag, the loneliness of not having my Bali retreat sisters or nieces to wake up to and my inability to acclimatize to suffocating summer humidity, has been my guilt that I should be somehow feeling differently.

Tyrhone gave me such a beautiful welcome home; lavishing me with the type of affection and care usually confined to the honeymoon period of a relationship, rather than the beginning of the tenth year (yes).

IT PISSED ME OFF that I was receiving the kind of tenderness I usually revel in while feeling utterly unable to receive it with my weary heart.

And so began my battle with how I was feeling as opposed to how I should be feeling after such a blissful trip.

And it continued until this morning, when, at the height of my misery (and subsequent insomnia), I cried out to God to help! me and the tears began flowing into the pillow at the realization of my predicament.

Too many shoulds.

That I should be relishing meditation after discovering such bliss on the mat in Bali; that I should still be in love with Mexico as I have been for so long, that I should be able to maintain the peace and contentment I experienced on retreat.

Should, should, should, but none of it has been so.

This morning, I let go of the shoulds and accepted what was. That I was exhausted, drained, discontent and trying too damn hard to be otherwise.

I’ve experienced so many highs of this path of self discovery. So much healing. So many glimpses of enlightenment.

The truth is, I want that feeling all the time, but I am just not there yet, and maybe I never will be.

Like a baby bird who is learning to fly, the falls are part of the practice.

Perhaps, the most important part.

My hard landing has been emotionally debilitating, but only because I wasn’t accepting myself. I haven’t treated myself with compassion like the baby bird I am, but as a mature eagle who should effortlessly soar through the sky.

I needed to experience this in order to see the ways I’ve been sabotaging myself (yet again) with perfectionism and mis-aligned motives; the ways I have been pleasing others ahead of myself which disconnected me from the truth of my soul.

I’m slowly, softly and ever so gently, tending to my wounded wings so that they may soar higher, farther and more gracefully next time.

Perhaps the next fall will be softened by my newly tenderized heart.

feather

This is helping.

So is this.

Also this and most definitely these guys.

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Sarahsomewhere http://www.sarahsomewhere.com <![CDATA[Join me for my Mexico retreat in 2016!]]> http://sarahsomewhere.com/?p=12578 2015-09-16T16:42:21Z 2015-09-16T16:42:21Z Keep reading...]]> I’m very excited to finally announce the ‘Journey to Shine’ retreat on Holbox island, Mexico in April, 2016.

I say finally because it is something I have dreaming about, planning and sending out into the universe for some time now.

Let’s face it, a retreat in Mexico has always been on the cards and I have had my eyes open for the right location for the last year.

Then, in early May this year I went on an impromptu girls weekend to isla Holbox, a tiny island off the coast of the Yucatan peninsula and fell in love.

holbox island map

Holbox street art

To be honest, I wasn’t even thinking about the retreat during my time there. Something about Holbox and it’s laid back, dreamy atmosphere had me completely absorbed in precious moments with good friends.

Holbox cocos

We sunbathed, swam in the crystal waters, collected shells along the deserted shore and ate freshly caught fish while watching a spectacular sunset.

Holbox sunset

My friend Alison and I explored the tiny island by rickety golf cart and perused the market stores selling handmade jewellery.

Holbox golf cart

It wasn’t until I returned from Holbox and could not stop thinking about the place that it dawned on me that it was the perfect place for my retreat.

Flags Holbox

Like most things in life, the moment I stop looking for something, it tends to find me.

I returned the following month with Tyrhone to check out my short list of accommodation options and the moment I stepped foot into the grounds of Villas Flamingos, I just knew it was the place.

VF grounds

VF pool

Warm, friendly staff, exquisite food, a third floor yoga shala with spectacular 360 degree views, beach front pool, two restaurants (one on the beach and one enclosed with air conditioning) and comfortable rooms (all with at least partial sea views) made the decision extremely easy.

Holbox seafood

Villas Flamingos restaurant

And so, it is with great pleasure and excitement that I invite you to join me and my amazing yoga teacher, Satmeet Kaur, for a week of bliss in one of the world’s lesser known pieces of paradise.

We will travel together from Playa del Carmen to the port of Chiquila (a one and a half hour drive thanks to a brand new road) and take a local ferry to the island (20 minutes), followed by golf cart taxis to the resort.

For the next week (6 nights) we will be practicing yoga and meditation, swimming, relaxing, eating, laughing, dancing and exploring.

Two days on Holbox island felt like a week to me, so I’m thinking that a week is equivalent to a month long vacation!

holbox miles of beach

Holbox square

I just know we are going to have a wonderful, eclectic group of souls so please know that you do not need yoga experience to join. All yoga classes and Divine Dance meditation workshops (yes, we will be dancing!) are open to all ages and experience levels.

We will create a sacred space of unconditional acceptance to encourage you to Shine your unique light.

We will also take a boat tour of the three islands that comprise the ‘Na Balam’ nature reserve on Holbox, which includes a visit to a fresh water lagoon only accessible by sea.

holbox boat

Everyone will also enjoy a beach-front, one hour massage, included in the retreat price.

Optional activities include exploring the island by bicycle or golf cart, horse riding, kayaking, SUPing and more.

All the details of the retreat are here.

If there anything else you want to know, please drop me a line. Also please let me know if I can assist you with your travel plans.

I am so looking forward to meeting some of you (or seeing you again) in Holbox next April!

Hammock sunset

JOIN THE HOLBOX MEXICO RETREAT EMAIL LIST TO RECEIVE UPDATES!

Shine on,

Sarah xxx

 

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