True Nature Travels Blog

I always considered myself an independent person. But as the youngest child growing up in a 95% white suburb of California, my understanding of what “independence” meant was about as deep as my understanding of “diversity”. In other words, it was very limited.

My class schedule was dictated by the pressure of college applications. Which after-school clubs I joined was slave to the limited ability of my parents to be everywhere at once. The Saturday cartoons I watched were up to my older siblings, who easily wrestled the remote from me week after week. Even the clothing I wore and the slang I used was due to the friends I hung out with.

I thought of myself as independent, but my very identity was dependent on the hometown I inhabited for the first eighteen years of my life, as well as the family and friends that populated those years. I was about as independent as a golden retriever puppy.

I guess there was some part of me that was aware of this; some part of me that longed to break out of the suburban box I’d lived in my entire life. Which, on some level, is probably part of what drove me to defer my college acceptance for a year and fly to Africa after graduation. I spent the next five months traveling and volunteering in South Africa, Ethiopia, Turkey, Thailand, and India.

It was somewhere around month two, living alone in a small village in Ethiopia when I started to discover my own independence.

At first glance, my newfound independence was apparent. No one knew where I was spending the afternoon or telling me what time to be home, or even how to get from one place to the next. One day, I decided I wanted to visit the city. Only, I didn’t speak the language and had no internet connection. So, I walked to the bus station and started asking every bus that drove by “Addis? Addis?” Eventually, I caught a ride to Addis Ababa.

When traveling solo, you are forced to rely on yourself. You are forced to make your own decisions and, surrounded by unfamiliar places, people, and languages, the only thing you can count on is your ability to figure out where you need to be, what you need to do, and how to make it happen.

But the kind of independence you find solo traveling goes beyond learning how to cook pasta in a hostel kitchen when the only available appliance is a frying pan. When traveling solo, you discover an independence not only in how you live but in how you define yourself.

One night in Ethiopia I lay in bed for hours, just staring at the ceiling. My loneliness was crushing, and I felt I may lose the ability to speak if I didn’t find someone to talk to soon. For eighteen years I had lived in a solid, unchanging community, surrounded by friends and family who claimed to know me better than I knew myself. Now, suddenly, I was a solo traveler. No one knew me. When I walked into a room, no one had any expectations regarding who I was or what I brought to the table. I was a stranger; in their eyes, I could be anyone. And for the first time in my life, I had to decide who I wanted to be.

It was there, in that unfamiliar territory with no one to tell me who I was or wasn’t, that I discovered the independence to finally be me.

About the Author

Author_Sarah Dittmore

Sarah Dittmore, the Director of Operations at True Nature Travels, is always seeking a new adventure. When she’s not barefoot hiking in the mountains of Peru, kayaking around an island off the coast of Italy, or camping in a rainforest in Costa Rica, Sarah writes about her adventures on her travel blog, Autobiography of an Adventurer. Join her as she travels the world and documents the wild and wonderful things she discovers along the way at www.autobiographyofanadventurer.com.

True Nature Travels Blog

Many people find themselves travelling over the summer. If you are one of the many who will be on a plane, in a car, train, bus (you get the idea!)…take a look at some of my favourite stretches to help you navigate your travels with ease.

Since I wasn’t able to rent out a private jet to take these photos, my friend Heather (@catchingheather) over at Tribe Fitness (@tribe_fitness) helped me out! 

Safe travels!

Seated Cow/Cat
These two poses will help to bring movement into your spine as well as stretch through the chest and shoulders.

  • Sit up tall, with your back away from the seat, and with your feet on the floor.
  • Place your hands on your thighs.
  • As you inhale, draw your hands closer to your hips, pull your chest forward, draw your shoulder blades together, and look up.
  • As you exhale, slide your hands closer to your knees, round through your back, draw your chin to your chest, and look towards your belly button.

Repeat for 5 cycles of breath.

 

Seated Twist
Twists are naturally detoxifying and feel so good to do after sitting for awhile.

  • Sit up tall, with your back away from the seat, and with your feet on the floor.
  • Take your left hand to your right thigh.
  • Place your right hand on the seat and close to your right hip.
  • Inhale and grow taller through your spine (think of your head reaching up closer towards the sky) and exhale to take a twist to the right. 
  • Be sure to keep your sitting bones evenly rooted into your seat; your hips should remain level, with your body moving/twisting around your spine.
  • You can take your gaze over your right shoulder.

Hold for 5 cycles of breath.

Switch to the other side, with your right hand on your left thigh, left hand on the seat, and twist to the left.
Hold for an equal amount of time on this side.

 

Seated Figure Four/Eye of the Needle
This pose is a great way to stretch out the hips, which are often sore from sitting and travelling, in general.

  • This pose requires a bit more space. If you’re not sitting next to someone you know on the airplane, maybe wait until your neighbour gets up to use the washroom!
  • Come closer to the edge of your set. Sit up tall, with your back away from the seat, and with your feet on the floor. 
  • Lift your right leg up away from the floor.
  • Externally rotate your right thigh bone at the hip (think of playing hackeysack and as your knee moves away from your midline, the inner part of your foot turns up towards the sky).
  • Place your right foot onto your left thigh. You can take a hold of your ankle and help get it to your thigh (no worries!).
  • This could be all the stretch you need. If so, hold here and breathe.
  • If you need more, take your right hand to your right thigh or shin and gently press down, or start to bring your chest towards your thighs, which will deepen the stretch.

Hold for 5 cycles of breath.

Switch to the other side with your left foot coming to your right thigh.
Hold for an equal amount of time on this side.

 

Forward Fold
This posture will help the spine to decompress from all the sitting. It also acts as an inversion, which brings the head below the heart.

  • Do not do this pose if you have low blood pressure.
  • Stand with your feet inner hip distance apart; stack your hips over your ankles and knees.
  • Bend your knees and fold over your legs.
  • Your fingers can come to the floor or you can bend your elbows and bring opposite hands to them.
  • It might feel good to gently sway from side to side.

Hold for 5 cycles of breath.

 

Written by: Christine Noonan 

Join Christine Noonan this Summer for The Ultimate Amalfi Experience to Discover, Explore, and Renew from June 23-30.

Learn more about all the retreats True Nature has to offer at our Calendar: http://truenaturetravels.com/retreat-calendar/

True Nature Travels Blog

Let 2018 be a year of adventure. Get your adrenaline pumping, feel your heart race, and expand your comfort zone all while having the time of your life with these five ways to get your adventure on.

1. Go zip-lining through the Costa Rican rainforest

Get Your Adventure On: Ziplining

There’s nothing like the thrill of the wind whipping through your hair as your sour miles above the trees on a jungle zip line. Ziplining is just one of the many thrills Costa Rica has to offer, so join us for a Costa Rica yoga retreat this year and see why the rainforest is the perfect place for an adventure!!

2. Try your hand at rock climbing 

Get Your Adventure On: Rock Climbing

Has the idea of rock climbing always thrilled you? Terrified you? Inspired you? 2018 is the year to get on the rock! Whether it’s bouldering in South Africa or climbing, harness-and-all, over the rocks of Greece, an international rock climbing retreat is a great way to get your adventure on!

3. Hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

Get Your Adventure On: Machu Picchu

From grueling hikes to ancient ruins, there is no adventure quite like that of trekking on the famous Inca Trail and watching the sunrise over Machu Picchu. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience and, this year, it can be one item you check off the bucket list.

4. Ride the trails of Italy on your mountain bike

Get Your Adventure On: MTB

The joy you get from riding your mountain bike is one thing. Add foreign trails in the Italian countryside and we’re talking about a whole new level of adventure. If you are looking for a truly epic experience to get your adventure on this year, then check out this mountain biking retreat in Italy.  

5. Get your adventure on in a brand new country 

Get Your Adventure On: Travel

Adventure can take a million different forms. At True Nature Travels, one of our favorite forms of adventure is simply traveling somewhere new. Trying new foods, learning a few words in a foreign language, and exploring the culture of a world miles from your own can be exactly the adventure you need this year.

Whatever your adventure, True Nature Travels has your back. Experience the world with an extra shot of adrenaline this year by joining us on one of our yoga, wellness, or adventure retreats around the world! 

True Nature Travels Blog

While it was about a year and a half ago that I went to Italy, I still remember it like it was yesterday! I remember seeing a poster for a yoga retreat in Italy that was being led by two instructors I knew and liked, and thinking “hmm, maybe I should go.” I figured I would brush it off as one of my many pipe dreams, but the more I thought about it, the more I knew that I had to make this one happen. Despite being a yoga teacher, I had never been able to attend a yoga retreat before. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I know that I gained so much more from this experience than I ever thought possible. Not sure what to expect from a yoga retreat? Read on to hear what I learned from mine.

1. Deepen Your Practice

This may or may not be a goal that you have in mind, but it will happen. The retreat I went on had many teachers and strong practitioners, so we did a bit more yoga than perhaps the average retreat offers. Over the course of just one week, with dedicated daily practice, I couldn’t believe how my practice evolved and transformed. I became stronger. I became more confident. I remember playing with handstands one afternoon and saying to the instructor that I couldn’t kick up to the wall. She encouraged me to, and guess what? I did! It wasn’t until later that I learned this exact moment had been captured in a photo. Every time I look at this picture, it reminds me of my own strength, both on and off the yoga mat.

Attend a Yoga Retreat; Deepen Your Practice
2. Explore a New Culture

Choose a place to visit that you want to experience. I am part Italian and I can remember as a child, being so intrigued by some of the customs and traditions we had in our family. So when Italy was the location of this retreat, I couldn’t pass it up. As a food and wine aficionado, I was beyond excited to arrive in Italy and eat and drink it all up (yes, literally!). Walking around little towns, exploring the markets, and trying to take it all in was an adventure. The passion people have for their local food makes every bite mouthwatering. From the breads to the olive oils and the pastas, Italy is a culinary adventure all on its own. The people, the landscape, their kindness, and their passion for life, connected me in a way that I will treasure forever. It’s also a part of what is drawing me back there next year.


3. Learn About Yourself

My retreat experience was a time of self-discovery. From landing in another culture and navigating my way around to having quiet time, each part of my trip allowed me to learn more about myself. I opted to share a room with someone I didn’t know beforehand. I tried yoga poses that I didn’t think I could do. I became comfortable with meditation. I had the chance to disconnect from my phone and computer. I was able to see how I interacted with strangers and learn what I was saying to the outside world without even using words. In fact, the first picture of me that was taken post-retreat is one of my favourite photos of the trip. When I look at my face in that photo, something is just different. There is a peace and acceptance that came only after one short week of learning and accepting me for me.

Attend a Yoga Retreat
4. Connect with Others

When you attend a yoga retreat, it is a great place to connect with other like-minded souls. Retreats can bring people together from different places of the world, and connecting with them and learning their stories is a wonderful experience. You have the opportunity to relate to people on a personal level and feel that at least, for that week, you are all part of the same community and experience. In fact, my roommate (yep, the one I hadn’t met before the retreat!) and I are still connected! We recently met up this summer when she visited Toronto from Vancouver. You never know whom you’re going to meet!


5. Satisfy Your Curiosity

I really wasn’t sure what to expect when I signed up for this adventure. I knew I was curious, and that was enough for me. If there’s a part of you that is curious, explore it. It might be the wonder of travelling to a new place, exploring new things, or simply pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone. Whatever it is that is calling you to explore, take the leap and make it happen. If something is pulling you to attend a yoga retreat, do it! Have fun and happy travels!

Attend a Yoga Retreat in 2018

Ready to experience a retreat for yourself? Join Christine Noonan and Sarah Memme for The Ultimate Amalfi Experience in Sorrento, Italy! It’s going to be an amazing week of food, wine, community, yoga, and meditation. Visit http://truenaturetravels.com/retreats/yoga-italy-sarah-christine/ to learn more.

About the Author

Christine Noonan prides herself on sharing yoga practices for real life with her students. She believes that yoga has something to offer everybody. Understanding that people come to yoga for different reasons, Christine wants to be there to support each person on their unique journey. With a background in massage therapy and an in-depth knowledge of anatomy, she focuses on guiding students to get the most out of every pose through clear language and an emphasis on alignment. Through the use of creative sequencing and theming, students are offered an opportunity to calm, connect to, and revitalize the body, mind, and breath. Christine has obtained her 200-hour Hatha/Vinyasa and 70-hour YHot certifications from YYoga Teacher’s College in Vancouver, BC. She continues to expand her knowledge of yoga and currently holds certificates and for Yin, Restorative, and Spin.

 

True Nature Travels Blog

Why the Gift of Travel is the Ultimate Gift this Holiday Season

The holidays….that time of the year when you are excited, yet feel stressed. “I need to get presents for my loved ones, but what will I buy? What does this person want? What do they need? Will I get the wrong thing? Is buying a ‘thing’ in alignment with how I choose to be on this planet?” There are so many questions that may be going through your mind. But, perhaps the best gift this year is a gift of travel, whether it be a weekend getaway, a weeklong retreat, or a family trip.

But how may travel be the ultimate gift this holiday season, you may ask.

I encourage you to take a moment and think about who you are at your core and what may have influenced your being today. I would bet that most people would answer experiences. Experiences that challenged you, that educated you, that connected you. And very rarely does a material good encourage that growth.

For me, my travels have fostered a sense of resilience, perseverance, appreciation, education, and responsibility. I feel fortunate in that as a child, my mom prioritized travel and experiences over material goods. As a veterinarian, she would educate me about the different wildlife, the ecology, and the various bird songs. It was these experiences outdoors in nature in various ecosystems, learning about the interconnection of all life forms, that gave me the true education and responsibility of doing my part, however small it may be to protect Mother Nature.

While in a research program in college, one summer I lived in a biological research station in Costa Rica, studying ecology and the vocalization patterns of howler monkeys.

It was difficult- 110 degrees, mosquitos everywhere, bats and scorpions that made their way into the screened in, dilapidated cabin I was sleeping in with 10 other students. From this experience, I learned so much about the rainforest, and felt an even deeper commitment to protecting the diverse ecology of this planet. I connected with the women that cooked the meals and set aside time to help them and converse in Spanish. Seeing the way they lived each day gave me an even deeper appreciation for my life.  This experience also strengthened my feeling of resilience and independence as I trekked through the rainforest alone collecting data on the howler monkeys. I returned back to the US different, as travel and experiences truly make a lasting impact on one’s personality and being.

This holiday season, I challenge you to think deeply about your loved ones. Have they ever expressed an interest in a certain culture? Do they love the mountains or the ocean? Do they need a reset? Do they love yoga, photography, cooking, or adventure? Whatever it may be, the gift of travel may just be the ultimate gift this holiday season.

We would love for you to join us on one of our many retreats. Please see our calendar here.

True Nature Travels Blog

I first visited South Africa when I was 16 years old. It was a family vacation full of safari drives, bungee jumping, and some of the strangest meats I’ve ever eaten. I was instantly smitten with the place. The day I left, I turned to my sister and said, “I’m going to come back here someday.” Two years later, I came back! This time as a solo traveler volunteering in a rural community for a month. To say I’m biased would be an understatement. I have always been and always will be a massive fan of South Africa. But I believe South Africa has earned the pedestal I put it on; it’s an incredible country that won me over from the first day I set foot on its stunning landscape. As a two-time South Africa traveler who cannot wait to go again, I present you with my list of the top five reasons you should absolutely visit South Africa ASAP.

Why You Should Visit South Africa

1. The sky will take your breath away

Visit South Africa - Sunset

Outside of Cape Town and Johannesburg, South Africa is pretty rural. Meaning there aren’t a bunch of streetlights and skyscrapers polluting the sky. With such a lack of light pollution, you can count on some amazing skies throughout your trip. If you plan to visit South Africa, be sure to make time to catch a sunrise, a sunset, and a starry night sky. All three are bound to take your breath away. During my second trip to South Africa, sunset drinks in the bush became a bit of a ritual; and it was by-and-far the most idyllic way to end a day.

2. Get up close and personal with African wildlife

Visit South Africa - Wildlife

Whether you visit South Africa explicitly for a safari trip or are planning a bigger trip to South Africa, make sure a game drive is on your agenda. I highly recommend shelling out for the professional tours. Driving through Kruger National Park is great and all, but if you want to guarantee a wildlife sighting, book a tour guide who knows what they are looking for and where to find it. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the wildlife of South Africa without the bars of a zoo enclosure between you. So, have your camera ready and don’t be embarrassed if you audibly gasp; we all do the first time.

3. See the world as Mother Nature intended it

Visit South Africa - Nature

One of my favorite things about South Africa is the lack of development. As soon as you get out of the cities, you are in gorgeous natural habitats that look the same way they did hundreds, if not thousands, of years ago. When you visit South Africa, you aren’t just giving yourself an opportunity to see an incredible country, you are taking the time to see untouched, unspoiled land. From the Lion King-style trees in the bush to the epic rock formations in the Rocklands, every inch of South Africa’s countryside is bound to blow you away.

4. Meet travelers with a real sense of adventure

Visit South Africa - Adventure

I often joke that while I am a solo traveler, I rarely travel solo. Everywhere I go I meet fellow travelers and I often end up traveling with them for a good chunk of my trip. One of the things I loved about my time in South Africa was the type of travelers I met. Namely, adventure travelers. Not everyone is willing to drop everything and hop on a plane to South Africa. You can bet those who do are the kind of people who are looking for an adventure. From the hostels of Cape Town to the museums of Johannesburg, you are bound to meet some interesting characters when you visit South Africa.

 5. Get out of your comfort zone for a chance to really grow

Visit South Africa - Comfort Zone

South Africa is not the easiest place to travel to. Flights are generally more expensive than a trip to Europe would be. You likely don’t know a ton about South Africa and are almost definitely going to experience culture shock when you get there. The food, currency, and culture are all going to feel unfamiliar. South Africa is, to put it simply, outside most of our comfort zones. But that’s exactly what makes it so valuable to visit South Africa.

Record-breaking rock climber, Alex Honnold, once said, “My comfort zone is like a little bubble around me, and I’ve pushed it in different directions and made it bigger and bigger until these objectives that seemed totally crazy eventually fall within the realm of the possible.” When you visit South Africa, your comfort zone expands. And before you know it, you’ll have a whole new definition of possible.

Ready to experience South Africa for yourself? Join True Nature Travels for an epic rock-climbing adventure in the Rocklands! It’s going to be an amazing week of climbing and exploring South Africa with world-famous climber, Paul Robinson. Visit http://truenaturetravels.com/retreats/climbing-southafrica-paul/ to learn more.

About the Author

Author_Sarah Dittmore

Sarah Dittmore is always seeking a new adventure. When she’s not barefoot hiking in the mountains of Peru, kayaking around an island off the coast of Italy, or camping in a rainforest in Costa Rica, Sarah writes about her adventures on her travel blog, Autobiography of an Adventurer. Join her as she travels the world and documents the wild and wonderful things she discovers along the way at www.autobiographyofanadventurer.com.

True Nature Travels Blog

True Nature Travels was born out of a belief that group travel can be transformative. But that doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate the power of the solo traveler as well! True Nature Founder and Director, Joshua Canter, just got back from an incredible week in Iceland where he experienced this power for himself. In his letter to travelers and wanna-be travelers far and wide, Joshua shares his journey and invites you to revel in the beauty, peace, and power of being a solo traveler.

An Open Letter to Solo Travelers (and those who want to be solo travelers)

solo-traveler-iceland

Dear Fellow Travelers,

I just returned back from a week in Iceland. I traveled alone, explored the country, and found some incredible places for people like you to join us in the coming years. As always, I learned a lot. I witnessed beauty in the diversity of the planet and took home some wonderful memories and lessons. I wanted to share an excerpt, as part of this blog, from the journal I kept during this trip.

20 years ago I traveled out of the country on my first solo journey to Asia.

I remember feeling pathways in my brain expanding as I saw new cultures and different ways of living. That trip helped me realize that the world is immensely larger than I had ever dreamed.

20 years later, I find myself alone once again, at a totally different stage of my life, driving down a foreign road in Iceland. Even though I have set-forth overseas and across borders many times before, the power of travel still expands and touches me as deeply as ever.

Yesterday, as I drove, the landscape opened into a vast vista of lava-filled fields. Amidst still arctic lakes and snow-peaked volcanoes in the distance, I felt my chest begin to expand as I breathed deeply. I felt the call to open the windows and simply scream.

solo-traveler-on-the-road-iceland

I was alone.

So I did.

From the scream came a welting of tears in my eyes. I was free again.

Even though I was thousands of miles from my family, my house, my country, I was “home” once again. On that open road in Iceland, I was no longer a father, a husband, a business owner, an American….I was simply a soul. Alone, but connected deeply to the ever-present oneness.

This is the power of travel.

At True Nature Travels, our focus is primarily on international group travel. We understand the power of traveling together; how it builds relationships, fosters community, and cultivates life-long relationships when experiencing the world together.

solo-traveler-wisdomBut there is a different sort of power in the experience of the solo traveler.

Traveling alone takes courage. It takes confidence in yourself and a trust in the nature of the journey which can be unpredictable.

While we travel we are open, we are in an expansive space, and most of all, we are usually joyful.

Our everyday lives can often create an illusional box full of attachments and constraints. We come up with a multitude of reasons that make it impossible for us to leave; impossible to travel. We think we can’t spread our wings.

There is a shocking statistic that only 3% of Americans have passports (can you believe that!?!).  As a father, caring for a family, or an employee with the need to work, or a friend with those in need, we often feel resistance to travel. We think we cannot leave our lives and go have an adventure. Home feels safe, comfortable, and stable. But often this container of our home-life can become constricting, blinding, and suffocating.

Today I fly back over the great Atlantic Ocean and prepare to integrate back home. On my journey homeward, I offer you these words:

If you feel the call to travel, in any form, listen to that voice.

The world is more accessible than ever and you have the power, and the will, to set forth.

Encouraging others to travel and see the world is the passion behind True Nature Travels. We exist to support our community in experiencing transformational journeys through travel.

If you have any questions on how to make travel a reality in your life or need some encouragement to take that leap, please feel free to reach out. You can reach me here. 

Now, go spread your wings and fly my fellow Solo Traveler!

I hope to meet you on the path sometime soon.

Your Friend,

Joshua

Founder and Director of True Nature Travels