Medellín's Comuna 13- Exploring with Casa Kolacho

The story was shared with me while I was under the intense sun near the top of Comuna 13, the second largest commune in Medellín. Our guides, Ciro and Sebastian, stood in front of our group, all of Medellín a backdrop behind them. We had climbed our way to the top of a steep barrio, with three armed police and three bright orange slides directly below us.

The story was about the birth and evolution of Comuna 13. I’ll share it as it was told to me: in the 1950s and 60s, guerrilla violence was uprooting masses from their mountain towns around Colombia. In the 70s and 80s, it was narcos. Many of the displaced made their way to Medellín through these decades, and re-established on the steep outskirts of the city, building shelter with what they could find. The government didn’t fully recognize them until the late 1980s. By the early 2000s, violence caught back up with the community when Operation Orion left hundreds of Comuna 13 residents dead and missing, the result of a government operation to rid the city of urban guerrillas.

Ciro pointed to what looked like a large construction site on the side of the mountain above us, where those still declared as missing after the operation are believed to be buried. As I was silently scolding myself for not taking my mirrored sunglasses to hide my tears, his tone lifted and he said ‘But that’s not how we define ourselves. Let’s slide!’ 

The slides, we learned after meeting back up at the bottom of them, were part of a playground built in memory of Sergio Cespedes, a child killed in Comuna 13 by a stray bullet in a gunfight. Another somber story, but to the residents of the area, the park is a reminder of childhood innocence. According to Ciro, it specifically represents three main values: enjoying the little things in life, choosing happiness first, and being able to forgive.

As we made our way back down the steep colorful streets to check out the murals (meeting a few of their talented owners along the way), our guides gave us a brighter story that perfectly matched the scenery. After Orion, the youth of Comuna 13 decided to fight back peacefully. Hip hop culture (graffiti, rap, dj, and dance) was their weapon of choice.

There is a deep symbolism behind each piece of art here. Eyes, as windows to the soul, are often a focus. Their prominence in current works also represents that there is no need to hide. These local artists are often hired to create their pieces. Their works brighten public spaces, streets, stairs, sidewalks, and private residences.

The tour through Comuna 13 was a lesson in being a good citizen of the world, with Ciro using the art to pose a series of questions that pondered the more important things of life. Do we know who we are? What are our roots? What can we learn, who can we become? What difference can we make in the world? What can we give back to the earth? Pachamama was a boldly and beautifully recurring them.

As was hope. One of the last murals we stopped at was the esperanza mural, and I couldn’t keep up with it’s deep structure of symbolism- the red brick that is Medellín’s facade v the vibrance of Comuna 13 in a show of color blocks. The support of women- who worked to hold the community together through violence. The bright light of ideas and inspiration, the feelings of an exposed heart. The chess game that is war v the dove of peace.

The most recent mural– one day old on our visit– was ‘todos somos migrantes.’ We are all immigrants. We all have roamed, we all belong everywhere, and we are all responsible for our world and each other.

When this hip hop renaissance took hold near the start of the century, kids would often approach the artists as they worked, seeking safe community and a desire to learn the skill. From these connections, Casa Kolacho– the ultimate in art therapy– was organically born. The program has been a haven for the community in Comuna 13 to engage in all aspects of hip hop. As part of our tour, we got to experience a performance from some breakdancers in the community, and see the space that houses Casa Kolacho’s educational center. Outside the center, we were taught proper technique and given a can of white spray paint and a clean slate to create our own tag.

Our tour of Comuna 13 lasted around five hours. I left the zone with a big sunburn and an even bigger respect for this community. What they have achieved through art is inspiring. Here, I’m sharing maybe a quarter of what we learned from Casa Kolacho, because I believe their story needs to be spread as far as possible. But if you have the means, their story truly needs to be experienced in person. There are many tour outfitters offering trips to Comuna 13 in Medellín; please choose to support one that also directly benefits Casa Kolacho.

^ and never miss an upcoming group travel adventure.

The #1 thing no one seems to know about in Envigado.

You could aimlessly be wandering the streets of central Envigado, and it would literally pop up right in front of you. Charmingly modest from the street, an earthy structure of stone and cement. Inside, it’s pure magic.

I was intrigued by a quick, almost in-passing mention of Casa de las Piedritas. When it did not pop up on Google maps, I was extra intrigued. Further googling finally brought up its #1 (via about two dozen reviews) ranking on Trip Advisor. 

The hours of operation vary across its few internet mentions. (We went around 3pm on a weekday.) Its business model seems to be…a private residence which rewards unexpected knocks on the door with a welcoming smile and a very storied tour of what is actually a sprawling casa, right inside that modest, repurposed front door. It’s an art museum that fully functions as a private residence.


Gloria Ochoa answered the door on the day we visited. She graciously showed us through her family’s space, introducing us to her children and grandchildren by telling us about them as she showed us their spaces in the ‘house of pebbles.’ We remarked on a painting, which was permanently cemented into the wall in her bedroom, and she shared that it was of her family’s Venezuelan home, painted from memory.

The casa is the dream of Gloria’s husband, Santiago. We got to meet him quickly in passing, before he was off to work on the current addition of the house. After spending part of an afternoon with Gloria, she herself seems to be part of the foundational steadiness that holds the constantly evolving structure together. Gloria is an artist as well, and the couple constantly creates for their home. Married for 43 years, they started building 32 years ago, stone by stone. They will celebrate their next anniversary at the end of February, and Gloria proudly showed off this year’s anniversary gift, a pair of lovely shutters that close into the third level of the home. She gently demanded Sean take my photo here, holding the fruit they had just picked fresh off the mandarin tree that roots in the home.


The entire home is constructed of materials directly from earth to wall, with reclaimed relics from old churches and buildings around Medellín and Antioquia. Traffic lights covers, painted eyeglass lenses, broken glass, and bright ceramic tiles add pops of color. A mandarin tree is featured as a living wall in the kitchen. Everything in Casa de las Piedritas is sustainable, and everything in Casa de las Piedritas is sturdy with love. 

The casa has a guestbook and welcomes guests to add even more good vibes inside these walls. After our tour of the casa, Gloria offered us tea and candies while I wrote out our offerings of thanks. There is no posted admission to visit the house, but donations are suggested. The education, inspiration and time taken to give us a private tour warranted every peso. Gloria speaks no English, but she shared her stories slowly, was very easy to understand, and was a champion the few times we needed help around a word we weren’t familiar with.

visiting Gloria, Santi, and their Casa de las Piedritas is a must in Envigado.

visiting Gloria, Santi, and their Casa de las Piedritas is a must in Envigado.

To get to Casa de las Piedritas in Envigado: from Parque Envigado, continue east on Caldas Envigados. When you reach Calle 31, look to your right and you’ll see the casa at the end of the road.

^ and never miss an upcoming group travel adventure.

High above Medellín: a can't miss hike through Antioquia

Colombia has been on my travel wish list for years. And while I agree with pushing against the glorification of Pablo Escobar, I can’t lie– this country jumped to the top of the Latin travel list partially thanks to the breathtakingly beautiful scenery highlighted in Narcos. Antioquia was my favorite character in that series.

Valle de la Miel, Antioquia

Valle de la Miel, Antioquia

We arrived in Valle de Aburrá almost two weeks ago. The ride to our temporary home in Envigado from José María Córdova International Airport wound us through the green Andes and into the valley below. It was like meeting my favorite character from Narcos in real life. Lush tropical leaves waved from every direction, their value acknowledged by the countless nurseries dotting the mountainsides, and the greenhouses lining the main road.

Our first hiking experience in Colombia took us right back up into those jungle mountainsides, and also brought us face to face with a bit of narco history. We found a path called the Arenales hike. Only a cheap cab ride away from Envigado, it featured waterfalls and it was estimated to take a couple of hours. Perfect for our first Saturday afternoon.

Researching the trailhead, we discovered it begins at the former site of La Catedral - Pablo Escobar’s self-built prison complex. The history goes that, over years, the prison was slowly destroyed by looters looking for money. Eventually, they gave up, but rather than going empty-handed, they began taking pieces of the building to reuse in building structures in Envigado. A helipad, a guard tower, and a few ruined walls are what today remain of La Catedral. Monasterio Santa Gertrudis La Magna, a nursing home run by Benedictine monks, now calls this site home.

The path along the lower edge of the monasterio leads into a mountain forest of tall pines. The route we chose would be a descent down to the town of Caldas, where we could catch a local bus back to Envigado and be home before the sun went down. Because of a late start to our hike (we started around 1:30pm), we didn’t tack on a side route to Salto del Angeles waterfall - though we heard from fellow caminantes that it was absolutely worth it.


Leaving the pine forest, the descent began to get more serious, and we quickly dropped elevation into lush jungle. We scrambled. We used ropes to lower ourselves down steep inclines. We used our hands to do a bit of actual rock climbing down one particularly intimidating phase.

Our efforts led us directly to Chorro de las Campañas, a crystal clear refreshing cascade of (very chilly) water.


Post waterfall, we weaved our way down a length of the mountain stream. Sometimes marginally on a narrow dirt trail, sometimes directly through haphazard piles of slick rocks breaking up the flow of water. We chose barefoot– extra challenging, but it made every step more rewarding. 

There were some tricky points to pass. I always elected to stick with water routes, sliding down mini falls when necessary. Once, I was rewarded by being dumped into almost chest-deep water. Sean stuck to the marginal routes, using upper body strength to scramble and climb across rock faces that above the stream.

The path ends with a narrow concrete ‘bridge’ that crosses the stream. The descent into Caldas continues along a well-maintained path that spills out onto winding mountain road.

^ and never miss an upcoming group travel adventure.

our 2018 Belgian beer holiday

in October, eighteen of us took a Balance & Brews beer holiday to Belgium. we practiced yoga, we drank beer, we found a strong unity in our travel pack, and we allowed our experiences to change us as we explored an evolution of Belgian beer and culture.

this is my highlight reel of the moments and experiences I’ll always remember. a link to our full holiday album is below.

photo: Shelby Kulick • wanderlust at Brussels Beer Project


was this Brussels Beer Project glassware made just for us?!

our travel began in Bruges. we stayed at a simple, charming eco-hostel with a great Belgian beer bar and plenty of chill space for the group to get to know each other.

every day of our adventure was filled with blue skies and delicious beer, but what made me even happier was watching some fast friendships develop.

Bruges is shockingly beautiful. we learned a lot about the town during one of our brewery tours, like how it was spared the destruction that most other cities in the region fared during the world wars, allowing it to still stand beautifully in it’s old world glory.

from Bruges, a group of us took a bike ride through the Belgian countryside to visit Damme, a small town to the north. we saw all the standards you’d want to see on a trip like this: the autumn leaves falling, a Dutch windmill, the black sheep rebelling from his herd to be in our group photo.

our first yoga and beer practice in Belgium was at Brouwerij de Halve Maan (Half Moon). still a really proud moment in my career: from following through on a bold idea, this became our reality.

our practice at Halve Maan was in the morning. that afternoon, we noticed the half moon in the sky. this wasn’t arranged- my mission in scheduling this day was just to collaborate with a brewery in Bruges, on a day they could host our group. the literal aligning of the lunar cycle with our itinerary just proved the strength that is doing things with pure intention.

photo: a kind stranger. • our entire B&B group with our Halve Maan tour guide (front row, to my left)

from Bruges, we also visited a Trappist brewery! we ventured to Westvleteren to taste the brews direct from the source. it was another beautiful day and a once-in-a-lifetime cultural experience.

the second leg of our beer holiday took us to Brussels. our first group outing was a Belgian beer tour. we ranked beers, learned even more about the local beer culture, and practiced perfect pours.

our yoga practice and tour in Brussels was with Brussels Beer Project- a full shift in evolution from the old world brewery roots we experienced in Bruges. BBP brews in an experimental fashion, similar to American craft brewing styles. staying true to their mission of growing forward, brewmaster Dimitri practiced yoga in his brewery with us, and hung out with a few of us who stayed in Brussels an extra day after the retreat. I had asked him to take us to one of his favorite local places - he suggested we hang out at the local BrewDog- another revolutionary international brewery!

the vision of this trip was to explore evolution via a path of Belgian beer.

‘become who you are’ was the final takeaway from the ode to exploration that was the decor of our hostel in Bruges. I think you find who you are when you explore. when you are open to change. when you have enough trust in the support of others to get out of your comfort zone. when you are open to connecting to anyone, anywhere.

through all these shared experiences, you become who you are.

need to see more than the highlights? our full holiday album is below- from Bruges to Brussels and everywhere between.

want to be a part of the next adventure? the 2019 trip is live NOW. join us october 6-11, 2019.

find out more about this yoga & beer community- get on the Balance & Brews list below.

chakra pop!

red space. july 18, 2018.

i hope you were there. we'll do it again, we'll grow and evolve together, as we bring this chakra magic to everyone, everywhere. 

but there's something about being part of something as it's juuuust born. thank you to every soul who made chakra pop what it was. until next summer, keep working on your balance, from root to crown. 

^ be part of the next can’t-miss event

six travel tips for responsible roaming.

living like a yogi doesn't end when you roll up your mat. follow these six tips to incorporate your yogic lifestyle into your travels. 

off the mat yogi tip #1 | be present.

no matter where you go, it’s impossible to see it all and do it all. the only option? surrender to that reality! don’t cram. don’t make inaccessibly huge 'must-see' demands on yourself. set and control expectations within your financial and time budgets, then be completely present in every land, with every person, place, and thing.

off the mat yogi tip #2 | be flexible.

things change, even the most carefully executed travel arrangements. remember that you can only control the things you can control - but you have the power to let go of the rest. when plans change, be flexible, and find trust. trust that you’ll end up somewhere equally (or even more) awesome.

off the mat yogi tip #3 | be open. 

you say you want to travel for the cultural experience. now that you’ve said it, you need to do it. 

do your homework before you go. educate yourself. and when you get there, engage with all your senses. start conversations. ask questions, and truly listen to the responses. educate yourself with first hand accounts. promise, you'll fill all that open space with more experiences, connections, emotions, and knowledge than you dreamed possible.

(want a first-hand account of the magic of traveling with an open mind and heart? glimpse into my once-in-a-lifetime cultural travel experience in cuba.

off the mat yogi tip #4 | be your intention.

intentions aren't just the words your instructor offers at the start of your lunchtime power flow. intentions should be going everywhere with you. especially when you commit to travel. do you know why you're going where you're going? there's no right or wrong, but it's a question you need to be able to answer. 

after you set your why, set your budgets, and make sure you allow space and money for spontaneity. because the things that fit your true intention are going to find you. and you’re not going to want to miss them.

off the mat yogi tip #5 | be responsible.

we’ve roughed up this world, friend. and we collectively have to take responsibility. the small changes add up, including learning to travel with care and respect. travel lightly. literally. don't travel with crap you don't need. every excess pound of 'stuff' uses precious resources to haul around. and every creature comfort you leave behind provides you an opportunity to grow- and remember, it's all only temporary, anyway! 

exploring group travel is another way way to save resources AND money - while gaining all the amazing personal growth benefits. when you travel with a group you can share rooms, transportation, AND experiences - those priceless souvenirs that don't add any weight to your luggage!

off the mat yogi tip #6 | be worth it. 

that's not an ego statement, it's root chakra basics: your right to be. you're worth the experiences you dream of having. measure your worth in the intangible things you value. consider your investments. and when you commit, COMMIT. go all in. because, you’re worth it. you have the right to be. 

wanna roam responsibly? hit the google. find a trip that makes the butterflies in your belly start to flutter, then reach out to the organizer and ask all the questions to make sure it fits your needs and is worth it for you. 

wanna travel with me? check out my upcoming travels here, then ask me all those questions, too! hit me up via email or with a comment below. 

^ for responsible tips, straight to you inbox.

my mom is the reason i became a yoga teacher. 

my yoga practice started casually at home, with a dvd set i found on amazon. it took a couple of years for a friend to convince me to make it to a studio. clearly, it was a good fit. 

around that same time, my mom ended up with a life-changing blood clot. over the next few years, it created many complications for her, eventually leaving her on oxygen support 24/7 for the rest of her too short life. 

as i was working regularly towards finding a deeper connection to my own breath, i was witnessing my mom lose her connection to hers. when she lost her breath completely in 2011, it was the pivotal moment that led me into my first yoga teacher training program.

with mother’s day coming up this sunday, she’s of course on my mind a lot this week. and there’s no neat resolution to that situation. any day of the year, this hole can be tough to handle. it’s extra tough when the calendar throws it in your face. 

so this year, i’m choosing to travel back. about 150 years back, to the roots of mom’s day:

holla, 1870 and julia ward howe. julia wrote the ‘mother’s day proclamation,’ a call for peace, and for all citizens of the world to own the responsibility of taking care of each other.

well, shit, current day 2018. that level of mothering is a NECESSITY in the world we live in.

if you have- or are- a mom, may 13 is for you. you deserve the honor for all you do, and continuing to do it is what will make a difference in the world. 

but for those of us that can’t physically hug our mom this or any sunday, maybe this is our call to respond to. our mom-less boat is dumb. it’s dumb, and it’s not fair. but not fair compared to what? we’re not entitled to anything. so let's think bigger than ourselves, and let's own our responsibility to take care of the world. 

but that sounds huge and exhausting, right? so think of it this way: if you had a million pound cookie, you could not eat that cookie by yourself. but if you took a bite, and you asked your friends and peers to take a bite, and they told all their friends who told all their friends, then together, hell yes, you can take care of that cookie.

on this sunday, may 13, let's eat that cookie. in whatever size bite your hunger is craving. if you’re looking for inspiration on how to take action, share this post with a friend, buy someone a cookie, or check out a current favorite of mine:

^ live your purpose with society verde.

3 things i learned in mexico

a mexican travel photo journal.

a mess of photos from our spring trip to tulum. but first, a few quick things we learned in mexico:

1. mezcal tastes best from a bar swing. probably, anything does, and when pulling a swing up to the bar is an option, you take that, every time.

2. when seeking directions, if a local tells you to look for a gate, trust that he means 'look for a gate, guys' not 'look for a couple of ropes tied to some tree trunks, guys.' (see photos in sian ka'an gallery below.)

we first thought it was mildly entertaining how lost we got in the mexican seaside jungle. later, we left town and found out from some locals in merida, a larger (and super pleasant) town in the upper yucatan state, how unruly quintana roo is. no one owns it. and everyone wants to control it. and it will be fought over until the guns or drugs win. 

lesson: until next time...don't go wandering unmarked property.

3. you may travel somewhere, and the tsa signs may tell you you CAN carry on duty-free liquor. and so, you may buy three bottles of mezcal.

but these signs are only half-true. properly sealed, and packaged in clear glass, you can carry on as much as you want. but if you want stoneware bottles of mezcal, no. no, those aren't making it through on your carry on. those will sit there at the tsa checkpoint looking all innocent as you yell and carry on to the agent, but he'll just blame mexico.

then, eventually, he'll soften. he'll say it happens all the time and he hates it every time. and when you say 'cool, but what about this time, and right now, and us and, like, our only souvenir?,' he'll say 'i think you have time to check the liquor and make it back through.' we'll argue that no, no we don't, and the only thing worse than losing three bottles of alcohol would be missing our connecting flight.

he'll soften even more, and walk us back to the ticket counter so we can check our liquor. he'll wait for us while we sit on the floor like damn harry and lloyd, bitching and definitely making a scene while trying to figure out how to fit three fragile bottles of liquid into a bag that was never designed to be checked. we'll eventually figure it out. he'll walk us back to the front of the security line and be like 'dumb and dumber were in my line and had to check a bag and i need them back at the front so they don't miss their flight.' 

we'll thank him profusely. he seriously rocked his job. we'll make our flight. but i'll miss a meal, and i'll be a raging beast on the plane because of it. 

lesson: joke was actually on us. that mezcal we fought so hard for is super smoky, and not our favorite. so, if someone wants to build me a bar swing in my kitchen, there's a bottle (or two!) of smoky mezcal in it for you...

gallery #1 | tulum. beaches and bicycles. tourists and...more tourists. that cenote life, though...a girl could get used to that. 

gallery #2 | sian ka'an. a magical biosphere reserve, just a short hitched ride from tulum pueblo. here, there are no crowds at the ruin sites. the locals speak spanish. you take matters into your own hands when you climb the extremely rickety mirador AND when you assume a couple of ropes tied to some trees must be the 'gate' you've been directed to look for to get to the boats that take you to free-float through natural canals... #worthit (seriously. if you're in the vicinity, this is a 100% must do. wear that life vest like a diaper. do it.)

gallery #3 | merida. land of private swimming pools, and lots of alcohol. 

we left tulum in the pursuit of pink lagoons and pink flamingos. you'll find none of the such in this gallery, but it was still a damn splendid good ol' time. 

^ and explore magic corners of the world with us.

that place i hired a mariachi band off the street

we've been back stateside since november 12. almost two months.

i am not exaggerating when i say never has planning a trip been so stressful. and, it's true what they say. it pays off:

never has a journey been so rewarding. 

there are some feelings/places/people/things/experiences of which i feel no words can do justice. this is one of them. it doesn't matter what i say or show, the only way to experience cuba is to experience cuba. in person. and, by the way, my american friends, yes, you still can.

i'm a little biased, but i'm pretty sure our trip was extra extraordinary. the timing was maddening. in 2016, obama made it possible for u.s. citizens to legally experience cuba. our group trip was booked in march 2017. in june, our current administration announced it would be partially rolling back obama's changes. never for a second did this actually directly affect us, know the damage media coverage and tweeting elected officials can do. then, in august, that 'sonic attack' thing started. 

but wait, there's more. 

in september, a month before our trip, hurricane irma touched the exact part of the country we were set to visit. interestingly, we found out that though the hurricane mildly trashed the town, it actually made the shoreline way more beautiful. also in september, the us state department put out travel alerts to cuba, telling its citizens not to travel there. that warning was downgraded just yesterday. (hint of lessons to follow: NOTHING HAS CHANGED SINCE THE INITIAL 'ALERT.' NOTHING.)

and finally, on our second to last day IN cuba, we were told by locals it was a 'very important day' for us to be visiting the cuban start-up business we were with: it had been broadly announced that morning that u.s. travel to cuba was once again going to come with more restrictions. 

this trip was a bold step into the unknown. it wasn't a physical yoga retreat. cuba isn't a place you get to regularly roam freely at will; we certainly were not going to spend our time in country practicing handstands for hours. this was about off the mat evolution. it fed a need to explore beyond geographical and mental borders. to practice coexistence. to be responsible citizens of the world. to willingly learn. 

and it impacted. since returning home almost two months ago, i have processed every bit of information i've been given differently. i learn as a necessity. there is no complacency. i assume i know nothing, and then i figure it out. and when it changes, like everything does, i figure it out again.

we were a dozen americans who successfully navigated through a socialist/communist society. we lived together in the suburbs of havana for a week, in a sprawling home that was centrally focused on an outdoor breakfast table set for twelve and a swimming pool. we got to know each other on our first afternoon there, sitting around that swimming pool and sharing who we were as told through our travel habits and dreams. i planned nothing for that first half day there, assuming we'd all be exhausted and need some quiet rest time to reset and process.

right out the gates, cue that 'you know nothing. keep learning.' spirit. we were wired. we wandered our town. we managed to find the shittiest rum in all of cuba, and i think we stayed up until past when the clock struck the next day drinking it. that day, we had a scheduled walking tour of havana. by the end of that first full day, we had seen/learned/felt so much already; it was like we had been in country for a week plus. and we wanted more.  

when you travel to cuba as a us citizen, you commit to an itinerary of engaging with and supporting the cuban people. highlights of our plans included exploration of the city and visiting an independent magazine and local farm. (organic, like all cuban farms.) at finca tungasuk, we toured the land and ate an amazingly prepared, completely fresh meal. (helps when one of the owners is a french chef!) we got dirty in the fields, learning just how humbling it is to respectfully work the land- especially when that work is clean up and replanting post hurricane. 

at vistar, we saw the urban side of a cuban career, visiting the offices, studio, (and, accidentally, home) of some of the owners/executives of cuba's first independent magazine. hear their story: how they started an internet business in a country with super limited internet resources, and you will never bitch about a power outage or shitty phone or net service again.  

we successfully made it through our week not supporting a single government-owned paladar or business. all of our group money went directly to individual cubans. our use of the tourist pesos gave these individuals the monetary resources needed to purchase fresh food and other items normally reserved for foreign visitors. one day, upon discovering an orphanage in our neighborhood, we asked how we could help, and a few of us were able to pool extra money together and buy art supplies for the kids. (pool like $60 to buy about 8 crayons and some printer paper in cuba, and you will never bitch about a marked up luxury item again. and yes, colored pencils are a luxury.) 

as much as i truly hope we made a positive impact on everyone we met in cuba, they got the raw end of the deal. i think they taught us so much more.

cuba taught us to focus on the positive: those evening bugs are eating you alive as you practice yoga outside, but ohmygod look at those stars. you've never seen a sky like this. 

cuba taught us that you should 'work to live, not live to work': literally, those words were spoken to us by a farmer. figuratively, they were whispered every time anyone in the group with a stressful stateside job had to wrestle with not having the internet or resources to check in. 

cuba taught us that being present DOES create more time: truly. to detach from being available to the 74k apps on your phone is real. when there are no distractions, your only option is what's in front of you. and OHMYGOD IN CAPITAL LETTERS, it's true. time moves slower when you do one thing at a time. you live more fully when you do one thing at a time. you notice everything and everyone around you when you look up and look out. when you look up and look out, you recognize what you need, and just as importantly, what you don't. 

cuba taught me that yes, in the same way i felt a sense of urgency to do this trip and do it NOW around a year ago from writing this, you should always follow those things you're called to do. those are the things you never forget. 

on our final night in cuba, we had one last group dinner in town scheduled. after we got settled at our table, i had to run out to grab two of our girls who were coming from a different location. i never actually found them (they found us, don't worry)  but instead i found myself walking up on a full-on mariachi band. i'm absolutely not one to randomly talk to strangers. but when's the last time you fell in pace with a mariachi band? i struck up a conversation in spanish, and, long story short, five minutes later we shook on a price, and i had hired my first mariachi band. they turned their direction to follow me back to our restaurant to sing 'happy birthday' to hollie, who would be celebrating hers the following day. 

it started lightly raining as we chatted and walked to the paladar. and then it started downpouring. i will never, ever forget running down the sidewalk, dashing for cover in the rain, with this mariachi band in the streets of cuba.  

cuba also taught us some good old simple things, like: yes, there ARE tarantulas in cuba. yes, mice DO fall into swimming pools, and assisting them may require some well-thought out plans; they don't care how much rum you've already had. yes, roosters DO cock-a-doodle-doo at all hours of the day. and yes, yes you should expect that if you're a dude with a beard traveling to cuba, you're gonna be called che or hemingway for a week.

i think, to support everything we are taught when we travel, our role is to understand the responsibility that comes with that experience.

i share my experience in cuba to share what i learned. i learned to not waste. (and, uhh, before november, i had thought i was kinda good at that already.) i was given affirmation that evolution is an amazing value to live by, and that ego in excess is a violent destroyer. yoga and me go back ten years now. and to date, nothing has changed my practice more than the che guevara/revolution studies i've given a good chunk of my free time to these past few months. 

i obviously learned much more than that brief list. i have a lot more to say about cuba. about how it's people- as a cultural generalization- come across as hopeful, positive, resourceful as f*ck, and responsible for their own actions. i have a lot more to say about america's relationship with cuba, and the revolution, and cigars and rum and old cars, and 'that whole sonic attack thing.' if you're interested, hit me up. i'll trade you a lager and/or a taco for tales of travel. but whether you want to know more or not, PLEASE know that, unless you see it with your own eyes and hear it with your own ears, you can't take it for ultimate truth. KEEP. LEARNING.

now, here's a photo journey of this adventure. (*see desktop version for photo descriptions.) 

^ change everything you thought you knew about travel

do it. or not. and here's some reasons why you should(n't)

the 2018 firefly trips to latin america are rolling up quick- and with the 2017 cuba excursion being only a month away now- i was thinking about how we make these big decisions. decisions to boldly say yes to this kind of life-changing travel. i bet the questions and answers that rolled through my mind in the planning and committing phases of these 2018 trips were similar to the ones that might be rolling around in your brain now, so let me share 3 reasons TO go on a yoga retreat and 3 reasons NOT TO go on a yoga retreat.

3 reasons to go on a yoga retreat

1. to find clarity. the answers to all your crazy life questions are already there. and you'll be amazed at how quickly they start appearing when you step away from distractions and put yourself in a whole new corner of the world, where you see the inner and outer view through a new lens. 

2. to find yourself in nature. nature invites that inner wisdom we just chatted about. adult recess is key to your vitality, soul, qi, prana, whatever you choose to call it. it also instantly boosts your mood and erases fatigue. and, it kinda does all of that about 6000% more when you take daily recess on group yoga travel to an exotic location...  

3. to find connections. it all starts when we can connect to who we really are. we build that strong root, and then we grow connections to everyone and everything around us. this is truly where you find your purpose.

3 reasons to NOT go on a yoga retreat (answered by a yoga retreat) 

1. you can't afford it. yoga retreat's response: perhaps, right now, you truly can't. and that's ok. but in the grander scheme, living life with money as the only currency of your existence is what you can't afford. travel and experiences cost a chunk of change, but the return is priceless. for an adventure now, or just for the future, sketch out a list of things that take your money but don't give that type of priceless value. i promise they're there. you just have to want to see them. 

2. you might be a little afraid of this. yoga retreat's response: GOOD! if you didn't sense that something huge could shift from an adventure like a yoga probably isn't for you. this is the kind of fear that you look in the face and walk towards, because deep down you know it brings evolution and opportunity. it's the stuff that makes you really strong and ready for everything else.   

3. the time isn't right. yoga retreat's response: time is a glorious luxury. it has finally claimed tops over money as the most important thing for so many of us. we can't make up for losses of it, but with the right perspective, we can control how we relate to it, how we spend it, and, with good choices, we kind of can make more of it. what if your mind has spent your whole life just telling you that the time isn't right? that's a fear. see reason number two not to go. and you can't change that history, so let that thought go NOW, and claim your time. weigh your values. it's your life, it's your decision. 

inspired? find your glow: 

^ purpose-filled adventure