How not to be bored during a yoga retreat

This post is for the tag alongs, the spouses, friends or partners who were either dragged into or had no choice but to join the yoga retreat because the other one was too chicken to travel solo.

Yeah, thats me, the chicken.

I am very lucky and blessed to have a very supportive husband who in spite of his initial reaction upon learning that this was a yoga retreat still chose to come along . He did mention to me not so many times before this trip that I could travel alone if I wanted to. Cue. IF, I wanted to. But, no, not happening. And besides, it was only four days (out of our six day quickie vacation) which we even shortened to three days so we could still set off and adventure to La Fortuna for some “testosterone filled manly action.” After all, there’s only so much planks one can take.

So what does a poor bored soul do?

  1. Eat your way into zen-like bliss by either eating healthy or chowing down some cheap local Tico cuisine at any soda. The casados and the different flavored refrescos were my favorite!
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healthy breakfast of fruits and toast
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yummy casado with fish for lunch

2. Each morning, take a walk on the beach and contemplate on life, love, the meaning of the universe or how to pay your bills next month when you come back from your trip!13417587_10154236836708166_7977532899117265825_n

3. Learn to chill. In whatever form you may see fit. In this case, since the weather was super hot, chilling really made a whole new meaning. Just make sure you have bug spray.

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4. Explore your backyard. Be interested in the local flora and fauna. We did get to hear and see a howler monkey (I didn’t know what that “barking” sound was at first) but disappointed that I didn’t see a sloth. We were in the wrong part of the country to see sloths though. But I got to see a toucan while hubby was delighted at the leaf cutter ants. Sorry guys, no pics.

5. Check out their local “super”. They call their markets or groceries “super” with a name after it, for example, Super Belle. We were in luck there was one nearby as we needed lotion, water and laundry detergent. Plus it was very interesting interacting with the locals in our very limited Spanish.

6. Find ways to goof around. By the way, these masks carved by the Boruca tribe we bought for a quarter of the price sold at the airport souvenir shops!

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Organic market day every Saturday

7. Learn how to surf or just watch all the surfing action.

8. Take a walk (again) on the beach at sunset. It’s always good for the soul. 13343089_10154236837363166_6784550220333850870_n

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9. Learn how to drive an ATV or if you already do, perfect! You are ready to explore some more. Vroom vroom! In my next post, I will share the details of our speedy expedition around the tip of the Nicoya peninsula in less than half a day.

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10. Make new friends. Traveling always allows you to meet lots of interesting people if you are open to conversation. It may be fleeting and sometimes these friendships last, sometimes they don’t. But even then, there is something about talking to strangers who are fellow travelers and kindred spirits that colorfully enrich your life as you share experiences and stories.

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This list isn’t actually just for the poor bored soul. As you can see, I am also enjoying and actively participating in these activities with my hubby. So in between yoga sessions, there are still lots to do in Santa Teresa apart from just surfing and yoga. We didn’t even do hiking, horseback riding, canopy walks or zip lining because we didn’t have enough time. You will definitely never get bored!

Underwater

I have always been more comfortable with the earth. With my feet firmly planted on the ground and being able to breathe in precious air, unencumbered, knowing I won’t run out of it. I feel more steady and secure.

This surprises me because I was born under the sign of the fish and yet the water is my least favorite element. Maybe because I’m not that good of a swimmer. Considering that I was born and raised in an archipelago and currently living close to the beach… I can imagine Pisces squirming from this deviant behavior.

Case in point. Snorkeling.

My hubby and I both love to do all sorts of outdoorsy stuff at home or when we travel. When the ocean is involved, he always makes it a point to swim or snorkel. While I balk and mull it over and see if it is really worth it. I’m happy just laying on the beach, digging my pretty painted toes in the sand, reading, taking photos or walking along the shore and picking up seashells. How relaxing is that.

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In the meantime, I can also hike, zip line, parasail, kayak, rappel, wall climb, jump off a cliff to a pool of water (with a life vest, no less), white water raft, spelunk and do other crazy adrenaline filled activities without much hesitation. But when it comes to being actually in or under water? Umm…gimme a minute to think about it. In fact, give me fifteen minutes.

If the snorkeling is in a place I’ve never been and the reviews (yes, I am anal about reviews) are great, then I jump in the water – with a life vest – float and swim for say, fifteen minutes the most, say hi to the fishes, enjoy the corals, watch out for sharks and jellyfish, then go back to the boat. I am satisfied with that.

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The hubby is another story. He can stay in the water for extended periods of time, diving and frolicking like a dolphin. Now that we have a water proof camera, I gave him full responsibility for documenting his wet adventures. I think he was meant to be a Pisces.

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Which brings me to life and the different elements thrown our way. I mentioned being comfortable with earth and the stability it gives me. And water just throws me off balance and renders me breathless. Fire can be good or bad depending on how you use it while the wind can knock you out if it is strong enough.

Since we are talking about water, here is proof that I can never hold my breath for more than 5 seconds nor can I open my naked eyes to see this beautiful underwater world. We had to take several shots for this underwater selfie to get it “almost” right. And to think this was only chest deep, I look almost tortured and drowning.

I envy the people who are so at home and at peace with the water. They must have been mermaids or dolphins in their past lives. I admit the ocean holds a strange unique beauty only a few intrepid souls can get to experience and enjoy. Her mysteries are as deep and as old as the earth itself. For she renders me powerless and at awe at the same time. For that I have its utmost respect.

No matter how many times life puts us “underwater”, we have always the option to go with the flow, try our damnedest to swim to shore or stay afloat or stop and enjoy its beauty for awhile. As long as you don’t forget to get back to the surface to breathe.

**These photos were taken at Grand Turk and St. Thomas while on our 7-day Holland America cruise last month.**

Sometimes having an anchor helps too. Holds you down and prevents you from being washed away from the tumultuous waves of worry. Whatever or whoever your anchor is, make sure it is steadfast and strong and reliable.

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This is our bedraggled and distorted selves at the end of a long beach day taken from underwater. Coming out standing strong and smiling despite the chill and cloudless sky.

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“Don’t let the waves of others drown out your own ocean song.

Hold your heart as though it was a seashell.

And listen to it. Listen to its music.

To the whispers of your ocean within. And then swim.

Swim to your own ocean music.”

~ S.C. Lourie

 

 

Finding Mr. Ray and Mr. Sun!

(If you have seen Finding Nemo, you will know what I mean by the title….)

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One cloudy sunless day at Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas, we went to meet the sting rays. This was Day Six of our 7-day Holland America cruise.

At first, I was hesitant to do this activity, because, Steve Irwin.

But we needed to have an excursion otherwise we would go crazy after the previous day spent at sea with absolutely nothing done but eat, read, lounge, exercise a bit, eat, read, nap, repeat. It certainly made for a very “relaxing” (read, boring) day indeed!

Stepping foot on Holland America’s private beach was much welcomed even though the weather wasn’t cooperating that day. I can still appreciate the fine white sand and the turquoise blue waters despite the overcast skies and slight drizzle. In fact, out of the other beaches (Grand Turk and St. Thomas) we have visited, this one tops it all. I think it was because there was more beach here, stretching all the way to the tip of the island so it didn’t feel as crowded. But then again, this was a private island so you don’t get other cruise ships docking.

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Half Moon Cay
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The MS Westerdam from a distance

Upon signing our life away waivers for the sting ray activity, we waited for a few minutes for the group to converge and then we were herded to a waiting safari-like truck where we were brought to the other side of the island. This was where most of the water sports were done since it was in a lagoon with no beach but lots of rocks around instead. The sting rays were corralled further up the cove.

After a brief safety orientation, we were given floating vests and water shoes. We brought our own snorkeling gear for sanitary reasons. And then off we went down the dock where our guide was waiting for us.

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Oh but the water was sooo chilly! Everyone was taking their own sweet time descending down the steps trying to get acclimatized to the temperature. Once we were in the water and fully submerged, it was okay, tolerable the least. Dang, the lack of sunshine!

So we snorkeled for a few minutes (I was trying to stay away as far away as I can) just watching the rays and the fish swim by before we were all called to the shallower part of the lagoon where we could all stand in chest or waist deep waters, depending on how tall or short you are. We were asked to form a circle while the “sting ray guy” was standing in the middle. He babbled another set of instructions and gave us some information about the sting rays he was in charge of. Because of his thick island accent, I could barely understand him plus the fact that we were surrounded by at least 10 or 15 sting rays, my mind just simply focused on watching these creatures while I froze in place.

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He told us to touch them from the top and to avoid their tails and to shuffle on the sand when walking. Later on, he warned about getting a “sting ray hickie” when feeding them.

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Because the sting rays knew him, they started converging en masse, excitedly flapping their wings and some of them even splashing the surface! I was excited and petrified at the same time. Every time a ray’s wing or whatever body part touches my foot or ankle or leg or worse, thigh, I emitted a loud screech-like giggle that my hubby gave me weird looks. I was the loudest I believe because some one said I was having so much fun that they enjoyed looking at me. What the?!?

 

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A shark reportedly got its tail
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That is too close for comfort. 

One ray liked my friend a lot that he tried to climb up her back while I felt another’s tail brush my thigh. It had rough little sharp spikes and I was afraid I would get a rash or a little scrape from it. Thank God I didn’t get anything!

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Keeping an eye out on THAT long tail
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No Steve Irwin stunts here

After a few minutes of observing and touching them, I did not, because they were already all over me (their skin felt velvety smooth), it was feeding time. The sting ray whisperer gave us another round of instructions on how to hold the squid the right way. The ray’s mouths are located on the underside of the belly so they would have to suction the food from below.

The guide went to each and everyone of us, standing beside us and showing us the right way to do it, guiding our hands lest we panic and forget all the safety instructions. There were a couple of squeamish folks who gave a tight grip on the squids and were having a back and forth battle with the sting rays. That would have been a sting ray hickie right there. I was lucky my squid got sucked to the ray’s vacuum mouth quickly, without incident. Phew!

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A ray showing off. Or maybe he was just hungry. Take note, squids on both our hands.
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The sting ray whisperer touching the underbelly

We spent about an hour there and by the time we were done, my fingers were looking like dried prunes. Yes, it was still cold. It was a great experience for every one. The kids enjoyed it most especially, an educational experience for sure.

I just wished it was a sunny day!

Grand Turk: Beyond the beaches

When we docked at Grand Turk in the Turks and Caicos, I found myself getting excited seeing the turquoise blue waters and white sandy beaches from the ship. This was Day Two of our 7-day Holland America cruise.

It was a beautiful hot December day.

However, I found the port busy and crowded and the beach a tad too close to the cruise ships. There were two docked that day. I was so dismally disappointed that not even the crystal clear waters enticed me to take a photo of the ocean with the large boat looming in the background. It just destroyed the view! The magic which I initially felt, gone! After my hubby’s gentle coaxing, I did manage to take a few shots though with my phone but tried to avoid that floating monstrosity all together.

Chillaxing on the beach was out of the question.

We did want to explore the city so we tried to find a local tour company that had the price we liked. The ship excursions were just too expensive! Meanwhile, hubby just wanted to snorkel (this was his main goal for this trip) so we left him snorkeling to his heart’s desires while we booked an hour and a half city tour. I was always eager to see the town and its sights and learn a little about its history.

So, what did I see?

  1. Of course, the waters. Grand Turk is the capital and largest island of the Turks islands. The Turks and Caicos is an archipelago in the Caribbean composed of seven islands and lots of smaller ones as well. Tourism is the main industry.

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2. More beautiful but less touristy beaches.

3. Beautiful friendly locals (school children).

4. A replica of John Glenn’s Friendship 7 Mercury spacecraft (it landed in the waters nearby in 1962) located near their international airport.

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Note the huge cruise ship from a distance!

5. Colorful houses and white walls.

6. Lots of conch fritters and rum punches.

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7. Vibrant island art.

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8. Horses, mules or donkeys. They used to be the only means of transportation on the island. Now, they roam freely and wild. Everywhere!

9. Old salt ponds. Grand Turk used to have a booming sea salt industry but production ended in the 1950s. The shallow salt beds remain.

10. Abandoned boarded up houses and buildings.

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11. The Grand Turk lighthouse, the only lighthouse in the country and reported to be on the highest point of the island.

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12. And from my hubby’s snorkeling day, lots of fish and the occasional angry moray eel.

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There you go. Grand Turk in one hour and a half. I may not actually have this destination on my bucket list but since I was here, might as well make the most of it. You will always learn something new. And there is always, always something interesting to see! Just keep your mind open.