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Wanderlust

One of the prettiest beaches in Angus - Lunan Bay

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One of the prettiest beaches in Angus - Lunan Bay

Scotland you are spoiling us! We have had this May and June so many prefect days for an outdoor adventure! If this weather continues, no one will ever believe us that it rains here most of the year. We have been so spoiled  with this glorious weather and it’s not even summer yet.

It was still May when we packed our photography gear and headed out to Lunan Bay. It was sunny and warm and almost zero wind. Simply amazing. Ironically, while we were filming our yoga sequence I got a notification from the Met Office issuing a heavy rain warning in the central and west part of Scotland.We never got a drop of rain tho. ⚠️

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Lunan Bay is probably one of the prettiest beaches in Angus. It offers you a magnificent sweep of sand, with a cave and arch at its northern end. Beyond all the sand dunes you can see ruins of the Red Castle, proudly overlooking the bay. It is hardly surprising that in 2000 Lunan Bay was voted the best beach in Scotland. It’s a good place to visit after a heavy storm go find some hidden gems as the beach is famed for its good sources of agates and other gemstones. It’s one of those places that unless you are local, you wouldn’t have known of.

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We arrived to the area before 9am but the sun was already strong. By noon the ground got so heated the condensation created a faint smudge of steamy smoke hovering just above the ground and into the water.  We had a great day of recording some yoga footage, with a simple sequence from Finlay’s book, playing with Coops and soaking in the beauty of this amazing place.

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Yoga on the beach is a fantastic idea. You can try poses without fear of face planting because let’s face it, the landing is pretty soft! 

I also had an opportunity to play with Finlay’s camera, Canon EOS 600D . It’s not the newest model but pretty amazing and sharp. It’s an entry-level model so perfect for anyone wanting to take their iPhone photography to the next level. Those pictures were done with a 70-300mm lens, it’s a telephoto focal length lens so helps you to capture the detail of distant subjects and gives you that lovely blurry background (with a little help of well adjusted low F stop). This is what I came up with today.

I use Nikon myself so it was a great to play with Canon and explore all the functions it has to offer. I have been chatting a lot with my photography pals Siobhan and Kirsty about Canon, they both are professional photographers and using full frame Canons. So this is a wee treat.

Now, acro... well this was another adventure! After a few hours on the beach we decided to move up and explore the ruins of the castle. The Red Castle of Lunan is a ruined fortified house on the coast of Angus. The earliest structure on the site was built for King William the Lion in the late twelfth century to repel Viking invasions to Lunan Bay. It was rebuilt several times and pretty much used until 1770 but in the last few centuries in went into a gradual decline so all we can see now are the ruins. 

We set our camp, secured Cooper and off we went to film our acro...however the uneven ground, a whole group of tourist that appeared out of nowhere and walked on us and Cooper chewing on the lead meant that I dismantled myself off the very first pose, landed on Finlay, practically gave myself a concussion and almost broke my pinkie finger (although not sure how I managed that). We just really like a good dose of drama! I am pretty sure the whole Angus could hear us laughing, cursing and laughing more (just imagine the facial responses of those poor, confused tourists). 

We had no food today but our friends recommended finishing our day with a naughty and very vegetarian lunch and the Lunan Bay Diner. Vegan burgers with halloumi cheese AND baked beans - yummy!! Even Cooper enjoyed it. 😂

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Our journey to the wild amphitheatre of the rocky Corrie Fee - with Kilted Yogi

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Our journey to the wild amphitheatre of the rocky Corrie Fee - with Kilted Yogi

This was my second visit this year to this wild amphitheatre of rocky landscape! It was amazing to see the changes a few months can do and I am hoping to show you both the winter wonderland and spring awakening. 

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This whole area was sculpted thousands of years ago by the power of ice and water which left behind corries, cliffs, moraines and a mesmerising river. Today, this beautiful area is a true haven for plants, birds and animals. Sadly, it is also an example of Britain’s lost wilderness areas as it was untouched by humans for centuries up until about 200 years ago.When sheep farming was introduced this area started attracting more deer which meant that trees and sensitive plants didn't stand the chance. The woodland virtually disappeared and grassland expanded. Deer population now needs to be controlled, wolfs are gone, and sheep roam the world. This makes me so incredibly sad as I really wish human hands were less invasive. 

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We decided on Corrie Fee as the weather was shaping beautifully but we had very little time. First stop was the Ranger’s Office. Did you know you can check in before you embark on your walk and check out afterwards for added safety? This way if you won't come back they will know by sundown and send a rescue party. 

Once you start walking the route crosses White Water and follows the bewitching Fee Burn into the nature reserve. It's a stunning site with the magnificent bowl shaped valley backed by a impressive waterfall. We came here when the waterfall wasn’t too dry just yet so the pictures are exceptional. As we started so early, the whole way up we were alone and this quiet, remote landscape was literally filled with roaring, tumbling noise of only water and sounds of the nature – here you can really understand why corrie in Gaelic also means ‘cauldron’.

Look at the difference between March and May…stunning !

Finlay managed to climb all the way to the top of the waterfall which you can watch on our video below. I stayed with the kids (aka pups)  keeping them safe and calm (and saving my fear of heights for another adventure)

One of my favourite drinks to take for a sweaty, exhausting hike is my chai latte (aka. toxic coloured broth), filled with nutritious fats and energy…if you eat to learn how I make it then jus follow this link. 

Now, the big thing about this trip is that we finally got back to our aero sessions! Finlay and I used to do it literally every day, creating those wee videos from the gym, parks, studios. Two years ago when my husband and I decided to open a wellbeing studio in Broughty Ferry our whole energy was literally poured into creating this space and we both got a little bit lost in the amount of work and challenges a new business brings. As I was entering into 2018 I made a pledge to myself to come back to all those things that used to fill up my heart and let go of those draining me. Acro was one of them. 

When was the last time when you had to trust the person that is literally holding and balancing you over the edge of a cliff! ⠀

Strength and independence have been the backbone to my identity since the first day I walked into nursery and was confused by all the tears of other kids pleading their mums not to leave them for just a few hours. The same thing happened at 18 when I became a fully independent young adult living alone. Yep - strong and independent - but I really had to be! How else would I conquer the world and make any sense of my life?! ⠀

And then the AcroYoga happened. In Acro the roles are reversed, the submissive role (flyer) can’t just go and exert the dominance. I’m literally folded in half and perched upon my partner’s feet. And need to listen really carefully! I’m a meter or more off the ground (on this video a hell a lot of more!) and I can easily imagine how much it would hurt to smack my face on the ground. 

It really did make me think why have I always felt like I need to be the strong and independent and why it’s sooo hard for me to just let go and trust. I have neglected AcroYoga for a few years and just recently begun peeling back my negative connotations from dependance and weakness. It takes time but it feel really liberating to just trust somebody else and let them hold you. 

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Subscribe to Finlay's You Tube channel for more videos to come!

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'It was a start of a journey for me...' - interview with Hannah

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'It was a start of a journey for me...' - interview with Hannah

On a snowy, stormy and extremely cold Friday afternoon we all arrived to Elie to discover that the house suffered a heating problem. Which meant NO HEATING on the coldest, most windy and awful day in Scottish history! We are talking horizontal rain with snow and all. We had a choice: stay and make the most of it or go. After a few organisational changes, purchasing an extensive amount of portable heathers (thank you B&Q Leven), Phil bringing more heaters from the studio and a delicious dinner at Ship Inn in Elie, we settled in for the night. 

Five incredible women remained with us through that experience and we have had one of the most transformative and exceptional retreats. The heating was restored the next day, but not until Debbie made soup from scratch in the oven (another blog just on that coming soon).

Today we cough up with Hannah who came to the retreat and this is what she thought of it.

What was your favourite thing about the retreat and why? 

I don’t know if could choose my favourite part as each and every minute was my favourite part for different reasons. Probably cosying up by the fire and doing the relaxing yoga before bed and having the best nights sleep I’d had in months. I also loved how amazing everyone was. We were all very different but all got on so well. We all felt so looked after and nurtured by both Daria and Debbie.

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What did you think about the accommodation?

The accommodation was gorgeous. Homely and cosy but modern and luxurious. It was the most lovely place to relax and I was surprised at how at home we all felt. The beds were so comfy too and it was so nice to have a relaxing bath.

Was yoga THIS scary?

None of it was scary. There were parts which were out of my comfort zone but in a positive way. I felt I was able to be encouraged in a positive way which made me feel I had achieved. It was so satisfying and empowering!

How did you feel?

I’ve never felt so relaxed. It brought lots of emotions to the surface and made me realise the issues within my life and what I wanted to change. It gave me a positive outlook and a way to make positive changes. I felt connected with everybody there and it didn’t matter about age, lifestyle or our individual reasons for going on the retreat in the first place.

What did you think of the food? How yummy was it?

The food was AMAZING! There was plenty of it and each dish was so tasty and filling. It was so nice to have such fresh, nourishing but yummy food which catered to everyone’s needs.

What did you learn? Was it an inspirational experience ?

I learnt a lot about myself, about my life, my job, my friendships, my family, my exercise routine, my eating and what I wanted to change as well as small changes to make to achieve this. It was VERY inspirational and the start of a journey for me. My friends, family and colleagues all noticed the difference in me after the retreat. This also made me LOVE yoga even though I was a beginner and didn’t think I had time for it before.

Retreats are not just holidays... they transform lives.

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Scotland... 'It's like the whole country is built just to fall in love with.'

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Scotland... 'It's like the whole country is built just to fall in love with.'

Today I have a wee treat for you guys, an interview with my pal Danielle who I used to work with and literally run the Fulbright Summer Institute back in the days. She is a Californian chick with a pen and a brilliant mind. Read her bio on the bottom of this page and follow her writings. 

Tell us a little bit about your stay in Scotland: why did you come here?

I came to Scotland to attend the University of Dundee in 2011, I lived in Dundee, Scotland until I graduated from uni in 2014. I've been back once since I graduated to visit the old stomping grounds. I was initially drawn to the culture and magicalness of the country, and now hold Scotland very near and dear to my heart. 

What was most striking thing you discovered when you moved here from California?

Trying to understand the thick accents when I first moved to Scotland was so difficult, I remember sitting in an english lecture and not being able to understand a word of what the professor was saying. I went and transferred out of the class right afterwards;-). After the initial shock, I quickly learned what "taking the piss" and "taking the mick" meant, and when I would visit California on break I would always get asked where I was from. 

Another pivotal moment was when my British friends taught me to make a perfect cup of tea. They used to recoil when I first made them tea, incredibly uneducated I would leave the tea bag in for way too long, drown it in milk and use completely the wrong spoon! The horrors;-)  

What made your heart melt? 

Scotland is a gorgeous country. The green hills and fields, crisp mornings, cold rough oceans and rugged landscapes. And that's not even mentioning the ancient castles scattered about the place. It's like the whole country is built just to fall in love with. 

What part of Scotland do you love the most and why?

I loved the people the most, but that's the next question. So I guess the next best thing would be the pub culture, how anytime is time for a pint. But more than the pint, it's just about connecting. After lectures, Friday nights, Sunday mornings, a sunny afternoon—there's always a reason to sit down with good company and enjoy a drink and a laugh. I loved slowing down and taking time to shoot the breeze. 

What did you think about the people? 

The Scottish people are so quick to crack a joke—at their own expense or someone else's—and to throw back a pint. It feels like the entire culture is built around sharing a pint. They are so friendly and welcoming and take SO much pride in their country, whilst simultaneously taking the absolute piss out of it (cue Trainspotting).

Your favourite whisky? :)

I might get in trouble for saying this, but I was really drawn to the Scottish gins over the whiskeys. While visiting different distilleries—especially Oban—was such a fun experience, I feel like the Scottish gins are really on the up and up. Especially the yummy gins from St. Andrews' Eden Mill. 

Are you coming back? 

While I don't have any definite plans at the moment for moving back to Scotland, I wouldn't say it's out of the picture. Scotland will always be a very special place and a second home to me. 


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Danielle Ames is a freelance writer who loves happy hour, getting sweaty, and a good sentence. 

A California native, she’s lived in Scotland, Italy, Thailand, and England, and wishes that list was much longer (and included Genovia).

Her accomplishments abroad include a string of bar jobs, and playing a key role in intoxicating the underaged over(fake)tanned Scottish population. 

She writes the blog Not Enough Middle Fingers

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Notes from the wonderland: Ben Vrackie adventures with the Kilted Yogi

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Notes from the wonderland: Ben Vrackie adventures with the Kilted Yogi

This week’s adventure was a fine walk up my favourite Ben Vrackie, the ‘speckled mountain`. The translation comes from a time when white quartz rocks were scattered across its slopes, which isn’t the case anymore but still reminds one of the most badass views I have ever seen.

It probably is one of the well known and much loved hills, not too high, not to tough and forms a scenic addition to the vibrant resort town of Pitlochry in Scottish Highlands.

It’s a Corbett as it’s just over 2,500ft high and measures 2,760ft. We literally had all four season in a space of 5-10minutes and at some point were almost swept off by wind, horizontal snow, rain and hailstorm. However, as you know in Scotland you just need to wait 5min and the weather changes! Waiting was worth it as when the sky cleared we could see all the way up Beinn a Ghlo range to the north and the sweep of Strathtay and Strathtummel to the west, including my other favourite Schiehallion. Below we could see the elegant Pitlochry with its stunning Atholl Palace Hotel, and further Glen Tilt and Blair Atholl.

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We started from a small car park at Moulin, close to the path taking us up. It can get quickly full at weekends and busy times of the year so be sure to arrive early. The whole walk takes normally between 3-4h but obviously we were longer as we were recording our vlog, and chasing Cooper who stole my bra! 

The path is very well maintained by Perth and Kinross Countryside Trust. I always like to check who maintains the paths and what group of rangers is assigned to the area we are in. I think their work is often unnoticed and unappreciated. So, next time when you decide to leave your trash behind, just stop for a deep breath and think about all those people carrying about our beautiful landscapes! Also, as a side note - do you know how long it takes a banana skin to decompose? Google it! While you are waiting for those bananas to break down, you would have enough time to apply and receive a passport! Impressive, right? The skin can be potentially toxic to some animals that aren’t accustomed to those tropical fruits so take it back with you.

Back to hillwalking tho, once you start your hike up, just trust the path! It’s very well-constructed and offers a delightful walk across the heather moorland. If you are early enough you may spot red deer as well as shy mountain hare and lots of wild mice (Cooper’s favourite to chase!). 

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If you are going up, make sure your are dressed for the weather! ( note that kilt is optional lol) Scottish hills may be tiny in comparison to the Alpes but should never be underestimated, people die here every year (a bit of light and positive comment always helps, eh?). You can see from the video how quickly the weather changed from a really sunny and warm day to storm and vice versa. On your way to Pitlochry you will pass Perth and a splendid and well equipped outdoor adventure store - Tiso. This is definitely a good stop if you haven’t got everything you need.

You always need a map, compass and it’s really good to take with you a copy of the iternary from Walk Highland’s webpage, it’s very informative and gives you all the info you need.

In the video I mention simple energy balls that Debbie and I make at our wellbeing retreats. I will post the recipe shortly. 

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Finally, I have been thinking about doing those super liberating, shameless taps aff pictures forever now. I will explain you my reason in another blog. HOVEWER, the little I knew that it’s never going to be so easy with a sighthound present on the scene! Just watch it yourself !

make sure you subscribe to Finlay’s channel as this is where all the future blogs are going to be and you don’t want to miss more opportunities to laugh. 

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Incredible yoga retreat in Poland - interview with Ashley

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Incredible yoga retreat in Poland - interview with Ashley

What was most memorable?

I’m not sure I could pick just one memorable moment, the whole retreat was fantastic, from moment of arrival to departure, everything was perfect. If I had to pick some highlights, then it would probably be the food and being away with some amazing people! 

How did you like the idea of an active holiday?

Using yoga as a way to energise and prepare you for the day and restorative yoga to wind down and relax.

The yoga was amazing, but it always is when Daria is teaching! Starting your day with yoga is fantastic, I always feel so much more energised and ready to take on the day. The afternoon yoga was fun and always a bit of a challenge and ending your day with restorative yoga was just bliss! 

What did you think of the food? Did you inspire you to try new yummy recipes? Did you learn something new about Polish cuisine? 

The food was probably the highlight of the whole trip, delicious 3 course meals, 3 times a day. I even ate mushrooms, which I usually hate but I couldn’t not try them when they were so fresh and beautifully presented!

We also had our own barista to make us coffee, absolute heaven! 

How did you like Kwaśne Jabłko?

The accommodation was wonderful, definitely a 10/10 from me. From the kitchen/dining area to the beautiful bedrooms, everything was just perfect! 

What did you think about the area?

Kwaśne Jabłko is very remote and is surrounded by beautiful Polish countryside. Didn’t see too much of the surrounding area but we went on a few walks which were lovely. You get a true sense of being secluded from the rest of humanity in a perfect little bubble of relaxed bliss, honestly the ideal retreat if you want to just get away to re-energise recharge. 

What was the weather like? 

The weather was fantastic, the sun shone from sunrise to sunset. Suncream was definitely needed! 

If you were to describe the retreat with one word, what would it be? 

Incredible

Want to join us in ur next summer adventure in Poland? we are there again in May 2019. Just click here to learn more. 

 

 

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More wilds of Glen Tilt

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More wilds of Glen Tilt

This was our little Easter Weekend treat - a whole weekend in Blair Atholl and more Glen Tilt. What a stunning area - I may seriously be in love by now. 

Queen Victoria called Glen Tilt 'the prettiest view she's ever seen' - and that says something, doesn't it?

The weather was gorgeous (despite really cold, wintery forecast) and the views over the Beinn Mheadhonach and later on over Carn a'Chlamain were breathtaking.

I was glad though we were safely nested in the Glen rather than climbing any of those big boys as it looked really icy up there. 

If you are interested in visiting the glen, look at WalkHighlands website. if you prefer a shorter walk, just as ours then just start at the Blair Castle, walk up to the Shooting Range and through it, and just follow the river. Walk as far as your legs allow you, preserve your strength for the journey back the same way though. Marble Lodge is around 5miles away from the castle and should take you around 3h to walk. 

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Wilds of Glen Tilt

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Wilds of Glen Tilt

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Glen Tilt is a little gem. Nested next to the stunning Blair Castle, offer you an idyllic woods, clear wild water and lofty peaks. 

This route is just a wee walk but absolutely stunning and worth the journey. The easiest way is to start from the car park just beyond the Old Bridge of Tilt (or just walk from the castle). Walking up the hill you see on the pictures with Cooper looking down can make you feel a little bit like Sisyphus rolling his immense boulder up the hill only for it to roll down when it nears the top. But luckily, once you are at the top, struggle is over and the rest of the journey is down hill.

You will be passing river Tilt as well as many little waterfalls which are just stunning. Be careful in spring as sheep are everywhere and you MUST keep your dogs on the lead. 

The whole route shouldn't take you more than 2hours 30 minutes. The tracks are good with paths. It's about 6km.  

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Ben Cleuch - pretty damn good idea for a adventurous hike.

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Ben Cleuch - pretty damn good idea for a adventurous hike.

Not a Munro, not even a Corbett but pretty damn good hill to walk. Ben Cleuch may not appeal to many as it's not on the 'list' of fancy pants mountains to climb but to me it was one of the most satisfactory hikes I have done for a while (I'm even eating my celebratory dark chocolate as I type this).

It is the highest point in the Ochil Hills - 721 metres (2,365 ft) high and can be approached from many directions. Today was such a wonderfully clear day, the views were excellent! Particularly those to the north looking towards the Southern Highlands. Ben Lomond and my second favourite - Ben Vorlich were especially prominent. Looking to the south gave excellent views over the Forth Valley region, the Forth bridges (the new Ferry Crossing!) and Edinburgh to the east, Glasgow to the west: almost a coast to coast view but not quite. I swear I could see Dundee at some point. 

I have used WalkHighlands for inspiration - if you want to follow my route just click here. They describe it really well, much better than if I attempted to write all of this down. 

Just be warmed - when they say 'steep' they really do mean freakishly STEEP! I was lucky Cooper the whippet was wearing his new Ruffwear harness as otherwise he would break his back. With the harness I was able to lift him and help him on some of the steeper parts. Otherwise he is a born mountain junkie and did very well for a wee whippet. 

 

 

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Barcelona Urban Adventure

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Barcelona Urban Adventure

We are just back from the amazing Barcelona, a beautiful and such vibrant city. While we were there Barcelona had a few major events: the Carnival, the Santa Eulàlia Festival and the first snow in decades! Apart of the snow that caught us by surprise the festival and the carnival just added more colour to our trip.

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Santa Eulàlia is the patron saint of Barcelona City and lived here in the Roman period. At the beginning of the 4th century the Roman Emperor Diocletian ordered the persecution of the Christians in his empire. This led to the 13 year old Eulàlia being arrested, tortured and finally crucified. This is the famous festival when the Castellers build human pillars.

Whereas the Carnival, is simply the time of joy, exuberance and joie de vivre, before Ash Wednesday when the 46-day Lent to Easter begins. We often didn't know what is celebrate at what time but certainly enjoyed the parades! 

When traveling to a city as exciting as Barcelona you must have a tour by a tour guide who can tell you stories no-one else knows. We were really lucky and got a very well incomes, funny and very entertaining guide who was able to talk not only about the history but also the past and current political situation in Catalonia.

The food of Spain is packed with flavour and character! I don't think I have ever eaten better guacamole.....

Finally, the views and the fun we had was never to be forgotten!

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Your yoga retreat experience - interview with Lisa

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Your yoga retreat experience - interview with Lisa

We are just back from the Barcelona retreat and can't wait to show you our pictures.  Lisa who attended the retreat is sharing today her experience ❤ 

What was your favourite thing about the retreat and why?

For me, it was the connections and friendships made with the other ladies on the retreat.  I loved that we had yoga in common among our very different lives.  We shared something about ourselves every evening over dinner as well as during our yoga practice.  There was a really sense of connection which grew over the days we spent together. 

How did you like the idea of active holiday - using yoga as a way to energise and prepare you for the day and restorative yoga to wind down and relax

The yoga teaching was excellent, very well prepared and thought out. The energising yoga in the morning woke us all up quickly and pleasantly, and I felt proud of myself for achieving challenging poses whilst the restorative yoga in the evening took away aches and pains from any walking and activities during the day.  The evening yoga also encouraged a lot of contemplation and rest, and therefore felt luxurious and special.  

What did you think about the city tour? Was it a good idea? Did you see & learned about the city more than if you did yourself? 

The city tour was interesting thanks to the expertise of the tour guide, who seemed to be passionate about history and about educating people.  It definitely helped me learn more about the city in a historical way, and added a new layer of interest.  I would not have had that perspective without the tour, and it's made me have a new appreciation for Barcelona and Spain as a whole.  

What did you think about Aire de Barcelona (Ancient Baths)

The Ancient Baths were incredible!  I would never dream of doing something like that normally. it was absolute indulgence. It felt like a different world and the experiences offered were great fun - the hot and cold baths and the freezing cold plunge pool to help enliven the body, then the rapid jacuzzi for sore muscles and the best of all - the sea salt pool to encourage floating and complete rest. It was Heaven. And I loved that the staff were so intuitive to our needs.  They provided everything, but their attention was unobtrusive.  

How did you feel about you finished your Aire de Barcelona experience

I thought that having it on the first day just a few hours after we arrived was the perfect way to set us up for the rest of the retreat. My energy levels switched immediately to calmness and I felt prepared.  It changed my mindset from frantic business into me-time.    

What did you think of the food? Did you inspire you to try new yummy recipes? 

The food definitely took me out of my comfort zone but in a fantastic way.  I have tried more different foods over the weekend than I have in years.  I normally hate cooking but it's inspired me to try many new things. My stomach feels better too and I've learnt more lots about my digestion and am now seeing food as medicine. I still can't believe we had vegan tacos made from banana skins! It was yummy. I now love coconut and soya milk, and have realised there are lots of veggie alternatives of foods I normally enjoy.  It was wonderful having the Las Ramblas market so close by too.  (Boqueria?) 

What did you learn? Was it an inspirational experience? 

The most important thing I learned is that the world will not end if I take time for myself.  I learned that art is very important to me, as I had time to visit the Picasso Museum and La  Sagrada Familia. Although I'm used to journalling and self-help, I felt very cared for and guided by Daria, who genuinely wants us to be the best we can be.  She is inspirational.  I drew strength from the belief she had in us.  It was a very nurturing weekend which pushed us to love ourselves more and try new things.  Thanks Daria ❤ 

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Best Christmas markets you must visit

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Best Christmas markets you must visit

Brussels, Belgium

If you want to turn your back on the grey skies and end-of-year blues, then come and enjoy an enchanted winter in Brussels! As the days get shorter, the city centre's countless illuminations twinkle delightfully through the darkness, warming up both hearts and hands. You can marvel at the magical Christmas market, the Winter Wonders giant Ferris wheel and many more. Let yourself be swept away by the magic of the giant Christmas tree and the sound and light show on the world's most beautiful square. Find that perfect Christmas present, spend the evenings snug and warm in the city's cosy cafés. There's everything you need to make your Christmas holidays in Brussels unforgettable.

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Wrocław, Poland 

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Wrocław hosts one of Poland's best and largest Christmas markets, stretching across two sides of Wrocław's market square, creating a festive atmosphere in the heart of the city. The fair features 'Bajkowy Lasek' (Fairy Tale Forest), where animated characters convey fairy tales to wide-eyed children, while their parents slip off to grab a glass of mulled wine and grilled ‘oscypek’ (sheep cheese from the Polish mountains). The vicinity of the Dwarf House features an illuminated sleigh with magic presents, Santa and many more. The Christmas Windmill in the Fairytale Wood, the Dwarf House itself and the Fireplace House in the northern frontage of the Market Square serve mulled wine, hot chocolate and other hot drinks and beverages. Yum! Finally, don't forget that there is also a mailbox by the Christmas tree where all letters and postcards will be sent all the way to Santa Claus.

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Maastricht, Netherlands

All year round, Maastricht is a wonderful city with that lovely, warm atmosphere. However, around Christmas, the city takes on that extra spellbinding edge. Under the slogan of "Magical Maastricht", the city goes into full Christmas mode. During Magical Maastricht, the historic inner city lits up in spectacular fashion. You can see the chandeliers at Plein 1992 and Markt squares and follow the special light path across the river Meuse via Sint Servaasbrug bridge and the Hoge Brug. And be sure to stop to admire the light animation of the 200 mistletoes in the trees on Onze Lieve Vrouweplein square. The beautiful lighting ties all the squares and streets together and puts the convivial Christmas atmosphere at the centre of things. So go ahead, visit the Christmas market, go skating on the ice rink on Vrijthof square and see the sea of lights from the top of the Ferris wheel. 

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Würzburg, Germany

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Würzburg Christmas Market: is located in the heart of Würzburg's Old Town one of Germany’s most picturesque and enchanting Christmas Markets. It may be small but attracts thousands of visitors every year. The Christmas market tradition dates back to the early 19th century. The historic market square with its Gothic Chapel of St Mary and its abundance of Baroque architecture provide a scenic backdrop for over 100 wooden stalls. Go ahead and choose from handmade holiday decorations ranging from artful glass, straw, pewter and pottery to wooden toys.

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 Edinburgh, Scotland 

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And finally, our very own Edinburgh! If you missed any of the European destinations there's plenty going on in Scotland's capital to celebrate. Just go and tumble into a magical winter wonderland in the centre of our fairytale city. Edinburgh's market brings Christmas and Hogmanay together in a magical explosion of twinkling lights, enchanting sounds, mouth-watering flavours and lots of fun and laughter.

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In addition to the Princess Street Gardens fun, the west end of George Street is being transformed into a magical winter wonderland this year. The Ice Adventure is an immersive walk-through arctic installation, filled with spellbinding sculptures guaranteed to take your breath away.

You can take a tour of Scotland with life-like sculptures of Vikings, fairies and Kelpies, Highland cows, eagles and Dolly the Sheep, Robert the Bruce, Mary Queen of Scots and Greyfriars Bobby. Look carefully, and you may also catch a glimpse of the elusive Loch Ness Monster!

Once you've explored the ice sculpture extravaganza, warm up with a dram at the ice bar.

Please note: markets are open from 10am - 10pm. Markets open at 1pm on 18 November, close at 8pm on 24 December, are closed 25 December, open 12pm 26 December and 1 January.

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Living wild and free - a dolphin tale

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Living wild and free - a dolphin tale

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In my WHOLE underwater life this particular moment is and will be the most amazing and memorable! A few days ago an entire herd of free and absolutely wild dolphins 🐬 casually swam right next to us. Being the usual curious selves, they came to say hello, kept a vigilant watch as there were babies with them and then they peacefully left! This is why nature is most amazing when you do not force it or try to captivate what should be free! ⠀

Egypt has some of the most abundant marine sightings, not only beautiful coral and fish but dolphins, even whales and orcas. You can see why this is a true kingdom for divers. 

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Most of us want to swim with dolphins but the question is do dolphins want to swim with us? Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t, and we need to respect that. Dolphins are highly sociable animals, they may approach people in the wild because they are naturally curious and may investigate unfamiliar objects in their habitat, but this can potentially be dangerous for both humans or the dolphins, so be mindful!It is illegal and very dangerous to harass, feed, chase and TOUCH any marine animals in the wild. Everywhere , not only here in Egypt. Close contact with humans may be really distressing and touching them may spread our germs that those mammals aren't used to fight off.

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I am passionate about responsible tourism (as you probably noticed if you read my previous blogs) and preserving this unique area was important for us. Dolphins are not only beautiful, they are an important part of a very complex and fragile ecosystem. They are an indicator species, being a barometer for the health of the waters they live in. Providing a safe and peaceful place for those amazing animals to live and raise their babies, have sufficient amount of natural food, clean water and air should be the main goal and responsibility for all of us, whether residents or visitors. That's why swimming past rubbish or worse, throwing it off your boat is absolutely unacceptable! Mind that next time you go off traveling.

Here is a great article about swimming with dolphins: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8572855.stm

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There are many different species of dolphin in the seas and oceans of the world but the most likely you will encounter in the Red Sea is the Bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) which are most common, Spinner dolphin (Stenella longirostris) and Risso's dolphin (Grampus griseus), which lives in steep slopes that drop below 300m.

Along with whales, dolphins are collectively known as cetaceans. They are highly intelligent and social creatures that share distinctive aspects of all mammals, such as breathing with lungs, nursing their babies and creating complex social relationships. Interestingly, they are not fish and should not be confused with the fish called dolphin (also called Dorado or mahi mahi). This fish inhabits warm temperate and tropical waters around the world. It is a beautiful, colorful and sadly edible. But it is NOT related to any of the dolphins species.

Did you know that dolphins never sleep? Unlike with humans, their breathing is conscious and voluntary, so should they go to sleep like we do or should they loose consciousnesss due to an accident, their respiration would stop and they would die. Apparently, they rest one hemisphere of their brain at a time.

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Another fact that I found interesting is that unlike other mammals, dolphins have adapted to long periods of apnea and can reach great depths without encountering problems of embolism. Can you imagine if we could do this? Dive with no decompression stops? I would certainly love this as still have tendency to descent too fast and suffer of a massive headache.  

Before we came to Egypt, I did a little research about dolphins living in captivity and learned even more while being here. Captive dolphins are kept hungry as this ensures that they perform. From what I have experienced working with other wild animals, it looks as this is the case with all wild animals in captivity.  Dolphins in the wild do not jump through hoops, eat dead fish, wave, kiss or drag people through the water as they hold onto their fins. Can you imagine how it must feel to do something over and over again against your will?

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Wild dolphins constantly travel, covering thousands of miles every year experiencing a wide diversity of natural habitat and the freedom to deep dive. Just imagine being confined to a small, unnatural pool, with somebody taking away all your freedom and then making you perform.

It also looks like most dolphins held in captivity were captured from the wild. I don't even have to ask you how would you feel kidnapped? Not to mention that many Dolphins die prematurely in captivity and there is a much higher rate of infant mortality. I don’t know about you, but the idea of baby dolphins dying for my so-called entertainment horrifies me. Orcas (which are part of the dolphin family) in captivity suffer from stress, become aggressive and often chew the bars at the side of their small tanks.  Over 90% of Seaworld’s Orcas have not survived past 25 years. In the wild, a female orca can live up to 80-90 years. Think about it.

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Dolphins are a common sight in all areas of the Red Sea, from Taba down to Sudan. Swimming with wild dolphins is very different to swimming with captive ones, the latter being confined ... Maybe because of this, it is even more rewarding to see them living free and happy. To me it was a highlight of my stay in Egypt, and one of the most amazing memories I have collected over the years. It literally made me cry of happiness seeing those babies swirling in the water past me, feeling free and happy to do what ever they want to do.

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A little bit of sunshine - Egypt for people starved of sun

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A little bit of sunshine - Egypt for people starved of sun

Every year, my husband and I wander off to a wee holiday not organised and planned by us but FOR us. This is the only time of the year when we don't take our laptops and our brains aren't 100% focused on work, research and the business.  This year we decided that Egypt will be a great destination. I won't even lie, the sun was the main factor! If you live in Scotland, this is the easiest and the shortest flight before you can dive in the sea comfortably without turning purple with cold.

Egypt has had a lot of bad press lately. With the plane crash two years ago, the terrorist attacks and the Lybian conflict right around the corner it really dropped it's 'cool' status (and the currency). The country was really hit by the declined tourism and people here felt it considerably. As it was a holiday, we decided to relax in Hurghada and forget about the stress of being in the exciting Cairo.

The reason why we went to Hurghada and not the popular Sharm El Sheikh is because we couldn't get there without difficulties. Sharm, which has been a belowed winter sun destination for the British for years, remains in crisis in the aftermath of the crash of a St Petersburg-bound flight shortly after take off in 2015. Since then, Sharm el Sheikh has been all but off limits.

Interestingly, while much of Egypt is currently deemed unsafe for visitors, the FO does not currently warn against travelling to the popular tourist areas. However, there are no direct flights or tours. So, in theory, you can enjoy a holiday at the resort, if only you could reach it. Which is sad for the Egyptian people living here as lack of business means lack of food on their table. Durning our travels here we met multiple Egyptians born outside those resort cities, who were affected by the attacks and now all of them are here in Hurghada trying to make living.

This is why violence is so short sighted. It kills innocent souls and dooms generations.

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North Korean hell on earth - a small country isolated from the rest of the world.

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North Korean hell on earth - a small country isolated from the rest of the world.

Last September I visited South Korea and went to the Demilitarised Zone. I have learned of propaganda, extreme horror, poverty, nuclear tests and crimes against people. It was one of the most eye opening experiences I have had in my life and that was just a glimpse of the truth that sits behind the North Korean borders. 

North Korea is one of the world’s most repressive countries. The grotesque dynasty that rules the country can’t even feed their own people whose basic freedom and access to needs have been severely restricted. After the collapse in 1945 of the Japanese empire, the Soviet Red Army occupied the north, and the U.S. occupied the south. The Soviets installed a really obscure Korean communist, Kim Il-sung as leader of North Korea and that’s when it got from bad to worse. Worshipping Kim Il-sung and his son and now even his grandson, as Korean gods became part of the state religion. While being there I couldn’t help to notice how with that Soviet invasion once one country became divided. It’s just horrific to watch how one side is growing and evolving into one of the most powerful economies of the world and the other is literally starving. 

North Korea operates secret prison camps where people are violently tortured, abused and forced into hard labour. It follows a 'three generations of punishment' rule, meaning that if one person violates the law or is send to prison, their children, parents and grandparents are send to work with them.

This really is a closed society and most its people live in extreme poverty. If you google satellite pictures of Asia at night you won’t even see North Korea as people barely have electricity there! The Internet is limited to a very small circle of the elite. They also have their own operating system and the content is pre-filtered by the state. They can’t wear blue jeans, watch Hollywood movies, read other than pre-approved books and people can be jailed simply for not being sufficiently upset after death of their leader.

The Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) is literally world’s most dangerous border that splits the Korean peninsular in half creating a buffer zone between North and South Korea. You can read about it online and learn its history so I am not going to repeat it here. You will find there several buildings with rooms on both the North and the South side. These rooms provide a relatively neutral platform for face-to-face political negotiations between both Koreas. If they can ever get it organised tho… 

Before we got there we had a little lecture where the rules were clearly established: there is a strict dress code; don’t point here, don’t wave there: no laughing or giggling: don’t provoke the North Koreans, as they will definitely shoot you: sign this waiver as you’re heading into a volatile area and you may get killed (!!!). Finally, we can only stay the for five minutes as it’s too dangerous otherwise and you will have 30 seconds to take a picture. At some point it all felt a little bit funny, almost like our tiny group of visitors would immediately cause a nuclear war. I don't think anyone really understood or believed the seriousness of the situation. At least not until we got to the boarder and they asked us to stand in one line, facing the North and having the guns pointed at us..my blood froze. 

Afterwards when we drove to a safe viewing point, the solider who was with us managed even a smile and told us about a fake propaganda village called Kijong-dong that was built in the 1950’s after the Korean war to put up the front of a peaceful, prosperous place and to encourage people from the South to defect. I really couldn’t look past the irony in North Korea going to these lengths to create the idea of heaven on earth and the only place where people can be truly free. In reality, the buildings had no glass in their windows and the electric lights (a luxury that is unheard of to rural North Koreans) were operated on an automatic timer and propaganda music was played at all times. There was also a flag that grows every year to always be bigger and higher than the one on the South Korean side. 

Interestingly there is a wee village inside the DMZ with less than 50 homes and only approximately 200 people. The only people who can populate the village are direct descendants of the people who were there originally. The soldiers said that this is the richest village in the whole South Korea as they are being subsidised and don’t pay taxes.

Another interesting fact is that North Korea build a number of infiltration tunnels with one being as close as 44 km away from South Korean capital! We went to one of them and it was crazy to see how close they managed to get. They even had the guts to deny creating them.

North Korea invests most of its money in nuclear weapons and while we are there, they successfully carried out their fifth nuclear test, which was against the UN's resolutions! South Korean soldiers informed us that it was the North's biggest-ever test, raising fears they have made significant nuclear advances. Not to mention how disturbing it felt to be there while the whole peninsula was shaken by the underground explosion. 

The tragedy of Korea is that no one really wishes or can change its current situation. China wants to keep North Korea as a buffer state, and fears millions of refugees spilling over its boarders. The South Koreans could never afford to absorb North Korea and survive economically. And no-one else would pay to clean up the mess. Look what is happening with Syrian refugees who are fighting for their right to live and no one wants to truly help.

This video went viral in Hong Kong where we were just a few days ago. This young lady shares her story and urges people to not be ignorant, to ask questions, to educate themselves about the situation in North Korea, to help! As otherwise the North Korea’s population will continue to suffer tyranny, and the fear of nuclear war will still be there. 

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Sak yant thai tattoo

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Sak yant thai tattoo

At 3.30am I was already in a taxi on my way to an unknown Thai temple, with an unknown taxi driver who didn't speak a word in English and I didn't know any Thai. At that point, I was only hoping that I won't spend 3h driving to then discover that the taxi driver took me to a complete opposite direction as he misunderstood the address I’ve given him. One thing that you have to know while traveling around Asia (whether it is Thailand or big cosmopolitan Hong Kong) you need your desired address written in the native language otherwise you won't get anywhere. This is obviously completely understandable as why do everyone have to speak English? It also adds that extra spice to the whole experience, doesn't it? 

2,5h hours later and I noticed characteristic orange robes appearing every now and then on the sleepy streets of one of the Thai villages we were passing by. We were at the right location! Thai temples are incredible, this culture takes their Gods really seriously. 

We were allowed to go inside just after 8:30am. Regardless how early you arrive, Thai people always go first (that's also fair, Sak yant thai tattoo is not strictly speaking a tourist attraction). You need to donate a gift to the Gods and you can get it from the Tempe. It's just a small bunch of fresh flowers and a pack of cigarets (mainly for the monk not for the Gods). All comes up to 75 baht (equivalent of £2 and don't try to give more, they will give it back to you). 

Thai monks are not allowed to touch, look or speak to a woman, so I was fully aware this mission may be a big failure. After 4hours of waiting I was asked to come closer, use the pillow and kneel. I was the only woman in the room and everything smelled of instances and sweat. It’s not a tattoo parlour or a shopping centre - you don't get the choice what design you are going to get. The monk prays to the Gods and asks them what blessing is most needed in your life. What is missing and how to protect you. You only know your tattoo is going to be on your back and it's going to hurt as it's made by a simple bamboo stick with a needle, not a professional tattooing equipment. They use a different needle but the same ink, they also do it on the floor and don't disinfect your skin (or their hands). You are being held by two men and not allowed to move. After the tattoo is finished the monk prays and lets you go. 

When I finally emerged out of the Temple, my taxi driver was still there (thank heavens!) waiting with a tube of Vaseline to cover the tattoo (something I didn’t consider myself as I have never had done one before). Thai people are very honest, if they say they do something, they will. I will always be very grateful for this man waiting in the heat until this whole experience is over and not laving me in the middle of nowhere, a bit overwhelmed, sore and with no clear idea how I am going to get home.

Sak yant thai tattoo is a type of Yantra tattooing. Every tattoo consists of sacred designs and phrases that offer strength, protection, fortune and other benefits for the bears. Each of the five lines of the Hah Taew Yant that I have, carries a different meaning. Each of them symbolises powerful and sacred blessing of protection. 

Why did I do it? At that point of my life, I needed a powerful affirmation that everything is going to be ok. That I am protected against all the evil, that I won’t be hurt again. It's been a few years now and every time I get a glimpse of my tattoo, either in the mirror or on the picture, I know this is going to protect me. I always have that powerful feeling in my gut, feeling of strength and confidence that my life is going in the right direction. We all have ways of fighting the fear, this was mine. 

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oh Cambodia...

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oh Cambodia...

Oh Cambodia…you really surprised me!

Before I decided to travel to Cambodia, I researched all the ‘must see’ places. Viewed countless pages of beautiful, green, heavenly pictures on Google and was eager to spend there as much time as I could, absorbing its freshness and beauty.  I was aware that it is a different world. Interestingly, even one of the Jack Reacher's books that we were reading while traveling across Asia mentions a ride from Vietnam through Cambodia to Thailand: 'Thailand was different [to Cambodia]. When he [Victor Hobie, the villain] passed the boarder [with Cambodia], it was like stepping out of the Stone Age. There were roads and vehicles. The people were different.'*

Cambodia is still light years behind Thailand in terms of infrastructure, education, mentality and HYGIENE (this last one requires multiple exclamation marks)! If you cross the boarder on land and won’t travel on organised, pre-paid luxury vacation then what you see is going to be a rough, partly rural, still struggling with its position in the world, Cambodia. Which is unique and worth experiencing. But what surprised me was that weirdly at times it felt very modern and at the same time still stuck in it's old habits and believes, definitely still very Communist country where dollar will even buy you a smile or help with starting a motorbike. Law is constantly manipulated (or bills are passed) to fill up pockets of the Mafia. At times it felt as we were instantly bribing people to do simple, basic things. Sadly, reality hit us very early: it’s all about the $. I think this was the most upsetting part. I have been to many Asian countries but everywhere I have been people were lovely, genuine and helpful. Here none cared unless you paid for it. 

We have used this website for traveling information: http://www.seat61.com/Cambodia.htm# .VWBjmGDfZUQ. It's pretty accurate, although I would definitely urge you to go and double check the times as some of them may be a little bit out of date. But everything, including the epic train ride from Bangkok to Poipet for 49 baht (equivalent of a £1) with not only live but also dead stock, are correct. I'm still struggling to clean all the dirt and dust from my bags and clothes. Oh and make sure you bring a bandana, as there are no roads so prepare yourself for being fully covered in red dust.

We basically did the Bangkok to Siem Reap, Siem Reap to Phnom Penh trips according to the website, and then after Phnom Penh we decided to break the pattern and travel south along the coast.  

I feel though as I haven't been there long enough to explore the true beauty of this country. All I saw is dust, burnt fields and struggled to experience the green beauty I saw online. One of my adventurous friends did a dirt bike trip around Cambodia and her pictures are just stunning (although they confirm the overwhelming red sand). Cambodia is also home to Cambodian Elephant Park, a place definitely worth visiting! 

* Lee Child, Tripwire - Jack Reacher 3, 2011

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Crossing the boundaries of my comfort zone

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Even as an intensity junkie I can honestly admit that diving is the most challenging activity I have ever done in my life. Usually when we consider persuing new advanterous activities we keep it safe and only approximately 50% is outside the actual comfort zone. That's why we go for it! Our body can relate with at least some parts of whatever we have chosen to do and our gut is telling us to just do it. For instance, if you start your driving lessons, you've probably already spent your entire childhood riding a bike, maybe a motorbike when you were a teenager, but most importantly - you were a passenger since your first ride from the hospital as a new born. It's still scary but your body remembers how you should feel and quickly picks up the new skills and creates new habitual responses to the challenge. How exciting it is to go for the very first spin?

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To me diving was incredibly challenging, I honestly wasn't even aware how challenging it's going to be. Millions of people do it, so I should be able to do it too, right? What I didn't know was that I'm crossing not only my normal 50% but I'm light years beyond that bar.  I have never been deeper than perhaps a pool depth, never used this sort of equipment: confining me to a mask, an air tank and lots of tubes - the only items that keep me alive. I have never been confronted by so many different factors, never voluntarily stepped into an alternative realm where gravity laws work differently than on the surface, where the pressure is making your entire body shrink, sound and light travel in a new way and  creatures that you would normally only see in zoo or 'Finding Nemo' poke your forehead! 

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Even the pool training does not prepare you for what you experience when you descent for the very first time. My first ever dive was at the USS Liberty wreck in Tulamben, one of the most stunning diving spots in Bali. It was exhilarating and scary at the same time.  Absolutely overwhelming experience and I'm pretty sure I forgot half of the things I was supposed to do! I was just staring at this brand new world uncovering in front of me while allowing my body to slowly go deeper and deeper under the surface of the water. Afterwards I couldn't even summarise all the emotions running through my body (and slept like a rock that night). I had to come back to the same location a few days later to actually see the wreck (well, just the first 18 meters as this is how deep my licence allows me to go) and that was a completely different experience. Years ago I thought that doing a yoga teacher training was a challenging experience, well, in a comparison that feels so simple. I'm sure that in a few years time I will find another challenge and announce to my students that I'm disappearing again for 3 months to start another adventure! Crossing the boundaries of your own comfort zone, throwing yourself into something you think you can't handle shakes your inner equilibrium, shows you how much more there is to explore, how amazing the world and the life is and makes you feel alive and in control of your own world! So, yes, be scared but DO IT ANYWAY!

Oh and I even saw a shark and a giant tortoise! 

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An elephant lover's perspective on elephant tourism in Thailand

When I first decided to travel to Thailand and volunteer at the Elephant Nature Park (ENP) I knew that I was an animal lover. I knew that I wanted to help the park care for those amazing beings and that it was my chance to get an incredible insight into their life. What I didn't know is that my whole concept of being an animal lover and my perception of what that meant would change radically.

When people visit Thailand they quite often have two things on their 'to do' list that relate to the elephants. One is to ride an elephant and the other is to buy an elephant painting. However, what many people don't realise is that there is a dark side to elephant tourism.

I'm told that most elephants in Thailand now live in captivity. Since the logging industry was banned (which doesn't mean it doesn't exist anymore, it is just illegal now) a large number of them can be found either on the streets of Bangkok begging or being used to entertain tourists.

The poo.

The poo.

Most of an elephant's day is spent eating food. They get through 150-300kg (!!!) of food each day and drink a similar quantity of water. My primary role at ENP (apart from scooping poo) was preparing food every day, for hours and hours! There simply is no way that a private owner, street beggar or average Thai villager could afford the amount food needed to nourish an elephant and keep them sustained.

Elephants are not meant to beg or walk on concrete streets! Or do circus tricks. Or paint. Their feet are extremely sensitive so all the vibrations, noise, pollution, people and dogs makes them scared and confused. Added to that, they experience hunger, dehydration and the fear of being beaten. Their sensitive ears are easily damaged, especially when they are used to control the elephant. The food purchased from local sellers has often been treated with chemicals and can cause the elephants serious stomach problems.

So, how do you actually make a big and powerful animal such as an elephant so afraid of such a tiny human? No wild animal would let you ride them. In order to make a wild animal so submissive, you need to torture it as a baby to completely break its spirit. The process is called Phajaan, and is still being used in Thailand. It involves taking baby elephants away from their mothers and confining them in a very small space, like a cage or hole in the ground where they're unable to move. The baby elephants are then beaten into submission with clubs, pierced with sharp bull-hooks and starved and deprived of sleep for many days. At the end of this process they become trekkers, loggers, street beggars, artists, or clowns.

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ENP is not ideal. Lek (the founder) and all of the people who have worked there, including me, are aware of that. Lek views this place as a retirement home. A lot of the animals are old and have been used in the logging industry. Some have been beaten and tortured. Some of them have had their feet blown up by mines, or have been used for illegal/forced breeding. Lek's goal is to give them a space to live out the remainder of their lives in safety, peace and quiet. Of course, it's not the same as them being in the wild. Yes, they still have a Mahout walking close to them (although Lek forbids them to use any sharp object or cruel punishments). Finally, yes, this approach does create another problem as people try to sell their old elephants to ENP for a ridiculous amount of money.

One of the saddest moments I had during my stay at ENP was when I was just sitting and watching these guys in a semi-natural habitat was realising that their life was full of disappointments and loses. Would you have wished that life for anyone? I'd ask anyone thinking of travelling to Thailand to properly research elephant tourism before they travel and make informed decisions about the appropriateness of their plans.

Now, some more positive stuff.

Poo (really!). Babies can't digest cellulose so they get it from faeces. If you see a mother shovelling poo into their kid's mouth, don't panic! Interestingly, they are quite happy to eat it from a known bum, but they won't go near a random pile of poo;) It's also a good place to hide if you see a bunch of eles running your way.

Touch. Rescued elephants really don't like people touching them. It this reminds them of being beaten. They may let you touch them if you are holding a banana as an elephant will never refuse a good banana (an elephant is always hungry;) However, they don't like random strangers touching their trunk, would you have liked if someone started petting your nose? Between one another, they are incredibly affectionate.

Mosquito bites. An elephant's skin is unbelievably thick, but a mosquito bite can send them into a scratching hysteria!

Sleep. They do lie down sometimes. It's rare and hard to see as they only sleep a few hours a night, but serves as a really good alarm clock when your home is right next to where they stay!

They are extremely shy animals and are happiest in their own company. The bond between elephants can be extremely strong. They also communicate with each other in such a loving way! Imagine yourself cuddling with your partner - elephants like a good cuddle too! Who doesn't? 

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Wanderlust

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My last flight is booked. I've had a dozen vaccinations and I feel like a biology experiment! My medical insurance is ‘almost’ sorted and my visas are being processed. Surprisingly, even my accountant has finally stopped telling me off.

I'm about to study Thai massage. I'm going to visit my favourite elephant sanctuary, travel across Asia visiting all those people who I miss dearly. I'll be teaching and practicing yoga. I'm going to experience Tibetan culture, and will probably bring back with me another tattoo. I'm going to challenge myself, move out of my comfort zone and create unforgettable memories.

So, this is the list of all the places I'm going to visit. When it's written down like this it's intimidating, but also how exciting! 

Thailand -> Laos -> Cambodia  -> Vietnam -> Burma -> (still trying to squeeze this one in!) -> Bangkok -> Singapore -> Bali -> Kuala Lumpur -> Nepal (teaching yoga!!) -> India (more yoga)

I'm pretty sure that at one point or another my friends will get either a sobbing FaceTime message or a random paradise/handstand picture! But it will be worth it. Susan Sontag once wrote: "I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.”

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
— Mark Twain

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