Let me tell you what it feels like to actually quit your stable job, get on a plane two weeks later, and fly to a remote island with two dozen strangers. It’s frightening.
I’m not the most sociable person, nor the most friendly. And to be honest, it wears me out trying to make conversation with just one unfamiliar face, let alone 25 others. Safe to say, I was definitely having second thoughts about this so called “adventure.” But I pushed through. I signed up for a month-long Ashtanga Vinyasa Teacher Training in Koh Phangan, Thailand. And despite most of my friends and family expressing how dangerous it could possibly be, I packed my yoga mat and 400 grams of freshly ground coffee, and left for the beautiful island.
Arriving in Koh Phangan was one of the most heart pumping experiences I’ve ever had.
I arrived at the pier. My backpack weighing me down, the straps pulling down hard on my shoulders. I felt every piece of cloth, drop of shampoo and fiber of the mat I’d packed. It was scorching hot, the sun’s rays seemed to be beaming extra hard on the island that day. I looked down at my outfit: jeans, white sneakers, a gray crop top, and a wind breaker? I shook my head at how stupid the idea of needing a wind breaker seemed at that point. Looking around, everyone was wearing shorts, tube tops, bikinis and a few men were shirtless.
Yeah, I felt quite stupid. Brush it off, I said to myself, there are shorts and slippers in my bag. My bag. The bright orange backpack that seemed to be getting heavier and heavier by the second. Did I put in a pack of rocks that I forgot about? I’ll have to check that later.
Walking around the pier, no one seemed to know where my resort was. They kept pointing at different directions. My head was spinning, and the heat was getting really unbearable. My shoulders, now numb, from the big boulders I must have placed in my bag. Then out of the crowd of people, someone shouts, “All Yoga Thailand?” a couple of times.
Finally, I was on the same page as someone. I recognize what someone was saying. I smile and say Yes! Yes!! That’s me!!
I follow her and a couple of other people, two of them drunk and stuttering, mind you, into an old, creaky boat that seemed to be more for fishing than for taking tourists from one point to another. I hopped on, as I was sticking to my new-found friend who seemed to be the only one who knew where I was going or what I was saying. I wasn’t prepared for this. I was pretty sure, in my head, my arrival would be much smoother and calmer.
I looked ahead, to the drunk man who was laughing and spitting into the ocean, and to his friend beside him, who was dipping his hands into the ocean, splashing water everywhere. They both seemed like they hadn’t showered. I will definitely skip this part of the trip when I email my parents later that night. “It was a nice, scenic boat trip, although bumpy at times,” I decided, was how I would describe it to them.
It was a definite eye opener when we finally arrived. It took me a few hours of silence and meditation before I gathered enough enthusiasm to head back out to meet my new life for the next four weeks.
Our days consisted of 6:30 a.m. meditation sessions, morning yoga practice, a couple hours of lectures, and a final yoga practice at 5 in the afternoon to end the day. This happened six times a week, with one day off.
Now this may sound like I’m complaining, but I’m just stating facts here. Every second was a struggle for me. Like I said, I’m frightened by unfamiliar faces and having to make conversation out of thin air. No matter how hard I try, it just doesn’t come naturally to me. I look around in a crowded room, and that is when I feel most alone. I’m a little awkward and a lot shy. But one thing was for sure, I was going to try my very best to push my limits and make something of my adventure. I had to, I dropped everything to make it happen.
The next four weeks after that went by faster than I had expected.
I set my mind to experiencing this new world around me. And although I still felt alone, suddenly and surprisingly, my heart was full at all the new things I was learning, and all the stories I was hearing from new people coming from all faces of the world.
All these different personalities, different languages and different phases and faces came together for this four week learning experience. It wasn’t just yoga that brought us all together, it was the search for a new life, a change, something was missing in our lives that made us reach for this piece that was going to take us one step closer to completing our puzzle.
There’s no other way to describe that moment, when you realize that we had all dropped our normal lives for the unfamiliar. Those days, weeks, and everything in between were moments only we would share and understand. It was extremely humbling and heart warming.
I found that the key is to take a moment, learn to breathe and calm all the unnecessary thoughts entering your head, and find something good about what you’re feeling at that moment, and something good your eyes are seeing at that second. You will always find something, I can assure you. So that was exactly what I did every morning after taking my coffee. I slowly found peace with being where I was, doing what I was doing, and being with who I was with, at that moment.
Now I wish I could say that those lessons I learned stayed with me every day. I still have days where I just want to sit in a corner, turn off the lights and cry. I quit my job to journey into an unforgettable adventure. I expected it to be the start of my new life. It wasn’t. I’m still finding my pieces to the puzzle I thought would miraculously fall together by taking my trip. I’m wading through rough waters that don’t seem to slow down enough to let me catch a break.
But that’s okay. Everything will happen in my own time, and I’ll get there with a cup of coffee in hand. I’ve come to realize that it’s not only about taking the leap, coming out of your shell, or going on that grand adventure, you don’t need big breakthroughs to lead you to success, but constant improvements that guide you to where you need to be.
All photos courtesy of Ysabel Yupangco Pascual.