Wednesday 24 May 2017

A constant state of flux

I've been travelling for two months and I haven't posted anything about my time yet despite saying, 'yes, of course I'll blog about my travels'. This is mainly because I didn't bring my laptop with me so that I could spend my time taking everything in instead of constantly sitting behind a screen. It was also partly because I didn't just want to bang loads of pictures up and talk about all the pretty places I've seen.

I've decided that when I write about my solo travel journey, I want to share my experiences, feelings, things that I've learnt as well as say 'hey, look at what I've seen'. So many travel posts make the world look great but you don't get the real feel for what's going on along the way. What it really feels like to put your life on hold back home and book a one way ticket to New Zealand with no real plan.

I meet backpackers regularly and the subjects we connect on the most are often about what's going on inside our heads rather than which amazing places we've ticked off our list. This has been the most wonderful part of travel so far and one of the main reasons I decided to go for it. Connections. A theme that I'm currently working through is one where these connections are always coming and going.

You can make meaningful friendships within days hours when you're on the move and then within an instant, you find yourself saying goodbye, lump in your throat, flutter in your chest... Everyone and everything is so transient and it makes you realise the impermanence of all things physical.

I think about my life back at home and remember how I was done with routine and 'regular' life. Craving instead, adventure and freedom. You don't realise until you're out here, how freedom to do what you want can actually be quite challenging. To allow yourself to 'shake up the snow globe and let the snowflakes fall where they may'. Credit to my yogi hero, Adriene Mishler for that gem. I get what it means now.

You get so comfortable with routine that when you give in to going with the flow, like really going with the flow, not knowing what each day is going to pan out like but to just allow yourself to see what unfolds, it's actually a little bit scary.

Where am I gonna go next? How long should I stay there? Should I go with him? Maybe I should do it by myself? I don't actually know what I should do. 

These are all thoughts and questions that go through every traveller's mind. This constant state of flux is both liberating and daunting. On one hand you're like 'yay, I can do anything I want!' but then on the other you're thinking, 'what the fuck am I gonna do now?'

Learning to accept what is and surrender to these feelings is the only thing you can do. Nothing is permanent and everything is subject to change. Whether you are travelling or not. Travelling shoves this notion right up in your face and you know what? It actually makes you better at dealing with change. You get used to it. You get to this point where you understand that you just have to take each moment in when you're in it and be grateful for every opportunity you're given and that way you'll stay grounded when your head and heart are all over the place.

I've only been here two months and I've made some truely meaningful friendships. Some for the purpose of that moment only and some that I will carry with me and pick up again at another point in my life. An amazing gift of travel is that you make friends all the time. The word 'stranger' is becoming less relevant to me. The word 'connection' more relevant. It sucks hugging people goodbye after you've had some great (and sometimes bad) experiences with them, but I'm glad to know now from experience that I'll make more incredible friends along the way. Connection is awesome.

Thank you to all my travel companions who have contributed to making my journey so epic thus far. If I have to go home tomorrow then I will always have fond memories of seeing a friend that I haven't seen in over a year, conversations about what really matters, guitars and gravelly voices, late night boat rides accompanied by the ethereal notes of a harp, sunset boat rides and a hike up Rangitoto Island in the pitch black, hot tubs... so many hot tubs, laughing because it's so fricking cold at night and there's nothing else you can do, feijoa cider and Old China ginger liquor, singing along to the radio and thinking I can actually sing, waving at other campervan passengers and getting super happy when they wave back, bubbles, crazy purple and orange sunsets, swimming in geothermal pools when it's pissing it down, dying when I'm trying to climb a mountain and being pissed off because my travel buddy has stormed off and left me, getting to said mountain and being like 'woah', realising you've been in the same place before at the same time as someone you've just met and then talking for four hours, food! So much good food... I could go on but my point is, making connections is ace and I look forward to meeting the people on my journey that I'm yet to meet.

Just love

Rina xoxo

P.S. Here are some really cool pictures of a few of the pretty places I've been.


Monday 31 October 2016

Lessons on a different kind of love

This is a story about love.

When we were growing up my sister and I weren't allowed to have any pets. A couple of goldfish was as far as we could take it but mum was freaked out by anything with fur. So as we grew into adults we never really felt compelled to take in a pet. Then, one December day something happened.

The weather was awful that weekend. The rain just kept falling constantly. My sister had come back home to spend some time with me and my parents as she was ill. We were all cooped up inside having our cups of tea in the morning, nothing out of the ordinary really, but then my dad opened the front door to the sound of a cat meow coming from the bonnet of my car. As I rushed upstairs to get my car keys, a muddy coloured blur brushed past my legs and came to a halt in my parent's room. 'It's a kitten!' I yelled. He stood and looked at me and as I scooped him up he wasn't frightened or stressed. In fact, when I took him downstairs he greeted everyone with a little headbutt on their legs or hands. He looked remarkably comfortable in our home and we all kept admiring how perfect he looked.

A gorgeous, brown tabby without a ruffle anywhere on his fur considering he was calling out in distress from being stuck somewhere in my car. His eyes were bright and his markings were exquisite. His spots made him look like a little leopard with a stripey racoon's tail. His body moved so gracefully; he slinked in and out of rooms, round corners, through the air when he was jumping from wall to wall. He was just so beautiful. People who saw him always made a point of saying how pretty he was. Even my mum who would usually run a mile if a cat was anywhere near her, seemed at ease and softened around the edges when it came to this cat.

It was like he fell out of the sky with the rainfall that day and chose for us to be his family.

And so this is how we came to have a pet cat. It was like he fell out of the sky with the rainfall that day and chose for us to be his family. I named him Romeo. Romeo because he was so handsome that everyone who met him, even non-cat lovers, swooned and fell in love with him. So the name Romeo seemed fitting for a cat that caused such a stir in people's hearts. Romeo Bengal Deb - Lyrical, beautiful and poetic just like the lead in the Shakespearean play...

As he quickly became a part of the family, we often wondered where he came from. There's a saying that cats choose who they want to live with and that they come into our lives for a reason. So why, we often discussed, did he choose us?

Where there used to be blank spaces and mundane silences, Romeo added colour and sound.

As time went on Romeo added a different dynamic to our family's little life. Where there used to be blank spaces and mundane silences, Romeo added colour and sound. Mum and dad finally had something in common to talk about everyday. I found myself learning about the responsibility of looking after someone other than myself.

Weeks turned into months and Romeo weaved into the ebb and flow of our days. I'd wake up to get ready for work before going downstairs. I'd find him waiting patiently on the armchair to greet me hello with a headbutt on my palm. I'd put his breakfast down, he'd go out the door. He'd come back at lunchtime before my dad went to work and then slept for the afternoon. When one of us would come home in the evening he'd wake lazily and have his tea before hopping out the door again to explore his little neighbourhood.

Sounds pretty ordinary. But this was no ordinary cat to us. He was never territorial when it came to other cats. Always striving to be 'Mr Sociable', he'd actually invite other cats into our house so that he could share his food with them! He'd always want to be around to see what we were doing when we were at home at the weekends rather than go off and be by himself the way most cats do. Mum always said he just wanted to be involved in everything so he didn't miss out.

And then my gran got ill, really ill. And the most wonderful thing happened. He would walk to her house on his own accord from time to time and spend the afternoon there with my gran. He'd just curl up next to her on the sofa and they would nap together. I dubbed him 'Nurse Cat' because when he was around, her spirit would lift. Even when she would walk from her house to mine, he would walk alongside her, slowing his pace down to match hers, always slightly ahead but looking back to keep an eye on her. There were so many interactions like this, I could write a book full of them. He'd become so embedded within our hearts that when he passed away we were all in complete devastation.

It happened on a Saturday. The same day of the week as when he arrived, and on a weekend my sister decided to come up to visit too. For some reason on this night, just less than a year after he padded his way into our lives, he decided to venture out a bit further than usual and got hit by a car on a busy main road. It was only an hour or so after I saw him leave my gran's house as normal that I got a call from the vet hospital.

There was nothing that could be done. The impact of the car meant that he sustained an injury to his spine that left him paralysed from his mid-section down. He couldn't feel or move his back legs. He wouldn't be able to walk or have any control over his organs in that area of the body so the kindest option was to put him to sleep.

Even though he'd been knocked by a car he still looked perfect. Not a single scratch on his body, no blood, no ruffle on his fur. He was beautiful. Thankfully he wasn't in any pain and he called to us like he still recognised us and in a way to say 'I'm okay, let's go home'. It was heartbreaking. I just kissed his head and said 'thank you' several times over before the vet administered the euthanasia. And then he was asleep.

I was just so grateful to the kind man that found him and took him straight into the hospital. If it wasn't for him, Romeo could've stayed out all night on his own before we found him. At least this way he was given something for any pain and we got to say goodbye...

Animals respect this planet more than humans ever have. They have a relationship with nature that we should pay more attention to and learn from.

I've never understood until now why people grieved so much for pets. It's like as humans we have this arrogance that makes us believe in some sort of hierarchy of species. We should grieve for animals less than humans because we're at the top of the food chain? I know that's bullshit now. Animals deserve a place on this earth just as much as we do. If anything more so. Humans stomp around this planet poking and prodding it and devouring all of it's resources. Animals respect this planet more than humans ever have. They have a relationship with nature that we should pay more attention to and learn from. So if anything, we should grieve for them and bid farewell to them in the most sincerest and heartfelt ways.

The grief my family and I feel is no different to losing a member of the family because he was a member of the family. I've been writing and editing this since yesterday, it happened two nights ago and I still get upset when I think about it. I cried all night that night and pretty much all of the following day. It's like there are little parts of my world that are empty now. I still expect to open the front door and see him running in from under the car, or find him jumping up on the windowsill to be let back in, or hear his little paw steps pitter-patter down the stairs.

When life makes you feel emotions like this I always think about the things that I have learnt from the experience. Romeo, I believe, came into our lives to teach me and my family about love. A different kind of love that I've never experienced before. He taught me how to open up my heart and create space to love an animal. A kind of love that crawls into your heart and takes you by surprise. He taught me that I have the ability to love any living thing, not just a person that you're connected to by blood. This version of love never existed in me before.

You open up your homes to these animals but you don't quite realise how much you open up your hearts to them until they go...

You open up your homes to these animals but you don't quite realise how much you open up your hearts to them until they go... They climb into them with their little paws and occupy a space like a fuzzy little ball that warms up the rest of your soul when you stroke them, cuddle them, watch them sleep. And the love is completely pure and unconditional because pets don't ask for anything back. They don't care about material things. About what you look like, the colour of your skin, whether you're fat or thin. They don't make demands of you or make you feel embarrassed or hurt. All they want is to be with you. To be a part of your lives.

He left just as suddenly as he came but the impact he's had on our lives is profound. The day he died was also Diwaali, the Hindu festival of lights. He brought so much light into our lives in such a short space of time that it was only fitting that he went on the day that celebrates light.

Thank you Romeo for all the light, magic and love.
The light in me bows to the light in you.

Just love,

Your friend, Rina xoxo

I dedicate this post to Romeo's family and friends who all have their own stories of how he added a bit of brightness to their lives.


Wednesday 26 October 2016

Yoga with Adriene - Find what feels good roadshow

Adriene in the green with me and my friends :)

Anyone who knows me will know how much I love yoga and that my journey to cultivating a regular practice came from committing to a 30 days of yoga challenge on the Yoga with Adriene YouTube channel. You can read more about this here.   

The Yoga with Adriene channel makes it so easy to practice yoga wherever I am because it's so accessible, suitable for all levels and it's free! Depending on how my body feels and my energy levels I can have a flick through all the videos and choose one that suits my mood, be it a ten minute stretch out at my desk or a more strength building, energising practice.

There are so many yoga channels on the web but the main reason I always stick with the Yoga with Adriene videos is because Adriene is a wonderful teacher. She's down to earth, super chilled and funny, it's like she's in the living room with me! Her tutorials always promote listening to your body and 'finding what feels good' rather than pushing yourself too much or feeling any discomfort whatsoever.

When I found out that she was going to be doing a road show including dates in the UK, I was stoked! I couldn't wait to practice yoga with Adriene - in real life! So when the day came, I was absolutely buzzing with energy.

The venue, Manchester Academy, not your usual yoga joint was filling up with yogi's from all over the UK. It was so cool to see different coloured yoga mats in rows and people in yoga pants in a venue where I'm usually rocking out to the likes of N.E.R.D! I was super excited for her to arrive thinking I might squeal like a teenager but when she arrived on stage it was like I was there to meet a friend.

Everyone applauded and she greeted us warmly before talking about why she decided to do a road show. She then explained how the theme of the class was compassion - compassion for others for ourselves and love. Love. Perfect. So much so that I got a little teary at the beginning... 

I managed to keep it together for the class though which started out with us laying on our backs and slowly progressed from a relaxing flow to a more energising sequence to a soundtrack that included her video title tune and even a disco track! It was amazing how 400 people were breathing and moving in unison. Even more amazing how even though there were so many of us, it still felt like an intimate class and setting. 

At the end we bowed to ourselves and each other and I just sat and stared at my surroundings, big smile on my face. What a unique experience. I can't say I've ever done yoga with so many people and I was just stunned by what Adriene had created all the way from Texas; a wonderful community of people who were all there to be present, conscious, kind, compassionate, aware, to love and to find what feels good! 

I even managed to get a hug and a picture with the lady herself. She spoke to practically every person that was there and although we were at the end of the queue she was still bouncing with energy and spoke to each of us like a true friend. What a beautiful spirit. Definitely worth the wait. We were probably delirious by the time we got to meet her though! Seriously, we salsa danced in the queue - enough said. 

Days after the class and I still feel inspired by it. It was another highlight to add to my yoga journey. If you haven't already started yours, do give it a try. Yoga has contributed to my life in so many ways. From what started out as a physical practice to heal my spine, it has now become a place for me to spend a little bit of time to take care of myself physically, mentally and spiritually. Yoga doesn't just take place on my mat, I take it off the mat and into the rest of my day. It just makes everything softer. And if it can do that for me, I want everybody to do it!

Start practising today with the very first Yoga with Adriene video that kick started my yoga journey by clicking here

Just love and namaste

Rina xoxo 
P.S. Thanks to Kat for the pictures, my battery died. Typical!
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