Colombia Review

From arriving to Colombia on Dec 7th, 2015 to leaving on February 12, 2016 the one consistent thought that never left my mind was, "Wow, Colombia is beautiful!" It has easily become my favorite country. Colombia is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. To me, it is the perfect mixture of big cities with easy escapes to beautiful beaches, incredible national parks, and getting lost in the jungles. Every day I was there got better and better. 

My favorite form of transportation in Colombia are the buses because the landscape is so lush and beautiful. I should warn you that the driving is a little scary, but, mind you, I have also been to India so I might be a little jaded from driving there. The roads can be windy, so I would suggest Dramamine for those who get motion sickness. The buses are comfortable and very affordable for the traveler's budget. To give you an idea, it was 70,000 COP ($20.83 USD)  to travel first class on an 8 hour bus ride from Bogota to Pereira. Regular tickets range from 40,000-50,000 COP ($11-14 USD). I splurged for first class because it included seats that reclined all the way, wifi, plugs, personal TV, and a bathroom. Regular tickets have smaller seats but still include wifi and a bathroom. If you don't have much time then flying is your best bet. You can get cheap flights on Viva Colombia, but in my experience with flying Viva Colombia, the flight was delayed 2.5 hours. Flights within the country range from $40-$150 USD depending on the airline and when you book your ticket. Avianca is another airline which pleasantly surprised me and I found to be very nice. You can always find last minute cheap flights on Viva Colombia, but if  you book in advance you can find cheap flights on Avianca. 

The people of Colombia are wonderful. They are so unbelievably kind and giving. It is a shame there is still such a misconception of Colombia because anyone who hasn't been is missing out. Yes, there are still dangerous places in Colombia, but overall the country is safe to travel to and travel around. As a solo female traveler, I felt comfortable the entire time and look forward to my return.

I was not expecting to spend as much as I did in Colombia, and am actually still in shock with how much I managed to spend. Because the US dollar is so strong in Colombia at the moment, I should have been able to manage my money better. Instead of beating myself up over what I can’t change, I am using it as a lesson learned and will be more mindful about my spending going forward.  I splurged quite a bit from time to time with the VIP options over the regular bus seat, but now I know better if I want to continue traveling for a year. I will need to get a job at some point so I can make money along the way and not worry about spending all of my savings.

But I wouldn’t trade my last 9.5 weeks for anything. It was worth every penny. What I would modify and be more mindful of as I continue traveling is how much I am eating compared to how much I am working out. Weight gain is usually inevitable for me when I travel, and since I am traveling open ended, it is a must that I find the proper balance asap. I am reminding myself the less I eat & drink going forward, the more money I will save, which is a win. I did teach yoga along the way which was nice, but a harder personal practice and additional cardio is necessary to make up for all the good eats I'm indulging in. Again, there is no point in beating myself up over what I can't change. Acknowledging the changes I want to make and making them is all I can do now. 

As much as I have traveled in my past (28 countries & counting), this trip is the first time where I do not have an end date. I have already learned so much, and am blessed to have the opportunity to come home in between travels and implement necessary changes. The number one mistake I made in my first 9.5 weeks is how much I packed. I packed way more than necessary and learned quickly that all the organizational methods I used were actually making me more disorganized. I originally got an Osprey backpack that I accessed from the top and that was a huge pain. After traveling with others, I was able to pick up on what worked well for them and how I could better prepare. I was lucky enough to get my backpack from REI whose year long return policy really saved my big travel mistake. When I came home, I downsized my backpack from the Osprey Aura 65 AG Pack Women's  to the smaller Osprey Farpoint 55 Travel Pack. This new backpack opens from the front and comes with a detachable backpack. Having a backpack that opens from the front is more convenient for a traveler who is constantly on the move. The compression bags for my clothes ended up more of a pain than a help, so I will no longer bring them. Because the majority of my flights are standby on United, it was necessary for me to have carry on luggage.  I no longer have to check my bag, which is a big money saver. 

I overdid it on toiletries I thought I would need. I have scaled down to bringing shampoo, conditioner, bodywash, facewash, leave in conditioner (its a ten), toothbrush, toothpaste, a razor, deodorant, baby powder, comb, & nail clippers. I will bring bug spray, sunscreen, and some medicine as well.  Before, I overdid it and packed too many face products, hair products, and I hardly used a thing. It was a waste of space. 

I may still be packing too many clothes. Since I lived in 3 of my tees the majority of the time, I adjusted my wardrobe and added 3 more tank tops. If I realize I have too much, then I will need to practice non-attachment and rid myself of items as I go. 

Now that I am traveling to Australia, I am going far enough away from home to not have the option to pop home and readjust. My plan is to start in Australia, then head to Southeast Asia and get lost for a few months. I am enjoying not having an actual plan. I love meeting people as I travel and discovering places that are a must from other travelers. The second I have a plan, I feel as if it limits me. Living day by day, free of a plan, allows me to be spontaneous. Of course, if my budget comes in to question, then I will need to find a workaway or way to save money along my journey. 

The best part about this trip is learning as I go and improving each day. I am happy to be the guinea pig and relay this information to others who are planning a round the world (RTW) travel. Please note, this is my own personal experience and my recommendations come from self reflection and talking with other travelers along the way. Check out my break down below of the places I visited and what my overall expenditures were for my time in Colombia. 

Review of Colombia



Time spent in Colombia:

9.5 weeks | 67 days | Dec 7, 2015 - February 12, 2016

Overall Weather: 

Warm. Hottest places - Cali, Cartagena, Santa Marta. Coldest place - Bogota 

National holidays While I was There: 

Little Candles, Feria de Calle, Christmas, Carnaval de Barranquilla

Places visited:

Bogota, Granada, Cartago, Salento, Cali, Buga, Medellin, Guatape, Santa Marta, Minca, Barranquilla, Cartagena

Highlights of my trip:  

The friends I made, Paragliding, Spending Christmas with a Colombian family, 58 Feria de Cali, My birthday in Cartagena in with my friends, Teaching yoga at Casa Elemento, Hiking through Valle de Cocora in Salento, Carnaval de Barranquilla 2016


My goal while traveling is to keep it real and be honest about what I am spending. There seems to be a taboo around sharing this type of information, but I think it is important to be honest and open about it. That being said, I still cannot believe I spent as much as I did and can only attribute it to living large and having a little too much fun in my first two months of travel. My birthday can account for a few of my big splurges. I was not very strict with my budget, and I have learned quickly that I need to be better about this if I want my travels to last. The average budget traveler can expect to spend much less. My total amount spent overall was $3459.32. Broken down by the days I was there would be on average $51 a day. Please note you could do Colombia for much cheaper, if you wanted. I met travelers who spent 600,000 COP ($178 USD) a week. On average that is $25 dollars a day. 

I've broken down my budget into 5 categories; accommodation, transportation, food & drink, fun activities, and miscellaneous for the things I couldn't pinpoint.

Total spent on Accommodation: $1044.59
Total spent on Food & Drinks: $1019.76
Total spent on Transportation: $458.79 (This price does not include two flights that I bought before I started my adventure. If I include these then my overall transportation cost is $750.79)
Total spent on Fun Activities: $381.24
Total spent on Miscellaneous: $554.94  (I wasn't able to pinpoint these items on a particular experience but would assume these accounted for a lot of my fun experiences)


Number of buses taken: 13
Number of taxis: countless
Motorbike rides: 4
Number of flights: 2


Bogota is one of the largest cities in Colombia. The population of Bogota according to the latest demographics index is 8.7 million. If visiting Bogota, it is a must to check out the bike tour for 40,000 COP ($11.92 USD) or the free walking tour which usually requires a donation of 20,000-30,000 COP ($8.94 USD). Both tours are totally worth it and are easy to arrange through your hostel. The La Candelaria district is a great place for travelers to stay. It's walking distance to everything you need including Monserrate, which is an incredible view of the city. 

Things to do: 

  • Bogota Bike Tour
  • Bogota free walking tour
  • Bogota Grafitti tour
  • Visit Monserrate
  • Try Crepes & Waffles -This restaurant is all over Colombia and is delicious. They have amazing savory crepes, sandwiches, and delicious ice cream. A cool fact is they only hire single mothers. 
  • Right outside Bogota is Varsana Eco Yoga Farm - you can volunteer here or visit. 


I volunteered at a yoga ashram, Mayapurita Eco Yoga Farm for a week. It was my first workaway experience and a really great one at that. I taught yoga every morning and volunteered for 3-4 hours in the afternoon. I learned new vegetarian dishes and made some great friends. The Ashram was along the river and the bugs were the hardest part about my stay. When visiting any jungle in Colombia, insect repellent is a MUST. Even with 100% deet and using the local repellents, I still had over 30 bites on my legs alone. Not to scare you with the bug bites, just be prepared. The place was incredibly beautiful and worth the pain.

Things to do:

  • Walk around the town of Cartago
  • Volunteer at Mayapurita Eco Yoga Farm
  • Paragliding


Cali is a beautiful city with the most authentic Colombian feel. It is the salsa capital of Colombia and I was lucky enough to be there for 58 Feria De Cali. Feria de Cali is the main cultural event in Cali that is celebrated over a 6 day salsa festival filled with free concerts and parades. I stayed with a friend who's been living in Colombia for the last year, and had the best time. We went to free concerts at night and watched bands that had created all their instruments from recycled materials. The people I met were some of the kindest in the world. Everyone went out of their way for me to ensure I had the best visit. 

Things to do:

  • Teatro Magico del Sabor - A unique dining experience with amazing food. Watch the chef prepare the dinner while keeping the audience entertained with witty comments. Not recommended for anyone who is easily offended. 
  • Explore the graffiti
  • Salsa clubs is a must!
  • Yoga Meet ups
  • Visit Cristo Rey 


Buga is one of the oldest colonial cities in Colombia. It is home to a microbrewery which was the main reason I went. A German guy started Holy Water Ale, a hostel, pizzeria, & brewery, which is a must visit. The owner was extremely nice and even gave us a tour of the brewery. I found this to be some of the best craft beer in Colombia. If you are traveling down to Cali, stopping in Buga along the way is a fun place to stay for the night. 


My favorite place in Colombia! Salento is located in the coffee region and is known for Valle de Cocora, which is an incredible hike with unreal landscapes and the Colombia national tree, the wax palm. The hike itself is 5 hours and goes through 3 different eco systems. It begins in a beautiful valley  that leads into the jungle where you can hike to Acaime, a hummingbird sanctuary, and backtracks to a farm with incredible views before ending in the Cocora valley, home of the wax palms. If you only see one of these, the Cocora valley with the wax palms is a sight to see. The view is surreal and the most stunning place I've been in the world.

Things to do:

  • Valle de Cocora - 5 hour hike
  • Eat at Brunch and try the peanutbutter brownie - holy yum!
  • Walk around the town and walk up the long street
  • Bike tour around the coffee farms


This city is a favorite by most travelers. Unfortunately, I did not get the total experience of Medellin, and need to go back to explore all there is. The most popular advice from all travelers I met was to take the free walking tour in Medellin. The Poblado neighborhood is a favorite of travelers and has many good restaurant and  hostels.

Things to do: 

  • Envy Roof Top at the Charlee Hotel is an amazing bar with incredible views of Medellin
  • Medellin walking tour
  • Day trips to Guatape 
  • Pablo Escobar's grave


It's a colorful town with many shops and restaurants. I wish I had spent more time here. This is a place I will need to come back to and explore more. Hiking up the rock is one of the most incredible views and worth it. 

Things to do:

  • El Penol - incredible views of Guatape
  • Paintballing at one of Pablo Escobar's old mansions 

Santa Marta

Santa Marta is a great stopping point to get to other places. I didn't explore much of the town, I used it more as a home base when exploring places nearby like Tayrona National Park, Minca, and Taganga. 

Things to do:

  • Lost City Trek - I didn't do it but met a lot of travelers who had, and the overall feedback was worth it. It isn't an easy hike but the experience is worth it. 
  • Tayrona National Park - be sure to plan accordingly depending on the time of year you go. December & January is holiday for Colombians as well so January can be a very busy time to visit Tayrona. My first experience, we were turned away because the park had reached capacity. So be sure to get there early (Gates open at 7am) to ensure a ticket into the park. If you plan to stay overnight in the park, you need to wait in additional lines to reserve a hammock or tent.  Again, we missed the hammocks because we got in line late, so we ended up hiking out of the park that evening. Prepare if you plan to visit. 
  • Visit Minca!
  • Past Tayrona National Park are a few hostels, Costeno Surf and Rancho Relaxo, that I would recommend visiting or staying at.  If you're going to Palomino, these hostels are on the way.  

Hostels to Stay in the Area of Santa Marta:

  • The Dreamer - a bit overpriced but a nice place to stay and enjoy the pool & chill vibes.
  • Drop Bear - This is an old Narcos home and great place to stay in between trips. They have a giant TV room with couches that are relaxing for any traveler.


A fishing & island town close to Santa Marta. You can take boats from Taganga into Tayrona National Park. 


My second favorite place in Colombia! Minca is a hidden gem. There are beautiful waterfalls, tours of coffee farms, and hikes in the jungle.  You can take a jeep or bus from Santa Marta to the town, then transfer to a motorbike to get to the different hostels located in the jungles. The best hostel and most incredible view comes from Casa Elemento, home of the biggest hammocks in South America.The construction of roads is lacking in this area, so it takes an adventurous soul to hop on a motorbike with an experienced local and hold on tight for one hell of a ride. It costs 20,000 COP ($5.96 USD) for a 45 minute ride to Casa Elemento. Once I got on and started going up, I knew I was in for quite the adventure because the motorbike ride is the furthest thing from smooth, but oh so fun!  What started as a few days' visit turned into 3 weeks and staffing at Casa Elemento. Casa Elemento was my favorite hostel in Colombia. It is the best adult playground. There are multiple hammocks to hang out and read, star gaze, or meet travelers. The hammocks range in size and hold between 8-10 people. There is a tree-house for chilling which also became my favorite place to sleep. Waking up with a view overlooking the jungle and Santa Marta felt like a dream every morning. Jungle town was another favorite spot at Casa Elemento. It consisted of a ropes course, rock climbing wall and another large hammock in the jungle. 

Oscar's Place is another good hostel in Minca and has different views overlooking Santa Marta. Oscar's Place is lower than Casa Elemento and a chiller vibe. Oscar is one of the most caring souls I have met. He is so welcoming and known to have a joint in his mouth at all hours. 

Places to Stay:

  • Casa Elemento
  • Oscar's Place

Things to do:

  • Visit Casa Elemento for a day trip 10,000 COP ($2.98 USD) or stay the night, but be sure to call for reservations, they are always booked!
  • Visit the Waterfalls
  • Explore the coffee farms 
  • Ropes Course at Casa Elemento


Be prepared for hot weather because Cartagena is easily the hottest place I went. It took a few days to adjust to the 90 degree weather and humidity, but it is worth it. The old city in Cartagena is beautiful! The buildings are unique and painted all sorts of colors. It's easy to get lost walking the streets but you will feel safe inside the old city walls. This a place where wealthy Colombians travel, so the prices are a little higher within the city. 

Places to Stay: 

  • El Viajero - Great hostel located throughout Colombia but especially great in Cartagena. It is located in the city walls and arranges fun events every night from Spanish lessons, salsa lessons, bbqs, to game nights. This is a great place for travelers to meet others and it's affordable. 

Things to do:

  • Visit the islands - Playa Blanca 
  • Rooftop pools! Bastion Luxury Hotel was incredible and charges 60,000 COP ($17.88 USD) to visit the pool for the day. These are a must to escape the heat and enjoy looking out over Cartagena
  • Mud Volcanos - Such a neat experience 
  • Kite surfing


Home of the second largest Carnival in the world. I went to Barranquilla for Carnival with friends I had met along my travels. I didn't know what to expect when I went to carnival, but what I can recommend to anyone going is to make sure they see the Parade on the first day! This is the day where the floats & costumes are the most done up. The second day is for more traditional dances and the third day has ladies in feathers and dances. The parties at night vary throughout different neighborhoods and are always packed. It is a very fun event with little sleep. 

The Choice is Yours

Every day when we wake up we have a choice; we can choose to be happy & grateful for all that is, or we can choose to be down about all that isn’t. I choose to be happy & grateful each and every day. I know life comes with challenges, and I am not naïve to this, but I choose to look at the bright side of all situations because it could always be worse.

Instead of dwelling on the negative, I like to relish in all of the positives. Waking up every day and being alive is a gift in itself. Being alive is enough to be grateful for. When we focus on the negatives and dwell in the should’ve, would’ve, could’ve moments, we are losing time when we could just be happy. It is that simple! The world owes you nothing, so to live life thinking that it does is a mistake. You are the controller of your happiness. It is your responsibility to be the voice for your wants and needs. You cannot expect anyone to be looking out for your whole heart at every moment. Life is difficult enough for one person to live, so it’s essential we take responsibility for our own being and choose the outcome we want every day.

My trip continues to get better and better. That isn’t to say I haven’t experienced any challenges, because believe me, I have! I’m in Colombia where the native language is Spanish and I don’t speak Spanish. If you can imagine, there are many moments where I feel left out, but the only person to blame is myself, because it is my own responsibility to learn. Sure, I have met many amazing people who have had patience in translating for me, and even spoke English so we could communicate. But I am not entitled to have this be the case and I deserve to experience the challenges I have. Who am I to come to someone’s country and expect them to speak English when I can’t even learn Spanish to speak their native language? All this said, I am trying to learn Spanish and have spent a lot of time studying.

My biggest challenge is that I am dyslexic and pronunciation in general is very hard for me, so it’s taking a lot to learn. I will continue to try my hardest and am grateful for everyone who takes the time to speak English, translate for me, and teach me Spanish. My attitude in the end is what determines the outcome, and my undying decision to be happy is what makes each day continue to flourish the way it has.

The challenges we face can always be turned into a positive light. Every situation in life is either a lesson learned or experience. Be grateful for both. I spent a few days of my trip sick already and have realized that I am not as invincible as I thought and need to be more careful with the water I’m consuming. My body isn’t used to being in a foreign place and the adjustment time is valid. So instead of dwelling on it, I’ve learned and appreciate when I feel 100% even more. I also have more bug bites than I’ve ever had in my life and it is SO hard not to scratch them. On the flip side, I’m staying next to a river in the jungle in an outdoor cabana and get to enjoy all sorts of wildlife nightly. I feel one with nature and know this is a unique experience that won’t easily be repeated.

I’ve quickly had to overcome any fear I’ve had of bugs, especially cockroaches. They are innocent bugs that cause no harm, but aren’t the best looking. At night they roam all around our cabin and I had the pleasure of finding them in my jean pocket and sleep shirt. Gross I know, but hey, I survived! Everything is only making me a stronger more fearless person in the end. I can overcome uncomfortable situations and grow into a better person because of it.

The best part of my trip so far has been the people I’ve met. I love being reminded of all the wonderful people that exist in the world. Traveling always restores my faith in humanity. Sofia, a 22-year-old solo traveler from the UK, and I have quickly become great friends. We spend the majority of our time together and I’ve turned her into an acro-yoga addict. She is also volunteering at Mayapurita Eco Yoga Farm and is on her third month of traveling. She has great stories and within the first day of meeting her she reassured my belief of how exciting and fun traveling is. I no longer question a year being too long of a time to take off and just be.  We stayed up late swapping travel stories our first night, and our friendship has grown from there.

The farm has been an incredible experience and has given me the opportunity to teach daily yoga classes. What better way to start the day then teaching a 7am-8am yoga class? It feels magical to be in a routine at an Ashram that includes two yoga classes a day. I’ve also been so happy to be back to a place of only eating vegetarian food, and again feel so incredible because of it. I know that it is confirming my desire to fully give up all meat. It is becoming a part of my identity and who I see myself being. It embodies my best self and allows me to show more compassion to all living beings.

At the farm, I teach in the morning followed by breakfast, then usually a cold shower. By 9:30-10am I am ready to begin my volunteer hours. The farm asks for 4.5 hours in return for the accommodation, food, and small daily fee of $12.00 USD. I happily accept this and enjoy the different volunteer tasks. I see everything as a learning experience and a way to grow into the person I’m meant to be. A few of the days I’ve spent time scraping what seemed like bark off sticks for a new bungalow the farm is building. I find the work to be like pulling a scab off, and enjoyed using a machete to get it done. Another day I spent time raking and tidying up around the farm. Practicing Spanish was also included in my volunteer hours and I helped one of the yoga teachers on the Farm, Gopal, say phrases for teaching a yoga class in English. Needless to say, my volunteer work at the farm is flexible and enjoyable because of my attitude towards it.

The power of positive thinking is so significant that I think it’s best I give examples to show its proof. I am hoping my journey can inspire others to see firsthand how powerful our mind is. 

I’ve been wanting to try paragliding for quite some time now, and have put it out in the universe that this is something I wanted to do. Two days after arriving on the farm, during breakfast, we saw someone paragliding over the mountains. I instantly explained my desire to do it, and Krisina said she knew a company in town and would call to arrange it. I couldn’t believe how easily it happened, and within a day I was set to go paragliding the following  Sunday for 100,000 Colombian pesos,which is $29.99 US dollars! Can you believe it?!  A dream come true and affordable enough to not make me feel guilty for splurging on it.  Leading from this example is my next point where positive thinking helps. I became good friends with Sofia over the week and she decided to take a few days off and head to Salento with me.

I was thrilled, because although I had no problem going to Salento alone, I did like the idea of having someone with me. And it couldn’t have been better than going with Sofia. Since meeting, my stomach has hurt more from laughing than anything else. It is almost nonstop. She understands my humor and comes back with even funnier responses. Our 1.5 hour bus ride from Cartago to Salento was filled with laughter. Sofia shares my positive thinking and is such a joy to be around.

Our plan was to go paragliding Sunday morning, then take a bus to Salento in the afternoon. We didn’t end up getting on a bus until 5:30pm due to the fun morning that extended into the afternoon and all the goodbyes at the farm. When we got to Pereira, we had to book another bus to Salento. We arrived at 6:30pm only to find out that last bus to Salento left at 6:30pm. The lady at the ticket booth called the driver and asked them to wait until we made it to the bus. We felt so lucky with our timing. We enjoyed nonstop laughter and jokes during our hour bus ride to Salento.

When we arrived in Salento we needed to find a hostel. This is the first time I’ve ever just showed up to a location without any idea of where to stay. We decided to walk around and asked two girls if they knew of any nearby hostels. We were directed to one and found out they only had availability for that night, when we needed a place that could accommodate us for two nights. The receptionist attempted to call another hostel, but they didn’t answer. So after continuing conversation (thank goodness for Sofia and her Spanish),  the lady asked us what we would pay and we repeated the price she had told us initially: 35,000 CSP which is $10 US dollars. Then out of nowhere the lady said, “Alright, we have a room for you,” and we saw her erase an appointment for the following day. We were both shocked, but so happy because the hostel was super clean, nice, and just the luxury we needed after being on the farm all week.

We got room 7 which had two beds and our own bathroom with HOT water! Did I mention we didn’t even need mosquito nets?! It’s amazing how one week of pure torture from mosquitos can make you realize you don’t have to worry about them for a change. Anyway, in total we only ended up spending 70,000CSP for our time, and it was worth every penny. The hostel, Casa Borbon, was right around the corner from the main square and next to a pizzeria. Our plan the day before was to find a hostel then a pizzeria for pizza & wine. Low & behold, there was exactly that next to our hostel! By putting the thoughts of what we want out into the world, we are allowing them to manifest and come true.

I cannot stress this enough, our thoughts are everything! By changing our point of view of a situation from negative to positive, we are still allowing anything to happen. But our chances of having a better outcome and experience are much greater. What we think becomes our reality, so remind yourself to find the positive in every situation. Your world will change. Namaste! 

Thank you for continuing to follow along. I have not had good Internet to be able to update my blog the way I would like, but I will continue to post when able. 

Making another check on my bucket list. Paragliding in Cartago, Colombia. What an incredible experience. I realized I am more afraid of heights than I thought but enjoyed being able to fly for 30 minutes. 

The Universe Aligns

Do you believe in signs? I know I sure do. The start of my journey could not have played out any better than it has. When I was boarding my flight to Bogota from Miami, a Guru was in front of my and noticed my mala beads and said, "Namaste". I returned the blessing and we started talking. Turns out, the Ashram I was heading to was his! What are the odds!? 

I was in total shock and at the same time reassured that the journey I was on was right. Guru Dave, or Swami B. A. Paramadvaiti, is such a humble, kind man that, when we arrived in Bogota ,I waited for him to walk through customs together. I was so interested in hearing more about him since our brief encounter before the flight had amazed me. While we waited for our bags, he invited me to lunch with him. I originally had a layover in Bogota for 5 hours until my flight to Pereira. I accepted his invitation and was amazed to see all who gathered for his arrival. 

I had no idea just how important he was. But I soon learned that he was their spiritual master, and it was quite an honor to travel with him as I had.  I was just being myself and excited for my adventure ahead! I gave the Swami my business card and even got a picture so I could show Krisna Siva, who was in charge of the Ashram I was heading to. Well, it turns out she was there waiting for the Guru's arrival and I instantly recognized her from the video. I felt so comfortable and at ease within moments of arriving in Colombia. 

Before heading to lunch, Guru Dave had someone give me a flower necklace which was another big honor. He was driven to the restaurant and I went with Krisna Siva and a few others on the buses to the restaurant.  We took 3 buses to get there, so  I quickly learned the transit line. I couldn't believe how welcomed I was and how unexpectedly everything was happening. I thought I would be finding ways to entertain myself at the airport, but now I was adventuring around Bogota. 

I was invited to join Guru Dave for lunch and ate across from him with Krisna Seva. It started sinking in how important he was when I noticed we were the only ones eating, and everyone else stood around to make sure there was nothing more the Swami could want or need. Guru Dave then explained his reason for his visit which was for an upcoming festival called 'Raices de la Tierra', and he invited me to join. 

 One of his Ashrams had been asked to host the event and provide the accommodation and food. The event was put on by Roots of Earth which had invited indigenous tribes from all over to come and meet for a closing ceremony. The purpose was to bridge together groups whose purpose was all the same in honoring and maintaining Mother Earth. I'm sure it was a shock for some of these tribes to see people from all over who were on the same mission to preserve the beauty of Mother Earth. 

Accepting this invitation meant I was skipping my flight and completely changing my plans. I had no intention to stay in Bogota and wasn't 100% sure I wanted to lose the money I had spent on my flight, and then have to turn around and pay for a bus ticket to go to Pereira again. I first explained that I couldn't make it work and someone offered me a ride to the airport to catch my flight. On my way to the airport, I realized just how big of an honor it was for him to personally invite me, and I asked the driver to turn around because it would be silly not to stay. 

Guru Dave was so gracious and happy I had changed my plans. That evening I went to a conference he was speaking at, and was again shocked by the turn-out of individuals or devotees who had come to see him. I had arrived on a holiday called 'Little Candles' day which is celebrated on Dec 7 & 8th in Colombia. After the conference, we marched the streets to Bogota town square. The streets where filled with people celebrating the holiday. 

Once we arrived at Plaza De Bolivar, we began to light candles and sing Hare Krishina mantras. We sang and danced for a few hours. It was a blast and I felt so welcomed and included in the celebrations. I was pleased with my change of my mind to join in and excited for what the next few days had in store. 

That night I ended up staying with Krisna Siva at her friend's apartment. The next day we attended another conference where Krisna Siva helped translate everything. Their mission aligned closely with mine which is to serve others and help make the world a better place. It felt good to change my plans and allow the journey to unfold as it should. I feel confident in what is to come because I know the universe will help me achieve it. Enjoy some pictures from the events described above. 

Stay tuned, because I do plan on writing a post on all that I packed for my journey. I am not sure how often I will be blogging, but I am journaling, so when I get the chance I will update everyone as well. Thanks again for following along. Namaste!

Onto the Next Chapter

Monday was my final day at the Cisco office after 3.5 years of working there. What a dream come true it has been to work for the non-profit side of Cisco and be responsible for their CSR. Corporate Social Responsibility is the kind of work that resonates with my soul. Giving back to the world and making it better is my life mission. To have found that in my first job has been a blessing I am eternally grateful for. There are so many things I will miss, especially the friends I have made. 

If you asked me what my dream job would be when I was younger I would have answered you this: "I want to volunteer internationally and help people". Today, I get to start living that, except to start, I am helping myself. I want to enrich my life with the principles I am after. I will be immersing myself in a dedicated practice of yoga, mindfulness, learning to make vegetarian dishes, and volunteer work. I am setting myself up for better things in my future. I want to be my true hippie self in an environment that fosters every aspect of that. I want to feel more than I have felt and be fully present. 

To start my travels, I am going to an Ashram in Colombia where I will be responsible for 4.5 hours of volunteer work a day. In return, I will have a place to stay, food, and receive free yoga/meditation classes. The volunteer work varies between cooking vegetarian dishes, permaculture, and teaching at the local school. If you're interested in finding out more, check out the site here. They have recently added a video of the place I will be going to and I am that much more excited for what's to come. 

Along my journey, I am planning to volunteer often. I find that the best way to travel is to volunteer. In addition to immersing yourself within new cultures, by volunteering you also are able to share, firsthand, your dedication to making their world better with others. I come from a place where we live in abundance. In this place, everyone has more than what they need and a lot of what they want, myself included. I am so ready to remove myself from this and live out of my backpack. I don't want to have to care about the latest trends or what matches, I want to focus on connecting to everyone and everything around me. Finding and making meaning of my life, instead of worrying about little things that may not matter. I want to throw my iphone off a cliff and not have it with me while I'm interacting with others. I want to be fully present and give my full attention to what I am doing. I want to disconnect, fall off the map for a bit and be lost. 

I've made a pact with myself to continue to find work that benefits others. I need meaning behind the work that I do. I never plan to take a random job that comes my way unless it touches my soul. Life is too short to waste any of our time doing something you don't love. Seeing as how I loved my job and still left to go travel should tell you something about me, I am determined to live the life of my dreams and I know all things are possible if we set our mind to it.

I am responsible for making it happen, and make it happen I will. No one is going to live out your dreams for you. It is up to you to carry out your desires. Regardless the dream, make a plan to get there and begin the journey. Allow the challenges to come, and remember, it is only a test to see how badly you want it. Maintain a smile and roll with the punches. Make sure to check in with yourself along the way to see if your wants & needs are still the same. Your plan can evolve and change along the way, it is all part of the journey. Remind yourself this: "The world owes you nothing," so everything you have now is already an abundance. (Thank you Cole for the quote and constant words of wisdom you put out into the world)

I feel free of responsibility and full of gratitude for what's to come. Each day holds the possibility to change your life. I am excited to breathe in every moment in mine. Thanks for following along on my journey. Namaste. 

Listening to My Heart

My adventure has not started the way I expected it to back in July, but it is playing out better than I could have expected. What I have learned is to listen to my heart and not my ego. 

To back up a little, this past year I took two months off work to go to India for my yoga teaching certification. I spent 6 weeks at an Ashram practicing yoga four hours a day, six days a week, along with two hours of anatomy & philosophy. It was a magical experience that is forever ingrained in me. My yoga switch was turned on, and living out a yogic lifestyle has been my goal ever since. Now I know when someone from the Western world hears 'yoga' they immediately think of cool poses, but the physical postures, or asanas, is only one limb of yoga. The philosophy of yoga is to obtain perfection in each and every action we make. Perfection is nothing but effortlessness which equals concentration, and having the ability to be present in the present moment. In order to get to this point, we must first have understanding, which is a state of acceptance that leads to exact valuation of life. Yoga is the journey to you, it is the self we think we are, and the self we actually are. It converts human doing to human being. 

The challenge I faced when coming home was maintaining a consistent practice the way I had in India. I maintained the friendships I made and have been fortunate enough to have a few of my friends visit me in San Francisco. After coming home and getting back into a work routine, I missed my lifestyle at the Ashram. I continued to give up beef, and even gave up my once beloved bacon. India really opened up my heart up in a new way. I felt the oneness with and connection to the universe.  I feel an emotional attachment to cows and pigs and believe our treatment of them is inhumane. Therefore, as I can no longer support this, I've given up eating them. I feel amazing, but it's been a challenge adopting a new mentality when I was before a heavy meat eater. I'm still working on finding a sustainable balance with the foods I eat. I've noticed there have been more carbs and soy in my diet. I want to spend time learning more about healthy vegetarian options. I feel that, in the long run, eating animals is something I can give up entirely. 

What I needed most when I came home was a sign to confirm why I was here because I was already itching to travel again. Going back to my all time favorite quote: "When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it," is true once again. I found my satisfaction in being home and working in the Corporate world when I used a resource that had been in my calendar all along, but had not made it a priority. It was a weekly optional mindfulness over lunch for Corporate Affairs.  What better sign could I have received than the ability to integrate a mindfulness practice into my Corporate job? The second sign came when I met a co-worker who was also a yoga teacher and we had an honest call about being our true selves. Shortly after, we decided to put my yoga skills to use and I began teaching yoga in the office every Tuesday at lunch. Unfortunately, this only lasted for about two months because there wasn't an actual space for the practice. But the fact that I found yoga & mindfulness in my work life was the confirmation I needed to feel I was where I needed to be. 

Not long after joining the mindfulness calls, I took on a leading role with another co-worker to make sure we had a meditation and consistent practice in place. It was magical, and gave me the sense of belonging I've desired from my job. I was able to be my entire being and meditate along side coworkers at my work. Our job is a big consumer of our time and if we aren't able to be our entire selves at our job, then something is missing. What I have learned is in order to live a happy life, we must bring our entire selves with us. 

Stemming from the mindfulness calls, I found out there was a greater desire by many to spread the practice of mindfulness across Cisco. I got in contact with the head of Wellness and became part of the weekly calls to find a strategy/solution to bring mindfulness to Cisco. The world aligned and showed me the possibilities available. 

Meanwhile, as my work life was coming together, my personal life was evolving. A soul sister of mine and I put on our first wellness retreat. Maggie was the dominate factor that connected us to a friend of hers who offered his house in Mammoth for the retreat. Once we had the house, we set a date and Maggie's friend Allison took on the role of chef. Maggie lead the meditations and I taught yoga. It was a dream come true to watch our first wellness retreat unfold. I learned of the challenges right away when finding people to come, but what I learned in the end is everything works out perfectly. We had an incredible group come together from all over the US, some not knowing anyone, and connecting for a magical weekend. Check out the retreat overview here and the video

After that weekend, my pull to want to live out my passion of leading wellness retreats, teaching yoga, and being around likeminded people was too great to resist. I was presented with a decision I had to make the month before that aided in where I am now. My roommate's fiance was graduating from Business school and would be moving back to San Francisco, so I needed to find a new place. I knew in my heart I wasn't going to find anything better than the place I had. Nothing could beat having bay windows that overlooked the Golden Gate Bridge at a rent controlled price. Granted, the price was still high, but not what it could have been. It was in this decision that I decided to surrender myself to a lifelong dream of traveling the world. I would move back in with my parents to save money before quitting my job. 

Once this decision was made, July came quick and I packed up my stuff and moved back to Pleasanton. It has never been hard to live with my parents. They are two of the coolest people I have ever met, and I feel blessed to have had this option available. I was back in a busy house and had my mind set on saving money. 

In my free time, I began diving into travel blogs and researching how others have done it. It wasn't long before I found a site where you can volunteer around the world and be given free accommodation and sometimes even food. I spent hours looking at different opportunities, amazed by the volunteer projects people offered. I started putting my resources together to share with friends to prove how affordable travel could be. There were days when I wanted to leave the next day to go help. Eventually, I stumbled onto a volunteer opportunity that met my childhood dream of riding horses in New Zealand. You see, I applied for this and the lady was hesitant on my riding skills. But I assured her I would be a good fit and was a quick learner. The project was to be able to lead treks on horseback in New Zealand when she wasn't able. In return for my time, they were going to provide me a room, free food, and even a car to use on my days off. Talk about a dream come true and coolest volunteer project ever, right? 

Wrong. I overestimated what I was actually getting myself into when I started taking horseback riding lessons. Yes, I took my first lesson ever, after I had been accepted for the project. No, I did not tell the people this was the case. However, I have ridden horses many times growing up and was confident in my ability. I am the type of person who will be successful when I put my mind to it. Anyway, I started riding two days a week and was on a fast-track course to being a guide in two short months. My teacher was impressed with the progress I'd made and could see my determination, but I was in no means ready to lead a group on my own. I continued to go to lessons and had informed my job of my plans to leave at the end of Q1. I was set in my plan of heading to New Zealand in November. 

Finally, at the end of September, I was venting to my coworker who I had met when first returning from my travels, and who had taken up horseback riding with me. She said something that struck a cord, "Why can't you listen to your heart?" It was in that moment that I suddenly realized my ego was running the show. The idea of going to New Zealand and being a horseback riding trail guide was a fun story to tell, but my heart was not in it. My heart began to pull me back to what I ultimately wanted: To travel the world and dive deeper into my yoga practice.

I decided I had to be honest with the family and tell them I was not confident in my ability to lead guides and was extremely sorry for the inconvenience I had caused. Although they weren't happy, they did find it to be a blessing in disguise and that was that. The relief I felt was incredible. I had so much built up anxiety over mastering horseback riding, when in reality I shouldn't have been diving into a new skill. 

All in all, everything works out as expected and plays out just as it should. My parents had booked flights to visit me over Christmas in New Zealand. But when booking the flights, my mom requested I get travel insurance for the first time ever. Boy, did that work out in our favor. A week before I made up my mind to not do the volunteer project, my mom decided they would rather be home for the holidays due to my dad's health. My plans for New Zealand had been freed up and I had a clean slate to start planning.

While I prepared for my travels, a number of things continued to present themselves and make me question what I was doing. I was watching my friends fall in love, get engaged, get promoted, and here I was running away from all of that to be alone in another country?  Since integrating mindfulness into my work life, I had a new sense of fulfillment, and was I really just going to leave a job I love? Did I get that I was not going to have a job or be making money? Am I crazy? Should I just move back to SF and go on a long trip and still maintain a savings? Do I really want to be away from my friends and family? What about falling in love? Have I been pushing that out because I'm afraid to be vulnerable? Maybe some of these were true and did resonate, but what I learned is fear was driving these thoughts and the simplicity of what I wanted was to be free of any commitments and go travel. I am okay going off the beaten path. I yearn for the experiences outside of my comfort zone, because that is where I ultimately grow. There is no time limit I am attaching or holding myself to. I have saved up enough to feel comfortable not working for a year. I am giving myself the opportunity to be fully present and letting my heart lead, wherever it chooses to go. 

Surrendering to your dreams will always come with tests to see how badly you want it. I have faced numerous tests throughout July - October, and the end results have always been linked to fear or my ego. In October, I told my work I could stay longer now that I wasn't in a rush to get to New Zealand and was able to stay. This ultimately subsided my fear of running out of money since I had already accepted leaving, and was now making an additional month's pay. I knew in my heart what I ultimately wanted and ended up finding an Ashram in Colombia. Some of my friends had planned a trip to Colombia over New Years and I now had the opportunity to meet up with them. Everything aligning the way it has is as if my heart is thanking me for listening. 

You see, there is something you should know about me. When I truly want something, I will go after it with full force. A lot of people have told me that I am lucky and they don't get how things always work out for me. But the reality is this: I am the creator of my life. I have been manifesting the life of my dreams since I was in middle school and first read the book, "The Secret". The vision board I made 15 years ago came true in every aspect. I know that I can do anything if I set my mind to it. Our mind is our most powerful tool; what we think, we become. I created this blog to share with the world my mentality, and to inspire others to live out their wildest dreams.