Our dear friend Whitney Haldeman wrote a blog pot about her adventure in Italy last fall with the Shakti community. The early bird sign-up deadline to join Shakti in Peru this fall is coming up fast! Put down your deposit to join us in the Sacred Valley, Peru by May 1 and save $200 off of the retreat price!
I spent over 200 days in 2016 away from my home in Nashville. Of those 200-something days, most of them were spent traveling with people I know and love. Some of them, I spent enjoying time all to myself. But there was a stretch of 7 days where I traveled predominantly with strangers I had never met before— and they ended up being some of my favorite.
That may sound a bit odd— to travel with people you barely know (or don’t know at all). Probably because most of us have simply never done it before.
What do you typically do with your vacation days? Some of us want to park by a beach and shut off our brain for the week. Others want to spend time visiting friends we haven’t seen in a while. But how many people do you know that would travel to the other side of the world with people they barely know to be introspective and exercise twice a day? It sounds a bit crazy written like that, doesn’t it? But that’s exactly what a group of us did at the Shakti Power Yoga retreat in Cortona, Italy this past October.
You probably have all sorts of pre-conceived notions about yoga retreats in your brain. I bet if you closed your eyes you’d picture someone incredibly fit and zen twisted into some incomprehensible position in front of a waterfall all whilst smiling an annoyingly peaceful smile. At least, that’s what I pictured at first. But on the contrary, I showed up after 2 months of traveling Europe, feeling tired, overfed, puffy from eating too many croissants and feeling like I'd lost any flexibility I once had. Lucky for me, I was in good company.
Arriving at the Florence airport, I started meeting all my fellow yogis (all people who lived in Nashville, that went to my same yoga studio… but it took traveling to Italy together to ever even say hi. It’s actually quite funny if you stop an think about it.) As we were chatting in our shuttle to Cortona, we discovered most of us had never been on a yoga retreat and weren’t really sure what to expect besides- well, yoga.
While we certainly did all the things we expected we’d do (again, the most obvious being yoga) the time we spent in Italy was so much more than just that.
For starters, we all took full advantage of the idyllic environment we were in. There were options to explore Cortona (the nearby town), go wine tasting, ride bikes through the Tuscan countryside and even participate in an Italian cooking class. And if instead, we preferred not to leave our romantic villa with sweeping views, we could lay poolside to read, journal or simply be still. Some of us wanted to fully capitalize on the opportunity to see Italy. Some of us were tired and preferred time to rest. But regardless of what everyone chose to do during the day, we all spent our mornings and evenings together: sharing our practice as well as our meals together.
But the true highlight of the week for me wasn’t the yoga, seeing Italy or even eating all the delicious food. It was gathering around the dinner table every night, drinking wine, and getting to know so many different, wonderful people outside of the studio we all share back home. There was representation from so many walks of life: People who had survived cancer and survived heartbreak. People who were married and people who were single. We had different colors of skin and hair. Different occupations and interests. But regardless of everyone’s differences we all shared the attribute of mindfulness that week as we focused on our present time together.
Sure, it was a week of restoring our bodies with daily yoga practices and whole + nutritious foods. It was also a week of adventure as we explored Italy together. But I’d argue the greatest takeaway for most of us was the way this retreat both challenged and restored our minds.
Leaving at the end of the week, I felt so different than the day I arrived. I laughed as I tried to articulate the feeling to a friend, because I found myself using cliché “yoga” wordslike gratitude and mindfulness. I suppose it’s not really something you can truly understand unless you experience it yourself.
But with that said, I hope at some point everyone can experience it. Regardless of if you have a friend to go with. Regardless of where the retreat destination is. It will always require bravery to step outside of your normal routine: be it what you do everyday or what you choose to do with every vacation. But just ask anyone who attended our retreat in Italy, and I’d bet you’ll get the same answer: the payoff far outweighs any of the discomfort that comes with uncertainty.
Want to see for yourself? Well, you’re in luck because Shakti is headed to Peru this September! I can’t think of a better place to practice mindfulness and be inspired (both on and off the mat) than the Sacred Valley at Machu Picchu. REGISTER/MORE INFORMATION HERE:
Thanks to my Shakti family for creating such an incredible experience for all of us in Italy! I can’t wait to see where else we go together in the years to come.
Whitney Haldeman is a travel + lifestyle blogger (as well as a regular yogi at Shakti). She created Blonde Atlas as a destination to inspire people to live their best life while she spends hers doing more of what she loves: traveling.