If you ever have the chance to go on a yoga retreat, I highly recommend checking out my teacher Sadie Nardini’s excursions. I just returned from her yoga / wine retreat in Tuscany with my mom (yes, we survived each other and had a blast!). Each day was pack with not only transformative yoga, but adventures and experiences that enriched my life AND my yoga practice, with kindred spirits! To tell stories of each experience of the 5 days would require a book. Because I’m so passionate about world travel, holistic health, beauty and yoga, I collected tips from the like-minded yogis I met along the way. Each of the 21 attendees had something to share that I hope will help you on your future journeys, so enjoy!
~ Pack light – and don’t check baggage, if you can.
You’re probably thinking “yeah right, I’m going to a foreign country!” but baggage fees can be exorbitant. In fact, we bought a larger carry-on for the return flight because checking a second bag or paying for overweight charges started at $150. My next challenge is to go on my next business trip with carry-on luggage only. Sadie and her travel cohort wore the same stylish items repeatedly – all high quality and lightweight yet simple and classy. If you do check baggage, take a photo of your things in your luggage. Pack one set of lightweight clothes and undergarments in your carry-on in case your luggage is delayed. Take a photo of your itinerary on your phone in case you do not have wifi at the airport to access your itinerary and also to save paper.
~ Pack basic essentials & accessories
Pack clothes you can layer such as leggings, light cotton gauze clothing & a light jacket for the plane. Accent basics that you can wear over and over with statement necklaces or decorative scarves that can operate as a shawl (this was important when we traveled in Rome to the Vatican because women are required to cover their shoulders and knees). (Thanks Sadie!)
~ Cleanliness is comfort
A former nurse told me she carries a small bottle of bleach and wraps it in 2 ziploc bags. She uses it to clean the shower and sinks where she stays. She also takes off the bedspread and asks for a new one because the bedspreads are rarely ever cleaned and only the sheets are changed. (Thanks Tara!) Sage oil would also be something I would recommend to clean your space and settle in comfortably during your stay.
Rosemary bush at one of the 3 wineries we toured
Rosemary & lavender = perfume
The Tuscan terrain is breathtaking. Cypress, olive and almond trees are plentiful and I never grew tired of soaking in their beauty. The herb bushes are abundant as well. The first morning before yoga, part of our group took a walk with Sadie while she stopped to rub rosemary and lavender on her wrists from a nearby shrub. She shared “it’s the only perfume you every need.”
~ Bring bug spray essential oil blends or a portable bug spray fan
Nobody likes bugs and some people are extremely allergic to them. Citronella is a great way to ward of pesky insects; however, some people can be allergic to citronella as well. Some of the yogis had their own blends of essential oils they carried around. (Thanks Kiki!) Some essential oils can expedite healing a bug bite also. One yogi in particular even had a portable bug spray fan! My personal favorite is:
Dinner at Osteria on the fourth night of the retreat
~ Pack a fan, umbrella, sunglasses or hat in your bag and weary comfy shoes!
The weather was extremely hot in Tuscany in July and temperatures often reached 90 degrees. Rock your fan under the Tuscan sun! We walked quite a bit and there’s nothing more miserable than having to walk all day in shoes that hurt your feet.
Dinner at Osteria on the fourth night of the retreat
~ Do a keys-passport-phone-camera-check and keep everything in the same place.
I left my phone in one of the vans after a few glasses of wine and felt totally lost. My husband had downloaded the Find My Phone App but I had turned of cellular data to avoid roaming charges while in Italy, so the app could not retrieve it. He did not travel to Italy but he was able to activate a lock code from the States to prevent anyone from using it. Luckily, my phone was returned to me. It was a reminder to keep everything in the same place tucked away and to do a quick check before getting out of the bus. This can be particularly tough when you’re tired or you’ve had a few glasses of wine, so it helps to look out for each other when in a group. Luckily our group was a cohesive sort so a few times yogis retrieved items for one another. (Thanks Donna!) Also, make sure your tote is zippered to deter pickpockets from reaching in and taking your things when you least expect it.
~ Pack chargers, adaptors, maps and guidebooks.
It pays to take care of this beforehand so you don’t have to spend time during your trip to do it, but if you happen to procrastinate like I did, don’t buy the expensive charger ($25 Euro) in the shop if you can buy it ($3 Euro) from the street vendor. The expensive charger ended up breaking. Invest in a small lonely planet guide for a language guide and ask the hotels you stay in for a map so you can always point to the location you are staying to your cab drivers, especially if they cannot speak English and you cannot speak their language. (Thanks Miriam!)
~ Pack sponges & baby wipes
When it was overbearingly hot, we felt sticky and we could not make it back to our hotel until the end of the day, baby wipes were great to freshen up temporarily. Often referred to as a “Vegas shower” or a “French shower”, sometimes you just have to do what you have to do! I also brought these flat sponges that expand when you add water. They were great for the shower.
Eminence Organics Sun Defense SPF brush #3 outside of the villa we stayed at in Montalcino
~ Limit makeup to tinted moisturizer, SPF powder, lip gloss, bronzer and any of your favorite must haves
My Eminence Organics shot out under the Tuscan sun : my tinted moisturizer served as my moisturizer, SPF and sheer coverage. I used the SPF powder for arms, shoulders and décolleté. I didn’t get burned once!
~ Soak your laundry nightly, dry it daily
So my mother is obsessive about cleanliness and washed laundry by hand every day while we were there. Her tips were to soak clothing in the sink overnight with shampoo, and then rinse and dry in windows during the day. (Thanks mom!)
~ Keep a light journal
Write everything down – including streets and towns you visited! (Thanks Raeleen!)
~ Pack your sleep and digestive aides and nurse your jet lag
Stay up, eat with the region’s rhythms. Take herbs or whatever works for you when you can’t sleep, digest, or eliminate properly. The Pharmacia had these dehydrated figs that can only be found in Europe to help move bowels that worked really well! (Thanks Meredith!). Apply ear seeds for the plane. Place your feet on the earth when you get off the plane to ground yourself and get rid of EMFs, those free radicals that interfere with our body’s natural rhythms. If you do not have room for a yoga mat – there’s nothing like practicing on grass!
~ Smile and ask drivers and waiters their names
I asked the name of every driver and waiter that helped us and each of them were that much more helpful. Because I built that rapport from just asking their names, smiling and being friendly to them, I felt comfortable asking directions and information on wifi spots, etc. This saved me so much frustration being in a country that I could not speak the language. Also, your tour guides are invaluable. They are worth every penny. (Thanks Don!)
~ Recognize your teachers
Everyone you meet plays a role in your life. Some will test you, some will use you, some will love you, some will teach you. Some will bring out the best in you. Recognize the role each person plays and who you want to share your journey with to carve out your perfect day. (Thanks to everybody that came – special shot out to the tribe – I learned so much from you!) Life is beautiful and we have the power to create the life we want so we can shine bright. And as Sadie says, “balance is not polarity.” So you can have your yoga and your pizza and wine and eat it too! Now go forth and let your Shen shine!
Feel free to add any other tips by posting below. Ciao!