Saturday, December 2nd, 2018 (happy birthday Wren!):
Well I guess you could say I got a little busy this last month. Not sure how I was envisioning keeping up with this blog while immersed in yoga boot camp. Here I am on my last night finally with some time and the head space to write, sprawled out on my large bed in my hotel room, clumsily trying to type without smudging my freshly decorated henna hands or itch my turmeric face mask. Tomorrow is our graduation day at 9am. I’ve picked out a light blue sari bedazzled in little gold jewels.


My head is swimming with all of this newly gained knowledge. My body feels stronger and more balanced than it ever has, but it is also begging for a break. I think I’ve purged more emotions this month than I have in years and I’m feeling kind of like a dry well at the moment.
My belly is full of pasta and ice cream after our dinner tonight. Two foods I was passionately advised against in my ayurvedic consultation today.
I was also advised not to eat eggplant, rice, bananas first thing in the morning, and, while pointing accusingly at my bare feet, to always wear at least 2 layers of socks.
He bullet pointed my 3 main issues like he’d known them before I’d walked in the door.

  • I can’t focus on anything to save my life.
  • I’m always cold and tired.
  • I don’t let people get close enough

These three sentences have been echoed to me ever since I first got to Rishikesh and had my palm read by an old shop man. And they’re not sentences I’m unfamiliar with. I would say most of us are more familiar with our issues than our gifts to begin with, but hearing these 3 personal flaws so much coming from strangers mouths somehow has made me take them more seriously. Practising drishti, trataka, pranayama, and…..
4:00am 2 weeks later in a 50’s diner in the JFK airport:
Not sure where I was going with that, hence bullet point #1. Life gets busy. I was swept into Thailand where I swam among colorful fish, partied among tatted Thai boys, and ran back and forth from my bed to the bathroom until I felt like a frail leaf.


And just like that it’s all behind me. I am sipping cold water with ice I’m not suspicious of, waiting for a breakfast burrito with salsa and guacamole, my mouth watering and my eyelids struggling to stay open. Frank Sinatra jingles merrily from the surrounding speakers, the kitchen staff all wear ho ho ho santa hats and one served a large burger to a homeless man curled up by the heater behind the restaurant. Christmas has arrived in New York. Something I’ve been looking forward to being serenaded into coming home. I was tempted to watch It’s a Wonderful Life on the plane but I kept choosing depressing indie movies one after the other. Now I’m in a mood. God I’m tired.
Tuesday, January 22nd, 2019
Hi. I’m home. Once again, making a great case for bullet point #1. To tell the truth, I’ve had a lot of time on my hands since I’ve been home with no great excuse like doing a yoga teacher training for not writing this blog sooner. Since the hype of the holidays I’ve spent my days dragging my feet around my parent’s house, standing in front of the fridge thinking of all the things I want to eat but don’t want to cook, taking our new puppy on long and biting cold walks, binge-watching Netflix series, rearranging and cleansing my social life i.e. reconnecting with old friends and moving on from others (probably the area where I’ve been most productive), and pushing off writing the promised blog #4. Here’s something I was not prepared for coming home from an adventurous and life altering 4 months of traveling: the blues! If anything, I was preparing myself for a highly functioning refreshed and spunky version of myself. Everything was supposed to be new and sparkly through my worldly eyes; opportunities were supposed to blossom with every step I took. On my flight from Guangzhou, China to JFK I re-watched The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. There’s a scene when Benjamin returns home after traveling around the world as a seaman; he’s standing in his living room exactly as he left it last with a blank expression, and speculates, “It’s a funny thing about comin’ home. Looks the same, smells the same, feels the same. You’ll realize what’s changed is you.”
The relevance of those words were lost on me then, but now, a little more than a month since landing in the U.S., I get it.


Coming home is harder than leaving. Granted, I came home in the dead of winter, right on cue for my annual spell of high anxiety and depression. And, not to mention, directly coming from 2 weeks spent lounging about in a backpacker’s tropical paradise, Lonely Beach in Koh Chang, Thailand. In the blink of an eye I went from being submerged in crystal clear waters,
face to face with the strangest looking aquatic creatures I’ve ever seen while, little to my knowledge, the sun torched the patches of my back that Shannon innocently forgot to smother with sunscreen, to lying sprawled out on my parent’s couch littered in snack wrappers and cloaked in blankets, re-watching The Office without a clue or a care of what day it was. Fair warning to fellow world travelers who come back home without much of a plan of where to go next, it doesn’t matter what you do, just do something. Because the longer you wait to do something, the harder it gets to stop doing nothing. You get stuck. I’m stuck. I’m not writing this to throw myself a pity party (well, maybe a little bit), I’m writing this because it’s the truth and a part of writing a “no filter” travel blog is not leaving out the parts when you come home and the adventures slow to an anti-climatic screeching halt and everything feels foggy and you begin to wonder where that exuberant, constantly stimulated, risk-taking, fully alive person who you knew to be yourself while traveling went. Where the hell did she go? Did I leave her behind in Thailand? In Guangzhou where I had that 12 hr layover in a 4 star hotel courtesy of China Southern Airlines? Did I leave her in that bathtub I spent hours soaking in?
It’s the middle of winter and I’m back to taking vitamin d supplements in replacement of the sun. I hate January. I’ve always hated January. It’s supposed to be a fresh start for everyone, new year, blank sleight, resolutions, diets, planners blah blah blah. I always feel like I get left behind in January and all of that “new year, new me!” energy has already all been swiped by the time I roll out of bed on January 1st usually with a bad hangover (sorry close family members and relatives, tmi). But February…, now that’s my magic month. It also happens to be my birthday month and, in my mind, cause for a whole month’s worth of celebrating me! Quick pause. So I’m sitting at the front desk of Sweet Peas Hostel (where I work) and a guest just walked in and told me that I have a “bright and lovely face.” So I guess it’s nice to know that despite my returned case of hormonal acne and how dead I feel on the inside right now I somehow still manage to look bright on the outside. Still on the inside that counts though folks, didn’t just spend 2 months studying Buddhism and Yogic philosophies without learning that much.
Speaking of those 2 months, to make up for lost blogs I will make a bulleted list of the highlights:

  • Painting the bathrooms and railings at Thosamling Nunnery a bright and toxic-smelling red.
  • Playing with “Cat” a stray cat that turned out to be the center of that month’s drama at Thosamling as half the nun’s wanted to keep him and the other half didn’t (and no one had the heart to name him knowing he’d probably be leaving soon).
  • Paragliding in Bir Billing!! Which was both as exhilarating and terrifying as I hoped it would be. And if you need a laugh, to see a video of me leaping off a cliff with my gopro accidentally facing me you can either go to my instagram or facebook. You’re welcome.
  • Arriving safely at my yoga school in Rishikesh with a dead phone and a paranoid hunch that my taxi driver was taking me somewhere much different. (Sorry I doubted you, Aakesh, if you ever read this!).
  • Meeting similar souls from all around the world who I felt a bond with from the beginning, and deepening that bond as the month went on.
  • Bonding with myself through hours and hours of deep self-reflection and body-work. Breaking through my many walls and making all sorts of discoveries about myself and my world. Could get lost in trying to describe what these experiences were like, but a part of me feels a little protective over them so I’ll keep them to myself for now.
  • Teaching my first class! I can’t begin to describe how powerful it felt to lead a class in yoga after finally feeling like I kinda knew what I was talking about. Still have miles and miles of depth to discover and learn, but I’m an inch closer than when I started!
  • Learning in a more rigorous academic setting than I was expecting after being out of school for a year and a half. Got some confidence back that I’m capable of actually learning stuff and passing tests, turns out it just has to be a topic I’m actually interested in. Who knew?
  • OFFICIALLY A CERTIFIED YOGA TEACHER!!! (Which is much different than being a yogi by the way, I am by no means a yogi, by calling me a yogi you are insulting yogi’s everywhere. But I do appreciate the compliment 🙂 ).
  • Snorkeling in Thailand and getting somewhat over my irrational fear of the ocean and getting eaten by a shark.
  • PHAT SI-IO (I wasted way too many meals eating Pad Thai before discovering this dish along with sweet seafood curry).
  • Chillin without a care in the whole goddamn world.

And that’s a wrap! I’m sure you’ll be hearing more from me later when I finally pull myself out of this sludge and do something again (let’s go Feb.!). Hint: I’m already making plans to move to Barcelona at the end of summer with no return date. I’m sure that’ll give me something to write about. And who knows, maybe I’ll find some adventure here in the heart of Western North Carolina, land of the Cherokee and home of the Tar Heels, southern bumpkins and hairy hippie fairies, (and a small population of Cherokee). Until then, keep shining your bright and lovely faces my sweet, dutiful readers!
With love from the innermost corners of my gooey heart,
Gressa

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