The SoloFemale Travellers Tales
Nomading the Winter in South America
As many of you will know, I am Row founder of the RisingSoul Retreat, a rustic and rural yoga retreat which connects nomads and yoga in nature. Based in the beautiful bohemian balkan mountains of Bulgaria.
Bulgaria is a seasonal country and whilst we enjoy wonderful sunny Spring, Summers and Autumns, Winters are stunning but tough. The snow comes in early December and can pop back for a visit anytime until late April with temps as low as minus 20 on a cold year.
Great for those of us who love walking the dogs in the snowy forest and snowboarding, sledging or skiing. However, in the Bulgarian mountains our only way of heating is electric or wood and we have decided as a community that to reduce our carbon footprint where possible it’s actually not the best use of energy to keep the RisingSoul open all winter every winter.
In addition our community is a nomadic travellers community and we all know that nomads get ants in their pants if they stay still for too long! So the residents and long term volunteers have headed off on other adventures for the winter. You can keep tabs on our adventures by following us on Instagram and facebook @risingsoulretreat.
The Dance of Life & Work
So at this point life looks like it has found a healthy balance that has previously alluded me. My winters are to refill, absorb new cultures, network, develop my teachings and practices, so that I have an abundance of new experiences to share with our guests next season. Where I get to continue to be passionate about the space we have created and sharing it with others.
Our summers are busy but in a wonderful way, where we get to practise and share our space to help, support and heal ourselves and others. We eat wonderful local and home grown food and what’s not to love about life.
Yet there is always the behind the scenes stuff and spending my winter as a digital nomad means I can continue to develop the RisingSoul whilst working remotely. I’m experiencing hostels, couch surfing and workaways all over South America which keeps me in touch with our digital nomads, yoga retreat guests and volunteer needs, so it’s a win-win. This is an example of getting life to work with you. I’m doing what I want to do and it is benefiting me on a personal level whilst fulfilling many of the project’s needs, which because i love doing what we do also again benefits me and everyone else.
A Peep Behind the Scenes at the RisingSoul
Getting organised may seem daunting at the beginning of a project, with so much to do and there are different ways to go. Some people need every detail marked out and in place before picking up their tools and others trust that they have enough experience to deal with what happens and a quick sketch out of what goes where, is enough to get started.
I opted for the second option. Having the ball rolling from the beginning means you need to be quick on your feet, to make sure you can organise and create the systems if your ball starts gathering pace. but it does allow you to gain experience and becone sustainable more quickly. I developed the concept and website first and drafted out a long term vision for the community. In this way there is focus point for your energy and you better able to manifest. I then started work and invited people to help. and join us, I asked the local community to help and set up exchanges that gave back and supported our intentions.
I tried different programs and ideas combinations of concepts and lost time and work making necessary mistakes so I would finally find the right balance of who we wanted to be and what that looked like. I created trello boards that work for most people, to help us to navigate the admin, coordination, logistics and marketing waves.
These are necessary and important to running a well organised retreat and community yet It’s a double edged sword. Our whole vibe is relaxed, thankful, peaceful, healthy, vibrant and inclusive, yet none of these things would be possible if we were not very well organised. We may look barefooted and hippy but this hobbit chick could probably run a small country with her trello boards!!
Yep I’m not kidding, well kind of! But really, making everything run smoothly without chaos is not easy. When you can have as many as 20 people living together with 3 -6 practices a day and eating fresh home cooked produce everyday, it takes hard work, dedication and good systems. The art is to make it look easy, so everyone can feel relaxed and enjoy living peacefully. In reality this occasionally means I’m running around like a greyhound, yet the more this incredible nomads community and yoga retreat space develops the more our skills and efficiency develop with it.
Create Systems To Set You Free
I was once at a lecture where the speaker informed us that he had got to a point in his racing stables where he couldn’t physically work any longer. He had 50 horses and he didn’t feel he could pass 15 of them to his young or even experienced staff control as they were too complicated. But other trainers were successfully running yards of 250 horses. How were they doing it? He finally realised how to let go of the limiting belief that he needed to do everything himself. When a friend told him that McDonalds doesn’t employ the most experienced staff, yet they run a multibillion global company and it’s not often you hear of things going wrong at camp McDonald!!
Not that we have any desire to be anything like McDonalds, not even a free veggie burger meal would entice me. Yet he had a point and it was one that I remembered well. How do they recruit 16 year olds and be that successful!! (objectively) They have excellent systems, well developed, accurate, efficient and bullet proof (well almost) that any 16 year old can be trained to follow and do a good job.
We have amazing volunteers from all over the world to help us, some young, some not so much and all with their own set of skills and creative inspiration. This is not a regular staff team. Our people are here because they felt enough connection or inspiration to the project to contribute their time and creative energy to our community. Yet it presents a unique set of enhancements and challenges.
How do you run a smooth and professional yet super friendly and family feel community, balancing high standards of care and teaching with human, rustic, relaxed and comfy yoga retreats with a team that’s ever changing. Well there are a few tricks to it and going forward we are building as a group of long term residents, which will enable us to keep consistent systems and expand experience to support our growth. Enabling us to continually improve our digital nomads and retreat guests’ facilities and experiences.
Let Us Never Forget Trello
You may by this point believe we were in partnership with Trello were not! (humm something to think about!) You can use whatever system works for you. We use colourful, clear and inclusive systems on Trello Boards to enable our volunteers to quickly pick up their role. We’ve done this by creating Hats made up of one or two roles we are able to find a hat that best fits a volunteer.
Their role will tell them exactly what is expected and give them clear instructions and something to refer to. It also helps us to keep standards high and create accountability for everyone’s contributions. A thorough induction and welcome are part of the training and everyone is encouraged to propose creative ideas and projects on our brainstorming cards. In addition we share events festivals and cool stuff for volunteers to visit on our social card and all this is easy to access in
Other systems with preparation become second instinct. For example our weekly market run began with me taking an entire day to go alone shopping for 10 plus people. It was exhausting a day of multiple runs to the car carrying as much as I could in each run. By the end of the 2002 season we now have a well oiled and slick system. On Sundays all stock is checked and our trello shopping lists are updated.
Mondays are local market days. Half the team stays to deep clean the kitchens and the chef is responsible for using up any remaining food from last week, whilst preparing every space for the new food.
Myself plus one other hit the market early and after shopping at the market for two years we have created great relationships with our suppliers who now drop home all our heavy items. What used to take me one entire day now takes two people two hours, we know exactly who sells the best of what and understand the seasonal produce and price changes. We have a route around town that’s efficient and we even have time for a coffee break these days. Yes it still requires organising, but the systems do most of the work.
I believe this is something we can apply to much of our lives. When we allow our creative selves to flow and trust in others we find that life gets easier. We spend less time resisting and resenting the things that don’t go exactly as we expected, and we can find the middle ground of good enough to awesome, without suffering the self-inflicted disappointments of perfectionism.
When we finally accept and come to terms with the reality that no one and nothing is perfect and that’s truly ok. Then we are in a place of compassion for ourselves and everyone around us. For me there is a big difference between enthusiasm and creative flow and worry and anxiety. In my personal life it’s great to trust in the universe and go with the flow, but it’s also ok to make a plan and then there is no need to think about it anymore.
I often make up my mind on the spot as i’m travelling but this would not work when it came to market day Mondays. Deciding only to buy one apple today because that’s how I feel, wouldn’t go down too well with the chef or guests. Yet because I have developed a good system I no longer waste my present worrying about what might happen on Monday. I know everything is in place and if they run out of apples no problem we will have plumbs instead.
Acceptance has been one of my biggest and ongoing lessons and the more I practise it the more peace I find in myself and the world around me. I love the teachings of Echart Tolle and highly recommend the audio books The Power Of Now, New Earth and recently I found For Those Who Serve which is an amusing and inspiring collection.
So in my next Blog I will be sharing how my Solo Female Travellers Tales are going whilst I travel Ecuador, and how it is to work from your laptop when backpacking.
May we all practise more acceptance, less judgement and lots of compassion.
Love & Abundance