Discovering the Beautiful Island of Sao Tome & Principe, Africa

As we were getting ready to land on the island of Sao Tome & Principe in Africa, the man sitting next to me on the airplane looked over and quietly whispered to me, “you must be going to the island for work, no?”

With a very confused look on my face, I smiled and said,

“No, I am going for tourism. I have been traveling alone in West Africa for the last 3.5 months and this is my last stop.”

He looked at me totally shocked, as if I had told him something that was absolutely absurd and unheard of.

“Look all around us and see if you notice anything in common with the majority of the people”- he mentioned

I awkwardly turned around, looking to my right and to the left. He was right, there was a commonality:  Couples, many, many couples. They were of all ages, the giddiest of them being the elderly couple sitting in the seat in front of us, which were kissing endlessly until the plane hit the ground.

So, what the man next to me was trying to determine with his original question is: why on Earth would someone travel to a beautiful island destination, full of lovers, COMPLETELY ALONE?!

Over my years of traveling, I can’t tell you how many times I have heard the typical line: “One day, when I have the love of my life by my side, I will travel to that incredible destination I have always wanted to visit, but until then, I will wait.”

Many people constantly wait until another day, and the sad truth is that many will never actually visit their dream destination because they are constantly waiting on a future change or person to come.

Sure, Sao Tome & Principe is a beautiful island and there are many lovers that visit there, but it’s suitable for all types of travelers, even solo travelers. As I was looking out the window as we were landing I did not get upset by his random question to me, nor did I enter in a depression of the reality that I was there completely alone. In fact, I felt the opposite. I could feel the excitement building as we got closer and closer to the runway, knowing that I had 8 full days to explore this small island, which is the second smallest country in Africa.

Sao Tome & Principe was already on my good list before entering, considering the fact that as an American I did not need a visa for up to 15 days. That was an excellent plus, especially given the amount I spent only in visas in West Africa before arriving. In fact, the no visa applies to all European citizens and in many other parts of the world.

NOTE: Before booking a flight it’s important to check and make sure you need a visa. Many require visas in advance. 

Flying to Sao Tome is quite simple. Portugal and Ghana are the normal layovers to enter into Sao Tome through Tap Air. I was super impressed with the company, which had competitive prices, good amenities on board and good food options for the long international flight.

NOTE: Keep in mind that it is absolutely necessary to have you Yellow Fever Certificate. The moment you get off of the plane there is an officer at the door checking each card individually. 

PRACTICAL INFORMATION 

Language: Portuguese

Dinero: Dobra, euro accepted in many places

This is a cash ONLY country. I made the mistake of visiting with little cash and when I arrived I spent a whole entire day trying to get money transferred in by Western Union.

After spending all day at the bank, the transaction was unsuccessful. I then started to investigate different ways to get money and I was informed that if you really need to take out money with your card then you can visit EcoBank and talk with the person in charge. They will then give you a code, which allows you to take out money from the machine. I obviously did not know this, or I would’ve done this in the first place.

If that does not work, there are small places available that you can transfer money by PayPal with 5% commission. In the end, this was the option that I ended up going with. The transaction was super simple and in an official building.

TRANSPORTATION

It’s quite difficult to get lost on the island. Throughout most of Sao Tome, its one main road, with few turn offs. The road conditions are not excellent and especially the more south you go, the more likely the chance is you will need a 4×4.

Without a doubt, the best way to get around is by renting a car. Public transportation is available (yellow minivans shared with many people), but it only stays on the main roads and will not take you to the waterfalls, plantations and all of the places that are worth the visit.

Renting a car will cost you €40 a day plus gas, and if you want to rent a guide, another €20.

I’ve visited the island half of the time by myself and then the other half with a local guide. Looking back, I am happy that I spent the extra money for a guide and the driver, because the roads were rough and as a passenger I was not responsible for any sort of damages that could’ve happened on the road.

In addition, a local guide can give you lots of interesting information, tell you stories and make the experience even more meaningful.

I was traveling alone in the beginning, but I found an elderly 73 year old man that was also traveling alone. We decided to split the travel costs and have a fun adventure together.

Motorcycles are also available, but you need an international motorcycle license. However, I was told by many people that the police do not ever check your license, but in the case that they do, you would be required to pay a fine.

ACCOMODATION

There are countless options for lodging, ranging from very luxurious, mid range, to budget AirbnB rooms. I decided to try many different places out in order to get a more well rounded opinion on the accommodation options available on the island.

For the low budget travelers, the cheapest option is Airbnb for around $12/night. These options are available more outside of the city, but still within walking distance. However, if you are a solo traveler and are looking to meet people, this is not the best option in my opinion.

GUEST HOUSES 

There are two main guest houses in the city, which can range anywhere from $40-100 a night, depending on how many people you are traveling with. This is an excellent way to meet other travelers, cook and share meals and have a common area to talk and have a community of people around you.

I really enjoyed my stay in the guest houses and if you are traveling with another person, the price comes out to be very reasonable.

The two main guest houses are: Sweet Guest House & Sao Pedro. They both have different atmospheres and are located on different parts of the city, so depending on your taste, you can easily decide which one is best for you.

Both are about a 10 minute walk to the city center and easily accessible by car. I tried both of the guest houses out and I can say with 100% confidence that either one of them are excellent choices.

SWEET GUEST HOUSE 

The best thing about here is the cozy atmosphere, the shared, fully stocked kitchen and common area. I met other travelers there and even learn how to cook some delicious Nigerian food with 2 Nigerian men that were there for work. The common area has a big TV and couches for people to sit and relax, as well as an excellent outdoor area, right off the kitchen, to eat outside.

The vibe is very good there and the rooms are spacious and comfy. Of all the places that I stayed, this one had the best air conditioning, which was a huge plus! The staff was helpful and even organized a trip for another traveler and I to the south of the island.  They did all the work and all we had to do was show up, pay and enjoy the trip.

Breakfast is available in the morning at an additional price, which included tropical fruits, coffee, eggs, etc.

Highly recommended.

For more information, click here

SÃO PEDRO 

The best part about this place, in comparison to the other places that I stayed in the island, was its distance to the beach. You literally walk out the door, down the street two minutes and the beach will be right in front of you. Also, if you plan on visiting the chocolate factory, it as well is just a 2 minute walk.

You can feel the vibes of this place the minute you walk in. The huge pool, surrounded by palm trees gives this place a very tropic feeling. It’s a perfect place to lay out by the pool and read a book, relax or even go for a swim.

This is a good place to meet other travelers, in a location that is ideal and safe. The guesthouse is gated,  so I had to fear in laying out by the pool in the evening or night.

The owner was very helpful in helping me to organize my stay, finding nice places to eat and organizing my transportation.

Breakfast is included in the morning for an additional cost and has a large variety of fruits, cereals and bread.

Overall, I highly recommend this place!

For more information, click here

HOTEL CENTRAL

After visiting the guest houses, I decided to try out a couple of hotels in order to see how they are different in comparison to my experience at the guest houses.

The first hotel that I stayed at was Hotel Central. It gets its name because of its location. It is centrally located, right in the middle of all of the action. It´s just minutes away from the main market and restaurants. Wifi was not available in the rooms, but there is a small couch downstairs where one can sit and use the internet.

The rooms were very comfortable, with air conditioning. A breakfast buffet was included in the morning, which offered eggs, fruits, bread and cereal.

A very great alternative if you want to be centrally located!

For more information, click here: 

SH BOUTIQUE HOTEL 

If you are looking for a place that’s more upscale, then look no further than this hotel. This hotel is just 15 minutes away from the airport, in the area “Vila Dolores.”

The rooms were very modern, spacious and elegant. The hotel had all the nice extra amenities that I love, such as a robe, slippers, hair dryer and a a mini fridge to store my drinks.

This hotel has 24 hour security and a good parking area if you have a rental car. This is a quiet place to go and relax, located 10 minutes by foot by the city center.

Breakfast was included in the morning, with different options of fruits, cereals, eggs etc.

For more information, click here: 

WHAT TO DO

CHOCOLATE TOUR 

If you are a chocolate lover, then this is your place to splurge! Years back Sao Tome & Principe used to be the world’s largest cocoa producer, but from what our guide explained, after the small country became independent, a lot of the plantations throughout the island were abandoned. The cocoa history is quite interesting here and you can learn about it at Claudio Corallo Chocolate Factory.

For just 4 euros you can join a chocolate tasting tour where you get the chance to try all kinds of delicious chocolates and learn about the history.

LOCAL MARKET 

It can get a bit wild, but the market is a great place where you can get a good feel for the local culture of the island. This place is packed full of people selling fruits, fish, meat, and everything you can possibly think of. They can get a bit rowdy in there, so hold on tight to your stuff.

They sell a lot of raw fish and meat, so if you have a weak stomach, you may want to just visit the market from the outside.

I highly suggest buying some Jackfruit and trying it out. It’s not available in all parts of the world, so it’s a fruit that everyone should try at least once.

SAO SEBASTIÃO 

This is a unique 1566 fortress which is now converted into a museum. This is great place to visit in the city center, with rich history and excellent places to take photos.

GASTRONOMY TOUR 

There are so many dishes available in Sao Tome, which are strongly influenced by the Portuguese. One of my favorite activities that I did within the city was visiting different restaurants and trying typical dishes.

The most common food on the island, without a doubt, is fish, banana and rice. Other local dishes that I enjoyed are:

Calulu: a traditional dish prepared with fish, veggies (eggplant, onion, spices and typically served with rice and plantain. This was my favorite dish that I tried.

Barriga de Peixe: traditional grilled fish, with comes served with rice, or breadfruit

Cachupa: delicious dish, made with green beans, corn and broad beans.

 

SOUTH

In my opinion, the south was the most impressive part of the island. Its a straight road to get there and is located about 2.5-3 hours by car from the airport.

I highly recommend spending at least one night in the south, but it is possible to just do a day trip, although it will be a bit rushed.

ROCA AGUA IZE 

This was one of our first stops on our way to the south of the country. This is one of the most original and largest cocoa plantations, which many years ago had thousands of locals employed.

There are many places for breathtaking views from there and it’s definitely a stop that you must visit.

BOCA DE INFERNO (HELLS MOUTH)

I absolutely loved visiting here. There are some amazing views and it’s interesting to see the water pound hard against the rock to create a large blowhole.

Although my guide told me it was not a good idea, I still decided to go down the hill closer to the rocks. Its interesting to see up close and its a better place to get a photo.

PICO CAO GRANDE

This rock is one of the most famous volcanic rocks in the hole world and it’s impossible not to see if you are traveling to the south. You can either take a hike towards the rock or get a nice shot from the road.

JALE BEACH (PRAI JALE)

This was such an impressive beach, with beautiful white sand. Out of all of the beaches that I explored, this was one of my favorites. The area was super clean, white sand and very peaceful.

The roads are unpaved to get there, so it’s recommended to go with an SUV. There are different bungalows available to sleep, which is an excellent idea for at least one night.

This is also a popular turtle beach between the months of September and April. Here you will be able to see female turtles lay their eggs in the sand, which is a pretty neat experience!

PORTO ALEGRE 

I took a long stop here to explore the area where the fishermen were hard at work, bringing in the fish and cleaning their boats. They were all so friendly with me and had no problems with me taking a few pictures.

From Porto Alegre you can visit Rolas Island, which is the area in which you can cross the equator. It takes about 20-30 minutes and will cost anything between 35-45 euros.

I did not make that trip, but I have heard from other travelers that its a beautiful experience!

NORTH

BLUE LAGOON 

On my road trip by car to the north of the island, I came across the Blue Lagoon. There is a very pretty view spot from the road, or you can go down and swim in the crystal blue water.

This is an excellent stop for divers or snorkelers who love to explore the underwater life.

PRAI DOS TAMARINDO 

This has the reputation for being one of the best swimming areas on the island. It easy to reach from the capital and its worth the visit. This is a good place to get some amazing views and to relax on the beach.

NEVES 

This is one of the most important towns on the island. What I loved about visiting this area was going into the town and getting the authentic feel of the people on the island.

I stopped and had a local lunch and had the opportunity to connect with the kids, listen to them sing and put on performances for the International Kids Day.

If you are feeling really adventurous, just outside of Neves you can find the beginning of climbing point for Pico de Sao Tome, which is the highest mountain in the whole island.

 

CENTER 

The center of the country is where one you can explore different waterfalls, see the forest and even bird watch. There are many different endemic species of birds and on a chilled out day, this can be a great option to explore.

MONTE CAFE 

This is the main place that one can go and learn about coffee, processing, harvesting and have a good coffee tasting.

Coffee is a huge part of their culture here and its a must see when visiting. It’s very close to the capital and can easily be done in just one morning.

Here you can also visit some of the plantations. If you are lucky, a cute kid might even come up to your window and hand you a cocoa pod so that you can suck the sweetness out of each bean. It tastes just like candy!

SAO NICOLAS WATERFALL

This is a waterfall that’s about 20 by car minutes from Monte Cafe. I went during the dry season, so it was impossible to swim, but my guide mentioned that many people enjoy swimming there. The waterfall is accessible by car and requires no hiking to access it.

Its located in the forest and the drive getting there is beautiful, but quite bumpy!

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION 

If you have a lot of time it is highly recommended to visit the neighboring country, Principe. At this moment there are not boats that take tourists between the two islands, but flights are available at different times throughout the week.

Prices range from €70-150 one way. Unfortunately I did not get the chance to make this trip, but I plan to go back in the future and check it out.

Don’t forget to also read:

HOW I GRADUATED WITH HONORS IN 1 YEAR WHILE TRAVELING FULL TIME TO 20 COUNTRIES

THE PERFECT DAY GONE WRONG: MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENT IN KO SAMUI, THAILAND

7 GESTURES YOU MIGHT WANT TO AVOID IN OTHER COUNTRIES

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10 Tricks Before Speaking on Stage

I can remember the sensation like it was yesterday as I prepared to give my first big speech in front of my junior high class. The intense pounding of my heart against my chest nearly knocked me to my feet. I chugged bottle after bottle of water, but still was unable to quench my thirst. I felt weak and nauseated and no matter how hard I tried to stop shaking, I could not seem to calm myself down.

I could not understand what was happening to me….

In school I was always an outgoing and friendly person and the fact that I had such stage fright was something that did not go in line with my personality. In small groups of people I came alive, but the moment I was I was asked to get in front of the class, where all eyes were on me, I completely froze, without being able to make out a single word.

I felt completely alone in my fear of public speaking, thinking that maybe there was just something wrong with me. However, I learned over the years that I couldn’t be further from the truth.

I was not alone. 

In fact, I have spoken to hundreds of people throughout the years about their fears and anxieties and more than half of them tend to mention public speaking as one of their main ones.

Believe it or not, even after years of getting on stage, I still continue to have the fear. However, I made a promise to myself to never let fear hold me back and to always take action steps daily to tackle and overcome this beast.

I went from having a panic attack just from the pure thought of getting on stage, to now speaking to audiences of 2000+ in both English in Spanish. I was invited to speak at the largest TEDx conference in Spain, in my second language, one that I did not even know 2 years before my talk.

I understand from experience the anxieties and fears that come along with public speaking. Given that it is so familiar to me and its something that I still have to confront before getting on stage until this day, I decided to write an article on 10 things you can do before getting on stage (right before your speaking engagement) to get your nerves under control so that you can give the best speech that you possibly can.

These are tips that I personally use and I believe can be helpful tools in preparing you for your next talk.

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1. EXERCISE

Movement is the drug that keeps me sane before a big speaking event. In my case, right before a speaking engagement, I have my mind filled different emotions: excitement, nerves and anxiety. It’s almost physically impossible for me to sit still the day of my speech, and especially minutes before getting on stage.

On event days, I always start the day off with some sort of cardio exercise in order to burn off some of that stored up energy that I have within, which sometimes can get out of control.

Even if it’s just 20 minutes, this helps my mind to get into a more peaceful and focused state, while helping me to keep my nerves and anxiety under control.

Minutes before my speech, I like to do some form of exercise, whether that is walking, jumping or stretching. When our nerves are at their peak, it’s important to not let our body tense up and become stiff.

Find a form of movement that works good with you and do it before getting on stage. Work to keep your body flexible and open even as you step in the spotlight. This relaxed posture will help you in coming across as a more confident speaker.

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2. STAY HYDRATED

Sometimes it seems like no matter how much water I drink before a speaking engagement I just can’t seem to feel hydrated enough. Staying hydrated before an event is key to reducing dry mouth and an itchy throat.

Keep in my mind that drinks, such as coffee, soda or alcohol can be dehydrating and interfere with your speech. If you deal with any sort of stage fright it’s especially important to limit your caffeine intake. Your nerves, mixed with caffeine, can cause more anxiety, restlessness, a pounding heart rate and excessive trembling.

It’s important to stay hydrated, but to not feel over hydrated. Too much liquids, mixed with the nerves might give you a constant sensation of needing to urinate.

Don’t be afraid to take a bottle of water with you on stage. If you feel like your mouth is notably dry and it’s interfering with your speech, take a breath, grab a sip of water and continue.

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3. DEEP BREATHING

Breathing seems like the most obvious piece of advice, but yet so many of us forget to breathe deeply before and during our speech. Short, shallow breaths tend to leave us feeling winded and exhausted, while deep, long breaths help us to find our balance and allows oxygen to get to our brain, which enables clear thinking.

Breathing allows you to regain your focus and slow you down, which is necessary, especially for fast speakers like myself. One exercise that I like to do before going on stage is a breathing in for 3 seconds, holding it in, and then releasing it (along with a small body stretch).

Training our body to breathe, slow down and to not panic is something that does not happen over night. This is something that can be practiced on and off the stag. Like anything, and the more you do it, the more second nature it becomes.

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4. VISUALIZATION

Visualization is one of my main secrets to overcoming anxiety and can be an excellent tool for anyone if used correctly. Having the opportunity to inspire others is a very gratifying experience, so before going on stage I like to feel the end gratification even before it happens.

I love to close my eyes and imagine the satisfying feeling that I will have after facing my fear and giving a great speech. I visualize the audience clapping, telling me good job and the lives that are going to be moved because of my story.

It’s so important to believe in your own story and feel in your heart that the message your are delivering to your audience is valuable and worth their time.

If you believe in your message with all of your heart then it will be easier to visualize a positive and gratifying ending.

However, I have spoken to people that say that visualizing puts pressure on them, causing them to visualize bad possible scenarios that could happen during the speech, such as going blank, saying something wrong etc. In the case for some people, the best idea is to just stay in the present moment and not visualize future outcomes.

What works for one person might not work for the next, so find what works best for you and practice that each time.

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5. VISIT THE STAGE

There is a huge difference in my anxiety level when I feel familiar with the area in which I am speaking beforehand, compared to an odd place that I have never seen before in my life. Any chance that I get to visit the stage where I will be speaking before my event,  I hop right on it. I love to get familiar with the stage, walk around and visualize myself there with an audience of people.

If I have some time I like to rehearse different parts of the speech, especially the opening and closing, while implementing my silences, breaks and body movements.

During my first TEDx conference I was unable to visit the event site the day before. However, I arrived early the day of the event and spent at least 30 minutes walking across the stage, getting a feel for it and imagining a successful talk.

It was my first time ever to do a talk in Spanish and I believe that this short time familiarizing myself on stage beforehand was a key tool in the success of my talk.

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6. SOCIALIZE

Every event is unique and runs on a different time table. Some allow for socializing beforehand, while some save that special time for the end. If the option in available, take time and socialize before it is your time to get on stage.

I have always found that walking around, introducing myself and connecting a bit with others beforehand always helps me to connect with my audience even more during my talk.

When you personally take time to meet and greet people that are attending the event, you get a more friendly feeling and sense of connectedness with them.

When I get on stage and look out into the audience and see familiar faces, I automatically feel more at ease and relaxed, as if I am talking to friends, and not just an audience of distant strangers.

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7. CREATE A POSITIVE ENVIRONMENT FOR YOURSELF

If you are organized, then your speaking day should not be stressful and chaotic. It’s important to create a positive space for yourself the night before and the morning of your speaking engagement.

Creating a stress free, positive environment for yourself might include

  • Waking up early in order to get some exercise and meditate.
  • Preparing everything the night before (outfit, electronics, cameras etc)
  • Arriving at least an hour before your event in order to avoid feeling rushed.

IMPORTANT: If possibly, delegate the responsibility of your PowerPoint  and technical issues to someone else.

As a speaker, you have enough on our hands as it is. Your focus should not be on technical issues, but but rather focusing and preparing for your speech and then presenting it.

In some cases it might be your responsibility to deal with setting up your powerpoint, etc. If you have this responsibility, it’s important to have everything prepared beforehand and to think ahead for things that could possibly go wrong and to have a quick solution to fix it.

Technical issues are very common and I have seen in multiple occasions, including in very organized and large events, problems where no matter what they did, the powerpoint just would not work. 

It’s important to prepare and to not depend solely on your powerpoint to get by. Feeling comfortable with your speech, just in case your powerpoint does fail, can help you to go on stage with ease, knowing that no matter what happens, you will know what to say and when to say it.

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8. TONGUE TWISTERS

Tongue twisters are excellent ways to warm up your voice and ease the tension you might be feeling before getting on stage. It helps to bring you into the present moment and focuses your mind on the task at hand, which is trying to say a difficult phrase.

It’s a small action that one can take that most might not even think of, but it really can work!

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9. KICK PERFECTIONISM TO THE CURB

Perfectionism is a huge barrier that stands between many people and their life long dreams. Being a perfectionist has the ability to delay you from getting on stage and can easily send you into a negative spiral, feeling a constant feeling dissatisfaction and unhappiness.

If you are constantly thinking about giving the perfect speech, with the perfect jokes and the perfect everything, you will set yourself up for failure and burn out.

Keep in mind that it’s OK to make mistakes. In fact, most people claim that they prefer a more authentic speaker, rather than one that seems flawless and perfect in everything.

Speak from the heart and don’t let your perfectionism get in the way of giving a heartfelt message

Keep your purpose and mission in mind before and during your talk and kick perfectionism to the curb. If you keep your focus in the center of your being, then you are more likely to capture the heart of your audience and succeed.

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10. SMILE

Smiling has been scientifically proven to have multiple positive health effects in our body, even if it’s forced.

Forcing a smile can help you to feel better by releasing endorphins and serotonin into your blood. Cultures from all over the world practice smiling meditation in order to generate happy feelings and emotions in our body.

So the next time you feel like your heart is about to jump out of your chest due to fear and nerves, try a simple smile and see what happens.

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And most importantly……

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RELAX AND ENJOY IT ALL!!

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One of the worst things that could happen in your career as a public speaker is to let stress get the best of you to where you don’t even enjoy the process of speaking and getting on stage.

Public speaking and having the opportunity to inspire and share your story is an opportunity of a lifetime. We must learn to enjoy the process, embrace the fear and realize that its all part of the experience.

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Don’t forget to also check out:

THE ONE THING THAT YOU SHOULD NEVER TRAVEL WITHOUT

DISCOVERING THE BEAUTIFUL ISLAND OF SAO TOME & PRINCIPE, AFRICA

7 GESTURES YOU MIGHT WANT TO AVOID IN OTHER COUNTRIES

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Ecological Brands that you MUST know!

We live in a very excessive world, full of people that pay little attention to their wasteful behaviors and taking time to care for the world that we live in. It is easy to get caught up in the belief that what we do does not affect the world and that our behaviors really don’t make that big of a difference in the grand scheme of things.

I hear it all the time, “Why should I recycle? No one else does, so why in the world should I?”

Many of the wasteful behaviors that many individuals and cooperations have on a daily basis affects everything: plants, animals, air quality and human beings. The older that I get, the more I realize how important it is to step up and take responsibility for my actions and do as many things as I can to change the world around me and help the world to be just a little bit better each and every day.

We are not be able to change everything, but we can influence those around us, which will then influence those around them, and the chain will go on and on….

In a highly materialistic world, most people look for cheap offers and products, without even thinking twice about the material that they are using, much less the place where it was made and the possible working conditions those workers are faced with in order to make our products.

Cheap products are easy to find, but that does not make it right or ethical. Think about it….if you buy a product for practically nothing, someone has to pay the price for that, right?

There is much to learn about sustainable and ethical practices and the importance of standing up for fair trade and the banning of child labor.

It’s easy to make purchases without thinking too much about it. However, we must work to create awareness when it comes time to shop and educate ourselves on how corrupt the fashion industry is in many of the largest cooperations, that will literally do absolutely anything in order to make a dollar, even if that means harming the life of a human being.

In my quest to live a more ethical and sustainable life, I have made a list of some of my favorite brands that I have personally used over the years that have strong ethical and moral values. Each one of these companies work to be as sustainable as possible in everything they do, while standing up for the rights of hard working people that give us the beautiful clothes and products that we wear and use on a daily basis.

1. Firiri

They are a Barcelona based brand that specializes in sustainable fashion. What I love the most about this company is the fact that their core belief is based on respect and love towards human beings and the environment.

Each and every one of their products are made with love and has its own story. The founders have a strong passion for helping the world to be a better place and truly put their heart into what they do. I love the fact that when I wear this brand that I am wearing something that was made by someone that is not working in unfair and hostile working conditions or support any sort of child labor.

They use premium products, such as bamboo, linen and cotton and everything is made in the Himalayas, in Nepal.

Another thing that I like a lot about this brand is its sustainable packaging. They ship their orders wrapped in Nepali rice paper, called “Lokta paper,¨which uses no trees or chemicals such as bleach for processing. This paper has a very long tradition of history in Nepal and has been used for many centuries for various reasons, such as offerings in ceremonies.

Overall, I highly recommend this brand!

www.firiri.com

 

2. Veganized

This is a family based company in Malaga that have a large selection of alternative, casual clothing that is 100% vegan and ecological.  They have a store in Malaga, as well as the online store that ships all across Spain. This brand has clothing available for children, women, men and many different accessories.

Their values ​​are based on 5 aspects:

  • Fair Work
  • Organic
  • Sustainable
  • Vegan
  • Recycling

They place their focus on the well being of humans and make it their mission to never take advantage of the poverty of the world in order to get richer, like most large companies in the fashion industry. They make sure that their products are made in the hands of workers who are treated well and earn enough to live and support their families.

Undoubtedly, this is one of my favorite brands, not only because of their cute style of clothing, but because of their burning desire to make a great impact in the world.

www.veganized.es

 

3. Pepa Loves

This is a fantastic Spanish clothing and accessories brand that have tons of cute styles, with lots of colors and designs. They focus on the  protection of animales when making their clothes and ensuring that no animal is harmed in the process.

They do not use leather, silk or wool and believe that it is important not to make animals suffer in order to be fashionable.

I am constantly looking for places to buy new dresses, because I wear them on a daily basis. They have so many beautiful and comfortable dresses that continue to look new, even after 15+ washes. I have traveled throughout many countries with my Pepa Love clothes and I couldn’t say enough good things about them!

pepaloves.com

 

4. Woodenson

I have to admit, when I think about fashion, the last word that comes to mind is wood. When I was looking for organic products on the internet, I saw their website and it was the first time I thought about buying a watch or any other products made of wood and cork.

When I first saw their products, I could not believe that there were so many options available for wooden watches. I decided to order one and they sent it to me personalized with my brand name and logo.

A part from the watch, I ended up getting a cork wallet, a wooden speaker stand, wooden headphones, sunglasses and a small wooden box that is suitable for a usb stick.

A part from the watch, I would say that my favorite product, and the one I use the most, is my personalized cork bag. It is very light and different than any other handbags that I have.

I can’t count how many times people have stopped me in the street to ask me about my bag and where it comes from. This is always the perfect opportunity  to talk to random people about the the importance of buying more sustainable products and how easy it is to substitute any normal, ordinary product for something that is better for the environment.

www.woodenson.com

 

5. Mooncup

This is a UK company that provides an excellent alternative to the ordinary pad and tampon.

An average woman will use around 11,000 disposable sanitary products in their lifetime.

Mooncup is a reusable silicone cup that can be used for years, absorbing 3 times more than a normal tampon. Its may not exactly be the easiest change to make, especially if one has been using pads and tampons their whole entire life. However,  can say from personal experience that the change is SO worth it!

When I used it for the first time I had a few complications, such as leaking. However, the amazing thing about this company is that they have a special phone number that you can call and speak with a lady that will answer any questions or doubts that you might have about the product. I called them after the first day and the kind lady explained everything that I need very clearly and from that day I had no more problems.

The Mooncup is way more practical than anything I have always used and I 100% recommend this to all women!

Without a doubt, I will never go back to the ordinary, wasteful pad or tampon.

www.mooncup.co.uk

 

6. OSEA

This is a US family based company that offers high quality natural beauty and skin care products. Their products are made from algae and vegan components and are inspired by land and sea and excellent for the environment.

“To produce 1 kilogram of animal protein compared to 1 kilogram of vegetable protein, you need 12 times more land, 13 times more fossil fuel and 15 times more water.”

I have been using their different products for over a year now and I absolutely love it. Over the years I have tried many different products, but always with a negative result. My skin is very sensitive, but my face had absolutely no redness, itching or breakout from their organic products. I highly suggest trying them out and getting rid of the commercial, high chemical skin care that is available in all the large retail stores.

oseamalibu.com

 

7. Slowers Shoes

This is a Spanish brand that specializes in vegan shoes, sandals and boots. On my 3 month trip through Asia the only two sandals that I had in my suitcase were from this brand.  Without a doubt, my shoes and sandals are the most important items in my bag, due to the fact that I walk over 15 miles daily exploring new places.

I am constantly walking through different cities, in the pouring down rain, in the mountains, etc, and my sandals from Slowers Shoes have been never failed me.  I was convenced in the beginning that with the amount that I walk on a daily basis that they were going to break and that I would have to replace them. However, even after retuning from Asia for 3 months, I continue to use them with out a single problem.

The materials are 100% natural and they are super comfortable. I have bunions on my feet and I have to choose quality shoes and sandals, otherwise I would constantly have pain.  Doctors always recommend that I buy Dr. Schols, but I decided to try this brand and I was shocked that I could walk every single day without pain. It was a miracle!

I could not recommend this brand enough!

slowers-shoes.com

 

8. Zuii Organic 

This is an Australian brand that is hands down of the best vegan and organic makeup brands that I have found so far. Makeup and skin care products from most big brands in retail stores have tons of unknown ingredients and chemicals that are actually horrible for our skin. Most people buy these products thinking that they are good healthy and making them look younger, when in fact they are damaging products that make you look older in the long run.

Zuii Organic uses high quality ingredients in their products that respect the environment and animales. I tried their makeup out for the first time this year and I was very impressed. My skin normally has a negative reaction to cheap, high chemical makeup, but in this case I had no skin irritation. I absolutely loved their foundation, mascara and blush and I am already looking for more products to try out.

zuiiorganic.com

 

 

Do not forget to read: 

7 GESTURES YOU MIGHT WANT TO AVOID IN OTHER COUNTRIES

HOW I GRADUATED WITH HONORS IN 1 YEAR WHILE TRAVELING FULL TIME TO 20 COUNTRIES

THE PERFECT DAY GONE WRONG: MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENT IN KO SAMUI, THAILAND

 

 

 

 

 

adminEcological Brands that you MUST know!
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How I Graduated with Honors in 1 Year While Traveling Full Time to 20 Countries

If I had to narrow it down to one word to identify the essence of me and my sanity, it’s the word balance.

We live in a world full of constant motion, opportunities, temptations and contradicting opinions and at times life seems to pull us in all different directions.

Maintaining a balanced life, in the area of health/wellness, spiritual, mental, work & play and relationships, is key to feeling a sense of accomplishment and happiness in our overall direction and purpose in life.

Traveling the world, while creating my own personal brand and establishing myself as a digital nomad, has taught me many lessons on the importance of balance and having clear goals and priorities.

It’s one thing to travel for fun and pleasure, like I did when I first started, and a whole different story when trying to combine travel and work together in order to create a life to where you have the freedom to live and work from any place around the world.

About 70 countries into my adventure, I decided to take my brand Nomadic Dreamer to a whole different level and create something lasting and profitable for myself.

When I started, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I was pulled in many different directions, growing my social media, writing articles, translating everything from English to Spanish and I was completely lost.

However, I kept putting one foot in front of the other, learning something new each day, offering speeches, courses and making appearances on multiple television and radio shows in order to grow the reputation of my brand.

When I started public speaking in 2015, I was very eager to improve, learn new techniques and push myself past my own personal limits.

I realized that I had a very powerful story and that my calling in life was to share it with others and be the best speaker I could possibly be.

In order to push myself to the next level and accomplish another life long goal of mine, I decided that not only was I going to dedicate 2016 to traveling the world and growing Nomadic Dreamer, but I was going to do it all while finishing my bachelor’s degree at the University of Arkansas in the USA from distance.

They offer an intense program in communication and language that offers tools and trainings that I knew could help me to succeed as a better and more skilled speaker.

I spoke with the director of the program about my desire to start the program in the following semester and that I wanted to do it all in just one year from distance, while working and traveling full time.

Doubts filled her head as she knew how demanding the program is to do in one year for students that physically attend classes. Trying not to discourage me, she made sure I was aware that I would need to be active each and every day for class, engage in all activities, discussions, tests, projects and during multiple times in the year I would have a project where I would need to find my own audience of people in order to give a 15-20 minute speech, which obviously is difficult while on the road and while only interacting with strangers.

As a traveler, I know how from first hand experience how difficult it is to find balance while on the road. There are constant problems of finding strong wifi to upload projects, places to have pure silence in order to work and a constant challenge to find the the motivation to sit down and do projects while in a beautiful destination in a foreign country.

However, I decided that it was worth the risk and I made a firm commitment.

The beginning was much harder than I thought. I not only was trying to juggle six classes that I had to be present in each and every single day, but I had to do all of that while traveling completely alone through countries like India, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, etc.

Not only that, I had to make sure that I was taking good care of my health, always watching out for my safety, planning my next destination, confirming all my travel arrangements, maintaining my work as a digital nomad and growing the Nomadic Dreamer. As if that were not enough, a few months into the course I got a call to be an invited speaker at the largest TEDx conference in Spain in Spanish.It was an opportunity of a lifetime and I couldn’t say no.

So there I was, with more than I thought I possibly could handle on the table, and wondering how in the world I was going to make all of those dreams become a reality.

In my free time, I eagerly watch videos on YouTube on how to maintain balance, but still struggled to find that perfect balance. However, half way into the course I started a different practice that changed my life and helped me to find better balance and that is the practice of meditation.

During that year, I became very strict and disciplined in all of my practices. I woke up at 5 o’clock every single day, meditated, exercised and all of my classes that I had for the day.

Many times when people were just waking up I had finished with my whole entire day of activities, giving me the freedom to see all the beautiful countries that I was visiting during the day.

Meditation was the medicine that helped me to stay sane during that crazy year. I had absolutely no caffeine during that time and simply relied on my inner power to help me do the impossible.

Many times we have dreams and our heart that seem impossible, just like mine. Sometimes we start something new and we become discouraged because we see our dream as one big mountain, while forgetting the importance of just taking one little step at a time in order to climb up that giant mountain.

I took one baby step each and every day, focusing on my daily actions and making sure that I did not skip a day on any of my commitments.

In those moments that I thought I could not keep moving forward, I quieted my soul with meditation, which always left me feeling refreshed and focused.

It was mentally and physically one of the hardest things I have ever done, but in the end I made my dream a reality. Not only did I graduate in December 2016 with Magna Cum Laude Honors while traveling to 20 countries, I also received an award from the University as an outstanding student that is making a big difference in the world, as well as two newspaper articles about my experience.

In November 2016, I also made another lifelong dream become a reality. I stood before an audience of more than 1,000 people giving a TEDx talk at the largest event in Spain in a language that I could not speak fluently just two years before.

I say all of these accomplishments with a very humble heart. This has nothing to do with me bragging about what I have done, but rather emphasizing the point that if we have a love and passion in our hearts for something, combined with a strong determination to achieve it no matter what the cost, we can make our biggest dreams become a reality.

Does that mean that it’s going to be easy?

Absolutely not.

There were days that I locked myself up in my room crying and wondering how I was going to keep moving forward.

I passed horrible days in that year of traveling with sickness, food poisoning, exhaustion, homesickness and moments that I truly wanted to throw in the towel and call it quits.

However, life is it not about escaping the obstacles in our path, but rather, looking them straight in the eyes and saying,

“I am bigger than you and nothing can stop me!”

 

To read article, click on the photo: 

 

 

 

 

Don´t forget to also check out: 

10 UNIQUE TRAVEL EXPERIENCES IN SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA

ETHICAL ELEPHANT PARK VISIT IN CHIANG MAI, THAILAND

GROUP TOUR VS SOLO TRAVEL: PROS & CONS

 

 

adminHow I Graduated with Honors in 1 Year While Traveling Full Time to 20 Countries
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Suan Mokkh: 10 Day Silent & Meditation Retreat in Thailand

When people think about traveling through South East Asia, the first thought that typically comes is their pristine beaches, wild parties, elephants, delicious exotic food, beautiful women and one of a kind temples.
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Many eager travelers from all across the world flock to Thailand each and every year to get a little taste of this paradise, at a price that will blow your mind!
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After an amazing month of traveling throughout Thailand, immersing myself in the culture, meeting all kinds of amazing people, exploring the islands and even attending one of the craziest parties on Earth, the Full Moon Party, I realized that I desperately needed a change of pace.
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Sometimes when you least expect it, life has a way of throwing curve balls. That is exactly what happened to me the day of the Full Moon Party, as I riding as a passenger on the back of a motorcycle through Ko Samui Island.
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My driver suddenly lost control of our bike and sent us both flying through the air. The impact caused both of our helmets to go flying and we both suffered serious injuries. We were taken 45 minutes away by ambulance to the closest hospital and from there all of our plans completely changed.
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This unfortunate situation truly opened my eyes and helped me to see how fragile life really is how anything can change in just a blink of an eye.

After my accident, I was told by the doctors that I would not be able to travel for a period of time, especially the way that I was used to. I was only 2 weeks into my 5 month long trip through Asia and this news was a huge shock to me. Instead of losing hope, I decided to check out my options in Thailand and look for an experience that was low key and peaceful, while I figured out what steps I needed to take in order to get healed.
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It was in a moment of desperation that I found a 10 day silent/meditation retreat called Suan Mokkh, that luckily was only a week away from starting, and did not require any sort of pre registration.
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I had previously done a 10 day retreat called Vipassana in India, but from what I read, Suan Mokkh was a whole different type of experience, combining different styles of meditation (sitting, walking, group) and yoga.
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Given that I was limited in what I was able to do, the challenge seemed suitable for me and my condition, so shortly after learning about the retreat, I took a road trip to the retreat site and prepared for a very challenging, but rewarding 10 days of silence.
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My mind was a crazy, uncontrolled disaster upon entering into Suan Mokkh.  I felt untamable…..

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All of my thoughts were going in different directions and I spent hours a day worrying about my previous collarbone injury and how I would manage to travel with a broken collarbone.
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On top of that, I felt an overwhelming sense of stress related to work assignments, social media and collaborations. I literally felt like I would be incapable to turn off all my devices and enter into a completely silent world, especially for 10 whole days!
 

WHAT IS SUAN MOKKH? 

 
This is a monastery out in the middle of nature, where many monks live and study. Buddhadasa Bhikkhu, which means Servant of Buddha, is the one that founded this magical place in 1989. Since then, thousands of people all over the world have been able to visit and have a unique experience that you can’t get anywhere on Earth.
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At this beautiful, peaceful getaway, one will get to have the opportunity to live with the monks during 10 full days in a stress free atmosphere, surrounding by nothing more than other mediators, monks and nature.
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This place attracts more than 1000 foreigners each and every year, although not all of people that start the retreat will actually finish.
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RULES

  • No talking or non verbal communication during 10 days
  • Electronic Free (cell phone, Ipods, cameras, computers, video games, radio etc)
  • No personal books (you may read books they have assigned during break time after a few days).
  • No sexual activity (including masturbation)
  • No alcohol, drugs, caffeine or tobacco
  • No snacks
  • No shared rooms (males and females in separate buildings)
  • No meals after noon time (2 Vegetarian meals/day + 1 drink in evening)
  • No shoes in meditation hall, rooms or kitchen

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NOTE: This retreat is not for the weak in mind. I can tell you from personal experience that it can be a shock to the body and possibly cause you moments of severe anxiety, especially if you have any sort of addictions (caffeine, cigarettes, etc).

Keep in mind that all of the comforts that one tends have on a normal day to day basis, such as 5 meals, a comfortable bed and the ability to talk and move around freely are completely monitored and restricted.

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If you keep your mind open and embrace the change, it can be an excellent experience.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION

Registration is done in person on the last day of the previous month by 3pm. The option is available to sleep the night before registration on site (free of charge)

Location: Suratthani, Thailand.

Cost: 2,000 baht (non refundable) = $65.00

Language: ONLY English (it’s very important to have a good level of English if you want to get the most out of the experiences and lessons that are taught each day).

ALL Dhamma teachings are done in English.

Arriving: There is a bus from Suratthani that will take you directly to the retreat. Mention that you want to get off at Wat Suan Mokkh (What Soo-An Mock) and the driver will lead you there for around 50 Baht  ($1.45).

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WHAT TO TAKE

Given that the location is far off into the woods, the main thing you want to make sure that you load up on is mosquito repellent. Due to the mosquitos, its always helpful to take socks (even if its hot) to serve as extra protection against them.

It’s mandatory to wear loose fitting, non see through clothing. Anything that draws attention to the body is not allowed and they will ask you to change. Your shoulders must be covered and you must have pants or shorts that go below the knee.

All bucket showers must be done with a sarong placed around you, which they will provide free of charge on day one.

They have a small store available in the cafeteria with everything that you might possibly need, such as sanitary products, first aid, toilet paper, repellent, toothpaste, shampoo, etc.

It’s important to stay hydrated, so take a big water bottle that you can fill up throughout the day. There are many places on site that you can fill up your water bottle with fresh water.

Given that you will be walking many times in the night and early morning, it’s helpful to have a small flashlight or headlamp.

Also, if you are like me and need to wake up multiple times in the night to go to the restroom, this flashlight will be extra help for you. Remember, you won’t have your flashlight on your phone to get by!

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————-WHAT TO EXPECT—————

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REGISTRATION

After you pay, they will do a short one on one interview in order to get to know you better and ask about any previous experience you have had with meditation.

Shortly after you will be asked to store away all of your electronics and prepare for a group talk about the expectations of the retreat and the rules that you must follow.

CHORES

Upon arrival. you will be given a piece of paper and asked to choose a chore, which you will need to do on a daily basis during the length of the retreat.

There are different options available, from sweeping the dorms, to washing the tables after lunch, to cleaning the bathrooms. The earlier you arrive on registration day, the better your chances are of picking a chore that you enjoy.

I was assigned to sweeping the area outside of the dorm rooms and I actually enjoyed sweeping in silence each day. I turned my duty into a form of working meditation and found a lot of peace in the experience.

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MEALS

Meal time was hands down one of my favorite times. Each time that we prepared to eat, we listened to a small message from our instructor, followed by a short meditation that we had to read out loud in order to help us focus and stay grounded before and during our meal time.

All meals are 100% vegetarian and absolutely delicious! The food was very tasty and the serving sizes were large, normally allowing enough for seconds.

After about 1pm, you will be required to fast until 0800am the next day. While this might seem impossible, especially if you love to eat, you will most likely be surprised about how your hungry tends to diminish when your body gets used to skipping a few meals.

In the evening they provide some sort of drink, which might include hot tea, hot chocolate or coconut water.

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SLEEPING

I entered the mediation retreat with a collarbone that was broken in half, so my sleeping situation was quite complicated. You are asked to sleep on a concrete bed, with a hard, wooden pillow. It’s quite uncomfortable for someone with no broken bones, so just imagine in my case with my collarbone in horrible condition.

Also, if you fear bugs and spiders, you will have to suck it up. I didn’t see many entering my room in the night, but I know many others had quite some problems with that. I heard a few random screams in the night that that made me laugh, due to spiders or large bugs entering into their bed and crawling on them.

Mosquito nets are provided, so that does help to give you some protection against insects.

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DAILY SCHEDULE

0400- WAKE UP BY MONASTERY BELL

0430- MORNING READING

0445- SITTING IN SILENCE MEDITATION

0515 YOGA AND EXERCISE

0700- MEDITATION AND DHAMMA TALK

0800- BREAKFAST AND CHORES

1000- DHAMMA TALK

1100- WALKING OR STANDING MEDITATION

1145- SITTING MEDITATION

1230- LUNCH AND CHORES

1430: SITTING MEDITATION

1530: WALKING OR STANDING MEDITATION

1615: SITTING MEDITATION

1700: CHANTING & LOVING KINDNESS MEDITATION

1800: TEA TIME & HOT SPRINGS (OPTIONAL)

1930: SITTING MEDITATION

2000: GROUP WALKING MEDITATION AROUND THE POND

2030: SITTING MEDITATION

2100: PREPARE FOR BED

2130: TIME FOR BED

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MY PERSONAL IMPUT?

DID I REALLY ENJOY IT?

My experience at Suan Mokkh was absolutely fantastic! I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to stay there and grow in the ways in which I did.

It was not easy at all for me, even though I had previous experience with a similar retreat years back. However, I left the retreat feeling very grounded and truly shaped and disciplined from the inside out.

Personal growth and development is not an easy thing. This experience brought me to tears and at times made me feel like I was going to pull my hair out. However, the sense of satisfaction I felt to have made it to the very end was something that cannot be put into words. Many people dropped out due to the fact that it was challenging, but I worked through the pain and uncomfort and finished what I started.

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PERSONAL PREFERENCE:

SUAN MOKKH OR VIPASANNA

Both meditation retreats are unique in their own way, but if I had to choose, I would pick Suan Mokkh. What I loved about my experience there was the variety and the opportunity to practice yoga each and every morning as the sun came up.

I believe in the strong connection between the mind and body movements and having the chance to meditate, while exercising and walking, opened my eyes up to a whole new aspect of meditation.

In Vipassana, we were expected to sit all day, with absolutely no form of exercise. I love movement, so I was much more eager to attend a retreat which allowed me time to move freely.

Hands down one of the neatest experiences I had, which I never had at Vipassana, was the nightly group mediation around the pond. The sound of bugs filled the air as we circled barefoot in silence around the pond.

The sky was clear and filled with thousands of stars and it truly was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.

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MY MAIN LESSON LEARNED

There are so many lessons that I learned from spending another 10 days of my life in complete silence. Slowing down and getting in touch with my heart and soul allowed me time to reflect on my life, blessings, relationships and to find a deeper sense of gratitude for this beautiful life that I have.

Being away from all materialistic possessions and distractions of the world allowed me to learn more about myself in a more intimate way and fall deeper in love with who I am.

Slowing down allowed me time to generate more love and respect for the others around me find more appreciation for nature.

I felt greatly connected with the present moment and free to release the barriers that were holding me back in the past and the fears that I had for the future. I learned, through practice, how to focus on the breath and mediate focusing strictly on that.

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HAPPY & SATISFIED GROUP AFTER 10 DAYS OF PURE SILENCE…..

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