Snapshots of the Whole and Happy Retreat in Thailand

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It’s been nearly a month and a half since the first Whole & Happy Retreat in Chanthaburi, Thailand and yet my mind wanders back to that magical time almost every single day. I wanted to share a few film images and a general feel for the beautiful retreat week I spent at FaaSai Resort and Spa.

The Whole & Happy Retreat is the perfect laid back mix of travel, adventure, yoga and self exploration. Each day the retreat group met for yoga and meditation and each day a new technique, style, or focus was presented to us to play around with. As if the yoga and meditation wasn’t enough, the Whole & Happy Retreat involved so much more. We rode our bikes up steep hills, plunged into the Thai gulf waters, drank beer at sunset and toured the farm where our organic meals originated all the while still having ample time to laze about by the pool, sip papaya smoothies and trade book recommendations while devouring our current reads. breakfast-1 first-round-12

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The Whole & Happy Retreat seemed to rest in this perfect cosmos of flowed planning instead of precise scheduling. Each night there would be a new agenda and theme on the message board and every morning our group would work our way happily through the day. From farm tours to beachside bike rides, we would move through the hours crossing joyous adventures off our list and yet somehow barely checking the clock, instead checking in with each other and our energy levels.

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first-round-18As an experienced yoga practitioner, I was delighted at the variety of classes presented and how approachable and attainable the instructors made the content for the beginners in the group and yet I never once felt bored or that the classes were predictable. Beyond the yoga and meditation, it’s such a treat to enjoy new experiences with complete strangers, it’s almost like being transported back to the first day of school on the playground. You feel shy at first until a few minutes later you realize you’re having an insane amount of fun and you look around to realize the people you once thought were strangers are now your favorite playmates.

The Whole and Happy Retreat felt like an adult summer camp aimed at elevating the travel experience while incorporating yoga and introspection. As a seasoned traveler, I cannot recommend this experience enough to individuals who are a bit apprehensive about a trip abroad or solo travelers who would find comfort among company. It’s also the perfect break for someone looking to get away in order to recharge and reinvigorate themselves for a happier reintegration back into normal life.first-round-14first-round-41first-round-61

Come read books, sip smoothies poolside, bike through fishing villages, make new Thai friends and gaze up at the stars with me. I’ll be joining the Whole & Happy crew at the next retreat in Chanthaburi, Thailand from March 17-23 and I hope you’ll come. I’d love to flow with you! From now until January 15th, book with a friend and receive $50 off of the retreat cost for a total of $550 for seven days of retreat at Faasai Eco Resort and Spa. If you need help finding a flight (they’re less than $600RT from NYC right now) or help creating a budget, I would love to help, just reach out in the comments.

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Sticky Waterfall – Bua Tong

During my adventures, I’m often captivated by the natural beauty I witness. I’ve felt the sudden and overwhelming need to hug trees, lay down in the dirt, and literally salute the sun, but every once in a while there is a place that leaves me in complete aw. A place so magical that I know I will visit again because I must show someone else the wonder. Bua Tong is that place. All afternoon I felt dumbstruck. How is it possible that this type of beauty exists in nature? I felt like I was transported to Neverland, there was just no way that what I was seeing and experiencing was real. Was I asleep? Did someone slip me acid? Am I in a storybook? Nope, the earth is really this amazing and I had the opportunity to experience it.  Let me attempt at explaining what I experienced at Bua Tong although surely no words or images will come close.

What is Bua Tong, the sticky waterfall? As unbelievable as it sounds, it’s just that. It’s sticky not slick, so one is able to walk quite easily up and down the slope of it even with water rushing by. What makes it this way? An abundance of calcium carbonate runoff.  Calcium carbonate is commonly found in Limestone, which is what lies under the thick deposits that you see covering the falls. Even though I briefly researched the waterfall (I didn’t look at any photos) before visiting, it didn’t prepare me for the experience.


Walking up a waterfall. How absurd. That’s what I thought while reading about Bua Tong. Once I arrived, I stripped down and slathered on sunscreen all the while keeping my eyes on the handful of people walking up the falls. They were making it look so easy, but they looked athletic and young, surely it was harder than it appeared. Then it was time to try it for myself, I braced myself, felt my core tighten and prepared to face plant as I took my first step. Complete shock and amazement washed over me as I took one step and then another upwards through the rushing water. With my mouth hanging open and my eyes wide, I looked around at my friends, ‘are you seeing this!?,’ is what I’m sure my expression read. Pure bliss and bewilderment followed me around the rest of the afternoon and I climbed up and down, up and down, all around  Bua Tong. The mineral deposits look like white, cloud-like  sponges and actually feel similar though a little bit harder and slightly pricky, the surface even gives slightly under a firm touch.  There were a few patches that were slick, but it is because the calcium carbonate was covered with a mossy slime. These spots are easy to see and avoid.


In the company of only about two dozen other travelers, Bua Tong had truly felt like one of the most enchanting places I’ve ever visited. Usually while traveling you’re forced to share the magic, but here it was all our own. As I looked around, I saw that most people had carved out a little space on the waterfall’s slope to sit in the sun and marvel at where their life had brought them. It was only a few minutes later that I joined my best friend, Natasha, on a sunny log in the middle of the rushing current to simply be. As I lay meditating, tiny tickles of what I thought were mosquitoes kept dragging me back to the outer world. It was in the midst of one of these tickling sensations that I opened my eyes and realized, it wasn’t mosquitos at all, but dozens of colorful butterflies. I closed my eyes again, determined to be at peace with each coming sensation. As I reflected on my weeks in Thailand, the friends in my company, my path in general, I had the overwhelming feeling of gratitude that materialized as a single teardrop from each eye. Life is beautiful. There is magic everywhere and I have so much to be grateful for, sometimes it takes a trip to never never land to remind you that every single day is a gift to be cherished and spent wisely, whether you’re climbing a sticky waterfall or navigating your work week.


Are you ready for a spiritual awakening? Kidding, but here are more details on how to reach Bua Tong and what to experience while you’re there.

What to pack:

  • Money for gas and snacks
  • Bathing suit
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Book
  • Camera
  • Dry bag/waterproof bag if you have one
  • Long sleeve or sweatshirt (the ride home will be a little chilly)

 

How to get there:

Located over an hour outside of Chiang Mai, Bua Tong isn’t on the beaten tourist track, but still worth a visit. We rented motorbikes for the duration of our stay in Chiang Mai, which costs roughly 200-300b per day. I personally enjoy driving and navigating through crazy Thai traffic, but to some this may seem dangerous or unappealing. If you are in the latter group, you can ask your guesthouse or a tour operator for a songtaue to Bua Tong, but because it’s so far outside the city, it will be kinda pricy for Thai travel standards. I would find a cool crew the day before and convince them that they need to join you on this quest, that will surely reduce the price of the songtaue. If you’re in the former and you’re down to drive a motorbike, download either the app maps.me or google maps and download the northern Thailand map, while you have wifi that way you’ll have to problem navigating to Bua Tong. It really isn’t too tough and once you are about twenty minutes outside Chiang Mai, the traffic really slows down. I think driving the motorbikes to and from Bua Tong really added to the adventure and it was nice exploring the falls at our own pace instead of knowing a songtaue driver was waiting around for us.
What to explore :

Obviously you came for the sticky waterfall. If I were you, I’d take the stairs all the way to the bottom, stash your bag on a log (most people left their bags near the bottom of the falls unattended, I did the same and didn’t worry about my $3,000+ camera once, but do what feels comfortable to you) and start the climb up. Find a nice space to sun yourself midway or hike all the way to the top in one go. Now it’s time to hike down. Slightly scary, but equally easy. There are several ropes along the way to offer support in tricky areas  and ensure your decent is safe. Don’t you dare chicken out and take the stairs back down. You only live once. Once back at the bottom, continue a little further than the bag drop area where the stairs end. You’ll find another smaller waterfall with a shallow plunge pool at the bottom. Submerge yourself and dig your toes down into the soft, glittery sand, you did it.


After you’ve had your fill of the waterfall, hike back up to the tip and explore the natural seven colored fountain. Even if you’re famished and tired (we were both) you can make it to the fountain. It’s less than a five minute walk and it’s a wooden boardwalk the entire way. You’ll be amazed at how insanely clear the water is and you’ll enjoy leafy jungle views on the way to and from.

There’s also another short hike depicted on a large wooden sign near the entrance to the fountain trail, we decided against it only because we were sure to die of hunger (or morph into hangry demons) at any moment. We contemplated buying a snack from the small restaurant on site and then completing the hike, but we wanted to have time to stop on the road for a late lunch and return to Chiang Mai before dark.


Where to eat & stay:

On the way back to Chiang Mai, we stopped at the loveliest little guesthouse and restaurant. If we had more time, we certainly would have stayed the night. The guest house is called Howiman or Horwiman. You pull off the road across from Lhongkhoa Resort and head straight down the dirt hill, you’ll immediately see a grouping of dark wooden buildings on the left and you’ll probably hear a yapping little dog, and you’ll know you’re in the right place. If we could have stayed and drank our Chiangs in frosty mugs all evening we totally would have. Next time I visit Bua Tong I will.  


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A few of my favorite things…

Oh Amazon, how I love you 364 days a year, until Amazon prime renewal day when you swipe a hundred bucks out of my bank account. I’ll show you! I’ll just order a bunch of stuff and get free two day shipping. Hah! Makes sense, right? I know, I know, but really, I always end up ordering a bunch of stuff the day after my account gets renewed to justify it all. It’s called Sarah science guys. Here are some items I ordered, some items I want and a few others that I already own, but use pretty much every day. Most would make great gifts. Fa la la la la la la la la…

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My essential travel gear includes a well-made backpack, a hydration system, a sleeping bag to stay cozy and a light to guide the way. Here’s a gift list for the adventurer in your life.

While adventuring, I’m either hiking, practicing yoga, bouldering, or simply being.

If I’m simply traveling around town for the day, I always take my mason jar, cuppow and holdster.  My phone of course, handy dandy chapstick & balm, and a camera.

If I have no errands to run, it’s likely I’m inside trying to stay warm, dressed in a onesie, under my blankets, reading a good book or coloring this hilarious (for adults only) coloring book.

If my friends are stopping over, I’ll light a candle, prepare a cheese plate and pour some wine. To keep them occupied, I’ll put on a record and set out some of my favorite coffee table books – one, two and three. We may even get into a game or two.

If we’re talking gifts, you can never ever go wrong with a nice pair of socks, comfortable slippers, blooming tea and duhhhh luxorious body oil – although you may have to provide the massage.

At the end of the day, as much as I loooove Amazon, I’m a total sucker for local, handmade goods. If you can meet the maker and purchase items made with love and intention, you’re the real winner. This past weekend, I bought some Christmas presents from these lovely makers and shakers : Haand . Gather Goods Co .  Lo & Behold . Shop Wind Blown . JaxKelly . Kate & I also stocked the Live Seasoned Etsy Shop for the holidays – there are even some goodies for the littles in your life.

I also make an effort to buy beautiful goods from thrift stores and vintage shops. There are always treasures to be found, you just have to dig a bit. I don’t want to give away any surprises here in case my siblings are reading, but oooo did I find some sweet steals from half a century ago. More on that after Xmas.

Full disclosure : if you purchase anything through these links we’ll get a few cents from each purchase. It doesn’t increase the price on your end, but it helps us out a little bit. Cheers!
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Happy Mountain Day!

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Sup mountaineers! Did you know that yesterday was International Mountain Day? In 2003, the United Nations designated 12/11 as International Mountain Day. A day meant to encourage the international community to organize events at all levels in order to highlight the importance of sustainable mountain development. Of course, with all the crazy going on this month, we missed it. We missed national letter writing day too, but I’ll fill you in on that another day. Anyway, this year’s theme is Mountain Cultures: Celebrating diversity and strengthening identity. From hiking the Blue Mountains in Jamaica, to climbing Mt. Agung under the stars, to trekking the Annapurna Circuit, I’ve experienced enough mountain magic to be hook. Mountain spaces are sacred, enchanting and come with an immense feeling of satisfying insignificance like I’ve never experienced elsewhere.

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If you’ve ever wandered high up into the mountains, you will have noticed that remote mountain villages are home to ancient cultures and traditions. These traditional lifestyles are largely determined and linked to sustaining a living in harsh and remote mountain landscapes. Isolation helped to create and maintain immense diversity between villages and allowed these cultures to stay intact. Of course, as decades pass, mountain populations experience change and culture loss through migration and urbanization.

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Whenever I experience remote mountain life, I’m captivated by the use of land, for farming, raising animals and capturing fresh water. Mountain people are so in tune with their unique environment and how to properly respect it while gaining what they need to prosper. Mountain people’s deep respect and attachment to the land quite often has religious ties. Mountains have commonly been revered as the home of deities throughout history because of their fresh water sources and their seemingly close proximity to the sun. It’s no coincidence that you often see crosses, pilgrimage sites and places of worship high on mountain tops.

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Obviously I’m quite conscious of my place while visiting mountains. I’m always a guest, a traveler, an ambassador of society at large and therefore I take my role very seriously. As much as possible, I strive to find community-based tourism that I can support. Tourism that will help maintain the culture, not parade it around and inevitably degrade it. I also distribute my dollars broadly to local people. Spending a little bit here and there, not a bunch in one place. Lastly, I ensure everything I hike in with also comes back out and of course I respect the ecosystem by not wandering off trail. As a visitor to these spaces, I have a big responsibility in ensuring these ancient cultures continue for future generations to experience. Hiking into mountain villages is like stepping back in time. It’s absolutely breathtaking and there’s no way I can aptly describe it, but maybe these images from the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal will help a bit.  10-14-15-web-muktinah-3310-09-15-web-upper-pissang-77 10-09-15-web-upper-pissang-88 10-09-15-web-upper-pissang-10110-11-15-web-manang-57 10-11-15-web-manang-62 10-11-15-web-manang-8010-13-15-web-new-phedi-82

I’m planning a trip to Nepal for October & November of 2017. Want to join me on a trek?

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Shop Live Seasoned

Yesterday we shared a sneak peak of our elving and today we’re back with more gifting ideas. You may have seen a snap or two of our new products on Instagram and now it’s official, our etsy shop, Live Seasoned is stocked with new goodies. We took a break over the summer to come up not only with new potions, but new ways to present them.

First off, we tweaked the way we stock our shop.  From now on, we’ll be offering our lip balms, salves and other potions in batches. What does that mean? Well, instead of having a few set flavors and scents, we’ll be making and mixing as we see fit. Depending on the season, our mood and inspiration, we’ll create different batches of each item in limited numbers. If you order something and fall in love with it, it’s best to order more immediately since there’s no way of knowing when we’ll create a similar batch.  Working in batches instead of trying to stick to a set inventory helps us stay motivated and feel inspired with our selection of products. It also allows us to tweak and adjust our potions as we see fit. We’re pretty pumped about this transition and we’re hoping you feel the same.

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On that same note, as the seasons sway us this way and that, we’re thinking up new products. Some silly, some serious. We love filling our homes with the scent of burning Palo Santo just as much as we enjoy stuffing cockroach soaps into our buddies’ stockings. Dino lovers in your life? We have something for them too.

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We are also introducing cardboard balm tubes, woohoo! This was something we wanted to do from day one, but were hesitant about because there’s quite a price difference between cardboard and plastic. After a year of dealing with (and not totally loving) the plastic tubes, we caved (or did we evolve?) and purchased cardboard tubes. Truth be told, we couldn’t be happier with the look and feel of these tubes. Added bonus?  They take less energy to produce and dispose of. To us, they just feel right. What do you think? We’re all ears.roach_soap If you’re on the batch bus or you’ve called your seat in the cardboard car, then hop over to our Live Seasoned etsy shop and browse our handmade line of goods for your healthy home.

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The Elving has Begun!

Today’s post is about our annual family photo album. If you’d like to catch a glimpse of our DIY wedding album, you can see that post here.

Almost a month has passed since my last post, and while we made it through a great Thanksgiving, I think everyone in this house (ok, maybe it was mostly me) was just waiting to get to the other side so that we could start with the Christmas festivities.

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And here it is! We’ve jumped into Christmas prep with two feet. Every day a new decoration, or ten, is hung. Present lists are being written and re-written. And then there’s the Christmas knitting. I’m doing so much fun knitting in the evenings that I may not be back here until the New Year! Kidding. (hopefully)

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But before I could even start in on the knitting, I was busy putting together our annual family photo album. Every year for the past eight or so, I’ve put together an album that chronicles our year in photos. I start with the previous Christmas and end with Thanksgiving. That gives me enough time to create the book and have it printed and ready to give by Christmas morning. I also gift the book to Calder, but I think this year it’s time to say that it’s too all of the guys in the house.

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This has become such a special family tradition. When the book is unwrapped, it’s so nice to sit down together and look at it on Christmas morning – a moment of calm amidst the craziness of opening presents and celebrating. Throughout the day the book gets passed around, and one by one everyone in the house gets to look at it.

In this post I’m sharing a few screenshots from this year’s book. You can see that it’s a little bit of everything. Photos from vacations, from weekend hiking trips, from afternoons at home cooking dinner, and silly snapshots.

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I know that making a photo book can seem overwhelming, and many people get paralyzed by the task before they even start. I’ve been making these for so long that it’s become second nature, so I wanted to share some of my tips.

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Tips for Creating an Annual Photo Album

  • make it a tradition : having a set time every year when you make, give, and look at the book makes it so much easier to stick to a deadline and actually complete the task. I know that if we weren’t on an annual schedule then I’d put off making these albums.
  • pick a service : You’ll have to decide which printing service you want to go with. There are many out there, and there are also many reviews that will (hopefully) help you pick the one that’s right for you. I always go with Blurb because I like the design flexibility provided by their software, as well as the high number count for their books (some years our albums are 400+ pages!), and the options to upgrade paper quality. You should pick the service that’s right for you.
  • there’s a learning curve : If you’re using software to design your book, expect there to be a learning curve, and don’t get too discouraged when it takes you longer than expected to create your book. Now I speed through a 300 page book when it would have taken me a bit longer years ago. Hopefully you like the printing service you use and won’t have to take the time to learn about a new company in the future.
  • keep the book simple : you can see that my page layouts are pretty simple. This was one of the tricks that I learned early on. We love looking at the photos, and we don’t like too many packed onto a page, so I keep it simple with some variation if there are photos that need special attention (either because of their resolution or because they are so beautiful/awesome/absurd that they deserve a full page of space).
  • be cut-throat with your photos choices : I think this comes with time, but keep reminding yourself that you take thousands of photos every year (I know I’m not the only one). Stick to the big and special moments and pick the best photos. They don’t have to be the best from a design standpoint, but they are the best because they capture the moment, someone’s laugh, someone else’s silly face, etc. After you’ve gotten the big moments in the book, then you can go back and fill it in with second and third tier photos until you feel satisfied with the feel of the book. I think you’ll find that there’s a learning curve with the photo selection task just as there is with using the design software.
  • leave space for the things you forgot : I like to leave a few blank pages at the end of the book. These can be used for writing down memories from the year, new years resolutions for the next year, and for adding extra printed photos that didn’t make it into the book.
  • have fun! You’re doing something so special for your family and leaving them a tangible memory of life in these crazy years. Any book you put together will be better than nothing.

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