Monday, October 28, 2013

Things I Cannot Live Without When Traveling

I like to make things easier on myself.

No running around and feeling stressed or uncomfortable for no good reason.

That's why I have certain items I don't leave home without, especially when going on a trip.

1.  Camelbak 1 Liter water bottle This thing is indestructible and really convenient.  The bite valve is way better than the screw-on top.  So handy in airports and in the car when you either don't have access to water, or it costs a fortune to buy some.  Plus, reusable is almost always better than disposable in our books.

2.  Earplugs.  Because you never know when there will be a crying baby (that's not yours) next to you, or a street sweeper outside your door at 4 a.m.  I like these silicone ones because they stay put.  They're not for everyone, though.  If you're apprehensive about sticking gooey things in your ears, then avoid these.  If you're trying to get some peace and quiet, these are for you.  Another alternative is wax earplugs.  They're pretty good.  Just make sure you don't push them in too far.  There is such a thing as "past the point of no return" with earplugs...

3.  Smartwool Socks.  Pricey?  Yes.  Worth it?  Totally.  I love my Smartwools.  I have several pairs for several occasions:  everyday use, running, cycling, hiking.  The reasons they're so fantastic:  they're soft, they're cushioned, they dry quickly, they keep your tootsies warm, and they LAST.  Plus, who doesn't like quirky striped socks?  :)

4.  Nice sunglasses.   This is assuming that you don't lose your sunglasses as often as you lose hair ties or loose change (I'm looking at you, Dad).  Quality sunglasses will protect your precious eyeballs when it's sunny, when you're hungover, or when staring at an eclipse (ok, maybe not that last one). 

Once again, these are expensive, but worth it.  I prefer polarized brown lenses.  Makes colors really pop and you can see for milezzzz.  Also, glass lenses are far superior in clarity AND way more scratch-resistant than plastic lenses.  Take my word for it. 
5.  Good snacks.  You never know when you'll be stuck out in the dessert when your tank runs out of gas, or, you know, when you just want a small bite when traveling in civilization.  We love a good LARABAR or a ripe Fairtrade banana.

You tell us:  What things do you need when you travel?

Monday, October 14, 2013

No more rugs.

Yesterday was cleaning day in our house.  My chores included washing dishes, cleaning bicycles, and beating rugs.

The first two were easy.  Just soap up and scrub.

The last one left me dirty and out of breath. 

Thank you, Ged, for sneakily taking this picture of me. 

You see, we have a few rugs in our house. Our place is mostly stone floor, which can get very cold, especially in winter. Rugs add warmth and a certain softness that stone floors just don't have (for obvious reasons).

I didn't mind the rugs until I took them outside yesterday to give them a good beating with our broom and saw just how much filth they had collected over a couple of months.  They're like sponges for dirt and any other crud you bring into your house!

What I managed to extract from our rugs was, well, gross.  Clumps of my hair, pebbles that our shoes had brought in, pieces of food, and lots and lots of dust.

From that point on, I declared no more rugs in our house. 

They are safely tucked away behind our couch (we have a small place).   I'd much rather sweep and mop a stone floor and deal with cold feet than clean those rugs.  

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Yoga by Yourself

We travel a lot.  My boyfriend and I go from Italy to England to the U.S. every few months or so.

That can make practicing yoga at a studio a bit difficult.  There's not always a studio to be had--ie. rural Northwest England...

I've gotten used to setting up my mat in our living room in Italy or in my in-laws' computer room in the North of England and cranking the up volume on the iPad for a podcast.

So whether you're at home or on-the-go, here are some tips for practicing on your lonesome.

1.  Buy a thin mat.  No, it won't be as cushy, but it makes it so much easier to travel with and clean.  I've packed my Gaiam mat in my suitcase so many times without a problem.  Just fold it up!

And when you're home, you can clean the mat quite easily by leaving it to soak in a bathtub of water overnight.  In the morning, you get to see all that beautiful cloudy water that was once the filth on your mat!

When I started yoga in 2010, the first yoga mat I ever bought was a cheap Gaiam mat from Target.  I'm still using this mat today!

Gaiam Tree of Wisdom mat  $22

Here are other mats that are light and have good reputations:

Manduka PROlite  $78

Lululemon The Un Mat  $48

2.  Choose the right podcast.  I haven't tried a boatload of podcasts because I know what I like.  I practice more dynamic-type yoga (Baptiste Power, Vinyasa, Ashtanga), so my podcast recommendations are going to be for those who have experience in those styles. 

I've been lucky enough to find podcasts I like from the very beginning.  Here they are:

Dave Farmar
Pros:  Great free podcasts from classes he has taught throughout the world.  He will make you hold Utkatasana (chair pose) for a looong time! 
Cons:  He can be a bit talkative sometimes and he makes corny jokes, but he's a good teacher and has fun classes.  He's not for everyone. 

Kinndli McCollum
Pros:  Free podcasts with good flow.  Canadian accent (cracks me up every time!).
Cons:  Can also be a bit talkative at times.

Yoga to the People 
Pros:  Free podcast.  Every one is taught by different teacher.
Con:  Some classes are a little slow for me.  Some teachers have slightly annoying voices/tendencies.

3.  Find a good surface.  I know you can't always find a nice wooden floor to practice on, but I've found that there are certain surfaces to avoid. 

Carpet is terrible.  I always end up bunching up my mat during sun salutations or warrior sequences.

Stone floors can be a bit uneven (as is the one in our apartment in Italy).  Try to find the most level spot.  I found this out when trying to balance in Bakasana (crow pose) and was tilting to one side. 

Now go and practice!
And if I've left anything out, please feel free to comment.