Bigger Life Adventures is our new yoga and adventure retreat company featuring us, Zach and Carrie, leading you on adventures in incredible countries around the world! This is our newest video, showing you a little more about what a trip with Bigger Life Adventures looks like!
A few of the things we want to share with Bigger Life Adventures are yoga, meditation, clean living, amazing destinations, vegan food, and giving back to the local communities. 10% of all participation fees are donated directly to charities working in countries where our retreats are located. This year we will be hosting retreats in Southern California, Sri Lanka, and Tanzania. Check out the dates and maybe we’ll see you there?
BURNING MAN 2017 – The dust, oh the dust. I can still smell it if I think hard enough. The Playa sticks to everything that’s ever been there. Like a tattoo, it never comes off. Whenever Burners are feeling sad or nostalgic, they can open up their dusty costumes bin and give their dinosaur print tights a shake, Playa poofing out. The memories we make out at Black Rock City stick to us the same way. They change who we are, and who we were at the same time. The person you are when you are waiting to get into the city will never return to the default world. Accepting this fact and letting it happen is one of the most important things you can accomplish at Burning Man. The ego must die for us to truly be alive.
This is not a guide like “How to go to Burning Man” or “My Favorite Photos of Burning Man 2017″and this is not a memoir, but merely a reflection. Not everything is rainbows and unicorns in Black Rock City. Things get hard and there are hourly challenges. However, it’s these moments of struggle that make it all worth it. If easy is your thing then go to Coachella, because I don’t want to hear you whining when I’m having a good time.
“Welcome Home,” oh how nice it was to see those words! Burning Man 2017 started with a bang and took off at the speed of light. We somehow missed the gate line, getting in in under two hours. We set up in the night, a windless night perfect for assembling our shade structure. Before dawn we were all up and running, so we went for a bike ride to give our virgin Burners a sense of direction. The stars were clear and you could see the Milky Way, letting us know things were good, beacons of normality in a city of the unimaginable.
The first few days we had perfect weather, then a huge windstorm came out of nowhere. The normal dust blows in a shade of grey, but this was a deep orange tan. Our shade structure was strong, but I yelled for everyone to grab a corner. For what seemed like eternity we held onto that tent as I couldn’t see my hands that were holding the poles in front of my face. I crouched down, fearful of less stable shade tents flying through the air like deadly weapons. The storm left as soon as it came, leaving us to make some quick repairs. My hand was bleeding but I didn’t feel it, the adrenaline pumping hard and WE WERE ALIVE!
We sure had some crazy nights. A particularly memorable night went something like this: rode our bikes to the center, left them near Pink Heart then wandered by foot. Found a black light camp with a fish theme, they gave you 3D glasses than made you walk though a sort of 3D maze. Upon exiting, we noticed the Charlie The Unicorn art car not far away. We walked out towards the light and had a really good dance party; Charlie was a great host. From there were heard the “crack clack tak tak tak ztaaa cap” of the giant Tesla coils. I stared at them for what seemed like hours, unable to convince myself that they weren’t shooting electricity to the sounds of Charlie’s beats. Eventually we went back to camp for a water refill or something, then stayed up all night laughing with our campmates. Around 4am we went searching for the Dusty Rhino art car. After about an hour we found it and followed it off into the desert where Tycho played his annual sunrise set. The music was chill and when the sun peaked over the horizon, shining though the dusty haze, it was one of the most spectacular things I’ve ever seen.
By the time the man burned things had already gotten out of hand. Everyone was strung out (Carrie interjection —not everyone! Sober burners do exist!) and the weekend warriors had arrived the night before with their RVs, and drugs, and moopyness. MOOP, (Mater Out Of Place) is one of the most important words on the Playa. Not one piece of anything should ever hit the ground and one must always be watching for moop. Some people are born moopers, leaving an ugly trail of trash through their entire lives. Once you are mindful of mooping, it’s easy to avoid. The Playa is generally spotless until the weekend warriors arrive. Not really Burners, they just come for the party and fail to notice the details, the point of the whole thing.
Saturday night, everyone is sitting around the Man for the big burn. Firemen made a circle at a safe distance to keep back the crazies. The whole ritual is very pagan feeling, with masked fire baring dragons who light the fuse. There were fireworks and, as always, a huge explosion that you can feel from the edges of the city. Fortunately for us we watched from the 6 o’clock side as viewers on the 12 o’clock end had to witness a man break through the perimeter and end his life in the flames.
We didn’t hear about this until the morning. The man didn’t make it to the fire, but collapsed from the heat far away from the flames. When the structure had fallen, a team of volunteer firemen risked their own lives to drag the man out of the heat. He was still clinging to life but died soon after rescue. Many people had seen it, and it had affected them greatly. Sunday is always a day for tears, but this time was different. There was pity and grief, but lots of anger as well. Suicide can be viewed as selfish, but it touches too closely to home for us. Carrie and I have both had loved ones take their own lives and we have helped friends though times that they felt were the end. There is always hope, never give up, never give up.
In the United States our health care is terrible. Our mental health care is worse. There are no cheap ways to get help and most sufferers of depression keep the feeling locked up inside for years, embarrassed or their weaknesses. It’s our society as a whole that creates this feeling, this lack of spirituality, empty living without purpose. We are always striving for the next material thing, next vacation, next promotion, because then we will be happy! But the truth is, these rat races are fueling the sadness, perpetuating the emptiness that our lives have become. Only through turning off, tuning out, and releasing ourselves from the chains of modern desires can we truly be free to be free from pain and suffering.
The Temple burn on Sunday is always a somber event. The art cars mute their beats and its the first silence you’ve heard it weeks. The fire burns slowly, the structure strong. One soul in the middle of the crowd let out a howl of the wolf. This howling spread organically through the masses until we were all howling at the moon, upset at ourselves and our inability to control the world around us. Tears flowed from many of our fellow Burners that night; it was one of the hardest days I can remember in Black Rock City.
The experience ended in a rough way. There were always mixed feelings when leaving, but this was not the way it was suppose to go. We were supposed to be happy, high on life and our experiences, excited for next year and sharing our ideas for it. But we were left far more questions than answers, the uncertainty of the whole things growing deeper. What were we even doing out here, where life shouldn’t exist? The idea of a shower and the comforts of home kept us going as we used our last bits of mental fuel to navigate the dusty exit road and reenter the hard pavement of the default realm.
We arrived at Burning Man 2017 as seven friends, and left as one. The experiences you share create a bond that can’t be broken. Once you truly see and you look into someone else’s eyes and you just know that they see it too, there is no turning back.
In Sri Lanka, every full moon is an official holiday! We really love the connection between nature and spirituality that every celebrates here. A couple weeks ago the full moon was extra special, because it was also Vesak Day, a holiday celebrating major milestones in the life of Buddha – basically his birth, enlightenment, and death are all celebrated on Vesak Day.
We also got to have a special experience for Vesak and the Full Moon, by going out to on the water with SUP Yoga Sri Lanka at Duwa Villas! They had organized a special full moon ceremony experience including meditation, pranayama, some gentle yin SUP yoga, and a letting-go ceremony out on the water. We captured a little bit of video before it got too dark to share the experience!
It started to rain a little bit while we were out on the water meditating, but the rain felt cool and nice, like the baptism of a new moon cycle! It was so peaceful to just lie on our backs on the boards, feeling the gentle motion of the water and the refreshing touch of the raindrops. What an amazing experience! We can’t wait to try more SUP Yoga in Sri Lanka!
We discovered the amazing Surf & Yoga Mirissa during our second visit to Sri Lanka when we were looking for a place on the south coast to chill, get some work done, and live close to nature. Surf & Yoga Mirissa’s property is right in the jungle just 1km down the road from Mirissa’s main beach. The retreat features clean spacious rooms with super-comfy beds, hammocks to lounge around in all over the property, a surf shop and yoga studio, all the activities you could possibly want to do in south Sri Lanka, and the amazing Ahimsa Vegan Cafe!
There’s also breakfast and dinner available (vegan and non-vegan options) for guests, three yoga classes per day, and surf lessons available for all levels with awesome, experienced instructors.
The yoga instruction is also top-notch, with a variety of styles being taught and teachers who can cater to all levels! Honestly, it’s the perfect place to jump headfirst into the yoga+surf life!
Ahimsa Vegan Cafe, the super-cool shipping container restaurant on site, has amazing healthy plant-based offerings! It’s open every day except Sunday from 11-3:30! Be sure to try the signature Ahimsa Bowl – a mix of roasted veggies, salad, veggie protein, and delicious homemade peanut sauce!
Mirissa Surf & Yoga also strives to be as eco-friendly as possible, with composting, recycling, and regular “karma yoga” beach cleanups! The owner, Priyal, and staff of Surf & Yoga Mirissa can guide you to all the best sites and activities in the area! They’re a super-friendly crew of surfers who will be sure to make you feel at home in Sri Lanka! There’s also no less than FOUR cute, friendly doggies who call this place home. So there are lots of furry friends for those of you who miss your pets so much, like us!
Check out their awesome video for more of a taste of this amazing place!
While in Chiang Mai we were fortunate enough to go on our second tour by Grasshopper Adventures – Chiang Mai Night Bike Tour. This was again a night time biking tour which took us though the old city highlighting some incredible temples and history. Our guide was absolutely fantastic and his knowledge of the city was scholarly. Here is a video showcasing our experience!!!
After meeting up at the Grasshopper Adventures Chiang Mai headquarters, we mounted our bicycles and headed off into the city. Again, we were very impressed with the quality of the bikes offered by Grasshopper — so comfortable and with front and back lights!
Our first stop was at Chiang Mai Pae Gate. It was built as the main entrance to the walled city, easily accessible to traders coming though on the nearby river. We learned that the city had several ways in, each for specific types of people, historically. One exit was reserved only for the dead on their funeral marches.
Next we rode to several amazing temples, each with Buddha relics and lots of good energy. We used a kind of rope and pulley at Wat Lok Molee to send holy water which automatically dropped over the temple. Apparently doing this together would guide our spirits back to each other in the next life. “I don’t know, one life with you might be enough…” said Carrie, maybe joking but probably serious. I am a piece of work sometimes.
Near the end of the tour we walked through the grounds of Wat Chedi Luang, located right in the middle of Chiang Mai Old City. The temple is partially collapsed on top and reminded us a lot of places we visited in Cambodia.
Our final stop was at the Chiang Mai Gate Night Food Market We were treated to some amazing coconut pancakes, mango sticky rice, and some smoothies. Food always makes me quite happy, and even though we had taken a feast of a cooking class earlier in the day, I was happy to eat again.
Grasshopper Adventures Chiang Mai Night Bike Tour was a great look into the history of the northern Thailand city. We learned much about the Lanna empire which existed independently before they were absorbed into the Siam empire (Later Thailand) and how the younger generations are trying to bring back their historical culture.
We had a very wet, exhilarating blast of a time during our first Songkran Thai New Year celebration! In Chiang Mai, people converge around the Old City‘s moat with water guns, hoses, buckets, and refill barrels! Our friends from the USA picked Songkran week to visit us in Thailand so they could join in on the madness! We had tons of fun acting like kids, dueling with Thai families, dodging water gun fire all around us and sneak-attacking unsuspecting tourists! Who’s coming to Thailand for Songkran next year?
The amazing Tuk Tuk Safari offers tours around Colombo, Galle, and Kandy. The tours are not just in any tuk tuks, these babies have roll-back tops, coolers of beer, custom music playlists, cool drivers, and classic paint jobs! Our driver, Donald Duck (yes, that was literally what his nametag said), picked us up in downtown Galle and welcomed us to his safari! He wore a fun colonial safari outfit, and kept a great smile on his face as he showed us our sweet ride.
We hadn’t really researched the places Tuk Tuk Safari would take us around Galle, which led us to an afternoon full of surprises. At first we drove a little ways, ending up in Kabalana where we bounced up a dirt road to a little house in the palms. By a beautiful outdoor kitchen we were served an incredible spread of curries: jackfruit, dhal, sweet onions, cucumber, potato… plus rice and of course papadam. The curries were super special, and we both agreed it was one of our top three favorite meals in our two months of traveling Sri Lanka. For dessert we had some very nice pineapple, jackfruit, and soursop, along with fresh curd and treackle (coconut sap, Sri Lankan maple syrup). So yum!
Our second stop was to the famous stilt fishermen of Ahangama. The Sri Lankans erect sticks into the reef areas where there are many fish. They climb up the sticks and sit on little shelves for hours at a time. The spot we stopped was made for tourists so you can go experience it like the locals. I climbed up there, getting super wet in the process, so Carrie could snap this classic shot!
Tukkin’ down the road, we veered off after an airport and headed inland. Down a few skinny local streets, we came to a sign: “Spice Garden”. They had a nice garden of all the local things out back, along with boat tours around Koggala Lake. We took a quick tour around the garden then found ourselves in their showroom where they sell amazing Ayurvedic products along with homegrown spices. We had a lot of fun learning about everything that could be cured by natural products. We try to not use any chemical products so we bought a few things to take on our travels.
The next stop on Tuk Tuk Safari was the Turtle Conservation Center in Koggala, Sri Lanka. They take in sea turtles injured by boats and nets and try to heal them or give them a comfortable place to live their disabled lives. There is also a turtle hatchery behind the building on the beach. One of their turtle tanks was packed full of hundreds of baby turtles!!! Cute little tiny things. We love turtles and we really appreciated what this place is doing to help.
Donald Duck now drove us to our final stop, the Japanese Peace Pagoda in Unawatuna. Built in 2005 in an effort by a Japanese Buddhist sect to build temples in conflict zones (Sri Lanka was in civil war until 2009), the temple offers incredible views from a hilltop overlooking the bay. The sunset was turning fantastic and the whole scene was super magical. When the sun was nearing the horizon, we hurried down the hill and caught the last glimpse of the red ball falling into the ocean. With a lot of light still, we walked down a path to Jungle Beach, a secluded spot with a nice beach and calm water.
Dark now, we headed home. Donald dropped us off at our hotel and we said goodbye. Tuk Tuk Safari far exceeded our expectations, taking us to all new spots even though we’d already been traveling in that area for weeks. Everything was organized perfectly and Donald Duck was an outstanding tour guide! We really hope to do their other tours of Colombo and Kandy at some point. Tuk Tuk Safari just offers such a cool and unique experience!