Our Southwest United States Roadtrip – Almost VanLife

Hi lovely readers!  You may be wondering what we have been doing in the months since we posted!  It’s been so long! Our digital nomad lives have brought us home to the USA for a summer of roadtrip camping adventures, visiting friends and family, and running some workshops and retreats for our yoga retreat company Bigger Life Adventures.  It’s been fun to live “Dirtbag Life” with our Prius and our tent again and explore the beautiful nature of our own country.  It’s almost VanLife, right? Here’s a video we made to show you our road trip through Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado.

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Feeling at “ohm” in the gorgeous landscape north of Taos, New Mexico.
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The “Prius Tent Life” Chef

The highlight of the trip was definitely the Via Ferrata in Telluride, Colorado, which you watched at the end of the video above.  This amazing adventure course is bolted into a rock wall hundreds of feet above the stunning Telluride Valley.  It’s super thrilling and LONG, with sections of hiking and sections of scary iron steps and a sheer dropoff below!  It took us about four hours.  So worth it for the views and the adventure though!

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The other huge highlight of our summer so far was hosting our Mid-Summer Reset at Laguna Mountain retreat campout!  We had 13 guests and it went super well!  I got to teach yoga in the beautiful mountain meadows of east San Diego County and Zach cooked amazing plant-based meals for everyone!  We can’t wait to host our next retreat in Sri Lanka!

Check out the amazing video our friends from Where We Wanderlust made about our retreat!

 

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Portobello Mushroom Burgers and Kale Salad – just one of our amazing meals!

 

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Hiking Garnet Peak
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Teaching about Ayurveda!
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Yoga in nature is the best!

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5 Best Sri Lanka Surf and Yoga Retreats

The south of Sri Lanka is a perfect tourism destination, especially if you like surfing and yoga.  Sri Lanka surf and yoga retreats are a great option, especially if you enjoy all-inclusive, no-worries travel.  With many different surf and yoga retreat options, it can be hard to decide which retreat to book.  Here is our guide comparing the 5 best Sri Lanka surf and yoga retreats!

Weligama Surf Yoga Retreat:

best sri lanka surf and yoga retreatsOffering all-inclusive week-long surf and yoga retreats based in Weligama, these retreats are held at an amazing colonial villa in the jungle near the town.  Included are four surf lessons, eight yoga practices, breathwork meditation sessions, two daily meals with private chefs, a cooking class, and charity give-back days.  They also take you on a safari through Udawalawe National Park which is packed full of wild elephants and other beautiful creatures.  A great value for seeing a lot without needing to plan anything.  We also like how everyone starts and finishes the experience together, allowing you to make deep, lasting friendships.

Website: weligamasurfyogaretreat.com

8-day package price: $1,500 USD

Our review with pictures!

Surf & Yoga Mirissa:

best sri lanka surf and yoga retreatsWeeklong packages include six surf sessions, six yoga classes, one massage, and daily breakfast.  A bonus is the friendly local owners and delicious Ahimsa Vegan Cafe (extra cost but worth it) located on the property. The rooms are spacious and comfortable, quietly nestled away from the main road.  Other packages and longer stays are available on their website.  Less all-inclusive but better for more independent travelers.

Weeklong package price: $555 USD

Wesbsite: www.surfnyogamirissa.com

Our detailed review with pictures!

Soul & Surf:

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Photo Credit: The Australian

For a more luxury option, enjoy Soul & Surf’s new and modern rooms and beautiful swimming pool.  Included in a one-week stay are three meals per day, seven yoga sessions, ten surf outings, two meditation sessions, a guided SUP adventure and more.  Great if you want to spend your time relaxing in one place; the downside is that it’s a little off the main drag.  Oh, and the swimming pool is a nice bonus.

Weeklong price: ~ $1,500 USD for a shared room – $2,500 for a luxury private room.  Check their website for options and availability.  Prices lower in off season (May-November).

Website: www.soulandsurf.com

Sunshine Stories:

best sri lanka surf and yoga retreatsMade for the more serious surfer crowd, Sunshine Stories retreats include many different types of training to take your surf to another level.  Included in their packages are seven breakfasts, five lunches and dinners, ten yoga sessions, five surf lessons, a variety of surf classes and video feedback, a temple visit, and your own surf video.

Weeklong package price: $899 USD for a shared room in their villa.

Website: sunshinestories.com

Camp Poe:

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Photo credit: camppoe.com

Located in Ahangama, Camp Poe is a boutique oasis which offers luxury safari tents or bungalows for accommodation.  They also have a swimming pool and honestly some of the best yoga teachers on the island.  Their packages include seven breakfasts, five dinners, five surf lessons, surf theory, five yoga classes, and included tea and unlimited water.

Weeklong package price: from $699 USD for private tent.  Cheaper shared tents also available.  More action-packed deals are also available with twice the surfing, more yoga, and included photo & videos.  Check their website for other price options.

Website: camppoe.com

All of the best Sri Lanka surf and yoga retreats include transport to the surf spots and surfboard rentals.   Check their website for more exact itineraries and lists of optional add-ons.  Keep in mind that the weather is best in the south of Sri Lanka between November and April, and prices are higher during this season.  If you are looking for the best budget Sri Lanka surf and yoga retreats, consider coming in the off season to save and enjoy less crowds.

Also, don’t forget about our all-inclusive Sri Lanka surf and yoga retreat this September with Bigger Life Adventures!

Like this article about the best Sri Lanka surf and yoga retreats?  Check out our article on how to navigate Sri Lanka’s many transportation options!

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WECare Worldwide – Caring For Sri Lankan Street Dogs

If you know us, you know we love dogs!  Sri Lanka, like many developing nations, is covered in street dogs.  While spending the last three months in Sri Lanka, we kept looking for ways to help the street dogs.  Those little mutts were always nice to us, following along on hikes and keeping us safe late at night.  After being in Sri Lanka for a while, we kind of became immune to the site of the mangy friends.  Then, while researching charities for our September Sri Lanka Surf & Yoga Retreat we stumbled across WECare Worldwide.  WECare provides veterinary care for less fortunate animals across Sri Lanka, providing free care for street dogs, and inexpensive care for household pets.

WECare Worldwide Sri LankaWe visited WECare’s facility outside of Talalla, Sri Lanka to find out more about the amazing things they are up to!  WECare’s main focus is on reducing the number of street dogs in Sri Lanka, by neutering and spaying as many as possible.  This way, with veterinary medicines limited,  more care can be given to the already enormous numbers of dogs that exist on the island.

WECare Worldwide Sri LankaAnother of the main goals of WECare Worldwide is educating the local people about street dogs and how to better love them.  WECare goes into school and shows young children that street dogs are cute and loving creatures, breaking the stereotypes that many Sri Lankans have against dogs.

One other stereotype that WECare likes to break is that of the veterinarian.  Traditionally in Sri Lanka, vets are people who have not succeeded in medical school.  Not wanting to be seen in a career connoting “failure” discourages Sri Lankan youth from pursuing schooling in veterinary medicine.  But WECare’s super-smart and passionate veterinarians are changing the image of the veterinary career in Sri Lanka.  It’s also awesome that many of the vets in WECare are women, providing a great example of female education and empowerment!

WECare Worldwide Sri LankaRecently WECare was featured on the BBC which helped them to secure a lot of new funding.  Check out their segment by clicking here!

We cannot wait to raise money for WECare Worldwide though our 10% Giveback Program on our  Bigger Life Adventures yoga and surf retreat!  Every dollar helps, and even if you don’t make it to our Sri Lanka Surf & Yoga Retreat, please consider donating a small amount to their cause.  Not only are the helping the street dogs, but they are employing many local people and educating young children on the proper way to interact with animals.  Please check out their website www.WECareWorldwide.org.uk for more information about the organization and details on how to donate to the cause!

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Sri Lanka transportation – a guide to how to travel the island

Traveling to Sri Lanka? Landing in Colombo can be overwhelming but doesn’t have to be.  Travel in Sri Lanka can be stress free if you know how to get around.  Whether you are headed for your next big surf trip or just to soak up the beach sun, study our ultimate Sri Lanka transportation guide to best enjoy this Indian Ocean island paradise.

Sri Lanka transportation – a guide to how to travel the island

Train:

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The Sri Lanka train system is old-school and can range from dreamy rides through the mountains with a whole car to yourself, to being packed in like sweaty sardines, unable to sit for hours.  The most iconic ride is between Ella and Kandy, which takes you through incredible mountain and tea plantations views and Horton Plains National Park.  It is perhaps the most beautiful train ride in the world.  You can start east of Ella if you want to ride over the Nine Arch Bridge, or just hike there from Ella town to get your picture.  Trains are separated into first, second, and third classes.  First class tickets can be bought online and you get a guaranteed seat.  Second and third class are similar and you can purchase them at the ticket office no more than 15 minutes before the train arrives.  You might get a seat, you might not.  Once on a packed train we sat in the doorway with our legs out the side of the train the whole journey.  Despite sore butts from sitting on the floor the whole way, it was a great way to enjoy the scenery!

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Local buses go everywhere in Sri Lanka.  If you are traveling for a long time and/or on a budget, this is your best bet.  Find the blue signs along the road which signify stopping points; they are every few hundred meters.  Be prepared to jump on while the bus is still moving!  The ticket sellers will sometimes try to over-charge you.  Once inside hold on for dear life, as the drivers are notoriously psychotic and get paid by the trip, not by the hour.  Bus fare in Sri Lanka are around 20 LKR (Sri Lankan Rupees) for a short trip or near 200 LKR from Colombo to the south coast (~5hrs).  For busing to/from Colombo, check out the special section in the bottom of the page.  Throw your backpacks in front by the driver or in the storage space in the rear, depending on how helpful/hurried the ticket guys are at the moment.  Buses are by far the most popular form of Sri Lanka transportation with the locals, so ride them at least once for the experience.

Tuk tuk:

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These three-wheeled motorized rickshaws are a Sri Lankan transportation staple and you will find them all over the island.  They are fun to zoom around in, but the drivers are pushy and you always have to ask the price up front and negotiate; just please don’t be a dick because the price is 50 LKR higher than you’d like.  A good tourist’s tuk tuk fare is 75 LKR per kilometer, but expect to pay more late at night.  They have room for three people but will sometimes let you take more (for a tip) and generally have room for your luggage.  Check out the Tuk Tuk Safari that we did, which featured the nicest tuk tuk we’ve ever seen!  In Colombo there is a great app called Pick Me that you can use to summon your tuk tuk rides.

Motorbike:

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Buses and tuk tuks get old fast, and sometimes you just want t stop and get a coconut (or an ice cream).  Renting a motorbike is a nice change of pace and lets you explore more remote and off-the-beaten-path destinations.  Prices range from 800-1200 LKR per day.  In our opinion, this is the most fun type of Sri Lanka transportation.  Technically you need an international drivers license, along with your home country’s ID, and a special permit only obtainable in Colombo.  Most tourists who rent motorbikes do not have all or any of these documents, so just expect to pay a fine if you are stopped by the police.  Watch out for police roadblocks in every town.  We generally see them coming and hide behind the car in front of us.  The police aren’t trying to work too hard, and won’t chase you.

Taxi:

Taxis are useful in Colombo, or if you are on a quick trip/higher budget.  A trip from Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airport to the south can cost between 7,000 and 12,000 LKR so be sure to do some negotiating.  If you have a hotel reserved, have them arrange a taxi for you, as they will get a better price and your ride will be waiting on your arrival.  If you need a ride to/from specific places, post sometime on one of the Sri Lanka traveler Facebook groups and many taxis will message you with deals.  Uber is a good option, but only works in Colombo.  Taxis don’t normally have signs in Sri Lanka, because they are usually are just some dude with a Prius.

Getting to/from Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airport:

Keep in mind that Sri Lanka only has one international airport, located in Colombo.  Most travelers choose to skip Colombo or leave it until the end of their trip, after getting more comfortable with the country.  Leaving the airport is one of the most expensive parts of travel in Sri Lanka.  There are several options to get you where you need to be:

Bus – When walking out the main exit during daytime hours, you will see a blue bus directly in front of the exit.  This takes you to the main bus station (150 LKR – 1hr) near the Colombo Fort and train station.  This main bus station is for local buses which depart to all parts of the island for a very cheap price.  However, if you’re headed to the south we’d recommend taking the highway bus to Matara (500 LKR – 2hrs) which is air conditioned and gets you there in half the time of the local bus. These nicer buses leave from a different bus station called Maharagama in south Colombo.  They depart every 15 min or so when full.  There are also highway buses directly to Galle, although they leave less often than the Matara buses. To get to Maharagama either take a bus from the local bus station, or taxi/Uber straight from the airport (45 min, recommended).

Taxi – If you are only in Sri Lanka for a short time and your first stop is outside Colombo, we recommend just taking a taxi straight from the airport to your destination.  Set it up with your hotel in advance to save money and have someone waiting for you.  Keep in mind that if you are arriving late at night or early in the morning, taxi or Uber might be your only option for getting anywhere.

Tuk tuk – if you are spending the night in nearby Negombo, you can take a tuk tuk to your destination.  The tuk tuks are not allowed into the airport pickup area but you just need to walk across the street to flag one down.

Sri Lanka transportation is easy, however sometimes it can be crowded and hot.  We call it “character building” as my favorite athlete Alex Honnold would say.  Just keep your cool and everything will be fine!  What’s to worry, if all else fails while traveling Sri Lanka, you’ve still got your Chevrolegs and your thumb!

Don’t want to worry about anything while traveling in Sri Lanka?  Check out our upcoming Sri Lanka Surf & Yoga retreat through Bigger Life Adventures!  We take care of everything so you can focus on the fun!

Enjoy this post about Sri Lanka transportation options?  Check out our archives for other guides and helpful advice for travelers all over the world!  And don’t forget to follow us on Instagram and subscribe to our Youtube Channel!

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What happened to Mirissa, Sri Lanka? The party is over.

What happened to Mirissa, Sri Lanka?  The party is over.  After the infamous assault of Dutch tourists on Mirissa Beach in April, 13 locals were arrested and parties and party places were closed across the south coast of Sri Lanka.  Several bars tried to organize events but were shut down by the police.  However, travelers were still coming and expected something to do, being surprised at the lack of party scene and moving on quickly once they realized it was not what they had read about.  Soon the situation escalated even more, as most of the Mirissa beach bars have been destroyed by government bulldozers.

The newest development happened quickly.  On May 11th government bulldozers rolled into Mirissa town, along with more than 100 police officers, heavily armed soldiers, and a water cannon to fight back riots.  The government proceeded to knock down 21 structures deemed “illegal”.  This included nearly all the bars and restaurants leaving a big mess of mental, concrete, and other industrial waste along the beach.  Check out this article to read more from a local news report.

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All that’s left of the popular beach bars

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This might be another case of a story which goes a little deeper.  Only a few bars in Mirissa actually had a license to sell alcohol.  These places are still standing after the bulldozing.  Most beach bars in Sri Lanka choose to operate illegally, paying bribes over the obnoxiously priced and hard to get liquor licenses.   These licenses have a price tag of near one million Sri Lankan Rupees and take years of dedication through the proper channels to obtain.

There is also the factor that several large hotel chains have recently been “banging on the doors” of Mirissa.  It will be interesting to see if these large corporate companies are awarded the licensing that the local people were so long denied.

The government’s official reasons for the deconstruction was that A) the structures are illegal, and B) they are causing an environmental impact along the coast.  After the buildings were knocked down, there was no plan in place to clean up the destroyed structures.  These are still lining the beach, slowly getting picked though by the locals, hazardous asbestos roofing sheets thrown about in the sand.  Was this really the most environmentally safe solution, or did the authorities start a plan without a real finish in mind?

With the beach party scene being the reason most people came to Mirissa, Sri Lanka, we suspect it will take years for the town to recover.  Many honest and hardworking locals will be without work, not to mention the tremendous economic loss to the hundreds of local hotels and tourism businesses.

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This is why you should still visit Mirissa!

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We still recommend people go to Mirissa for the surf and awesome beachfront.  And don’t forget the sunsets!  Whatever ends up happening with all of this, hopefully in a few years Mirissa Beach will be in a better place because of the changes, however drastic that they were.  What do you think?  Did the government make the right decision?  Will you help us to have a clean up day, making the beach beautiful again?  Comment below!

Check out our archives for other guides and helpful advice for travelers all over the world!  And don’t forget to follow us on Instagram and subscribe to our Youtube Channel!

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Bigger Life Adventures – Yoga & travel that gives back!

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 TanzaniaCheck out the dates and maybe we’ll see you there?

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Burning Man 2017 – Demons Exist in Nirvana

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.

Like this post about Burning Man 2017? Check out my article on Burning Man 2014 and don’t forget to follow us on Instagram @laaventuraproject.

 

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