Coming Home

Since I’ve gotten older and started traveling on more global adventures of my own, I am always trying to see how I can prolong the transformative effects of travel by making mini changes in my life when I get back home. As you can see, I’ve already started attempting to recreate the Covana Kitchen menu from our hotel. I did a pretty good job of replicating the fruit and chia pudding that was my favorite breakfast each morning.

Chia pudding

But beyond copying the hotel breakfasts, the event that had the biggest impact for me during the trip was definitely our beach cleanup. Perhaps it was being in an a country that is so untouched and underdeveloped, but I felt that you could really see the impact that our American consumerism and wastefulness has on other places. I’ve started making lists (and following them) of how I can make my own small changes.

El Salvador beach cleanup

Some things I do to be kinder to the Earth:

  • Carry reusable bags in the car- this one’s easy for me, since I’ve now lived in two cities that don’t offer plastic bags unless you pay for them. I wish all cities could be like this.

  • Bring a reusable cup- I use this one, but you can find them everywhere. I keep one in my car and one in my backpack so I’m never without. Living in LA, I often find myself grabbing coffee on the run, which usually comes in a paper cup with a plastic lid, and don’t forget the sleeve, which is sometimes also made of non-recyclable materials.

  • Ditch the plastic water bottles- This one is so simple in 2019. There are so many choices of cute bottles to choose from—even ones that keep your drink cold all day. No more buying plastic bottles that don’t last long and create a whole bunch of waste.

New habits I plan to change to make a difference:

  • 5-minute beach cleanups- I am going to start doing this during every beach visit. When we looked around during surf lessons in El Salvador, you could see a lot of trash lining the shores. And a beach day in the US usually holds the same views. Picking up trash while we’re enjoying the ocean will help keep plastic out of the sea and instill the message in our minds that we need to make sure it doesn’t come close in the first place.

  • Ditch all plastic- So, I’m good at brining my reusable mug and bag everywhere I go, but when I order a cold drink or I need silverware for my takeout and need a container, I’m pretty quick to forget my concerns about the environment. I don’t know why it happens so easily, but convenience often trumps what we know is right. The only solution, for me, is to make it more convenient to use my own reusable products. I’ve started putting hard limits on myself— I will not order something if it comes wrapped in plastic (sorry, favorite madeleine cookies from Starbucks) and skip silverware if I haven’t brought my own.

  • No new clothes!- I’ve learned a ton about sustainable fashion this year, thanks to the owners of GFCLA, the jiu-jitsu studio I taught at in Chinatown. Erin and Dennys also run an awesome vintage clothing store, where they salvage clothing that would normally be thrown into a landfill and create cool new designs. Fast fashion is NOT good for the environment, and I’m certainly guilty of wanting more clothes for cheap (Hi, Target and H&M) than quality clothing for expensive. I did the no new clothes rule once for a year, but I cheated by letting my mom buy me things and restock my wardrobe. This year, I want to do it for real. It’s totally possible, thanks to the array of consignment stores, vintage shops, or even hosting your own clothing swap like my friend Suzie did a few weeks ago. Some of my favorite pieces have been hand me downs from old roommates or similar swaps in Austin!

Clothing swap

I’m curious, are there any other changes you’ve made to your lifestyle to be more environmentally-friendly?

Playas and Pupusas

I’m back home in LA and missing our sweet retreat apartment—complete with bunkbed slumber parties and epic patio views— so much! Our last couple days in El Salvador were when we finally had a chance to kick back and relax. We had really front loaded the trip, because some retreaters were only able to stay for three days or five days, so a few people left on Wednesday after ziplining. Our end of the week was spent hanging by the pool, ordering massages, surfing, and doing yoga some more. I was a little tired for the fourth and final surf lesson, because we had just taken one of Pixie’s Buti Yoga classes. If you haven’t heard of it before, it’s this new, tribal dance style of yoga that is really popular among women, especially in the middle of the US. I LOVE it! It’s spreading its way out to the coasts, so if you’re looking to try something wild and new, see if there’s a class near you.

Puro Surf El Salvador

On our last night, we went back into the town of El Tunco to dance at the bar and eat pupusas. If you need one reason above all others to visit El Salvador, this would be it! Pupusas are these little corn tortilla pockets filled with whatever you like—beans, meet, veggies, cheese, etc.—and topped with a yummy tomato salsa and spicy cabbage slaw. Think quesadilla, but even better! They’re about 75 cents a piece in the town, so we had no trouble filling our bellies. 11/10 would recommend!

Pupusas El Tunco

Braving the Sea

I have to admit, of all the activities on the trip, surfing was the one I was looking forward to the least. Growing up, I always wanted to be a surfer chick, back when I was shopping at Pacific Sunwear and wearing puka shell necklaces. Then I got older and actually tried a lesson. Turns out, surfing was way harder than it looked on TV! It wasn’t as easy as snowboarding, which I’d picked up in about a day or two. Surfing hurt. The first lesson I took was on a real fiberglass board, so I ended up with a lot of scratches and bumps from getting tumbled around underwater. Oh well, I’d just have to choose another life path besides surfing.

Another issue: when I was younger, I liked swimming in the ocean. I’d body surf and boogie board without any concerns for safety, but somewhere along the way, I lost that fearlessness and began to prefer staying closer the shore. Sometimes I’ll swim out farther, but I’m usually very cautious to go underneath the waves and, when it’s time to come in, I’ll swim or walk quickly to shore without letting any of them interfere.

Puro Surf surfing lessons

I left for El Salvador feeling excited about the yoga and the waterfall jumping but pretty half-hearted about the prospect of catching waves. I thought might be able to stand up once or twice, but I probably wasn’t going to enjoy it. I was teaching on the retreat, though, so of course I would still join in and set a good example.

Two days later, we were lined up on the beach getting our first lesson from Marcelo, the founder of Puro Surf and the head instructor of their Academy Program. He led us in a breathing and stretching warmup that felt a lot like yoga. He broke down each of the steps in a simple way that we could repeat every time.

Puro Surf surfing lessons

Something about his instruction must have stuck with us, because we all stood up in the water on the first day, and the next, and the next. The ocean was crazy warm, and the waves were small but powerful—perfectly manageable for beginners, which the majority of us were. By day three, I was really getting the hang of it. I noticed that when I was out in the water, I didn’t think about anything else besides reading the wave, feeling it push me, and following the steps to get up onto the board. My mind felt completely clear for the first time in a while. Surfing was a lot like yoga.

Puro Surf surfing lessons

If the weather was sketchy or the waves too big, we would have our instruction in the hotel gym, just to make sure we were prepared for what we would see on the beach. One day, we even learned how to turn by riding skateboards outside the gym. I certainly never expected that at 31 years old I’d be rolling around a skatepark in El Salvador, but I guess there’s a time and a place for everything.

Puro Surf skate park

By the end of the trip, I had fallen in love with surfing. I wasn’t getting tumbled as often as the first two days, but I liked Marcelo’s main message. We were all going to get tumbled by the ocean at some point, so we had two choices. Choice number one: freak out! Choice number two: relax, stay calm, enjoy a little massage, and keep surfing. You can guess which option we all chose.

Puro Surf surfing lessons

Beach Cleanup

Although we were busy enjoying the surf lessons and the ocean view from the yoga studio, we couldn’t forget the third part of the Surf Sweat Serve mission. On Tuesday afternoon, we joined students from the local school and a group of girls from the Medusas surf program to clean up the beach areas around the hotel. We brought our own reusable bags from home and gave a short presentation on how to make more conscious choices about using less plastic, recycling whenever possible, and reducing our overall impact on the environment.

I was impressed to find that most of the kids were already aware of what they could do to help stop pollution of our oceans and that most had done beach cleanups before . They were eager to get their hands dirty, and seeing their enthusiasm made me want to do more to make the earth a better place for them and future generations.

Beach clean up Surf Sweat Serve

Over the weekend, we celebrated World Ocean’s Day. After our surf lesson, we did a quick, five-minute sweep of the beach, and all 15 or so of us were able to fill our arms with plastic trash, including silverware, bottle caps, and soles of shoes. I couldn’t help but feel depressed looking at our piles of garbage, knowing that it would probably still end up in a landfill just like the massive ones I’d seen in Nicaragua. The only real way to prevent plastic from destroying our environment is to use less of them.

Oftentimes, travel is not only about the fun you have on the trip, but what you can take away from it when you come back home. I am going to be making a more dedicated effort to observe my consumption habits and figure out changes I can make.

Zipline Time

The last time I was in Central America, I skipped ziplining because I was too evolved beyond the lures of zipling (and also poor), then I wrote about how the act of ziplining doesn’t matter and how it’s ok to walk down the hill instead. This time I decided walking down the hill while your friends are ziplining is PRETTY LAME (but still ok, if you’re intentional about it), so on Wednesday, we ziplined.

Zipline Apaneca

After a two hour van drive, we donned our helmets and harnesses and rode in the open-air truck up to the top of a mountain or hillside or whatever it was we would be zipping off of. I love how gung-ho everyone in our group was about activities. Of course everyone would be hitting the cables; there was no doubt about it.

Apaneca

We set off from about 15 different platforms and lines on the way down. The first few were tiny puddle jumpers, but they eventually led up to the longer main events. As we got further down, the clouds broke open into light rain. We had to switch out our leather gloves for waterproof versions, but a little water couldn’t stop us.

Floripondia

It started raining a lot harder once we were back in town. It was no concern to us, since we found a coffee shop/artesian store that served paninis with the greatest chimichurri of all time along with any variation of coffee brewing technique your heart might desire. Who knew a little town in El Salvador would have the latest espresso machines, Chem X, V60, and french presses? I can’t tell the difference, but I can recognize a master barista when I see one.

Cafe Axul Apaneca

To our delight, the rain ceased when we finished our lunch, and we were able to explore the town of Apaneca. I always love getting out of the resort and seeing what the actual country is like. This is one of the best I’ve seen. The people are very welcoming and the little streets have so much character—there were so many adorable paintings on the walls and telephone poles; I couldn’t resist photographing all the bright colors and intricate doorways.

Apaneca El Salvador
Apaneca El Salvador

We could’ve easily spent the whole day here, venturing down side streets and picking up on even more details. I know many countries have their dangers and that we should always be careful when in a new environment, but I truly have not found where all the warning messages about El Salvador come from. We’ve been in a big group with knowledgable guides, but the locals have all been friendly, well-educated, and kind.

Apaneca El Salvador

Getting out into the town makes me feel even more that El Salvador is a gem of a country and should not be missed.

Apaneca El Salvador

Chasing Waterfalls in Tamanique

Although it’s tempting to spend every possible moment basking in the sun and infinity pool at the hotel, we’ve managed to be very active during our time here. On Monday, we drove away from the resort to explore more of the countryside. We were dropped off in the town of Tamanique, and our guide led us down a dirt path to hike to a waterfall.

El Salvador

It’s the end of the rainy season, so the scenery is lush and vibrant. We hiked for about an hour, winding down the hillside and listening to the sounds of the rushing waters below us.

Tamanique waterfalls

Once we got to the waterfall, don’t tell my mom and dad, but we jumped off the 20 ft. cliffs into the waters below. Our group of 12 was finally all together, after a few late arrivals due to varying travel plans and work schedules. There were a few different heights, but everyone ended up jumping off one of the cliffs! It’s been a blast to be with such an adventuresome crew.

Tamanique waterfalls

We could hear the sounds of an afternoon thunderstorm rumbling in the distance, and our guide urged us to get dressed quickly so we’d have time to visit the second, lower waterfall. We hiked a little further down, and jumped in to swim underneath the cascading streams.

Tamanique waterfalls

I almost didn’t go in on the bottom level, because I’d dried off and didn’t want to get wet again. That would have been a mistake, because it started raining heavily while we were all in the water. The guide rushed us out and warned that the waters could rise quickly. We scrambled to put on our clothes and shoes, then slid over the muddy rocks to pull ourselves out. After a fast and breathless hike up the trail, we were back in the town, soaking wet but smiling. It was a sticky and soggy ride home in the van, but we all made it back safe and sound to Puro Surf to dry off.

Tamanique

Enchanting El Salvador

We’ve been here since Friday, but it already feels like we’ve moved in and might be staying down here forever. The world is feeling peaceful, complete with perfect patio views, enriching connections, and new surroundings. We’ve experienced a few yoga classes, a couple of surf lessons, and a cultural visit into the town of El Tunco.

I can’t say I’ve seen a better yoga studio view in my time as a student or teacher:

Puro Surf yoga

It’s always a little intimidating to teach a new group of people, but I’m glad everyone has been keeping an open mind and showing up for class, whether they’ve done yoga a bunch of times or only once or twice. I’m so appreciative that they’ve created space and trust to have me as an instructor.

Puro Surf surfing lessons

We’ve had two surf lessons so far. The waves right in front of our hotel are too difficult for beginners, so we’ve been driving about 20 minutes away to another beach. We learned and practiced techniques in the sand before heading into the water. I’d had one surfing lesson before coming here, but the lessons here have been a lot more structured and easy to pick up. Everyone stood up on the boards on their first days! The second day waves were more forceful, but we all rode some, and I’m getting more comfortable being tumbled and feeling less afraid of the ocean.

Puro Surf El Salvador

I think the hotel vistas speak for themselves! Puro Surf is a sweet hideaway surrounded by black sand beaches and little hidden caves. They consciously collect rainwater from the thatched roof and use reusable straws/silverware for all of their drinks and dishes. The surf instructors are some of the best (and best-looking :P ) around!

Puro Surf El Salvador

On Sunday night, we went into the nearby town of El Tunco for drinks by the beach and to celebrate one of the retreater’s birthdays. It’s been a treat to get to know everyone who came from as close as LA and as far as Hong Kong and Australia.

We’re having an awesome time and the days are jam-packed and flying by! I’ll be sharing more adventures as the week goes on.

Monkey Lala El Tunco

We made it to El Salvador!

We made it to El Salvador this morning, and things are looking bright! I’m going to be here for the week teaching yoga on a retreat with Surf Sweat Serve. Today we’re finalizing the details of the itinerary, getting settled in, and eating lots of yummy fruit for second breakfast.

I’ve already seen chickens wandering in the road and a mid-day parade featuring fireworks, because what else would one expect in Central America? It’s the perfect mix of sun and clouds, humid (how I like it), and gorgeously green!

Puro Surf El Salvador

i can’t wait to see what surf lessons have in store for me!