the post that started it all: a throwback to our (failed) first adventure of working at a yoga retreat center in spain

Today marks the 2 year anniversary of when Mia and I set off from San Francisco with a one-way ticket to Europe. We’d traveled extensively around the continent during our year of studying abroad in Florence, but we’d never properly backpacked before. As students we had a home, a solid group of friends, and a sense of security. When we decided to go backpacking, all that went away.

Since then, there have been many emotional ups and downs in our travels. There were times when I’ve felt lonely, hopeless, or even just bored. Backpacking isn’t all impromptu pool parties at 3am, mid-morning surf sessions with a dozen dolphins, or romantic rendezvous with foreigners.**  

Sometimes, it’s shit.

But most of the time, it’s not. 

**Because most of the time, it really is all this and more. 

We lasted 7 long months galavanting around Europe the first time around, and then returned less than a year later to backpack in Spain again for 2 months before heading to Brazil for an additional 2 and a half. Thus in total, we’ve spent nearly 12 of the last 24 months abroad — and it all started with a one-way ticket to Mallorca.

So, in honor of that anniversary, I’d like to repost a blog entry that was written in the summer of 2011 by both Mia and I. It was originally posted on an old blog of ours that we never updated, and which has since been long forgotten. However, I wanted to bring this particular post back — partly because it reveals a real naiveté that I feel other bushy-tailed backpackers can relate to, and partly because it’s just too hilarious to be lost in the interweb. Oh, sweet Pancake. 

young and naive travel ducklings.

August 18, 2011

Mallorca is difficult to explain.

In many ways it was awesome; the beaches were truly mesmerizing with their silky turquoise waters and rugged cliffs. The property where we stayed was equally beautiful. We were alloted a small, old cottage maybe 200 meters from the main house which was lovely and provided us with a decent amount of privacy. The food was gorgeous—well, most of the time—and the sunshine was greatly appreciated after a long, cold winter in Spokane.

Before arriving, we were beyond stoked for the opportunity to live and breathe yoga. If you bear (hardy har har har) in mind how many hours we clocked in at Lila during the school year, then you’d understand just how committed we were to reinventing our post-college lifestyles. We were promised the opportunity to participate in the yoga classes, as well as room and board, in exchange for thirty hours of work each week, and thus, we figured Mallorca would be the perfect place to develop new and improved identities.

However, things didn’t work out quite as we planned.

Though advertised as a yoga retreat center, the property was more or less a very posh private resort nestled amongst the mountains. Very wealthy individuals came from all over Europe and the United States to be instructed on how to live more zen lives. Occasionally, this resulted in diagrams of distinctly male and female stick figures that linked gender behavior to the rotation of our solar system—Pluto, our most beloved planet, is to blame for why all women are feminine (just FYI).

Needless to say, our personal philisophies and those of the instructors didn’t exactly mesh most of the time. We had been spoiled with incredible yoga teachers back home, and were less than keen on the “wise” words being spoken at the center. However, despite our differing opinions, we were still pleased to be able to keep up with our yoga practices until this, too, fell through.

Each week a new instructor arrived with a new group of followers, and as we later learned, it was up to him or her to invite us to join the classes rather than at the discretion of our bosses, as they had implied. The first week’s instructor was the only one to offer us a place in his class; he may have been an absolute kook, but he was very nice and meant well. After he left we found ourselves stuck staring at downward dogs from behind the kitchen window, hoping for an invitation, any invitation, to join in, but instead were constantly disappointed and left to our own devices.

Though somewhat disheartened, we initially saw this as an opportunity to even more fully establish our own spiritual ideologies. Because of its seclusion and peaceful ambience, the center seemed the perfect place to foster a new level of maturity. Furthermore, we worked all the time (much more often than agreed upon), which also catered to the development of our responsible and disciplined personas.

She’s crying on the inside.

Yet, we quickly realized that the idealized zen lifestyle that we were aiming for—you know it, reading lots of ancient philosophy and meditating for long hours under trees and only eating things that are green—was really fucking boring. In a matter of 2 weeks, our social skills had utterly depleted and we were behaving like 80 year old women (think prunes, warm milk, rocking chairs, and 10 o’clock bedtimes) rather than the frisky spring chickens we were at Gonzaga. Thus, though we really did enjoy Mallorca, it wasn’t at all what we expected.

But don’t fret…we found the following ways to entertain ourselves:

  • Naming the insects in our room, most of whom were later squashed; our favorite pet was a giant black beetle named Pancake, who won our hearts when we realized that he only had three legs and could not move, therefore posing us no threat. Our fondness peaked for little Pancake when we realized that he was dead.
  • We attempted to recreate our yoga from home but slowly fell out of practice due to lack of discipline and a greater commitment to the other activities listed.
  • Shadow dancing. ‘Nuff said.
  • Imitating bugs in our room (occasionally while shadow dancing).
  • Reading. For Kara, this meant The Razor’s EdgeLolitaBridget Jones’s Diary, and starting Angela’s Ashes. For Mia, it meant Jane Eyre, the beginning of A Passage to India (before the book fell to pieces and was abandoned), and Bridget Jones’s Diary (x5).
  • Journaling. Which meant mainly making up stories about the strange guests a la Agatha Christie and musing who would be the murderer. The rest of the time, we wrote down recipes and to-do lists (see below).
  • Tanning by the pool. Though the property was very secluded and, therefore, occasionally suffocating, it was very beautiful and we did appreciate taking full advantage of it.
  • Riding our bikes 40 minutes to the town of Pollença for internet, beer, and chocolate.
  • Watching Rafa play in the French Open Final and subsequently meeting our first Paco (read: a small, old Spanish man — often toothless, almost always unintelligible — who delights in throwing winks and air kisses our way. Swooooon).
  • Siestas.
  • Practicing French lessons off of Kara’s iPod. According to our French friend Claire, we didn’t learn much. Our accents are such that when we ask where the train station is, Claire gives us a puzzled look and infoms us that we have just asked about the location of the war.
  • Looking at Donkey.
  • PedEgging.
  • Stargazing, made even more exciting by a lunar eclipse, warm milk, and prunes.
  • Finishing off the bottles of wine left by guests, which often resulted in shadow dancing.

Though our schedules were kept full with the above activities, we did manage to squeeze in some beach time and see a little bit more of Mallorca.

Mia posing with Donkey, our lone friend on Mallorca.

*Mia’s Resolutions as of June 10th, 2011

  • write thank yous and postcards (and send) in timely manner
  • be avid in reading (read poems)
  • become fluent in Spanish, French, German, and, of course, Italian
  • write (good) book
  • do good deeds
  • find income– keep!!!
  • stop being emotional f***wit (actually, just enjoy the phrase from Bridget Jones)
  • get TBT
  • be nicer to people
  • run more, drink less
  • eat prunes every day
  • practice yoga every day
  • write/call home
  • journal every day
  • compost, recycle, be green!!!!

*Kara’s Resolutions as of June 10th, 2011

  • shower
  • exercise

Neither of us has been very successful at following through on said resolutions. (Note: these were taken verbatum from journals.)