Bur. Ning. Man: Believe

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So the time came to finally get a chance to get hands on Burning Man tickets. There I was, sat in a bagel shop in Prescott Arizona with my friend after a yoga class with my heart beating out of my chest. This was largely owing to the iced coffee I’d foolishly consumed whilst waiting in the online queue poised and ready to click. I had barely slept all night in nervous anticipation and / or thanks to the brilliant full moon eclipse.
I was excitedly talking to 4 different friends around the world, in Reno, NYC, Zurich and Tel Aviv all ready to go. With 70,000 people online and only 30,000 tickets available, the odds were against us all. I was trying to remain optimistic the entire time, but getting nowhere close to the payment page, all my friends were in the same predicament. After 30 minutes of torture I received the message I was dying to see coming in from Zurich. Tom had successfully bought a pair and I proceeded to do an excited dance all over the shop, dragging in customers to revel in my infectious delight. After 3 years in the making of failed attempts to attend, this will be our year to shine!
I got straight back to the tablet and hoped that I would be able to buy my friends tickets to join us. After 7 false hopes and 2 hours of trying I admitted defeat. The news came in that it was sold out after only 35 minutes and I had to abandon ship when the shop owners kicked us out. Obviously I was devastated that my friends were unable to get any, but there’s still hope for them to join yet.
It all came down to belief. I was ready to give up before the process had already began, but I was repeatedly told to believe that anything is possible. So I did and it became my mantra. The universe is being really good to me and I am beyond excited to finally attend, time to get costume planning.

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Back across the pond – Easter in New York and Arizona

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One of the most remarkable privileges of my current lifestyle, is having the freedom to jump on a plane to visit friends anywhere in the world. The best part of which, is actually being spoiled with having friends strewn all over the planet itself. So I decided to treat myself with a last minute flight to New York for Easter, with a mid week break to Arizona in between.

With this being my third visit to New York, it felt like I was returning home to somewhere really familiar, despite it being the ever growing gargantuan metropolis. Revisiting favourite haunts in Brooklyn and catching up with old friends made it seem like it was a neighbourhood I’d never left. Finally having an opportunity to party in the city was an absolute game changer. What’s more, having a real event to dress up for in the coldest of winter meant that I went to the effort of gluing feathers to my face!

10 days of back to back yoga marathons peaked in Prescott, where I could practice with my fellow TTC course friend Perry. Taking delicious yin classes and seeing him thrive in a community he has created was heartwarming. My state of bliss peaked with the success of getting Burning Man tickets. I could not contain my excitement just across the border from Nevada, where I will return to in just a few months. The peace and quiet there in the mountains entwined with the craziness of NYC was just the perfect combo. The inspiration for costumes from drag queens and the abundance of thrift stores got my creative juices flowing and I truly cannot wait cross the Atlantic once again in August.
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Apreciating beauty: Full moon sunrise in the desert

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One of the most beautiful experiences in nature is still resonating with me strongly. The reason being…I took the time to acknowledge and appreciate it. During my time in India this year a wonderful friend and yoga teacher, Sunita Singh, taught me the importance of taking a pause to stop and appreciate beauty.

All too often we think that we are capturing a beautiful moment by frantically Instagraming it, and before you know it the moment is gone. Sunita explained the importance of taking a few minutes to really let the beauty sink in, in silence, admiring the beauty and really experiencing it. Storing it away in your long term memory along with all the sights, sounds and smells will help you to remember it for years to come.

I was woken around 4am overlooking the desert in Arizona by the brightest, lowest and largest full moon I have ever seen. I’d missed the eclipse but I stared up at it nevertheless for a few minutes before drifting back off to sleep. A few hours later the sunrise woke me again, this time the moon was setting behind the mountains and there was silence beside the dim noise of the desert wildlife. It sounds ridiculous but it was utterly magical. Tears were welling up in my eyes simply because it was the most beautiful thing I’d seen in a really long time because I’d taken the time to really appreciate it.

It took me hours to get ready for yoga this morning because I kept pausing to take in the fading view. We should all stop rushing around. Instead, why not set aside time every now and then to take in all the beautiful things instead of overlooking them or just getting the perfect snaphot. Life is too short to let all this beauty pass you by.

 

Roadtrippin’ with my two favourite allies

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The big road trip from Reno to Los Angeles was insanity on all levels. We traveled from the highest peak in the lower 48 states to the lowest point below sea level within 24 hours. We saw the largest ghost town, a Western shootout in a saloon, snow, deserts, mountains, giant redwoods, autumnal forests, casinos, the list is endless, so I’ll try to be as concise as possible.

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It all started in Reno, NV, when we met with Lieke and Maciej so I was reunited with even more members of the Rishikesh yoga crew. So good to see people again after so long, especially on their own turf. We hung out a couple of days to get our stuff sorted, Maciej had taken care of all our camping needs so we just need to get ourselves a car. In the meantime we took a trip to Lake Tahoe to trek around and to nearby hamstrings to laze about naked in the eggy waters beneath the stars. We picked up the car (we really lucked out and got the last one in the lot, a much more luxurious chrysler than the compact we reserved) and the three of us set off for uncertain dangers on our route dependent on a resolution to the government shutdown. Our first stop was a trip to Bodie the biggest ghost town in the states. It was such an incredibly well preserved living museum, with a township almost entirely intact, it was eerie but you could explore for hours, sadly we had to move quickly before nightfall to set up our tent.  We couldn’t camp in Yosemite itself so we set up camp in Lee Vining just outside the national park entrance. We consumed our own body weight in homemade falafels and pumpkin soup before farting the tent out to a highly flammable state, but it was a great way to keep warm in the cold. We we’re several thousand feet high by now so the temperature had dropped considerably. Sadly we noticed a sign asking to conceal all food because bears had been spotted a few nights previous, so my mind was a bit preoccupied with being mauled to death in my sleep. We woke up to a full on ground frost, it had snowed 2 days prior to our arrival so we counted ourselves lucky, but this meant the the chances of driving through the park we’re beyond slim. After an epic diner breakfast we spent the morning exploring the tufa and ‘active’ volcano next to Mono Lake after consulting lovely ladies in the tourist board who claimed this was their favourite geological site. We we’re mildly unimpressed and baffled by their favouritism. But they were right on one thing…the Tioga pass was miraculously reopened, so we got to drive through Yosemite and illegally stopped along the roadside to get a glimpse a what we were missing. The devastation caused by the recent forest fires was really upsetting to see, so much of the forest had been taken out and left the place barren with charcoal remains. However we felt lucky that we we’re defiant against all odds in getting in, beating the fires, shutdown and snow, the window of opportunity to get inside were a mere matter of days, we were just in the right place at the right time. We got to the other side and drove through Sonora on our way up the the Calaveras Big Trees park before dark and set up camp again. This time we set up the slackline between 2 trees and gathered lots of firewood for the first of our campfires. This time the bears had visited the night before so we had to hide everything that gave off the faintest scent in the bear bins. One was heard rummaging nearby but didn’t come close, I’m fully aware that they have no interest in humans, only food, but after seeing them up close in Bern I really didn’t feel like testing that fact. The sequoiasin the morning we’re even more impressive than I hoped they’d be, it was just sad to see that these 2000 year old giant redwoods had at times been cut down for display in European exhibitions.

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We drove the winding Sonora pass, which was even more beautiful in our opinion than Tioga all the way down to Lone Pine and set up camp next to the lake. We headed in to town for evening entertainment, slightly confused by all the people dressed as cowboys. After enquiring we learned that the film festival was taking place in town all weekend, with western film stars and parades. Turns out Lone Pine is the mountainous setting for many a films past and present, so we decided to stick around an extra day to check things out. We went to a lively saloon bar filled with cowboys line dancing to a live country band, we joined in and had a song dedicated to us so we we’re obliged to join in, weirdly the singer thought I’d be impressed to learn that they had entertained the troops in Guantanamo Bay! A full on shootout was enacted filling the room with smoke that set the fire alarms off, boys and their toys. The following morning we were recognised by everyone in town. We headed to the film museum and watched the parade of the children of western actors in open top cars,rodeo queens before heading on the road again through death valley. There is absolutely nothing for miles there and the temperature started picking up rapidly so we were keen to make it to Las Vegas asap. Our 24 hours there were like in fear and loathing minus the hallucinogenics, you simply don’t need them, everything is such a bombardment on all your senses. We took the rollercoaster in the NY hotel after a cocktail, my collar bones took a good battering. The strip with all the lights is just surreal, how anyone spends any longer than a day there is probably in need of ptsd counseling. We continued into Arizona from the Hoover Dam and on to route 66, where we landed in Ash Fork a former railroad destination. We met a rancher named Jack at dinner who offered to show us around his patch. He was quite the character so we took him up on it, cruising around in his pick up and firing his gun at tin cans. We headed to the Grand Canyon that evening the very same day that Nevada negotiated it’s reopening ahead of the end of the shutdown. Luck struck once again, but we also returned to waking up to a frozen tent. The view along the canyon was phenomenal, so we hiked a stretch before hitting the road for Prescott. We drove through Sedona with it’s incredible big red rock formations and fall colours and landed in Jerome where we met Perry after his yoga class. Another rishikesh member in the gang, so we headed to Perry and Doug’s beautiful home for a weekend of parties. Friday was spent perusing the thrift shops and liquor stores of downtown Prescott before taking part in an unusual yoga class, a fast paced vinyasa flow with a live dj, black lights and uv paints. We got a little tipsy afterwards and danced the night away in the studio like crazed hippies. We spent the rest of the weekend hiking, drinking, eating delicious food and doing yoga, we partied and chilled with the best hosts ever in their gorgeous home. We then had a massive hungover drive through Phoenix to San Diego in the desert heat to complete. Running parallel to the giant wall of Mexico was really eye opening, I don’t think I ever fully understood how heavily it is policed, really looking forward to being on the other side.  San Diego is pretty but has such a heavy military and police influence. We ate some incredibly fresh fish mind as soon as we arrived turns out Mondays are mostly industry nights in big cities so we enjoyed a half price sushi feast. Tuesday was spent mostly on the beach as we crossed the bridge to the Coronada peninsula watching helicopter after helicopter fly over head. We then continued the drive up the coast on highway one to a great surfers paradise campsite bagging the final pitch just in time. It was our last night all together so we cooked up a bbq storm and made enough smores on the campfire to bring on a diabetic coma. In the morning we watched all the surfers at various stops up the coast until we reached L.A. My favourite was Laguna beach when the tiniest mouse was chasing my feet and led me to a macabre memorial to a dead pet cat, truly disturbing.
We arrived at the grove in L.A. at our first couchsurfing host’s house and said our goodbyes, we were so sad for it to be over, 2 weeks disappeared. Our new host Louis welcomed us so well, we headed to Chinatown for a delicious Cantonese spread trying loads of new dishes, best being a cold shredded sesame chicken dish. We spent the next day exploring Hollywood fully understanding why the people of Los Angeles say that it imperative to have a car, we walked countless miles seeing the Chinese theatre, walk of fame and the Hollywood hills sign before venturing to the sunset strip. We knackered ourselves out and headed home, detecting music nearby. It sounded like it could be Kings of Leon and was almost uncertainly live. We joined a couple stood on top of their suv looking over the fence into a car park. It was them, after missing them in central park, a car park was the next best alternative, we even got a wave as they left the gate. On Friday Louis was free from lectures and drove us to Venice beach, I had absolutely no idea just how cool it was. We spent ages gawping at the skate park watching this tiny boy nail the bowl. I then got dragged in to a b boy performance along the strip before checking out the beefcakes at muscle beach gym, such a surreal place, would love to be at Venice beach on a summer evening. We headed off to Santa Monica and checked out the surf shacks before heading back to cook up a storm. We made a lemon chicken risotto which unbeknownst to us lined our stomachs for a heavy Halloween night on the town. We drove past many a usc frat party that would probably put our drinking to shame before entering west Hollywood on Asian night. We ventured in to an average looking gay bar with the standard go go boy set up, prosthetic erect penises in hot pants etc unsuspecting of the whirlwind that ensued. Paparazzi started showing up left right and centre and the crowds we’re pushing. It was Mel B an actual Spice Girl. I was the only person in a sea of queens that actually knew all of the dance routines to the hits playing to a drag act. I was reliving my childhood playground days in bizarre style. We headed back to the apartment to play a Chinese dice game with tequila forfeits. Bad idea, we finished at 4:30. We waved goodbye to our awesome host at the airport feeling worse for wear. LAX is the worst place on earth for a monster hangover. Mexico city here we come…

Yoga in Arizona, catching up with friends and special birthday classes

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So my tour of the Americas and sampling of yoga classes kicked off in glorious Arizona a midst the stunning fall colours. We could not have picked a better time to be there, not only was it seasonal change time, but it was my dear friend Perry’s birthday! We could not pass up the opportunity to swing by his beautiful home in Prescott after the Grand Canyon.
So we tried something a little different, a really fast paced vinyasa flow class, in the dark with glow paint and a live DJ. I have to say fast paced vinyasa is never really my style. I always opt for a slower pace, holding poses for longer and really getting a good stretch, but nevertheless this was damn good fun.  The room was packed with sweaty bods making it all the more difficult to hear the instructor over the music but that merely added to the atmosphere. It was a really good giggle and got the heart rate going which was a great warm up for an evening of dancing in the Blackbird Yoga studio.  This is a wonderful little place run by another yogi friend, the fabulous Miss Kelly Thornton, and has quaint charm right in the centre of Prescott town.
Next up was Perry Erwin a truly a superb teacher and friend. He has a wonderful yin style up his sleeve that allows you to melt in to the mat. Whats more he led an early morning class, after a full night of dancing…on his birthday! Not only does he teach brilliantly, he effortlessly blends his style with his other handiwork. Shoe Chef Unlimited is a wonderful mix of delicious healthy foods combined with classes, so after a session you are able to reward yourself with a scrumptious post practice power boost. His signature asana will leave you floating out of the room, that is if you manage to stay awake. The posture is deeply relaxing and opens up the chest and heart toward the sky with the support of bolsters. I won’t give too much away as to try is far better to try it out for yourself.
It was wonderful seeing old pals on the other side of the world and I am so grateful for their hospitality. One day in another part of the globe we will meet again, with any luck at a Kate Bush concert!

Free love in San Francisco

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Not too sure how to go about summing up my long weekend in SF. I’m typing this on a megabus to Reno for starters but my senses are a bit battered and numb, probably from the constant fumes inhaled whilst walking the city streets. 4 days probably isn’t nearly enough time to make any decent assessment of any city but I think I can safely say that I really liked this place. We averaged a half marathon in walking everyday but it was worth it to see the sights.
I have never seen such a high concentration of homeless people in one place before, we were perpetually warned by city dwellers to avoid the immediate areas surrounding our hostel in Tenderloin, but I was not sure why until we stepped outside. Our initial shock was the stench of weed every 30 seconds on the streets but this quickly developed into witnessing crack deals within a metre of our faces. The best sight was a woman who appeared to be wearing a thong standing on the pavement because we could see her bum. She had knee high socks, high heeled shoes and a vest top on with a baseball cap…and that was it, her vagine was out in broad daylight for all to see!
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We walked the enitirety of Mission Street before tackling a super burrito between us, we’refast becoming a living episode of Man vs Food. Saturday morning we woke up stupidly early and decided to try our luck at beating the crowds to the cable car, we suceeded and grabbed front row seats on the Powell/ Market line all the way to Fishermans wharf. Its such an ancient system but it flies up the hills with ease its just the cranking noises that freak you out. We walked the entire stretch of the bay all the way to Golden Gate Bridge in the heat and wiped ourselves out. It was a crying shame that Alcatraz was closed due to the shutdown because the island looks so fascinating, but spectators were making the most of the sun watching the swim race in the bay. We treated ourselves to a whole tub of Ben and Jerrys as a reward for our incessant trekking for lunch. Whoever thinks it is ok to split a pint of ice cream between two is sadly mistaken, all this walking is necessary in the land of peanut butter.
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Sunday was a surreal day spent trying to relive the life of a 1960s hippy. We spent the morning in Haight Ashbury the place where it all began and for some continues to this day. We followed the hoards of people heading to Golden Gate Park for the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival. 3 days of free music with incredidible bands thanks to a legacy fund that will keep the festival running for 10 years. We got chatting to a lady in the crowd for Billy Bragg’s set. She was telling us all aboutthe good old days of free love and how the introduction of birth control was the best thing that could happen in her life! We then watched Gogol Bordello play the main stage closing the festival with an enormous crowd, turns out that 650,000 people visit over the three days. Steve Martin even played banjo with his band. ?
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The only annoyance was that Seb got his phone pinched on the way home on the bus so we spent the entirety of Monday traipsing around different departments in naïve hope that it would be handed in. We went to the basement of the Hall of Justice to check with the evidence room, as soon as the lift doors opened a wall of scent hit us…of weed! Such a sad way to end the weekend but we cheered ourselves up with a New Girl marathon on the megabus to Reno to soften the blow. Next stop, roadtrip time.

Start spreadin the news

After visiting the big bad apple in the slushy grey winter in 2006 I vowed to return in the summer. Despite it being late September / early October summer seems to still be in full effect with a heatwave. It was so amazing to arrive to a ‘welcome to America’ sign in arrivals, my beautiful friend Mel met us at the airport and hosted us in Brooklyn, she is an absolute superstar. We crammed as much into a week in NYC as humanly possible, so here is a very brief 7 day rundown.
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We started the trip with a bang in Coney Island visiting the faded seaside glamour of the boardwalk. We had a proper authentic hotdog after feeling belittled by the 4th July eating competitions, 69 hotdogs is just wrong! We then ventured to Brooklyn Park to see the views of the city but stumbled upon a pop up photography exhibition called photoville. I was transfixed going from one container to another checking out the best of the worlds talent. Later on upon leaving for a night in Manhattan we stumbled upon a house party across the road and decided to wander in. Knowing absolutely noone we felt a bit bad but quickly realised that no one in the house knew anyone else either. The crowning glory of the soiree was the cake centrepiece with GTFO on top, nice and welcoming! Saturday was spent visiting Aria in Times Square, again amazing to see more of the Rishikesh crew. Sadly we missed a free concert in Central Park but there was no way we would have got our hands on tickets so Kings of Leon were off the cards. We spent most of Sunday in the sun in the Park after brunch in Hells Kitchen, with an amazing take on eggs benedict, blue cheese hollandaise and portabello mushroom with red pepper potatoes, scrum! We had a wander around the flea market, its so nice to be in central Manhattan and find somewhere so quiet and peaceful. On the way home we decided to check out my favourite of all buildings, the Chrysler and decided very last minute to go up the Empire State. We were only 15 minutes away from sunset and facing an hour long queue so we played the honeymoon card to get express passes to get straight in the lift and beat the queue. It was worth it, we made it just in time to see the sun setting and hung around to see the night light up as you can see from the skyline…
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Monday was spent trekking our hearts out for 7 hours around Bear Mountain in Peekskill, NY it was completely worth the wait as we could see 4 different states from the top. With such perfect visibility you could see Manhattan in the distance. We headed in to Williamsburg for the evening to recover to eat amazing bagels before heading to Juliet’s a lovely rooftop restaurant for tea. Tuesday should have been a muscle recovery day but we powered right through, grabbing a pretzel and marching over the Brooklyn Bridge into Chinatown. We ate banh mi in the park, watching all the old people play chess and doing tai chi, it was just like being back in Chengdu again. We headec south and caught the Staten Island ferry, due to the government shutdown, the Statue of Liberty was closed so we thought we should at least try and see it from the water. Something needs to happen soon to resolve this crisis, not only because we want to get in to the national parks, but because its utterly ridiculous that this huge nation is functioning with only a partial government.
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Wednesday was spent in a complete daze with Seb’s Swiss friends in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which is hands down the best museum I have ever been to in my life, I have never seen a more impressive collection of artefacts from around the world. The only thing that rivals it is the national museum in Cairo but that was only Egyptian material. There are vast wings at the Met dedicated to single nations or eras let alone continents. It was brilliant seeing things from all corners of the globe having visited some of these places in person now. One of the most impressive things I saw was in the Japanese section, a taxidermy deer covered in beautiful blown glass. I could have stared at it in bewilderment for hours if there hadn’t been the need to see the spectacular roof terrace overlooking the park and skyline. We then headed to Chelsea to meet Zane, it has been imcredible meeting familiar faces so far from home, and is a nice reminder that the world isn’t that big after all. He gave us a great tip to head to the meat packing district to walk the highline, a disused subway line that has been turned into an urban jungle with amazing artwork for 20 or so blocks a gorgeous way to enjoy the late sun yet again.
Thursday was time to jump on a plane to San Francisco, due to the construction work at JFK we very nearly missed it. It was sad saying goodbye in Brooklyn, we just got in to our stride in the city. It is an incredible place and I’m quite pleased with how much we got to see in such a short time yet there is still so much to explore.