After bandying around quite a few possibilities, I finally found my spring vacation, a yoga retreat to Guatemala. When I told my pal, who’d heard each of my previous trip ideas—all good none great—she said, “Now that sounds like a Nick vacation,” and I knew there was no turning back. I was equally excited and terrified, the two ingredients that make the most enjoyable and meaningful adventures for me.
I am going alone, which is usually no problem, except this time I’m going alone but with people. I’m meeting about fifteen or so strangers there, the lucky one to be my roommate. Yoga is twice a day, early morning and early evening. Have I mentioned I suck at yoga, that yoga is a physical workout but more than that it’s a mental challenge unlike anything I’ve ever encountered? I have a seven-day date to waltz with my demons while twisting my body into positions that are actually natural but that have been strayed from for over thirty years of habitually trying to mask, hide, and avoid pain, and while doing this, I have to breathe, breathe, breathe. I hope the volcanoes are as imposing and inspiring as the pictures, the lake as majestic as it appears, the setting a cradle to hold me.
I have put a great deal of trust in my teacher, Janet, and she’s earned it after two years of picking me up, consoling me, guiding me in times of struggle. Hers was the first class I ever attended as part of my journey into yoga. It was Friday night mellow flow class, happy hour and a half. I remember being surprised to find an actual DJ in a yoga class and as much laughter as sweat. When my girlfriend and I broke up a few weeks later that Friday night class became my refuge, Janet’s words my salve. It was the one night that I didn’t have to make plans to fill the space and distract myself, an activity I could do alone but with others, a place where I learned to put down the memories of what was, the story of what I hoped could be–it was remarkable actually, that without those two things constantly clouding up my head, the weight of suffering was lifted, if only for a moment.
It was a similar feeling, not nearly as devastating as this time in 2008, but similar in what I’ve now come to recognize as the need to return my attention, energy, and focus to me that opened my ears. And so it was, on a Friday night in February, after months of listening to Janet mention her upcoming yoga retreat that I finally heard her, the invitation became personal and the idea lodging itself inside me, the potential expanding. In the end, it was one word, one explanation, that sold me:
Rasayana. The path to rejuvenation.
There are terms I often use to rationalize and justify my actions, like deserve. Used in a sentence: I deserve this vacation because I haven’t taken a trip since Turkey last April, I work 6- 7 days a week between my book and can’t remember the last time I took more than 3 days off of both. But “deserve” doesn’t work so well for me—I think it encourages me to beat myself up so that I will deserve my reward. Permission is another term, a therapy word, and it’s a tiny bit better. Used in a sentence: I am giving myself permission to blow a shit-ton of money, more than I’ve ever spent on a vacation, staying in hotels rather than hostels, and pampering myself for no reason at all. Permission lacks the “because” element, which makes it more of a skill, and although crucial to my life, it’s not the perfect word.
I like “rejuvenation.” Used in a sentence: I am taking a vacation to rejuvenate myself so that I can return fresh, strong, and grounded to the things I love—waking up before dawn to write my book, going out and being social with my friends, pursuing new relationships, and doing a decent-enough job at my workplace.
Aside from the yoga there will also be the pleasure that I find in every trip, like the time to read. Although this trip is too short to truly develop a travel booklist (I’m even breaking one of my rules and bringing library books) I packed: Robin and Ruby (K.M. Soehnlein)–the new novel by my friend and teacher that I’m ridiculously excited to read; Franny and Zooey (J.D. Salinger) because Salinger’s death triggered my return to his brilliance and reading short books in one sitting is a favorite vacation pastime; Happy Baby (Stephen Elliot) and Jitterbug Perfume (Tom Robbins) as dependable back-ups; and finally, my book, or manuscript in-progress.
It’s sitting right next to me, 200+ pages printed and bound with a large clip, scaring the living bejesus out of me. I am not bringing my computer and will not write/revise my manuscript while I’m gone, but I have promised myself I will read the whole thing. It’s necessary and it’s time. I haven’t looked at this book holistically in years, or ever really, certainly not in any form resembling this current draft. I’ve spent the last several months immersed in the first 6 chapters and now, as I turn to the last 6, I can barely remember what I got down on paper when I first drafted them this past summer/fall. It is part of the rejuvenation, of both my writing process and my book’s narrative to take in the whole story for another big push, the one final push. I do not know what I will find when I read 65,000 of my words and I am truly afraid to find out.
But it is the unexpected that holds the excitement and terror, the adventure. What will it feel like to be outside my comfort zone in Guatemala? Who will I meet, connect with, what conversations will inspire and move me? How will my body and mind feel, starting and ending every day will yoga, feeding it with nourishing food? How will being transgender change my travel experience, my perspective, from that of all my previous trips? What will fill my journal, my blank composition book—will my words come from the triggers in my pocket notebook, the projects I’m currently in the middle of, or will they be fresh and new, born from the present. Will I desperately need to hit publish and share my words with you? What will enter the space once I create it? What will rejuvenate me?