This kind of career success- the app, the YTTs, the courses, and all that- didn’t happen overnight.
Let’s rewind to 2010, shall we? Because that’s when this all began, really.
I’d just graduated from university (shoutout SDSU) with a degree in English Single Subject Teaching. I’d like to say that I always wanted to be a teacher. But the truth is, what I really wanted to be was a writer.
And then, somewhere along the way, someone crushed my 7-year-old soul (probably my incredibly realistic older brother, who was a 9 going on 45), and told me that writers don’t make any money. And if I don’t have any money, then I’ll die, because I can’t eat.
Clearly I didn’t want to live a foodless, or moneyless life, so I switched lanes to become a teacher real quick- already leaning into the comfort of a steady paycheck in second grade.
So, back to 2010 where I just graduated from an alcohol-heavy 4 years of State school, I didn’t exactly feel *inspired* to go back to school for another 2 years to get my teaching credentials. I (naively) didn’t realize how much the public school system capped your creativity, until my final year of college when I did my student teaching. Which left me newly graduated, and for the first time in my WHOLE life, confused about where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do with my life.
I decided to take my degree and teach abroad for a semester until I figure out a more long-term plan. This is how I ended up in a rural village in Ghana for 3 months as my first international solo trip. Keep in mind, this was 2010, so well before the age of the internet that we know today. I literally packed my bags, and told my loved ones, “see you in 3 months,” with no plan of being able to be in touch with them for 90 days.
My time in Ghana opened up a part of me that I didn’t know existed. I said so long to the 7-year-old looking for a steady packcheck, and hello to the newfound traveler flying by the seat of her pants, instead.
My time in Ghana didn’t exactly clarify a plan for my adult life, but it did inform me of three things:
I refused to teach in the US public school system again.
I wanted to see the world, like, every single corner of it.
Service was important to me.
This is the point in which I entered the era of bartending and nannying to stash as much cash as possible, to then leave and travel and live abroad for as long as possible. I did this for a few years, until a horrible depression pushed me into my first yoga teacher training in 2014.
But wait, back up.
In 2012, I moved to Kenya and started my first non-profit, Go Light Our World (GLOW). At the time, the focus was total community rehabilitation projects specializing in IDP camps. This is a pretty broad focus, which meant I was scattered and depleted. I was a 24-year-old young GIRL, really, trying to save the world- but not even making a dent.
I was driven out of Kenya for a few reasons that are an entire other blog post. But I’ll abbreviate here, nonetheless:
First, there were a lot of political issues happening within the IDP camps at the time, and kidnapping of foreigners was at an all time high. I had already been held at gun point, been shoved into a car for ransom, and followed home from work more times that I could count. Needless to say, my mental health wasn’t great. And I was in a constant state of fight or flight.
This leads me to the second point, which was my body. I had contracted African Tick Bite Fever the year before in Uganda, but I didn’t really know the long term implications of what that meant. Since then, my body was having extreme reactions to other bug bites. And, let’s just say that Kenya has no shortage of insects. I was hospitlized for weeks, and a specialist finally told me, “if you stay here, this is going to kill you.”
Which broke my heart, while forcing me to leave.
Now, back to yoga and 2014.
I’d been practicing yoga since I was 12-years-old (my mom is also a yoga teacher), but I never thought I’d become a teacher myself one day. In fact, I didn’t even plan on becoming a teacher when I took my first YTT. I just wanted to “deepen my practice,” as so many yogis do.
Life had other plans for me.
Just like those dusty red dirt roads in Ghana, this training cracked me open. Only this time, I didn’t meet a brand new piece of me, but rather- a piece of me I’d since written off. The teacher.
The thing was, I actually hated teaching yoga for the first year of my career. Why, you ask? Because I was so nervous that I would literally black out with fear anytime I stepped in front of a class. I associated teaching with that horrible, sinking feeling in your stomach and extreme anxiety. Sounds fun, right?
Luckily, my inner Taurus stubbornly plowed forward, committed to giving it a real shot even though- and maybe especially because– it scared me.
The 200 hour YTT also illuminated GLOW once more. I’d buried that away, thinking I was a “failure” for not being able to get things off the ground the way I’d dreamed. But when I dove into yoga philosophy in my YTT, it reminded me of compassion, forgiveness, non-judgement.
Basically, I told those self-limiting beliefs to take a hike, and re-built GLOW from the ground up. Only this time with strategy and a singular focus of solar solutions in off-the-grid communities.
I taught my first Glow Yoga Retreats event less than a year after graduating to raise money for GLOW’s second round of projects in numerous African countries.
This is when I realized, this is it. This is how I’ll be able to marry the three things I love most: yoga, travel, and service.
In 2015, I left the US for what I thought would be the last time. I had no intention of returning. For the next 5 years, I lived out of my backpack across Africa and Asia (primarily) while teaching international retreats, leading solar projects impacting thousands of people, and simultaneously building my Instagram presence.
By 2019, I was starting to slow down, and burn out. My health had taken a drastic turn for the worse after that damn African Tick Bite Fever, and I knew I was ready to find “home,” but I certainly didn’t know it would all happen the way it did.
At the end of the year, I met my (now) wife. This was as surprising to me as it was to everyone else, because I didn’t know I was bisexual. Which meant I got to go through the coming out process at 31-years-old, while also being in the public eye (as I’d amassed nearly 400k Instagram followers at this point).
The truth is, it didn’t feel like a hardship at the time, because I was so disgustingly in love. This was also helpful considering that I moved back to the States to be with my wife (an exec at a tech company in San Francisco…talk about a culture shock) during a global Pandemic.
As rocky as this adjustment period was, this was really the moment that my career really exploded (in a good way). I guess it really started when I became one of Alo Moves top performing teachers. But when the Pandemic hit, it took at-home yoga and online courses to a whole new level.
Maybe it was the Covid era, maybe it was being in a place with strong Wifi for a full year straight, or maybe it was my newfound motivation to not just provide for myself- but also for my *growing* family (we have a lot of dogs, okay?)
Either way, the last three years have been dedicated to growth and healing on all fronts. Of course, what I’m able to offer through my businesses is only a reflection of the inner and relational work I’ve done.
There has been equal parts welcoming the new, and saying goodbye to the old. GLOW officially stopped operations during 2020, which felt like I was grieving my first born. However, I’m happy to report that due to our microfinance model, the funds we raised are still continuously recycled and reused even today.
That’s the whole point, after all.
For the communities you serve not to need you anymore.
These last few years have also meant: buying land in Nicaragua (where we met and fell in love) to build our own retreat center. In typical wlw fashion, we U-hauled HARD by jumping into marriage and business together within a year of being together. It wasn’t easy. In fact, there were times we both almost quit (the business, not the marriage).
But again, resilience won, and we’re happily celebrating our third season at Still Salty Escape being nearly fully booked.
The point is that since I came out, I’m able to live as my ACTUAL authentic self with love, and in love.
I’m pretty sure that love is the superpower that’s made all of this into my reality.