After a particularly horrendous week at home arguing with my housemate for the hundredth time this year about nothing much at all, I hopped on the tube to work one Wednesday morning and felt warm salty tears begin to roll down my cheeks. One after the other they came, unable to stop no matter how much I willed them away. By the time I’d reached my halfway point, it had turned into a very public, very embarrassing full blown sob. I got off the tube and called the only man a girl can ever really rely on, my dad.
“Can I move home please dad?”
“Yes of course you can, but don’t let one person make you so unhappy when you have so much going for you in London”.
He was right of course and once the tears stopped and I’d caught my breath, I pulled myself together, planted a smile back on my face and headed into work. The tears had released some of the tension I’d been bottling up inside for months but it wasn’t until I stepped on the train to the airport just two days later that the heavy weight of negativity dissipated, petty problems melted away and that all familiar sense of anticipation and excitement returned. I was going to Croatia!
That evening, after receiving a very warm welcome from the lovely host Blansa at the Apartment Citadela, I set off for a wander around Split, familiarising myself with the beautiful city I’d visited two years earlier with my ex. I was dying to text him to reminisce but I knew all too well not to go back down that road again, and so instead I kept the happy memories for myself as I got reacquainted with our old haunts.
The next morning, I headed out for breakfast before dragging my luggage the short distance to the harbour where I would be docking the ferry to Vis, a small island just two hours away. You see this trip wasn’t entirely for pleasure, I was about to spend a week teaching on a yoga retreat, something I’d been dreaming off doing since I first thought about teacher training just a couple of years earlier. The point of the trip, apart from enjoyment of course, was to see whether this was something I wanted to do full time, rather than as a side job alongside my career as an events manager. I already loved teaching twice a week, but the question was, would I love it as much if I was doing it twice a day every day?
The answer was yes!
Without the stress of home life, the commute to work and the frustration of being chained to a desk all day, my energy and creativity levels soared. Just a solo walk to the beach with a calm mind left enough room for idea after idea to flow rather than my usual circuitous pattern of going over and over every conversation and thought until there wasn’t space for anything else to enter.
Each morning I began the day with some breathing exercises, gently guiding the class into a mindful state and slowly waking their bodies up before we moved on to a more vigorous Vinyasa sequence. There were 8 students on the retreat, each of varying ages and abilities but all with an eager attitude to give it a go.
With 90 minutes of flowing chaturangas, back bends and hip openers, we were all ravenous for the healthy breakfast and coffee that followed, before it was time for me to switch to ‘holiday mode’, for a couple of hours at least. Of course I never really felt completely ‘off-duty’ as I took it upon myself to make sure the guests were all enjoying themselves, especially the more reserved members of the group. I suppose the uber-positive yoga teacher mentality coupled with my event manager hat meant that I naturally fell into the role of group organiser and entertainer, sharing silly stories and being a bit too open as I tend to do. The fact I kept bringing the conversation back to the handsome doctor Joe didn’t escape me, but I was having a great time and it was more just a nice reminisce rather than a real longing. I’d put the idea of me and him to bed or at least I thought I had…
Breakfast and yoga complete, there were a few hours each day to head out and explore. The first day, the weather still not ideal for swimming, we headed into the town of Vis to learn a little about the history of the island and of Croatia itself. Not normally my usual kind of thing, guided by Mario the history lesson really came to life. The Croatians do seem to have a passion for this topic as I’d learned on my previous trip.
The next day, the sun decided to put it’s hat on and we headed to the stunning Stiniva beach. A mini bus dropped us off at the top of the cliff and we began the 30 minute descent down to what was almost our very own private alcove. Despite the fact it wasn’t really super warm, we couldn’t resist a dip in the clear blue water and so braved our bikinis and dived right in. After the initial cold shock, our bodies soon adjusted to the temperature and we swam out of the alcove to explore a little more.
Once back on dry land, it was time to tackle the climb back up the mountain. Heart pounding in my chest, sun warming my back and legs tight from the climb, I enjoyed the ramble up even more than I’d expected, prompting me to think about taking up hiking when I got back to the UK…(maybe when the weather gets a bit nicer though!)
Despite our active days, each evening I would lead the group through a two hour yoga and meditation practice, mainly focusing on the more restorative yin style of yoga rather than anything too demanding. I’d earned myself the nickname ‘Hummingbird’ on my yoga course for my inability to stay still or do anything slowly, but I actually loved teaching the slower paced class, particularly as the guided meditations really allowed my to bring my love of story-telling into play. As I wrapped up each evening class, the doors to the kitchen would open and Milda and Mario would be there to greet us with the most delicious home-made vegetarian dishes as we sat chatting about the day and getting to know each other a little more by divulging small details of our lives back at home.
By day five, my energy levels were waning a little so I decided to forgo the evening film watching and head to bed for an early night. I was soon fast asleep in my cosy cocoon only to wake around 1am to a text from…you guessed it, Joe. Why was he texting now when I was telling myself it was time to move on? I tried to tell myself not to reply but of course the temptation was too much and we arranged to meet when I was back home.
The next day, tired from my interrupted slumber I was grateful for the sunshine so that we could practice outside by the pool and then switch to sunbathing mode whilst I pondered my decision to say ‘yes’ to this clearly unavailable man. Thankfully I was soon interrupted from my pointless analysis as Caitlan, Sayra and I decided to make the most of the beautiful scene to snap some pictures of us posing in various yoga postures by the pool. The distraction was welcome and soon after it was time to head inside to change ready for our group lunch at Restaurant Pojoda. We dined on the freshest fish – so fresh we actually watched it being brought into the restaurant in a cooler from the sea – along with salads and Mediterranean style vegetables, all with a glass or two of Prosecco and topped off with a scoop of ice-cream from the local gelateria just next door.
The sun still shining, we walked to the harbour where the annual regatta was taking place. The sleepy town we’d seen on Monday was transformed into a buzzing hub of sailors drinking beers on the decks of their yachts, music blasting out and getting us in the mood to party. Just as we thought about joining in though our mini bus showed up and we hopped in to head back to what had now become our favourite beach, Stiniva.
Sadly Friday was our last day together as a group. We gathered for our final dinner then hugged goodbye, those of us based in London vowing to catch up for yoga and dinner back in the UK. The next morning the house felt empty without the buzz of the group. Milda, Mario and I had a final tidy up and then drove the windy roads into Vis for a celebratory pint before boarding the ferry back to Split. Once ‘home’, we threw our bags into the flat and headed straight out for a dinner of some much desired meat (for Mario and me at least – we’d been vegetarian for the week whilst on the retreat). We headed into town for another drink, my hosts wanting to show me the best the city had to offer for my final night but we were all clearly exhausted and so we were soon tucked up in bed, ready for my 4am departure the next day.
Back in London, I raced to get home for a quick cat nap before I met my good friend Ruth for an afternoon of unlimited champagne at the Villandry, followed by cocktails in the rooftop bar of the M Hotel. Despite loving the quiet beach life, I welcomed the change of pace, after all there’s just something about London that keeps holding me in it’s embrace, for now at least…
(For more information about the yoga retreat, check out www.croatia-retreat.com)