Wellness Travel

Lena Franklin: Mindfulness Guru & Pravassa Guide

LENA FRANKLIN IN VIETNAM WITH PRAVASSA | PHOTO MADELINE PENFOLD

LENA FRANKLIN IN VIETNAM WITH PRAVASSA | PHOTO MADELINE PENFOLD

We love traveling the world with wellness guru's from all walks of life. Years ago we connected with Lena Franklin via Instagram - proof that technology can be used for good - and we've been following her own transformation ever since. Lena's latest interview in Where Traveler gives you a deeper look into her own journey.

How did you get interested in meditation?

It’s been a journey for sure. I’ve always known I wanted to be a therapist. I’m a psychotherapist by training, and come from a [family of] mental health professionals. My dad is a psychologist, I have two aunts who are social workers, so it was definitely all in the family.

While I was in University my mom suddenly passed away, and she was really the one who taught me meditation and mindfulness. Once I experienced this loss, I really realized there is something more we can utilize for our own healing. Something beyond the traditional therapy hour, and that’s when I really started delving into yoga, finding my meditation practice and then I went on to do different trainings in mindfulness meditation.

It was through my own experience that I felt how powerful it was, because it is really this way to be with all of our emotions, the ebb and flow of life, without breaking. The capacity to be aware, to honor our emotional systems and to be compassionate towards the self, all of those elements fit in, and there’s something really amazing here. I started my psychotherapy practice— a mindfulness-based practice where people come in and I do therapy and meditation instruction. That cascaded into doing retreats and mindfulness trainings and corporate trainings and talking more about mindfulness with companies and different organizations.

For those who haven’t practiced meditation, or perhaps busy travelers on the go, where do recommend they start?

I would say mindful belly breathing. Our belly area is where we feel grounded and where our intuition exists, and the energy there is usually very depleted when we are stressed, anxious or depressed. Most of us are under that category in some way. If we can wake up and do 5-10 minutes of belly breathing using an affirmative mantra—for example, inhaling, ‘I am’ and exhaling ‘at peace’ into the belly—and letting go of the tension there, just a few minutes of that practice can be transformational.

 

Want to join Lena's next trip with Pravassa?
We head to Sri Lanka in October

 

3 Ways to Mindfully Explore Bali

When it comes to travel, the universal thread that connects all our journeys is the desire to get away. Whether that means lying on a beach, heading into the woods surrounded by the quiet force of nature or getting lost in the music of a pulsing nightclub, the goal is to disrupt our daily routine, destress, and feel free. Add Mindfulness to your trip and receive the added bonus of being fully present, multiplying the restorative effects of your vacation. Bali is one of our favorite travel destinations where Mindfulness is effortless. 

WATCH THE SUNSET

IMAGE: PRAVASSA©

IMAGE: PRAVASSA©

We’ve written a lot about how to reduce jet lag when traveling, but watching the sunset does more than just help sync your circadian rhythm. It ties you to the land you are visiting. “In Indonesia the sunsets are magical. Every night you can see a dance of different colors as the sun dips behind the horizon with a view of mountains, palm trees, or beach in front of you,” says our founder and frequent Bali traveler, Linden Schaffer. It can take as few as 5-minutes to watch the sunset, which is a grounding activity and visual meditation of it’s own.  

TRY NEW FOODS

IMAGE: PRAVASSA©

IMAGE: PRAVASSA©

The beauty of visiting a new location is the exposure to people, traditions and foods, which are different than what you’re used to at home. Bali is a haven for gluten-free, vegan travelers as many traditional healing recipes are plant-based. On our most recent Bali trip, lead by Dr. Andrea Paige, she reminded us “Eating something inflammatory can have an effect in your body for up to 5-days. So eating simply is key.” With gorgeous scenery all around and fresh fruits and vegetables in abundance, sitting for a mindful meal in Bali is easy to do.

TAKE COUNCIL FROM A BALIAN

IMAGE: PRAVASSA©

IMAGE: PRAVASSA©

Traditional healers are a way of life in Bali. Locals visit their village Balian or healer for a variety of reasons ranging from medical to mystical advice. According to the Balinese, each healer has been chosen by an otherworldly power to act as a vessel for healing and transformation. Whether you believe in this linage or not, it promises to be “A truly meaningful experience,” said Nikki Sigal of her recent Balian visit during Pravassa a trip.


Want to mindfully explore Bali with Pravassa? Choose how you spend your vacation with us:

OnDemand Itineraries  |  customWELL Travel  |  Small Group Trips

 

Changed By Travel: Leah Abrahams

Photo: Elizabeth Hay Photography

Photo: Elizabeth Hay Photography

The summer I turned 18, I had the life-changing opportunity to go live and work in Costa Rica, on a small sustainable farm located near the surfer hub Dominical. My friend’s sister had traveled to this same farm a few summers prior, and I fell in love with her tales of a simpler life: fresh mangos picked off the trees, daily yoga sessions in the garden, and fresh, organic meals every night. The deal looked like this: Travelers were to perform several hours of work each day in exchange for free room and board. Before departing, I knew there would be plenty of farm work involved, but for some reason I pictured this element as somewhat of an afterthought— a supporting plot line to the scenic trip I would be taking. 

The farm was breathtakingly beautiful: Acres upon acres of lush greenery, cascading waterfalls, and tropical wildlife surrounded me at every turn. But shortly upon arrival, I quickly learned just how much manual labor was required in a given day. On day one at the farm—after being roused at 5:30AM by the sound of roosters—I was tasked with making cinnamon from scratch. Using a machete, I was instructed to shave the bark off several trees, and transport it in wheelbarrows up a steep hill. Although stimulating at first, I found that after merely an hour my arms were burning, my skin was sunburned, and I was ravenously hungry. I couldn’t believe that I had six more hours of work ahead of me — all I could think about was a cold shower, a nap, and clean sheets.

Our tasks on the farm ranged from shoveling manure and transporting up to fifty pounds of supplies to chopping down trees and picking fresh peanut plants. For the first few days, exhaustion overtook me and deeply tested my resolve. But by day four of five, I noticed a subtle but major shift: My energy levels were increasing, even though the work was getting more challenging. I wasn’t hitting my mid-day slump anymore, and I was waking up fully energized and clear. This, I realized, was the product of having developed a daily routine: rising with the sun each day and going to bed as soon as it set was putting me more in sync with nature, and giving me a natural energy boost that I hadn't experienced since I was a child. I quickly became hooked on this new feeling I was experiencing: I thought about the days that I needed coffee just to get out of bed in the morning and vowed never to go back to that state.

It has now been 10 years since the summer on the farm, but the importance of cultivating healthy and mindful habits has stuck with me. I learned that the rituals we followed in Costa Rica were similar to those of Ayurveda, a 5000-year-old traditional medicine system from India: Sleeping from the hours of 10pm to 6am for sustained energy, eliminating caffeine, eating a nourishing, mostly plant-based diet, getting sufficient exercise, and learning to take restful breaks. In Costa Rica, a common saying is "Pura Vida" or "pure life" and this is indeed what we cultivated by following some simple yet profound daily practices. 

We worked hard on the farm, and yet when our bodies grew tired, we rested. This taught me the importance of listening to my body, as opposed to pushing through and drowning out its messages with sugar or false energy boosts. Years later when I entered the corporate world, as my co-workers began to reach for energy drinks or coffee when the 3pm slump hit, I knew that the best re-charge was actually to do less, and I would take a brisk walk around the block or spend 10 minutes meditating. I still to this day wake up around 6am without an alarm, and try employ a "lights out" by 10pm rule in my home. The lessons I learned on the farm not only helped me to become #changedbytravel by shifting my perspective, but also taught me how to attain ultimate productivity and focus thanks to the cultivation of a healthy, regimented lifestyle.

India: A World of Wonder

PHOTO: PRAVASSA

PHOTO: PRAVASSA

Full of colorful saris, fragrant spices, and rich cultural heritage, India is magic and one of my favorite destinations of all time. My first visit to Northern India included being welcomed into a family’s home for an extravagant dinner, a privately guided tour of Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur led by a Sanskrit scholar, and sitting in silent meditation in Sarnath, where it is said the Buddha gave his first teachings. But it was in Varanasi on the Ganges, where my hand was grazed by a dead body laid to rest in the holy river, that the cycle of life and how small a role we all play in this world became apparent and provided me with a #changedbytravel experience that will forever be like none other. - Linden Schaffer

Want to plan a custom wellness vacation to India? Tell us more!

 

Article was written for and originally appeared on MindBodyGreen.

Dispatches From the Road: #changedbytravel in Vietnam

PHOTO: MADELEINE PENFOLD FOR PRAVASSA©

PHOTO: MADELEINE PENFOLD FOR PRAVASSA©

Almost one year ago on a scouting trip to Vietnam I ended up in a White Thai village on the outskirts of an area called Mai Hich. Walking around the empty streets it was quiet and peaceful – birds singing, laughter in the distance. I asked my guide a question about one of the houses and not knowing the answer he looked around for a local to ask.

At that moment, coming toward us up the road was Minh Chung, a 19-year-old boy. A chance meeting that would change my life and his life forever. After our brief conversation, which happened on November 9, 2016, I could not get Minh Chung out of my head. With thoughts of the U.S. election on my mind and the crazy divisiveness on display for the world to witness, I was moved to send a very personal email to my close family and friends. It read:

I’m writing to you from the jungle of Vietnam. Today I met Minh Chung, a 19-year-old White Thai Villager who is studying English on his own from a journal where he writes down every new word he learns. His hope is to pass his university entrance exam and win a free scholarship to school to study to be a tour guide. This is just one example of the many #changedbytravel experiences I am lucky enough to have every time I travel. It reminds me there is hope and the desire to better ourselves all around the world no matter your current situation.

What this email did not convey was the depths of my compassion and empathy for Minh Chung. I literally called my husband to discuss the possibility of sponsoring Minh Chung and sending him to University. As thoughts of helping him continued to swirl in my head, I struggled to find a sustainable solution that would further Minh Chung’s education without taking him away from his single mother, who desperately needed him around for her care and to contribute to their household.

Last week, Pravassa and our Vietnam group of travelers were lucky enough to return to this White Thai village and meet Minh Chung. What I had decided to do was ask our wellness travelers to bring university to him, by building a library to help him further his studies. Thirteen people from the U.S. (and Costa Rica) traveled thousands of miles with their favorite English language travel novel and shared how important these books were to them. Sitting in Minh Chung’s house being served tea in borrowed cups from the neighbors and sharing our collective knowledge was an indescribable moment. At a loss for words, Minh Chung wouldn’t stop smiling and saying thank-you, telling us how words were failing him at that moment.

He did mange to tell us that often the tourists he meets give him money. And while “I like money, sure. It is a gift like this that is much more meaningful and will help me in my life.” This is the reason I travel. This is how I’ve chosen to use my place and privilege in this lifetime and pay it forward. It is small moments like these that I strive for. These moments connect our souls to each other and the to the world. Many thanks to the Pravassa group and our guide Lena Franklin that helped make this dream come true and truly offered a #changedbytravel experience to Minh Chung. And a big thank you to Madeleine Penfold for the beautiful image that captured a moment of pure joy. – Linden Schaffer

 

Looking to have a #changedbytravel moment of your own?
Pravassa curates both group and custom wellness travel opportunities around the world. Just tell us where you want to get started.