- Name: Helene Roselstorfer
- Age: 34
- Occupation: Yoga instructor running my own yoga project “Space for Yoga” with a focus on taking yoga off the mat and connecting the practice with other outdoor and community activities (www.spaceforyoga.eu).
- Native Country and Current Location:
I’m originally from Austria, but have been living in Spain for most of the year. Currently, I am in Nicaragua, where I teach yoga and help out running an ecolodge for five weeks.
- How did you get started traveling?
I started traveling about 15 years ago, when I was 19. Together with my best friend, I went on my first adventure overseas, and we visited another friend of ours, who was studying in Chicago at that time. From Chicago we took a plane to Los Angeles, where we spent another week. All in all, we traveled for a bit more than two weeks.
Here are some things I still remember very well about this trip:
- By traveling together, my friend and I became best friends. And we have been so ever since.
- One of the things I remember best from this trip was driving our friend’s old American car on the highway. It was one of those huge, dark red cars from the 1970s, with velvet seats and a wooden steering wheel and driving it felt like freedom.
- In L.A. we stayed in a cheap and shady “Million Dollar Hotel“ right on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The place was full of writers, artists, and wannabe actors all waiting for their breakthrough in the film industry. It was a place full of big hopes, courageous stories, and broken hearts. Listening to some of the stories as a travel freshman left a print mark on me.
- I did not do much planning for this very first big travel of mine. It was my friend’s trip, and I was happy that I could tag along. As I had no plans, and in fact not much of an idea what would happen during this trip, I also had no expectations—so I could not feel disappointed. As such, everything was new, everything was exciting and everything was an adventure. I try to apply this attitude still today.
- How did that and subsequent trips mold your view of traveling?
In my 20s, I did a lot of classical backpacking, at times in combination with studying abroad. I enjoyed making my way on a cheap budget, going and seeing places, meeting fellow backpackers, and exchanging stories. Traveling to a wide range of places on a small budget has definitely shaped me and without all those backpacking experiences, I would not be the person I am today.
Over the last few years, I have come to realize though that I do not enjoy this kind of traveling that much anymore. It seems I have become tired of being constantly on the road, of being a constant observer, of permanently moving from A to B to check out different things. While in my 20s, I got restless after spending two days at the same place, exactly the same kind of traveling makes me feel a bit stressed nowadays. These days, I like to take it slow and prefer spending longer periods at the same place, as this gives me the chance to get involved instead of being just a visitor: I may learn something new, I may teach yoga, I may take the time to properly connect with the people I am surrounded with. To me, this makes for a much more enriching travel experience at the stage of my life I currently find myself in.
- You have been nomading for how long? Do you stay on the road all year or do you take breaks and go home and regroup?
I am not a nomad in the classical sense, as up until recently, I’ve always had a home base to return to. I used to live in Vienna, Austria for 15 years, where I’d a rather stable life after I finished my university studies—with regular work assignments and a few traveling breaks in between shifting jobs. Living in Vienna, however, always felt like being on a stopover. I greatly enjoyed living in the city, but somehow it never felt like a home for me. When looking back at my life in Vienna now, I am kind of astonished that I ended up living there for such a long time. A combination of things—the facts that yoga happened in my life and that I have never been a city girl, among others—led to my decision to leave Vienna this January. It was the best decision I have taken in a long time, and I have not regretted it a single second.
This year, I am on a kind of gap year, taking the time to develop my yoga projects, to reflect on life and on my priorities. I spent most of the year in Tarifa in the South of Spain, where I started setting up a combined yoga and kitesurfing camp together with a friend of mine. I have been dreaming of this idea for more than five years, so seeing that dream become a reality gives me great joy and motivation. Tarifa to me feels like home—at least to a bigger extent than Vienna ever has. Tucked in between two seas, two continents and surrounded by two winds, it is a magical place. But what makes it so special are the people that are drawn to Tarifa the same way I am.
When looking for job opportunities over the European winter, I came across the possibility to teach yoga at an ecolodge in Nicaragua. As I am very interested in learning more about sustainability and a lifestyle that is closely connected with nature, I am really grateful for the oportunity to not only be able to work, but to learn and get involved in something that is of great importance to me at the same time.
So yes, this year is a nomadic year for me, as I do not have a home to return to. But I am planning again to settle—at least to some extent—next year when I am back in Europe. The nomadic lifestyle is very inspiring, and I know a lot of people who have been leading a nomadic life for several years, but it does not feel right for me personally to be a nomad in a long-term perspective. I am a very homey person—I love cooking and baking for example—so I need a home base where I spend most of my time. Having said that, I know that traveling will always continue being part of my life, too.
- How did you make the jump into nomading? How do you make it work financially?
“Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans“ definitely is a good way to describe how things turned out for me. Yoga definitely played a role there. I came across the practice totally randomly when looking for a relase from my back problems. It was never my plan to become a yoga teacher. To keep a long story short, things just started to happen, and I decided to embrace whatever came along.
This year, I’m taking some time off to develop some of the ideas on yoga a step further. I really like the thought of connecting the practice with other activities, such as sports (e.g., kitesurfing, mountain biking, climbing, hiking, etc.) and cooking, for example. So far, it is not possible to sustain myself completely financially, and eventually I will take another ocupation on board as I make my way. I’m thinking of looking for oportunities in areas such as writing, journalism, or online marketing. Any ideas are welcome!
- How important is connecting to the culture? How do you find ways to do that?
Connecting to the local cultures and people is one of the most important features of traveling in my point of view. What would be the use of traveling, if not that? 🙂 In my experience, learning the language of the place I find myself in—especially when staying for a longer time—is key. Being able to communicate with people in their language opens doors and hearts. And it is definitely a way to show appreciation, as well.
I call myself very lucky, as nowadays I have friends in many parts of the world. Of course, I met a lot of people when staying abroad, but I also made international friends while living in Vienna. Most of my travels are determined by the fact that I go and see my friends. Meeting people in their homes definitely is a wonderful way to connect to the culture of a place—if not the best way.
- Why do you travel?
The path is the destination, and there is no aim. To me, traveling is about the experiences that I make day by day, moment by moment. In that sense, traveling can also mean that I am staying physically at home: The adventure starts right at my door step and there is always room for new experiences, to learn, develop, and grow. As such, traveling for me is also an inner attitude. It is a kind of lifestyle, which is not always connected to moving physically from A to B.
I love meeting people, listening to their stories, exchanging ideas, learning about different lifestyle concepts, and connecting on a deeper level. Spending time in nature is another important aspect, both on and off the road. Nature provides everything we need, and its abundance and beauty are a constant source of inspiration.
- Personally, I know that venturing out into the world has greatly impacted who I am, my priorities, and my goals. How do you think traveling has informed who you are? How has it challenged you and what has been the results?
As mentioned, traveling is as much an activity pointing inwards as it is outdoor-oriented. When I travel, I am constantly putting myself into new surroundings. I’m dealing with new experiences on a daily basis, and I’m often confronted with my limits, which is not always a pleasant experience. Processing whatever happens while I make my way, I learn something new about myself all the time and get to know myself better.
Putting myself into unknown situations also helps me to find out about about my priorities, and it makes me appreciate what I already have. I’m lucky to have been born into one of the richest parts of the world, with the support of a loving family backing me up. This makes me humble and grateful, as not many of us are that lucky.
- What is a favorite or memorable experience that has really stuck with you?
Every experience I make shapes me, consciously and subconsciously. Seeing things this way, all experiences that my life has been consisting of so far, stick with me. To a major extent, my personality is a summary of all experiences I have made up to this point.
With respect to travel memories, one experience that I particularly cherish is visiting Varanasi, the holy city at the river Ganga in India, where Hindu people turn to when they reach the end of their lives or after they have died. In Asia, especially in India, people have a very different attitude towards death than we have in the West. Death is omnipresent there: It is an essential part of everyday life, and you face it constantly when traveling in India—particularly in Varanasi, where the dead are transported through the streets by family members, and the fires of the burial mounds burn day and night. You can see, smell, and feel death at all corners. Being in Varanasi made me aware that death is part of the cycle of nature, as there is no life without death. In the Western world, we tend to tabuisieren death: It is excluded from everyday life, we rarely talk and reflect about it.
Death scares many of us. We want to be and look forever young. We lock the elderly away in old people’s homes. We do not take the time to process and accept death for what it is—something very natural that happens every day. To create something new, something old must pass. So when death happens in our lives, the loss of a beloved one often takes us completely off our feet, because we are not prepared for it. I often wonder how something that is so natural can provoke so much fear and misunderstanding. Experiencing death as an essential part of everyday life like in the Hindu or Buddhist cultures feels a lot more natural to me.
- How far in advance do you start researching your trip? What kind of content helps you (stories and interviews about individuals’ personal experiences, how-tos, itinerary suggestions, etc.) and where do you look for the information?
When I was younger I used to do a lot of research before heading out on the road. I was mostly consulting travel books and the Internet of course. These days, I do a lot less research prior to heading off, sometimes even none. It depends a lot on where I go though. For example, I have been traveling quite extensively in the Latin American world, so making my way around there feels natural. I have never been to Africa, so I would definitely invest in a proper research before going there. In my experience, the best advice I always receive from other people—by talking to friends who have been there and by chatting with people that cross my path. The latter one is especially helpful, as the best and most up-to-date information I always receive when talking to fellow travelers coming from the places I am heading to.
- You just recently traveled through Mexico to Nicaragua by bus. How did you decide to travel this way? What are some of the logistical issues that you had to deal with? What is it like to travel alone as a female in this part of the world?
My decision to travel by land was both a logistical and a personal one. This time I was traveling with my kitesurfing equipment, as I am going to return to Mexico later in the New Year for kitesurfing. I wanted to bring my own kit and due to the fact that I have friends in Mexico City, it made sense to fly there first to see my friends and store my equipment with people I trust. Because I happened to have some time before starting my work assignment in Nicaragua, I decided to travel by land, to experience a part of the world I’ve never been to.
Mexico has a very convenient and reasonably priced network of comfortable overland buses used by Mexicans and tourists alike. In Central America, the tourism industry is more separate from the life of the regular people, which might be due to the fact that most of the countries are very poor. In Guatemala, for example, there is hardly any middle class and people tend to travel very cheaply on so-called chicken buses—old buses that are very slow, making lots of stops on the way. To travel on a chicken bus is a great experience to get involved in the local culture, but it is not very convenient for longer distances. Therefore, I had to stick to the tourist shuttles for longer trips.
So far, I’ve never had any trouble traveling all by myself as a female in Latin America and being on the road has been generally very smooth. So far, only India has been a bit less easy-going when traveling alone as a female, due to the fact that the gender roles are very different there. I have, however, never landed in any really uncomfortable situation so far.
- What do you want other people to know about traveling?
I think that my Ecuadorian friend who was traveling the world for two years found the right words when being asked what he had learned while traveling for so long. He said he learned that the world generally is a friendly place. And this is true in my point of view and something I would like to share here with you.