Sustainable tourism is… frog pose

Have been thinking a lot lately about holding space, about opening, and the discomfort that comes leading up to release. (And about how overdue I am for my next appointment with the yoga mat.) So dug out this piece I wrote last year in response to an online call for contributions on “sustainable tourism” for Whistler’s TedX conference. We still live in a world in desperate search of the quick fix. I still need to be reminded that everything is a process. So I reminded myself. (I was so smart last year. How did I forget this?)

Frog pose kills me.

My hips creak and lock into place and my ass protrudes like a half-raised flag of surrender while all around me people press their pelvises flat against the floor, their legs splayed out like champion breaststrokers’.  Really?

But every day that I stand at the top of my yoga mat, I set my intention again: today, I will work towards expansiveness. I will keep breathing when my glutes and hips and lower back creak and howl, and expansiveness will start to infuse my whole person, will permeate my being and my interactions with every living thing. (Though honestly, the intention is more like : I will keep breathing even when it fucking hurts.)

Sometimes, at the end of the class, the teacher says: Now that you have created these openings in your body, think about what you will fill those spaces with.

I lie in corpse pose, with salt water leaking out my eyes, because frog pose undoes me, and I think about that tiny space I created and I think: fill it with compassion. Keep that hard-won opening pried apart with a little droplet of compassion.

Being a tourist is hard.

I see it in Whistler’s visitors – this yearning they have to connect, their curiousity about even their servers – where are you from, how did you get here? Their desire to penetrate beneath the surface.

I feel it myself, when I travel. When my husband and I went to Spain on a rockclimbing trip, I was so confronted by a powerful sense of disorientation, my own strangeness, other people’s strangeness. I find the world difficult to navigate when I can barely order a coffee or translate a menu.  (And I’m vegetarian and really don’t want to end up with some body parts on my plate that I’m then going to have to deal with politely and sensitively.) But I dredged up rusty language skills, pushed away fear that people would think me rude or stupid, andI just kept pushing myself forward, out of my comfort zone. And with every stranger who leant forward to listen, to try and parse my mangled phrasing, to give me directions, or take my order, a little opening between us was created.

Sustainable tourism is not a drop-in class, a package, a carbon offset.

It’s an attitude, a willingness to make effort even when you feel like you’re getting nowhere, to expand in tiny ways to let love in.

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