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Embracing Chaos and Going with the Flow

At every step, I had to let go of control, situations and people. Practicing this made going with the flow so much easier.
Embracing chaos

This week, my time in between Cusco, Peru and La Paz, Bolivia kept coming up.  So, I thought it would be appropriate for this week’s blog post to pick up my journey from where I left off and take a peek into that period of my life. That short time was defined by chaos, letting go and going with the flow.

No part of this experience was planned and that’s what made it so memorable.

Dimly, I became aware of movement in the room. Where was I?

Cusco, Peru.

That’s right, I had made it to Cusco with friends I had met on the bus.

The road here from La Paz, Bolivia had been more eventful than I’d expected.

Company

Running out of the cab, I found my bus and settled in. This bus would take me to Copacabana and from there I could catch a bus to Puno and finally to Cusco.

I made myself comfortable and pulled out my journal. Over the past few weeks, bus rides had become a sort of haven for me. They were safe, familiar and closed off from the world.

In the bus, no one expected anything from me, and I didn’t have to communicate with anyone. I had a few hours to myself to rest, put my thoughts together and process my next step at my own pace.

Becoming aware of warm, hazel eyes peeking at me from over the seat in front of me, I glanced up to a grinning face that began going off in Spanish as soon as I made eye contact.

My eyes widened and I stuttered the few phrases in Spanish that DuoLingo had taught me. A blank stare, then another wide smile, “No Spanish?”

I sighed in relief and shook my head, “No.”

“No problem, I practice my English.”

The hazel eyes were friendly and kept me company for the rest of the ride. I smiled, grateful for the company.

Pit stop

The bus I had taken, locally called a collectivo, had had to stop before reaching Copacabana because of protests in Bolivia. The roads were blocked.

I got out of the bus and waited with the rest of the passengers. What now? I stepped closer to my two new friends; Hazel Eyes had a companion.

After a little while, the passengers began climbing back into the collectivo. Glancing around in confusion, I decided not to bother trying to find out what was going on and just go with the flow. I filed back into the collectivo and watched in amazement as we drove forward and eventually navigated onto a boat.

The silence of the peaceful night was broken by the boat’s noisy motor. I poked my head out the window and turned to look up at the twinkling night sky as the boat wafted across the lake.

I couldn’t help but laugh. This was insane! Unsafe! Incredible!

This would never happen in Canada.

Happy Campers

Reaching the other side and coming across another road block, we all got out of the collectivo. This time, it was clear that the collectivo couldn’t take us any further and we began walking to Copacabana. I had decided to stay with my new friends. At some point they stopped and communicated that they intended to camp.

I balked at the idea. Camp? Here? In the middle of nowhere? It was cold and I didn’t have camping gear. I looked around at the deserted area. I also didn’t have much of a choice.

As it turned out, my friend had an extra sleeping bag and their tent was large enough for the three of us.

I went to sleep thinking that if I spoke Spanish, I would have been able to contribute to this decision instead of just blindly going along with it.

The next morning was cool and brisk. Packing up, we walked the rest of the way to Copacabana. We found a place to freshen up and eat and I decided to accompany the two to Isla de Sol, an island on Lake Titicaca. We’d head to Cusco together afterwards.

At every step of the way, I had to let go of control and start going with the flow

My first headstand

I sat alone on the beach, staring out at the calm waters lapping at the sandy shore.

My friends were having a blast chatting with fellow beachgoers in Spanish. I looked back at the lake.

It was such a strange place, overnight my teeth had chattered from the cold, and before mid morning, the sun was so strong that I had had to drape my scarf over my head to stay cool. The water was icy, so using that to cool down was a limited option.

My eyes strayed to the chattering group of beachgoers, one of them was doing asanas. She planted her forearms and lifted herself up effortlessly into a headstand. Hazel Eyes beckoned me and asked if I wanted to try.

Eyes wide, I nodded, “You first!” He lifted up easily into a headstand. My heart began to race, it was my turn.

“It’s easy!”

The woman sat in front of me and demonstrated the steps. Gulping, I followed along. At some point, someone grabbed my legs and lifted them up into the air.

I laughed in delight and gasped as the grip on my legs loosened, “No, no! Don’t let go!”

“Okay, I stay here.”

I accepted help in lowering myself and dissolved into laughter.

going with the flow | Embracing Chaos and Going with the Flow
Isla de Sol was peppered with Bolivian ruins

Cusco, Peru

After two nights on the island, we boarded a bus to Cusco, Peru.

One of my two new friends had left and I struggled to understand why. They had been travelling together so why leave behind the known and the comfortable to be on your own?

Hazel Eyes and I explored Cusco together for a few days and then it became clear that our paths, too, were separating.

I went off in search of the hostel my friend in La Paz, Bolivia had recommended to me.

“It’s a big one, they’re always looking for volunteers.”

It turned out it was right around the corner and they needed a minimum commitment of two weeks from their volunteers.

Nostalgically, I bid farewell to my friend and our tiny oasis of sunshine, frigid lakes and headstands.

At the new hostel, I was shown to a room with 11 other volunteers. I glanced around in fascination at my new home. Clothing and bags hung from bed posts and lay in every available corner, colourful sheets hung around bottom bunks, effectively shutting off half the habitants from the rest of the room. Amidst the chaos, there was a certain order in the room, an air of community and respect for one another’s space. I smiled to myself, there was room to grow here.

I had received a top bunk. Relatively little privacy but I did have a corner and a locker. Making myself at home, I had dinner and crawled into bed. Tomorrow at 11 am, I would start at the front desk.

A fresh start.

Going with the flow on Isla de Sol

The time I’d spent on Isla de Sol hadn’t been easy for me. After being robbed, I was looking for an opportunity to decompress, time to truly soak in what had happened, learn from it and then breathe it all out. I was looking for a place where my bank balance wouldn’t continually decrease at an unmanageable pace as well as somewhere where I’d feel safe and at home.

I grasped at any stability that came my way. This began with my friend in the Bolivian hostel, continued to the two I met on the bus, our island haven on the lake, and then even to the routine we’d settled into in our few days together in Cusco.

At every step, I had to let go. I had to let go of the idea that I was in control, and the idea that I could hold on to situations and people.

My mind didn’t give me a moment’s rest.

Every step was full of insecurity, self-doubt, the fear of failure and the desire to possess every comfort that came my way. There was a type of lethargy or resistance to keep moving that delayed every step I took until the absolute last moment.

At the same time, I felt left out everywhere I went because I was a foreigner. I felt like an accessory; something to just ooh and aah at and then leave aside when the real conversation and connection began.

I was putting together that my experience in Latin America would be severely limited by my inability to speak the language. Aside from being constrained to travelling in a certain way and with a certain group of people, I would never be able to blend in and live the life of a traveller as opposed to that of a tourist.

I was unable to simply accept that I didn’t fit in, nor did I want to be affectionately or not-so-affectionately labelled “Gringo” or foreigner.

I had made up my mind.

Cusco would be different.

going with the flow | Embracing Chaos and Going with the Flow
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Parm Saggu

Hey, I'm Parm! I help people who long for a deeper meaning in life but feel caged by societal expectations to break free, uncover the secrets of life, and forge a path to be the difference they want to see in the world.

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