2023 recap and onwards to 2024!

2023 recap and onwards to 2024!

Here I am, up before the sun on January 2 (is it possible I’m STILL jet-lagged post-Thailand?) and finally feeling ready to write a 2023 recap along with some updates for you all as we move forward intp 2024! In fact, getting back to writing more long-form pieces rather than just social media captions is one of my goals for the year. So make sure you are following along with the Bigger Life Adventures blog if you’re interested in reading those ramblings as I create them!

2023 was our “Year of Yes” and so Zach and I are now, predictably, very tired from all that “Yes”-ing. However, it felt necessary after 2022 almost broke us. Isn’t this the pendulum swing of life, though? We sometimes sway from one extreme to the other, in this case from injury and stillness to travel and over-activity, swiftly passing by the elusive “balance” somewhere in the middle. It never fails to amaze me how long it can take for healing and understanding of past pain to emerge, and oftentimes it only does when we become still again. It feels like I’m just now fully understanding the havoc that Zach’s injury and our mutual healing journey while self-employed wreaked on our nervous systems. As a adult whose parents are living but not present or supportive in my life, the emotional hole where parents should be feels gaping at times. The work of “re-parenting” myself keeps arising as a healing practice I must dive deeper into, but that’s a topic for another blog post, later. Through it all, I am grateful we stayed sober and relied on the support of nearby friends and family!

Anyway, 2023: Zach’s ankle healed and his abilities returned, hooray! We spent the early months of the year wandering slowly through several new states in Mexico, then Guatemala, and Costa Rica as Zach re-learned how to walk, and then hike, and then climb and run! The ankle will never be the same, but he also won’t be very limited as long as he continues to do yoga and physical therapy. We at one point were told he may never walk normally again, so we will take it!

Our annual spring retreats in Costa Rica, Joshua Tree, and Catalina went amazingly well! I got to do a quick trip back to Ohio in April to visit my aging grandparents and aunt and uncle for the first time in many years. Arizona retreats at our home base, Grand Canyon Eco Retreat, began with a snowy weekend in May, as usual! 🗻❄️🤣 The rest of the summer was outrageously hot but we survived with lots of ice baths, creek plunges, and amazing guests who were willing to get out of their comfort zones!

I ran the Silverton Alpine 50k in Colorado in July. The many training runs on trails with friends leading up to it were my main social outlet and nature therapy. I plan to keep running in the mountains and canyons this year ’cause it just brings me into peaceful presence in a way nothing else does!

I also continued to oversee the trauma-informed yoga program in the Coconino County Juvenile Court, which is fulfilling and inspiring work I don’t often post about due to confidentiality for the participants involved. But please know that if you are a local school, recovery group, or youth organization interested in incorporating accessible, trauma-informed yoga for all bodies into your programming, I have a staff of wonderful teachers who would love to help!

The “year of yes” continued with Burning Man (wanna join our camp this year? Let me know!), then an incredible trip to New Hampshire, Maine, and ICELAND with a couple of friends. It was partly future retreat recon, and partly just a pure vacation for us, which is actually rare despite how much we travel. Usually work is involved in some way in our trips! Fall included great Colorado and Baja retreats, and our first festival-style campout retreat in the desert near Death Valley! So fun! We jetted off to Thailand in mid-November and ran two week-long retreats near Chiang Mai (you can already sign up for the next one!), fulfilling a dream years in the making and officially making 2023 our longest, furthest-flung retreat season ever!

In the midst of all of this goodness, of course we had to have some struggle as well. Our county implemented new permitting requirements for “glamping” businesses and off-grid vacation rentals and retreats such as our bread-and-butter business, Grand Canyon Eco Retreat. Despite being previously legal and above board for our neighborhood’s zoning category and all county regulations, we were suddenly shut down and threatened with massive fines if we continued to operate. This is the reason we have been unable to schedule or advertise Arizona retreats for several months now. We are working on getting our permit application prepared but the process is difficult, vague, and almost completely reliant on us finding favor with county officials. We share this not to complain or whine, but to be transparent about what we are going through and why we are unfortunately unable to advertise retreats in Arizona until we obtain this permit.

Retreats and nightly vacation rentals at Grand Canyon Eco Retreat have allowed us to pay our bills, grow our business, and keep Bigger Life Adventures retreat prices reasonable for the last five years. With a massive drop in our income due to the county shutting us down, we are tightening our proverbial belts and doing our best to survive through it. Tears have been shed and many nights have been tossed and turned through. As Pema Chodron teaches, “To be alive is to be continuously thrown out of the nest….” Just when we think we have a part of life or business figured out, something unexpected comes along to throw us for a loop. This doesn’t mean we’re doing it wrong, necessarily, but it does mean we are being forced to continuously grow, evolve, change, and let go of expectations.

Pema’s Buddhist-based philosophy which allows for suffering as a necessary part of life flies in the face of what we often see everywhere in social media “wellness” circles where the toxically-positive buzzwords of “abundance”, “manifestation” and “high vibrations” dominate. I believe the truth, as usual, is somewhere in the middle. Yes, we can stay positive and manifest good things into our lives, but our baseline level of privilege also has a huge influence on what we can manifest. No matter what other teachers may preach, Zach and I don’t believe that yoga and capitalism make any freaking sense together. Yet here we are, believing that we can do more good service by working within the system rather than dropping out. As always, we will continue to seek the middle path by offering retreat scholarships to people in recovery, and doing our best to keep all our offerings accessible while still hoping to provide for our own basic needs and build our tiny house.

Please remember that social media is mostly a highlights reel! If you’re watching influencers or friends claiming that life is always perfect and they don’t ever struggle, I would be very careful of whatever they’re selling and maybe run in the opposite direction. The whole system – capitalism, social media, etc. – is created to make all of us feel like we are lacking something or doing it wrong in order to sell us on things that we might not actually need.

Yoga calls us to practice the Yamas and Niyamas which include honesty, non-violence, and non-greed, among other beautiful principles. So yes, I may be one of the only retreat leaders out there who tells you you don’t need an expensive yoga retreat. Healing is found by accepting and working within ourselves, whether that’s sitting in meditation on a beach in Mexico or just sitting in meditation on your bed at home. However, if a retreat or one of our other offerings is calling you and you have the means to support us this year, we would obviously greatly appreciate that! Please do what you can to support your other entrepreneurial friends as well (free ways to do that); it’s hard out there for all of us!

Easy, accessible ways to support yourself and us this year:
Book an online Ayurvedic wellness consultation $90
Sign up for Carrie’s online, on-demand yoga subscription $25 per month
Pre-order Zach’s cookbook $35

New retreat dates for late 2024/early 2025 in Joshua Tree (rock climbing! campout!) and Guatemala (will include a sacred, professionally-facilitated plant medicine opportunity) will be announced very soon. To get on the priority booking list for either of these retreats, reply to this email expressing interest!

Thanks for reading, and wishing you all a peaceful yet adventurous 2024!