Interning at Grand Canyon Eco Retreat in Arizona

Interning at Grand Canyon Eco Retreat in Arizona

A Story of Calling, Listening to Your Gut, and Divine Timing


I wanted something more, I needed something different. At my liberal arts college, one of the things I appreciated the most was guidance by some of my professors to identify my vocation, my calling, not just the occupation I wanted to make money. Through an exercise discerning what in the world my “calling” was I wrote these three things down in the fall of 2019:

Provide an environment of rest and peace to others through listening and exploration in Creation.

Celebrate the beauty of the mundane.

Seek out those who are lost, need guidance, and someone or something to challenge them to become the best human they can be. I see that people are much more capable of greatness than they give themselves credit for.

In 2019 I still didn’t know how I was going to live out these callings I felt. I believe I felt them from deep within, and as things I felt I needed myself. At this time I knew I was going to graduate with a degree in Psychology with a Dance minor. I also knew that I truly loved my yoga practice and experienced it’s power of healing in my own life. So, a year later I sought out my first YTT. Then my second to complete my 500hr trauma-informed RYT certification. During my 500hr training in the winter of 2022, I was working in a psychiatric hospital working directly with adolescent patients. I truly loved this role, despite some of the difficult circumstances. I was also able to talk about yoga with some patients and lead impromptu yoga classes on the unit. I knew this already from my training, but I experienced firsthand in my own life and in my work environment how healing the practice of yoga is. 

Now I don’t like using this word, BUT, there were some things about how this environment operated that I didn’t fully align with. I also felt the pull deep in my gut to live out my call by teaching yoga on a deeper, more intimate level. I also wanted to experience something new and push myself by entering a new environment. I craved the challenge of moving to a new place, on my own. And I was only 23, so do cool things while you’re young. It was time to take a risk and go. 

Gut Feelings

Enter, Yoga Trade. 

I heard about Yoga Trade from another student in my 500hr training. I immediately looked it up and became a member. Over the course of the next week I applied to a few different opportunities, looking to go off into the world in the summer. I applied to a yoga retreat in Portugal, Thailand, and Northern Arizona. The first response I received was from Carrie with Grand Canyon Eco Retreat and Bigger Life Adventures. To be honest, part of me was disappointed that I didn’t hear back from Portugal or Thailand sooner because I wanted to travel beyond the US. Now I know this is where I was meant to land, and I knew it before I even arrived to meet Carrie and Zach in person. 

I first met Carrie over Zoom for an interview. I knew I had found a good human and yoga teacher from the way she talked about the practice, her experience using trauma-informed yoga with youth in Flagstaff’s juvenile detention center, and the fact that she was calling me from a coffee shop traveling around in their van in the off season. I knew I had to go to Arizona. 

So I left for a road-trip to Arizona with my boyfriend on June 18. I was pumped. I had quit my job a few weeks before and was prepping everything for those two weeks before I left. I built a bed in the back of my Toyota Highlander, created some great organization for all my clothes and things, and even hung up some twinkle lights in my home-on-wheels for the next few months. 

Divine Timing

We had arrived in Flagstaff the night before meeting Carrie and Zach in person to show me around the retreat before I drove my boyfriend to the airport to fly back. My cell phone service had been spotty during the trip, and I was hardly checking my email. Then in the morning driving out to Carrie and Zach, I checked and saw an urgent email from Carrie. As I started to read it I got so nervous.

Did they not want me to come any more??

Carrie was explaining in the email that this summer may not be how we originally talked about. And that she understood if I didn’t want to stay the summer anymore. Zach had an accident while climbing and broke his ankle pretty severely, so they needed my help all the more. The accident happened on June 18, the day I left Michigan. Now that, I believe, is divine timing. 

I was eager to help Carrie and Zach in any way I could. Changing sheets in the yurts, doing laundry, dishes – anything as they navigated the new reality of Zach being injured. There were far fewer retreats planned than normal last summer as well. We also believed this as divine intervention to give time for Zach and Carrie to adjust and for us to figure out how this all would work. Normally, Zach does all the cooking, helps lead hikes, and some breathwork and reiki sessions during retreats. Hiking was out of the picture unfortunately, so I would enter that role on retreats with Carrie. I also assisted Zach in the kitchen in my best sous-chef manner and did whatever other little jobs I could to help retreats run smoothly. 

Growing into My Calling

Last summer was also somewhat of a humbling experience. While I was looking for a way to teach yoga more, I really didn’t teach all that much outside of retreats where Carrie and I traded off who was teaching each session. From doing all the other tasks needed around this place, I experienced more fully yoga as a way of life. Most things became a meditation for me – walking around the property, changing sheets, using as little water as possible to do dishes. I was also fueling my body with amazing vegan food, connecting with the earth in that way. I started running more and trained for my first half-marathon. I was provided with inspiration and time to dream more fully and create my own business, Sydney Raye Yoga, where I offer various online yoga and meditation classes. 

Now, I am writing this post now from Grand Canyon Eco Retreat, less than a year from when I first arrived. Living back in Michigan for the fall and winter left me feeling a little bit empty and not fully myself. Now, I give some of that to the unchanging gray skies of winter in Michigan. Also, I believed it was a bit of reverse-culture shock going back to my “normal” life. It was sometimes hard to explain to friends and family the impact of the experience I had here. 

I missed living outside almost all day, every day. I missed the community of outdoor-loving people in Northern Arizona. I missed the deep friendship I formed with Carrie, Zach, and some of their close friends. I also knew I had more to learn from them and from this beautiful place. So, here I am. Back in the place, doing work that I believe fulfills my call.

Providing a peaceful place for people to rest, through teaching yoga and providing beautiful yurts for people to camp in.

Living a somewhat simple life that is in tune with the rhythm of the sun and respects the Earth.

Challenging people on yoga retreats to grow into their best selves through yoga practices and hiking adventures. 

Thank you, Carrie and Zach, for taking a chance on me, believing in me, and seeing more potential in me to lead and teach than I was able to see in myself.