“The mind is like water. When it's turbulent, it's difficult to see. When it's calm, everything becomes clear.”
– Prasad Mahes
Heart Route:35 Country: 10
For years I'd wanted to find a way to help others, but could never seem to find something that came naturally to me, until now.
Before learning about mindfulness, my mind was like a chaotic snow globe, always shaking, my thoughts like snow, flying here, there and everywhere! I craved to have a vacation from my mind, and found life just so freaking overwhelming all the time. After years of cycling my heart routes I slowly learnt that it was focusing on my breath and the sensations in my body that took me to a place of momentary calm. When I learnt that mindfulness is about paying attention to the present moment on purpose, it all started to make sense…
Cycling my heart out route after route, year after year, had been my own meditation, and learning to combine it with seated meditation everyday enabled me to finally find a way to settle my snow globe thoughts.
This summer I decided I wanted to be able to teach mindfulness to others, so I travelled to the south of Spain to take a MBSR teach mindfulness course with Mindful Academy International.
Follow Your Heart
Mind on fire,
The numbness spreads,
My legs gone dead,
If only I could move…
The tenacious fly,
That active gardener,
If only I had silence…
My familiar friends,
Worry and fear,
Always around, but never welcome...
Mind on fire,
Damn that feels good,
Stomach growing like a balloon…
Emotions join the stream,
Thoughts pass like clouds,
Even the ocean seems calmer…
Sitting cross legged,
Silence starts to spread,
Sounds reducing in my head..
The beautiful town of Altea, close to Alicante in Spain!
Heart Route 35
Only a few hours left in a town I'd hardly seen, making a heart route was a challenge no doubt! Several different bike maps, 2 bike shop assistants, and dozens of attempted heart routes, not 1 seemed to want to emerge.
I was close to accepting no route could be found, and just enjoy cycling mindfully along the sea, but that's the beauty of letting go, seconds later Cecilia at Ashe bikes pointed at the map!
No it wasn't the most scenic,
No it wasn't traffic free,
But yes, it was perfect, for me anyway…
The route represented the challenges along my teaching course, the doubts, the confusion.
With the final part along the sea, peaceful, calm and full of joy…
It got me thinking about all the times I've longed for something, and never came close to reaching it, until I finally let go.
Spread the Love
I could not have done this course had it not been for my teacher Kathy, her years and years of experience and wisdom was truly inspiring to learn from. Our beautiful international group where a joy to teach, support and learn from one another.
I made this route to remind me of the life changing teaching course at Mindful Academy International, the people I met, and the future hearts I hope to help.
My thoughts won't stop,
I can't sit cross legged,
I don't have time,
I'm too busy,
I'll start tomorrow,
I'm doing it all wrong!
The beauty of mindfulness is to practice kindness and compassion to ourselves, and that all those thoughts above are perfectly ok to feel.
Thoughts won't stop? It's normal just observe them,
Can't cross your legs? Use a chair,
No time? Try 2 minutes
Too busy? Take 3 deep breaths,
Starring tomorrow? How about now
Doing it wrong? No, you're not.
Meditation doesn't mean you always have to sit still,
How do your hands feel on the handlebars?
How about your bum on the seat?
Your feet as they rotate the pedals?
How does the wind feel on your face, or maybe it's a rainstorm.
Try paying attention to the present instead of worrying about your to do list today, or your conversation with whoever yesterday.
Enjoy cycling your heart out wherever you are in the world!
“If your searching for that one person that will change your life,
take a look in the mirror”.
Heart Route: 27 Country: 8
When was the last time you put yourself first? So often in life we spend so much time and energy bringing a smile to everyone else's face, that we forget the most important person of all, ourselves. That cliche we have heard our whole lives, is probably the single most important thing we can accomplish in life, love yourself first...buy yourself flowers, take that trip to the mountains that you continue to put off, that outfit? Buy it? Meal for one? Enjoy it! That crazy adventure? Book it!
Two months ago my heart lead me to Rio de Janeiro, and now I give it to you. Scroll down to find out what pulled me there, watch my 2 videos, and discover the magic of heartful cycling ...
Follow Your Heart
The Rio whisper
Two years ago you sprung from a photo and remained imprinted on my heart,
But the noise of life covered and concealed your naked beauty,
Month by month you'd whisper in my ear, but each night I'd rock you back to sleep,
I guess you grew tired of my excuses, of putting loved ones first & myself last,
so you decided to remind me...
Thank you, for melting my heart, and washing my eyes clean again,
That photo from 2 years ago flew back into view,
Never have I seen a route this unique,
A bike path hugging every turn, every curve,
A heart shaped lake, in a city that lights my soul in ways impossible to describe.
A heart shaped route to remind us to always follow our hearts, and listen to our inner voice,
Rio de Janeiro is my gift to you.
BRAZIL, Rio De Janero
A country I've dreamed of going for years, but always put off...I'll go next year, I'll go in 2 years, I'll go when this ... or I'll go when that .... etc etc. But that perfect time never seemed to arrive. In the back of my mind the movie 'Up' would replay, I don't want that to be me, one day on my deathbed bed wishing things could have been different. October 2017 I lay in bed contemplating who to message for advice… instead my fingers led me to something else...PAY NOW I clicked. Rubbing the morning sleep from my eyes, I'd finally done it... one ticket to my dream destination coming soon! Sharing a sunrise breakfast on the beach a couple days before with my beautiful friend Vanessa filled me with so much gratitude. Some friends have this amazing ability to help push you in the direction of your dreams...magic is something you make, and I'm so glad to have her in my life. Cherish these friends with all your heart.
As I was travelling solo I decided the best place for me to stay would be in this cute hostel called Lemon Spirit in Leblon, a short walk away from the famous Ipanema beach. It was really easy to meet people and make friends, the first day I arrived I met a really nice girl called Amy from Melbourne, who ended up coming along my heart shaped route! The hostel also provided a free breakfast, delicious papaya every morning put a smile on my face, especially as it was combined with monkeys swinging from the trees in front of me!
There are no shortage of places to rent a bicycle in Rio, including around the heart shaped lagoon. I decided to try the local bike hire scheme called Bike rio as I wanted the freedom to be able to cycle the whole time I was there. All I needed to do was download the app and use a Brazilian SIM card to register, it was also much cheaper than renting a bike every day.
Rodrigo de Freitas Lakes
This was my 27th heart route, never have I found a route which ticked every box. Following the 7.7km bicycle path around the stunning heart shaped lagoon, there no need to whip out my map, no need to worry about traffic, and impossible to get lost. Instead I was able to cycle mindfully, allowing nothing but my heart to guide me.
Cycle Your Heart Out!
Watch my video to discover what beautiful highlights you can see along the route, you may see I have a soft spot for a certain animal and flower!!
Music by Samba Do Brasil-Ey Macalena
Finishing my heart route, I was greeted by a wave, swaying in the wind where pink petals I knew I'd seen somewhere before. Impossible to smell without closing my eyes, transporting me back to 2010, the first time me and the frangipani flower first met. Now whenever we do, I'm reminded of sunset bike rides along the crocodile beaches of Darwin, Australia, and the rice paddies of Ubud, Bali.
Thank you for pulling me all the way here,
For making me ride around your every curve,
For making me follow my heart and not drown my dreams,
For making my heart beat again and believe in love.
Eight years later, here I stand,
my 27th heart route,
my 8th country,
Brazil and the Frangipani flower,
Maybe it was the scent that helped draw me here...
Looking to my left the waves crash against the powder soft sand, while the volleyball nets frame the turquoise sea. As I turn to my front & sip my coconut, I gaze up at the same mountains I had once only dreamed about. Now, here they are, resting so effortlessly before me, while the Brazil flag dances in the wind. I pull out my sketchbook, to imprint this moment in my heart.
“The meaning of life is to find your gifts, the purpose of life is to give it away”
Elodie, the French beauty who got me painting again, I'll never forget the moment I spotted her in our hostel in Melbourne. Hypnotized by the way she she sketched, it was thanks to her I believed I could paint again, who made me believe I was good enough, and hadn't forgotten how. It was her who took me shopping to buy my 1st ever travel paint kit, and who introduced me to the magical water pen. From Melbourne, to Tasmania, to now the stunning rocks of Rio's Ipanema beach. Here we sit, catching up on 8 years of stories as the sun sets with a paintbrush in our hands.
Awaken love, a global meditation organisation that I discovered first in Barcelona. Instead of a typical Saturday night out in Lapa, I decided to go to this meditation event and get to know more locals. I was lucky to meet these 4 lovely Brazilian ladies and enjoyed sharing my heart shaped story with them, thanks Raphaella, Debora, Izabella, and Fernanda for a lovely evening and night!
My tour guide Lucas from Intrepid Travel. After cycling my heart out I decided to explore the rest of Rio! It was beautiful to discover that locals call the lagoon ‘The heart of Rio’! Click here to read my full review on Trip Advisor.
All the people from Lemon Spirit hostel who helped me climb to the top of the Dois Irmãos hill, and make a dream come true! Zipping up through the Vidigal Favela on the back of a locals moped, a 1 hour hike through the bushes and sweltering heat, finally we made it. Gazing down, the whole of Rio de Janeiro lay below me. My heart skipped a beat when I saw her looking up at me, there she lay, the heart shaped lagoon.
This route really took the phrase 'follow my heart', to a whole new level!
I hope you enjoyed reading my Rio post, if you've made it down this far I'd love to invite you on my heart shaped journey. Subscribe below and follow me on Instagram so you can cycle your heart out with me online :-)
Cycle your heart out and I'll speak to you soon,
“Your wheels are your paint, the world is your canvas”
We are Barcelona
Birds replaced with helicopters,
Music drowned out by sirens,
Festival plans changed to marking myself safe.
Hate breeds hate,
Love breeds love,
Reaching for my map, I knew what needed to be done...
Drawing a red line from the top to the bottom of the Ramblas,
Following the pen along Passeig de Colom, and into Ciutadella Park.
Line by line,
Passeig de Gracia
Line by line,
You’re now complete.
The red pen is then replaced by bicycle tyres.
Breathing in and out,
Soaking into my memory.
For every flower I see,
Every candle I notice,
Every message I read,
I am no longer scared,
I no longer feel fear.
We are not afraid
We are Barcelona,
Your heart beats on.
#Totssombarcelona #TodosSomosBarcelona #wearebarcelona
It took 6 years and 25 heartful routes to realise it,
Sure it would have been nice to have occurred overnight, but it didn’t,
and maybe it wasn’t meant to...
Maybe that alluring spider’s web was meant to catch me,
Maybe I was meant to fight my way through,
To be able to come out the other side as that grateful little fly.
Maybe each heartful route was a lesson to learn, a blessing in disguise.
Maybe each one was a future story, a chapter to be told,
On a book that was unknowingly writing itself.
All week leading up to Amsterdam I had been reading Elizabeth Gilbert's book ‘Big Magic’. Having been on my reading list for ages, it more or less jumped off the bookshelf into my hands at the Airport. The more I read, the more it made me realise I write because I freaking LOVE it. I understand not everyone will enjoy reading what I have to say, but that's OK too. I'd rather write for the rest of my life than live in a criticism-free bubble.
My favourite part was when she wrote about how we should have more fun with our creativity!
For many years I would stress myself silly about writing up my heart routes,
I would try and force myself to write, even if I didn't have a creative cell in my body that day.
I would then get burnt out, lose my words, conclude I was a terrible writer and keep it only for myself.
So yeah...no more of that,
I now whisk myself off to romantic locations on my own to allow myself no time limit,
just the sheer luxury of being able to write,
other than my wine and olives arriving.
Heartful Route 25
So why Amsterdam?
One of the top cities to cycle in, and it took me until now to get round to it! In 2015 it was my 1st trip to Holland, I'd created a heart route in the tiny coastal town of Westkapelle. That was just a small taste I discovered of how much the Dutch love cycling, and how super flat this country really is! Having returned to Holland for the 2nd time to spend time with family at the beautiful beach Callantsoog, I managed to arrange a 1 night stay in Amsterdam on my way back to Barcelona. As I left Callanstoog I smiled to myself after having spent the last 2 weeks with family and friends. Although they are all spread out all around the world, I’m eternally grateful for any time at all that I get to be with them.
On the train ride to Amsterdam I looked up bike rental and straight away found MacBike. Conveniently located just off the canal, a short walking distance from the famous Rijksmuseum museum and my hostel. I hired my funky red bike and was given a detailed map of the city. The girl in the shop was super helpful in telling me all the best canal's and paths to ride, as well as nice spots to relax and enjoy the open markets and cafe scene.
The Heartful Route
Rolling down the canal I loved that I had no expectations, I really hadn't researched Amsterdam as I’d wanted to be surprised by it all. I think along the route I developed an addiction for canals, each one I passed I couldn’t stop myself from stopping and taking a quick snap.
Having been up since 5 am my stomach started to protest at being neglected. A few metres away I found a inviting canal boat, a perfect spot for filling my stomach on some Dutch cuisine. I sat and ate as dozens of touristic boats passed, I felt a little bit like a lion in a safari park as they whipped out their cameras ready to capture the beautiful picturesque canals, with myself modelling a mouthful of food.
As I sipped on my cappuccino I took out my map again to figure out my heart route, I then slowly realised it had created itself organically. The more I studied my map and all the canals, the more a heart shape emerged. The best thing was that is was mostly made up of canal paths, the closer to water the better I thought!
I was about to jump back on my bike when I looked across the road and saw the Cheese Museum! I remembered a fellow cheese fanatic friend of mine had mentioned it to me last year. My taste buds melted as my eyes feasted on all the different flavours... truffles, pesto, a rainbow of colours from blue, purple and even green! After trying nearly every cheese sample in sight, I then realised a belly full of breakfast, combined with with multiple flavours of cheese was probably not the best breakfast combination.
As I wandered along the canals to walk off my satisfied stomach I came across a large group of people all staring up at a house, curious to know what it was I then saw a small sign, “Anne Frank Huis”. Memories came flooding back to me as a child, reading the book in my bedroom, wiping away the tears. In that moment I immediately dedicated a piece of my heart route to Anne.
After gliding along the scenic streets and canals of Prinsengracht Joordan I noticed how quickly the vibe changed. Arriving at the centre of my heart route, I had also reached the HEART of Amsterdam. I came face to face with the grim reaper at the Dam Square Royal palace, dead bodies at The Body Worlds museum. Cycling through the craziness of it all, one thing remained the same, it was still full of bike lanes, and easy to ride through despite the masses of tourists.
I looked at my map, and noticed I needed to head towards the canal in order to start the other half of my heart route. As I stopped at a canal after the Dam Square to check where I was I noticed a bicycle taxi guy on the look-out for clients. He must know every single path in Amsterdam I thought, so decided to ask him for some directions.
He happily pointed me in the right direction so I could find the canal, and continue the rest of my heart route.
Before I knew it, the lines had joined again, heartful route 25, complete! After being awake since 6am and cycling the whole city until 8pm I was on the verge of passing out in hunger and exhaustion. Thank you Lorenzo restaurant... I didn't get the waiter's name, but I'm grateful for his kindness. I'm surprised I could even get my words out, I just mumbled something along the lines of, "I'm hungry". Not only did he give me a generous size portion of tasty pasta , he cracked some jokes, then took my bike basket off the table to “make my meal feel more homely”.
I pretty much passed out afterwards back at my hostel! I'll have to return again soon to see Amsterdam by night...
The following morning it was time head back to Barcelona and press pause on my Dutch adventures. Dropping my bike back at Macbikes they took a liking to my heart route and kindly decided to offer me a cute t-shirt and cap.
Before saying goodbye to this cosy city, I sat in Back to Black, a cafe I’d luckily discovered across along my heart route, directly overlooking the bicycle filled canals.
Billie Holiday played in the background while I stared out the window searching for the right words to write up about Amsterdam. A heart shaped foam smiled up at me from the cappuccino reminding me of all the kind people I’d met along the route, and helped me make route 25 possible.
No longer had I just finished Route 25, I was already starting to dream of my next heart route, and all the adventures yet to come.
Love Sarah x
It started a few years ago, a screenshot to capture the special moment, opposite sides of the world.
I've lost count now, it's become the norm, and it's only sunk in recently.
It seems to have crept up on me slowly...
The realisation that you’ll never be able to take a last minute coffee,
pop over for dinner,
or enjoy a long comforting hug.
The realisation that your future children will never grow up playing together.
The realisation that the only way you can all be together is if you cherish your vacation time, and coordinate so everyone can get at least 2 weeks together...not always an easy task when you’re dealing with multiple countries!
July 2017, all spread out around the world.
I’ve simply had to accept the fact that none of us will ever agree on one country to all settle in.
However, with acceptance comes comfort, maybe we all have different destinies, life has a different plan for us all.
So here we are are, on our way to Cambridge, my mum and sister by my side,
Their faces not in a phone,
Not in an ipad,
Not in a computer,
But physically there, next to me.
Soaking up the realisation, a warm sense of gratitude filled by body.
What I once took for granted, I now cherish with every inch of my being.
To physically be able to spend time with them, and not through a screen, was honestly the best birthday gift.
No longer a snapshot,
But here by my side.
Follow me below
All Amsterdam Australia Barcelona Brazil Buckingham Cambridge England Europe Formentera France Frankfurt Germany Hackney Holland Italy London Madrid Milton Keynes Munich Netherlands Norfolk Perth Richmond Rio De Janeiro Rome Seville Spain Toulouse Uk