Following my heart

Following my heart

Words by Christina Thomas


Every client usually asks me how I ended up leaving my life in the States and following my heart to Mexico so I thought I would share my story of how I came to live here in Tulum :

One February back in 2008, when it was cold, snowy and grey in New York (you know what I mean NYers), I set out with a good girlfriend to check out some sun and fun in Mexico.  We explored Merida’s colonial architecture, ate turkey tacos with the locals, drank some really terrible tequila at a boisterous salsa bar, and then found our way (after leaving my ATM card at the airport and making several trips back and forth to Cancun) to the powdery sand beaches of Tulum.  It was a dream…neither of us could believe our eyes.  The crystal clear turquoise water, the dense jungle, the amazing yoga classes they offered free at our rustic little cabana hotel.  We ate ceviche like it was going out of style, we got Mayan healing massages and clay massages, we swam in the sea, visited the ruins, all the quintessential Tulum musts…and it was amazing!

A few days into the trip I knew this was where I needed to be…at least for a while.  One night we were laying in hammocks under the stars chatting about how you get this as your life.  My friend, a long time Corporate gal, knew of the ‘Personal Leave of Absence’ that most larger companies offer their employees.  As fate would have it, after 7 years with a small (I should probably say ‘fierce’) residential Interior Design firm, I had decided to give the big-time a chance and had signed on with an Architectural Giant who had a few offices in the City and more all over the globe.  The minute I returned to the office I asked my boss if this thing my friend had spoken of was a possibility and he confirmed my highest hope at the time.  I could take THREE months off from work!  Insurance covered and you would ‘most likely’ have your job back when you return.  That was all I needed to hear.  Two weeks later I was back on the sandy shores of Tulum as a receptionist at a jungle cabana hotel on the Caribbean (hey, the only requirement was to be able to speak English which I knew I could handle!) Insert extra special thanks to the manager who gave a girl a chance even though he swore he had heard the same old story a thousand times and would ‘never hire a New Yorker!’ (thank you Southern charm, I’m a Carolina girl after all).

Three months…in paradise!  I took yoga classes, I met new and interesting people from all over the world, I explored, tried to learn to speak Spanish (there was a LOT of charades and basic Spanish dictionaries involved), perfected my Salsa skills, drank way too many margaritas, and of course ended up meeting an extraordinarily interesting Argentinian gentleman just as my three months was about to run out.  Talk about dilemmas, there I was in paradise with a beautiful man, finally relaxed and TAN (if you knew me you would know that is close to a miracle with my Welsh complexion!) and the sand in my hourglass was moving faster than ever.

One morning as I was checking my email and drinking a killer cup of coffee from Chiapas I got a letter from the Human Resources Dept back in the Big Apple, that in fact, due to the recent turn of events with the declining economy, my office would be closing and merging with the larger office Uptown.  ‘Ms. Thomas, since you were one of the last Designers hired I am afraid we are going to have to let you go.  Your Unemployment papers are attached.  All the best to you dear and please do keep us in mind for the future.  You have been a tremendous team player and are a very talented designer.’  SWEEET!  I couldn’t believe it!  Decision made for me…I had been losing sleep over what to do, go back to the grind and be a rat in the race doing what I ‘should’ or to take a chance and live the life of my dreams in paradise and let it all unfold in a more interesting way.

I had my return ticket for NYC scheduled for June 1, so I returned, gathered up 10 years worth of New York fabulousness (4 inch patent leather heels upon heels upon heels, Fendi bags, East Village underground designer dresses, vintage fake fur stoles and coats, midnight sidewalk street finds, my snowboard and all its gear (a sad moment), amazing swag from my many, many Interior Design parties and launches, and probably the most important of all, an affordable, BIG, apartment in downtown Manhattan).   I loaded it all into a friend’s car (bonus to have friends with cars in New York!) and set up a stoop sale in Brooklyn, sold it ALL, pocketed a nice amount of cash, and bought my return ticket to paradise!

I got back to Tulum in the middle of the summer.  HOT, humid summer and it was amazing!  The cenotes always did the trick when it came to cooling down, my friends were around, the crowds were gone, and we had Tulum to ourselves.  The months rolled by and one day at the jungle hotel on the beach where I was working (still), they needed a spur of the minute yoga teacher!  All eyes turned to me as they knew I had been doing yoga on and off for gosh, longer than I should admit, but for nearly 20 years.  I LOVED yoga, had practiced with many greats in New York and had an amazing teacher in college but I had never taught a class…never even had considered it!  And here she is telling me that I have to teach in 3 days ‘just for a week’…talk about nervous!!  I could barely sleep and I walked into the class with cotton-mouth and wide eyes.  I did stumble over some words, but the sequence was nice, it flowed, it challenged, and everyone seemed super blissed out when they stumbled up from Savasana.  I was pleased overall.  One week turned into a full teaching schedule at the jungle palapa for 7:30am classes (yikes) 6 days per week.  I enjoyed it and decided  to create yoga packages including classes, all the fun exploring activities I had experienced, and recommendations on all the restaurants and taco shacks I had been testing out (one of my favorite parts of the job!).

Yoga Adventures Tulum was established in October, 2008 a few months before I learned I was pregnant with the wonderful Argentinian gentleman who had held such a special place in my heart all this time.  Nine months in paradise (please note, do NOT be 8 months pregnant in August in the Caribbean) and a beautiful pregnancy followed by a beautiful homebirth (that is another story) welcomed one of the most amazing creatures I have ever known.  A more perfect place to grow up I cannot imagine.  He comes to yoga classes, silent walking meditations, kirtans, dance parties on the beach, and is my traveling sidekick.  A love that I never knew possible.

Once you have someone else who relies on you completely, you kick it into high gear!  Retreat after retreat, client after client, we started to grow in popularity.  We grew so much we decided we needed our own yoga studio on the beach here in Tulum so Utopia Tulum was born in February, 2011.  A wonderful year on the ocean practicing yoga and creating amazing memories.  Our newest pop-up studio will be open soon.  Stay tuned for details.

Of course, I am lucky enough to get to participate in most of the retreats and trainings I organize (I am now a 200hr Registered Yoga Teacher and by the end of summer 2013, 500hr!).  Some of my favorite teachers pass through my inbox before I even know they will be.  I thoroughly enjoy sharing this sleepy little beach town with fellow yogis and look forward to many more years of helping people find their zen and building memories and bonds to last a lifetime.

Overall I can say that living in paradise is amazing, it has not always been easy and there were times I wanted to throw my hands in the air and move back to the ‘easy life’ working for someone else but I am so glad I stuck it out and watched an amazing journey unfold before my eyes.  I have incredible friends, wonderful stories and memories, a loving new family, and a gorgeous backdrop in which to enjoy it all.  I am truly blessed and ever grateful.

*This is an ever-evolving story with much more to tell. Stay tuned for the continuation of our evolution into Yoga & Adventures Worldwide coming soon…

Christina Thomas

Christina is the creator and visionary for Yoga & Adventures Worldwide. She strives to create yoga retreat experiences that open the eyes of the traveler, offering them the opportunity to consider another possibility as they explore the world around them and the world within. Her yoga retreats are designed as if she were the guest, attending to each and every detail as she would want done for her own travel leaving just the right amount of room for that incredible serendipity that makes life so special.

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