“Do I have everything I need? Am I fully prepared? I think I packed everything last night, but you can never be sure!” Everyone in the car had the same thoughts rush through their minds as they raced out the door at 5:30 AM to greet Wanderlust 2016!

The Sea to Sky highway that runs from Vancouver to Whistler is astounding. The highwway passes through mountains, down a long and windy road that runs parallel to the Pacific Ocean. As you drive along, you can smell the sweet and salty aroma of the Pacific on your left and the lush, green forest on your right. It truly is nothing short of astounding.

For most of us in the car, this is our first time attending the renowned festival.We arrived in Whistler at or around 8:00 AM and were greeted by a number of friendly faces at the registry at Whistler Conference Center. They promptly supplied us with our wristbands and a complimentary, stylish bracelet by Silver and Sage. It was at that moment that we were officially part of the Wanderlust tribe: a tribe built on the experiences and connections of past attendees. A tribe committed to to self-development, mindfulness and karmic balancing.

At 10:00am we joined Anita Cheung (The Social Yoga), Ashley Brodeur (Feelosophy) and Saje Natural Wellness for their ‘Keep Calm and Yoga On’ class, and what an unforgettably spirited class it was! Cheung’s The Social Yoga caters to fostering connections within the class. Brodeur’s Feelosophy integrates the transformative power of touch into her practice. But wait, there’s more! The duo paired with partner Saje Natural Wellness to bring an aromatic blend of delightful scents and essential oils to ‘leave you experiencing all the feels and more chill than Netflix ever could.’

Cheung and Brodeur started the class with a truly hilarious exercise to foster the connection between each participant. They asked us to arrange ourselves in alphabetical order of our celebrity crush’s first name. Not only did it encourage others to get talking, but I’m sure the sheer number of Ryan Gosling fans had something special in common. They just didn’t know it until the exercise. Ships in the night, right? We paired off with the person directly across from us, and practiced some partner positions, as well as partner meditation. The opportunity to meet and connect with somebody that you may never have had the opportunity to before is very rare, and it is very transforming. Somebody can go from a complete stranger to a warm friend in a matter of minutes.

Life was good. At that point we knew one another deeply: we knew each other’s celebrity crushes. We all returned to our mats and fell calmly into Cheung and Brodeur’s soothing instruction. As we moved deeper and deeper into the positions, a member from Saje Natural Wellness would come by with a gentle touch and a halo of scents that would leave you imagining that you were in one of the most beautiful gardens ever grown. These combinations made it easy to quiet the mind and connect to the self.

Yoga connects us. It is meant to be a social activity. Talking to someone, partnering with someone, integrating touch into the class — these are practices that foster connection. By reducing the gap between ‘self’ and ‘other’ we can limit the things that may actually get in the way of a deep and meaningful class. It limits comparison and creates an environment where one can feel supported. Some individuals are extremely comfortable being touched by someone they have never met before. For others, touch is foreign. Community and the power of touch can transform one’s life. Our team was beyond honored to kick start Wanderlust Whistler Festival 2016 with Anita Cheung, Ashley Brodeur, and Saje Natural Wellness. Namaste.

We arrived back at our hotel, and to our surprise, had been curated an incredible bag of essential items for Wanderlust from Saje Natural Wellness, Mala Collective and Tree Tribe! Essentials included everything from a handmade, personalized card to sunglasses, inspirational Mala necklaces, essential oils, yoga mat sprays, and more! Each item was selected to match each of our team member’s personalities and needs. One card wrote ‘We heard you were new to Yoga.” Each creation was a reminder to indulge in a moment of mindfulness, to breathe deeply, and to take the time to find the things in life that move you. Namaste.

After settling into the day, our team decided that it was a ‘good time to take a moment’, which just so happened to be the mantra for Moment Meditation, the world’s first mobile meditation company. Several of us crawled into the womb of an art installation, mid-village, where we were kissed by the warmth of sun-spots peeking gently through the slots of wood that surrounded us. For a brief moment in time, we inhaled, exhaled, and were taken through a meditation that focused mostly on staying present. It was the perfect reset.

At or around 3:00 PM we arrived back to the hotel to get ready for a surprise dinner hosted by Saje Natural Wellness. Nobody knew where it would be! At 4:00 PM a shuttle arrived to pick us up and escort about 40 individuals to an undisclosed location. For about twenty minutes we drove through the winding back roads of Whistler to Rainbow Lake and found ourselves entering a scene one might find in a fairy tale illustration. As we walked through a green pathway, we came to a small clearing nestled in forest, fauna and string lights. The backdrop was two snow-capped mountains off in the far distance. The sun was shining on the perfectly placed white table setting.

How lucky we were to be there. Even the drinks were beautiful: ‘Earth Nectare’ and ‘Watermelon’. The ┬ámusic was contemporary and socially inviting. Saje, you outdid yourself.

Each one of us was placed strategically with a group that we likely hadn’t met before. As we sat down to enjoy a delicious meal prepared by Chef Brian Skinner and Chef Juno Kim, they actually did something that not many chefs have the opportunity to do: talk about the food they prepared. It would be a no-waste evening with a Vegan menu curated to include only locally-sourced food. All of the items ordered to produce the meal were done so with the intent that it would leave no ecological-footprint of waste. There were no plastics, only compost bags. At this dinner, consciousness and sustainability were the words of the evening.

Just before our meal was served we were asked to discuss with the person next to us the most sustainable relationship we had in our lives, and why we thought it was so sustainable. Words like ‘commitment’ ‘communication’ and the ‘willingness’ to show up for somebody seemed to be a consistent theme. A beautiful way to meet the person next to you before sharing a delicious meal.

When our dinner was served, Chef Brian and Chef Juno delightfully introduced themselves to each group and spoke a little about who they were. It was apparent in that moment how gestures like this can actually bring us closer to the food we eat. In this instance, we were all afforded the luxury of meeting face to face the individuals who prepared the food we were about to eat — prompting a mindful awareness about what we put into our bodies. They did not disappoint. Each dish served was followed by several minutes of “Oh my God” and “Mmm!”. Each of us had the opportunity to learn about the individuals who sat next to us and to foster new relationships. It was soul food…the best kind of food. The evening ended with many hugs, thank-you’s, and a sense of contentedness.

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