Sometimes I think I can split my life in half, before and after I volunteered at Govinda Valley in 2013.It was my first week in Australia when I decided to buy the Australian version of the WWOFF book but never really imagined volunteering for months.
If you’ve read this, you know that I decided to leave Italy because in desperate need of answers about myself, my life and my dreams. I was in a late twenties crisis (does it exist or am I the only one?) and felt there was so much more about me that I didn’t even bother considering before.
At the end of summer 2012, I packed a few clothes into my backpack and bought a one way ticket to Sydney. It took me three months to understand that even if I was living in Australia, my dream land, nothing changed in my approach to life from when I was residing in Italy. I was still busting my ass at work, trying to save as much money as possible while narrowing my free time to avoid those painful moments that forced me to look deep inside my soul.
Then, in January, I decided to give this WWOFFING experience a shot, opened the book and felt overwhelmed by the amount of options I had. I still don’t know what brought me to select that particular yoga retreat centre; I just know I wrote an email saying I was happy to join them for a few weeks and offer my passion for cooking in exchange for accommodation and meals. A couple of days later I was leaving Sydney for good ready to embark on this new exciting adventure.
I remember carrying my incredibly heavy backpack and another hand luggage I’ve bought when I recognized that in those first three months in Sydney I collected an incredible amount of new clothes and shoes to fill at least another baggage. I was sweating like crazy while trying to understand the way from the station of Otford to Govinda Valley and in the meantime, I was telling myself “Everything was going great. Did I truly need to leave my comfort zone one more time?” And then I got there, in a place that looked like heaven.
What exactly is Govinda Valley?
It’s the most peaceful place to hold a yoga and wellness retreat, set on 20 acres of forest and landscaped grounds, surrounded by hundreds of acres of nature reserve, valleys, waterfalls and walking trails. Govinda Valley is located just a few minutes away from the Royal National Park and the beautiful beaches of the Illawarra Coast where I happily spotted whales and dolphins during my stay.
The main building hosts a spacious yoga hall, a large dining room and another smaller yoga hall. Attached to it are located two wings with a total of 18 rooms and a mixture of shared and ensuite accommodation.
The property offers a variety of spaces, including an organic garden and large recreation areas for you to practice yoga and meditate outdoor. And to feed your eyes, your body and soul – you’ll taste some of the best vegan and vegetarian food you’ll possibly have in your life. No, you are not going to starve here!
So basically I loved Govinda Valley from the very first moment I put my eyes on it. The funny thing is that I was not even a yoga fan at that time. I’ve tried a class in my early twenties, found it incredibly boring and never went back. And to be honest, I was not exactly a big fan of shared rooms and toilets either. But then something happened, and the one month I was supposed to spend there turned into six incredible months.
The truth is there is something magical about that place and the people I’ve met there. Those 20/25 volunteers coming from all over the world together with the residents of the centre are the people that changed my life.
There was the guy who encouraged me to give yoga another try and will always have the credit for making me fall in love with it.
The girl who travelled with me all around Australia and became one of my closest friends.
The woman who taught me to cook amazing vegan and vegetarian meals.
The person who told me that I didn’t’ need to make loads of money to live a happy life.
The guy who taught me to live the moment fully present, to follow my heart and stop overthinking every situation and decision.
Govinda is where I fell in love with Australia even more, where I understood yoga is not monotonous at all but rather exciting and challenging, where I learned to stop judging people for what they wear and how they look like, where I became a vegetarian. It’s the place that transformed me into the person I am now – a nomad, a yogi, a dreamer, a vegan and someone who rarely needs to buy a new suitcase for clothes and shoes.
Sometimes I ask myself what would have happened if I wouldn’t have sent that email. Where would I be and what kind of person would I be? But after all – does it matter? No, not really.
WHERE TO FIND GOVINDA VALLEY RETREAT:
Address: 51 Lady Carrington Rd, Otford, NSW, 2508 Australia