I had the pleasure of speaking with Erica Hartnick, one of the beautiful brains behind Yoga Trade, the site that connects travel and yoga enthusiasts with work, volunteer, and learning opportunities all over the world. Sound like something you’d love? Check it out. But proceed with caution, you may find yourself packing your bags before you know it. She shared some wisdom about starting a business and staying balanced.
In your words, where did the idea for Yoga Trade come from?
I had been a traveling yoga teacher for many years. I graduated from my first yoga training in 2010, and I just wanted to travel and surf and teach yoga. So, I was just trying to make that happen on my own. I was constantly googling places (like eco-lodges with surfing where I could teach yoga — that was my dream job), and I was sending out a ton of emails, like maybe 50 to 100 emails and I was getting just a few responses.
But I had the opportunity to travel; I went to Costa Rica, Fiji, Indonesia and I taught yoga in exchange for room and board. It was a great trade and allowed me to see the world and make great contacts. It was amazing for me. Along the way I was able to meet Christie [one of the other founders of Yoga Trade], and she’s on the other end of the spectrum. She and her partner Pat co-manage a yoga farm in Costa Rica and they have a volunteer program.
We became really good friends. One time, we were on a trip together in Bali, and I remember I was on the airplane and I had this flash of insight. I’d been traveling, at that point, for several years, and I was really grateful for all the experiences, but I really wanted to give back somehow. I wanted to share this with people. I thought, you know, there should be a resource for yoga teachers for jobs and volunteer experiences. I told Pat and Christie about it in 2012 and we thought, yeah, we’re going to do this.
How did you find opportunities to put on the site?
When we first started we’d all been in the yoga/travel industry, so we had a lot of contacts. And before we did anything, we sent out a press release email saying that we were going to create this resource, so let us know if you want to make a posting for any kind of exchange or job. Really, it started as a word of mouth, organic type of thing, and slowly the word has been spreading.
What were some of the challenges of getting it all started?
All of us have a lot of ideas, but I’d never really taken action on them. But with this, I felt such a strong feeling that this is what I was supposed to do. I need to walk this path and I felt super passionate about it. But, we didn’t have any money, or really any experience in this website/business world. But we just decided to stick it out and put one foot in front of the other. We’re still learning today, but our challenges were that we understand travel and yoga very well, but putting together the website and running the business was more difficult. We’re still learning the best way to run an online business.
If you could think of one thing you had to learn to get it off the ground, what was that?
I think I’ve learned the power of story sharing. I never really knew too much about that before Yoga Trade. When we first started, we were going to just do a classified job board, but then we thought, we should have a blog, then, oh, we should share more stories. And before this we would never consider ourselves writers or bloggers but it’s been a fun skill to take on and learn more about. It’s really helped spread the word.
What’s next for Yoga Trade?
We’re trying to provide more continuing education opportunities. There have been three phases to what we’ve done. The first was jobs, work, and volunteer opportunities, then we grew into a living yoga/wellness global community, and now we want to focus on continuing education because people want to keep learning. It’s kind of getting competitive out there in the yoga and wellness markets, so the more you learn, the more education you have, the more jobs you can get. They’ll be reiki training, ayurveda training, permaculture, and more. We want to connect people with more of these opportunities.
I feel like since you started Yoga Trade, the number of people practicing yoga and working remotely or traveling for work has just exploded. Why do you think that is? You’ve been there for this up-swelling.
Yeah, divine timing is right! There’s definitely a shift happening in the world. One, because of technology. It’s allowing people to work remotely from anywhere there’s wifi, which is a lot of places. There’s a whole cultural shift towards a nomadic lifestyle. I feel like the conventional definition of community has been a local community, but now it’s something closer to a global community. Which can be tough. I love traveling, but I’m in this phase where I just want to live somewhere for a while. I’m super grateful for all my travels, but I think it’s an interesting time in the world right now. I have this feeling that there is a shift happening and I’m just trying to be adaptive to it.
Do you feel like that shift has been a help or a hindrance to forming communities?
Well, both. I think technology and having a global community is amazing. You can connect on a huge level — more than we ever have before. Feeling that we are that connected is amazing. But there are challenges; now that it is so much easier to travel, it’s hard to focus in and be in one spot. Really, you can put your own perspective on it. It totally depends on the situation.
Okay, two part question: how do you balance running this thing, which is for yoga, with your own practice of yoga? And part two, how has your practice of yoga helped you maintain that balance?
Part one, having a business does consume you and even when I’m not really working on it, I find my mind thinking about it a lot. It’s hard to shut it off. For me, I use the morning as my sacred time. I wake up very early, and usually the first two or three hours of my day I keep technology free, so I make sure not even to look at my phone. I drink tea and do some kind of outdoor exercise, do my morning practice of yoga and meditation, and that just helps me start my day. After that, I try to have a normal work day — mostly working online — and then I try to have the evenings tech-free as well. I like to enjoy meals tech-free. It’s been challenging but I feel like I’m getting a lot better. The practice of yoga has helped me do this because I’ve learned so much about the importance of balance and taking time for yourself. Balancing tech-time and time-off is important. You have to set boundaries for yourself and be committed to what you want to do.
Then stick to it.
Yes, that’s the hard part.
If you could go back and give yourself some advice, knowing what you know now, what do you think that would be?
I’d say really spend time on the foundation [of Yoga Trade]. Being new to everything, I think we did a pretty good job developing the site, but I think I’d put more emphasis on that. Start with a clear mission, good plans, and a solid foundation. We didn’t have complete clarity when we started.
Also, I’d emphasize the power of collaboration. We tried to do most everything on our own because we didn’t have any funding, but it’s really powerful to collaborate and work collectively with experts. People are experts in certain areas with good reason, so diversifying your team is always great advice.