Video: Hooping around the world

Our incredible journey has come to an end. It’s been a magical experience on all dimensions – exploring new countries & cultures, spending quality time with family & friends and learning more about the world and ourselves. But our blog wouldn’t be complete without one last video:

“365 days, 6 continents and 1 hula hoop”

Now, we are excited to be back in the Bay Area. Off to our next adventure!


Hula Hoop Retreat in Bali

Group pic

Friends reunion at the hula hoop retreat

Why hula hooping? One could say it all started about 9 months ago in Ibiza, a Spanish island in the mediterranean sea. It was my bachelorette weekend. Teeba, one of my close friends, had organised an incredible three days. And one of the agenda points was a hula hooping session! Back then Teeba, herself a talented hooper already, was toying with the idea of starting her own hoop company in Dubai (by now her company Flowground is a successful hoop enterprise in the Middle East!). We girls were curious to see what it was all about and Teeba was excited to test her hula hoop teaching concept with us. We ended up hooping to music on the beach during sunset. I loved the whole session. It’s like your long forgotten inner child suddenly appears. It wants to play. It wants to learn. It wants to move. Not only was the session fun and a good workout, to me it was also a form of dance. I was hooked. The next important milestone was Teeba’s wedding present to me one month later: a collapsible hoop that I could take with me on our world travels. Over the next few months I kept practicing some basic moves. I got better at it, but to be honest, my discipline faded a bit given other activities that were on Christian’s and my agenda. So when I heard about the one week intensive hula hoop retreat that my girlfriends planned to attend in Bali it seemed like a once in a lifetime opportunity. When would I ever get the opportunity again to spend one week with my best friends, fully immersing myself in the art of hooping. If not during our year off, when then? So Christian, being the incredibly supportive husband he is, and I embarked on a 40-hour journey from Brazil to Bali – and in the process throwing all of our intended travel plans in South America and Africa overboard.

Fast forward to March 2015 and here we are in Bali at the Sacred Circularities hula hooping retreat. Hooping means a lot of different things to different people, so instead of summarising my experience alone I thought it might be more interesting to learn about our individual journeys. Hear directly from Teeba, Pato, Shilpa, Christian (yes, he signed up last minute to the retreat too!) and myself on what it was like.



Teeba, the chief hoop fairy of Flowground

A WEEK long Hula hoop Retreat. Sacred Circularities. Bali. My Hoop idols. My 3 closest friends (and CSW joining in last minute). A Hoop Community.

I think my brain was going to pop. I probably spent every possible (non-working) moment before the retreat day dreaming about sacred circularities, and probably drooling in the process. I just knew what to expect. It was going to be one of the best weeks of my life, no doubt: full of amazing experiences, lots of learning, and fun times with my closest friends & hoop community. An added bonus: I have never been to Bali before and been dreaming of going there for years, plus I haven’t had a vacation and barely any weekends off in 6 months as I have been so swamped with work.

Ahhhh!!! I felt like I was a kid going into a candy store for the very first time!

What I did not take into consideration is the theme of SCBali 2015, which was the year of realization. I mean… what could that possibly mean?

We start of the retreat on the wrong road literally, winding through rice fields, to arrive 30 minutes late to the opening circle, but once we get there, I feel the presence of that moment and the power of the opening circle as we all introduce ourselves and set our intentions. My intention was to really get to know & indulge in the community. I have always been someone that suffers from what they, and especially Basel [Teeba’s husband] calls “high expectations”, but my experience was just on par, including but not limited to:

  1. Insane workshops of balances, wobbles, and scorpions…
  2. Learning… to breathe, send balls of light, finally getting the chest roll, drill twins, and killer combos all the while injuring a toe (a minor injury is a given lol)
  3. Deep thought… and deep laughter moments at workshops, room balcony, bathrooms, lunches, you name it
  4. Amazing performances; and a learning to not chicken out next time and do one of my own
  5. Awakening physical moments of HoopYogini and awakening mindful moments at in-depths of my hoop idols
  6. Bonding with my closest friends, with hoopers all over the world and reuniting with a Canadian family that I never knew before
  7. Bonding with the wildlife: seeing an insect (forgot its name) dance with Caterina, and a snail eating a coconut in slooooo moooo
  8. Private sessions including a mind-opening business coaching by Jocelyn and a flow coaching by Caterina where we develop my own move based on my own flow.

Yet, there was still something off for me. I always remember professor Kaplan saying: Happiness = Reality – Expectations. It’s not that I wasn’t happy but there was something that was clearly off for me.

I had my realisation at my shamanic healing session with Malaika. I chose to do the healing due to my gastric issues, but came out of it with much more. I go into the session and pull a card called “Goddess of the Earth”, which indicates the need for grounding, and another one “Core Healing”, which I guess is self explanatory.

Funny enough, Malaika explains it very clearly in the closing circle as well. It’s as if she read my mind. I have been always the type of person who experiences new things and indulges in experiences, and cannot wait to share it with the world. I have invited 4 of my closest friends who have never really experienced the hoop and its community to join me at the retreat, and expected them to come with the same expectations that I had, which left me very ungrounded for most of the experience. Little did I know, that my lesson was, not only for this experience but for many in the past and in the future, that just being present, while allowing others to experience their own path and go through their own process, will rub off on them and the goodness will spread on its own. And it did.

To my friends, and to the community: we all came in as individuals, with different intentions & expectations… from separate environments, separates lifestyles, separate mindsets, separate communities… completely different lives all together. Yet we all bonded in this one place through each other. Through this process we were able to understand each other more, and understand ourselves more. And we came out as ONE.

At closing circle, Caterina approaches me and tells me that she has been thinking of the move that we developed together and what the intention should be behind it: grounding. With disbelief, I smile at her, share my own realizations, and tell her that my move is now officially called: Goddess of the earth. A move that I always flow with, ground myself with and will always remind me of this experience.

I end with a quote that Jaguar Mary shared “Don’t be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own Myth” – Rumi. Now I know what the year of realization means… and especially for me, and for those around me. Thank YOU for being part of my realization.

Hoop love,
Teeba Alkhudairi
Chief Hoop Fairy




Sacred circularities… I didn’t know what to expect when I signed up for the retreat in Bali but I knew that I would have the opportunity to spend quality time with the friends I love so much so I was up for the adventure. And it was an adventure…partying under the stars until my body had no more energy, getting lost on rice crop fields whilst laughing and hardly seeing what we were walking on, meeting people from all over the world who dance sooooo freely and beautifully with their hoop partners, feeling my body exhausted after full days of concentration and learning, having quality talks with “the birds” [reference to our group of friends] in the balcony, yummy food, amazing massages … it felt like another world in the world….a world where people dance, teach each other, smile, laugh, where there is time to meditate, to feel free, to recharge….!

I hope the inspiration I got will stay with me to drive me to practice and practice until I can also be one with my hoop. I hope there will be more of this yearly experiences that help me see the many worlds there are in this world.



Teeba introduced us to the hula hoop quite a few months ago but just like most things I do, I went through phases – couple of weeks where I would really practice and try to dance with it and then long “dry patches” where work/ travel/ general impatience would take over. As a result, I went into our hoop retreat in Bali completely unprepared – like a student that had only read the 1st chapter of a 500 chapter book. Plus all the meditation, healing and spiritual bonding stuff sounded weird to me.

I have always loved Bali but being there with my three HBS “soul sisters” would be an entirely special experience altogether. So even though I knew I was quite out of my comfort zone and my element, I decided on day 1 to let go of my cynicism and just go with the flow.

The entire week and experience blew my mind – it was so much more amazing than I had ever imagined it could be. In addition to spending quality time with some of my closest friends in the magical place that is Ubud, I discovered a whole new community. A community of people that are the most creative, collaborative and friendly people one can meet. I saw beautifully flowing hoop dance by teachers and students alike. I stumbled my way laughing through workshops and drills, realizing that even though I was learning only 10% of what was being taught, that was already double of what I knew before. I connected with myself and the spiritual world through deep, meaningful meditation sessions and I danced, laughed and ate with both old and new friends. This trip was something else and I could not have had better companions for the journey!


Learning new tricks

Learning new tricks

When Christine decided she wanted to do the retreat, it crossed my mind that maybe I should join her, but I quickly decided not to because hooping isn’t really my thing. However last minute I had a change of heart. I figured that if there’s ever a time to push myself out of my comfort zone and try new things, now is the time as we take a year off to travel and broaden our horizons. And I can say emphatically, I’m so happy with my decision.

My first day at the retreat was very intimidating. Watching the other hoopers around me felt like they could be a Cirque du Soleil troupe and I felt like a fraud being in the same retreat as them. However, each of the other participants couldn’t have been more welcoming to me, helping me to learn the most basic of moves while they learned to perfect some of the trickiest of moves. Throughout the week, I was inspired by each of them and often mesmerised at the fluidity of their hooping.

What’s wonderful about hooping is that, like many other sports and games, one can get into a state of flow and feel an intense sense of happiness as they do it. I’m glad to have discovered this and excited to be hooping.




When I reflected on the retreat the following words came to my mind: intimated, encouraged, inspired and connected. Here is why.

Intimidated, at first. Encouraged, later. Imagine you find yourself among 30+ people. You know how to keep the hoop on your hip and have a few select tricks in your box. But everyone around you seems to be a professional and puts on an incredible show. Was I at the right workshop? Maybe this was a bit out of my league? My fear, however, was short-lived. Not only did our teachers structure the sessions so that beginners could follow but the whole community was incredibly supportive. Many times during the sessions and at the hoop jams did fellow hoopers, unpromptedly, approach me and offer their guidance and support. It was during many of those interactions when I had my “aha” moments, finally getting the gist of a new trick!

Inspired. One of my personal goals for the retreat week was to continue my journey of “connecting with myself”. Now, admittedly, that sounds a bit esoteric so let me explain. I feel as we go through life we develop a certain picture of “who we are” and “who we are not”. And as part of that we are put into specific boxes, by others but mainly by yourselves. You might think you are the “responsible one, always in control”, “the ambitious one, always focused on career”, “the creative one”, “the adventurous one”, “the worrying one”, and so on. Having had a break from our life in San Francisco, I kept thinking about my own mental picture of myself. Are there any hidden sides that I never explored due to other priorities? What about personal traits that were more pronounced when I was younger that I neglected over time? And that’s where hooping comes into the picture. Every time I hoop I forget the world around me. I am just focused on the movement. In a way, it is meditative, a state of flow. The more I hooped the more I realised how much I love dance. I always liked dancing but I never realised what role it could or should play in my life. When I hoop dance I let go of all my worries and tensions. And with that comes a lot of energy. It’s a release and a recharge at the same time. The other thing that surprised me was how creative one can be with the hoop. Hooping is a way of self expression. Each participant at the retreat had their very own style. Sure, a lot of the tricks are similar, but the way people move is truly unique. Hooping lets your personality and temperament shine through. There are energetic hoopers, graceful and soft hoopers, acrobatic hoopers. It was incredibly inspiring to watch my fellow hoopers and the sheer amount of talent. It felt to me that there is no right and wrong. Hooping encourages you to explore who you are. And with that I got more confident in my own self expression, not worrying about what others might think about me. It’s a very liberating feeling.

Connected, with my friends and the hoop community. One of the highlights of the retreat was spending time with my close friends Teeba, Pato and Shilpa. Being spread across the world, every opportunity for us to connect is special. It was a first for all of us, however, to attend a retreat together. And going through this experience we got to know each other from yet another angel which was very special. The other big revelation for me was the hoop community itself: a diverse set of people with different backgrounds and outlooks on life. Yet, the hoop created an invisible bond. I could have not imagined that this community of warm and loving people would play such an important role on my own personal journey.

SC group picture

Our Sacred Circularities Group!


A special thank you goes to:

  • Teeba (Flowground) for introducing me to the hoop, teaching me how to use it and continuously inspiring me to continue this journey.
  • Jaguar Mary and the entire Sacred Circularities team for organising an outstanding program.
  • Our hoop dance teachers Babz Robinson, Caterina Suttin, and Tiana Zoumer for being awesome and incredibly inspiring! You girls rock!
  • All the other amazing teachers who helped create a meaningful experience from further hoop tricks, meditation, yoga, HoopYogini to 5 Elements dance.
  • The SC community for sharing your tips & tricks, laughing a lot, being playful and above all, for sharing your personal experiences.

Snapshots of China



Having been to Beijing before during the frenetic times of the Beijing 2008 Olympics, I was curious to return to see what the city looked like when it was “business as usual.” Somewhat surprisingly, it almost felt like the city was even more frenetic this time round. Traffic was heavier. Air pollution was thicker (smog prevented us from seeing the sun during the 4 days we were there). And it even felt like security checks were more intense (for example, you now go through security checks for the metro and many popular public monuments). But after spending 3-weeks in almost isolation in Mongolia, Christine and I were ready to take on a big city.

We hit the key tourist sites like Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. We also did a tour of Peking University after I presented to the MBA class there on careers post business school and why they should be using LinkedIn (yep, months after leaving my job at LinkedIn I’m still cheerleading for them. Go LinkedIn.). And we searched around for the best food Beijing has to offer from Peking Duck to Cantonese specialties (stuff I grew up with) to Hot Pot.

Great Wall of China

Visiting the Great Wall was just breathtaking, even second time around. When I did it the first time back in 2008, we went to the more “popular” (read: touristy) section of Badaling. Luckily, this time my wonderful friend and China expert, Nat Gray, encouraged us to go to the more secluded section of Jinshanling. We followed her advice and are so grateful we did.

We visited on a Sunday morning. There was kind of an eery feeling we arrived, in part due to the dense mist in the air, but mainly due to the fact that there was no one else around. Here we were, visiting one of the world’s most popular tourist attractions on a weekend and we were the only people in sight! It took us almost an hour before we saw other people on the Wall, and even then, we probably only saw about 20 or so other people during the four hours we traveled along the Wall. It was an incredible experience.

While driving to and from the Great Wall we did a bit of reading up on the history. Many of us know it was built to help defend China from its aggressive neighbours like the Mongols. What we didn’t previously know is that sections of the Wall were originally built even before China was a unified kingdom by the separate independent states. It wasn’t until the Qin dynasty (221-207 BC) when China was unified as a single kingdom did the project begin to make it a Wall for a unified China, and hence the moniker the “Great” Wall. Interesting, no?

Xi’an and the Terracotta Warriors

We put a 2-day stop in Xi’an on our itinerary largely to see the Terracotta Warriors. We were pleasantly surprised that Xi’an is a wonderful city in its own right. It also has a rich history, being the original capital of the unified China up until the Tang dynasty ended around 907. Some of the top things to do in Xi’an are to visit the old town (particularly the Muslim Quarter where you get to taste some incredible street food) as well as marvel (or better still, bike ride around) the 14km city wall.

Nonetheless, seeing the Terracotta Warriors was the highlight of our trip to Xi’an. The quick history on the Terracotta Warriors is that they were built by the first emperor of the unified China, Qin Shi Huang back around 210 BC. The purpose was for the army to ensure he would be as powerful in his afterlife as he was during his time in the real world. It is said he kicked off the project when he was 13 years old, and had 600,000 people work on it until his death at age 50. But the project was never officially documented so it wasn’t until some peasant farmers in 1976 accidentally stumbled upon it when trying to get water from a well that the incredible work was discovered.

The museum is incredibly well done. It is built on the actual site that the Terracotta Warriors were found and excavated, leaving each of the pieces in their original places. Being there makes you feel like you are part of an archaeological excavation. But what blew me away was that while there are tens of thousands of these life-size warriors, each of their faces is distinct. Incredible.

Jiuzhaigou and Huanglong

One of China’s not-so-secret natural treasures is Jiuzhaigou National Park. I say “not-so-secret” because even though most people outside of China have probably never heard of this park, most people in China do know about it. And when we visited, it felt like EVERYONE in China was there visiting with us. While admittedly the crowds did detract somewhat from the experience, the park itself was nothing short of breathtaking. I truly have never seen lakes with such vibrant colours before. If I didn’t know better, I would have said they looked artificial because they were that spectacular. The blues, greens, turquoises, milky whites of them were really incredible. My words, and even our photos, don’t do it justice.

Huanglong is a couple of hours drive away from Jiuzhaigou. Although it’s a fair bit smaller, it is no less breathtaking and fortunately doesn’t attract the same drones of people as Jiuzhaigou. It ended up making for an even better experience.

We spent a full day at each of the parks. A full day was enough for Huanglong but you could probably do 2-days at Jiuzhaigou if you had the time.


Shanghai was the highlight of our time in mainland China. Partly because it is a great city. But mostly because we spent the time there with one of my closest friends, Nat Gray. As her wedding present to us, Nat organised our whole Shanghai itinerary and shouted us for everything. It was incredibly generous of her (thank you again, Nat!). First night we went out for a dinner with her and her friends at a great Sichuan restaurant followed by drinks and karaoke into the wee hours of the morning (we only could manage to stay out to 3am after getting up earlier that day at 5:30am to make our flight, but we heard others in the group sang until 5am!). Next day we were all a bit hazy but still managed to pull ourselves out of bed to have dim sum with Christine’s HBS sectionmate, Sandra Weng, and her beautiful daughter, Serena.

During our 4-nights in Shanghai, Nat organised a wonderful itinerary walking through the best parts of town; drinking with the best views of Shanghai’s famous “Bund”; and eating at incredible restaurants including a food walking tour (if you’re interested, we highly recommend “Untour” and their food tour of Shanghai). Nat also bought us tickets to take the high speed train to Nanjing (1hr 15 mins from Shanghai) so we could see the Memorial Museum to the Nanjing Massacre. Was very interesting to learn about the atrocities committed by the Japanese in China during World War II. A very moving experience.

After four incredible days in Shanghai with Nat, we got a good appreciation for life in Shanghai and felt sad to leave.

Lijiang, Shuhe and Shaxi

Lijiang was the last stop of our travels around mainland China. Again, it was a recommendation of Nat Gray (and her friend, Amanda). Funnily enough, we had several people we randomly met in China during our travels who also all recommended (unprompted) that we check out Lijiang. The charm of the place is the old town, with its old style buildings and cobble stone streets that really takes you back in time.

We had been warned that Lijiang Old Town can be a little overrun by tourists, and while it was busy, we didn’t think it was all that crowded compared to what we’d seen earlier on our trip in places like Beijing, Shanghai and Jiuzhaigou. Our accommodation was at a wonderful boutique hotel, The Bivou, which was in another old town called Shuhe, 4km from Lijiang Old Town. One of the charms of staying in Shuhe was that it was smaller and less crowded that Lijiang, while having all the same charm.

During our stay we rented bikes and rode around to other old towns in the area, including Baisha and Yuhu. The highlight of our excursion was meeting a famous doctor and herbalist, Dr Ho. Christine is going to write about this in a separate post soon.

On another day we hired a driver to take us to Shaxi (about a 2hr drive away). We had heard about the famous Friday markets in Shaxi, which have been happening since the days of trading along the Tea-Horse Road (similar to the Silk Road). It was a very special experience, and once again Christine will write a separate post on it.

There are actually so many other activities we could have done in the surrounding areas of Lijiang if we had more time. It’s funny, that even though we’re traveling the world for a year that we still sometimes feel rushed for time. But there’s just so many things to do and places to see!

Hong Kong

We had not initially planned a stop in Hong Kong. However when we found out that one Christine’s closest friends (who also acted as one of our marriage celebrants), Shilpa, had relocated there, we made sure it was a stop on our journey.

It was so nice to reconnect with Shilpa. Although I was out of action for a couple of days (recovering from a cold I caught on our last day in Lijiang), the girls explored the city together, bringing their hula hoops along for good measure. We also got to catch up with Greg, an Australian gut we met in Cappadocia, for dinner. He recently moved there with his fiancee to teach English at a local school. We learned from Greg that Hong Kong has a number of fantastic hiking trails and beaches, which he had just started exploring. They sound pretty amazing. We didn’t get around to doing any on this trip (my illness and a typhoon warning kept us mainly indoors) but now are keen to return to Hong Kong to check them out.


Hula Hoops and Smiles in Mongolia 

IMG_3979 (Small)

People stare at me and my luggage when I walk through an airport. Their attention is drawn to what looks like a big shiny neon yellow and orange ring that is hanging over the handle of my pink carry on bag. My hula hoop.

Teeba, one of my good friends and a passionate hooper, suggested I try hooping as well. We both love to dance and besides being a great workout, hooping is a form of self expression and, if done to music, a form of dance. Her wedding present for me: a collapsible hoop that I could take with me on our world tour! I love it.

One of my goals on our journey is to get better at hooping (but more on that at a later point as I’m still in the beginner’s stage). However, so far the hoop also had another, unexpected effect on our journey. It helped us connect with people around us, bridging any cultural or language barriers. This shiny toy attracts attention. It sparks curiosity. From little kids to older people, without us prompting, they come over, pick up the hoop and just play. It’s as if the hoop brings out their inner child.

Here are a few impressions from Mongolia. The hula hoop helping us meet new people and creating lots of smiles.