lifestyle design | full-time travel | digital nomad | adventure athlete | mindful non-monogamy | yoga on & off the mat
‘Wait a sec,’ I’m sure you’re thinking. ‘Is there yoga at Planet Fitness? I didn’t think there was. Pretty sure there isn’t. Yep. Definitely not.’
Heh. Well. Yes there is-- the thing is, you have to BYO.
I should know. During the course of completing the first fifty-state skydiving road trip ever accomplished in a single journey, I’ve taken my daily yoga practice to something on the order of sixty Planet Fitness locations around the country. I’ve been the weirdo in the corner doing headstand splits and triangles under the baleful gaze of twenty different television monitors, the insistent signage (NO JUDGEMENT! NO JUDGEMENT! NO JUDGEMENT!) and the baffled glances of lookers-on.
It is weird. Yes. But it has worked.
I can, without reservation, say that choosing to get a Planet Fitness Black Card membership was the best travel planning decision we made when we were charting out Down For 50. For people like us (and, perhaps, you?) a daily fitness practice equals sanity. Doing without--or piecemealing it here and there--was never an option. For this epic quest, we knew we would be quite literally everywhere in the country. And Planet Fitness is, quite literally, everywhere in the country, with its giant buckets of Tootsie Rolls (?!) and its bagel Mondays (?!) and its pizza Fridays (?!) and its big purple shadow looming large.
Did the purple everything take getting used to? Yes. But now I dream in purple. I bleed purple. Hah. So there.
For all its ‘Murican idiosyncrasies, Planet Fitness offers a lot of value. If you’re a digital nomad in America--or regular travel is a part of your lifestyle--it’s a pretty obvious fit. However: this ain’t just for us rootless ones. Indeed: If the idea of situating a daily yoga practice at a $10-a-month gym finally pushes you to unroll your mat and rise to the occasion of that long-ago New Years resolution, so much the better. It just takes a little hacking.
I’m’a tell you how it works.
Your new--uh--yoga studio?
Right, so, yeah... It’s $20 a month instead of $10. The extra ten bucks, however--IMHO--is well worth it. First, with a Black Card you get access to all the Planet Fitness locations (which, for us, is the entire point). Secondly, you get to bring a guest whenever you go, so you can split the cost with a partner. Thirdly, you get access to the Red Light Jiggle Booth. (Okay, the official title is Body Enhancement something-or-other.) The listed benefits of the contraption are almost certainly tantamount to bullshit, but it feels fantastic--and it magically erases my morning just-woke-up-in-an-RV-bed creaks, which is entirely worth the trouble.
There are no yoga teachers at Planet Fitness (unless a rogue instructor has posted up next to you in the “Abs & Stretching” corner). You’re going to need to find your own. Luckily, YouTube is full of remarkably solid yoga teachers--and the videos are, y’know, free. A few of my go-to favorites among the teeming fray:
The music Planet Fitness has chosen for you is not--shall we say--meditative. If you don’t want Ke$ha drowning out your kundalini (or if you don’t want to be constantly answering the questions of curious weightlifters), you’re going to need a way to get your YouTube yoga teacher’s instructions directly into your brain without a tether. I use these SoundPEATS wireless earbuds. I can vouch for how well they stay in, chaturanga after chaturanga.
Planet Fitness does not stock yoga mats. They have short little gym mats made out of shiny vinyl. These are useful for no yogi/ni. Plus: If you take off your shoes without your own mat under those naked feet, you won’t get five minutes into your practice before you have a teenager in a purple shirt bashfully telling you to put them the h*ck back on.
Add to that the issue of comfort. PF gym floors are reliably very hard. Do yourself a favor and use some of the money you’re saving on a very nice yoga mat. This professional mat by Manduka is my choice. It costs about as much as a ten-class punch card at a poshity-poo yoga studio, and it will last you for about a hundred years of dedicated vinyasa flowin’.
Yoga is so much better with blocks and a strap. Planet Fitness has neither. Bring your own blocks and strap, in your own capacious mat bag (big enough to hold the pro mat, the blocks, the strap, a towel and a big water bottle -- here’s mine).
Planet Fitness is not a yoga studio. Not at all. That said: Practicing yoga at a loud franchise gym is just about the best breath-focus practice I’ve ever had. If you can practice here, you can practice anywhere. Pretty soon, you’ll find that you don’t need bamboo floors, perfect sound insulation and the soft plucking of a mandoline to get you into the zone. You’ll just close your eyes, take a deep breath, and be exactly where you need to be--even if where you are is in the middle of a fluorescent purple haze.
And that, my friends, is definitely worth $10 a month.
Over the years I've been doing the LTT thing on the continent, I've tried every method in the book. I've rented from big corporations; I've rented from cash-only mom-and-pops; I even tried buying something once. (Ranks right up there with the worst decisions of my life, that one.) As it turns out--if your passport isn't EU--the best way to rent a car in Europe is to lease a car in Europe. Weird, huh?
As it turns out, flying into France and working with a leasing agency is the highest-value method of getting it done. Leasing kinda sounds like a big, serious, expensive undertaking, but it's actually cost-effective, even if you're spending just a handful of weeks in Euro.
That said: It's not really a reasonable feat to pull off solo. You'll need to find a facilitator. The company that I recommend is the one I work with: IdeaMerge, which specializes in Citroën and brokers tax-free short-term (definition: 21-to-360-day) car leases on a "purchase-repurchase" program (a VAT-avoidance racket that the government of France has authorized since the 1950's). Here's what their deal looks like:
I've had a baby-smooth experience with IdeaMerge whenever I've used them. The paperwork is a little lengthier and you need to have your dates set well ahead-of-time, but leasing really doesn't feel different than the car-rental experience in any meaningful way. (Contrast that with the three months of hair-pulling and teeth-gnashing I did over an attempted car purchase in Switzerland for a car I was never able to so much as drive. Uggggh.)
Vroom! Problem solved, n'est-ce pas?
photo credit: marcoverch Eine ländliche Waldstraße in den Südvogesen aus der Vogelperspektive via photopin (license)
So there's this woman from a market town in the northern UK. She noticed a downhill trend in her town and in the world. So she plunked down at the kitchen table with some like-minded agitators and did some seriously interesting shit.
Not only did she change little Todmorden for the better, she provided a template for other communities to spring forward in the same way. Her motley crew isn't just feeding the randos who pick the tomatoes on High Street. They're feeding the local economy; they're feeding nodes of connection between residents; they're feeding the ideas of a generation of kids who see a future in this stuff.
This is important because the big food economy sucks beyond measure. It destroys our human ability to care for ourselves, dismantles our relationship with the fuel that runs our bodies and fractures the local community groups that keep our lives sane and grounded.
As I write this, I'm living in an idyllic, mostly agrarian region. Here, private backyard food gardens and garden lots are the norm but it's impossible to get produce in the grocery store that isn't packaged in plastic and shipped cross-continentally. In Britain--where the indomitable Pam Warhurst is fighting her battle for kindness, inclusionism and full tummies, dairy farmers can't make a living because they're being far underbid by factory-farm milk shipping in from the east. And it upsets me to even get started about how it's goin' down in the USA. As the NRDC so aptly notes,
And that's not hyperventilating chicken-littlin', either. You can't be any kind of woke if the very stuff on which you live is the stuff that also feeds the system that's killing us.
I get back to the States in a couple of weeks. I'll be there for six months. And I pledge to you here and now that I'm not going to step foot in a bog-standard grocery store for that entire term. I'm going local, and--if you're reading this--I'm taking you with me. Watch this space.
(I'm Annette Lyn O'Neil. Hi.)
I've been a freelancer for my entire professional life, a yogini since 2007, a digital nomad traveling full-time since 2009, an airsports athlete since 2010 and a practicing ethical non-monogamist since 2012. Basically, I've made my life a lifestyle design laboratory for as long as I can remember, and I created Sustainable Lunacy to share what I've learned.
If any of this helps you orienteer your circuitous way through the thorny, startling, abundant forest that looms invitingly aside the path, it would be my honor to show you the little meadows I've found here and there.