As the world celebrated the first International Yoga Day on June 21, Scott Fifer and Ted McDonald were reflecting on a yoga trip they took to Peru. McDonald, a teacher at 5 Point Yoga in Malibu and founder of Adventure Yoga Retreats, a company that takes groups of people all over the world to travel and practice yoga, collaborated with Fifer, founder of GO Campaign, a nonprofit dedicated to providing relief and funding to schools in over 28 countries, to plan a luxury trip to Peru, mixing yoga, a resort stay and service visits to local schools and orphanages.
The two were connected together by a friend who thought their work would go well together.
“They knew the work I did helping kids around the world and they knew that Ted had Adventure Yoga Retreats and liked to do these trips so they said, ‘Hey, you two should hook up and Ted, you should add a service component to your trip. It would make it so much more meaningful to give back to the local people,’” Fifer said.
The first trip Fifer and McDonald took together was to Kilimanjaro. Fifer shared that the trip was “fantastic” and they decided to plan additional trips. That’s when Peru was selected.
“We chose [Peru] because it’s really such a magical place and we have such great projects there that support the kids,” Fifer explained. He and McDonald traveled together to Peru for the first time last year. This year, they traveled with a team of 12, ranging in age from their 30s, 40s, 50s and a 72-year-old.
The eight-day trip included hiking Machu Picchu, a train ride through the Sacred Valley, yoga led by McDonald once or twice a day, dining at some of Peru’s finest restaurants and visiting schools to which GO Campaign provides funding and assistance.
“To drive to the school, you have to go up through the mountain,” Fifer said. “It’s at a high elevation. You get lost on the way. So I sort of felt kind of nervous, like we’re giving these people a great trip and maybe they won’t like that part, but the people on the trip were so moved and they all said to me at the end that the best/favorite part was spending time with those kids.”
Fifer explained that because of their remote locations, the kids are eager to meet the visitors and very grateful for their visit. GO Campaign provides a wide variety of assistance to the schools, including a greenhouse, desks or bathrooms.
“It’s whatever is the greatest need at the time,” Fifer explained. Fifer and his GO Campaign team communicate with a school leader or principal and find out what that campus needs in order to function. Based off their conversations, they are able to provide whatever help is most needed.
McDonald agreed with Fifer.
“I think the most memorable part of the trip for me, specifically, is to watch the participants on the trip have their hearts open and shed the tears and really have their hearts melt when they see the kids,” McDonald shared. “A trip like this really puts our priorities into perspective.” McDonald touched on the fact that the participants on the trip and beyond may not have a grasp on what it means to have to fend for meals and to work for just a few dollars a day.
David Freitag, a Palisadian resident and one of the 10 people who traveled with McDonald and Fifer to Peru, shared one of his favorite memories.
“One of the lasting memories would be Jonah, a six-year-old who took my hand to guide me through the home at the orphanage,” Freitag shared. “He wanted to use my camera to take pictures of our group and his friends at the center we were visiting in Cusco.”
Freitag shared that he would definitely go on another trip, and is hopeful that McDonald and Fifer plan a trip to the Himalayas.
The yoga sessions are also an important aspect of the trip. McDonald shared about why he teaches locally and globally.
“I personally believe that yoga is the perfect complement to anything you do,” McDonald said. “Whether you’re a stressed out hedge fund manager or a stay-at-home mom. It doesn’t matter. Yoga can be a big sigh of relief ... our world moves so fast nowadays, so it’s easy to fall into this whole stressed out world and yoga kind of resets that.”
McDonald was introduced to yoga by a friend of his. He had just finished making an independent film that didn’t turn out as well as he had hoped, and yoga helped him move on from that hit.
“I just fell in love with it because it was a physical, spiritual and emotional cleanse all at once,” he shared.
For more information about GO Campaign, visit gocampaign,org. For more information about Adventure Yoga Retreats, visit adventureyogaretreats.com.