Performing the Samakonasana Adho Mukha Vrksasana yoga pose on the Thai island of Koh Tao

Kristin Brassett takes her adventures to great heights

The happiest time in Kristin Brassett’s life was when she had nothing but the pack on her back.

In early 2015, unfulfilled, overweight and reeling from her mother’s death, Brassett decided to take a spiritual journey to Rishikesh, India, to train in the yoga capital of the world. The trip was supposed to last six weeks, but Brassett broke off her engagement, canceled her plane ticket home, and stayed for nine months, exploring India and neighboring Nepal.

“I wanted to go someplace spiritual and be healthy,” says Brassett, now 33. “I wanted to heal both my body and my mind and I didn’t think Louisiana would be the place to do that.”

Kristin poses with the Nepali flag at snow-covered Tilicho Lake in Nepal.

Her desire to explore started early. She danced as a girl growing up in Baton Rouge, and she traveled to Australia to perform during the 2000 Olympics.  “I always knew I wanted to go somewhere,” Brassett says.

After graduating from LSU with a degree in chemical engineering in 2010, she backpacked across Europe, visiting the usual western European countries but also Turkey and Croatia, which turned out to be her favorites.

Struggling after her mother’s death, Brassett found her peace among international travelers and locals in the foothills of the Himalayan mountains. She met of a group of Israelis and traveled with them, learning basic Hebrew in the process. She shared a guesthouse with other travelers. She saw the Dalai Lama speak.

Alone on a train, Brassett befriended a woman and her family who let her sleep in their section and share their meal because she was traveling without a male companion.

Trekking with friend Agrima on horseback to Tilicho Lake, located at an altitude of 16,138 feet in the Himalayas

“I love off-the-beaten-path places where you really get to be in the culture,” Brassett says. “Otherwise, you’re not going to experience what the local people are doing, and that’s what’s so refreshing and where you feel so alive.”

Her best times were spent in the Himalayas, where she rode a Royal Enfield motorbike so high in the mountains she experienced altitude sickness. She hiked around Mt. Everest and attended a Tibetan funeral along the Tamang Heritage Trail. There, she witnessed members of the village bringing food for the funeral at night, their winding path lit by lights, and listened to Tibetan monks praying in the monastery.  She helped grind buckwheat with Tibetan women to make porridge in the morning, she says.

Over the years, Brassett has come to define herself as a traveler and not a tourist. Tourists stay in all-inclusive resorts and don’t experience the true culture of the area, she says. Travelers, on the other hand, stay in one place for longer periods of time and truly explore and relish their experiences. “I really like to go to the places where other people aren’t going,” Brassett says.

She recommends booking or visiting places based on word-of-mouth referrals from other travelers. “Those people aren’t posting on TripAdvisor,” she says.

Lakshman Temple in Rishikesh, India

Of the past four years, Brassett says she has been home no more than seven months. The rest of the time she has spent in India and Nepal.

To support herself overseas, she taught yoga and also sold vegan food at an ex-pats farmers market, she says. She would also keep an eye out for beautiful handmade textiles and goods to purchase from locals to later sell as a way to make a living.

Today, Brassett works as a yoga instructor in Baton Rouge and hopes to one day get her master’s degree in environmental sustainable development and policy making. Overseas, she saw the devastating effect of litter and pollution on the natural environment, she says.

But for now, Brassett is right where she needs to be. “I’m happy to be here,” she says.