1.7-1.8 How My Dog Launched My Yoga Career

This is the final installment of a series called Connecting the Dots: How I Went from Being a San Francisco CFO to an Athens Yoga Instructor. The series starts here. Last week’s installment is here.


After I got back from my second trip to Athens, I knew that I wanted to return. And while I briefly thought about moving for one year, I had noticed that in my second trip, I felt some low-level anxiety about the idea that I would be leaving soon and that I should make every moment count. It was tiring to live this way. So when I thought the situation all the way through, I decided to just make it a full move to Greece. This idea excited me. People say I was brave to move to a new country alone, but I wasn’t. I didn’t feel afraid. I felt excited.


I started finalizing all the details. I sold my Audi.  For my three pets, I got the vaccinations and travel papers required for them to come with me. I told my clients I would be leaving, and we should find replacements for me. I wasn’t totally sure how I was going to earn money while living in Greece, but I had some ideas of offering remote finance services to California startups. In the end, I didn’t need to pursue this path. My biggest client decided at the last minute that they were OK with me working remotely, so for the first three years of my new Greek life, I was in Athens but going back and forth a lot to the US still working as a part-time CFO for an interactive agency in San Francisco. And I said goodbye to my friends, who throughout this whole journey were supportive every step of the way. While sad to see me go, I think they were excited at the idea of coming to visit me in Greece.


I arrived in Athens on February 10, 2012 with two crates of animals, a large suitcase of clothes and a special backpack to carry all my electronics. And so my Greek life began. I had a temporary apartment for two weeks, and then I found my current apartment near Acropolis. I remember when the realtor showed me the roof deck, I was amazed at the idea that I would be able to live there.


In the beginning, I knew only a few people from my prior trips so I was truly building a brand new life. There were good days, and there were hard days. Sometimes I was thrilled to be living in a new country excited to hear the swirl of languages and all the new places to explore. Some days I would go home and cry because it was a struggle to do simple things like buy lettuce at the grocery store. Things like MeetUp became the way I started a social network. And while many things changed in my new home, some things remained the same. Bills had to be paid, groceries had to be bought, meals had to be prepared. I started settling into a routine. I was also spending lots of time online at night with my San Francisco client so I still felt a strong connection to California.


Things were moving along, but my main focus remained on my finance work. I was teaching a bit of yoga, but my classes were small and limited in number. It wasn’t until a few years later that I stopped doing finance work and turned my attention to yoga. Who would have known that the unsuspecting hero in the yoga chapter turned out to be my dog Roxie?


When I decided to move to Greece, there was a big open question of what I would do with my three pets; two cats and a dog. Everything actually revolved around the dog.


Roxie was a special dog, and we had a very unique bond. I found her on a website called Petfinder.com after I accidentally forgot to click the “stay in state” option. She was in Nevada, about a five-hour drive from San Francisco. I had looked at probably 400 dogs before getting to her. There was something about the way that she sat looking at the camera that won me over. She had been abandoned and had traits that I don’t always love. She was needy, clingy, jealous and obsessive about me. But she had winning traits too, extreme loyalty, sensitivity, a very sweet nature and naturally polite manners. When we were together, she was perfect. But when we were apart, she would become hysterical, trying to chew her way through the door to find me. I hired pet psychologists, behaviorists, even a pet psychic to try to deal with her issues. Nothing worked until finally, I adopted two kittens so she would have company. With her cats, she could finally cope with my absence.


I knew it was all or nothing–either all three came with me or they would stay together in California. There was a wonderful family who had offered to take Roxie, but I eventually decided that no, she was my dog and we would all stay together.


Because of her issues, I was worried about the trip. I researched all possible travel options. We could sail together in a container ship so she could be with me. But it would take a month as we had to sail around the Cape of Good Hope. We could hire a private jet so she could be in cabin with me. But it was going to be $30,000 to go just from San Francisco to New York, and while I believed I could get takers to go with me and split the cost, it still seemed prohibitively expensive. I looked at taking a train across the country and then sailing on the Queen Elizabeth II but she would be in a special “pets” section apart from me anyway. After exhaustive research, I decided she would fly cargo on Lufthansa with her cat brothers in the crate next to her. Luck was with me, and the day of the move went smoothly for everyone. Together we began our new Greek life.


A person walking a dog is a social magnet and if you are a single foreign girl walking a dog in Greece, even more so. Roxie became the basis for many of my early neighborhood social connections. “Ah, you have a dog, what is her name, where are you from, what are you doing here, do you like Greece, where do you live, do you want to have a coffee?” and so on. But the real turning point came when I had to go to San Francisco for a visit during my first year in Greece and needed someone to take care of Roxie. She couldn’t stay in a kennel with her issues, so it would have to be someone staying in my home. Maria, the daughter of the family who had the souvenir store downstairs from my apartment took on the role, living for two weeks in my apartment while I was away.


Maria would become a transformative figure in my new life, though I didn’t know it at the time. She stayed for two weeks surrounded by my yoga books and mats and when I returned, she kick started my yoga career. She suggested I go to a yoga studio she knew to see if I could teach there. Next she started a Facebook page Lynn’s Kundalini Yoga to promote my classes. People would come to my classes not even sure why they were there. “Maria sent me. What are we doing?” The community grew step by step, student by student, month by month and is made up today of over 6,000 people from all over the world. I could not have done it alone. But I got the help I needed, and it arrived, via my dog, in the form of a girl named Maria.


This connection extended beyond yoga. Maria and her family became family, and in their honest and unassuming way, they filled holes I didn’t know existed and healed wounds I didn’t know I had. And in this last dot, I’m even officially becoming “family” as I’ll be the Nona (Godmother) for Maria’s new baby Alexia.


And so there you have it, the full, or at least fuller, story of how I came to live in Greece. It has been interesting writing all this down. It brings up memories I don’t think about much any more and reminds me just how long this journey has been.


I wrote this series for two reasons. The first is that I started to understand many people had a very romanticized idea of my transition. They imagined I just one day decided to leave a perfect San Francisco life and move to Greece. As you can see from this series, that isn’t what happened.


The second reason is more important. This series is for anyone who wants to change their life. My message to you is: you can. I did. I haven’t done anything unusual or remarkable. I took small baby steps and kept moving forward until the path became clear. And by the time the big step came, I was ready. It wasn’t scary. It felt exciting. Anyone can change if they have the tools and are willing to make the journey.


I tried to highlight the dots in the hope you might find something that’s useful in your situation. People sometimes ask how I was able to find my way, despite the dark periods. I think it was because I was able to maintain a sense of myself throughout it all. In this series I’ve written a lot about KundalinI Yoga because it was a transformative tool for me. Another important tool I used during this transformation was the Enneagram System of Personality (a post about that is coming soon), a system I found in my 20s. I can’t trace it to specific dots in this journey, but it was always there, serving as a compass. Because these systems have helped me, I’ve written two books combining Kundalini Yoga and the Enneagram. I wanted to give other people more tools for their journey based on the things that made a difference for me. The books are here.


And now that my story has been written down, I am interested in compiling other people’s journeys. I know I am not the only one who has made a big life transition, and I’m always interested in the many small decision points along the way. So if you have had a big life change, and you are willing to go back and try to “connect the dots,” I’d love to hear from you. We can work together on it. You can message me at lynn@lynnroulo.com.


Thank you for reading this. I wish you luck on your way. And if you are taking the path of transformation, trust that you will get the help you need. You will. This I know.


And maybe, just maybe, I’ll see you here in Greece. 🙂


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