words: kyla rose maher
images: kyla rose maher and zach altman

Close the store. Stop teaching studio yoga. Breakup with the boyfriend. Move out of the condo. Hit the road.

Toward the end of 2018, I made a series of immense decisions that would drastically change the trajectory of my life. Undeniably, in so many ways, I loved my life as a local business owner and well-known yoga teacher nestled in my small town in Rhode Island. I had worked very hard to get where I was, and reached a great many of my goals. My retail shop and yoga studio were considered local favorites to many. I was involved in my community. My relationships were good.

Despite all those things, there was still a part of me that felt unsettled. I craved something more- something fresh and adventurous- something that would take me out of the community and place in which I had spent so much of my life. I felt compelled to bring more service into my work. I wanted a challenge, and was open to the idea of finding somewhere new to land someday (with warm weather and my future husband, of course). It blew in, arriving as an idea that eventually took over and wouldn’t stop playing in my mind:

I will simplify my life. Pack everything up, and live one month in 12 cities: teaching yoga, mindfulness, and meditation in jails, rehabs, shelters, eating disorder treatment facilities, and other in-need populations.  I will run a half marathon in every city to raise awareness for the populations I’m serving.

And that’s what I did. I started a nonprofit, planned a year long tour, and hit the road.

It was ambitious. 
And at times, it felt a little crazy.

Over the course of that year, so much happened. At the outset, I envisioned my endeavors to be an outward journey, serving others with my skills and efforts. Instead it became more of a soul searching trek of sorts, prompting me to dig deep, and do some serious work on myself. I was entering a new city every month, teaching to different sensitive groups, having to adjust to a new routine with no local knowledge, and often not knowing a single person. I started to question and look at layers of my identity. I tried new things. I was pushed far beyond my comfort zone. By necessity, I got really good at meeting new people. 

The tour presented a broad array of opportunities to me – from attempting the 2-step at a hipster cowboy bar in Austin,⁣ from swimming under beautiful waterfalls in Asheville, to picking fruit for food-insecure families in Southern California, to watching the most beautiful desert sunrise I’ve ever seen in Sedona, and countless other experiences I will never forget. What had the most profound effect on me though, was that I started doing a lot of running.

Running became my way of exploring new places. On trail. Up mountains. Through some of the country’s most beautiful terrain. I joined running clubs all over the country. It was my social outlet. My way of processing feelings. It empowered me to keep going, one foot in front of the other, when things got tough. It made me feel connected to people, to the places I was visiting, and to myself. Over the course of the year, I road tripped 12,315 miles in my van, ran in 33 states and 12 national parks, joined 11 different running clubs, raced 139.8 miles and explored countless miles on foot.

When I landed in Bozeman, Montana for the month of October, I knew I had discovered a seriously special place. (I should note: this is not intentionally an ad for moving to Bozeman. The Montanans would kill me!)  Aside from the thousands of miles of accessible mountain trails to explore, the wide open space, and breathtaking beauty all around, most noticeably it was the people that inspired me to move here after my traveling year was complete.

It was here in this little mecca for mountain badasses, young and old, that I found a community for my new passions and this new chapter of my life. I discovered a local community of trail runners who were as driven by adventure and excited by outdoor challenges as I now was. Because of that, it felt quite natural making friends and feeling at home here. I can’t think of many places where you can send out a group text for a sunrise trail run up a grueling mountain on a Saturday morning, and 11 people show up. Friends I made through the local running store, Bozeman Running Company, and friends of those friends – all connected through our love of mountains and running. Yup, found my people.

That said, I didn’t start out the year specifically looking for a new friend group to run up steep trails with. A common question I get when telling my story is, “sooo…. did you find what you were looking for?”

I was looking to bring yoga to the underserved. Instead, I found a lot of groups that needed food and shelter first.⁣

I was looking to explore new cities. Instead, I found the mountains.⁣
I was looking to expand my yoga brand. Instead, I found out that I’m more than my work.
I was looking for warm weather. Instead, I found Montana.⁣
I was looking for speed. Instead, I found endurance.⁣
I was looking for growth. Instead, I found transformation.⁣
I was looking for new friends. Instead, I found a family.
I was looking for love. Instead, I found myself.⁣

I don’t think it’s necessary to quit your day job, buy a van, and gallivant around the country in order to find yourself, but perhaps this will inspire someone to look beyond their current routine and see if something else is calling them from deep inside. You may find what you’re looking for. You may find something better.

Keep growing. Embrace change. Find your community. Run far. Roam free.

Along her 12 month journey, Kyla volunteered or donated her services with the following charities and organizations:

Mobile Loaves & Fishes

Urban Peak Co
Johnson Adult Program

The Arc of Multnomah Clackamas

Los Angeles
First to Serve
Food Forward
Taught inmates in Ventura as part their volunteer firefighting program (there’s no official organization associated with this)

Santa Fe
Santa Fe Water Shed

The Arc of Buncombe County

The Nashville Food Project

Eagle Mount

Flagstaff Family Food Center