Work, Travel, and Trade Around the Globe: Erica Hartnick, Co-Founder of Yoga Trade

Written by Kassia Binkowski, Contributing Editor to The Good Trade

Meet Erica Hartnick of Yoga Trade

Chasing adventure never sounded quite so relaxing. Erica Hartnick, Co-Founder of Yoga Trade, swapped her adrenaline chasing lifestyle for a more meaningful way to give back to a global community of travelers and yoga enthusiasts. We recently had the privilege to sit down with Erica to learn more about how the business was born (in Bali of all places), her vision for change, and the ways in which yoga has enriched her life as an entrepreneur.

This much we know - somewhere between Bali and the Americas the idea to build a community around travel and yoga was born. We’d love to hear more about your evolution from global traveler to innovative business owner. Tell us your story!

Well, I have had an interest in traveling for as long as I can remember. I completed my first yoga teacher training in 2010, not having the intention to become a yoga teacher, but with the intention of deepening my practice. After the training I felt a strong call to teach yoga, surf and to travel, so I let my heart steer the way! Back then there was no efficient yoga job board online, so I would just do internet research and find places that were appealing to me (centers that were focused on wellness, sustainable living, and offered surfing nearby) and then just began to send out lots of emails asking centers if they would like to have a yoga teacher come on work exchange. Through doing this, I met my great friends and now Yoga Trade partners, Pat and Christie. They run the Yoga Farm, a sustainable living and learning center in Costa Rica.

In 2012, we were all traveling in Bali and on the airplane ride there I had a flash of insight that I should create a worldwide yoga jobs network. I had been traveling for a couple years, and while full of gratitude for all my experiences, I was longing for a way I could give back and be of service on a deeper level. Over dragon fruit smoothies in Canggu one day, I told my idea to Pat and Christie. We all got super excited and had a magnetic passion for the project! We all have different and complementary skills and decided to make a commitment and go for it! We built the site and community from the ground up with time, persistence, and love. We are still continuing to learn more about business every day.

It sounds like you’ve led an incredibly active life, starting with a childhood in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. What is it that appeals to you most about yoga relative to other athletic pursuits? Why have you chosen yoga as your channel for change?

Yes, until recently, much of my life had revolved around athletics. Growing up I was super into volleyball and track. Starting in my teens I got really into snowboarding and mountain sports. I followed the “ski bum”, lifestyle and then eventually transitioned into learning how to surf. I originally found yoga as a way to rehabilitate my action sports impacted body.

Yoga rocked my world and I very rapidly noticed benefits physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I learned that the feeling I was constantly chasing after in action sports - “the gnar,” or that feeling of making powder turns or riding a wave - can actually always be found within yoga. Although I still enjoy being active in the outdoors, I have mellowed out a lot, and see the beauty in living in a more sustainable and compassionate way. Nature connection has always been important to me and I used to feel like I really wanted to share this as my channel for change, but never knew how or felt quite ready. Once I tapped into the channel of yoga, it felt even more meaningful and clear, like this is what I am supposed to do, a call to action. I guess you could say I found my purpose: to inspire others through the beauty of nature and living yoga. It just felt right to walk on this path of passion and service.

It is very clear that Yoga Trade is more than just a job board. Your small team of passionate colleagues are cultivating a much greater community committed to education, employment, and travel. What are your goals for the company? What impact do you intend for this community to have, together?

Thanks for recognizing. Yes! Although our mission is to connect the yoga and wellness community with inspiring work experiences and unique opportunities around the world, our roots lie much deeper. Beyond just a place to connect with work exchanges and jobs, we are devoted to fostering a global community with sustainability, mindfulness, and connectedness at the core. We intend to be a bridge on the path of development and discovery for everyone involved. For us, this is what it means to live yoga. We envision a creative mindful community that inspires people to take action for positive change.

Building an international business, cultivating a global network, and fulfilling that vision for positive change is no small feat. What obstacles have you run up against and how have you overcome them?

To date it has been about just putting one foot in front of the other. Usually obstacles that we encounter occur on the business side. This is something new for us all so we are constantly learning as we go along, but this is part of the fun! I think taking the perspective that the obstacles are really opportunities is a good way to view things. Also practicing balance. For us, we all thrive and grow most though nature and connecting to real life experiences. We view technology as a powerful tool for online connection that can help us grow and evolve with “off-line” experiences.

Yoga Trade infuses a sense of calm with one of adventure. How are these values reflected in other aspects of your life?

These values are reflected in many ways in my life. I have been called to live a life of exploration and adventure! And as I talked about earlier, I used to take it to the extreme through heli-skiing in Alaska and surfing exotic locations. Yoga has taught me that it is okay to feel like this and to keep following my heart. It has also taught me to find the adventure in other ways as well. I have found the adventure in starting a business, in talking with friends, in creating community. It has also taught me about balance and aiming to maintain a more ‘sattvic’ state. All while enjoying the ride and staying humble.

With dozens of countries visited and hours on the mat invested, what would you tell someone who wants to turn their passion into a productive business?

I would say to make sure not to underestimate yourself and if you feel a call to action, go for it! Figure out what really makes you tick and own it. Most people who succeed in business are the ones that actually take action. Most successful business owners go through many failures, and this is all the beauty of the process. Whatever you do, believe in your path.