If you have ever considered taking a retreat, you most definitely have questions and we hear a lot of them, from where to go (first, or next!), to who to go with, to how much to spend, to what to expect, what to pack and so much more.
We decided to turn to the experts for advice, and voila! our Wellness Retreats Insiders’ Guide was born: a new series featuring interviews with the creators of incredible wellness retreats the world over.
Table of Contents
- Courtney Marie Bohlman
- Maria Camille
- Shannon Dickey & Barbie Harder
- Kendra Hasse
- Carrie Kaufman
- Sinéad Kennedy
- Scott & Nancy Kiesling
- Sara Ottley
- Amber Ricci
- Ale Romei
- Debbie-Lee van Ginkel
- Ag Żer
MEET THE PANEL!
Courtney Marie Bohlman
Courtney Bohlman has been a student and teacher on the path for many years, gaining her certifications in Chinese Medicine, Qi-Gong, Ayurveda, Yoga, Master Herbalism, Plant Spirit Medicine, Reiki, Meditation, Wicca, and Mindfulness.
She has travelled the globe searching for master teachers and is humbled to have studied under many of the greats. She has taken this knowledge, her inner wisdom, along with her college education (2 Bachelors, 2 Minors, 1 Masters) to create her movement/company known as Wholesome Alchemy.
An organic, vegan, plastic-free company created to “Make an Impact”; through opening schools in developing countries, donating organic body care to local shelters, and expanding consciousness for the beings on this planet through transformational yoga retreats, online courses, group coaching, and organic body care products.
Connect with Courtney
Wabi-Sabi Art Retreats
As a hospitality consultant for wellness destinations, Maria has travelled to locations worldwide for 30 years designing treatments and unusual experiences. As a lifestyle coach and plant medicine host, she provides Vision Quest Retreats for reinventing oneself, finding your inner warrior, and inspiring creative ideas. As an “artist,” she gives performance art demos of Wabi-Sabi Art and teaches others how to Host Wabi-Sabi Art Retreats at destination resorts and retreat locations.
I never planned to live this way. . . traveling for 40 some years, trying on new identities, taking part in adventures, expeditions, and entrepreneurial ventures worldwide. As I was open to life while at the same time running from life new doors always opened. I learned, I ran into many monsters and slew dragons and tigers – I became wise. There were many heartaches, fears, and failures. After many years, I realized it was my path to create and incubate ideas, to journey into the unknown, and live all the experiences that came my way. I’m glad to have walked this mosaic path.
Connect with Maria
Shannon Dickey & Barbie Harder
Empower U Equine Learning and Wellness Center
Shannon and Barbie are the founders of EmPower U Equine Learning and Wellness Center in Northeastern Saskatchewan, Canada. With a commitment to providing experiential opportunities for their guests, they have made it their mission to impact people through the power of the horse.
As Certified Equine Assisted Learning Facilitators and Equestrian Canada Instructors, these two lifelong learners are blazing the trail and allowing people of all abilities and disabilities into the world of horses. Through customizable experiences from the ground up to the saddle, their goal is to positively impact each guest with knowledge gained from working with a 1,200-pound prey animal.
Connect with Shannon & Barbie
Kendra follows the voice of her heart, which is to inspire people to connect with their hearts and ignite their inner light. She has experienced firsthand that when we connect with ourselves, we understand our most authentic selves and become brave to live a life of greater potential.
Today, she is a passionate meditation teacher, self-love coach (NLP certified) and founder of Selflove Journey, a platform to inspire heart connection. She offers retreats, individual coaching sessions, meditation circles and workshops like cacao ceremonies. She is German and has her heart in Latin America. She loves dancing at the Colombian beaches, living adventures and enjoying sunrises with a cup of coffee.
Connect with Kendra
https://insig.ht/v0NCZfBlAqb (Insight Timer Meditation)
enLiven retreats and enLiven at the Green River
With a certificate in positive psychology from the Kripalu Center and as a Y500 certified yoga instructor with a 16-year yoga teaching career, Carrie truly understands how the busyness of life can take its toll on our wellness. It is through this lens that Carrie developed enLiven as an accessible experience with an intentional purpose focused on helping people practice meaningful self-care and create necessary and sustainable change in their lives.
Through her leadership and coaching retreats hosted around the world and now in her local retreat space in Sandgate, Vermont, only one hour from her home in Saratoga Springs, New York, she shares her passion and knowledge through meditation, creative workshops, sacred movement, personal coaching, and meaningful connections.
Her students claim that she has changed their lives. And she’s ready to help you change yours too.
Connect with Carrie
Zen & Tonic Yoga Spa Break/Beach Yoga Mini Break, Cycling and Yoga Week
Having suffered a dislocated hip when she was just 7 months old due to an infection, Sinead spent most of her young life in pain and looking for relief. A specialist doctor told her to “sit down and stop exercising!” However, movement and massage seemed to be the only thing that helped ease the discomfort.
That’s what started her journey and passion for Health, Wellness and Movement.
Sinead graduated from the Institute of Physical Therapy and Applied Science in September 2005. Adding to her qualifications, she became a fitness instructor and personal trainer soon after. Sinead found her true passion when she began teaching both Yoga and Pilates.
More recently, Sinead gained a Diploma in Life and Business Coaching, an advanced diploma in Mental Health and Wellness Coaching and a Certificate in Relationship Coaching. Having found her own life a little less than what she had hoped for, she looked to Personal Development to enrich her life. She now helps others to reach their potential and goals and change their life.
Every day she helps others to feel great inside and out. You can join her annual cycling and yoga winter training camp in Spain, Zen & Tonic! Yoga Spa Breaks in Ireland or Zen and Tonic Yoga Beach Mini Break, Majorca.
Connect with Sinead
Scott & Nancy Kiesling
Adventure Therapy Retreats
Scott & Nancy are Adventure Dating & Relationship Consultants who use their unique method of Adventure Therapy to teach women who have found success in all areas of their life – except their love life – how to love themselves first, be adventuresome, and attract the love of their life by living to the fullest.
After 30 years in the Film Industry learning human behaviour and over a decade navigating the waters of their own mission-driven life, Scott and Nancy created innovative tools & strategies that help women develop unshakeable self-love, have ultimate relationships, and live their best life.
Scott & Nancy have multiplied their business by 10 fold in the last year working with high profile people such as supermodels, Hollywood actors/actresses, doctors, lawyers, realtors, and entrepreneurs. They have appeared on multiple podcasts, have been featured on The List TV and in Authority Magazine, and Tony Robbins announced that he’d recommend them as coaches because “they’ve lived it!”
Connect with Scott & Nancy
Sara is Campervan Retreats’ creator and a passionate VW owner whose aim is to create wellbeing retreats that offer a chance to escape ‘normal life’ and spend time in your own beloved campervan with other like-minded souls.
Her journey to this point started more than 15 years ago when she left the fire service to pursue a new career in the health and wellness sector. Over the years she developed a deep love for yoga and as a result, a more rounded approach to health and fitness emerged, focusing more on wellness and happiness, rather than just “fitness.”
She became a health and lifestyle coach and qualified as a yoga teacher to enable her to support her clients further. Three gorgeous kids later she was ready for a change of direction. They wanted more adventures as a family so she managed to persuade her husband Neil into investing in a VW Campervan. This is when ‘Bruno’ the campervan joined her family in February 2022.
The idea of Campervan Retreats came to Sara when she was daydreaming about how wonderful it would be to escape on her own with Bruno – no kids, no dog, no husband, no hassles. Campervan Retreats offer a great value self-catering solution for women to enjoy energizing activities in the most beautiful UK locations. The focus is on fun and female connection with a variety of activities such as yoga, walking, SUP, surfing, mindfulness, sociable crafting circles, drumming workshops, foraging, sound therapy, hiking and wild swimming.
Connect with Sara
Inner Fire Yoga and Adventure Retreats
For over 18 years, Amber has taught her fusion of Kundalini and Vinyasa Yoga in weekly classes and private Tantra to couples, plus hosted Tantra Couples Weekends, over 30 one-day retreats for 7 years, then moving onto 10-12 day long Inner Fire Yoga and Adventure Retreats and Journeys including 4 Big Island Retreats, three to Bali, and one retreat each in Thailand, Cambodia, Greece, Peru, Belize/Guatemala, Cuba, Morocco, Australia, Egypt, Iceland, Croatia (2022) and Jamaica (2022).
Amber has helped change lives through the understanding of physiology, the sense of energy in the body, accelerating conscious growth, and finding inner and outer transformation by releasing the past, deepening the connection to the Self, creating authentic relationships, and living in the present with an open heart and mind.
She was certified by the White Lotus Foundation in Vinyasa and studied Kundalini with Ravi Singh, Ana Brett and Guru Kirin Khalsa. She also studied with teacher and author of Creative Self Discovery Dr. Freddy Weaver and Janet and Sasha Lessin of Oceanic Tantra on Maui.
Amber loves sharing Goddess Dance, a sensual, feminine energy Bellydance-based class that she teaches for private clients and events. She is also an accomplished vocalist and singer/songwriter and works with people wanting to connect to their inner and outer voices.
Connect with Amber
Experience Retreats Collection
Ale Romei is the founder of Experience Retreats, a curated collection of retreat venues around the world that fit rigorous selection criteria involving authenticity, sustainability, suitability for wellness retreats, authentic experiences around them and venue owners’ creative energy, among a few others.
He is a born creative that loves art, design, travel and sports. He is also a certified Hatha Yoga instructor with business, tourism, social media marketing and interior design studies under his belt always looking to apply his passions to ventures that can make a difference in the world and in people.
“We introduce you to our meaningfully selected retreat centers, you always deal with the venues directly getting the best price and local knowledge”
Connect with Ale
Debbie-Lee van Ginkel
Alchemy Movement and Wellness
Born and raised in South Africa, Debbie-Lee is a Black Belt instructor of Nia, a barefoot, holistic movement practise combining elements of dance, martial arts and mindfulness. She found Nia almost 15 years ago when she was struggling with eating disorders, and it became her guiding tool in transforming her relationship with body and self.
Ever since then, she has been passionate about movement and healing the whole Self. Debbie-Lee has been teaching regular classes, workshops and Nia retreats for the past 14 years and now lives in Siem Reap, Cambodia, where she owns a wellness centre and studio with her partner.
Connect with Debbie-Lee
Ag Żer is best described as a nature lover, holistic sorceress, herbalist, visual and sound artist, and performer. Originally from Poland, Ag now lives on a bio reserve, Caoba, located in the Sierra Nevada mountains of Colombia. With FORMINGintoNATURE, she guides retreat goers into the process of returning to themselves through 1:1 holistic connections in the jungle.
“With an open heart and arms
I invite you to meet and get to know yourself in an overseas land among mountains, rivers, streams, waterfalls, stones and the sea, where the sun shines every day, reigning with light even with closed eyes.
In a space as abundant in natural powers as the multitude of shades of green here.
I will guide you through the process of returning to yourself.”
Connect with Ag Żer
How did you come to be a creator of wellness retreats?
Being raised by my “hippie” musician mama named Sunday and my father, who was a Methodist minister in D.C. – until he came out as gay when I was 5 – showed me that compassion and acceptance would be my path since my parents lived in that way.
Also, many of the women in my family were emotional eaters and overweight, so I decided very young that I wanted to be healthy in my eating (I have now been vegetarian for 31 years) and exercising. So I started working at the local health club in Orlando at 16 and loved putting folks on exercise plans, teaching aerobics, and earning money helping people.
– Amber Ricci, Inner Fire Yoga & Adventure Retreats
My story began in 2015 when I ran a healing and art space in Poland. There I organized alternative medicine workshops and lectures, inviting people with knowledge of Chinese medicine, Thai medicine, mindfulness, yoga, pranayama, rebirthing techniques, Quantum healing, and recall healing to teach.
At the beginning of 2021, I started my adventure in Central America, and I now live in the outstanding, magical, pure bio reserve Caoba, located in the Sierra Nevada mountains of Santa Marta, Colombia. This place is run by German professor/marine biologist Eberhard Wedler and his wife, Gloria, who have created a sanctuary for the plants.
There are around 350 different types of trees, some endangered, some from abroad, and other fruit trees to attract animals, including a collection of palm trees, medicinal plants, aquatic plants, cactus, succulents, bromeliads, and orchids. It is an oasis where you can relax and unwind and where I now host 1:1 healing and wellness retreats.
– Ag Żer, FORMINGintoNATURE
I had been in the property business for a good 15 years. With my wife Susie, we have always wanted to create our own business that would give us more independence, so we decided to merge our expertise in property marketing, interior design, customer service, Yoga and Wellness and Experience Retreats was born.
Our premise from the beginning was always to make our collection unique and not an Airbnb of venues. So we refined our selection criteria and focused on finding those locations that had a real meaning, those that the owners had put their energy into them to make them real spaces for healing and transformation.
Now we are proud to say we are assembling a fantastic collection of independent retreat centers that are authentic, have style, are owned by very meaningful people, which guarantees the great energy in each place and in fantastic locations.
– Ale Romei, Experience Retreats Collection
As a busy mom of three, I have been working within the health and wellbeing industry since 2006; during that time, I built and sold a successful London-based personal training business, delivered large boot camps, wellbeing events and, more recently (after getting hooked on Vinyasa yoga) I qualified as a yoga teacher. I now run Day Retreats in Kent alongside my personal training and yoga classes.
Campervan Retreats evolved from my love of bringing like-minded people together in the pursuit of adventure, friendship and self-care. I realized that the thing I would love to do the most was jump in my own Campervan, wave goodbye to the madness of home life for a few days to find peace, tranquillity, exercise and personal development. But where would I go alone? I thought there must be many other Campervan owners who feel the same, so in Spring 2022, Campervan Retreats was born.
Campervan Retreats offers female van owners a wonderful space to relax and unwind in nature in the most beautiful locations around the U.K. The wellness retreats atmosphere is welcoming, warm and fun-filled. We focus on wellbeing and happiness, which runs through the core of all we do. Solo or with friends, this is a time to connect and share, find space to breathe and let go of the stress and worries, finding a real connection with yourself and with the other like-minded ladies on each retreat.
– Sara Ottley, Campervan Retreats
I have been a yoga teacher for 20 years at this point. Eight years ago, I went to another teacher’s wellness retreat in Tulum. It was a disappointing and expensive experience.
I knew there was a way to do it differently and create a different kind of experience where people felt taken care of, connected and left feeling a bit transformed.
– Carrie Kaufman, enLiven retreats and enLiven at the Green River
I began teaching Nia classes in Beijing, China, where I lived and worked as a school teacher for many years. Then, in 2015, I took a vacation to Cambodia and fell in love with the country, its people, and my good friend’s exquisite boutique hotel where we stayed. I knew I had to run a retreat in that incredibly healing space, so I put it out there to my students in Beijing, and within two weeks, I had a full retreat!
People love Nia as a practice because it’s soulful, real, completely accessible to all bodies, and a heck of a lot of fun. They were also very curious about Cambodia, so a Nia retreat in Cambodia was a match made in heaven! Since that first retreat in 2015, I never looked back and finally decided to move to Cambodia in 2017 and pursue a full-time Nia career.
– Debbie-Lee van Ginkel, Alchemy Movement and Wellness
One day in Colombia, I was lying in a hammock overlooking the Caribbean and practising being present in the moment. Then I heard my inner voice telling me, “you should organize wellness retreats here.”
I have been on my own journey of self-love for many years, and this means connecting with myself, listening to the voice of my heart and having a dialogue with my inner parts through meditation and journaling. “What is my vision/mission in life?” was a key question I began to ask my heart because I felt I was neither fulfilled nor activating my full potential with my career so far.
That day in the hammock, I received the answer. The voice became louder, and I began to imagine my first wellness retreat. At first, I was scared, but I started coaching training, and as I gained more experience, I became more and more confident. With each step on my self-love journey, I felt that I had found my life’s mission: to inspire people to connect with their hearts – because that is the most beautiful thing in life.
The main channel I have chosen now is wellness retreats, because I feel that during retreats, we can really switch off to connect better with ourselves, vibrate at a higher energy level and immerse ourselves in nature. So it’s easier to hear the voice of our heart and experience that wonderful feeling of connection.
– Kendra Hasse, Selflove Journey
I’ve walked in many shoes; as an elite 4-time extreme sports world champion, author, T.V. producer, wellness hospitality consultant and entrepreneur. During the years of training in extreme sports while on the U.S. Parachute Team, I developed a mind/body training called BaGua Flow that I later brought to destination resorts and wellness retreat properties as I travelled as a consultant. Retreat guests loved the classes as they were so unique and fun.
Currently, I’ve designed a new program called Wabi-Sabi Art Retreats. Using giant Japanese brushes, we combine Qi Gong breathing with gentle movement meditation. When the energy builds, we transfer this energy into the brush and down onto a five-foot-long large format paper.
This life-giving, inner-outer mind/body therapy combines movement and meditation into a poetically choreographed, life-affirming breath-flow sequence of art expression. It’s the art of imperfection!
– Maria Camille, Wabi-Sabi Art Retreats
I went on a yoga retreat years ago to Fuerteventura and it was dreadful. It was so expensive, no fun, it was all brown rice and lentils.
We were also stuck up on the side of the mountain, away from life and transport. I decided there and then to never book a wellness “retreat” again and create wellness breaks that are more “human” friendly.
All my breaks are for real people who enjoy yoga and wellness but also like to eat nice meals and have a few drinks without judgement. I NEVER use the word retreat on my website/advertising as for me personally that word implies “boring!”
– Sinéad Kennedy, Zen & Tonic Yoga
I wish it was as easy as pinpointing a single moment of how I became the leader of Wholesome Alchemy, but when I reflect on my past, it is evident that everything was taking me in this direction. I was 20 when I first discovered yoga. Until this point, I had no tools to regulate my energy naturally, having been diagnosed at a young age as “hyperactive.”
I remember walking into that first hatha yoga class. I laughed to myself at the idea that this could help me but little did I know. To say that my life changed that day would be an understatement. This was the first time in my entire life that I learned to utilize my breath. It was the first time I found peace in my mind. It was the first time I found myself.
I was hooked, to say the least. A few months later, I did my first YTT. Then the next year, I went to India for another…a few years later another…and a few more after that. I now have over 1,000 hours of yoga teacher training and am constantly learning more. I am a lifelong student and teacher in the practice of yoga.
However, it wasn’t just yoga. In my mid 20’s, I was diagnosed with cervical cancer and was faced with a life-changing decision, whether I was willing to do chemotherapy. I was not. I moved to India instead and lived at an Ayurveda Hospital for months studying and healing. I am deeply proud of myself for this choice, not only for how it has healed me but so many of my clients and community. This was seven years ago, and Ayurveda is still a pillar in my life and offerings.
Along the journey, I gained many other tools, and I lived in ashrams and spiritual communities worldwide. I was hired and taught Transformational Retreats and Yoga classes at Sunrise Ranch (a leading spiritual community/retreat center in Colorado) for seven years before I started Wholesome Alchemy.
About five years ago, I opened my first school in Ghana, but I struggled to fund it with grants and donations – I needed to find a more stable energy flow. Then one day, it all became crystal clear. I needed to start my own company. A few nights later, in a dream, the name came to me, Wholesome Alchemy. Later while sitting in meditation, asking for guidance, I “downloaded” the first wellness retreat from beginning to end. That was and still is “A Journey To The Sacred.”
Then I took the leap. I trusted myself. I trusted the universe. I knew my gifts were strong and my skills were needed – I spoke, and the world listened. Today we lead six retreats a year all over the world. One of those retreats is a karmic retreat, helping at one of our schools in West Africa, giving our community a hands-on experience to help the families we serve through Wholesome Alchemy. I am beyond grateful for all of it and genuinely wake up each day counting the blessings of my life.
– Courtney Marie Bohlman, Wholesome Alchemy
There is a synergy between horses and holistic wellness for our mind, body and spirit. We have personally experienced this in our journey with horses, and over time have come to understand that women from all walks of life are innately drawn to horses. However, most do not have the opportunity to own them, understand them or experience them in their daily lives. For many they are both magical and mythical, so we wanted to give women the chance to immerse themselves in a destination excursion, where the heart of their experience comes from their interactions with horses.
Through our groundbreaking Equine Facilitated Wellness program, women are provided with a unique insight into the dynamics of a herd through objectively driven exercises that they engage in. Here they get to experience horses in their natural environment while also learning more about themselves. Herds to horses are just like teams are to people, and it is through their sessions with our herd women will learn more about how they communicate, problem solve and negotiate their own lives. They will understand the importance of being a leader and using their voice, working in a team and setting boundaries.
Our belief was that if we could create a place and be able to hold space for women from all over it would allow them the opportunity to step outside of their everyday lives, disconnect from social media and reconnect with themselves. It would allow women to gather to lean on each other and learn from each other and make connections that lasted long after they left the ranch.
There are many retreats offering personal development and wellness, but there are few incorporating the power of the horse to impact their guests, and that’s what makes us unique. Drawing on the sessions with our herd, we collaborate with a powerhouse team of holistic practitioners who help guests go deeper into their wellness journey. As a collective partnership between all facilitators, the wellness experience is magnified and the transition in women is remarkable.
– Shannon Dickey & Barbie Harder, Empower U Equine Learning and Wellness Center
Scott: Before meeting Nancy, I overcame adversity and abuse, reversing my family’s generational cycle of negativity. I worked in the film industry for 25 years for companies like Warner Bros., Disney, Netflix, and HBO, which taught me invaluable life skills. Most importantly, it gave me a broad knowledge of human behaviour.
I have always loved nature and the outdoors; hiking and rock climbing were two of my favourite pastimes. In my late 20s, I became a rescue climber and opened my first rock climbing gym. I started guiding groups and individuals on thrilling, breathtaking climbing adventures, and this led me to develop an understanding of Adventure Therapy. Many clients would report back to me a few days, weeks, or even sometimes months after one of our climbing trips and tell me that the experience helped them to get the promotion they’d been wanting, or it improved their relationship or enabled them to overcome a struggle they were having.
I realized that Adventure Therapy, where we incorporate outdoor activities involving physical and emotional stimuli to sync your physiology to your mindset, allows you to overcome insecurities and build a better relationship with yourself, leading to better relationships and living a better life.
Nancy: I was raised in a female-dominant household, the youngest of five sisters. My parents were forward thinkers and business owners. At age 26, I launched my first business, a wedding planning company, using the skills that were organically imprinted upon me. Loving the rewards of entrepreneurship, I continued to challenge myself, launching a handbag company, IHLE, and the Adventure & Life Coaching company Scott and I now operate together.
I owe a lot of my growth and success to Adventure Therapy. My first experience allowed me to see where I was holding myself back in life due to my own fears. After conquering things I thought were impossible, I started to feel a new sense of capability and went after more of my dreams. From the moment our souls entered each other’s lives, it was clear we both wanted a lifestyle different than the average. So, through our cooperative efforts, we began blending our talents and manifesting the life we wanted to live.
Two years after we were married, tragedy struck when Scott was involved in an accidental explosion at work, resulting in loss of hearing, vertigo, and the many side effects of a brain injury. He couldn’t walk or talk properly for months. The recovery process drastically changed the dynamic of our relationship, forcing us to get creative and develop tools and strategies to keep our relationship connected and thriving. We used moderate Adventure Therapy to keep Scott’s spirits up and retrain his brain. Adventure for Scott had gone from skydiving and rock climbing to going for short walks. But, consistent, small bits of stepping outside his comfort zone, and syncing his physiology to his mindset, slowly started to help him heal.
With Scott no longer able to work in the Film Industry, we quickly got our coaching business up and running, teaching people from our personal experience how they could push beyond their perceived limitations toward whatever they dreamt possible and have the love and life they always desired. Together, we continued to build online self-development, relationships, and business courses, facilitate online events, and create esteem-building Adventure Therapy Wellness Retreats that propel people from standing on the edge of their life peering down at what they wish for to leaping into the best version of themselves.
In the last year, we have been blessed to work with supermodels, Hollywood actors, doctors, lawyers, realtors, and entrepreneurs, multiplying our business by 124%. We have appeared on podcasts, and Tony Robbins announced that he’d recommend us as coaches because “they’ve lived it!”
– Scott & Nancy Kiesling, Adventure Therapy Retreats
TOP RETREAT QUESTIONS, ANSWERED
What are the most common questions you hear from those considering a retreat?
Debbie-Lee van Ginkel
Q: Can I join the retreat if I’ve never tried Nia before or have no previous dance experience?
A: Absolutely yes! I’ve had quite a number of people who have never tried Nia join my retreats in the past. Nia is not dancing for the purpose of performance. You don’t have to be a dancer. You don’t have to get it right and you don’t have to try to look cool!
Nia is organic, healthy movement for humans for the purpose of conditioning, healing and expression. As long as it feels good, you’re doing it right! The guided choreography of Nia is simple and easy to follow, and absolutely every move in Nia can be personalized so that it is safe, comfortable and easy for every BODY. All that is required to join a Nia class is an open heart and a curious mind.
Q: Is Cambodia safe and tourist-friendly?
A: Cambodia is a very safe country to visit. Before the pandemic, the small town of Siem Reap welcomed 2.6 million tourists a year who would come to visit the Angkor temples. Of course, the number of tourists is still very low at the moment, but the town remains entirely fit for tourism. English is widely spoken in town; there is convenient access to services, a huge array of accommodation to suit all budgets and dining options from all over the world.
Q: Am I fit enough to cope with so much movement in the tropical heat?
A: Cambodia is indeed a hot, humid, tropical country. But the retreat venue is incredibly comfortable and luxurious, with a beautiful pool to dive into after each class. I encourage my participants to stay well-hydrated with water and fresh coconuts and to listen to their own energy levels. I’ve had many guests from northern Europe and Canada, who were very concerned about the heat, and they have always been surprised at how well they managed with it!
Q: Can I come with my partner?
A: More and more women who have participated in a retreat like to come back with their partner because they feel that he/she would also benefit. In my opinion, it is nice to share the retreat experience as a couple because a great relationship starts with how we are individually. In my opinion, it is nice when everyone can work on their own inner world and share the experience with their partner
Q: I am a beginner in meditation; is that okay?
A: Many people are interested in experiencing some activities that are new to them, focused on personal growth and spirituality. However, they fear that they need some prior knowledge and need to be reassured. In my retreats, I make sure that every level of knowledge feels welcome and can take away the greatest added value for themselves.
Q: What is included in the price (transport/food)?
A: Even though I have detailed everything on my website, I think it is very important that people know exactly what they can accept and get for the price. Because usually, they ask again in a private message. Mainly it is about the transport from the airport to the venue. My experience is that this can be the last hurdle in the buying decision. People need to feel comfortable and know that they will get to the venue safely and easily.
I have started to include airport transfers in my offer. The other important point is the food. People want to know what food will be served. My experience is that the first meal served has to be a moment of joy. When people are happy with the food, they unconsciously relax, have better conversations during the meal, and the meal becomes a much-loved activity during the retreat.
Most people look into the price as one of the first questions before considering the energy of each place, the story behind it and the great value that a retreat location can bring to their offerings so we always tell them to start looking at a venue from another angle when creating a retreat for their crowd so that they can offer great experiential value and not just look for a cheap venue. Then we get the normal question about amenities and beds/rooms distribution. Another question that appears quite a lot is proximity to other recreational spaces such as beaches, restaurants or experiences.
Scott & Nancy Kiesling
Q: Do I have to be experienced to do the adventures (yoga and excursions) on your retreat?
A: We have a wide range of activities and adventures that we plan ranging from yoga, jungle hiking, horseback riding, waterfall rappelling, ziplining, white water rafting, rock climbing and more! All of our activities have options so they can be catered to suit each individual’s experience level. We have had some people on our retreat who have never done yoga, and some who were yoga teachers. We’ve had some people who had never done any kind of excursion, and some who were adrenaline junkies.
You never know what will be the big adventure for you. Many people come with an idea of what they think is going to be their biggest challenge and most times they get to be surprised! So we tell everyone to just trust the process, enjoy the experience, and we’ve got the rest taken care of 🙂
Q: What kind of food/can you accommodate my dietary restrictions?
A: Each day our guests enjoy nutritionally dense, delicious farm-to-table meals, snacks, fresh juices, and of course Costa Rican/Bali coffee (the best!) prepared by our private chef and staff. The food on our retreat is an experience of its own almost as much as the retreat itself. There is nothing like fresh prepared, organic food to rejuvenate your mind and body after a long day of pushing yourself beyond your perceived limitations and growing into the most vibrant version of yourself.
Both Bali & Costa Rica have farms at almost every corner similar to how we have Starbucks. Most places we have stayed had a local farm that was no further than a few blocks away if not on the same property.
(A fun story: Bali’s food is known to be healing as they value their food as their medicine. In the early 1950’s Bali kicked Monsanto out of their country. Monsanto had come in and started taking over their food and farms and Bali noticed a decrease in its fruit and vegetable sizes. They also noticed that their ancient healings were being affected. As the locals tell it, they kicked Monsanto out in the late 60s and it took 10 years for Bali to get their soil back to the quality it was before Monsanto.)
And yes, we can accommodate dietary restrictions of all sorts. We have accommodated gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, nut allergies, shellfish allergies, vegetarians, those with celiac disease and more!
Q: Who are the other people on the retreat and do I have to share a room?
A: We keep our group size small, between 5-12 people depending on the retreat because we prefer quality over quantity. We want each of our guests to have dedicated coaching time with us and to bond together as a group. With larger groups, we experienced more separation and cliques forming and we wanted to produce something different.
Each guest on our retreat is a client who we have carefully vetted to see if their mindset is in a place to have the growth they say they want and to make sure they will add to the growth of others. Many people say they want change/improvement but are not yet in a mental space to be coached. We want everyone on the retreat to be in a similar growth mindset so that everyone works together to create a growth environment by supporting, elevating, and inspiring one another. This is the main reason such strong bonds are made so quickly between our guests.
On our retreat, you are meeting like-minded people who are also taking charge of their life, sharing vulnerable moments, lending support, cheering one another on, and conquering fears together – of course, you’re going to build a bond like nothing else! Many of our guests say they gained a second family by coming on our retreat, and they still keep in touch with each other, even years after.
As far as sharing a room, our accommodations are always a large, luxury villa with many bedrooms, therefore, each guest is given their own private room. However, if you are doing this experience with a friend or your partner, we always have options available to share a room if desired.
Q: Are all activities compulsory?
A: No you can choose to join in as much or as little as you want but we also include lots of free time for you to unwind and do whatever you like
Q: Can I bring my dog?
A: Sorry no doggies. The retreat is a chance for you to look after number one and totally unwind.
Q: I don’t live a bit too far away from the retreat location will you be running any nearer to me?
A: Yes we plan to offer 4 – 6 weekend retreats per year at locations across mainland UK so something for everyone.
Shannon Dickey & Barbie Harder
Q: I have always dreamed of spending time with horses but don’t know anything about them and am scared because they are so big, is that okay?
A: That’s what this experience is all about. You don’t need to know anything about horses, the horses here will teach you more about them, and in turn about yourself. Being able to allow yourself to be vulnerable and open to conquering your fears here, will help to facilitate change when you leave.
Q: I have no one to come with me and am nervous about coming by myself.
A: Coming by yourself is likely just what you require to be able to experience this retreat at the level you are needing. Often when we come with someone else we have that person to shelter us from pushing past our limiting beliefs. The women that gather at each retreat are the women that need to be here, and we can guarantee that you may come here alone but you will be leaving with a whole new tribe of women.
Q: I don’t know how to ride horses.
A: Perfect because that is not what this retreat is about. Here we work with the horses on the ground in their most natural environment. This is not a horseback riding excursion, this is a personal development retreat where the horses are your teachers and the lesson they will teach you about yourself will help you to live your most authentic life.
Courtney Marie Bohlman
Q: Is it safe to travel alone?
A: We always answer by assuring them that we have shuttle arrangements for our international retreats AND we partner with an amazing company, Traverse Beyond, which is run by a community member, Courtney. She teaches women safe solo travel and is INCREDIBLE.
Q: How do I decide which retreat is best for me?
A: I personally always guide people back to their heart and soul. To quiet down, read over their options and FEEL for the answer. Our minds can think of a million things, but the answers are always found within. Helping to guide people back to their own answers brings me such joy.
Q: How can this retreat help me?
A: I will try to put this answer into words! More than anything they help you slow down, move out of the over-controlling and limiting mind and drop into the body, heart, and soul. They guide you back to the present moment where peace is found.
You will fuel and heal your body with organic nutritious foods, powerful grounding yoga practices, and spiritual tools – allowing you to finally feel at home in your body. You can unplug from the chaos of the world and remember what it is like to just be, living in harmony with all realms of your being: body, mind, heart, and soul.
An added bonus is community; a place where you are seen, held, and loved for who you are AND who you are becoming.
What are some of your top wellness retreat countries, spaces, and properties?
Amber Ricci: So many! But Morocco and Peru still stand as my favourite. Being in the Sahara desert was unforgettable and out of this world. And staying at Willa Tika in the sacred valley of Peru with the lovely chakra gardens, Cleopatra baths, and incredible meals. We recently went to Iceland and my group loved every minute even though it was very cold, especially going into a giant blue ice cave in the glacier!
Sara Ottley: My favourite retreat destination overseas is Crete. The Island is beautiful, the terrain offers something for everyone, the people are generous and welcoming, the sea is warm and clear and the food is fresh and mouthwatering. My favourite Campervan Retreat location in the UK is our private Lake venue in East Sussex where we get to paddleboard directly from the terrace.
Kendra Hasse: Colombia! I experienced several destinations and always come back to the northern region of Colombia called “Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta”. Every time I travel there it provides me with energy, smiles and inner peace. It is there that I have experienced the connection with nature and with myself. There I truly feel connected.
“Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta”, is the world’s highest Coastal Mountain Range. It is a magical place, known by the native cultures as “The Heart of the World”, not only because of its geographical location but more importantly because every single ecosystem exists and thrives in the Sierra Nevada mountains. There the majestic mountain jungle, the Caribbean Sea, crystal clear rivers and waterfalls, beaches, the sun, the moon, and the stars are in harmony. Inhabited by indigenous tribes full of wisdom and tradition. With dreamy sunrises and sunsets.
My favourite properties for retreats in that area are “Gitana del Mar Retreat Beach Resort” which is directly located at the Caribbean Sea (here will be my November 2022 retreat) and “YAY Sustainable Resort” which has its private river access on the foot of the mountains.
Do you know what you are?
You are a manuscript of a divine letter.
You are a mirror reflecting a noble face.
This universe is not outside of you.
Look inside yourself;
everything that you want,
you are already that.– Rumi, shared by retreat leader Ag Żer
Scott & Nancy Kiesling: Our personal favourites include Costa Rica and Bali. We love exotic locations that introduce an earth-loving culture allowing the opportunity for the mind to expand. We have used properties like Blue Osa Yoga Retreat & Spa, Villa Mareas, as well as other villas and treehouses. Each day we go out and get our boots dirty but we love our guests to come back to a luxe stay where they can relax by the pool with a cocktail.
Sinéad Kennedy: I started with my home country, Ireland, as it was easier to organize. I could also get in the car and check out the venue. From there I got brave and started my cycling trips to Spain in Collaboration with a Spanish / Irish cycling company. More recently I started a beach yoga mini in Majorca as a lady I know went to a hotel on her holidays and loved it. She sent me the link and that was that!
Courtney Marie Bohlman: We host in different countries every year BUT I certainly have some favourites. If you are seeking a community and off-grid experience then I HIGHLY recommend “The Mystical Yoga Farm” which sits on a private patch of land on Lake Atitlan In Guatemala, along with “Aloha Ke Akua” which sits high in the Sierra Nevada mountains in Colombia.
If you want more of a luxury experience, we LOVE “Willka Tika” which is in the sacred valley in Peru. They have been voted in the top 10 retreat centers in the entire world by CNN, Yoga Journal, & Vogue. We will actually be hosting there again in the Fall of 2023. Another beautiful center is “Amaru” in Nicaragua, it sits on a private peninsula right on the water, with cliffs on the other side. It is MAGICAL!
Debbie-Lee van Ginkel: Well, the first place I taught a Nia retreat was just outside of Beijing, at the foothills of the Great Wall of China, at a beautiful boutique hotel called the Brickyard Retreat. Truly a magical place from which to explore the Great Wall and experience village life in China’s countryside.
My absolute favourite wellness property is here in Siem Reap, Cambodia, where I lead all my Nia retreats – Maison Polanka. It’s a small, very luxurious, intimate hotel set in the most beautiful lush, tropical garden….and the ancient Angkor temples are only a fifteen-minute drive away. My partner and I are currently in the process of building our own wellness centre here in Cambodia called ALCHEMY, which will be offering all types of holistic movement practices in the near future.
Ale Romei: I have to say that the most requested locations and my preferred ones are Costa Rica, Greece, Portugal and Spain. The Pandemic brought most locations to a halt but in 2021 we saw Costa Rica rising back followed by the named European destinations and we are hoping that locations such as Bali and Brazil will be coming back stronger in 2023.
In terms of properties, our Greek one on the island of Lefkada has been a very big success due to its proximity to the beach, local coffee shop and taverna to experience the local culture and cuisine, the views from each room and swimming pool, the Yoga studio immersed around olive trees and having the chance to experience sailing around the Ionian islands.
Another great option has been our Ibizan rustic chic venue nestled on the northern peaceful cliffs of the island away from all the Ibiza party scene with jaw-dropping views, amazing hikes and the most wonderful coves to take dips in between hikes. A venue with character and charm that exudes authenticity and connects you with nature allowing you to absorb the Mediterranean negative ions to release stress and boost energy.
Our Brazilian retreat center is located in Bahia in a place cold “Cacao Coast” which is a very magical place with the Atlantic Forest right behind providing amazing energy with endless wellbeing benefits by being around vegetation and the immediate connection with the Atlantic Ocean and its negative ions.
Lastly, one location which I can’t leave out is our venue in the North of England in the county of Yorkshire. A land with almost 1000 years of history in the same family where its actual custodian has dedicated the last 15 years to turning it into the most Avant guard transformational healing centre in England. A place for humanity to reconnect and regenerate our planet and our deepest selves in order to move into a world beyond dogma and beyond the religious, political, economic, and tribal divisions that have separated and disconnected us from our innate bond with the natural world.
Maria Camille: Spa Village Tembok, Bali, a 5-star all-inclusive retreat/resort in the north part of Bali. It’s quiet, right on the beach; remote, restful and full of healing experiences. The food is wonderful! They bring in Guest Healers and Artists to provide unusual experiences and classes. And Dao House, Estes Park, Colorado. This is a beautiful rustic retreat property for leaders to host retreats. The property sits at 9,200 ft. in the Rocky Mountains and looks directly at the highest mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park. The property has the largest log lodge in the West along with cabins and miles of hiking.
Carrie Kaufman: I proudly own enLiven at the Green River in Arlington, Vermont. I designed the space and the experience to be everything that an attendee and the leader could want. I also love Maine, Belize and Costa Rica. I’m bringing a retreat to Italy this year and I think it’s going to be a favourite.
Shannon Dickey & Barbie Harder: When you own a horse business the opportunity to leave for other destinations can be a bit of a challenge. When we get the chance to recharge ourselves it usually involves the outdoors. Living in Saskatchewan, Canada, we are surrounded by some of the most breathtaking scenery and lake country. There are miles of trails to explore, lakes to gather at and areas to adventure. We are blessed to have friends who also own wellness businesses and host retreats that we can take part in close to home, such as Unplug and Reconnect hosted by Laura Lawrence of Mindbody Balance.
Where do you see wellness retreats headed / trending?
Amber Ricci: I feel there will be an explosion of business as so many felt stifled during covid times. I see more combining yoga/spirituality/adventures/journeying as we do.
Debbie-Lee van Ginkel: I see wellness retreats trending towards experiences that bring about self-healing and self-discovery in people. I don’t think people are just looking for pampering or relaxation holidays when they look for retreats. The world is in a state of enormous stress, and I believe that people are looking to recover from stress and learn new body-mind-spirit skills and tools that they can incorporate into their lives when they return to their everyday lives. I also think there is a trend for niche and unusual retreats–whether in terms of the activities or the destination. People no longer want an inclusive “wellness” package. Instead, more and more people are looking for something that truly speaks to their passions, lifestyle, beliefs and values.
Carrie Kaufman: I see them becoming more popular and more mainstream. Corporate retreats will increase. There is a lot of suffering, and people seek wellness and retreats to ease that suffering.
Sara Ottley: I think retreats are becoming much more accessible and niche; they don’t have to be just about vegan food, yoga, or meditation. I believe it is essential to combine interests outside of wellbeing to give people the chance to come together with like-minded individuals.
Maria Camille: Retreating is about taking time for YOU – to me, it’s the new sabbatical. It starts with a calling to take time, plan change, reenergize, and create space to expand your life and worldview. It’s about taking time to plan new growth, and growth needs a process. Only when we disconnect with intention can we recreate with clarity and personal power. A BIG shift is happening – not only within our connected world challenges but how people of all ages want to retreat from mass-produced anything. Simple is in – it’s the new luxury. The emerging trend is taking time to go on immersive retreats at least once or twice a year. I call it taking a Monk Break. It’s becoming less about “what we have” and more about “who we can become.” In the future, look for full-surround styles of retreating, such as your cabin-in-the-woods, pop-up retreats in mystical locations, boutique retreats where you can stay over a month, plant medicine therapies, art as therapy, vision question journeys and more. The new trends are distinct and immersive, with retreat locations popping up in the middle of deserts, forests, and mountains. Creators of these retreats are at the top of their game. It’s about journeys of discovery—new innovative experiences are sparked by the desire to switch off, unwind and recreate. Look for opportunities to immerse yourself in unusual environments where you gain personal growth, self-understanding, and inspiration for creating new ideas and reinventing yourself. No longer is it about filling every hour with activities. Now, it’s more about having supreme time with yourself instead of the constant stimulus of others’ thoughts and programs. But when you want to join an activity, you’ll find the retreat has the perfect experiences for you to participate in.
Courtney Marie Bohlman: The world is waking up, and with this, retreats are expanding rapidly. Now more than ever, souls need a safe space to remember who they are, expand into their greatness, and remove the layers that keep them trapped. I imagine and am already experiencing that retreats are becoming a top priority for not only spiritual people but business people as well. The value of these experiences is being recognized, and I know that the retreat world will be growing very quickly moving forward. It is an amazing time to be serving in this way.
Ale Romei: The Global Wellness Institute reported in 2019 that wellness travel was overtaking leisure travel, and now, after the collateral damage we have witnessed with the lockdowns around the world, I believe we are starting a decade where every single person on the planet will look at travel with an element of achieving personal wellness. Therefore, wellness retreats will be on the rise, and I believe those remote locations away from large populations, and more nature-oriented will be on-demand in the foreseeable future. Watch Latin America, I would say!
Ag Żer: In modern life, we need to slow down and start to admire nature and reconnect with it. People have been hoodwinked into thinking that technology and sustenance from social media photography are all we need as modern beings, but – as plenty of evidence has shown – humans need to be in actual, real-life, tangible nature. It’s beneficial for our mental health to sink our toes into the soil. Stepping away from the smartphone is necessary to feel ourselves again. So, in my opinion, the retreat market will grow fast because people will start to see that self-care is one of the primary opportunities to grow and evolve, so we need to promote the trust and confidence that will encourage people to participate in wellness retreats.
Scott & Nancy Kiesling: The downtime of the pandemic seemed to allow people to look at their life differently. It allowed them to explore a deeper meaning in their existence, and now people want to expand on that. They want to feel fulfilled instead of distracted, so they are looking for ways to enhance their wellbeing and build a better relationship with themselves so they can have better relationships with others. They want to connect with others, disconnect from daily stresses, and have that one-on-one connection with a teacher. We think Covid showed people the importance of a robust immune system and our mental health. When we exercise, studies show it reduces stress. And when we enhance our wellbeing and reduce stress, we become healthier. We believe this is becoming a new way of life for many people and see the wellness industry continuing to take over travel.
Kendra Hasse: Wellness retreats are becoming a new kind of travel and holiday. More and more people are looking for self-realization and a balance to their stressful and digital everyday life. More and more people want more time for themselves to take a breath and simply relax. Wellness retreats are becoming a time-out for oneself, an escape from hectic everyday life that is more appreciated than a typical holiday. It means an investment in oneself and is perceived as a gift for self-realization. In particular, I see it becoming more relevant for high-performing employees, overstretched young professionals, entrepreneurs and companies looking for new appreciation opportunities or burn-out prevention for their employees. It was a lot about surfing or yoga, but it’s moving towards a holistic experience for body, mind and soul.
Shannon Dickey & Barbie Harder: We have seen and heard from each guest how much investing in themselves for a weekend has benefited them. Typically, they come here not fully knowing what to expect. They have invested money, allocated time, and shuffled schedules, all to take a step away from their everyday lives and into something relatively unknown. But the investments they make in themselves last long after they leave and are far greater than they could have expected for their initial investment. And because of that, we believe that wellness retreats are where travel will be for many women. Time and finances are limited so being able to magnify the benefits of your investment is enormous.
Please share what is most unique about your wellness retreat offerings.
Kendra Hasse, Selflove Journey
My retreats are about feeling and living magic. Magic is about relaxing, feeling the energy of nature – of the awe-inspiring sea, jungle and mountains – listening to the voice of our heart, recharging our batteries and allowing ourselves to be your priority. Feeling a special feeling of being present with ourselves.
My main intention is to inspire heart connection, which is what makes my offerings unique – experience the magic of listening to the voice of our heart and feeling that special unique feeling of being connected to our heart! Because I believe that the connection with ourselves is the seed to activate our potential and flourish our self-love.
Maria Camille, Wabi-Sabi Art Retreats
San Miguel de Allende in the highlands of Mexico just may be the most inspiring place to get super creative and envision something new for the future. My immersive retreats are usually small groups of friends or a private one-on-one life vision experience customized to give guests exactly what they need at a pace that works for them. It’s about self-inquiry with the guidance of someone who has been there and walked the talk. It’s about gaining clarity about what you need in your life to be truly happy and at peace.
Sara Ottley, Campervan Retreats
The idea of Campervan retreats for women evolved from a lifelong passion for VW campervans, spending time in nature and bringing women together to live happier, healthier lives. The events offer women a chance to escape a busy life for a couple of nights away to revive and enjoy their own van feeling safe and secure with other similar souls around them. The retreats offer a mix of girl talk, wellness workshops and movement-based sessions and activities, plus some free time to enjoy solo time and nature.
Ale Romei, Experience Retreats Collection
We are “the first curated collection of meaningful retreat venues,” so our unique angle is to offer the chance to run a retreat in a place that has been chosen due to its energy, ethical values, design, authenticity, location, connection to nature, service and experience that can be reached locally or within the property.
Our selection process aims to make life easier for retreat leaders as they will find a complete retreat experience reassuring them that the venues will be up to their standards as they have been vetted by retreat leaders for retreat leaders. Once you choose one of our curated venues, you always deal directly with the venue benefitting from their in-depth knowledge of the retreat center and their experiences.
Courtney Marie Bohlman, Wholesome Alchemy
Our company is unique because we offer transformational retreats. A core part of our retreats is focused on transformational work, which takes place in our workshops and transformational circles. We pride ourselves on ensuring that every person leaves more fully experienced, loved, and understood than they arrived.
Each retreat has a unique variety of tools and practices shared, for example, qi-gong, meditation, yoga, mindfulness, energy work, and Ayurveda. We both practice and teach these skills, as we want our community to leave with skills they can implement into their daily lives far beyond the week or weekend we spend together. We also pride ourselves on community and create experiences for ongoing connection long after you leave.
The final piece that makes us different is that a large portion of our profits go towards funding schools that we run in West Africa. We are opening our next school in South America (location still being determined). The beautiful piece is that when you choose to do this work for YOU, you also serve hundreds of children and their families simultaneously.
Amber Ricci, Inner Fire Yoga and Adventure Retreats
We travel around and stay in different locations in a country typically rather than staying at just one location. I always add easy and doable adventures in nature into the packages to encourage people to get out of their comfort zones and like to weave more sacred/spiritual ideals and rituals with playful and creative activities like dancing. Finally, we welcome ages 12 and up with all shapes and sizes and styles – as long as they are reasonably fit and healthy – so we can connect on a heart level and realize how in common we are.
Carrie Kaufman, enLiven retreats and enLiven at the Green River
All my retreats incorporate four components: yoga/movement/connection or bonding and adventure activities specific to the geography. My retreats are designed to give people a broad spectrum of modalities and experiences to help in their immersive transformation!
Ag Żer, FORMINGintoNATURE
FORINGintoNATURE in the powerful private retreat of self-love and acceptance in a pure natural space. We process holistically with nature, using meditation, yoga and pranayama, deep breathing techniques, recall healing, ceremonies with medical plants, aromatherapy, and earthing.
I want to show people different lifestyles, like a respectful, organic permaculture project in Minca run by a Belgium man who creates a paradise of nature’s energy, where people, flora and fauna come together. He works with bees, makes medicinal honey and shows his vision of connecting organically grown vegetables with healthy and conscious cooking.
In Minca, my friend from Australia runs a ceremonies place, Corazon del mundo, where she organizes the ayahuasca and psilocybin ceremonies working with natural medicines. And near Caoba, there is a small community that organizes workshops on bio construction and holistic projects.
Sinéad Kennedy, Zen & Tonic Yoga Spa Breaks
My unique angle is that my wellness events are “mainstream.” They are great value for money. Everyone is welcome no matter how much or little yoga they have done. My wellness weekends are fun, friendly and relaxed. My breaks are about balance – yoga in the morning, food and fun in the evening.
Debbie-Lee van Ginkel, Alchemy Movement and Wellness
I believe there are two angles which make my retreats unique. Firstly, it’s not a yoga retreat. I love yoga and practice it myself regularly, and, amazingly, there are millions of people now practicing yoga and yoga retreats in every corner of the world. But many people I have spoken to find yoga inaccessible. Some are concerned that they don’t have the right “yoga body” that we see all over social media or that they aren’t flexible enough, whilst others find that the stillness of yoga just isn’t their thing.
There aren’t that many wellness retreats that are not yoga-based or inspired. The Nia practice, whilst being a beautiful complement to yoga, offers something new and fresh to many people. It’s dynamic, fun, not hard work, conditioning, healing, playful, done to soulful music…and completely adaptable and accessible to all body types. It also speaks to our emotional bodies as it allows for a lot of personal expression and freedom through movement. Many people have emotional reactions at my Nia retreats, and many have huge emotional breakthroughs.
The second angle is Cambodia! Cambodia is not really known globally as a wellness destination like Thailand or Bali. And yet this little country is a hidden gem in Asia. The biggest draw to Cambodia is, of course, the ancient ruins of the Angkorean temples, situated right outside of Siem Reap. Cambodia is also safe and tourist-friendly, and my retreat guests always comment on the friendliness and warm hearts of the Cambodian people. My retreat is an incredible opportunity to visit these spectacular temples in the jungle and experience Cambodian culture and food whilst receiving a dose of community, movement and wellness…all in a most luxurious setting.
Scott & Nancy Kiesling, Adventure Therapy Retreats
Two things set us apart and make our retreats a one-of-a-kind experience. The first is our use of Adventure Therapy, where we use an activity that involves both physical and emotional stimuli to sync your body’s physiology to your mindset so you can overcome things like anxiety, stress, depression, and self-doubt once and for all.
Your body keeps score of every experience you’ve had, both good and bad. Therefore, if you’ve experienced something like self-doubt, anxiety, stress, or depression for an extended period of time, even once you learn how to overcome it mentally, your body can still get triggered, causing you to revert back to your old mental pattern.
Furthermore, your mind and body have an inseparable connection. Whatever state your body is in, the mind will follow, and whatever state your mind is in, the body will follow; therefore, by changing your body’s physiology, you can change your emotional state.
Repeated exposure to adventure conditions means you to have a positive emotional state, because adventure naturally causes you to become extremely present and in the moment; therefore, repeated exposure to it conditions your mind and body to be in sync in a positive emotional state, which improves self-concept and self-esteem.
When you have an improved sense of self and self-esteem, you have better relationships. Adventure Therapy helps to build help-seeking behaviour, pro-social behaviour, trust, better communication, empathy, and compassion.
The second is that our retreats are Full Service. Many of our guests have some nerves and overwhelm about taking this big trip and being “alone” and are curious about what things they’ll need to have in place. We take care of everything to help you avoid stress and overwhelm so you can get the most growth from this experience. Right from the start, we make things easy by helping you find flights, know what to pack, and handle travel protocols. From the moment you land at the destination, everything is taken care of for you. Our bus is waiting to take you to our luxury villa. You meet the other guests and start bonding right away. The only time you are “alone” is during your flight (and we’ve even had some guests end up on the same flight!)
We don’t want you to have to pull out your wallet for anything except a souvenir; therefore, we make sure that everything is included and taken care of within our retreat package – including transportation to and from the airport, as well as all of the excursions and yoga classes, accommodations, spa services, all meals, snacks, and beverages…right down to having a photographer so you can be present and not preoccupied behind a screen trying to capture moments. We even take care of many finite details like providing bug spray, sunscreen, flashlights, binoculars and more (we are exploring jungles, after all).
Our goal is for you to indulge in self-love and self-care in every sense of the word so you can embody what it feels like to put your physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing first and make healthy choices that nurture your wellbeing and serve you well.
Shannon Dickey & Barbie Harder, Empower U Equine Learning and Wellness Center
Each one of our retreats has its own vibe that different women will connect with.
To start the year off in January, we offer Live Your Wild and Love Yourself. A winter retreat in Saskatchewan may seem a little daunting, but we believe that embracing the hard season of the year by igniting a fire within is the perfect way to set your intentions for the year ahead. It’s easy to want to hide from the winter and hide from ourselves and our goals.
So we developed an experience that has women not only learning more about themselves through our Equine Facilitated Wellness program but stepping into the wild to enjoy snowshoeing, dog sledding and a horse-drawn sleigh, plus so much more. Fresh, crisp air, open spaces and the beauty of the forest in the winter can be exhilarating and recharge you in your wellness journey. We want to spark women to believe in themselves and pursue their most authentic life, and sometimes that requires stepping way outside of your comfort zone.
Our summer retreat is called EMPOWERED U Women’s Wellness and is a great mid-year check-in opportunity to get connected with yourself. Here you leave the hustle and bustle of life behind and step into the beauty of Northeastern Saskatchewan for a life-changing weekend. As with all our retreats, the foundation is our groundbreaking Equine Facilitated Wellness program, but this weekend brings together a powerhouse of women facilitators who specialize in different holistic modalities. Guests take part in group sessions with the opportunity to customize their experience with private sessions as well.
Our fall retreat is called More Joy and is co-hosted by the founder of the More Joy Movement, Christalee Froese. This three-day retreat uses the powerful energy of the horse to reconnect you with your inner joy. The all-inclusive wellness experience features amazing meals and wellness sessions with Journey to Joy author Christalee Froese, plus yoga and optional riding.