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Retreat Here Now: Six Destinations The Masses Haven’t Discovered

“One’s destination is never a place, but always a new way of seeing things.” – Henry Miller

Bali and Costa Rica are amazing spots for retreats, but they’re not exactly the world’s best kept secrets. For a destination that will satisfy your wanderlust tendencies and need to heal, consider checking out these less-visited locales. Whether it’s health, adventure, cuisine, or culture that’s calling, here are six spots sure to inspire transformation.

Widest Variety of Accommodations: Southern Italy

Southern Italy offers up some truly unique group accommodation options, from monasteries in Sicily, to trulli in Puglia, to caves in Matera. Points south of Rome offer good value for money; check out the mainland provinces of Abruzzo, Basilicata, Calabria, Campania, Molise, and Puglia plus islands Sardinia and Sicily. In many of these areas, visitors are more likely to encounter Italian tourists than throngs of foreigners. Nationwide, the Italian government supports a thriving program of state-sponsored agriturismos, or independently owned farms that open their doors to independent travelers or groups. While not generally equipped with amenities like yoga props or meditation cushions, they can make great retreat venues as they offer plenty of space for movement and mindfulness practices. Food is generally excellent, making generous use of hyper-local ingredients as a rule. Though agriturismos span the budget-to-luxury spectrum, rates are overall very reasonable and usually include breakfast and dinner.

Most Exciting Food Scene: Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka’s cuisine is flavored by the influences of its native Buddhist, Hindu, and Muslim traditions as well as those of its Portuguese, Dutch, and British colonists. The country has only been open to tourists since the civil war ended in 2009, so tourism hasn’t yet totally diluted the cultural picture; with the exception of a few beach towns, you aren’t likely to find yourself in a sea of tourists. Like many Southeast Asian countries, Sri Lanka has a thriving street food scene. There’s a culture of “short eats,” or snacks available by the dozen in both restaurants and shops. Especially in a group setting, these are a great way to try small portions of different foods. Between meal times, feed your soul with a visit to one of the country’s stunning temple complexes. “Can’t miss” sites are the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, the Dambulla Cave Temple, and the Koneswaram Temple.

Best Island Destination: Iceland

Many retreat-goers first look toward the tropics when thinking about island destinations. However, what Iceland lacks in palm trees and sun-drenched beaches, it makes up for in glaciers, waterfalls, and rugged mountains. It’s easily accessible from both North America and Europe; there are direct flights from 25 US cities by carriers IcelandAir, Wow, Delta, and United. High season is June to August, but you can save significantly on airfare and accommodations by visiting during the colder months. Time your low season visit right and you may be lucky enough to see the Northern Lights, generally visible September to April. Whether you visit in summer or winter, consider complimenting your daily retreat practices with time in nature. Iceland offers cold water diving, whale watching, glacier hiking, snowshoeing, horseback riding, and much more. Even close to the capital, Reykjavik, you can enjoy its famous geothermal pools; two good choices are Nauthólsvík geothermal beach and the complex at Laugardalslaug.

Greatest Healing Power: Ikaria, Greece

The residents of the world’s five Blue Zones enjoy unparalleled longevity, which has been linked to lifestyle factors such as a plant-based diet, strong social and familial bonds, spiritual engagement, and moderate physical activity. Ikarians eat a variation of the Mediterranean diet, with lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, potatoes, and olive oil. They drink antioxidant-rich tea and wine, as well as goat’s milk, which is lactose-free but provides nutrients like potassium and tryptophan. Some speculate that Ikarians’ regular afternoon naps also contribute to longevity by ensuring they get enough sleep and helping keep stress at bay. The climate, with warm, sunny summers and mild, rainy winters supports outdoor tourism as well as thriving agriculture on the island. Locals grow and harvest the food they eat year round, enabling true farm-to-table living. Ikaria is well-known among Greeks for its “Panagiria,” celebrations of saints’ feast days and other religious holidays, which take place all year long, but especially during the summer. Don’t miss these unique opportunities to mix with locals while trying traditional food and wine, live music, and non-stop dancing.

Easiest Logistics: British Columbia, Canada

British Columbia invested heavily in sporting and transportation infrastructure as host of the Vancouver Winter Olympics back in 2010. Visitors today should breeze through their travels in, out, and around the province. Vancouver is both a foodie’s paradise (worth a visit even if it isn’t your final destination) and home to a major international airport. Travelers also have the option of flying to Seattle and driving north; it’s about a three hour drive from Seattle to Vancouver. British Columbia is a great spot to retreat year-round, drawing visitors to its striking coastline during summer (don’t miss Tofino) and to its alpine areas in winter (notably, ski and snowboard destination Whistler. B.C. beaches are amazing for lounging, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding while the mountains have world class skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and ice skating. It’s tempting to think of the coast as the place to be during summer months and likewise the mountains in winter. However, look for shoulder season deals on the coast and don’t underestimate mountain areas’ summer potential. Mother nature offers plenty of opportunities for multi-season activities, including hiking, climbing, cycling, horseback riding, and ziplining.

Most Culturally Immersive: Morocco

While Morocco’s coastal resort towns and Marrakesh (one of the country’s four imperial cities  are heavily touristed, there are many inland areas and smaller towns largely untouched by outside influences. The strong culture of hospitality in Morocco means you’re likely to be well fed and cared-for throughout your stay. The country doesn’t have many traditional retreat centers, but tented desert camps and riads, or traditional houses offering bed and breakfast-type accommodations, often cater to retreat groups. Morocco is a complete visual pleasure in that it isn’t just major tourist sites where you’ll experience breathtaking architecture. The craftsmanship that goes into the tile, plaster, metal, and woodwork of basic buildings like riads or hammams, not to mention that of mosques, palaces, and city gates, is simply stunning. Though meat-based dishes are often showcased in restaurants, most Moroccans eat meat sparingly. Fresh, raw salads and long-simmered, produced-based dips, soups, and stews often kick off meals, with vegan- and/or vegetarian-friendly couscous and tajine dishes to follow.

 

 

 

Jen Corley (CYT-500) heads the wellness travel division at WeTravel.com, the operator of an online booking and payment platform for retreat travel. When she’s not traveling, she enjoys spending time with her husband, Evan, and French bulldog, Taco.

She Will Rise

Kelsey is the Creator of She Will Rise: a community of women who are rising from the ashes of their past into the brilliance of their future. The community offers Trauma Therapy, Group Coaching, Retreats, and a Podcast. I met Kelsey in 2010, at a very dear place to my heart, Yandara in Baja, Mexico. I was there for one month taking a training and she was there teaching and working. Her strength and vibrance inspired me. We did not really stay in touch but years later, life brought us back together. We had both continued on the paths of living yoga and were simultaneously working on creative projects within the wellness world. Love had led me to the location that she was living. The connections that are made through yoga and wellness are amazing, and it is exciting and magical to grow and evolve together. Here we catch up with Kelsey, to learn from her story and wisdom. Thank you Kelsey for sharing your bright light!

Tell us about the inspirations that led to the creation of the She Will Rise Podcast…

 

On my own path of recovery I didn’t like or fit into the conventional systems or route, they just didn’t work for me. I had to make it up as I went a long and find my own way. I now call this intuitive recovery.  I had to learn how to listen to my heart AND ALSO my body AND ALSO my soul. It was hard for me as I didn’t meet a lot of people doing what I was doing and I felt like I was crazy at times. I knew that what I was doing was working for me but I lacked support and I felt very alone. As I developed the She Will Rise Intuitive Recovery Programs and Retreats I found other women offering amazing things too. I have always been comfortable sharing my story and I saw other women were starting to share theirs too. I thought, “what if there was a free resource for women where they could listen to other unique stories of recovery and have access to many tools and techniques so they could find their own unique and intuitive way through their trauma?” That is when the She Will Rise Podcast was born.

 

How has yoga helped shape your path?

 

I have heard a lot of people say that yoga saved their  life, I truly believe it saved mine. I was 23 and suffering from some pretty serious injuries from snowboarding. I couldn’t sit down for longer than an hour and I would wake up in pain every day. My friend dragged me to an Ashtanga yoga class after much convincing. I had dabbled with yoga by myself for many years before but never really went to classes. So I went and I cried the whole class because it hurt but felt good at the same time. I woke up in no pain so I went back. My body got stronger and had less pain. Then I tried a yin class…it was emotionally excruciating for me and I cried through every class for months. I was going to 6-8 classes a week because I was feeling so much emotional and physical relief. I was sold and in a year decided I wanted to be a yoga teacher. I have had some of my greatest physical healings, emotional breakthroughs and spiritual awakenings in practicing yoga and I can see myself having it in my day to day practice for the rest of my life.

Why do you feel called to create a space specifically for women?

 

I am a woman who has experienced a lot of abuse from men and I know a lot of other women have experienced the same thing and do not feel safe when men are around them. When women gather and are in a safe and sacred space to open up, magical things happen. The way women or female identified people feel, create, heal, dance and play is unique and it is different. The essence of who you are whether feminine or masculine needs to be initiated, honored and held with love. There is something remarkably strong about a compassionate sisterhood based in holding the highest vision for each other and I want to be a part of that.

How has the process of holding these conversations with women helped in your own growth and healing?

 

I believe our stories are medicine. When we hear a woman’s story of what she has been through it helps us feel like we are not alone and we might find the tools or words of inspiration that we are looking for. This is also true for me. I learn SO much from every woman I interview, their strength, courage and vulnerability deeply touches the parts in me that need just that to keep going. The friendships that are being made from the interviews and also the programs are so supportive, it is truly amazing.

Do you have any words of wisdom for women in wellness that are thinking about starting their own creative entrepreneurial projects?

 

You don’t have to do it all yourself. Don’t be afraid to hire someone who can do a task in an hour which would take you days. Stay connected to your values and practice integrity. Base your business around this. Look to others who are inspiring to you and surround yourself with supportive people. Stay away from comparison and jealousy of other women in the same field, there is absolutely enough clientele for you and the people you are meant to work with are out there waiting for you. Promote and support your colleagues; cross promotion is a powerful tool. Find a deep WHY.  Why are you are doing what you are doing?  Align the ‘why’ with your values and write it down everywhere!

 

WHAT and/or WHO sparks you up most right now?

 

All the amazing women I am interviewing for the podcast.  They are all so different, some of them students, mothers, big and little business owners, entrepreneurs, and they all have an amazing story to tell. They inspire me so much! I am also deeply immersed in earth based magic and ceremony and learning more to live with the circadian rhythms, following the moon cycles and living with the seasons. Then there are the animals in my life, my dogs, and the horses I work with and ride. I am now offering Animal Communication as a part of the programs I offer and it is profound the healing and therapy animals have to offer us.

 

 

Learn more and connect with Kelsey and this beautiful community:

Kelsey is a recovered addict and sexual abuse survivor who is dedicating her life to breaking the silence around these issues by sharing her story and supporting women to work through their trauma. She is the Creator of She Will Rise. Hear from courageous women who share their stories of a painful experiences and traumas, and how they work through it. The She Will Rise Podcast offers tools, resources and gifts to listeners. Stories are medicine. Together we are stronger.

www.shewillrise.community

IG:  @shewillrise.community

Why Go on a Yoga Retreat?

Here is some reposted wisdom and inspiration for the modern yogi from our friend Insiya at YOGUE. You can find the original posting here: http://www.yogue.ca/why-go-on-a-yoga-retreat/

I recently read Toronto based yoga teacher Matthew Remski’s essay on how modern yoga needs to offer “real” support and connection to its community at the yoga studio level – he calls it the “soup kitchen”-ing of yoga studios.  It’s a brilliant, thought provoking essay and you can find it in the book 21st Century Yoga Politics and Practice;  I admire Remski as he brings a critical lens to our yoga bubble world and his writing and his work is concerned with  growing the yoga practice far beyond just doing asanas to tone your tush.   It is about creating a space much like the churches and mosques and synagogues have done for centuries, that offers community, a space to share the sorrows and joys of life that make us humans on a spiritual search, yet not disengaged with daily living.

Yet, in the essay, he critiques yoga retreats as one of the offerings at yoga studios that have just become a marketing ploy to take people to beautiful places and earn revenue.

That may be.

Yet, I write this post from Bali, where I have just arrived from the wet Canadian winter of Vancouver.  My mornings here begin with a surreptitious escape from our “family bed” so as not to awaken our toddler, who climbs in every night. I spend my first few moments walking barefoot onto dewy grass and looking up at the night sky – blushing toward first dawn.  It is warm and my body feels none of the sting of the winter winds I have left behind.  Instead, I am here taking in a simple connection to soil, to earth and to the ocean air scented with plumeria.

Sounds magical?  It is.  This time in Bali where we arrive each winter after the many airplane flights, the incessant travails of travel – especially with a child – is my manna.  After my first dip into the ocean, I feel reborn and a flowering of my yoga practice – with a little bit of help.  I’m no longer as concerned with the daily tasks of being a “householder” – we eat simple, delicious food that the retreat centre cooks, or at a local restaurant or warung, or I cook breakfast.  I am not folding laundry, one of the many local laundries is happy to have our business and  I have a little bit of help with my son.

As a mom, my yoga practice at home is all about squeezing in a few moments here and there within my day – always flowing with the rhythm of my child, the demands of work and family  – and justifying the compression of my daily practice with the statement: “this is my yoga right now.”

Here, all of a sudden, I don’t need to justify anything.  With just a little bit of space and time I can go a little deeper.  I used to think this was a luxury, something that I shouldn’t celebrate as it seemed so elitist, but especially if you are a woman and a mother and on a spiritual path – if you can manage it – a few moments of time stretched offer everything. It makes me think about a famous female poet who said, “I write poetry as it is the only thing i can do in between the demands of my children.  Writing fiction would take so much longer.”

Ultimately, what I am looking for is quiet.  The yogis write that the yoga practice is about training our mind to be quiet so that we can feel that “quietness” in the midst of chaos, yet to get there, there’s nothing quite like experiencing external quiet: the pause from the daily-ness of space/time.  Sometimes you need to check out, to check in.

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The recent “trend” in the yoga world is that “retreats” are not as popular as teacher trainings and immersions in exotic locations.  That maybe so, but the truth is, that going on retreat can be a deep ride that offers as much as you are ready to take.  It can help to create new habits – like a daily yoga practice; it can offer a respite with time to journal, to think, to even lay in a hammock especially if that is not your natural inclination. Mostly, it can be a sure-fire way to take your awareness to another plane, a transfusion of spirit and a re-building of the “you.”

I often end my yoga classes with the statement that taking this “time” is not a selfish thing, because the time we spend on renewing ourself helps us to be kinder, more compassionate and present in all our relationships.  I know that I am a better partner, a mother and a friend when I do.

Traveling to Bali may not be in your cards this year, or in this lifetime, but you can go on retreat, for an hour, a day, a weekend or longer to a place not so far from the immediate recesses of your life.

So tell me, have you been on a yoga retreat or aspire to going on one?  Do you see it as something frivolous or wuwu? I’d love to know.

MW5A0273-6Insiya Rasiwala-Finn is a writer, yoga teacher, and mama exploring creativity and the eco lifestyle. Follow Insiya at YOGUE as she continues to seek out the greenest, healthiest ways to live, cook, inspire, travel and play: in the ocean, with words on paper and on the yoga mat.

www.yogue.ca