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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.

Mastering the Business of Yoga

So much gratitude for the human connections made possible through the path of yoga! Here with catch up with Amanda Kingsmith, the founder of M.B.Om. Amanda has created a functional wonderland for business minded yogis including; a podcast, a blog, a community group, a yoga business bootcamp, and more. Learn more about her story, insights, and the good and important work she is up to!

Can you tell us a bit about your yoga background?

I started practicing yoga with my mom in my second year of university. Having come from a competitive dance background, I enjoyed the body-mind connection, but I didn’t feel overly challenged in the classes that we were going to. So, I started going to hot yoga. I practiced hot yoga for a number of years until I started working in corporate and began going to a studio that was close to my office. My once a week classes quickly turned into daily classes and it wasn’t long before I was hooked.

Fast forward about 2 years, I had traveled to South America for 6 months and relocated to a small mountain town in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. I started working for lululemon and was working as a part-time studio manager for a local yoga studio, and practicing almost everyday. It was at that point that I decided that I wanted to take my yoga teacher training.

Nearly a year later, I traveled to Canggu, Bali to do my 200-hour YTT and haven’t looked back since!

What is M.B.Om and how did this idea come about?

M.B.Om stands for Mastering the Business of Yoga, and it’s a play on “M.B.A or Masters of Business Administration”. It’s a podcast and blog that focuses on teaching yoga teachers the business side of the yoga industry, and helping them to learn more business skills and recognize that it is possible to create a sustainable living in the industry.

The idea came about soon after I returned from my yoga teacher training. I came back excited to teach, but I didn’t really know where to start. Luckily, I was well connected in the town I lived in and was able to get teaching gigs fairly easily. However, about 5 months later, my boyfriend and I relocated to the southern U.S. and I had to start over again. I found myself pulling a lot of what I knew from my business degree and my life working in marketing in the corporate world into my yoga career, but I was still struggling. I also felt that I couldn’t be alone in my struggles, so I decided to start an interview based podcast to talk with successful yoga teachers on how they created successful careers as a way to teach yoga teachers (and myself) how to be successful in the yoga world.

As an entrepreneur, how do you set healthy boundaries for yourself as well as keep motivated and creative?

Creating boundaries for myself has been one of the hardest parts of entrepreneurship and remote work. Some of the boundaries that I set for myself are:

  • At least one day off a week, usually Sundays, to spend with my boyfriend and go out and explore wherever I am based.
  • No calls in the mornings – my mornings are my time for meditation, yoga, journaling, making a big, healthy breakfast, checking emails, and getting my day started. If I need to, I will work around this, but in general I find that having my mornings for myself is really important for my productivity and organization.
  • My daytimer – I would be lost without my Passion Planner. It has all my calls, to-do lists, tasks that need to get done, etc., and I’ve found having a solid calendar system has been really key for my success as an entrepreneur.
  • Power Hour on Sundays, where I spend an hour getting my week organized and getting clear on what I need to get done, when I have calls, etc. This hour really sets me up for success.
  • Regular bedtime and wake up time (which is always a work in progress).
  • Once I “shutdown” and stop working for the night, I don’t check emails again.
  • I respond to emails within 24-48 hours.

In terms of staying motivated and creative, I turn to podcasts, books, yoga classes with other teachers, blog posts from some of my favorite health and wellness bloggers, and time in nature for inspiration. Some of my favorite podcasts right now are Being Boss, From the Heart – Conversations with Yoga Girl, Biz Chix and the occasional episode of the Tim Ferris show. I love following Lee from America and Alison Wu for health and wellness inspiration, and the Bulletproof weekly newsletter is one of my favorites for healthy recipes.

She Means Business by Carrie Green is one of my favorite business books, and The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem by Nathaniel Branden is easily one of the most impactful books I’ve ever read. If I’m ever super low on motivation and creativity, I read Harry Potter or Winnie the Pooh! 

The Digital Nomad/Location Independent scene is SO hot right now;) Do you think it is a sustainable long term way to live and healthy for local community? What are your thoughts of the future of digital nomad life?

Good question! I think that digital nomad life appears much more glamorous than it actually is. There are photos popping up on Facebook and Instagram of people working beachside with a drink in their hands or lounging by an infinity pool, and the reality is that computers are not waterproof, they will die and overheat, and you always need a good wifi connection (which the beach rarely has!).  

Don’t get me wrong, I love being able to live wherever I want, but I think that it’s important to note that digital nomad life doesn’t look so different from life at home – it just means you work from another country. I pretty much always work from my house, a coffee shop or a co working space though, never the beach! For me, this is the perfect balance of building a business and growing my career, while still being able to feed my love of travel and experiencing new countries.

I think that everyone is a bit different when it comes to lifestyle preferences. There are a lot of people who prefer to have a home and take vacations, while others prefer to roam. For me, I have always loved to travel and I don’t ever foresee myself living a life that doesn’t involve travel. However, travel will probably always look different depending what life stage I’m in. Right now, I’m loving spending winters somewhere warm and summers home in Canada, and taking some smaller trips throughout the year. At some point, I might want to have a place I call home for most of the year, but we’ll see.

I think that as humans we crave connection and we also crave community. Working remotely and having a location independent lifestyle means that you have to work a little bit more for your community because your community isn’t always right there in front of you. My boyfriend and travel partner, Ryan and I find that we feel most connected to a place when we can dive into the local community and become a part of it, and I think that as long as people are diving into and supporting their communities, local communities will continue to thrive.

I don’t think that the location independent lifestyle will ever die out, especially as it becomes easier and easier to do with technology, but I think we’ll see a lot of people trying it and finding that it’s not for them. For me personally, I’m excited to see what happens with the world as people move, travel and explore more. I think that exploring and learning about different cultures is one of the greatest ways to remember that we are all humans, regardless of language, race, gender, etc.

Your podcast is super successful! Congrats! What does it take to start and operate a functional podcast?

Thank you!

First off, starting a podcast is not as hard as most people imagine! All you need is an idea, a properly sized logo, a decent microphone and some recording / editing software.

Once you’ve got your podcast going, the most challenging part is staying on top of it. A successful podcast needs to have content released on a regular schedule and this can be one of the hardest parts when you have a busy schedule and lots of other things going on in your business. Now that podcasts are picking up more traction, there are a ton of editing companies, and I think that if you are starting a podcast as just one part of your business, it’s worth it to pay someone to produce it for you (especially if learning to produce audio doesn’t excite you and you’re already really busy).

For me, one of the biggest challenges when I first started was finding guests. I interviewed nearly every yoga teacher I knew before I started to gain some traction. It’s important to know that podcasting can be a big learning curve without very much direct return off the get go, but if you stick with it, you will gain a community of listeners (your tribe!), and have the opportunity to have conversations with people you may never otherwise have had the chance to have.

Although I love that my podcast is making me money now, it was 100% worth it just from a networking standpoint before I ever made a cent.

Yoga and Entrepreneurship can be seen as a paradox, although so many yogis are creating their own business to sustain themselves. Thoughts on this?

This has been a major focus of mine in 2018, as I completely agree that yoga and entrepreneurship don’t naturally blend themselves well. One of the biggest things that I try to instill to yoga teachers is that they are already building businesses, whether they like it or not.

Your students are your customers, your classes are your products, your teaching style is your brand, and when you teach more classes, offer workshops or retreats, you are naturally putting people through a sales funnel and selling to them. People get quickly turned off by marketing, sales funnels, and selling, but I want people to remember that we can offer a service that is authentic to us, sell it in a way that sticks to our values and feels true to ourselves and yoga, and create a brand while still staying true to the practice and lineage that is yoga.

In 2018, money is our currency exchange, and teaching yoga is simply an exchange. We exchange our service for money. If we can remember that, I think that we are all a lot better off in terms of building sustainable businesses and being able to continue offering yoga to our students.

I also like to think of teaching yoga as a form of entrepreneurship. We are our own service and brand and we work under the umbrella of studios to offer our service to customers. At the end of the day, we are not employees, we are entrepreneurs building heart-centered businesses with the goal of helping people heal and feel better in their bodies.

Who are some humans that currently inspire you?

I am lucky to have a lot of humans in my life that inspire me.

My boyfriend, Ryan Ferguson, is a constant source of inspiration for me. He reminds me to always make decisions based on my values even when those decisions are the hardest ones, pushes me to follow my dreams constantly, and challenges me to look at life differently.

I feel really fortunate to work with T.K. Coleman, the Director of Education for Praxis. He has taught me so much about working with other people, value creation, and how to be a good coach. He’s literally one of the most inspiring people I’ve ever met!

I am also really inspired by one of the studio owners I work for, Jeff Mah. He’s an incredible yoga teacher, human, and mentor and he’s been one of the biggest inspirations for my own yoga career and business.

I’ve never met Carrie Green, but I am continuously inspired by her work. “She Means Business” was a game-changer for my business and I am constantly in awe by the her ability to drop so much value in a just a few words or a really short video. Whenever I need business inspiration, I turn to Carrie Green.

I’ve also never met Rachel Brathen, but I love her brand, her business and her podcast. She has a way of being authentic and telling it like it is that I love and that reminds me to be honest in the way that I portray myself, especially online.

Ayn Rand’s work has always inspired me. Not only is she an incredible author, but she is able to write fiction with deep philosophical narratives weaved through it, like no other author that I’ve ever read before. People often hate on Ayn Rand, but I think that anytime you can create a ton of controversy through something like a novel, you’re doing something right.

Similarly, Harry Potter is my favorite series of books and something that I turn to for inspiration time and time again, so it would be unfair to leave J.K. Rowling off this list. If I can create something in my lifetime even half as powerful as the Harry Potter series, I will die happy.

Where do you see M.B.Om and yourself in 10 years?

In 10 years I hope to be financially sustainable with my online business, be teaching yoga regularly, and continue to be traveling regularly. I’m not quite sure where “home” will be yet, but I know that I will continue to venture back to the Canadian Rockies often.

I hope that in 10 years, discussing the business side of yoga will not be quite so taboo. I hope that every yoga teacher feels comfortable talking about money and business and that conversations around business are more prevalent in 200-hour YTTs. At the very least, I hope to be leading my own YTTs, where I can guarantee that there will be a business component (amongst the rest of it, because business is not the only important part!).

I hope that M.B.Om is at the top of the iTunes charts for “Careers” and that I have 10x as many listeners (assuming podcasts are still a thing – who knows, right?!). Either way, I hope that what I am doing is creating a wave in the yoga industry where I can help yoga teachers create sustainable long-term businesses so that they can teach yoga through until their 90’s and help heal the world. People need yoga and yoga teachers need to make money to keep teaching yoga, which is why learning about business is so, so important.

Anything else you’d like to share?

I also co-host a podcast called The World Wanderers with my boyfriend, Ryan. We have been doing the podcast for about 4 years and on top of sharing all of our travels around the world, we’ve had the opportunity to talk to a ton of amazing people who have created businesses related to travel, who travel full-time, who travel with their kids, who have become full-time travel bloggers, and much more. If you like travel, as well as yoga, please feel free to check it out!

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