Retreats + Travel
Well, hello ya'll. It's been a hot minute since my last blog post --- I've been doing a little traveling lately, hence the subject line of this blog you're reading today. Which is WHY I'm putting together this post for all you folks who've been following me on my travels and retreats. I get a lot of questions on the topic of retreat and travel.
So, here we go. This is what I'm going to guide you throughout this post on:
Retreat Hot Spots & Tips to hosting your own Retreat
My Top FAVORITE places to travel in the US + Europe
How to Join Me on my next Retreat
Sound like a plan?
R E T R E A T S
Alright, so I feel like my audience here can go one of two ways. One, you're either curious on attending one of my retreats or maybe you saw a retreat I hosted and want to visit there yourself OR you're wanting to HOST your own retreat and need ideas on where to go and what works? -- am I right?
Let's chat on YOU hosting your own RETREAT. Retreats are a lot of work, I'm not going to sugarcoat that, but so amazing and fun for you and your clients to participate in. I always tell folks, your FIRST step in planning a retreat is choosing a location. If you are a planner and have that "type A" personality, I would look into finding an amazing luxury home rental for your retreat. If you find yourself getting overwhelmed easily and tend to drop the ball on details, your retreat needs to be hosted at a retreat center. Life is way easier when you can pass off issues to a front desk person.
I have done both options, and I personally like both. Renting a place is stressful but I have an amazing network of folks I bring with me, like a chef, support teachers, a retreat manager, etc.... Some of my most successful and crowd favorite retreats are when we traveled to Europe. Here's a scale of our favorite spots and why!
Positano is an absolute dream, literally its featured in the most romantic films. It's a little tricky to get to however,... you'll have to have your group fly into Naples and then arrange a car or taxi service to drive about 2 hrs down the coast on a windy road to lemon tree filled, hill top city of Positano. #worthit.
Our group LOVED this location because our retreat home was amazing. 12 bedrooms, 8 bathrooms, a pool, views, and the decor made you feel like you stepped into Versaille, France ( and that's because the owner was obsessed with Versaille and mirrored his decor from the museum). Each morning our accommodating staff would make you a cappuchino to your liking, you'd find a spot on the terrace and just sit admiring the views of the city smelling flowers and lemon zest --- it was dreamy. The company we used to book this place also provided a staff and personal chef --- it was top notch service. Our meals were perfection. 5 course dinners with fresh baked bread and olive oil, seafood, and homemade pasta ..not going to lie, I think on day 4, our group was like, " Salad and protein, please." -- Chef said, no. (lol).
It's super easy to walk into to town to shop, eat, and lay on the beach. We also ventured into some hiking and hired a private charter boat to take our group to the island of Capri where we also shopped, ate, and drank wine. Our sweet chef taught us how to make pizza one night, our group was memorized how many gals could actually toss pizza dough, let me tell you, it's challenging.
-- oh, we did practice yoga daily and did a few workshops, too. Our villa had plenty of space indoors and out for a group of 20 ladies.
So, yall, Italy is pretty amazing. Here's the breakdown for Positano.
Expect to drop about $30,000 - $40,000 on the house rental and your chef. It's tricky to get to but worth it. Excursions will run you about $4000-$8000. It'll be an experience your group will remember forever.
2. Cassis, France. Southern France
Southern France has this romanticized reputation and I am all about it. I wanted my group to experience something more than just a yoga retreat. I wanted them to have a taste of luxury that most folks could never experience on their own. My husband and I took a trip to France a few years back.. we ate croissants and fell in-love on the streets of Paris then hopped on a train to Southern France wine country where I found this hidden gem of a fisherman city....Cassis. I like finding spots where most people haven't heard of before. It gives a sense of exclusivity and feeling special.... undiscovered to the instagram influencers (lol). Cassis is just that, a high end, exclusive experience with my booshy-hippie stamp of approval. I had the opportunity to meet the owners of this gorgeous 12 bedroom home nestled over the Mediterranean Sea. The interior was absolutely stunning.... white walls, white furniture, light oak floors, spiral staircases, floor to ceiling windows.... every room had a view. We had rules in this house, though ....everything was white and beautiful, but we're in wine country....I told the gals absolutely NO wine, coffee... really, anything with color was not allowed outside the kitchen.... aka, don't give Mel anxiety and spill red wine all over the expensive white couch.
We had beautiful spaces to practice yoga each morning and evening.. it's a little chilly in the spring, so I would suggest yoga retreating in late spring and early summer. You are walking distance to this little town's restaurants, cafes, and high-end shopping. From 2-4p, all the cafes shut down. You'll see the owners outside sipping on Rose and smoking a cigarette ( so French). The experiences of Cassis are pretty special. We planned a sailing day in the Sea and around the coves. Our group is pretty adventurous, and did an intermediate to advance hike to a private beach ...literally the only way to access this beach was by hiking or by boat. After a long hike under the hot sun, the girls were stripping off cloths to jump into the cold water -- it was a sight and a memorable experience.
Being in wine country, we HAD to visit vineyards and sip on wine.....French wine is spectacular, because of the growing and preserving process, don't expect a hang over headache the next day at all. This might actually be dangerous information, lol. Wine is like water over there.
The chef that our house manager arranged for us was aaaaamazing. Every dish that came out looked like a 5 star experience. In fact, one evening we planned as a group to a top rated restaurant in the city ( and saw Pamela Anderson) and I felt like our Chef's dishes exceeded this experience. I always try to incorporate Green Juices on each of my retreats. I feel it's important to get nutrients in our bodies in this form, plus it's kind of my vibe. This sweet chef had never made "green juice" before... you should of seen his face when I told him to juice spinach and cucumber. " You don't want orange juice?" He was adorable and he was the only male energy in that house all week, so the girls loved him.
This retreat was a $40,000 investment for the house and chef and cleaning crew. I would plan on additional $10,000 for excursion experiences for a group of 15-20 people. Worth every penny. The owner, Marie, has done an outstanding job with marketing, decor, and services at this home. Not only is she a yogi, Marie has, since then, created a platform of multiple luxury properties all over Europe. I would recommend her completely!
3. Blue Spirit in Nosara, Costa Rica
Costa Rica is pretty much known for its boho, health +healing, yogi vibes, which is why I chose this spot for my first big retreat back in the day. We had about 35 gals attend this retreat even though we were sweating our asses off, it happened to be one of the group's favorite experiences.
First, we did this at a retreat center called Blue Spirit. I was intrigued to find out the owner of this retreat center also owned a healing spa resort at the time in Austin, Tx. Retreat Centers make things super easy on the retreat host. You have yoga studios, a restaurant, coffee bars, a pool, and tons of activities. The yoga studio spaces had breath taking views and access to a sound system and all the props we needed for class. Our meals were all vegetarian and biodynamic organic. They had the most wonderful iced teas out daily for folks to drink. And NO alcohol -- this was probably the most impactful for our crew. The spa services were great --- some gals had reiki readings to massage to energy sound baths. Overall, this retreat center is great for first timers or for those who don't want a huge headache on planning a retreat. I will note that Costa Rica is hot and humid. I, feel, it's important to have air conditioning. I'll have to tell you a story later of a retreat I personally went on with a girlfriend of mine, and we strolled up to our hut on the beach with no AC -- let's just say this mama "grew" a lot and discovered some things about herself .... I'm a booshy hippie and I need AC in hot, humid climates.
In order to high-tail it to Nosara, Costa Rica, we flew into Liberia, hired a taxi van service, and drove 2 hours on back country, dirt roads. When the group arrived we had a few gals turn green --- so, if you get car sick easily, bring your meds to help.
Here's the upside on hosting a retreat at a retreat center, you just need to HOLD rooms and put a small deposit down to secure your HOLD. Your clients can call in or email the center to reserve their rooms with their credit card. The price includes accommodations and meals. The retreat center will pay your portion after the retreat or you can simply collect payment from your clients and pay the center yourselves --- lots more flexibility here. If you plan on excursions, know you will need to reserve and pay the upfront costs for your group. Again, this is all pretty easy and less stress.
Alright, I hope this all helped and steering some of yall into the right direction when it comes to hosting a retreat. I am always a few clicks away if you ever need to support or mentorship on hosting a retreat.
Mel's FAVORITE Places to Travel + Stay
I love to travel so this is hard. I list my TOP 10 favorite spots with links so you can go enjoy these locations, too. As I mentioned earlier, I am a booshy hippie....I like spiritual experiences, but I also like sleeping in a cozy bed and have access to a good cup of coffee in the mornings. The places I personally choose to travel are the mountains, historical cities, and places to scope out potentially for upcoming yoga retreats. Just know, if you ever come on one of my retreats, I have personally stayed there and experienced everything first to make sure its to my standard of travel and retreating --- we don't want a "hut with no AC and lizards pooping on your bed" situation.
Alright, here we go!!
Terlingua, Texas -- The Willow House
You want to talk about STAR GAZING in the middle of nowhere -- holy moly, yall. It's the most intense star gazing I've ever experienced. We didn't event want to leave are casita. Terlingua is special in the fact, it feels untouched. The desert is a magical place and being that Terlingua is so close to Big Bend and booshy places like Marfa...its a magical and easy weekend getaway especially if you live in TEXAS. 6 hr drive from Austin.
Ps. --- Bring your own food and beverage. Willow House has a great communal space to cook or pop in a pizza ( or bake a dozen cookies.)
2. Big Sur, California -- The Ventana Inn + Spa
You want mountain and ocean vibes with a splash of hiking + sipping wine? Big Sur. I was intrigued by Big Sur after I read a blog about this healing center out there. It was my anniversary weekend with my husband, we decided to fly into San Fran drive to Carmel by the Sea, sip on a little wine then drive down the coast to Big Sur. The waterfalls and hiking in the red woods were my absolute favorite. Our hotel was absolutely beautiful. Our room had a cozy fireplace and a huge bathtub ( those are huge checking points for me to stay) and a ROBE ( another huge checking point to stay). The meals we ate at the hotel restaurant...amazing...and the views? Y'all...floor to ceiling windows on top of the clouds, we were that high. We hiked in Big Sur and found this adorable spot to eat on the river --- after hiking, Matt and I usually go towards french fries + a beer. --- just setting expectations here.
3. Zions, Ut -- Under the Canvas
Glamping is the only way I'll camp. Under the Canvas convinced me of that statement. I slept in a cozy King size bed with a real toilet..... the decor inside your yurt is totally West Elm vibes. We loved every minute of being out in the desert. Our kids slept in a teepee on cots and sleeping bags...again, loved every minute of it. After the first full day of canyoneering (google it, ...so fun), my oldest daughter came into my tent and asked me if I was having a good time.... "I'm having a blast!" She's like, " Oh thank god! Because we love this and we know you don't like camping and places without AC and we want to come back." (lol). The girls know me well. Under The Canvas had a great communal space with chairs and views and a waitstaff . The food was exceptional, I was actually shocked considering we were glamping. In the evenings that had a musician play... I can't tell you how relaxing it is to watch the sun go down, sippin on wine, watching the girls play, and listening to the guitar. Zions is magical too, yall. Hiking, kayaking, climbing.... This is a must.
4. Telluride, Co -- The Peaks Resort & Spa
Again, yall,....I like mountains. Telluride is freaking beautiful in the fall and summer, which is when I traveled there. I actually did one of my retreats there....it was by far one of our most favorite experiences. It's also one of Matt and I's favorite experiences. Telluride is an outdoor mecca. Have yall ever heard of a Via Ferrata? -- it's like rock climbing but vertically over about 50-100 ft high. Our dear friends over at Ouray Basecamp (Ouray is also the cutest mountain ever, they call it "The Swiss Alps" of Colorado) guided us on a new Via Ferrata. Matt and I loved it! I knew I had to take my retreat girls on this experience in Oct when the leaves were changing and temps would be perfect. After we climbed for about 2 hours....a beer was in store ( Colorado is big on beers...IPA's to be exact... "I Pee All day")... followed up with a hot spring, also located in Ouray. The hot spring is a perfect compliment to hiking or rock climbing. The hot springs we went to in Ouray was clothing optional. Lordy, the retreats gals and I were like little school girls, giggling and totally being inappropriate -- I am so sorry to any guys that were there that day, we were delusional after the Via Ferrata and altitude. Our hotel in Telluride was in Mountain Village it overlooked the entire town of Telluride. Theres also a free Gondola to take down into town -- ride it a sunset. This place is stunning in the Fall, it always takes my breath away. It was a perfect road trip weekend with the hubby and an absolutely magical experience for a yoga retreat.
5. Aspen, CO
It's no surprise Aspen hits my top favorite list for the U.S. We're Aspen summer goers. When we were living in Texas, Aspen Colorado for a month in the summer became a tradition. We typically went during the month of July. July 4th in Aspen is such a blast for the kids. We loved hiking to Maroon Bells, kayaking in Basalt on Ruedi Reservoir, white water rafting, horseback riding at Maroon Bells, rock climbing, paddle boarding on the creek right outside of Aspen, driving up to Independence Pass...and just sippin on a tequila at night cozied up with a blanket watching the sun go down over the mountains. Aspen has every Colorado activity you can imagine...and our family LOVES them all. The food scene, of course, is amazing. You can find multiple green juice spots, oil-free restaurants, 5 star cuisine, and burgers & beer... you cant' go wrong with a spot to eat. We've stayed in lots of different spots in Aspen, Snowmass, and Basalt. Aspen is going to be top dollar but easy access to town all you need is a bike to get around. We typically rented a house in Snowmass... I can't pin point a top favorite, but the last two visits we stayed at the Snowmass Club Condos, and loved it. Access to a pool is kind of key with little kiddos. We stayed one year in this house in Basalt off the Frying Pan River, we loved it. Whole Foods is in Basalt, which is usually my first stop for groceries for the week. Basalt is about a 30 min drive to Aspen, which isn't a bad thing if your goal is to relax and not be in a touristy spot. A positive side to traveling to Aspen is you can fly right into the Aspen airport from Denver or Dallas. Forewarning, if you're flying in from Chicago and your flight gets delayed passed 8pm, Aspen airport has a curfew which means planes cant fly in passed 9pm. --- nightmare of a night with two kids in tow. Flew into some Colorado airport at 1am and was expected to hope on a big bus for a 2 hr drive into Aspen. Thank God, my sweet husband was there to pick us up and drive us.
Ok, onto spots outside of the U.S.
Puglia, Italy --- Cannes Bianche
Oh, where to start. Southern Italy is a dream. The Puglia region is in the heel of the boot. It looks like Greece and the people are amazing. Very rarely will you see an American there and because of that, you feel like a celebrity ....lots of stares, smiles, and attempt to speak English. Love the Italians! We stayed near the Bari Airport, about 45 mins south at a beach side 5 star hotel called Cannes Bianche. The service was impeccable and the location was perfect. Access. to beaches and vineyards and cute little towns. My girls said the highlight of their European trip was Puglia. We rode bikes through Olive Oil orchards did olive oil tastings, wine tastings, wine tours....we rented a boat and toured caves along the coast. This mama actually jumped into the Mediterranean Sea and swam ( little did I know there was 47 different species of shark in those waters when I thought, naively, that sharks couldn't survive those waters.... AND the no. 1 shark in those waters are GREAT WHITES) ...we ate pizza, pasta and gelato (the best gelato in ITALY, for real.). The girls loved a town called The White City, it's where we did our boat adventure. We took these cute tuks tuks into town had a beautiful dinner and ended our night with a surprise firework show. Pure magic.
The beach clubs are a must in Puglia. During my Puglia Retreat, we took our group to a beach with crystal clear blue water and white sands....it felt like Greece. Puglia wines are my favorite.....the REDS are jammy and smooth. Little did we know, the all the vineyards in Puglia are biodynamic (meaning they've been organic for over 30 years) and ran by families for centuries. Overall, Puglia is challenge to get too, but worth it. Spend at least 6-10 days there. Theres easy flights and train rides from Rome, too.
2. Cuixmala + Careyes, Mexico
The beach isn't my love language but Cuixmala + Careyes, Mexico are! These spots are pretty exclusive. The only reason I heard of them was because my dear friend and yoga retreat partner worked there remotely for about 6 years. I had the opportunity to go and visit a handful of times ---and whoa, y'all. The properties are stunning and top notch.
Talk about exclusivity. We had the opportunity to host a retreat in Careyes this past year....from our retreat home, to the views of the ocean, secret beaches, sound baths, and our adorable staff + chef.... Careyes is one of my favorite spots in Mexico. Cuixmala is on over 30,000 acres of land. The owners are European who decided years ago to take this raw land and turn it into a luxury escape home...or I should say "homes." The property's accommodations are all white casitas, villas, and large homes. I learned while I was there, the owner was so deathly afraid of bugs ( I already knew I liked this guy) and painted every structure white, this is so he could see a bug easily (Genius....Guess, what color my whole house is?). The property has some of the most amazing food I have ever tried in Mexico, and that's because they grow and farm everything that goes into your mouth from their land, which is also biodynamic. --- Im telling you, next Mexico vacation trip, skip out on the touristy cities and visit either Careyes or Cuixmala.
It is a a "travel day" to get to both Cuixmala + Careyes you'll have to either fly into Puerto Vallarta and hire a driver to drive to Careyes, which is about a 2 hour drive. You can also fly a private plane to either properties. Another airport option would be to fly into Manzanillo. This is about a 45 min drive to either property.
3. Paris, France
Such a given, right? Paris? -- I'm a die hard Paris girl, probably because I grew up traveling here as a kid. My first European trip was to Paris. I fell in love with the culture, the history, the language and the croissants. Y'all, Paris is a special city, it's calmer and the vibrations are lower. It's not like going to New York City or even, Rome, Italy. When I've traveled to Paris, I have stayed in a couple different areas. The St. Germain is probably my favorite. It's so easy to walk to everything. A hotel I stayed with friends was adorable 5 star boutique hotel. It's a my fav. but just make sure when you walk down for a cup of coffee to the lobby area, you're not wear your hotel robe (lol).
My hubby booked us this adorable airbnb one trip that overlooked St. Germain and the Notre Dame. Every night you'll hear the city come alive with music and laughter. I have this cute little juice bar I walked to called Lou Lou's. Another spot, I loved staying was over by the Louvre and the Tuileries Gardens. It's a little touristy in some areas, but staying over at Hotel Regina and getting up in the mornings to go run the gardens, will be a moment I'll save forever. Our girls asked almost every day to go to the gardens. Everyone has blankets and basket of wine and goodies to just relax and enjoy each others company.
We like to eat. The restaurant scene is overwhelmingly good with so many options. I grew up always going to this steak and fries restaurant, no joke get there 30 mins before it opens, there will be a line around the corner. When you finally get your table, they bring you water and wine and a salad. The only thing on the menu is steak and fries and this addicting, finger-licking good green sauce. I'm not a huge steak eater but the fries and that green sauce is worth it.
I know Paris is touristy, but just do it, y'all. It'll change your heart.
4. Tofino, Canada
I was reluctant to share this spot because it's so untouched by Americans unless you Canadian. BUT it was such a magical trip, I want to share it with all of y'all.
Tofino is on the south end of Vancouver Island, you either have to take a small plane or drive across the island (which is about 6 hours) to get there. Y'all, Tofino looks like it came out of a movie. HUGE, Im talking HUGE pine and red wood tree forests. We had so much fun hiking. The island is completely hugged by rivers and the pacific ocean....I saw an orca on one of our boat excursions, along with so many bald eagles I can't even remember how many we daw. The beaches are "twilight" vibes --- most of the beach side hotels have bonfires set up each night. We'd grab a glass of wine and blanket and ended up chatting with all the couples around us each night. The hotel we stayed in, The "Wic," is one the TOP Fav's of my 5 star hotel lists. Our room was so comfortable and the views were of the ocean and pine wood forests. The on sight restaurants had some of the most decadent dishes, I could of licked each plate. The staff was accommodating. The spa was one of the best spa experiences We did venture out into town and ate at this pub called The Wolf and the Fog --- go and check this place out, for sure!