by Kathi Szabo

I love to travel! Who doesn’t? Challenging myself to do new things. Discovering beautiful places to renew my spirit. Savoring new flavors on my palette. Engaging with people different than me and understanding other cultures.

Travel improves our well-being in many ways.

Studies show that travel help reduces the risks of heart disease. Travel can increase your levels of dopamine, which helps to feel deeper levels of satisfaction and pleasure. We boost our creativity when traveling in a foreign country, not only finding ways to communicate when we don’t speak the language but also there are many ways to do activities we do every day and take for granted.

Traveling, whether abroad or to nearby destinations, is something many of us do, but without intention and without embracing all these well-being benefits.  We go on a trip. Explore the sites, usually with our phone in hand, taking picture after picture, posting selfies on social media, and missing half of what is in our site.

We dine at delicious restaurants. Perhaps even order a tasty dish that we’ve never tried before and may never eat again because we have no idea what is in it or how it was prepared.

But have you been on a retreat? Maybe it was a yoga retreat to deepen your practice or focus on a particular flavor of yoga. Or perhaps it was a spiritual retreat, filled with silence and prayer. Or maybe a day retreat, time spent away from the day-to-day to fill your cup!

Retreats are travel with a purpose. Intentionally embracing the well-being benefits we are blessed with when we explore new destinations, and cultures and partake in novel activities.

The World Is Your Backyard

How many plant species are in your yard? A hundred? Two hundred? Even if it’s 500, that’s less than 1% of all plant species in the world!

When we travel, we can explore nature. Allow our senses to notice the different sites, sounds, and smells of the landscape.

My favorite area of the worldwide backyard is beneath the ocean. No matter how hard you want to see coral, you can only see it in its living form underwater.  The beauty of the ocean and the life living there is remarkable. Filled with color. Vibrancy. And without much sound, it creates a different kind of peace and serenity.

My levels of well-being drastically increase when I dive or snorkel. Why?

First, when I dive, my breath is my guide. If you’ve ever scuba-dived, you know what I mean. You can’t help but hear your own breath. Your breath is calming.

Secondly, I am not distracted. I am simply observing. Noticing the plant life, the fish, and their interaction.

What does this sound like?

Mindfulness. Almost a form of meditation.

This is exactly why so many retreats are near breathtaking and exotic natural wonders, engaging our parasympathetic nervous system and improving our well-being.

If you can’t get away to an exotic place, explore the land beneath your feet. Take a Day Retreat and go Forest Bathing, which is much more than a mindful walk in the woods.  It’s embodying the forest, exploring it in new ways. Weather not cooperating? Bring the outdoors in. At last week’s Spring Into Health & Happiness Day Retreat, we did just that! We took a Forest Bath indoors, exploring the forest floor by bringing wood, rocks, moss, and more inside and experiencing it in a more mindful, embodied way.

Treat Your Body Well

Don’t our bodies deserve a change from day to day too?

Our tastebuds yearn for some new flavors. Our muscles want to move in different ways.

Many retreats incorporate exploring our Body Home in new ways. A yoga retreat provides daily Yoga practices that many don’t experience in their daily lives. These new daily retreat rituals, awaken our desires to perhaps practice more often when we get home.

Retreats intentionally provide physical activity to not strain the body, but to ignite it!

Eating differently when on a retreat, treats our body to nutrients and flavors we tend to overlook when eating on the run.

Years ago, on a Tony Robbins Retreat, I was introduced to wheatgrass and eating a plant-based diet. At first, I felt disappointed, like I was missing out by not eating meat or trying local cuisine. But the goal of this retreat was to master our life, including the health of our bodies. By being intentional, and allowing myself to observe the experience, I noticed that although I still enjoy meat, my body feels better when I eat less meat and more veggies and other plant-based foods like mushrooms. I was on retreat to master my health, and that week had a profound effect on how I view food.

I now see food as both fuel for my body and as enjoyment for my tastebuds. And many dishes satisfy both.  This leads me to…..

Discover Your Self in Other Cultures

Retreats not only expose us to other cultures they immerse us in those cultures. To provide us the opportunity to notice similarities and accept our differences, without judgment.

Years ago, Mark and I reunited with our daughter Hana, who was living in Colombia at the time, in Guatemala. We had ever been and were excited to see volcanos and stay on Lake Atitlán, a lake formed by a volcanic eruption 84,000 years ago. This vacation became a retreat of sorts, where we immersed ourselves in the Mayan culture.

Prime example, we took a cooking class. But this cooking class was not a fancy restaurant, let alone any restaurant. It was facilitated at a local Mayan woman’s home. We met her in town at the food market where we shopped with her. Allowing her to explain the intricacies of local vegetables and food.

The cooking class was held at her modest home. We climbed the stairs to the roof where there was an outdoor kitchen. We made a special Guatemalan dish together and sat at the table on the roof exploring the food we had just prepared.

As I look back, I still feel a sense of delight and a better understanding of the people of the area. I noticed how this woman was simply striving to make a better life for herself and her children, just like single moms do here in the US. I noticed that back home in the US, one would have to jump through permitting to allow such a business in their home.

But most importantly, I gained a better understanding of my Self. Gratitude for being able to be there with my daughter. And igniting a desire to leave the world better than I found it. This was travel with a purpose.

Reflection and Self-Care

I define a retreat as “intentionally withdrawing from everyday activities to a safe space in order to reflect on one’s Self and connect to one’s surroundings.”

Although I’ve mentioned some exotic places, some of the best retreats are local and can be as short as a day. They simply need to be intentional and bring us inward.

Retreats don’t have to be centered on Yoga. Journaling, mindfully walking, or even planting flowers and veggies can allow us to reflect on our lives and connect with the world around us.

Our Day Retreats are designed to connect you back to yourself, withdrawing from the everyday.

One of our guests from last week’s Day Retreat posted on Facebook, “It exceeded all of my expectations.  Mark and Kathi have created the ultimate oasis.  They bring so much experience and knowledge to this little corner of South West Michigan.  I left feeling refreshed, energized, and full of new ideas.”

And they can be personal, just for you or a small group of loved ones.

Starting this summer, Eclectic Well-Being will not only continue to offer our amazing destination retreats like our upcoming journey to Amorgos Greece, and our intimate Southwest Michigan Day Retreats like last week’s Spring Into Health & Happiness, but we will be offering personal retreats, where we intentionally plan activities that help you to reflect and connect with your Self. Time for true Self-Care.

Curious about what that could look like?

Maybe you want to explore meditation and learn how to cook healthy meals for your family.  A weekend retreat with us could include a few cooking classes with Mark, a meditation workshop with me, including experimenting with Yoga Nidra and Forest Bathing, and of course a day trip to Silver Beach in nearby St Joe.

Or maybe you’re contemplating a change in your life, a new job, or a relationship.  A weekend immersion in my coaching program, the Total MindShift, can help you explore the future while you relax and unwind on the farm.

Or maybe you want to jumpstart getting healthy! We can help you find physical activities you enjoy while Mark leads you through his Total HealthShift. Try hiking nearby dunes. Of do some gardening for exercise.

We plan this retreat experience with you, ensuring it’s consciously curated to help you create a life and body you love!

Sound interesting? Send me an email and let’s see what we can create for you!