It was time! I needed an escape - a break from the winter, a rest from work and most of all, I needed some playtime. What I needed was a retreat, preferably in Costa Rica, for one. Or two. My husband could come too.
Too often we wait until it's too late to make our escape. We think we need an excuse - a birthday, an anniversary, a trauma - something to make us feel like we deserve a holiday without guilt. Let me tell you right now: because you got out of bed this morning you are worthy of treating yourself (and if you are reading this in bed - get up. There's a day to be had!). You don't need to beat yourself up in order to earn a holiday.
Your escape doesn't need to be a fancy one, there are amazing ways to retreat on any budget.
And so, when we got to plotting and planning where we could go to get the break we needed, the choice was ridiculously obvious. If Hacienda del Sol was awesome enough for us to bring 24 people here for a week of soul nourishment (back in 2013), it would likely be a great place for us to get our own healthy dose.
When you're kicking it on the UnDiet lifestyle, you don't have the perceived luxury of being able to just hop on a plane for a last minute all-inclusive special, but I wanted an all-inclusive full meal deal. I didn't want to have to plan, organize, coordinate or worry about anything.
As my goal is always to come home feeling better than when I left, the heat-lamp buffets, chlorinated pools, sugar-infused 'fresh' juice and chemically cleaned sheets and towels don't really do it for me. I don't want a disco, or piped in poolside muzak.
All I want is good old-fashioned clean living goodness. And this is harder to find that you might at first think. And so, I have put together a lit of qualities I look for when planning the great escape.
How To Plan An UnDiet Retreat For One (Or Two)
1. Amazing Food Is a Must
This is obviously a biggie. I don't eat gluten or dairy, I'm allergic to black pepper and knowing what I know, I can't just forget it and eat whatever - my conscience, my body and at this point my taste buds all don't allow that. I have these few solid guidelines when it comes to food, both at home and while travelling:
- Sustainably sourced
- Minimally processed
- Organic as much as truly possible
And this was one of the reasons I originally chose Hacienda del Sol for my retreat. The food was exceptional and an added super bonus now is that one of my very own CNE grads, Meg Pearson, now does much of the development for the mostly raw kitchen.
Though many people come here for their awesome cleanses, my goal was pretty simple: to eat as much as I could of food that was developed, prepared and served by people other than me.
Mission accomplished. These are the amazing raw banana pancakes topped with cinnamon and apples.
And a gorgeous green salad topped with shredded carrots, beets, tomato, perfect avocado, some seeds, nutritional yeast and a glorious green goddess dressing. I devoured this with a parsley, romaine, ginger, celery and lemon juice.
2. Peace and Quiet
There are times when we may choose to visit new and exciting cities to explore and do a million things (which I suppose you could do here, too), but if we're talking 'retreat', the goal is to rest. To absorb more energy than we expend.
Short of being beachside, water is essential and a chlorine-free salt water pool? Bonus!
3. Move and Groove- Every Day!
If we're going to shift out old stagnant energy, touch some places that rarely get touched, take deep breaths and re-oxygenate - all part of solid retreating - we're going to need to move and groove. I prefer to do as much exercise I can outdoors and the jungle air never fails. If someone were to ask me to describe my perfect day, it would begin with yoga. Every morning at 7:30, I am on my mat bending and stretching and breathing and listening to the howler monkeys do what they do, while we do what we do. And even when I don't want to get out of bed, I do because this is my retreat and I know I need it.
4. A Beach...Preferably with No One on It.
Your retreat may or may not include a beach. Mine always does, and I am not after a beach surrounded by towering hotels and way too many sun-loungers (see point 2 above).
The black sand beach we venture to each evening of our retreat is a hot and hilly 15-20 minute hike from the retreat centre, but the reward for our effort is a gorgeous stretch of untouched beach with no one on it, making it, in my opinion, swimsuit optional.
5. Bodywork- Mush It Out!
In order for all of us to give our most awesome, positive and inspired mind power to our work, we also need our body to be in tip top condition. Body pain is like a spigot inserted into us that drains away our life force. And so I knew that as part of my rejuvenation and unwinding, I was going to need to bring in some help. Sign me up for Thai Herbal Ball massages, re-balancing massages, Thai yoga massages and a lot of ginger tea and sleeping in between.
6. Connecting with the Sun and the Moon and the Stars. I'm Serious.
I am not swinging my crystals at you (though I would if you asked). Something I love about getting out of the city and into nature is how immediately and effortlessly we can reconnect with the patterns of the earth, the sun and the moon. There is nothing more nourishing for the body than to go to sleep soon after it gets dark and to wake up with the sun. When the body syncs up with the rhythms of nature, we sleep more soundly and wake up more rested.
Also, there is nothing in the world I love more than watching the day end as the sun slips below the horizon. And every time, I think the exact same thing: "If the universal energy of mother nature can create something this effortlessly beautiful and incredible, what are we capable of?" Ponder that one.
7. Fresh Air
A true UnDiet retreat includes breathing the good stuff - whether it be off the mountain side, straight from the ocean's breeze or through the forest or jungle. I don't want the air I breathe passing through a plastic air conditioner. When it's 42 degrees with the humidity in downtown Toronto in mid-July, yes. Keep the windows closed and blast that air. But when the air is fresh, I want to know that I am where I am. Give me a mosquito net and a fan and I'm golden. At Hacienda del Sol the only thing separating you from the jungle is a screen - so you're pretty much outside from the moment you arrive to when you leave.
8. Homegrown Turmeric
Okay...So this isn't really part of my criteria for a perfect retreat, but check this out:
When a place cares enough about the food they serve to make efforts to start growing their own, you know you're in the right place. I happened upon this epic stash of the mighty turmeric drying out. Are we all speaking the same language now, or what?
Based on my criteria - a week of rejuvenation, regeneration and revitalization - we landed back here at the sacred place of Hacienda del Sol that is lovingly cared for by Romero, Crystal and her mom Menla.
It's not particularly easy to get here, most of the places I find myself are not. But for those who fancy a little escape from the chaos of life, who want to live amongst the wild sounds of the jungle (leaving makeup, blowdryers and shoes at home) and who want to fuel up on fresh simply food, maybe try out a detox, or just hang in the hammock on your private cabina porch, it is not particularly easy to leave either.
You deserve it. The world truly needs us to be our most awesome, and if taking a week off for yourself is what you need to be able to give back, all of the people who love you the most, and that includes me, are giving you permission to run away and just enjoy being for a little while.
Want to check out more from our awesome week-long retreat?
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What are your favourite spots on this globe to escape, reconnect and revive your spirit?
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