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By Chere Di Boscio
We all saw it and loved it: Trainspotting, the film. Remember the beginning?
“Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a fucking big television, Choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players, and electrical tin can openers. Choose good health, low cholesterol and dental insurance. Choose fixed-interest mortgage repayments. Choose a starter home…..Choose your future. Choose life. But why would I want to do a thing like that? I chose not to choose life: I chose something else.”
In the seminal British film, that ‘something else’ happened to be…erm…heroin. But the truth is, there are alternatives to the banal realities we’re all overwhelmed with every day. All we need to do is: choose them. And one way to do that is through Transformational Travel Retreats.
What Is Transformational Travel?
As one of my favourite writes, Joseph Campbell, says in his best-selling book “A Hero with a Thousand Faces,” that there are twelve stages that take us from awakening, answering the call to adventure, to crossing the threshold, confronting enemies and darkness and finally returning with the holy grail – that one truth that redefines who we are and how we live our lives.”
This archetypical story can be seen in works as sacred as tales of the Buddha or as profane as Star Wars, but in each case, the hero(ine)’s journey is a long one, strewn with many obstacles to overcome, failures to endure, and fights to win, all before a kind of enlightenment, a wisdom, is obtained.
The journey is ultimately a solo one, and for many, travelling far away from one’s usual environment and discovering new cultures is enough to completely change their lives. I mean, we’ve all heard of that guy who went to India that one time, joined an ashram and never came back. Or that girl who visited Buenos Aires, fell in love with a tango instructor and moved to Argentina. But like Frodo with Gandalf or Luke with Yoda, it’s always a lot easier to undertake a transformational travel experience with a mentor at your side. If you’re religious, this could be a priest or an imam, but if not, there are life coaches, yogis and other spiritual guides who could help you on your way on a secular retreat.
Now, depending on your background, the word ‘retreat’ may stir up different images. You may know of meditation retreats where you sit and breathe for hours at a time, day after day. Some hanker for yoga retreats where asanas, meditation and mindfulness are practiced, all in stunning locations. Maybe you think of company retreats, where team building is the focus, or church retreats, where you deepen your connection to a Higher Power. Lately, wellness and experiential retreats have grown in popularity. When done well, these can provide a sneak preview of how our lives could look like. They inspire, encourage, motivate and, in some cases, they may even have the power to transform our lives.
That’s a pretty serious claim, and you have to ensure you make the best choice. Here are some tips to help you select your options.
What does the retreat promise? Relaxation? Rejuvenation? Inspiration? That’s all good. But what we’re looking for here is a total life transformation; the magical elixir that will forever change you. If you feel different on the retreat, that’s nice – but this should be the kind of experience that lasts forever, not just a few days or weeks. Look for new skills you can acquire, techniques you can learn, knowledge you can obtain and tools you can take home that will help sustain the transformational process you just started.
For some, Ayahuasca retreats such as Etnikas in Peru or Rythmia in Costa Rica have been known to literally change people’s lives – helping them break bad habits, curing them of addictions and transforming how they see themselves and the world.
Who is presenting the retreat? What’s their background and expertise? Are they self proclaimed wellness experts or do they have credentials that support their words of wisdom? What’s their story? Look them up and see if their message, personality and credibility resonates with you.
Experiential, Lecture or DIY?
How will the retreat be presented? Will you be sitting and listening and taking notes? Will you be following instructions? Ingesting plant medicines? Or will you be proactively involved in the transformational process with journaling, self inquiries, mindfulness exercises, creative play and other activities? Review the options and decide what works best for you.
Timing Is Everything
When should you go on a life changing retreat? The decision is yours and yours alone. You will know when it’s the right time for you, and luckily, there are always retreats in season around the world, waiting for you to change your life. When the desire to truly transform comes knocking, you should probably do something about it and answer the door, but just in case you get cold feet, buying travel insurance will ensure that you can cancel or delay your retreat if you need to.
Location and Environment
Where will the retreat be presented? Will you be roughing it in a mountain cabin or will you stay at a luxurious resort? Will your dietary needs be accommodated? Will a bunk bed and shared baths do it for you or does it have to be a single room with all amenities your heart desires? Our advice: Transformation has the potential to knock the wind out of old belief systems and behavior patterns and can leave you a little shaky after it’s all said and done. If you have the option of a nice meal and a hot bath or even a spa treatment at the end of the day, take it!
A number of hotels such as the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise in Banff National Park, Canada, offer excellent programs at great rates during their off and shoulder season. This allows you to attend a high quality wellness retreat offered by a top notch wellness expert in an upscale setting, stunning environment and surrounded by staff that caters to all your needs. The only thing that’s left for you is to enjoy your time away and focus on the process of transformation. The elixir is yours. Go, get it!
Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is situated in the heart of Alberta’s Banff National Park within a UNESCO World Natural Heritage site, surrounded by soaring mountain peaks, the Victoria glacier and the emerald colored Lake Louise. Originally designed as a base for outdoor enthusiasts more than a century ago, the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise has evolved into a luxury mountain resort and top bucket list destination for travelers worldwide.
For several years the hotel has offered wellness programs that add a sense of Zen and mindfulness to the magical setting of the hotel.
For 2017 Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise decided to top up its wellness offerings by adding more variety and bringing in renowned health and wellness professionals as retreat facilitators.
Transformative retreats include, amongst other topics:
Finding your own peace and calm in mindfulness, meditation and yoga retreats with Tracy Delfs, passionate yoga & mindfulness instructor and long-time student of world-renowned Zen and mindfulness master Thich Nhat Hanh.
Taking your health back into your hands and reclaiming the power to change your health destiny in wellness retreats with Dr. Eva Selhub, internationally known medical doctor, author, stress management and resiliency coach.
Tuning down the noise, deepening your meditation practice and start listening to your inner voice for greater calm and clarity in yoga, meditation & creative writing retreats with Sean Murphy, author, Zen meditation practitioner, teacher for creative writing and Kim Roberts, yoga instructor, psychotherapist and author.
Unplugging from busyness, cultivate awareness and reconnect with your creative vitality in creativity retreats with Cynthia Morris, acclaimed creativity coach writer, artist, who has mastered the art of staying inspired, productive and access instant creativity.
For more information or to book your wellness getaway contact Davina Bernard or call directly at +1 403 522 1638.