While in journalism school, I never anticipated that my career would lead me to entrepreneurship, let alone afford me the opportunity to take part in retreats that double as spiritual vacation for your soul. I anticipated a life superfluous with stressful deadlines, sleepless nights and vats of caffeine (which I assure you, is a reality most days of the week as a full-time blogger and freelance writer), but retreats are a welcome part of Modern Jetsetter content and a travel activity I recommend all my readers indulge into at least once a year – especially when it combines travel, adventure and wellness.
If there is one retreat you should treat your body to this year, it’s one with Sole Yoga Holidays. With stunning locations in Zanzibar, Italy, Greece, Morocco and other hopelessly sunny and dream-worthy destinations, these retreats are the ultimate escape for anyone who needs to refocus on their health goals, explore the art of yoga and escape to somewhere fabulous.
I was invited by master yogi and Sole Yoga Holidays owner Shari to accompany her group of attendees on her Wellness & Wonder Yoga Retreat in Zanzibar (so appropriately named).
Despite it’s prime spot on my travel bucket list, I had never been to Africa. At the time of the invite, my life was in the stormy midst of changes, moves and life-altering transitions, so I hesitated for a moment…then realized how misaligned the hesitation was with my intentions and business goals. Wanderlust beat stress, curiosity beat fatigue, and I made the travel decision that never fails: I said yes.
Here are the seven wins that made my retreat with Sole Yoga Holidays one of the most rewarding travel experiences of my blogging career so far:
Flawlessly planned from start to finish (so you don’t have to)
Landing in a developing world airport after a 24+ hour flight can be a stressful experience, but Shari arranged for transport that made me feel like a jetlagged-but-fine African queen. The sense of royalty continued from every custom-planned meal (which even accommodated this picky vegetarian), fresh coconuts on demand to the luxurious resort I had the pleasure of calling my home for six nights. Each day was expertly curated to be the ultimate trifecta of relaxation, yoga and adventurous excursions. Whether you’re the poolside reader type or the energy ball that balanced yoga, adventure, impromptu massages, overdue naps and writing while on vacation (raises hand), this retreat simply fits the travel beats of every yogi.
Yoga like you’ve never had it before
Before this retreat, I was by no means a devoted yogi but rather a regular sporadic partaker when it fit into the schedule. Let me tell you: having an entire week devoted to learning about yoga, your limits, your body and the art of it all (feat. the best instructor you can ask for who gives you endless personal attention), and it’s easy to fall in love with this incredible practice. I went into this retreat completely burned out from daily hustle and with a not-so-loyal relationship with my workout goals. Combine that with regular running, a Brooklyn takeout diet and tight hamstrings, I was a yoga project. With twice-a-day sessions and the endless patience and star guidance from Shari, she successfully turned me into a yoga addict for life. Since my return I’ve found go-to studios in both my Hamburg and Brooklyn homes, practice daily and spent half of rent on Lululemon. My appreciation for the mental and physical benefits are endless. And thanks to Shari, I can now touch my toes (she will be thrilled to read this). Above all, I became addicted to the feeling of treating myself like a goddess.
In the company of fine women
Despite evidence broadcasted on this season’s tumultuous season of The Bachelor, it is possible to put multiple women in a house for an extended period of time and discover some of the greatest connections of your life. Shari fosters such a supportive and open environment that we not only had dinner conversations about yoga (and our food obsession), but also deep soul-introspective ones on life and the lessons we’ve learned along the way. When you put women together who share the value of wellness and adventure and combine it with Shari’s magical hosting skills, the retreat easily doubles as a an open-hearted slumber party you never want to leave.
The activities (including the fashionable ones) couldn’t be more perfect
Retreat activities don’t always satisfy every traveler on board, but unanimous satisfaction came somewhat effortlessly during my time with Sole Yoga Holidays. The retreat started with a guided tour of historic Stone Town (if you have a thing with doors and haggling for handcrafted goods, this is your heaven). From trying local coffee, shopping at local boutiques to scouting out local fabric for our CUSTOM designed clothes, the day was full of absorbing the magical way of Zanzibar living. Fast forward to a boat tour that took us to a historically critical island in Africa’s history and home to 100+ year old giant tortoises (ones we petted and fed, for obvious reasons) and as a grande oceanic finale to simply the most stunning sandbar I’ve ever seen in my life, which was completely enwreathed in the aquamarine waves of the Indian Ocean…
Add a barbecue of fresh-caught octopus, calamari and tuna and you have a happy crowd.
(Seriously, kudos to Shari for this flawless itinerary)
The creme-de-la-creme of accomodation and hospitality: Casadamare Zanzibar
The entire retreat was based at Casadamare Zanzibar – which for the record, ruined my relationship with New York real estate and my Brooklyn-sized apartment forever. The staff – who by the end of the retreat felt like family – couldn’t possibly be more warm or accommodating. No demand was too much, no diet too complicated and no room less than a page from Architectural Digest. Combine that with personal chefs, constant beach breeze, massages on demand and a sunrise view that made me a forever morning person, this resort became my “happy place” and the memories will be on replay in my head until my inevitable return.
Nothing to fear (not even for a moment)
As an avid traveler, it breaks my heart that so many people are hesitant to embark on adventures like this due to the political situation and general heightened fear of travel. I understand completely, but it’s my job to reassure you that a well-planned adventure with the right companies, hotels and tour guides is nothing to be feared — no matter where you want to go in the world.
When experiencing a culture drastically different than your own, it’s good to have support that make the adventure one beyond your expectations. Even as a professional traveler, I had anxiety going into Africa for the first time…but it ended up being a complete dream. If you have travel nerves or going to an exotic destination for the first time, get your feet wet with a retreat like this. It will exceed all expectations and give you a spectacular, beautiful, relaxing and wildly adventurous crash course into the amazing culture at hand.
The host with the most…
Again, I can’t say enough about Shari. My readers know that this blog has plenty of sponsored content, but I really make it a perogative to work exclusively with inspiring female business owners because I believe as a gender we have to support, lift and empower one another with all our capabilities. It’s working with entrepreneurs like this that remind me why my job is completely worthwhile. At the Modern Jetsetter, I hope to inspire my readers to realize that they can create the international lifestyle and career of their dreams with plenty of hard work. A San Francisco transplant now living in Florence and regularly bringing her passion for yoga to almost every corner of the world, Shari is the definition of that inspiration. Combine that will her rockstar attitude, endless gratitude and genuine interest in the development and lives of her yogis, and you have a person fulfilling their creative destiny. It was such a joy to work with her and I hope my readers have a chance to embark on one of her unforgettable yoga adventures…
Ever wanted to visit Morocco? Now could be the perfect opportunity…if you want to add a magical yoga retreat to your life, visit the Sole Yoga Holidays bookings page and mention MODERNJETSETTER at checkout to receive $150 off your boho-chic Moroccan adventure.