Divine bedrooms, slipping into sheets with astronomically high thread counts. Bathrooms oozing style, stocked with deluxe toiletries, deep bathtubs, the perfectly lit mirror and fluffy white towels. Light filled spaces with views worthy of a postcard. Fine dining. The best wines. Staff to tote your bags. These things we expect when paying for the promise of Luxury.
Sounds perfectly dreamy?
Oh it is, and depending on your nature you’ll either slip into it with aplomb, or feel a little insignificant, lost amongst the grandeur, wondering if you should watch your behaviour, buff up your shoes or at least freshen up the lipstick.
Add the promise of rejuvenating health programs, sumptuous spa treatments and detoxifying diets and you have the typical Luxury Wellness Retreat.
But the art of blending luxury and wellness is entering a new era.
It’s no longer enough to shuffle you from appointment to appointment, ticking off your wellness to do list. Chakras lined up. Skin buffed and polished. Liver cleansed. Mindfulness done. Sleep restored.
Not long ago I met with a couple fresh from a 4 day retreat at an exclusive luxurious retreat. The husband took me aside and whispered….. ‘Karen, it’s like being in luxury jail’. Strict regimes, ‘escorted’ to appointments, service that was so polite it bordered on painful. Whilst the treatments, food and rooms were exquisite, they were left wanting.
I know there are times when we need to ‘retreat’ from the world, to hand yourself over… literally body and mind. But to go home truly rejuvenated we need more. We need to be IN it. Participating, feeling vibrant, making genuine human connections, loving experiences that awaken the inner child, along with quieter introspective moments that feed the soul. And where are the moments of surprise and delight?
There are some luxury wellness retreats changing the scene.
Ali Arnold & Cath Crowley, extraordinary writers are putting a new spin on luxury retreats.
They led their ‘Replenish’ retreat at The Lakehouse in Daylesford, in country Victoria, Australia, creating a transformative experience that transcended the boundaries of the luxury surrounds.
The promise from Ali & Cath? To connect creativity, writing and wellness in a luxury setting.
Rather than deep diving into the program, I asked Cath & Ali to write the ‘story’ of Replenish as it played out on the retreat. They are writers after all. Here it is…
THERE WERE NINE OF US, and we were working in a lovely room that overlooked the little lake. The windows were floor to ceiling and the view was wide. Early on, one of the retreaters wondered if the view would be distracting, but it wasn’t. We were just soaking up the light. Usually the room is used for weddings, and a little bit of glamour was hanging on in the light fittings, which looked like a stiff tulle explosion.
We knew beforehand that we would be getting a bunch of published and emerging writers who needed a reset, and new writers who deserved to transform their love of words and writing into a feeling of—Yes, I can do this. Yes, this is a worthwhile dream. And we were hopeful the mapping, writing, talking and journalling we had planned over three days—along with a massage, gorgeous rooms, food, and the beautiful gardens—would do just that. And it did.
But it was so much more than that.
The women who came couldn’t have been lovelier, more generous, more up for it, more excited, more wonderful. The conversations were so wide-ranging—from ghost stories to neuroplasticity to our pasts, to books, to walking, to family, to love stories, to death, to the size of the bedheads (huge), to whether or not we should steal the handcream out of our rooms. There was a lot of laughing and a few tears.
Some beautiful writing came out of the three days—but, probably more importantly, a lot of thinking about what a good creative life might look like.
‘It is astonishing the number of small ways we discover to be mean and miserly with ourselves,’ says Julia Cameron of creative people. ‘Sometimes,’ says Charlotte Wood, ‘I think the high rates of depression and anxiety among writers – and they are, sadly, incredibly high – partly result from the pernicious myth that to be any good you must work always in desolate isolation.’
If we need to be creative, and we all do, are there ways to do it better—with less guilt, with more connection, with more happiness, with more productivity, with more, dare we say it, exercise?
There are. We were doing some of them before we went, we did a lot of them while we were there, and we are doing more of them now.
One of the women drove home, cleared the junk from her study while cleverly refusing to actually sort it out and headed to Ikea for new shelving. In twenty-four hours she had a daily writing routine happening. Another found short stories in the writing exercises. Another returned to her novel with well-founded confidence. We are waiting with curiosity and best wishes to see what one retreater does with her year off…
We are so pleased.
Now, the retreat feels like a fairytale in which tea and coffee were brought to us whenever we wished. And the food. The food…
One day, our ‘working lunch’ was Musque de Provence pumpkin soup with ginger and cardamom, sourdough, grilled chicken, chimichurri and cucumber pickle, a warm black barley and citrus salad, and éclairs with yuzu cream. I mean, really.
Afterwards one of the women texted us:
‘If I close my eyes, I can see the clean bright creamy walls of my room framing the lake and almost hear the honk of a happy foie gras. My well is replenished and I can’t remember the last time I felt so fully me.’
Now that’s how a Luxury Wellness Retreat should end.
With the Simple Luxury of Being You.
You’ll be pleased to know that ‘A Cuppa With Ali & Cath’ is included. Not everything is listed on the program… that’s where the surprise and delight steps in!
‘There was laughter, there were tears, there was wonderful food, great coffee, stunning views, sinking to sleep in luxurious beds, and waking up to birdcalls in the morning. And over and above all of that, the fellowship of other women who love words, the leadership, experience and wisdom of two very special individuals in Ali and Cath, and some tangible tools to further my writing journey. Loved every minute. Wish I was back there…’ Amy
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