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Planning a wellness retreat in 2023? Here’s what you should know

Performance and leadership coach Elana Robertson says wellness travel is changing for the better – offering life-changing results for executives and entrepreneurs alike.

When you think about a wellness retreat, it has followed the same basic formula for years: a luxury setting, a little yoga, a lot of spa time and clean cuisine. Now, the script is changing as high performers seek out transformational experiences that offer a meaningful upgrade to their physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing.

The COVID-19 pandemic ushered in a huge cultural shift, not only in the way we work, but the way we holiday, too. Now free to roam again, travelers are picking up their passports with more intention.

In their 2022 trend reports, the Global Wellness Institute and Lonely Planet highlighted the move towards purposeful wellness tourism, pinpointing how travelers have started embracing experiences designed to help them recover from the stress, exhaustion and even trauma of the past few years.

‘Green prescription’ holidays, digital detoxes and spiritual retreats are among the emerging trends in wellness tourism, a sector predicted to grow in value to US$1.1 trillion by 2025.

Wellness retreat or reset?

It seems travelers are no longer satisfied with vague notions of healthy holidays. Instead, they’re hungry to learn and return with new skills to help them cope with the roller-coaster of everyday life.

I know exactly how they feel. Back in 2016, I was a busy, stressed-out executive, working all hours and holding out for my annual Bali escape for a much-needed break.

That year, when I arrived at a beautiful resort to ‘recharge,’ I was so exhausted that I slept for three days before I could even muster the energy to read a book by the pool.

On that trip, I decided to create a life that I didn’t need to escape from with an annual fly-and-flop holiday.

I wanted to design a sustainable rhythm with recharging built in – from daily energizing routines to regular self-care getaways.

As a performance and leadership coach, I often hear similar stories from my clients. The burnout conversation is now bigger than ever as we grapple with our messy post-pandemic world.

The recognition that we need a new way to be productive at work is just one part of the puzzle. We also need new ways to recharge. So, instead of a retreat, I invite you to try a reset.

What’s the difference? Consider a quick fix compared with a full renovation.

At a standard retreat, you might do yoga, meditate and eat healthy food in a beautiful location. You undoubtedly leave feeling refreshed and inspired but, by the time your email loads up on your return to the office, the stress you were trying to outrun is right there by your side again. The retreat, it turns out, was just a temporary Band-Aid for your unaddressed overwhelm.

A reset, on the other hand, focuses on tailored transformation. It’s an opportunity to rest and recharge (yes, with yoga, great food and massages!) while learning vital vertical development skills to break the chronic imbalance where ‘doing’ eclipses ‘being’.

In this environment, you can slow down and take the time to discover who you need to be in order to create your version of success. When you leave, you bring home a toolkit of habits, routines and strategies that support you to do and feel your best more often.

Redefining the retreat

A recent Accenture consumer survey on health and wellbeing found that almost 40 percent of high-income respondents had already booked a wellness retreat for 2023.

If you’re planning a wellness holiday in the new year, ask yourself this: do I need a retreat or a reset?

I’ve noticed that many of the high-performing executives and business owners I work with are self-authoring what’s next – that is, they’re deciding how they’re going to improve their inner capability for long-term, sustainable leadership.

They want to continually upgrade their skills, so they can operate at their best more often – and they’re seeking an immersive container in which they can learn and practice these skills.

That’s why, in 2022, I created and hosted Reset YOU, a transformational retreat at the luxurious SOMA in Byron Bay.

Reset YOU was my opportunity to redefine the standard retreat experience for high performers and show them a new way to recharge that would result in lasting change.

Across five days at this modern sanctuary, a small group of ambitious leaders were supported to slow down, rest and upgrade their operating system. Much like computers need a reboot, humans do too.

We began curating their personalized restoration experience from the moment they booked, using their onboarding surveys to inform everything from private coaching conversations to room location.

Once at the retreat, we followed a loose rhythm of ‘doing’ in the morning and ‘being’ in the afternoon, with morning and evening rituals to bookend the day.

After yoga, meditation and a nourishing breakfast, we stepped guests into mini-immersive workshops focused on vertical development education. The workshops focused on neuroscience, emotional intelligence and conscious leadership practices. They included fieldwork and experimentation to allow the guests to embody this new information.

In the afternoons, we switched to ‘being’ mode. Guests recharged with a spa treatment, nature time or relaxation by the pool. As the sun rolled down over the Byron hinterland, we followed restorative practices and evening wind-down rituals that are easy to take home.

Local organic, plant-based meals and digestive tonics from Burbury Whole Foods nourished guests across their stay. We also introduced modern performance enhancements, such as the Cambridge Sleep Sciences SleepHub and adaptogenic cacao blends, so guests could explore what being at their best looked and felt like.

Crucially, we encouraged guests to embrace their own rhythm on the retreat – there were no compulsory activities, so they could choose to sit in or out based on what they needed.

So, what was the result? A complete lifestyle shift. Many of the guests have since shared that routines, such as daily gratitude and movement, are now anchored in their everyday lives and what they learned in the workshops has left them better equipped to deal with stress.

Their definition of a wellness retreat has changed, too. Rather than viewing it as an indulgence, our guests now understand the power of setting time aside annually to recharge and reset their rhythm, habits and behaviors.

As one guest put it: “When you have space and time to be, you notice how much you do. I now think a retreat should be an annual self-service to replenish the batteries.”

Find your ideal reset

Whatever kind of wellbeing travel experience you’re seeking in the coming year, be intentional about the result you want to bring back home – whether it’s less reliance on social media, greater purpose in life and business or a performance upgrade.

The key is to look for a retreat or experience that guides you to create meaningful change to your habits and behaviors, rather than offering a taste of an out-of-reach ideal that isn’t achievable in a real-life setting.

Some great features to look out for in a wellness travel experience include:

    • Workshops, classes and seminars run by qualified experts who are leaders in their field.
    • Content and coaching tailored to the guests (that’s you!) to ensure real transformation.
    • A take-what-you-need schedule that allows you to pay attention to your battery levels and choose what feels good for you.
    • Time to learn and time to rest and recharge.
    • Opportunities to practice what you’re learning, so you can embed your new habits and routines.
    • A small-group experience with like-minded guests for greater connection and community.

Purposeful wellness travel experiences like this are the antidote to forgettable retreats that look the part, but do little to address overwhelm and exhaustion in the long-term.

Intentionally stepping into an annual reset to upgrade your operating system every year? That’s the definition of modern high performance.

foundher’s next Reset YOU retreat will be held at SOMA Byron Bay from 29 October to 2 November 2023.

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