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QUESTIONS TO ASK A POTENTIAL RETREAT VENUE

QUESTIONS TO ASK A POTENTIAL RETREAT VENUE

 

So, you’ve gauged your ideal audience’s interest, decided on a killer retreat theme, and selected the perfect destination. Now, it’s time to choose the venue that will compliment your retreat theme and meet your needs to ensure an unbelievable retreat experience.

Personally reaching out to your prospective venues is the best way to determine which will be the best fit for you and your guests. But, what questions are important to ask during the decision making process?

In this post, we’ve compiled the questions that will help you make the most educated decision when choosing your venue. Here are a few questions you’ll want to ask each venue before settling on an official retreat location:

Before you get started, download our Venue Tracking Spreadsheet to keep everything organized in one place! 


1. What does the accommodation set-up look like?

How many people can they accommodate and how is the sleeping accommodation set-up? Will each guest have a private room? Shared rooms? Single beds, bunk beds or double/queen beds? Do they offer private baths or community restrooms? What additional amenities will each room include such as AC, mosquito nets, fridge, TV, etc.? You'll have to determine which of these elements is important to you. 

 

2. How does transportation to and from the venue typically work?

How far is the nearest airport? What’s the best way to get to and from the airport to the venue? Will getting to the specific region require a domestic flight, train or transport in addition to an international flight? Is any transport provided by the venue? If not, are they able to recommend a reliable service? How much is it or is it included in the price? 

 

3. What types of meals will be available at the venue?

Can they cater to specific diets and allergies? i.e. peanut allergies, dairy intolerances, vegan diets, vegetarian diets? What meals and snacks are typically included in accommodation packages? Do they provided filtered water and is it free?

 

4. What kind of housekeeping and linen services are available?

Are all linens provided? How often are rooms cleaned and towels changed out? What about soaps and basic toiletries, if any? What do they provide vs. what do guests need to bring?

 

5. Are private group spaces be available?

Indoor and outdoor? How many people can each space accommodate? If you're hosting a yoga or fitness retreat, are there dedicated spaces for what you need? If you have some other kind of specialty offering do they have space for you? Will you have to improvise? What about dining, workshops, and meeting spaces? How do settings vary?

 

6. Do they offer any excursions?

Can excursions be added as part of your package or are any included? What’s the cost? What types of excursions, local tours, events, or adventures? Do any compliment your retreat theme well?

 

7. What are the financial policies?

How much is the deposit to secure the space? What are the refund and cancellations guidelines? Are they flexible as your group size changes? What’s the timeline regarding payments? Price per person? Opportunity for deals or group discount rates? What about retreat leader discounts? How do they accept payments? Paypal, bank transfer, etc?

 

8. What have their past retreat-hosting experiences looked like?

Have they hosted group retreats before? Do they have any testimonials? Will any other groups be utilizing the venue at the same time? Will this cause any scheduling conflicts?

 

9. Is there anything else I should know before making a final decision?

If you can think of any other questions that pertain specifically to your retreat, this is the time to ask! Once you’ve asked all your questions, double check if the venue can offer any further useful information. And remember, you can always call back or reach back out if anything else comes to mind.

 

BONUS

Don't forget that the venue is offering you a service as a customer. Pay attention to how well they address your questions, respond to emails in a timely manner, provide personalized information (instead of form emails), and generally make you feel confident about booking with them. 

If they aren't responsive, seem extremely disorganized, and lack quality customer service you should assume that it will be the same experience on the ground. That's why talking to references and others who have hosted an event in that space is extremely important. In your Venue Tracker (download below), give them a rating 1-10 (10 being awesome) on their general customer service. 

 

Now that you have a guideline for getting to know potential venues better, download our FREE retreat venue tracker spreadsheet and get to work! Good luck, rock stars!

RETREAT VENUE TRACKER

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Use this spreadsheet to stay organized when deciding which venue is best for your retreat!

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HOW TO CREATE & PREPARE YOUR FIRST RETREAT - #myretreatbiz

HOW TO CREATE & PREPARE YOUR FIRST RETREAT - #myretreatbiz

Back in the fall of 2014, as I was adding hundreds of retreats to the Yoga Travel Tree directory, a very harsh and sudden realization came over me.

I didn’t want to go on ANY of the retreats I was seeing.

It wasn’t because they weren’t great experiences. They seemed amazing! I just simply wasn’t their target market. I'm someone who loves to travel and explore above all else, who loves to weave within the local culture, who gets her hands dirty in local projects and issues, and who loves yoga, too.

These retreats just weren’t for travel-loving yogis like me. I wanted travel with a side of yoga. Everything I saw was yoga with a side of travel.

First Bali Adventure May 2015

First Bali Adventure May 2015

I wondered if there were more yogis out there like me - who wanted an incredible travel adventure that incorporated yoga into the daily experience.

And with that thought, my first Bali Yoga Adventure was born. Over the next several months, I worked with local travel companies, transport providers, hotels, tour operators, guides, restaurants, and more to put together the ultimate Bali experience. My goal was to give my participants a once in a lifetime experience - assuming that my ideal participants would potentially only visit Bali once in their lifetime.

I was able to sell out that first retreat within 3 months from the launch date-- and I didn't even start with a solid audience already wanting to travel with me or YTT! I went on to create 12 more Yoga Travel Tree Adventures (and one destination teacher training) over the course of 18 months. 

Not all of those retreats were successful. (It reinforced what I already knew - but needed reminding - about knowing your audience and what they want before going all in on an idea.)

After leading retreats to five countries and three continents over the past 18 months, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to successfully create, launch, and sell out a retreat that not only earns a profit for your business but also provides an amazing - even transformational - experience for participants.

Combining my retreat experience with over a decade of experience in study abroad and adventure travel management (my pre-Yoga Travel Tree career), I’ve created a 4-part series all about designing, marketing, and delivering an incredible retreat.

I’ve made some mistakes and had some huge successes with my retreats. And, I want to help you find fast success too--unless you want to go the trial-and-error route yourself, then by all means ;).

In this 4-part series, #myretreatbiz, I’ll show you the step-by-step process I’d take to launch a retreat if I were to do it all again.

Here’s what to expect from this series:

  • How to Create and Prepare for Your First Retreat (This blog post, right here!)

  • How to Prime and Grow Your Audience for Your Retreat - coming soon!

  • How to Create a Sales Page and Start Selling Your Retreat - coming soon!

  • How to Launch and Market Your First Retreat - coming soon!

So, before we dive into the “how,” let’s talk about the “what.” What exactly is a retreat? In this series, I’m defining a retreat as 6-25 participants, spending at least 1-10 consecutive nights away from home. These can take place locally, within a couple hours drive of your home, or an 18-hour international flight away. The "where" is completely up to you!

The big distinction we need to clarify is between a retreat and a festival/conference. Once you start working with more than 25 people (which is already pretty big), we’re getting into festival territory which is an entirely different planning, promotion, and delivery experience. Retreats tend to be smaller and have more opportunities for time with you as the teacher and building a cohesive community among all participants. Think of a small, cute clothing boutique vs. a huge department store. We’re going for the boutique experiences here.

Here are some retreat examples:

  • 3-Day Silent Mountain Meditation Retreat in Colorado

  • 7-Day Surf & Yoga Adventure to Costa Rica

  • 6-Day Intuitive Eating Journey to Paris

  • 5-Day Amateur Photography Tour of Alaska

  • 10-Day Heart of Yoga Tour of India

Related: Check out the Heartland Yoga Festival in Kansas City! I’m one of the co-founders! 

Before we get started, download the Retreat Planning Workbook that we've created to help you work through this blog post and start taking some serious action planning your next retreat.

Okay, now that we know what a retreat is (or at least how we are defining it here), let’s dive into the key steps you need to take to create and prepare for a retreat.

 

STEP 1 - WHO DO YOU SERVE?

As wanderlust seekers ourselves, it can get easy to think of a retreat as our own personal vacation planning experience.

Often times, retreat leaders will think about where they want to go, what they want to do, when they want to go, etc. without really considering if that matches up with the where, what, and when is desired by their community.

Before you dive head first into planning that 5 day hiking, camping, and meditation adventure to Mongolia, let’s make sure that it’s an experience your audience really wants (and not just a bucket-list item of your own).

Here are a few questions to think about before you begin planning:

  • What’s my typical client/student demographic? Younger, older? Financially established or just getting by?

  • Are they beginners or more advanced? Well traveled or not so much?

  • What’s happening in our community/world and how will this experience serve my students and help them face what the world is throwing at them?

  • What do my students tend to look for in terms of retreats and workshops?

  • What am I known for in my community; what’s my secret-sauce, my zone of genius?

  • What kind of training/growth/transformation do I want my participants to have during this experience?

I highly recommend you put together a simple survey using free tools like Google Forms, Survey Monkey, or TypeForm to send out to your community and better gauge what they're looking for. Five major questions to ask would include: what kind of retreat they’d be interested in, where they want to go, what’s the best time of year, what are they hoping to get from a retreat, and most importantly, what would stop them from going on a retreat with you.

This will majorly help guide your planning, position, and promotion of your retreat.

 

STEP 2: THEME IT OUT!

At Yoga Travel Tree, we see a lot of retreats come across our website and most of them lack a critical piece to help them attract the perfect travelers and sell out their events.

That critical piece is a niched-out theme. Announcing you’re leading a 6 day yoga retreat to Greece isn’t enough in this crowded market. 

The easiest way to tease out your retreat theme is think about who the retreat serves, how it serves them, and some kind of quantifiable element. Here’s some examples:

  • Le Femme Restore and Renew 6-Day Retreat to Greece for Female Corporate Hustlers

  • Bust Out to Bliss Out: 5 Day Meditation Adventure to Belize for Bliss Seeking Entrepreneurs

  • 7-Day Yogalicious Bootcamp in Tulum for Yogis Ready to Master the Practice

  • 7-Day Ultimate Adventure to Bali for Travel-loving Yogis

Why do you need a theme? Because, when you read any of the titles above, you immediately know if this is the right retreat for you. Are you a corporate hustler who needs some downtime? Are you an entrepreneur who needs to find some zen? Are you a serious yogi who wants to take her asana practice to the next level? Are you a traveler who likes to adventure and could use a little yoga, too?

Each of the examples above speaks to a specific audience and promises a specific experience or outcome: restoration, bliss, bootcamp, adventure with a side of yoga.

Who does your retreat serve, how does it serve them, and what is the transformation?

 

STEP 3 - MAP IT OUT

Now that you know what your audience wants and you’ve figured out a theme for your experience, it’s time to start thinking about the logistics. Where, when, how much, and what will go into this retreat?

Based on your community feedback and your own desires and schedule, you should be able to narrow down your 'where' and 'when.' From here, you can start finding possible retreat centers, hotels, resorts, etc. that would be a good fit for your retreat theme and style. Remember: you want to match the destination and location with the theme of your retreat. If you’re promising bliss and renewal, then central Beijing may not be the best location choice.

Also, consider market saturation. In other words, think about how competitive your chosen destination might be, especially in the yoga industry. For instance, Costa Rica and Mexico are the top two destinations searched in the U.S. While there’s a lot of demand, there’s still a lot of competition. Consider a destination that is in a similar region or climate, but maybe not quite as popular.

Once you've zeroed in on a destination, begin reaching out to possible hotels, etc. and asking about group rates, facility options, etc. (We have an upcoming post all about how to reach out to venues and what to ask. Stay tuned!)

While you wait for venues to respond to your inquiries, start mapping out your day-to-day retreat itinerary. We recommend using a spreadsheet and organizing the cells by hour. Be sure to account for transition time (driving to excursions, walking across a large resort, etc.), meals, group activities, personal time, SLEEP, and welcome/farewell elements. Ask yourself, is there a good balance between scheduled group activities/time and personal free time? 

How you design the itinerary will largely depend on the theme and type of retreat you’ve created. If this is a restoration and relaxation retreat, scheduling a daily ashtanga practice, followed by an intense volcano hike, followed by a spirituality group discussion and reflection might be too much for the body and the brain.

But, if you’ve designed a yoga body bootcamp experience, your participant might be disappointed if each day only involves a 60 minute practice followed by 10 hours of free time.

Make sure your schedule matches the vision and theme of the experience.

 

STEP 4 - CREATE YOUR EMAIL INTEREST LIST

Okay. It’s time to make sure your gathering all your retreat interest into one dedicated email list. 

Now, if you’re one of those people who hasn’t started an email list yet (even in a spreadsheet somewhere), this is where I give you a little “tsk tsk” and wag my finger at you (with love of course). 

Having an email list for your business is crucial!

I know some of you will tell me: “But Brooke, I have 1 billion followers on [insert social media platform here]! Why do I need an email list?” or you’ll say: “I don’t need an email list. 50 bazillion people show up to my yoga in the park events every single day.” 😜

Hey...if that’s you, then good job! You’ve done amazing work building your community...but sadly, you’ve built that community on someone else’s property. You’re basically renting that community from Instagram, Facebook, your local yoga studio, etc. And I don’t want you building your business on borrowed platforms. I want you to have your own.

You should absolutely be using social media to grow your brand and business! But, you should be leveraging it to bring people into YOUR virtual house via your website and email list.

Remember the good ‘ole days when someone liking your Facebook page actually meant that they would see your content...or when Instagram feeds were chronological and people actually saw your beautiful images? Sigh. Those were the days. But in the blink of an eye, those companies changed the algorithm and now THEY decide what people see.

This is why you need an email list - to protect yourself from platform changes that you cannot control.

So if you don’t have an email service provider (ESP), it’s time to pony up and get one. I recommend starting with ConvertKit* or Mailchimp. While Mailchimp is free up to 2,000 emails, the features you’ll need for the larger retreat marketing campaign are limited. I strongly encourage you to invest in ConvertKit from the start to make sure you’re optimizing your email reach and engagement from the beginning. (That’s an affiliate link, by the way. I love and use ConvertKit, but just want to keep it real here).

If you already have an ESP, well done YOU! You need to create a separate list (like in Mailchimp) or a tag (like in ConvertKit) to help you identify and separate those in your community who are interested in traveling with you.

It doesn’t have to be fancy. Just a simple “Retreat Interest” list or tag will do. If you see yourself doing a lot of retreats in the future, you might create tags/lists based on possible destinations and/or retreat themes.

So, go make that happen. Sign up for your chosen ESP and create a separate list/tags for your retreat.

Bonus: If you already have email collected from people who are interested in traveling with you, make sure you add them to your system and add them to the correct tags/lists.

 

Step 5 - Create and promote a killer teaser/lead magnet

Now that you have your email system setup, it’s time to fill that baby with eager potential retreat participants. The key here is to tease out the benefits of retreat with a lead magnet.

Basically, a lead magnet (also known as a opt-in bribe, content upgrade, bonus opt-in, etc) is a simple download that people will get when they sign up with their email. They are paying with their email address to get your amazingly useful piece of content, PDF, discount code, cheatsheet, etc.

A great example of this that we’ve used at Yoga Travel Tree is our “Ultimate Guide to Paying for A Yoga Retreat.” In the guide, we outline dozens of ways to come up with the funds for a yoga retreat or teacher training. We created this particular lead magnet because in a previous survey with our community, they said that cost was the biggest factor preventing them from going on a yoga retreat. So we created a solution that could help them round up some or all of the funds to go on a yoga adventure or get their training certificate.

The key to a lead magnet is to address a problem or need of your audience and it must relate to the retreat you plan to launch. Think about a quick and simple thing that would entice your community to give you your email in exchange for this piece of content.

Here are a few lead magnet ideas for you:

  • 7 Minute Meditation for Super Crazy Busy People (access to an audio download)

  • Limited time retreat discount code (email with the discount code)

  • 5 Small Daily Shifts to Find Relaxation in Your Busy Life

  • 10 Minutes to Handstand Challenge (series of videos to help students nail a handstand)

  • Quiz - What kind of yoga traveler are you (provide email to get results)

  • Checklists, cheat sheets, templates - anything that helps people get from point A to B quicker and more easily.

Whatever you create, it has to be a no-brainer. You want your community to think: “Well, of course I want to download this!” Easy button! 😁

It should also relate to the theme of your retreat. Meditation audio is a great lead magnet for a meditation retreat. A handstand challenge would work for a yoga-bootcamp style retreat. You get the deal. Remember...our goal with the lead magnet is to grow our retreat interest list. If they like the lead magnet then they should be interested in your retreat theme because it aligns with their interests, needs, and desires.

Try to avoid epic lead magnets like a 12 month yoga plan or 100 page ebooks. You want quick wins that seem manageable and actionable for people with a busy schedule and full inboxes. You need the offer to be simple and irresistible.

Inside your lead magnet, this is where you want to also talk about how you’re planning an upcoming retreat (or tell them about your planned retreat) that takes what they just experienced to the next level.

Think about this process like dating...first, you flirt a little with your website and social content...then you go on a date with the lead magnet...then you get really serious be talking about traveling together. You’d never walk up to a stranger and say “Hey, let’s travel to exotic destination together!...by the way, what’s your name?” 😉

Speaking of lead magnets...you can download our retreat planning workbook right here!

RETREAT PLANNING WORKBOOK

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Use this workbook to brainstorm and plan your next retreat!

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You can use Google Drive or Dropbox to host your downloads and share a link once someone has opted into your ESP. Both Mailchimp and ConvertKit can automate this for you. [We share more trainings and info about this inside our epic upcoming training: Retreat Rockstar]

 

Step 6 - Create opt-in forms and landing pages for your lead magnet

Now that we have an email list and an irresistible lead magnet, it’s time to make sure your optimizing your web presence to start growing that list of interested travelers.

You need to put yourself in a retreat lead generation mindset! This means your website, social profiles, and your in-person interactions need to highlight your upcoming retreat.

And I know that this can be hard for people...especially yogis. We want our work and teachings to speak for themselves. We don’t want to “sell” or “market” our offerings and talents.

But here’s the hard truth: If you don’t share your gifts, talents, and offerings with the world, you are robbing them of an experience, a teaching, a gift that may change their life. Don’t be scared to share who you are and how you can help. The world NEEDS you!

So, now that I’ve got you pumped up to share your goodness with your community, what does that actually look like.

First things first, let’s put your website in “Retreat Mode”. This basically means that you want to be promoting your lead magnet (that irresistible freebie) all over your website. It might seem like overkill, but remember that most people only see a fraction of the things you post and share. And a lot of people need to see something 7-12 times before they take action on it.

It’s up to you to give your audience every opportunity to find what you’re sharing.

On your website, you want to create a call to action/opt-in form (CTA) in the following places:

  • announcement bar area
  • navigation
  • header
  • sidebar
  • footer

You should also create a dedicated blog post about why your lead magnet is so freakin’ amazing with an opt-in form there as well.

After that, you want to update all of your social media profiles to direct people to your lead magnet. When you’re posting all that great content on social media and people click your name to learn more...you want to direct them to your best work, that also happens to be super valuable for them! So, whether you have a meditation download, a quick start guide, a quiz, or whatever, you want to put that front and center.

Entice people to come into your home and get to know you better!

Step 7 - Get to work planning the details of your retreat

Boom! You’ve officially started laying the foundation for a badass retreat specifically tailored to your community and audience.

And now your website and social media platforms are lead generating machines, building your retreat interest list even while you sleep! Now, we're talkin'. 

While that’s working on autopilot, you want to be busy planning out all the logistics of your retreat from creating the sales page, payment systems, liability waivers, refund policies, onsite logistics, gathering testimonials, etc. [We’ll be covering all of this in Retreat Rockstar...opening again soon!....get on the list below.]

Whew! You guys. I’m getting excited just thinking about all the awesome retreats you’re going to create. Seriously. SO EXCITED. In the next part of this series, I’m going to be explaining a step that most people miss when describing how to launch a retreat: how to build a community. I've seen first hand that growing an authentic, engaged audience that trusts you is absolutely vital to creating retreats that sell out. 

In the mean time, start taking actions on the steps in this post. I’m rooting for you, friend! Leave a comment below to let us know which step you’re on or if you have any questions. If you share this series (and your progress!) on social media, then use the #myretreatbiz hashtag so that we can all follow along. Yeehaw!

Keep learning! >> Check out the next post in this series: How to Prime and Grow Your Audience for Your Retreat (coming soon!)

RETREAT PLANNING WORKBOOK

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Use this workbook to brainstorm and plan your next retreat!

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BEST YOGA RETREAT DESTINATIONS FOR 2018

There is no shortage in breathtaking yoga retreat locations around the world. We’ve led our fair share of retreats to Bali, Costa Rica, Thailand, and Mexico, so we know first-hand how great these locations can be. There are, however, so many more destinations that may not immediately pop into your mind when planning your next retreat. So, here are our top 9 locations for stepping out of the box and soaking in a well-rounded, relaxing, rejuvenating retreat in 2018.

 

Photo credit:  Raghavvidya, Flickr

Photo credit: Raghavvidya, Flickr

India

Okay. Okay. This might seem like an obvious choice, but India is still not a top 10 destination for yoga...yet. Practicing yoga in India is the epitome of spirituality. The ancient practice started here in around 5000 b.c. and still thrives across the country. Deeply devotional people, elaborate temples, and peaceful ashrams make India a unique location for retreats. While it’s certainly not the most luxurious location on our list, the culture and experience of retreating to India is sure to challenge you to deepen your spiritual and internal relationship to a fascinating degree. There’s nowhere quite like it.

While India is best known for Rishikesh, we’d recommend heading to Goa, Mysore, Varanasi or Manali, each offering their own exceptionally unique experience.

Best time to visit: November-February


 

Photo credit: magical-world Flickr via Compfight cc

Argentine Patagonia

It would be a true challenge to find a more intensely beautiful, surreal, and diverse area of the world to retreat to than Patagonia. From the immense glacial fields to the green alpine meadows scattered with wildflowers and the Cobalt lakes to the snowy mountain tops, the natural beauty here is truly boundless. Relax your mind and body on the mat and spend your free time engaging in sustainable volunteering or exploring the exotic yet peaceful environment around you.

Best time to visit: December-March

 

Photo credit: -Visavis- Flickr via Compfight cc

Canada

Oh Canada, a source of so much serenity, beauty, and fresh air! Looking for a bigger city retreat scene with an abundance of historical and architectural influences? Check out Toronto, Montreal, Quebec, or Ottawa. Looking for a more peaceful, scenic getaway in nature? Head to British Columbia or Alberta. Hi, Banff Lake! Honestly, no matter what atmosphere you’re looking to retreat to, Canada more than likely got you covered.

Best time to visit: May-October

 

Photo credit: Tomislav Bilic Flickr via Compfight cc

Croatia

Croatia is a beautiful eastern European country with quaint islands in the Adriatic sea. The water is crystal clear and bright blue. Hvar island and the Istrian peninsula are perfect retreat destinations, boasting surprisingly fertile coastal plains, freshwater springs, beautiful beaches, and many hours of uninterrupted sunshine. It’s the perfect getaway without straying too far from comfort!

Best time to visit: May-June & September-October

 

Photo credit:  Boris G, Flickr

Photo credit: Boris G, Flickr

Nicaragua

Nicaragua is the largest nation in Central America, yet it remains the least visited. With a stunningly diverse display of mountains, volcanoes, lakes, forests and beaches, this country makes for an entrancing retreat. Spend a week relaxing on Big Corn Island or combine yoga classes with surf lessons on Costa Dulce.

Best time to visit: November-April

 

Photo credit:  Mac Qin, Flickr

Photo credit: Mac Qin, Flickr

Maldives

Have you ever heard of more inviting, crystal clear seas than that surrounding Maldives? We imagine it would be a challenge to find. Ocean lovers, this location is for you. Retreat to the ethereal paradise where nature and sea live in harmony and experience marine life like you’ve never seen before. Whether you’re looking for a rejuvenating getaway to Malé or want to combine yoga with surfing or diving, you’ll find it here.

Best time to visit: November-April

 

Photo Credit:  Trip Creator

Photo Credit: Trip Creator

Iceland

Iceland has a whole lot more to offer than arctic temperatures and glistening glaciers. This country offers an abundance of thermal baths, such as the well-known Blue Lagoon, rare wildlife viewings and nature like you’ve never quite seen it before. If you’re lucky enough, you might even experience nature’s light show, the northern lights. Now that’s something to write home about.

We’re quite partial to Reykjavik and Akureyri when it comes to combining yoga and adventure, but, of course, we’re never opposed to stepping off the beaten path, either.

Best time to visit: June-August

 

Photo Credit:  Destino Perfeito

Photo Credit: Destino Perfeito

Tanzania

Retreating to Tanzania offers you a chance to experience some of the world’s most untouched combinations of culture, wildlife, and scenery. Spend your entire retreat relaxing on the beaches of Zanzibar, mix in some diving and sea exploration, or combine yoga with safari adventures. You’re bound to leave here with an open mind and plans for the next African getaway!

Best time to visit: June-October

 

Photo Credit:  Vuela a la Vida

Photo Credit: Vuela a la Vida

Cuba

Looking to experience a laid back culture filled with striking architecture, white sand beaches, and crystal clear waters? Well, luckily for Americans, visiting Cuba just got a little bit easier. That means now is the perfect time to visit before the crowds start to discover the magic they’ve been missing. Relax and retreat to Havana, exploring the capital city’s rich culture or head off the beaten path to breathe in the fresh mountain air of the Sierra Maestra.

Best time to visit: November-March


Check out some of our favorite upcoming retreats, teacher trainings and venues to get started on your next yoga adventure!

Behind the Scenes of 2017 with Yoga Travel Tree

WHAT'S NEW WITH YOGA TRAVEL TREE

With 2017 already one quarter over (what?!), I'm excited for what the next 9 months will bring. Here's a little summary of the goings on around here:

BRAND NEW WEBSITE

I spent most of the last three months completely rebuilding YogaTravelTree.com from the ground up.

After dealing with not one, not two, not THREE, but FOUR site crashes while I was traveling in India, Tanzania, and Bali last year, I knew that something had to give.

So I hunkered down, turned off all notifications and distractions and got to work. Let me know what you think!

SNAZZY NEW LOGO

A brand new website AND a new logo is completely coincidental. I didn’t set out to basically rebuild my company brand face from the ground up...but here we are. ;)

After 3.5 years of adorable little “fire cracker hands stick figure yogi” logo, I was ready for something a little more modern, a little more sleek, and a lot more attractive.

The irony is that I designed this one myself while enjoying a glass of wine in about 2 hours. The first logo took about 2 months to settle on after paying for multiple options from a designer, asking a committee of friends and mentors their opinions, and asking myself “how will this logo make people feel?”

One important lesson entrepreneurship has taught me over the years is that your fonts, colors, and logo are secondary to the voice you use to communicate your message, how you treat and connect with your ideal clients and customers, and the general mojo you put out into the world.

All of that is your real brand - the way people will talk about your company when you’re not in the room - not the colors, fonts, and graphics.

I feel really great about the core Yoga Travel Tree brand, so it was time for a little year 4 spring cleaning and pampering. And boy does she look good.

 

RETIRING OUR SIGNATURE YOGA ADVENTURES (FOR NOW)

In 18 months, I built 14 retreats and teacher trainings and delivered 9 of them myself.

It was an amazing 18 months traveling the world, learning so much about the retreat business, building meaningful + transformational travel adventures, meeting inspiring travel and yoga lovers from around the globe, and even getting to travel with my mom for the first time...ever.

But it was also exhausting. So I've decided to take a break from retreats in 2017, but I have a feeling they'll be back. ;)

Sign up below to be the first to know when they return.

Here are a few highlights from our 2017 adventures to Thailand... Bali... Tanzania/Kilimanjaro... and back to Bali. 

 

LAUNCHING RETREAT TRAINING PROGRAM

The past 18 months of successful (and some not so successful) retreat planning, promotion, and delivery PLUS my 12 years of experience in the educational travel industry have taught me a lot about about what makes a SUCCESSFUL retreat.

And after leading 9+ retreats in just 1.5 years, I’m asked all the time “how did you do it?” especially by people who’ve been struggling to get even one retreat off the ground.

So I'm excited to get back to my roots and help more yoga teachers and other business owners create, launch, and profit from their own retreats through my step-by-step course: Retreat Rockstar.

Retreats have been game-changing for my business and I know it can be for yours as well. If you want to learn more about this, click here and you'll be the first to know. :)

 

 

CO-FOUNDING THE HEARTLAND YOGA FEST IN KANSAS CITY!

I’m extremely excited to be working with two fellow yoga badasses (Angela Cronk of Hagoyah Studio and Lauren Leduc of Karma Tribe Yoga) to bring an incredible yoga festival to the heart of the US!

 
 

The event is happening in Kansas City June 2018 and our deeply discounted Founders tickets will go on sale soon.

So if you’re a midwest yogi or interested in traveling to the heartland for an amazing event, head over to Heartland Yoga Festival and get on the early-bird Lovers List!

 

SIMPLIFIED PROMOTION OPTIONS ON YOGA TRAVEL TREE

Over the years, I’ve played around with all kinds of marketing packages and options for yoga teachers and training organizers. And finally, I think we’ve found our sweet spot.

Our mission is to connect travel-loving yogis with the best fit yoga travel experiences out there.

In order to do that, we have to earn revenue (this is a business after all). Crazy, I know! ;) Therefore, we now offer ONE simple way to market your retreats, trainings, venues, and events on our site: The Better Package.

The Better Package gets you a year-long listing on our site (or until your event ends), promotion in our newsletter, promotion across all of our social media platforms, and a beautiful+detailed listing all about your amazing yoga offerings.

One package, one price - everyone gets the same exposure. Clear, simple, clean.

If you’d like to get your upcoming yoga retreat, training, venue, or event in front of our kick ass yoga community, learn more here.

Okay! That's a wrap! Thank you to everyone who has supported this crazy yogapreneur journey so far. I can't wait for everything that's to come! 

XO, 

 

 

 


 

Shalom Bikram Yoga: Finding Home Away from Home

A couple of weeks ago, I bid a temporary farewell to my regular Vinyasa practice. It was a bittersweet departure as I reminisced over the growth, sweat, ups, downs, and upside-downs of my practice in the last six years. For the first time I thought about the actual time I clocked in various studios. I figured I practiced an average of five classes a week for six years… That’s 1,560 hours spent on my mat, the equivalent of 65 days spent doing yoga around the clock.

“We are what we repeatedly do.” – Aristotle

When we practice at a studio, we form innocent attachments without realizing it: to teachers, the space, the energy, the rituals. Without knowing it, we begin to long for a particular fragrance of incense; we find comfort in the sounds of the heater kicking on; we take delight in the quiet serenity of a studio away from the chaos of home.

When I taught my Vinyasa classes, I often closed class reminding students that their practice is something they create; it’s something that is always inside of them, waiting for them, always there with unconditional support. They say you teach what you most need to learn.

I moved to Tel Aviv, Israel with no specific direction or plan and I was okay with that. But in the absence of a studio or a yoga community, I was feeling a little naked. The practice that once kept me planted and warm felt lost and rootless. Of course I had done the research and I knew where the studios were in Tel Aviv, but there were not any studios offering the type of Vinyasa I was habituated to.

But when people are uncomfortable they find quick ways to adapt, and my discomfort slowly evolved into excitement at the brand new direction my yoga would take; I felt at once the exhilaration of untapped potential. I was a curious and anxious beginner again.

Which is exactly how I found myself in the oven of a Bikram studio one evening, melting on my mat, trying to decipher cues spoken in Hebrew (which I do not speak), watching my face grower pinker with every asana, and absolutely loving it.

I had done Bikram-style classes before, but they were few and far in between and I was typically seeking them out just to detoxify in the heat. The discipline of the sequence was alien to me, and the lengthy time holding the asanas was genuinely challenging in its novelty. Yet, it still felt like yoga – it was still the same breath. It was beautifully exotic and innate at the same time.

At the end of my first Bikram class in Tel Aviv, I closed my practice the way I always do: thumbs at third-eye, bowed forward, eyes closed. And I couldn’t help but smile at the sensations whirling through my body and mind, as they were identical to those I felt closing my practice at home.

It didn’t matter that the studio smelled different or that the teaching style felt foreign in multiple ways. It was unimportant that I didn’t know anyone in the studio and that they didn’t know me back. I had everything I needed: body, breath, and mat.

As humans we will face the urge to attach to our environments time and time again in the search for grounding, but yoga teaches us that the real stability resides in the Self. Wherever we go, the Self will follow. That is dependable and unchanging.

Now my practice is trekking an unpaved road, constantly reminding me that yoga is an inward journey. But so long as I do my practice, I know that all is coming.

 

Feature image via: Robert Brauneis

Stay Loose: 4 Stretches to do During a Long Flight

We all know that sitting still for too long is terrible for our bodies and when we add air pressure and different time zones, it’s no wonder we start our holiday or business trip foggy headed, tight and sore backs, and fatigued. We want to arrive refreshed and limber. The only way to do this is to always remember to keep hydrated and to keep the blood flowing through the body. Even if you are not prone to Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), it’s always a good idea to move your body during a long haul flight. With Qantas and Singapore Airlines offering 19 hour flights, you could do with some help!

I’m going to give you some airplane exercises to help prevent DVT and to keep the blood flowing to your body and your mind, allowing you to arrive alert, loose-limbed and ready to roll. Please listen to your own body and only do an exercise that feels good.

 

1. Reach forward and place your hands on the chair in front of you. Inhale and bring your chest forward, exhale and curl your belly in. Repeat for 5 slow breaths.

2. Place your hands either side of your chair. Inhale, lift your shoulders slowly, exhale and lower slowly. Repeat 10 times. Add in some shoulder rolls if you're still tight.

3. Balance your body on the chair with a straight spine. Raise one knee and place your hands underneath. Roll your ankle both ways x 10. Swap sides.

4. Sit straight in your chair. Cross your left ankle over the right knee. Gently press just above the left knee. Hold and breathe for 5 slow breaths. Swap sides.

 

I hope you have a wonderful flight and arrive safe and refreshed.


 

 

Victoria is a Yoga/Mindfulness and Meditation Teacher. She is passionate about bringing Yoga to every body, every where, no matter their circumstances. Victoria is an Author and designer of the Yoga Card Deck series, including a plane yoga card deck.

 

 

Image via: Sara Adkins

 

 

 

 

 

What Bikram Yoga is like in Nairobi, Kenya

Yoga At Bikram, Nairobi

This is the place to be when you want to do Yoga in Kenya. It is such a superb environment that will attract even those who are faint at heart when it comes to practicing yoga. At Bikram, the place is normally heated at 40 degrees C in order to enable the participants to have an enabling environment when it comes to practicing the 26 postures which are practiced there. This has made it to be nicknamed

“The Hot Yoga” joint.

Bikram yoga is the brain child of a Mr.Bikram Choudbury, who started practicing yoga at age 4 years. Apart from Nairobi, Bikram Yoga studios are found globally. In total, there are over 2000 Bikram yoga studios globally. In Africa, there are 4 studios found in, Casablanca in Morocco, 2 in South Africa, and the Nairobi one.

What made this Bikram studio spread so fast? Mr. Bikram introduced it to the West through actress Shirley Maclaine, a Hollywood actress, and President Richard Nixon. The president granted Bikram a green card in the USA after he healed his knee with Yoga. From there, Bikram Yoga became popular in the USA and Europe.

Celebrities who have enjoyed Bikram yoga include Lady Gaga, David Beckham, and George Clooney.

Who Started Bikram In Nairobi

This is a center which was opened by a Mr. Karim and Emma Day at a cost of $100,000. It stands on a 1,400 square room.

How does it operate?

The Bikram Yoga class can accommodate up to 70 students, but it is restricted to 30 students a session. The experienced students are placed at the front row while the learners or new comers occupy the back rows so that they can copy the professionals.

What Happens Before The Yoga Classes?

Before you dream of going to a Bikram Yoga class, make sure to:

 To bring a bottle of water;

 Wear something that is close fitting. One made from lycra is ideal in order to avoid it sticking onto your body when you are all sweaty.

 3 hours before classes, make sure to eat a light meal to avoid going to the class on a full stomach;

Prior to going to the class, make sure you have taken enough water to make sure you remain hydrated during the Bikram yoga session;

 Arrive on time in order to get yourself set by the instructor. They are very strict and they don’t allow latecomers in.

When you walk into the room, you will feel welcomed. The wooden paneled floor will feel cool on your feet as you walk into the steamy Bikram yoga studio. There are 4 mirrors which will give you a reflection of yourself and other participants.

You have to roll your mat, and set your towel just beside yourself. The next step is the breathing exercises. When you breath in, moist, cool air is sent deep into your lungs. From there, a warm up session starts.

Why Do Bikram Yoga?

This is a type of yoga that will help you in eliminating that excessive weight you are carrying around. During a session, you can burn between 600 -1000 calories depending on your hard work. The postures, which are referred to as asanas and the heat, are a fantastic combination to trim and tone the body.

With Bikram Yoga, your muscles, ligaments, tendons, organs and glands in the body will be worked out thus improving the body system and helping to prevent diseases. In short, Bikram Yoga gives participants a whole health lifestyle.

Rest assured that, when you go to the Bikram yoga studio classes, it de-stresses. This happens during the deep breathing in which, your mind is controlled, making you relaxed and having a deep calmness that you will carry with you even outside the yoga class.

Enroll for the nearest Bikram Yoga class in your area.


 

Bio: this post is brought to you by Lisa from Auvisa.org. Auvisa.org was founded in 2011 by migration lawyers and it provides consular service to Australia. Lisa is a food nutritionist who has 6 years practicing food and nutrition to her credit before joining Auvisa.org.

Featured Image: Ninara

Top 10 beaches in India for Yoga Enthusiasts

I’m sure like me, when you think of a yoga retreat India comes to your mind, which is quite natural because that’s where it all began… I’d often wondered what the word ‘yoga’ meant.  Yoga has its origins in India from the ‘Yuj’ in Sanskrit, which means to unite. Yoga is your path to unite with the spirit of the Universe and its practice brings rejuvenation to the mind, body & soul.

Yoga on a beach? Sounds promising indeed…

The beach setting is idyllic with the sound of the ocean waves gently crashing against the stones, the salt sea air invigorating your lungs, and the soft breeze keeping you cool throughout your Yoga session.

Now it’s time to go for a Yoga holiday in the famed beaches of India…

Cherai Beach, Kerala

cherai-beach

The golden beach of Kerala where the golden rays of Sun play with the blue waters of the ocean. The beach, located near Cochin is lined with luscious green coconut groves and paddy fields. The sandy beach is a unique combination of the sea and the backwaters.  The peaceful, rustic setting is  ideal for spiritual practice of Yoga. Go in for total rejuvenation at the Cherai Beach Resorts & Ayurmana Spa, two prominent Yoga retreats to look out for at the Cherai beach.

Image by  s_smile4ever via Flickr

Anjuna Beach

Anjuna-BeachAnjuna Beach is popular with foreign tourists. The beach is marked by an unusual rocky formation overlying a cove of white sand and black rock that juts out into the Sea. The stunning natural beauty of the beach with swaying palms trees and soft white sands overwhelms you. Pamper yourself at the Satsanga Retreat, Yoga Magic Eco Resort & the Purple Valley Yoga Resort here at the Anjuna beach.

Image by David Jones via Flickr

Sernabatim Beach

Sernabatim-BeachDiscover the sugar ‘n sand beach of Sernabatim in Colva coastline and its glistening waters. The incessant waves create a calming effect which is ideal for the practice of Yoga. For those interested in yoga practice, the Baywatch Resort & the Beach House offers a range of innovative and all-inclusive wellness programmes.

Image by  Ryan Brown via Flickr

Varkala Beach

varkkala-beachStunning cliffs form a perfect backdrop for the Varkala beach lying on the outskirts of Thiruvnanthapuram, the capital city of Kerala. A dip in its waters is believed to purge the body of all impurities & the beach is believed to have medicinal and curative properties. Apart from all this Varkala is renowned for its Yoga retreats. Kadaltheeram Beach Resort, Palm Tree Heritage Resort, Sharanagati Yogahaus etc. to name a few...

Image by Gunnar Geir Petursson via Flickr

Kovalam, Kerala

kovalam-beachWith incredible sunrises and the play of colours of the water, sand and greenery, this long stretch of white sandy beach running alongside the Malabar Coast—Kovalam beach has been Kerala’s most popular destination for years. The beach is a union of three coves, namely the Hawa Beach, the Lighthouse beach and the Samudra Beach. Heal your body & soul doing Yoga at the retreats like Beach & Lake Ayurvedic Resort, Coconut Bay Beach Resort & Manaltheeram Ayurveda Beach Resort.

Image by Yogendra Joshi via Flickr

Marina Beach, Chennai

marina-beachMarina Beach is arguably one of the best beach destinations in South India. The mornings here are full of people doing yoga. Do your suryanamaskar to the actual sun at the Marina beach. It’s really inspiring to watch so many people practice their yoga here. Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre at the Marina Beach is one of the best destination spas and yoga retreats in India.

Image by Gokulnath via Flickr

Juhu Beach, Mumbai

Juhu-Beach-MumbaiKnown to be the one of the most-visited beaches of India Juhu Beach has a peaceful atmosphere and scenic beauty as its unique features.  The sunset is a dream-like vision for anyone who visits the beach. Yoga Sessions at Juhu Beach are conducted by different groups.Try out the Nityam Yoga Centre & Yoga Shala for some awesome Yoga…

Image by Praveen Raj via Flickr

RK Beach, Visakapatnam

rk-beachThe Rama Krishna Mission Beach is one of the most popular beach parks in Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh. The cool ocean breeze, the blue skies & the golden sands weave their magic on you as you walk on the beach sands. The beach is a perfect setting for doing Yoga. Just lie down and de-stress your mind and feel the calmness seep in. Bay Leaf - Ayurveda Spa & Resort is one Yoga destination not to be missed here.

Image by Surendra via Flickr

Palolem Beach, Goa

 

Palolem-Beach-GoaPalolem Beach is the most idyllic beach in Goa surrounded by a thick forest of coconut palms.  This is a unique opportunity to experience Yoga in untouched and idyllic surroundings far away from city lights. Bhakti Kutir, Trimurti Yoga Goa Retreat, Lotus Yoga Retreat , Bamboo Yoga Retreat etc. are the reputed Yoga centres in Palolem  Beach.

Image by Isaac via Flickr

Fort Kochi

fort-kochiCome and practice yoga at a silent beach in the countryside of Kerala. Nestled amidst coconut trees, green bushes and softly lashing seawaters, the Fort Kochi beach happens to be the favorite haunt of one and all. Veda Wellness Ayurveda Spa and Yoga Center, Elephant Pass Ayurveda & Yoga Retreat, Sanatana Yoga Vidyapeetam, Sree Yoga Darshan etc. are few of the Yoga retreats you can check out…

Image by Aleksandr Zykov via Flickr

Now that you have a run-down on the beaches for Yoga which helps you to re-establish contact with your true-self and nature just start planning your Yoga holiday…

Author Bio:

Sunu Phililp is the Inbound Marketing and Creative Head for Paradise Holidays, Cochin - a Kerala based tour operator. She loves reading, exploring new places and trying out new cuisines!

 

Featured image: Jesús Pérez Pacheco

How to Make Travel as Rejuvenating as Possible

As an international yoga teacher most of my travel is for work, but I’ve found a few key things that help me stay stress free while traveling for work or for pleasure.

Food

Irene13This is a big one on my list, because when I eat well I have more energy and find it easier to demonstrate poses while teaching. This can mean staying at a resort that cooks healthy and organic meals, or finding a hotel near a marketplace where you can shop for yourself and stock up on healthy buys. When choosing vacation spots or places to host yoga retreats healthy food is definitely a priority.
 

Exercise

Since we all enjoy different forms of exercise, it is important to find a place that suits your needs. Whether this means choosing a hotel with a pool or gym, or a resort near a beach or that offers yoga classes. Even if you don’t normally exercise, taking time to walk and sight see can be a great way to tire yourself out, making sure you rest well even with a time change.

Rest

Irene8When it comes to traveling for vacation many of us try to pack in as much as possible, but remember to leave time and space to relax so that you can really enjoy yourself. I need time alone in order to clear my mind. Sometimes I read or write, other times I just nap, but it’s important for me to book my time wisely, leaving time for me.

Ease of Travel

When traveling for work I don’t always have a lot of say in how or where I travel, but when I do I make sure to choose wisely. This means direct flights whenever possible, adding an extra day when the time change is more than 7 hours, picking cities that are easy to navigate, and researching the places I travel before I go. When I travel for pleasure, depending on the duration of my trip I try to limit overall travel time (to and from airport as well as time on the plane) whenever I can so that I can spend my time off on the beach instead of in the car or on the plane.

Location 

Irene3One of my favorite places that I have been to in the last year is Vista Celestial in Costa Rica. This boutique hotel is perfect for a luxurious retreat with an active lifestyle. The food is all locally sourced and organic, much of it being grown on site. Locally grown coffee is roasted and ground fresh every morning, which is a huge plus for me! With a pool, jungle trails, yoga platforms, and a private beach nearby, there are tons of activities to stay fit whether you like to surf or practice yoga.

The Great Outdoors

Nature has its special way infusing us with energy and instilling in us a sense of wellness and relaxation.  I live in a busy urban environment so when I travel I try to pick destinations that offer the chance to escape and explore the wilderness, hike, meditate, and of course, practice Yoga.

Fun

Irene7 Although it seems obvious, remember to enjoy yourself and have fun! Put your cell phone away and just be present and enjoy every moment. Use your time to try new experiences, meet new people and enjoy life to its fullest. Making memories that last a lifetime will leave you feeling like a new person and you will return feeling recharged and ready to take on life’s challenges.

Irene Pappas - As a lover of movement, Irene is passionate about her practice. She practices both Ashtanga and Rocket yoga, as she enjoys both a traditional practice as well as a spontaneous one. Not only does she practice yoga but she studies with hand balancers, circus performers, and contortionists to expand her own knowledge and explore the capabilities of her body.

Flexible Strength - Red Bank, NJ