I’m back in Italy after completing a truly special yoga retreat in Marrakesh. What seemed like an ordinary retreat (we laughed, we stood on our heads, we bargained like crazy, and we rode 2 different kinds of animals), when reflecting deeper, was anything but ordinary. There were many stand out moments including the gorgeous lunch in the Atlas Mountains, the incredible outdoor tagine cooking class at a mansion riad in the desert, the shopping mania and antics in the souks, and the out of nowhere monsoon hail storm that swept through our outdoor restaurant leaving us tucked in a cozy tent to have our farewell dinner by candlelight. But what makes these experiences stand-out moments for me has less to do with the adventure or circumstances and everything to do with the magic that happens when people open themselves up to connection and experiences they aren’t familiar with.
The cooking class was taught by two very talented Moroccan chefs who were very engaging and jovial while teaching us how to make incredible traditional Moroccan dishes. The class took place at a spectacular riad in the desert where we cooked tagine outside by the pool after being served Moroccan mint tea and pastries. The event was set up graciously by a Moroccan friend of mine who also gives the tours of Marrakech. I trusted he would set something up special and it was beyond what I imagined. The food was outstanding (my favorite meal of the entire week). And despite the language barrier, as one of the chefs didn’t speak English, the sentiment of deep appreciation came through anyways and by the end of the night, we were all sitting around the dinner table laughing, smiling, enjoying each other and grateful for our new Moroccan friends.
Beautiful new friendships were indeed a wonderful result of being together for a week in this exotic and sometimes chaotic land. The souks are comprised of a maze of narrow dirt streets with vendors selling their handmade wares… and some not hand-made. Over the week, one of our lovely guests bought 20 fake Goyard bags as gifts for her family. The last day of the retreat some of us went back to the souks for a little shopping before flights out of Marrakech. One of the other guests had asked her to buy some more Goyard purses for her as well if she had the time and bring them back to California. Well, she didn’t have any extra time but was determined to get them. We got caught up in one store for a while and by the time she was heading to find her Goyard store, it was essentially time for her to head to the airport. But she insisted she would somehow navigate the souks alone and find this one store that had the purses. We wished her luck and I was truly worried she would miss her flight.
Well, she in fact did find the store and after her last desperate purchase, with sweat dripping down her face, she was swept off by the store owner on the back of a moped weaving through the craziness of the souks to grab a taxi. I won’t go into more detail (and there is a lot more), but basically she nearly missed her flight. It struck me as such an act of kindness to risk missing her flight because she had promised to get these purses for her new friend. Her story truly moved me…and made me laugh out loud. There were many examples of kind gestures and demonstrations of love throughout the week. Offering a heightened experience of inspiration and expansiveness, travel seems to set the stage to open our hearts and heal our lives.
After this last retreat, what has become certain to me as it pertains to my work (which I have only created in the past 5 years) is that the highlight for me during retreats is to witness meaningful connections being made between guests. And when I think about it, connecting people has been a pattern of mine since a very young age. I’ve always had a passion for bringing people together, whether it was in the form of having parties at my home (God knows I’ve had a million of them!), making time for fun gatherings for my employees, planning trips for groups of friends, and now in the platform of wellness retreats. I absolutely love bringing people together and setting the stage for deep connection to occur. So it’s no surprise to me that what brings me the greatest joy from these retreats is to see new friendships being made.
I haven’t had one retreat where I don’t see guests as perfect strangers develop meaningful friendships. I truly believe that this is one of the reasons I’ve been put on this earth. When I started this retreat business, it was impulsive and not thought through clearly, but I was driven by a profound inspiration to bring people together in beautiful places.I didn’t realize at the time that my soul was speaking through me and that the bigger soul intention has always been to create an environment conducive to helping people wake up to the Universal Truth that All is One. Somehow by following my passion, my purpose found me. The greater overall lesson I learned (and which has also helped me deepen in trust) is that we don’t have to know with exact clarity what we are “meant to do”, whatever that means. We just need to lean into the things that spark something inside of us, that sets our heart on fire, and trust that living with passion is enough to show us the way forward. It always does.