THE MAGIC – PART 1
There is a phrase I repeat to myself in every season: When things are going right, when things are going wrong, when it seems like nothing is going anywhere at all, you are exactly where you’re meant to be.
In all of my seasons, I’ve rarely felt that as strongly as I did during this retreat with Sand and Salt Escapes.
On our first night of the retreat, we were asked to describe ourselves in three words. As we shared our words with each other, we were posed with a question: Would we share these same words in front of family members? Colleagues? Friends?
We contemplated our answers, digging deep, and working through the whys. Despite having met each other just hours prior, having these conversations with our group of then-strangers felt entirely natural.
Throughout the week, our group shared laughs, tears (many from laughter), travel stories, personal stories, struggles, fears, and dreams. By the end, it was hard to believe we had only spent a total of six days together.
THE BACK STORY
Sand and Salt Escapes, offers “the retreat for people who work hard.” Max, the founder, found himself burnt out after a decade working as a consultant and began practicing mindfulness. As he practiced, he became inspired to help others alleviate anxieties.
When Max reached out about coming on a retreat and featuring my experience on my blog, I was thrilled. When I heard his story, I felt like the stars had aligned. As a newly-diagnosed anxious person who has experienced major burn-out in the past, I knew just how authentically I could share this experience, and hopefully encourage someone else to take the leap to go on this self-care journey.
The more Max and I spoke, the more I understood his vision of what a Sand and Salt Escapes retreat was about. As I read through the pre-arrival email, detailing everything from the information we would need to provide at customs, to a descriptive layout of where to find our private transfer, I could already feel the relief of not having to worry about anything on this retreat.
When I landed at Liberia Airport after an easy, 3.5-hour direct flight from Dallas, I felt the last of my stress melt away, both figuratively and literally. It was 87 degrees in mid-December, and it felt great.
After going through customs and grabbing a snack, I went outside to meet my driver, and the other retreat attendees. As we got into the air-conditioned van, the driver offered us bottled water, sodas or beer. You know you’ve left the U.S., when they offer you a beer for the drive.
I sipped an Imperial Light and chatted with the other guests until the dirt road became a bit windy, and we had to pause our conversation. I began to stare out the window, looking at the jungle, ocean, small homes and businesses surrounding us. This was my first time on the Pacific side of Costa Rica, and the landscape was just as beautiful as the Caribbean side.
When we arrived at Jade, a sustainable boutique resort located in the middle of Nosara, Max came to greet us and show us around. I was instantly impressed and enamored with my new, temporary home.
Pictures hardly do Jade justice. A true oasis, the beautiful kitchen and common space with a custom Ping Pong table was just the beginning. As soon as I walked through the large sliding door, my view changed to a stunning saltwater pool, shaded by palm trees and tastefully decorated with custom sculptures.
I walked down the concrete path to my room, soaking in the initial moments. My private porch included a couch and hammock, with a serene view of the jungle, yoga pavilion, and pool. The room itself was both bright and cozy, with vaulted ceilings featuring a skylight, allowing for a natural wake-up with the sun shining and birds chirping.
Sand and Salt Escapes had placed a retreat guide at the edge of my bed, which included the week’s agenda, a personalized letter from Max, emergency numbers and gate codes, a synopsis of our mindfulness classes, and more. Another thoughtful detail to subtly alleviate stress – and it worked.
Soon after settling in, it was time to walk to Playa Guiones, a 4-mile stretch of gorgeous beach, just a quick walk from Jade, for sunset. Watching the sunset on the beach is a daily tradition in Nosara, and once you’ve seen one, it’s easy to understand why. Note: All sunset photos in this post are entirely unedited.
The walk to the beach was also the first impression I had of Nosara. I didn’t know what to expect of the town itself, or that there even was much of a town, and I’m glad, because the reality was much better than I could’ve imagined. The jungle-lined village has only dirt roads – evidence of how low-key and noncommercial Nosara really is.
Nosara lies along the Nicoya Peninsula, one of the world’s five Blue Zones, or areas with a large population over 100 years old and, with very few cases of heart disease, cancer or diabetes.
As we watched the many people out surfing against the sunset, I could feel the happiness of this nature-focused town, and the full embrace of the Costa Rican phrase ‘pura vida’ which means ‘simple life’ radiating.
When we returned to Jade, dinner was being set out on the dining table. The family-style meal of fresh-caught fish, grilled vegetables, and potatoes smelled heavenly, and tasted even better.
THE RETREAT, CONTINUED
The week was perfectly curated with a variety of movement and mindfulness classes, adventure options including surfing and ATV, hiking, free time, incredible chef-prepared meals, gorgeous sunsets, and meaningful and inspirational conversations.
We lived by a consistent yet relaxed schedule, beginning the days with a light breakfast, then walking over to the beach for a movement class with our instructor, Jon.
Jon’s classes focused on foundation training, beginning with scanning our bodies to review our current mind-body connection, testing our balance, and clearing the lymphatic system.
Each day we built upon the foundations by partaking in Jon’s creative challenges, such as digging a hole in the sand deep enough to crawl under a large piece of driftwood, walking through the jungle without looking down to focus on our periphery, and more.
These classes were eye-opening, strengthening, and humbling – digging a hole in the sand is much more difficult than I remember as a kid!
When we got back to Jade, each day, we were welcomed with a beautiful, fresh brunch. From breakfast burritos to fried plantains and fresh fruit, to pancakes, tamales, and smoothies, each meal was more phenomenal than the last.
After brunch was free time, during which some of the group chose to surf, while others laid by the pool, watched iguanas roam by, read books, or explored Nosara.
Exploring Nosara included shopping at the many local boutiques and artisan booths along the road, treating ourselves to fresh acai bowls and cold brew from Destiny and Go Juice, watching dogs wander free and tuk tuks travel along the dirt roads.
Each afternoon, we regrouped for a variety of mindfulness classes, some held in the peaceful yoga shala at Jade, and some offsite. Classes included breathwork, yoga, painting at the beach and a sound journey.
The breathwork class set the tone for the week, reducing our stress and balancing the flow of energy by using deep breathing and meditation techniques. Breathwork is an important aspect of yoga, as well, which allowed these classes to seamlessly bridge into one another throughout the retreat.
Painting on the beach was a completely serene experience, allowing us each to express ourselves in a different kind of setting. Our class bled into the most beautiful sunset of the week, which will be forever ingrained in my mind.
Every other night after dinner, Max would prompt us with a question to begin an intentional conversation. The discussions lasted willingly for hours, eventually becoming story-telling and bonding, leading us all to discover how much we had in common — and how much we could help each other grow.
THE MAGIC – PART 2
On our last night, we were asked to share the words we felt best described each other. One by one, we took turns lifting each other up, sharing what we noticed, appreciated and admired. As each of us beamed with pride and wiped away tears during our turn of hearing our peers shine light on our best qualities, I couldn’t help but think: What if we did this in our daily lives — intentionally telling the people we care about just how special they are, or what we appreciate about them? How could this change our relationships, our lives? I knew right then and there that it had already changed mine.
Inspiring. Authentic. Magic.
These are the three words I would use to describe a Sand and Salt Escapes retreat.
The combination of sleepy Nosara, and the intentionality and authenticity of the Sand and Salt Escapes retreat, allowing us to reconnect with ourselves, nature, and be exactly where we were meant to be, is what created the magic. I hope that one day soon, you’ll choose to experience it for yourself. Pura vida.
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