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How to Pick an Active Vacation or Yoga Retreat

August 10, 2016

Moab Under Canvas Safari Quad
red rock yoga retreat

Lauren and I are no strangers to airplane rides or adventures. I’m sure our shared history traveling on Semester at Sea and desire to live full lives are two of the reasons we work together so well. This past year, I made it a priority to say ‘yes’ to as many escapes, adventures and retreats as my calendar (and bank account) will allow. Rather than having a Year of Yes” (great book by the way), I think of it as only saying yes to things that make my body feel really good. Food, movement, and good people are my priorities.

I should share that as an anti-type A person (more type Z), retreats are my favorite way to travel. After showing up in Thailand itinerary-less a few years ago, I’ve realized that planning, or outsourcing the planning, is in fact wonderful and necessary. Interestingly, Lauren is a self-confessed type A-person and likes outsourcing the organizing too. This way, she can obsess about something (or somewhere) else.

Pick your priority: is it to meet cool people, have some bootcamp and a little booze too? SurfYogaBeer is run by some of NYC fitness scene’s best, and they host worldwide fitness and fun retreats. I’ve met some of my best friends on these trips. But, if your priority is more to do “self work” and get a little hippy dippy with it, Kripalu R&R or YOGASCAPES retreats may be more for you.

Know your magic number: Everyone has their # of days that makes a vacation go from “best trip ever” to “I want to go home”. Mine is 5. Know your #.

Don’t assume when it comes to the food: surprisingly even “health” retreats don’t always have the healthiest food. So do your research and ask questions – remember, you’re paying! You can request gluten free and extra veggies etc. Also, always pack your own safety snacks and search for local juice and smoothie bars. *But if you’re going to Italy, try the freaking pasta…

Try new activities: You absolutely do NOT have to be an avid yogi to go on a yoga retreat or have any surf knowledge to go on a surf retreat. Many people I’ve met on my past few trips are complete beginners. Don’t let your lack of experience keep you from trying something that sounds cool. For example, a retreat with a campfire cacao ceremony, anyone?

Friends and family optional: when in doubt…. Pack up and GO! Go alone, go with friends, go with a love, go with your kids, just go. Recently I did this with a close friend on a trip to Moab, Utah with YOGASCAPES, not knowing anything about the destination or people (Type-Z strikes again), and it was one of the best trips of my life – and one of the least expensive ones, too.

Cost contributors: Camping is a great way to save money (or glamping, Under Canvas is a cool alternative in national parks). There’s something fun about going a little rugged, especially if someone else handles the tent set up.  Also, sharing rooms is not usually as creepy as it sounds and can make things much more affordable… but if we’re being honest, Lauren pulled out of a meditation retreat at Garrison Institute because she had to have a roommate. Pick what’s most important to you and pay for it.

Healthy vacations aren’t just for the 20 or 30-something or single! Lauren has done biking/hiking/camping trips trips with her husband and kids to Yellowstone, Zion and the Grand Canyon with Backroads. Many companies offer family trip options.

For me, my next “work” trip is a blueberry adventure with Lauren in Maine. And then I’m thinking a silent retreat – yup, no Insta AND no speaking… sounds terrifying, so I have to do it.

Where are you headed next? What have been your great retreat or travel experiences? 

Carolyn Brown, MS RD, received her masters in clinical nutrition at New York University after receiving her BS in psychology from Tulane University. Carolyn joined Foodtrainers over five years ago but wasn’t always a nutrition nerd. She battled with the freshman 15 and a love-hate (or hate-hate) relationship with the elliptical machine. Going on Semester at Sea, with travel in South America and Southeast Asia, ignited an interest in travel and international ingredients and cuisine that eventually led Carolyn to nutrition. Now, in addition to her nutrition degrees she is a certified yoga guide, has run the marathon, and is a spin and snowboard junkie. Carolyn is a huge advocate of “you can live a healthy life with out losing a social life”.

Follow Carolyn on Instagram @carolynbrownnutrition and Twitter @carolynbrownRD, or reach out via email: