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7 Lessons I Learned From Travelling Solo & Attending My First Retreat

Updated: Dec 17, 2023

In January of 2018 (which feels like a lifetime ago now) I embarked on my first solo trip to beautiful Costa Rica. This trip forever changed the course of my life for many reasons. A few months after arriving back home, I wrote this blog post (March of 2018). In it, I share about my experiences and the lessons I learned.


Since then, so much has changed. I could never imagine that I'd return to obtain my barre certification alongside my nursing career or that four years later I would begin hosting my own retreat experiences. This post was a beautiful thing to re-read to remind me of the magic that came from trusting...I hope it inspires you.

 
Serendipity: the faculty or also: an instance of this. the phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for.

Each year around March I submit my vacation for the upcoming fiscal year. I remember last spring that I wanted to book one week off of work in the dead of winter. Sometime after the holidays but before the reading weeks and March break madness. So, I chose random dates and crossed my fingers it would get approved.


Then, the year happened. As some of you may know, I broke my arm again this summer (yes, again..for the second time in 11 months). Financially, this was less than ideal as I had just dug myself out of the last rut I got into. Even worse, this time around, I did not have the benefits to cover the time I was off work. A long three months later and a lot of debt, that week long vacation was not looking promising but I was committed to going somewhere. Really, anywhere.


After a summer of self-care, and a heightened self-awareness, I knew exactly what I needed. I needed a soul trip. I craved experience, but the strangest thing? I craved it alone. I wanted to do something for myself, and by myself. It was hard to tell my partner at the time this but I followed my intuition. I wanted wellness, good food, warmth and a space to dive deeper into my personal practice of yoga. So, naturally, I took to Google. My vacation was approved for very specific dates so I did not have much flexibility. I also did not have money but for the first time in my life, I trusted that going into debt for this trip would be the best decision of my life (I do not recommend you live like this always).


I found a retreat for the exact dates I was granted off. I put the deposit down and secured one of the last spaces. And just like that, I was going to a wellness, yoga and barre retreat! Not to mention, in one of the most biodiverse places on the planet and somewhere my heart had been longing to explore, the beautiful Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica. Serendipity? The dates lined up perfectly. The flight times worked out. The accommodation was dreamy. It was pure perfection. Effortless. It felt so meant to be.



“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm, and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” – Jawaharial Nehru

Leaving Toronto


As my trip neared I began to get excited but I also got a lot of weird looks when I told people I was traveling solo as a 25 year old female. It was my first solo trip (other than hopping on a plane for an emergency visit to see my grandparents). I was also my first wellness retreat and the first form of any spiritual travel journey. Truthfully, I wasn't nervous until the day I was leaving when I got out of the car, my partner threw my bag on my back and I gave him a big hug, we snapped a pic (obvi) at which point he commented sarcastically, "in case I never see you again" and I was off. A flight delay and a 5-hour flight later...I was in Costa Rica! For the weeks leading up to my trip, I was thankful to connect with my roommate who I would stay at the retreat with. We also ended up staying in the same hotel in San Jose, Costa Rica the night prior to our flight to the retreat and she too was on her first solo trip which was so great.




There were a lot of firsts on this trip. This first was a little terrifying but also REALLY cool. We took a 10 person flight to the southern end of Costa Rica called the Osa Peninsula. Check out this plane! It was so small, I could actually touch the pilot! I had never been on such a small plane. Not to mention, two weeks before I left there was a fatal plane crash in Costa Rica and it was the same plane..that made us all a little nervous. But, the plane experience was unforgettable. There is something so liberating about putting your life in someone else's hands and just being with it. Alternatively, you can drive to the peninsula (around 9 hours I heard) but I was not about to waste that kinda beach time. This ride felt like an excursion in itself and we hadn't even got to the resort yet!


Arriving at Blue Osa


I don't think my words can do this retreat center justice. Blue Osa is a beachfront retreatcenter that has it all figured out: farm-to-table dining, eco-spa, a beautiful yoga studio and just steps from the beach. The moment I walked through the gates I knew that this was exactly what I needed. Amazing attention to detail, smiling staff members and an overall feeling of love and joy. The feelings of traveling solo dissolved and I felt an instant surrender to whatever this experience was going to bring me.



Pass through the collage above to see all of the amazing things we were fortunate enough to experience.


Yoga Studio: open concept and beautiful, hearing the birds chirping (howler monkeys in the early morning) and the warm breeze while you hold a balancing posture was MAGIC. here we did 1-2 yoga classes a day, a barre class (sometimes 2), pilates and meditations nightly.


Food + Drink: the food was the best I’ve ever had, like ever. All locally sourced and insanely well prepared, fresh and I found many gluten-free options (very accommodating to my allergy).


Farm Tour: we got to walk across the road to the farm where we were shown how many plants like turmeric, bananas, pineapples and sugar cane grow. NOM.


Matapalo Jungle Hike: animals GALORE! monkeys, anacondas, toucans and more! plus, the waterfall swimming was stunning and a perfect way to refresh! highly recommend this as an add on! Retreat Amenities: the resort itself was absolutely gorgeous, like something you’d see out of a movie. open concept, mostly outside, the property is beautifully landscaped and extremely zen. A beautiful pool, a spa, a gym, hammocks for lounging, a family style dining area, a small shop and beautiful rooms! What more does one need?


On-site Temple: I was hesitant to go into the temple until it was my final day. Many of the retreat guests had left and I was flying out later..I had some time to go into the temple and ended up meditating there for 45 minutes. This was one of the most profound experiences of my entire trip. I journaled pages and pages after this experience and still look back on them a year later…one word: CLARITY


Animal Sanctuary and Dolphin Swim: by far the best off resort excursion I have ever done. We were driven to a marina and took an amazing speed boat over to an incredible island to the Animal Sanctuary where we saw sloths, the cutest monkey, many birds + more…plus they are all rescued animals which I ADORE! On the boat ride back we snorkelled, were fed and blessed with a magnificent 100+ dolphin spectacle (and yes, I jumped in the water with them). Highly recommend it!



Strangers to Friends: one of the best parts of this trip was going alone and being forced out of my comfort zone to meet a whole new group of people (most who knew each other). Travel has a wonderful way of forcing you to be vulnerable and rewarding you with lifelong friendships abroad. I know one day I will reconnect with these new friends, somewhere, somehow!


Solo Dating Myself


My final night in Costa Rica I flew back to San Jose and stayed the night before boarding my plane back to Toronto. I needed food (red meat specifically after a week of eating mostly plants) and took to the good old Google for a restaurant reco. I ended up finding the nicest steakhouse close by. As you can see the language barrier was real and they brought me bread as I couldn’t explain my gluten allergy. I opted for veg + meat to stay safe and the most expensive red on the menu. Apparently, the most expensive steak too after realizing my credit card conversion for this meal was somewhere around $200 CAD (oops). Lesson: it was SO humbling eating alone. The waiter assumed I was waiting on a partner and looked at me very oddly when I said “just one”. I’ll be honest I called my mom when I first got the restaurant because I felt super awkward, but then I let it soak in and realized that a solo date is actually insanely empowering and I couldn’t believe I hadn’t done it yet.

Have you travelled solo before?

  • Yes and I loved it!

  • No, but I want to now

  • Not my thing


My 7 Lessons of Solo Travel

  • Listen to your heart, if it’s crying out for solo travel/alone time DO IT (especially before the fear sets in)

  • You will end up at the right place, at the right time, you just have to trust-new friends are just a smile away (locals and fellow travellers)

  • It’s empowering to travel solo and reminds you that you are strong, capable and can navigate this scary world (and life)

  • You find out who you are and what you like without influence from a travel companion (and don’t have to stress about someone else)

  • You get a dose of what’s REALLY important in your life (ask: What do I miss? What can I live without? etc.)

  • You learn the importance of communication, especially when travelling to a place with a language barrier (and a currency difference..oops)

  • Removing yourself from your routine life, social media & people or places you are used to gives you a new perspective and space to reflect, heal & learn in


can you believe that this dolphin cloud appeared as the dolphins swam beside our boat? pure magic.


Because of this trip, I found freedom in choices and avenues I was too afraid to explore. I came back refreshed, clearer & ready to make some big life decisions. And I did. I made the extremely difficult decision to end a five year relationship with my partner at the time. I enrolled in barre instructor training after having fallen in LOVE with the classes I took and committed to making 2018 the year of ME.

 

And that I did. Since 2018 my life has changed drastically. This retreat was a catalyst for so many decisions I made over the next two years and I am forever grateful that I had the courage and privilege of being able to do this for myself.


I am elated to now be a support for others in their journey back home to themselves through my work and events. If you are ready to experience your first retreat, I invite you to attend my upcoming retreat this February happening on Prince Edward Island. Solo travellers are welcome, or attend with a friend.! Learn more here or book a discovery call here to chat and see if this experience is what you are seeking.



I hope you can make this day, this week or this year the year of YOU.


Pura Vida,


Steff







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Invitado
15 feb 2023

The June retreat looks amazing, I hope to be able to come!💕

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