We caught up with Lisa Carolan the founder of Our Retreat to talk about wellness travel and mindfulness.
Could you tell us a bit more about yourself and how Our Retreat came about
Sure! I founded Our Retreat back in 2015, in a friend’s villa with Richie Norton and Shona Vertue, who now regularly join my retreats as trainers. I’d been to retreats myself, and worked with a company in Ibiza for a while – I absolutely loved the retreat lifestyle, keeping healthy, making new friends and repairing both my body and mind. It was while I was working on that retreat that I knew I wanted to help people achieve a similar sense of wellbeing – and so, I set up Our Retreat!
You have spoken about how you earlier in your life felt lost and how going to retreats helped you in many ways, can you share some of those experiences?
I started my first job in fashion when I was 17 and worked my way up to be a senior buyer. My last role as a buyer was for a fast-fashion company in Australia; although I loved the fashion industry, the role came with long hours and lots of travel, and I really had my eyes opened to the real costs of fast fashion. It’s become a lot more prevalent now, which is great!
It was then I decided to take a risk and set up a sustainable and ethical fashion company with two of my best friends. Unfortunately, at the time, it was difficult to make the brand work at a profitable level, and we had to give it up. I was upset, frustrated and didn’t know what I wanted to do. So, I decided to get away.
I found the retreat in Ibiza and, after working with them for a few months, decided I wanted to help people who had been in a similar situation to myself – who needed some respite, to meet likeminded people, who want to look after their bodies, or simply escape for a while!
To you, what is important to guests when they visit a retreat and from your experience what makes a really good retreat?
It’s important that each guest gets the same level of attention, and benefits from the retreat. So, at Our Retreat, we only host up to 12 (or 20 on our Somerset retreat) guests at a time on an Our Retreat – this ensures each guest receives an intimate and personalised escape; we can really listen to everybody’s needs, and make sure their experience is tailored accordingly. Everybody on the retreat eats together, shares stories over dinner, exercises together and lives together – like a family.
It’s also vital that when guests arrive at an Our Retreat, they don’t have to worry about money or think about food etc. So, once they land at the villa, we take care of all their meals, drinks, exercise, excursions – you name it!
What’s the core foundation of Our Retreat?
At Our Retreat, it’s all about balance. Balance is the foundation of our escapes, and it’s important to us that this is reflected in what we do. For example, meals are healthy and perfectly balanced, but we certainly don’t hold back on taste or count the calories. We allow guests to have a glass of wine with dinner on our retreats abroad, and the same goes for exercise; we don’t promote hours of gruelling exercise – instead, we enjoy two or three classes per day and exciting excursions like hiking and paddleboarding in between.
Wellness travel and solo travelling seem to continue to grow. What are the wellness travel trends for 2019 in your opinion?
Yes, solo travel is a huge trend for 2019, and we encourage solo travellers to join our retreats – it’s the perfect starting block for someone who wants to travel on their own, but might be afraid to take the plunge. Meals are eaten with fellow retreaters, classes are taken together and, by the end of the retreat, we’re all one big family!
Another trend I expect to see more of is mindful skiing. I love being in the mountains. The air is fresh, there’s a sense of calm and it feels almost otherworldly, making it easier yet to fade out the worries and stresses of everyday life – I find it very therapeutic, almost meditative, and so I chose to launch Our Retreat in Chamonix, our very first ski and yoga retreat.
Finally, sustainability, a huge travel trend, and one that I’m so proud to be a part of. At Our Retreat, the emphasis is on clean, healthy food that requires lots of fresh produce. Lello Favuzzi, a Chef at Our Retreat’s Sardinia escape, has implemented a zero-waste food policy. We carefully source local suppliers, such as a grocery with an abundance of beautiful Sardinian-grown fruit and vegetables where they use very little, bio-degradable packaging (i.e. no plastic). We also reuse wooden boxes throughout the summer, rather than use plastic bags and containers.
Carefully curating the menu ensures that any leftovers from an evening meal can be used as part of the following days’ lunch; a spiral of avocado eaten at lunch was blitzed into guacamole, roasted potatoes became potato salad. Leftover raw cauliflower salad can be grated and made into a pizza base bound with leftover water from chickpeas!
What’s next for Our Retreat in 2019?
I’m really keen to launch in Morocco this year. Our UK retreats – which are Yoga, Pilates and Meditation retreats only – are so successful because they offer a reasonable budget (starting at £550pp) over a long weekend. With Morocco, we’d love to offer an extended version of this; a Yoga, Pilates and Meditation retreat with added adventures, like desert camel rides and trips on a hot air balloon! Watch this space…
If anyone is interested in going on a retreat, what are the top tips for them?
- Do your research – the activities differ depending on retreat i.e. Somerset is more yoga, walking, and mindfulness, while Ibiza is slightly more adventurous, with kayaking, hikes and paddleboarding. Choose a retreat depending on what exercise you like to do. Do you like the sunshine and heat, or would you rather work out in the English countryside?
- Remain open-minded – you’ll meet like-minded people, you’ll eat foods you’ve never tried before, and you’ll work out with the best trainers in the business. Keep an open mind, and enjoy every second
- Just do it – I think people are afraid to join a retreat, as they have a preconception that it’ll be full of rigorous exercise, strict diets and the fittest people who breeze through the exercises. It really isn’t like that!
For more information and booking your retreat with Our Retreat visit: www.ourretreat.co.uk
We hope you enjoyed reading our interview with Lisa Carolan. Explore our interview series for more inspiring interviews.