Spotlight: Joy & Travel

By: iana velez


J Miles - Music Love Article
For many people, a yoga retreat can be an opportunity to focus on your practice, meet some new friends and travel to a beautiful location. If you’ve ever enjoyed attending a retreat and thought “hey, I’d like to plan a yoga retreat” then read on! We asked some amazing yoga teachers who lead retreats all over the world for some advice on planning retreats and how they find joy!
Ashish Arora

Kelly Kamm

How far in advance do you plan your retreats?
I usually host 3 retreats per year I tend to plan about a year in advance, but I find that most people sign up about 6 months prior. I typically plan everything myself, except the Bali trip which I sometimes do with a partner. You’ve got to be super organized. If you’re not great at planning, you can use a retreat company. It’s way easier, but you’ll make much less money that way. 

Where have you hosted retreats?
I think I’ve been leading retreats to Bali for 9 years, and to Marrakech for about 7 years! I’ve also brought people to Vietnam, and Banff, Canada.

What advice would you give someone planning a retreat for the first time?
Over the years, I’ve realized how important it is to create solo time and space for yourself during the trip. Yes, you’re there to guide folks and to give them the best experience that you can, but you can’t do that if you’re depleted. I’ve seen people who lead these kinds of trips and never give themselves a break, and by the end they get sick! Make sure you have your own room, and if you need to disappear for a couple of hours to recharge, that is totally OK.

What is your favorite memory from a retreat you hosted?
One moment that made me cry happy tears was when the first friend I ever made in Bali came and picked up my son and took him to her village for the day. He picked fresh guavas, went fishing, rode ATVs through the jungle and flew kites in the rice paddies. It was such a special experience for him, and I was so grateful for the friendships I’ve made in my travels.

Dream location for retreat?
I have so many dream trips that are half planned! I really want to bring people to the more remote and wild islands of Scotland.

The theme of our issue is JOY, can you share with us how retreats/travel helps you or others connect and create JOY in their lives?
I see joy and awe as deeply connected, and in my experience there is nothing more awe-inspiring than traveling to a wondrous, beautiful and far away place. It makes you more tolerant, less focused on stuff and more delighted by experiences, especially when those experiences are shared with a group of great people. I have seen so many deep and long-lasting friendships formed on my retreats!

Has anything changed the way you plan a retreat post-covid?
Covid changed me in that it made me much more interested in what it means to travel ethically. During the pandemic, I saw people taking groups of Americans to places with limited medical care, and it really made me take a hard look at travel in general and how to do it in a way that benefits the people you visit just as much as the retreaters that you bring on vacation.

Ashish Arora

Victoria Greene

How many retreats do you host per year?
Last year I hosted retreats to Iceland, Peru, Ithaka (Greece) and Sicily. In the US, I host weekend retreats in Pennsylvania (at the Himalayan Institute).

Any advice to someone planning a retreat for the first time?
Always remember that people are not only trusting you with their money, but also with their time…they could choose to go anywhere with their vacation time, and they are choosing to come somewhere with you. Hold this close to your heart and realize the great responsibility that you carry. I never take that for granted.

What is your favorite retreat memory?
Seeing hundreds of Icelandic horses galloping across the most beautiful landscape imaginable was incredible. Experiencing a true ‘Pachamama’ moment of an earthquake at the beginning of one of our yoga classes in Peru! Seeing how the heaviest rainfall in over 8 years, brought out the most beautiful wildflowers all over the tiny island of Pantelleria in Sicily overnight. Waking up to that was magical.

Dream location for a retreat?
I tend to obsess about a place before diving into the reality of leading or running a retreat and for me, at the moment New Zealand is calling.

How do retreats help us connect and create JOY in our lives?
After the first day or two on retreat, when everyone is settled and feels comfortable. I have quite literally seen the softening of people’s expressions. It’s hard to explain, but it looks like a gentleness comes over them, they are quick to smile and to laugh. Joy becomes more than a buzzword or some elusive quality of experience. It becomes a reality. There is such wonder in being in a new place to me, with a new vista, to feel the air and the land as new. At some point wherever I go, I will kick off my shoes and just lie down on the earth—just for a moment. That brings me joy. Here I am in a place that perhaps I only dreamed about, and it reminds me to be grateful for all the people in my life that have helped me get to that place.

Any resources you recommend?
There are some responsible retreat companies out there, who care about the impact that their business has on the environment and support local economies and conservation efforts. I love to introduce yoga practitioners to the Himalayan Institute in PA, for any of their faculty-led weekend retreats and study weekends, and internationally to a B-Corp retreat company that I am so honored to be a member of the team for

Ashish Arora

Sarah Platt-Finger

Where have you hosted retreats?
I host about 2 retreats a year and planning is minimum of 9 months, but 1 year in advance is best. Locations have included Mexico, India, Bali, Hawaii, Costa Rica, Sweden, Greece, Florida Keys, and NY. My dream location to host a retreat is the bush and the vineyards of South Africa.

Do you plan with a partner?
I offer retreats with my partner or with a colleague. I’ve also taught in several retreats led by Chopra or through my studio, ISHTA Yoga.

Any advice to someone planning a retreat for the first time?
Be sure that the retreat location is vetted to host yoga retreats! There are many specific details required for a location to host a yoga retreat, including the yoga space, noise levels, food options, and the overall vibration of the space. Hosting a yoga retreat is very different from vacationing at an all-inclusive resort! So it’s important to either visit the location ahead of time, or speak to a fellow yogi who has taught there before.

What is your favorite memory from a retreat you hosted?
Teaching with a live musical accompaniment overlooking the Aegean Sea during sunset. Absolutely divine!

How do retreats help us connect and create JOY in our lives?
I have always loved going outside of my element and traveling to new places. Sometimes all it takes is leaving our normal everyday routine to spark the seeds of joy that are latent within us. Then add the powerful practices of yoga, meditation, and the company of like-minded individuals in the beauty of nature; it is hard NOT to experience joy!

We have all probably had those kinds of holidays where we feel like we need a vacation just to recover from the vacation. Retreats are an opportunity to not only experience adventure, see new landscapes, and deepen your yoga practice, they are also an opportunity to deeply rest. Everyone is deserving of joy, and everyone deserves to experience at least one yoga retreat in their lifetime (hopefully many more than that!).