Obstacles & Advice

We asked retreat owners to name their biggest obstacle, and describe how they are solving it.
Back to blog

Saira Francis

Mellulah

Advice on enjoying your life as a retreat facilitator

Obstacle

When you’re busy holding the space for other people to have a great retreat experience, it’s easy to do too much and get burnt out. Especially when you’re a bit of a perfectionist! In the early days I did almost everything myself including teaching, cooking, and giving private sessions throughout the retreat. What I found is that I was so tired from everything I was doing that I wouldn’t have the energy I needed to fully show up for my participants.

Advice

I follow the advice that I give to my participants which is to switch off their phones, stay present, and enjoy the experience. I’ve also learned to delegate. I no longer cook or give private sessions, and I don’t teach all the classes. I also turn down my perfectionism and realize that once the retreat begins I need to let go and trust that I’ve done my best. All I can do is be in the moment with everyone, and I have found that is exactly where I need to be.

Laura Bianchini

Yoga Escapes

Advice on growing your retreat business

Obstacle

When I started out, I put a lot of energy into picking my niche, creating an offering and building my website, and I thought that when I launched I would immediately start seeing the retreat registrations flow in. That didn’t happen. 4-years later things are working well, and I can share some tips.

Advice

First of all, don’t panic if you don’t fill your retreats when you’re starting out. That doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with your offering – next year it might be successful. There is so much going on in the world and in peoples’ lives, that it might just be a matter of timing. Stay in touch with past customers because they may come on another retreat or bring a friend. I offer a free spa treatment to clients who refer someone to me. Online marketing is also key – I have found that Facebook’s promoted posts and Pinterest work well for my audience, and I’m now starting to use Instagram. I’ve been told that it takes 5 years to build to a point where you have consistency in your bookings, so hang in there!

Myra Lewin

Hale Pule

The importance of language in defining your offering

Pearl of Wisdom

At Hale Pule on Kaua’i, our courses in Ayurveda are called “Intensives” or “Immersions” rather than “Retreats”. What we do here is structured for a good reason. In Ayurveda we have ‘dinacharya’, which is the daily routine of self-care that determines your health. With this we create a structure to support learning and growth that promotes wellbeing in our participants in a format that they can implement in their daily lives. A useful analogy is to think of a pendulum that has a resting place in the centre. If you sign up for a boot camp to whip yourself into shape, you may temporarily lose weight and get stronger (swinging your pendulum to one side or the other), but will eventually find yourself back where you started (with the pendulum in its resting state at centre). The only way to make long-term, sustained change is to gently shift your centre over time. This is what we do in our intensives. Eating fresh organic foods with Ayurvedic preparation, taking asana practice at certain times of day, taking a stroll after meals and sleeping and waking at consistent times are just a few of things we do. Naming our offerings as “Intensive” or “Immersion” provides students with an accurate picture of what they can expect. An opportunity to bring balance while diving deeply into life.

Dr. Nikki Judge

Black Rose Spiritual Center

Advice on funding your dream

Obstacle

In the last four years I have done phone sessions for over 20,000 people, and that has been a powerful lens into the suffering that exists in the world. My dream has been to open a physical centre where I can host people from all spiritual paths in a place where they are free from the distractions of their own lives and can experience true serenity. The biggest challenge I face is funding. Not only is it expensive to buy real estate, but the people I want to serve often have very little income to pay for their retreat.

Advice

First of all, don’t do it for the money. You have to have the calling or it won’t work. You’re going to eat it, sleep it, breath it. Second, it is your dream so you need to create it. I’ve worked hard in my practice as a psychic for years to save the money I needed to buy this property and renovate it. And, at the same time, you can also bring in people to assist in making your dream happen. I recommend hiring a grant writer to help you to tap into resources that exist for non-profits.

Christopher Raymont

Newbold Trust

Advice on choosing a structure for policy-making at your centre

Obstacle

We have a multi-layered organization with a board of trustees, staff, and volunteers, and in the early days it was difficult to make decisions on policy (or matters that effect other circles of people) that would be supported by the whole organization. We realized we needed a model to get group buy in and empower people to feel part of the decision-making process, and also to be able to move forward even without full consensus.

Advice

We chose to use the Sociocracy model (previously called Dynamic self-governance), and it has been transformative for our process. The model embraces consent rather than consensus. We ask ourselves “Is this good enough for now, and safe enough to try?” and even if one person isn’t fully in support of a policy that is proposed, they can often still give their consent, and say “I can go along with this”. When a new policy is implemented there is also a date set when we will review it to see if it’s still working. The sociocracy model is also great for our multi-layers because we have an uplink and a downlink between layers. I.e. someone on the staff will attend board meetings to make sure the decisions made there are good for the staff, and a board member will attend staff meetings.

Jen Hoddevik

The Travel Yogi

Advice to remember what your passion is

Obstacle

The big obstacle for us is finding those longterm relationships that benefit everybody. That benefit the teacher, the location, our retreaters or us as a company. Our watchwords over here are ‘active relaxation’. What we have discovered from our retreaters over the years for what they are looking for is connection – with the teacher, the fellow retreaters and the location. All of our products from about 3 years ago on has been to focus on this connection. What is special about the location that we have chosen to go to? What do we want to show them that they hadn’t thought to see? What should they experience that is different from anywhere else? When we speak about obstacles the easiest obstacle to put out front is making those decisions and finding those partners to make those steps. We are always trying to reach active relaxation and how we get there.

Advice

Sleep now. Customer service is key. It comes down to the way you treat people comes back to you in the end. Treat everyone like you want them to have the trip of a lifetime. Find what your good at and stay there. Sit for a little while and find your weak spots, and then find someone to help you through those weak spots.

Soulla Demetriou

Soulshine Retreats

Advice to remember what your passion is

Obstacle

The biggest obstacle has been local law in Ibiza. Making sure you are doing things legally. I thought it would be getting guests, but it’s been the bureaucratic issues for us. Especially if you want to do it properly, like we do.
As our company grew another obstacle was managing work loads. Taking steps to grow your team without over extending yourself or burning yourself out. The first year I did everything, I hosted, I marketed, I did the admin, I taught 5 hours of day of classes and then did Reiki sessions in the evening. Delegation is my catch phrase of 2016.

Advice

Don’t try to do everything at once. I need to take my own advice on this. Slow down. Learn what your skills are and your passions are and don’t be afraid to allow someone else to help out who has those skills. Keep remembering what your passionate about. Where do I want to put my energy and time so you can conserve your energy for the benefit of the company.

Scott Currie

Sagrada Wellness

Advice from 10 years of running retreats

Obstacle

When we started, there wasn’t really a template for starting a retreat centre. There were not many retreats out there. We spent a lot of time getting the word out and gaining a reputation. Just building slowly then throwing tons at advertising and marketing. Really being solid about what we do and created our own specific market and retreat size. Creating a brand for what people enjoy and get good value for. It’s a lot of details to run a business, especially with retreats because you are working with wellness expectations, dietary differences, and the culture of a group – bringing people together that don’t know each other initially. Creating a whole experience for them and hoping they received what they wanted out of it.

Advice

Make alliances. Have people around you can bounce ideas off of. It’s a seven day a week job. Everyday. You have to jump into many roles. Make sure you don’t burn out. Be careful you have not made running a retreat a romantic dream.

Kawai Purapura

Kawai Purapura

Advice on holding a festival

Tips

We hold the International Yoga Festival and Voices of Sacred Earth Festival, and there are things we’ve learned along the way that we can share. The most important tip we can give is to document things before/during/after so that you can build on what has already been done. We started this year as a new team taking over the existing festivals, and there was so little documentation, we had to most things from scratch such. You should save poster templates, email templates, pricing structure, volunteer guidelines, vendor guidelines etc. Take time to pause after the festival and reflect on what you could improve upon, and to plan for the following year while it’s still fresh. What worked really well? What could be change to make things flow even smoother? During the festival, attend some workshops yourself to see what you have worked so hard to create, and enjoy it! You’ll also get to view the festival from a participant’s perspective which is useful in understanding how things are flowing on the ground and what needs to be changed next time around. Let staff/volunteers know the importance of their roles in the sense of the bigger vision of what is being created (e.g. “even if you are cleaning toilets, you are doing more than that by holding space for this event to take place”).

Jane Worall

Huzur Vadisi

Advice on dispelling fears about travelling to your country

Obstacle

I’m sure this challenge is shared among many retreat centre owners who operate in areas where the news often conveys a negative message. In our case, we’re located in Turkey. Even though it has never been unsafe for our participants to travel to our area, the conflict in neighbouring Syria has created some anxiety among those planning a visit.

Advice

We like to bring things into perspective by sharing that no one can guarantee safety anywhere in the world – and it is statistically more likely for someone to get into a car accident in their home country than have an incident while traveling to our centre. We also work closely with teachers who bring groups here to help them feel confident and safe coming to Turkey because they need to give the message to students that “everything will be fine”. It’s important to deal with this fear or else students will pick up on it. The media loves to paint a scary picture of the world, but most of what they portray isn’t accurate.

Vickie Mogensen

Santa Catalina Retreats

Advice on attracting your ideal clients and standing out from the crowd

Obstacle

The wellness travel industry is growing rapidly, but at the same time there are so many wonderful new retreats being offered each year that it can seem like a struggle to stand out and attract enough participants to keep doing what I love. It seems like right now there is more supply than demand.

Advice

Get specific on who you want to attract. I don’t mean general things like “people who like yoga”. You really need to get inside their head and know what problem they’re facing in their decision-making process, and how you can help solve it. My ideal client has travelled before to more developed places like Costa Rica, but is looking for somewhere more remote and authentic this time – untouched paradise. That’s something I can deliver on. Other details: he/she is someone who works in a corporate job and has very limited time to go on vacation so often travels solo and needs a custom retreat package.

Milda Urbonaite

Summersalt Yoga

Advice on how to communicate on your website what to expect on your retreats

Obstacle

When we first opened, we presented our offer as a somewhat spiritual yoga retreat. It is accurate that our yoga teachers sometimes bring in a spiritual aspect to the retreat, but what we didn’t anticipate is that some participants showed up in need of major spiritual healing. The issues that they were looking to solve on the retreat were much bigger than we have the training to address.

Advice

We’ve learned how to express on our website in photos and text that our retreats are geared towards someone who is looking for a fun and healthy yoga experience. We mention that is a ‘spiritual vacation’ (which, combined with our photography, is light and upbeat, and prevents the misunderstanding that it’s a place to process problems). Of course, sometimes things arise naturally for participants when they do yoga and they often experience positive shifts in themselves, but we don’t over-promote that anymore.

Do you lead retreats?
Still using email and Excel to manage everything?

Retreat Booking Guru™ is a retreat management platform to save your sanity.

Robust Registration • Direct Payouts • Room Booking Bliss

Learn more about Retreat Booking Guru
 

Retreat Guru's Vision

We believe human beings are innately wise and kind. But this wisdom, although always present, can be covered up. Going on retreat is a beautiful way to reconnect to basic sanity and health. Our aspiration at Retreat Guru is to inspire people to experience authentic retreats and reconnect with their innate wisdom.