It’s Wander Women Wednesday! This mid-week feature is all about highlighting an upcoming Wander Women Retreat, or a new aspect of our retreat business we’re excited about. Catch up on all our Wander Women related posts.
Where we’re at: I’m recapping my travels in 2020, including this Wander Women Cabarete Retreat in the Dominican Republic in January. Interested in aerials? I’ve got two exciting announcements! (1) We still have space in or High Flying Tel Aviv Retreat in Israel this June! (2) Good Karma’s next Aerial Yoga Teacher Training is coming up this February, and you can use the discount code TEACHERSARE100 to get $100 off the training. Or consider joining me for a restorative aerial yoga training that’s coming up soon as well!
It’s hard to believe that this time last year, I was wrapping up my first retreat of 2020 in a country I’d become an unexpected cheerleader for independent travel in: The Dominican Republic.
What even is the passage of time, anymore? Was this yesterday, or a decade ago? Regardless, I can’t think of a more joy–filled way to have started what proved to be a challenging year — surrounded by inspiring women, motivated by movement, immersed in nature, and flexing muscles both anatomical and creative.
Wander Women Cabarete: An Aerial Arts + Yoga Retreat was a real passion project for me. Our aerial retreats, of which I’ve now launched three, are our slowest and most difficult to sell. They have the smallest profit margins and require specialized spaces, equipment, and insurance. And I decided to run this one in a country that is largely overlooked by my target audience, and which was undergoing a massive PR crisis at the time.
In short, it was an ambitious undertaking. But when I touched down in Puerto Plata just days into the new year, my retreat partner and dear friend Jess by my side, I knew that my heart had once again led me exactly where I was meant to be.
That feeling surged when we checked into our retreat center and ran up to the balcony, looking out over the ocean. I pride myself on finding truly boutique accommodation for Wander Women Retreats — I’m not necessarily looking for the fanciest hotels or any certain amenity. I’m looking for that perfect blend of beauty, purpose, and a sense of place.
In the Dominican Republic, our accommodation fell more into the “purpose” category than ever before. And frankly, that made me a little nervous! The eco-friendly resort we hosted our retreat at has, in my opinion, the best seat in the house: it sits right in the heart of Kite Beach. However, their biggest priority is on being as green as possible. Would my guests be able to roll with solar heated showers, and ocean breezes instead of AC?
Spoiler alert: they did! We worked hard to set expectations ahead of the trip and loved seeing our guests appreciate all the eco-ingenuity, and the retreat center respond to all our suggestions. Every time I push Wander Women Retreats in a greener direction, I hold my breath a little, ever so slightly anxious to see if my values align with my audiences’. Every time, they impress me.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. As usual, Jess and I had arrived a few days early to get settled and set up, and for me to introduce Jess to this incredible beach town I’d been raving about. It was love at first sight for her, too, and we couldn’t wait for the girls to arrive and to show them around, too.
One of the many tasks on our radar was setting up welcome bags for all our guests. Designing these is one of my favorite aspects of retreat planning — and good thing, because it’s always a pretty labor intensive process!
Our Cabarete bag was such a fun one. The bag itself was from Mariposa Foundation brand Upcycled Sails, which employs local woman while keeping old kiting sails out of a landfill. We also sent the foundation wish lists to our guests ahead of time for anyone who had spare suitcase space to bring down some items to donate (and guarantee extra room for souvenirs on the way back!), made a donation, and visited one of their project cafes. They do great work and we were so honored to support them!
Then, of course, a print from Green Blanky — one of my former retreat guests who now graces every trip with a custom creation! She does beautiful work — check out her site to see her existing pieces or commission one. When you buy original art, you create beauty and support a dream, and we’re proud to support that at Wander Women Retreats.
We were also tickled to have the female-founded, eco-friendly brands Bite and Hello Hibar help us go green with plastic-free toothpaste bits and solid shampoo and conditioner bars. No nasty chemicals, no animal testing, no BS. These brands so deeply align with our values! I don’t just travel with these items — I use them exclusively, wherever I go, and it’s a huge honor to introduce them to our guests, many of whom go on to become loyal customers, too.
Speaking of sustainability, The Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism welcomed us with cute lip balm and reusable water bottles that each guest could refill with the filtered water station in her room. Wander Women Retreats officially went fully plastic bottle free in 2020!
We also supplied our girls a bamboo cutlery and straw set, a retreat journal, and a snazzy freshly designed welcome packet with all the essential info for the trip, from the itinerary to their new besties’ social handles to common phrases in the local lingo.
Can you think of a warmer welcome? (Other than, ya know, Caribbean air hitting your face off the plane from the US in January?)
Despite a fairly limited flight schedule into Punta Cana, no arrivals day is without drama — it all began melting away, however, in a flurry of introductions and hugs as the girls made their way to us.
We brought that energy way down to melt-levels as we gathered in the Yoga Loft for a post-travel yin class designed to switch everyone mentally into retreat mode. With the ocean ahead and palm trees at eye level, it’s the treehouse yoga studio of my dreams.
After class, we gathered everyone up in Jess and I’s loft, the retreat headquarters, and toasted to the trip with a welcome drink before changing and heading down to our first of many seaside dinners in the onsite organic restaurant.
The next morning we woke up to the first full day of retreat life, trading rum punch for overnight oats — or whatever breakfast we each chose from the menu of healthy, fresh offerings available each day.
We keep a busy schedule at Wander Women Retreats. When Jess and I carefully planned this experience, which was attended almost entirely by beginners, we decided to do a daily workshop in each of the core aerial arts — hammock, silks, and lyra (also known as hoop), plus a final open session where the girls could focus on their favorite apparatus ahead of their photoshoot.
We opened with hammock, because we see it to be the most accessible of the three. If you’ve ever taken an aerial yoga class, you’ve probably been in an apparatus quite similar to this one. It doesn’t require quite as much upper body strength as silks, and it doesn’t have the hard edges of lyra.
Jess and I went to enormous trouble to bring down a hammock for each girl — which, it turned out, may have been a tad overwhelming — the feedback we overwhelmingly received was that they liked sharing apparatuses in the later workshops, which gave them time to rest, watch each other, and absorb what they’d learned.
We are learning, too! I absolutely love incorporating the feedback I get on each trip to continually create better experiences for future retreats and experiences as a movement instructor.
I loved running around assisting Jess’s class, and as someone who was introduced to the aerial world through hammock, I loved seeing how much these chicas progressed in just one workshop!
Class done for the day, we swapped from leggings to bikinis and set off for a walk down the beach, through town, and into the jungle.
One of the many reasons I fell in love with Cabarete from my first trip was its charming cafes and boutiques. These places do more than just look fly on Instagram and serve up gorgeous and nutritious meals. They overwhelmingly give back to their communities — so many businesses in Cabarete have a social component that serves the most vulnerable populations in the Dominican Republic.
And, they foster a sense of place. I love chatting to the artists who sell their wares, the staff who run the show, and the fellow customers who, in a small town like this, you start to run into on a shockingly regular basis. Which is exactly why I was so proud to bring these ladies for their first offsite meal to Cabarete Coffee Company, a parter of Mariposa Foundation. Graduates of the Mariposa Center, which focuses on educating girls in the Dominican Republic, get hands-on employment training here — and 100% of the profits of Cabarete Coffee go back directly into Mariposa programming.
I’ve already updated my Where to Eat in Cabarete post based on my new finds from this most recent trip, so be sure to bookmark it if you feel the itch to head here someday!
We walked off our lunch with a stroll through tiny Cabarete town, heading to our next adventure. Of course, we left time to stop along the way at gems like Fusion Maker’s Market, featuring the products of hip local artisans, and colorful mosaic murals that light up the street. Turning inland, we got a feel for what life in Cabarete is really like away from the more bohemian vibe on the beach.
Our destination? Las Cuevas de Cabarete, a gem I discovered on my first trip to Cabarete. Donning brightly colored helmets, we took off on our guided tour through the natural reserve nestled right at the end of town.
We entered three different caves, only the final of which I’d swam in on my previous trip. This time, when the guide led us down the long, dark and pitch black tunnel of the first, he asked if anyone wanted to jump. A few of the girls immediately chimed in that they would — should I be surprised? — and so of course I had to join them!
It was a blast, and the perfect way to cool off on a hot day.
Later, everyone would take a turn getting in the open cenote-like swimming hole, many leaping off an upper ledge to get there, and some even taking the extra step of seamlessly matching their bikinis to their safety helmets. What a stylish bunch!
Back at the retreat center after a rest, the girls would find that the cave jump was just a warm up to their final adventure of the day — their first trapeze lesson.
I could not have been more pumped to have this as part of a retreat. Back when I lived on Koh Tao, my friend Gemma ran a rig and used to let me hop into classes when there was an empty spot. Anytime it came to soar off the platform, I was terrified — but I kept coming back for that feeling of flying though the palm trees.
When I got to Cabarete for the first time, I was thrilled to get back in the air — while I was still full of butterflies climbing up and jumping off the platform, I was amazed at how my form and body awareness had improved since taking my yoga teacher training and beginning my aerial arts practice.
There were definitely a lot of nerves going around — one of my favorite quotes of the trip was one of the girls yelling down to me from the platform, “I’m just going to dangle!” — but the highs afterwards were higher than the palm trees, baby. Oh, and she did way more than dangle — girl set herself up to nail a catch and everything.
I can’t wait to keep sharing this trip with you — the warm and sunny memories are exactly what my soul needs right now. Thanks for coming along for the ride!
More dispatches from the sunny Dominican Republic up next…