Where we’re at: I’m sharing my journey in 2022, including this trip to Mexico in February. Are you a blogger who wants to learn more about how I built my retreat business? Don’t miss Travelcon, where I’ll be speaking on that very topic! Use the code ALEXINWANDERLAND to get $50 off your ticket!
You know, when I first launched Wander Women Retreats in 2018, my inaugural offering, a dive and yoga retreat, seemed so intuitive I was shocked that someone else hadn’t done it first.
Fast forward to 2022 and things have gotten a tad more whimsical. Yup, we still offer our signature combo of scuba and sun salutations, in destinations all over the globe. But this trip, in collaboration with my dear friend Brenna Bradbury and her company High Flying Retreats, was a particularly creative one with which to kick off the year — aerial and mermaiding. Yes, mermaiding!
Like aerial arts, for me mermaiding is all about tapping into this sense of play and joy and creativity and fantasy that I often lose touch with as a woman trying to be taken seriously in this world. I kind of laughed when I first thought about pairing them for a retreat but you know what? It was indeed, magical.
After a beautiful few days in Bacalar getting zen-ed out for the retreat ahead, I couldn’t wait to get Brenna to Tulum and show her the place that inspired our next big adventure.
We treated our local retreat workshop hosts to dinner at Asian Bodega to celebrate the next day’s kickoff before ending with a nightcap at, appropriately, the hotel I stayed at on my first ever trip to Tulum. Many years and trips ensued since — how full circle to revisit just as I was able to play hostess to my own group of first-timers!
One of Brenna and I’s many shared love languages is gifting, so we really go wild on our retreat welcome bags.
These ones were stuffed with siren swag like eco-chic Mermaid Straw sets, holographic Fin Pin mer-stickers, shell pasties, sea star sunglasses and tail hair clips, and of course our classic Green Blanky Studio print plus a cute little bonus illustrated keychain.
Our retreat was based at the truly stunning Tulum hotspot Holistika, a sprawling jungle compound with an array of beautiful studios and spaces — including an aerial one!
But for our first night, as guests gathered from around the globe, we first wanted to just have some fun and get to know each other. So, I’d invited my friends and local acro superstars Samm and Ale of Acro Travels to lead an opening workshop for us in the other-worldly Holistika Dome.
For a mere five day retreat, you want to become fast friends — and there’s no better way to build trust and break ice than an acro class! While most of our guests had never tried it before, as aerialists they did have a leg up — pun always intended, duh — with body awareness and strength, so I’d say everyone took to it like mermaids in water.
Samm and Ale take their own photos as part of their workshops, and I loved seeing their moody perspective on things! While I always say I’m not going to photograph any more retreats — at this point in my retreat-running career I’d rather hand that job to a dedicated team member to focus all my attention on hosting — it seems to end up in my hands every once in a while.
When it does, bonus photos like these are a treat!
Having gotten up close and personal, it was time to feast! I knew exactly where to bring everyone for opening night — a private dinner at Mamasan, one of Tulum Beach’s hidden gems. On a stretch of sand not exactly known for its un-snobbery, I love the friendly faces, delicious food and relaxed vibes of this rooftop restaurant.
I was so delighted when I approached them and they offered to put together a multi-course Mexican welcome feast for us in the candle-lit sky!
I might not be too much of a foodie, but you don’t bring a retreat to Mexico and not obsess about what people are going to eat! It was a delicious start to the trip and a great setting to get to know everyone. I absolutely loved both re-connecting with our return guests from our Martha’s Vineyard trip, and meeting all the beautiful fresh faces that were new to me.
The next morning, we were back in the air! We’d chosen Holistika specifically for it’s beautiful aerial shala, and Brenna led us through the first of two silks workshops right onsite after a nourishing morning breakfast.
While I’m a regular student of Brenna’s in New York, our retreat workshops remind me why folks travel the world to train with her. It’s incredible the knowledge she can impart in a mere ninety minutes, for those at every stage of their aerial journey.
And can we talk about how stunning this space was? I couldn’t get enough of our aerial jungle paradise, swinging from the telas — or silks, en español.
Say what you want about Tulum — and um, people say a lot — but the design and interior and architectural detail is just unmatched to any other destination I’ve ever been.
Having worked up a sweat, it was time for the mermaiding portion of the retreat to really splash off!
While Tulum is spoiled for choice when it comes to cafes, I felt I was basically legally obligated to bring the girls to Hola Mermaid Tulum, a tucked-away little cafe in town serving up healthy beautiful eats in the most instagrammable of presentation.
From taro lattes to spirulina smoothie bowls, these sirens were more than satisfied! The cafe is tucked behind a trio of cute little boutiques, which also allowed for some bonus shopping in one of my personal favorite stretches of Tulum Pueblo.
After lunch we were whisked back to the jungle for an afternoon at Cenote Cristal with my dear Carmen of Tulum Mermaid, where we were about to indulge in her signature Mermaid For A Day program. Having just completed my own PADI Mermaiding courses — also known as the Mermaid For Life program, I was an enthusiastic assistant as we donned tails and started splashing around!
When the skies opened up and it started raining for the first time all week, at first I groaned — but quickly turned that attitude around when I realized the crowds fled and we had the cenote to all to ourselves.
I loved watching our aerialists take to this underwater art form and form their own little mermaid pod! And, it was the first of many siren swims — thanks to my own new set of two Mahina Mermaid fins, we were able to pack up and mermaid on the go anywhere.
That night, we were off to one of my favorite Tulum town hotspots, Palma Central.
Considering how hard it is to nab the corner of a bench seat on a busy night here, one could hardly call it a “hidden gem,” and yet, it’s crazy to think how many Tulum visitors never leave the beach and don’t know the buzz of the community and events that happen in town like this! I was delighted to show it to our guests.
Really, I can’t think of a better spot to bring a group. Having nabbed an essential table reservation, everyone was able to browse the food trucks of their choice, nab a cocktail from the bar, and enjoy the live music, the evening’s artisan market, and the countless treats on offer at their own pace.
Some might say it was a fiesta, baby.
Intrigued about Brenna and I’s next collaboration? Don’t miss our retreat in Israel this summer — focusing on aerial once again! More on that soon, but in the meantime…
Stay tuned for Part II, coming up this week!