I love the unknown. Experiences I know nothing about. People I’ve never met. Places I’ve never been. Going in with an open and curious mind, excited about what might come about. For me, this was the AliKats/Great Heights Pathways retreat. I knew that there we would be surrounded by awe-inspiring natural backdrops. I knew that we’d be staying in cosy accommodation
and eating quality food. I knew the overall goal was to feel rested and reset. But apart from that I was happily curious not really knowing what the 5-day summer retreat may bring.
This is, in fact, the intention of Caitlin, the leader of our retreat. So often we are tied to strict timetables, our calendars constantly pinging with meeting reminders, sleepless nights trying to
remember all of the tasks of the day ahead. Instead, on this retreat, it was refreshingly like being a child in primary school again. We got dressed and everything else was catered for, from food to all of our activities, for the body as well as for the mind and soul. Our learning was planned and prepared without being overbearing or tedious. Each day, after a delicious home-made breakfast from one of the in-chalet chefs, Caitlin, along with our driver/host extraordinaire Dmitri, would take us out into the wild. We’d walk, at times in silence, 2 sometimes quietly in pairs, other times animatedly and in step all together as a troupe. Surrounded by nature and drawing on these incredible elements, we’d talk, write, discuss, compare and conjure
up ideas, guided by Caitlin’s thought-provoking prompts. We’d eat picnics next to bubbling brooks or under immense pines. We’d magically bump into Ursula each day, our inspiring yoga and qi gong instructor and flow through various classes with her. Being trained at length in Chinese medicine, she brought so much more than the physical element to our practices and time together.
Downtime involved relaxing in the sauna and hot tub, sunbathing on the deck, napping, snacking on homemade trail mixes and freshly prepared cakes or reading one of the books or inspirational sets of targeted cards for discussion left out for us.
In the evenings we’d sink into the oversized sofa to enjoy delicious canapés and mocktails before sitting down to dinner and enjoying culinary delight after delight from our chefs Jon and Rachelle. Much of this food was foraged locally or cultivated from AliKat’s permaculture garden and the passion the chefs had for their food shone through as they gleefully explained each dish. The evenings would finish early, allowing time for quiet reflection, curling up with a book, evening strolls in the fading light or a final soak in the tub as the stars began to emerge.
Each night, as my head was enshrouded by the pillow, I thought to myself how somehow the day had made perfect sense and I couldn’t have imagined it otherwise, flowing as it did in a carefully curated yet seamless and seemingly carefree manner. As sleep beckoned, I thought to myself, “I wonder what tomorrow will bring. Whatever happens, it will all make sense by the time my head reaches the pillow again.”
If you are considering going on one of these retreats but wonder what exactly is involved and why there’s no daily timetable of classes, hikes, meals and events, I implore you to step back a little from our constant craving for precise and instant information and instead to trust the process and let yourself be cared for and guided by the exceptional team which AliKats and Great Heights Pathways have put together.
I went away from the incredible five-day experience with a much deeper insight into myself: who I am as a person and how I think. I left with effective coping mechanisms I’ll be able to use when stress gets the better of me. I have clear ideas of how to move forwards and what my future looks like. I feel balanced and calm and ready. I highly recommend this retreat to anyone at a crossroads in their life or lacking direction and clarity. The variety of activities, locations, food and people make for a truly holistic experience you won’t regret!
EJ Casburn aka Tiny Travel Rebel, Freelance Writer,