Updated: Oct 29, 2019
On the eve of releasing the packages for our 7th retreat since our launch in October 2017 and our first to Africa, I felt compelled to write this “how to” guide on choosing the retreat that’s best for your self care and healing needs in the present moment, not simply a destination to check off your bucket list.
For OMNoire specifically, what I've learned from hosting 6 retreats for close to 300 women the past 2 years is that just like most retreat hosts mindfully curate the group in attendance, individuals should mindfully screen retreats they are interested in attending just the same.
Let me tell you why.
Wellness retreats for women of color have gained popularity in recent years (in my opinion long overdue) and it’s incredible to witness so many new platforms that are dedicated to helping black women achieve a much needed spiritual shift in their lives.
Retreats are now taking place of typical group trips with many people seeking a more purposeful escape that’s specifically aimed at their self-care and healing. At any given moment, there’s a black woman hosted retreat headed to Bali, Greece, Mexico, Colombia, and more, ready to fulfill all your bucket list dreams.
However before you break out those credit cards, understand that every retreat is not for you regardless of what exotic location it’s set in.
Retreats by design are a journey to self, a soul awakening and a soul reckoning with an opportunity to be surrounded by like-minded women who are too seeking the same. They should be safe spaces that allow you to explore and connect with the most intimate and softest parts of you that are all too often ignored in your day to day life, while also giving you space to breathe and briefly disconnect from the titles assigned to you (mom, wife, executive, daughter, etc.). Sounds dreamy right?
Yet keep this in mind: retreats are also an extension of the host, their certification, professional level and experience (if they have), their likes and dislikes, fears, traumas and so much more. If a retreat leader has a fear of heights, trust ziplining through the Costa Rican rainforest will not find its way on to your itinerary. Remember, they too are merely human.
In comparison, I am extremely adventurous. I scuba dive, hike up volcanos and through rainforests, immensely dedicated to my yoga, meditation and spiritual practice, yet still enjoy my Rosé wine and a good time. So at my retreats expect adventure, wellness, yoga & meditation, nightlife (based on location) and of course built in rest and relaxation. You'll also have a choice to opt in what you want to do, and opt out what you don't.
I also have experience (I'm a former publicist and event producer) with hosting large groups. Our retreats can be attended by 35 to upwards of 75 women (now men when we open certain retreats to them). If you desire a more intimate group of 8-10 people that's 100% holistic, then my retreats probably aren't your flavor.
This is why it’s important to understand that retreats are not a one size fits all. Here’s just a brief list of a few different type of retreats for your reference:
Holistic (meat and alcohol free)
Co-ed (we hosted our first one this month in Grenada)
Multi-purposeful (sometimes it’s just a getaway that incorporates various types of self -care and wellness)
There’s probably a dozen more that didn’t make it on this list but now you get the picture. Choosing a retreat to attend should be as intimate as choosing your wedding dress. You'll rarely buy the first one you come across. You'll try on a few or several with mom and/or close friends in attendance and a glass of champagne until you find the one that awakens your soul and feels like it was designed especially for you.
In this case, when choosing a retreat by doing your research, (which we'll talk about more below) you'll know when you've found the one that feels RIGHT where you'll feel safe, nurtured, protected, and cared for.
This is why I believe the screening should go both ways. I first added submission forms (I prefer not to say application) to our most recent Grenada retreat, initially so that we could manage the number of women and men that booked to try to get a more balanced ratio, not to mention because this was a co-ed retreat, we wanted to make sure everyone was aligned with its purpose. However, by reading the forms prior to providing a booking link, I was able to get to know the women and men just a little bit more and be confident that the retreat *EYE* (remember my retreat is an extension of me) would be curating was in line with their needs.
It worked. As a whole, this was the most connected, cohesive, supportive, open, grounded group I've ever hosted. They flowed seamlessly from the moment they arrived on the island, until the moment they left. Even now, weeks later, their connection with each other has only gotten stronger.
Through the review process, I was transparent with a few people that I didn't think this retreat was a good fit for them just by reading their responses on the form. When booking my retreats, I want your money and time to be WELL spent.
So before you press the “book now” button on our next retreat or any others, here’s a few things I want you to keep in mind first:
1. Take a few minutes to examine why you want to attend a retreat and what do you hope to get out of it.
Yes the destination and the idea of a getaway with a tribe of black women sounds exciting but if the programming and activities will leave you overwhelmed (or underwhelmed), disappointed and unfulfilled, then the next thing you know you’ll be needing a retreat from this retreat. Do you need a retreat that's more relaxing vs. active, one with heavy spiritual, yoga, meditative programming, or maybe you just need an escape and a retreat that's multi-purposeful, with a mix of many different types of activities as described above.
Write those reasons down but also include what you hope to discover new about yourself, how you hope to be challenged, whether it’s conquering a fear, or traveling solo, trying something new for the first time. Then by the time you get to #3 on this list, you’ll know what to look out for that aligns with your desires for attending a retreat.
2. Be honest with yourself
You know yourself better than the retreat host or other guests ever will. If you are dealing with certain traumas or emotional triggers, have a hard time co-habitating with other women, being in a group setting may not be the best thing for you. While you’re examining why you want to attend a retreat, also examine you. Your traumas, pains and triggers, have a story to tell and a particular retreat may not be the place you want to debut them, if by being there could potentially trigger an emotional and/or debilitating reaction. However, if you choose the right one, it could also be the breakthrough you need.
3. Do your research
If you google “wellness retreats for black women” you’ll have more than enough options. Again, go beyond the destination and the pretty pictures we all have on our websites from past retreats and read up on the platform, take a look at the dedicated hashtags and the reviews from past attendees. Don’t be afraid to slide into one of their DMs to ask them about their experience. Unless it’s the host’s best friend, you’re likely to get an honest review beyond what you’ll find through curated testimonials on the retreat website.
4. Get to know the host
And not just what you see on their also carefully curated social feed. Do their values align with yours? How do they interact with their followers? Are they following the retreat trend because it's popular now or is this their life’s work from what you can tell, therefore you know it will go deeper than popping pictures on a beach? Do you just want the opportunity to “hang” out with them because of who you think they are from social media?
Yes, it is possible to fall into that trap and then you’re disappointed when you realize you only like the social media version vs. the real life version.
5. Ask questions
If the website is vague and you have specific questions about the experience then you should be able to get in contact with the retreat host or someone on their team. If you don’t speak up and end walking into a retreat expecting one thing and getting the other, then the only person to blame is you. It's important to note: not getting a response in a timely manner should be your first red flag.
6. Manage expectations
A retreat is not a life vest and it will not magically cure your traumas, help you get over a recent and painful breakup, change your bad eating habits or give you the answer to the mysteries of life. What it will do is set the stage for you to begin your healing journey, heighten your spiritual senses and give you the tools to make the desired shift in your life when you return. The work doesn't end when you leave the retreat, that's where it truly begins.
Referring back to #4, the host is not solely responsible for your experience, you are. If you do find you're not particularly vibing with the host (keeping in mind you may be misinterpreting the energy, they are hosting an entire group), that doesn’t have to ruin your experience. You’re still in an exotic place surrounded by an abundance of #blackgirlmagic. If you came with friends, even better. Allow yourself to be fully immersed in those experiences and if you remember your “WHY”, then the “who” will not matter in the end.
I hope this helps you to do a deeper dive in to your decisions for booking a retreat. You should leave feeling refreshed, renewed and ignited to approach your life from a more powerful and clearer lens, and hopefully with a tribe of sisters cheering you along the way.
With that being said, I wanted to share a few other black-owned wellness retreat platforms (collaboration > competition) who host retreats to check out while you're shopping around. Keep in mind there are also retreats that are led by spiritual leaders that have been practicing for 20, 30+ years and those can be an option as well based on what your spirit needs. The key is choosing the best one for you.
Hope to see you in Ghana (click the link for more info) or at one of our future retreats. Comment below if this guide was helpful (scroll to the bottom if on mobile, no need to log in), want to share your retreat experience, or to simply say hello!
Love + Light,