DIY Wellness: Retreats for the Modern Girl Gang

DIY Wellness: Retreats for the Modern Girl Gang

retreats can be expensive and full of strangers. In
Puglia, a group of yoga teachers, wine connoisseurs, photographers
and more decided to curate their own – with a good dose of poolside
lounging and wine to boot. Turns out that teamwork really does make
the dream work…

There are two kinds of trips that appeal to me: curated – and
often expensive – wellness retreats with strangers, and a girls’
trip which involves lots of poolside lounging and wine.

Running Female Narratives, a creative agency
that aims to empower women, I am fortunate to be surrounded by
kick-ass women, many of whom are making waves in the wellness

So, I thought, rather than going on an expensive retreat with
strangers, why don’t we club together and curate our own girls’
trip in which we all contribute something by taking charge of
activity about which we feel passionate? Combining our skills and
interests we could create our own retreat, complete with essential
pool downtime of course.

When I suggested this in an email to some of my friends, the
response was overwhelming. Katie, acro-yoga teacher, offered two classes;
Danielle is a wellness expert and
treatment-trainee so she could provide massages and meditation
sessions; Micah is a dancer and offered to
teach a routine; Franzi is a wine connoisseur
volunteered to organise our F&B needs (more complex than it
sounds when you have a vegan, celiac, pescatarian and someone
allergic to alliums and another allergic to apples). Jada offered to host a dinner conversation focused on
mental health and Steph, who is an incredible photographer, would
document the experience.

As for me? I’m a relentless planner. I would organise flights,
transfers and our schedule. Having studied history, I also took it
upon myself to add some context to the trip by organising
sightseeing. It was all perfectly planned out in theory, but would
it work in practice…

Find Retreat-Friendly Spaces

It felt like things were destined to work out. As our
destination we chose ancient and beautiful Puglia, where we would
stay in the five-bedroom Masseria Pettolecchia La Residenza, a rural retreat
entrenched in Puglian traditions. We arrived by the light of the
moon, driving through acres of Unesco-protected, millennia-old
olive groves that surround the main house – after our bumpy RyanAir
flight felt like entering another world. The next morning, after
one of the best night’s sleep I’ve had this year, I awoke in a
glorious king-size bed to the twitter of birds and smell of freshly
made coffee.

The local staff at La Residenza quickly felt like family; each
of us wanted to take Palma (our host) home – there was lots of
hugging when we departed. Having a space that felt like was
fundamental to the success of our retreat. It meant we had all the
space to play and neither be disturbed nor feel in the way of other
guests. Being in a big hotel wouldn’t have worked. Equally, had we
got an Airbnb, there would have been more pressure to organise who
was cooking or cleaning and doing other duties – we didn’t have to
think about here.

Re-Discover Experiential Exchange

I recently read Talking To My Daughter About the Economy: A
Brief History of Capitalism in which economist and professor Yanis
Varoufakis explains in simple terms how our society shifted from
prizing experiential value to commodity exchange, a society in
which every transaction now has a monetary value. Yet it’s the
real, experiential exchanges, things that we don’t – or can’t -put
a monetary value on that often bring us much more joy.

If there is a way to split responsibility and create a trip
based on experiential exchange (I give you a yoga class in exchange
for your dance class and your cooking skills etc.) then we can
create something that communally brings more joy and more value
when combined. This retreat worked so well because each person took
ownership of their role and brought their best to the table. It
didn’t work because we were paying each other, but because we
wanted to create the best possible experience for each other.

Customise Your Retreat

If you read through my list earlier of yoga, dance, massages and
conversation and thought ‘”well my friends don’t do those things so
I couldn’t do that” – don’t worry. There are endless numbers of
activities and roles that could be included depending on what you
and your friend’s like to do. Try rock climbing, cooking, writing,
hiking, running, painting and more. Play to your strengths;
everyone is different. That’s the beauty of the idea.

If this still sounds like something you’d like to try but aren’t
sure how to go about it, Six Travel is an app that can help you find the right
space to facilitate your own retreat, or join an existing one
someone else is putting together. It’s the easiest way to discover
and book expert-curated hotels and retreats, allowing travellers to
book easily at the moment of discovery.

Embrace the Unforeseen

I’m not saying that everything went exactly as we planned – the
weather meant we couldn’t go the boat trip and the schedule wasn’t
airtight. We only had three days in which to do everything we had
planned so our dance class kept getting pushed back until we didn’t
have time for it. On the last morning, we were all sat on our
suitcases waiting for our transfer to take us back to the airport,
back to work and back to reality. The staff notified us that our
car was going to be at least half an hour late – things run a
little slower in Puglia. We panicked, frantically checked our
flight, realised that was running late too and then, because it was
all out of our control, we decided it was the perfect time to
forget our worries and have a dance break.

Right there, by our suitcases, on the dirt path, shaded by palms
and cacti, Micah led the best dance class of our lives while
Aaliyah played off a portable speaker hanging from a tree. We used
Jada’s tripod to film the whole thing and laughed at the videos all
the way home – and napped, leaning on each other for support. Going
with the flow worked out better that we could have ever planned. As
much as I’ve enjoyed trips where I just lay by a pool, I now find
myself wanting more from a holiday. From now on, this is how I want
them all to be.


Photos by Stephanie Sian Smith on
a Fuji GFX50R at
Masseria Pettolecchia La
, Palazzo Pettolecchia
and Masseria Torre Abate Risi,
Puglia, Italy

Clothes by Lululemon,
Solid and Striped and model’s own

Skin by Kiehl’s

Girls: Tijana Tamburic,
Franzi Klein, Micah
, Katie Burn,
Danielle Copperman and Jada