This time next week, I’ll be in Costa Rica on a Yoga and Surfing Retreat with Women’s Quest. This is the second trip I’ve taken with them this year. I’m not always so extravagant in my vacation choices. I usually end up camping to have more budget-friendly vacations. But, I went to Hawaii with this same company in the spring, and it was such a powerful, fun experience that I just jumped at the chance to do it again, budget-friendly or not. Sometimes, you just have to say WTF?
The one in the spring was in Kona at a yoga retreat center called Hale Kai on Ho’okena Bay. I’m usually not much for group trips. I’ve been on group trips that went bad. But, my friend Elizabeth kept telling me I would like this one. It is a Body, Mind and Spirit retreat designed for personal growth through outdoor adventure. I’m very physical, and I love being outdoors, so it seems like a great match. I signed up, and as it got closer, I got all this information on what we were going to be doing. When I got the agenda, I got a little worried. Every day was filled with activities such as yoga, tai chi, ocean swimming, kayaking, hiking and at night there were speakers. Crap.I hope this thing isn’t going to be a bunch of hard-core athletes or new age weirdos that can’t relax and just chill. But, I was financially committed by then. I was just going to have to go with it.
When we arrived at Hale Kai, I realized this was going to be different. The accommodations were literally tiki huts from Bali nestled in an exotic garden filled with statues and beautiful flowers. It was oceanfront but not an oceanfront like any I’d ever seen. There were no high rises or hotels. It was located in between family properties, one of which had roosters chained up outside that I found out later that they were training to cockfight. Our first warning was to wear earplugs because the roosters started crowing at 3:30 in the morning, and we were literally sleeping outside. Okay……I paid $2500 to sleep outside. Go with it, Sharon….
I was exhausted that first night after flying across six time zones. We had a little meeting to discuss the week. This cute blonde SUPER high energy barbie doll is leading the group, and she is talking nonstop. I looked at Elizabeth who had joined me on this adventure. “Is she going to talk like this the entire time?” my eyes said. “Sorry,” hers said back. Later she said she remembered her being this way the first time she went on a Women’s Quest. “Relax,” she told me. You’ll love her in a day or so.”
They told us coffee would be ready at 6 AM. I got up before daylight and meandered into the open air kitchen. This meant I had to navigate a series of trails of lava rock through this fabulous garden in the dark. I sat on the lanai and listened to the ocean until our other host, Jaqueline, tiptoed into the kitchen and began making the nectar of the gods, Kona coffee. I will tell you that if you ever want to show me love, make me coffee. If you make me crappy coffee, it’s not as effective, but if you make me dark, smoky rich coffee laced with lots of creamy half and half, you will snag my heart forever. And, this women did this for me every morning for a solid week.
The first morning was like every morning the entire week. Woman by woman came into the kitchen in her pajamas with her sleepy expectant eyes. As the week passed, women began to look more Hawaiian – tan, rested and draped in beautiful colorful sarongs. We drank coffee and quickly got to know each other, touching on common ground and sharing our unique stories and life experiences. Each progressive morning, the sharing got more and more intimate as we really began to know and care for each other. And, the coffee got richer with the experience.
Each morning a scout would tell us if the wild dolphins that play in Ho’okena Bay were in this bay or another one farther down the island. Almost every day, the dolphins were nearby, and all events were canceled to go play with dolphins who eventually became part of our little temporary family. Some of us weren’t big swimmers, so we opted to hang out for coffee, run or hike or just hang out on the lanai. One morning, I gave Facebook training to those who weren’t familiar with it. We all became FB friends and swapped pictures with a frenzy. And, the friendships deepened as the laughter got louder.
One night we took a boat out on the ocean to do a night dive with the Manta Rays. This was one of my favorite adventures. Jumping in the middle of the ocean at night was a big enough adventure in itself. There are big things in that water that can eat you. Manta Rays are huge animals with 9 foot wing spans, and they feed on plankton that is attracted to light. Scuba divers dive to the bottom of the ocean and shine their lights up while snorkelers like us float on the top of the water and shine our lights down. We swam out to the spot where the divers were waiting, and the show began shortly after dark. These huge, beautiful creatures danced and danced and danced below us oftentimes coming up and literally rubbing our bellies as they swam to capture more plankton in their large mouths. It looked like something out of a science fiction movie. You’d look down and see this surreal show going on below you. You’d raise your head out of the water and just see dark and quiet and all of these people hanging on to boards as if the Titanic had just sank beneath the surface.
I could go on and on about the adventures we had because everyday offered new ones, but this is just a blog – not a book. Our hosts Colleen and Jaqueline are beautiful, wonderful women who have dedicated their lives to showing women how to truly step into their own strength and power in their own unique way. Elizabeth was right. I did learn to love cute, talkative Colleen. I also came to love the other women on the retreat. Some I have already seen again. Jascia from Alaska (her name rhymes with Alaska) and I did a Tough Mudder this year. I saw Diane from California when she came through Memphis on a business trip. Others I may never see again, but they will always be in my heart after this trip.The women were the best part of the trip. Watching them walk through their fears, hearing their stories, meeting their husbands and kids through their pictures and being supported by them was just phenomenal.
So, this time next week, I’ll be slowly, nervously getting to know a new group of women who will be very special to me by the end of the week. I’ll be having more of Jaqueline’s coffee, only this time it will be Costa Rican coffee. I’ll be having fabulous, home-cooked meals, fresh island fruit and dancing in the sand. I’ll learn to surf, I hope. I’ll also be doing yoga everyday, and I hope to get my practice re-invigorated. Jascia and Hollis will be there from the spring retreat. Jascia and I are already discussing running our own little Costa Rican half marathon while we’re there. But, I know this: It doesn’t matter what we “do”. What matters is who we “are” in the midst of an exquisite adventure. Because the goal of a Women’s Quest is to play with that woman who is at the center of my soul. I can’t wait to see her again. Aloha…..
Note: The coffee we drank at Women’s Quest was from Wahine Farms. You can mail order online. It is a female-owned Kona coffee plantation, and I saw the trees where our coffee was grown. Fabulous stuff!