Yoga retreats are becoming more and more popular. It’s a great way to escape the everyday life and improve your overall well-being, while exploring the most mesmerizing destinations. These retreats are wanted for a reason and that’s why it became one of those bucketlist-things for me, even though I hadn’t been practicing yoga for quite some time. Life can get pretty hectic sometimes, you know! The more reason to treat myself on a yoga vacation. So, when I found get a cheap flight from Amsterdam to Managua this May, I had the chance to join Traverse Journeys on a 6-day Surf & Yoga retreat in Nicaragua.
The thing that appealed to me about the retreats from Traverse Journeys is that they are focused on sustainable travel and responsible tourism. Something I completely agree with! The small groups (max 13 people) allow you to connect with like-minded travelers and, with flights being excluded, their yoga retreats are available to travelers all over the world. So, perfect setting to work on my bucketlist, unwind and find some inner peace!
With this deal being for (only) 12 days, it wasn’t as long as I hoped to go for. Because, with a total of 14-hours on a plane to get there (with a layover in Texas) you kind of want to make the most of it, right?! But hey, at least I got to go and had a little bit of time to explore Nicaragua outside this 6-day yoga retreat!
I contacted Traverse Journeys to let them know that I was going to spend some extra time in Nicaragua. The guide on the Nicaragua-retreat, Ashley Blake, who also is the founder of Traverse Journeys, replied right away and was very helpful accommodating me any way necessary. It right away made me feel comfortable and I was getting even more excited to go on this new adventure.
Transportation in Nicaragua: Iskra Travel
I started planning an itinerary and made all the arrangements from my checklist. Traverse-retreats do include airport transfers, but since I was going to travel a little around the retreat I had made arrangements with Iskra Travel for my transportation around Nicaragua the entire trip. This company offers insured and guaranteed transportation around the country, so it may cost you a little more. But with the current political situation I thought it would be safer and easier. And I was right, because the drivers try to avoid as many roadblocks as they can and will make sure you’re safe at all times!
elementos del sur
The destination for my first yoga vacation was San Juan del Sur. A beautiful town that is known for its surf-worthy beaches, mesmerizing surroundings and vibrant nightlife. My Iskra-driver drove me up to this charming house that was going to be home to me and 10 others for the next 6 days: Elementos del Sur.
This beautiful vacation villa (also a bed & breakfast) is owned by two Americans, Heath and Angela, who left their corporate lives to get involved in the great community of San Juan del Sur. Together with their cute son Oliver (warning, that kid will steal your heart!) they live on the property and will make sure to check if there’s anything they can do for you.
We talked a little about my first few days in Nicaragua and the upcoming days and Ashley pointed me to my room. When you book you can either choose to share a room or book a private room. I went for a shared room, so got to share with 2 lovely girls that had already arrived earlier that morning. And as it turned out, Traverse Journeys also uses the perfectly organized Iskra Travel for their transportation in Nicaragua! The girls were so nice and with the room being very spacious and a very comfy king size bed it didn’t even feel like sharing in the first place.
This first day was nice and easy: getting to know each other a little, have a nice welcome dinner (from the local chef who prepares the daily included meals) and some yoga to release the travel stress!
yoga & meditation
Of course, this is called a yoga (and meditation) retreat for a reason. Every day meditation is scheduled at 6.15 AM, morning yoga at 6.30 AM and a changing afternoon or evening yoga-session. Yes, pretty early, but coming from someone who isn’t a morning person at all: there isn’t a better way to start your day! Well, except for coffee then.. But that’s brewed and ready before you even make it to the kitchen, so you can grab some before your sessions!
During this Nicaragua retreat we were in the capable hands of Angelena Stokes-Wickersham from Sun Drop Yogi. This adaptive yoga instructor from Austin (Texas) with Hawaiian roots has been in love with the practice of yoga ever since 2007 and focuses a lot on self-awareness, alignment and breathing during her yoga and meditation sessions. Every yoga session was different and ended with some mindfulness exercises. We had Yin yoga (the practice of letting go), inspired by gentleness to improves circulation by focusing on flexibility and muscular- and connective tissue. But also, different levels of Vinyasa, connecting breathing with movement.
Since I had been out the running with yoga for quite some time and had never meditated before I thought some of the sessions might be hard for me to catch up with. Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong! The soothing voice of Angie guided me through every movement during our yoga vacation. Although, I might need to work on my breathing and flexibility a bit, definitely not as good as I used to be… Good reason to go on more yoga retreats!
I enjoyed every session on this yoga and meditation retreat. I was actually pretty surprised that I managed to clear my mind during the meditation sessions, since my mind usually is an ongoing process (lol). The first two days my mind got distracted every now and then, but there’s just something about listening to the sounds of nature, focusing on your breathing and Angies way of guiding you through those meditations that sets your mind at ease. If you get to read this girl: I wish I was near Austin, so I could continue practicing with you! So, the third day I really got into it and now I definitely want to look into it more. It really puts things in a different perspective and can relieve stress.
surf with alex
Besides a nice yoga retreat and vacation, you also have the opportunity to learn how to surf! Included in this yoga retreat is a surf lesson with Surf with Alex and if you want you can take some extra lessons or just rent a board on free afternoons. I don’t know about you, but I have always wanted to get up on a board, and this was my chance!
Local and passionate surfer Alex and his girlfriend Meli started their surf school almost 3 years ago and even designed a very cool brand with boards called Alvarez Surfboards. Don’t you just love the design of the logo?!
They work with reliable and bilingual instructors that really know what they are doing and have a passion for surfing. They first will help you out with some of the techniques on the beach and then get to practice in the water. They really make you feel comfortable and make it look like it’s so easy. Well, I can tell you, it’s not…
I kind of underestimated the force of the stream of the ocean, because it was pretty hard to get to the point where you could actually catch a good wave. Every time you think you’re almost there, there come this mini-wave that washes you right back to the shore. Pretty frustrating, but that didn’t keep me from trying or my instructor from motivating and trying to help me over and over again! You really learn to respect the ocean more than ever. After being washed away a few times and really testing my endurance I managed to get up and that feeling is so empowering and rewarding! Hard work pays off, so thank you Surf with Alex, and special thanks to Meli for the nice conversations!! Definitely a tip if you want to have surf lessons in San Juan del Sur.
Traverse Journeys doesn’t just offer a surf and yoga retreat, but a cultural exchange. All of their trips are designed with purpose; aspects of sustainability, a sense of the culture and a connection with the local community. A chance to grow and learn through engagement and experiences, while contributing (5% of sales from the trip) to community partners they work with (and you get to visit). On the Nicaragua retreat this is the Barrio Planta Project in San Juan del Sur.
Barrio Planta Project
Barrio Planta Project is an amazing non-profit organization that helps empowering children and youth of Latin America to create economic and educational opportunities for themselves and their families with the growing tourism industry. And that’s really necessary, because education in Nicaragua isn’t granted for a lot of families. They provide free supplementary schooling that encourage creativity, enhancing confidence and facilitate international communication by teaching English and interaction with different cultures. Because of Traverse Journeys I got aware of this incredible project and had the chance to volunteer for the day. Another thing I’ve always wanted to do, that got covered in this 6-day trip and I’m so thankful it was with the Barrio Planta Project!
I joined the kids for dance classes and soccer, but also helped some of them out during their Microsoft Excel during computer class and practiced English (and even some Dutch) with them. But there are also things like art-class and fitness. The long day ended with more fun: a piñata! You should have seen those kids (and some of the adults); the perfect ending to such an impressive day.
Being able to connect with those kids, put a smile on their faces and help them out was absolutely rewarding. It made me realize that we take a lot of things for granted and want to have all of the latest gadgets and designer clothes, kids struggle to get education or food on the table for their families. Therefore I think it’s so important we help organizations like the Barrio Planta Project; either by volunteering, a one-time or a monthly donation. Because all together we can make a difference!
more than just a yoga retreat
This trip to Nicaragua with Traverse Journeys was more than just a great yoga retreat, it’s such an enriching experience! I had a chance to meet the most inspiring people, be a part of an incredible community, explore the beauty of Nicaragua and find inner peace all in just 6 days on this retreat.
Angelena was amazing during the yoga and meditation sessions. Ashley planned out a perfectly balanced itinerary and also made sure we had some free time for relaxing on the beach and special requested activities, like massages, extra surfing and zip-lining. It’s safe to say that when you travel with Traverse Journeys you don’t have to worry about anything, just relax, enjoy your vacation, but in a meaningful and fun way. You get back as a better version of yourself, so I will definitely join again and so should you if you have the chance!
If you have been on a yoga retreat before, I would love to hear your experiences and thoughts. And if you haven’t been on one, would you like to and why? I would love to hear from you in the comments!
If you’re up for an unique (yoga) vacation; I managed to get you a $100 discount on the upcoming trips, like Machu Picchu, New Zealand, Colombia and India. Use code “WI100” and for a life changing experience!