Queenstown, NZ – my first time! Which is crazy seeing how I lived in Australia for nearly 6 years. But hosting a retreat in New Zealand is very special. I was able to swing by Australia, visit friends, and hop on a plane with jaw dropping mountain views out my window seat (definitely a must when flying over this place). The water is STUNNING – a color of aqua that I didn’t know existed. Retreat to Queenstown 1

When you land (depending on the approach) you come in through a valley with mountains jutting up around you and you wonder where the hell you’re going to land – my thoughts were in the river bed.

The month of January is quite warm during the day and chilly at night. My biz partner and I spent a day around the town before our retreat participants came to join us the following day. We had a sneaky wine (how could you NOT have wine here!) and started to plan our week based on the weather, the feel of the place and our participants needs. Retreat planning is so intimate – at least for us. We really get to know who’s coming and what they will enjoy the most. Every retreat is different due to various circumstances.

The quaint town had so much tourist appeal. It really reminded me of Boulder, Colorado -with the street performers, blocked off streets, low buildings, and a sense of outdoorsy spirit all around. People were from EVERYWHERE – I heard and saw so much ethnicity. Chinese, Europeans, South Americans, North Americans. I kind of felt like, “hey, where are the kiwi’s”? The hard workers of the town weren’t even from there. Retreat to Queenstown 2

We picked up the girls the next day and our Airbnb Retreat Space was PERFECT. We had a spectacular view of the Remarkables Mountain range. The really named it well. We had  indoor/outdoor fireplaces and a spa to get warm on those chilly nights. 

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The FOOOOOOD! OMG Trang is honestly an artist/dietitian when it comes to what’s going on your plate and in your belly. We welcomed everyone with fancy drinks and snacks that were so beautiful you almost didn’t want to touch the plate! But we did of course. 

We dove right in to that and a bonding exercise to get everyone acquainted. I had learned in my coaching to use artistic expression as a way of communicating the unknown. This unlocked some amazing stories that we shared with each other and prompted questions. 

The first night we had a lot of laughs, amazing food and some unforgettable connection moments with legs up the wall to relax everyone and yoga to ease any lingering travel stress.  Retreat to Queenstown 4

Activities:

The week was really filled with moments we designed to ignite all the senses.

Group Yoga

Queenstown is a quintessential location for outdoor yoga. At least in January when it’s warm. On the first morning we went to a panorama view of the lake in  to do some gentle morning yoga and work in our beautiful planners – evoking some gratitude and mindfulness for the day and week ahead. 

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Another day we hit the road to Lake Wanaka which is surrounded by a quaint little town. We chose a spot by the water to do a yoga session after lunch that aided digestion. Retreat to Queenstown 6

We were lucky enough to have a house that had a beautiful indoor fireplace and room for us to spread our mats and soak in the warm fire vibes. While our bodies moved, we got pretty warm! Warm environments help our muscles loosen and allow us to get into postures more easily. One that the girls were really retying to master was dancers pose. We worked really hard all week to stretch our quad muscles and allow that movement of grabbing your foot with your hand and push into it while bending forward. We attempted this almost every day in various locations along our adventures. 

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The last day we made time to go down to the lakeside in Queenstown. Our reward – coffees! The ladies were surprised that the stone/sand surface was more forgiving that carpet or grass and lended a different aspect to their balance and flow on the mat. We had a beautiful last meditation and gratitude session. 

1:1 Yoga Therapy

As part of my teaching, I offer coaching and yoga that equates to a term “yoga therapy“. Among the yogic tools used therapeutically are asana (the physical postures), Pranayama (breathing exercises), meditation, and guided imagery.  We look at the body, emotions, connections to behaviors and how that all ties in to well-being and Retreat to Queenstown 8daily life. A great thing about the retreat is building trust throughout the week between myself and participants to engage in these powerful sessions. As with anyone you seek help from, you need to be able to have a compatible relationship. The client has to be willing and open to try new exercises and habits; and the healer should be patient, knowledgable and have a calming presence. If you’d like to try these sessions at our next retreat – you can sign up some dedicated time.

 

Cooking & Nutrition Workshops

We explored different ways of cooking that had elements of simplicity and ingredients that we might not be accustomed to using. Throughout the week we played with plating food in a creative way. There were so many colors on our plates and that was the point. The more color – the more nutrition. The attendees loved this experience and we hadn’t even planned it that way! 

Trang has such an amazing way with food and presentation. Australia is a place where you can obtain almost any ingredient. When we travel to different countries to hold retreats (which is our intention), we always look at what the local options are. In Queenstown we found it a little hard to get herbs. We ended up buying planted herbs so that they lasted throughout the week. 

Here are a few pictures from our food workshops. If you have any questions or want a recipe – please contact me! 

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Hiking

There’s no shortage of hiking trails surrounding Queenstown. The hikes we include are dependent on the levels of our participants. It’s so beneficial to have both Trang and I as leaders so that we can facilitate all levels of fitness and make sure everyone is included and loving it. 
Moke Lake – There are a few trails to choose here. On this occasion we chose to go “off the beaten path” and that was no joke. This little train went straight up. Unfortunately I did not have the right shoes for this and neither did a few other ladies. So we got about half way and called it quits and chose to get out our journals, reflect on the moment and the challenge. Trang and another go-getter when straight to the top despite shoe fails. Everyone won that day because they listened to their inner ego and there was no right or wrong. There was just comfortable and satisfied. 

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Queenstown Hill Hike – This gorgeous hike rewarded us with a lush forest, lake views, fairy houses build into trees, a steep climb and panoramic mountain scenery. At the top, we broke out the art supplies and put the scene on paper. I’m always surprised what happens when there’s no judgement in artistic ability. Everyone had a different beautiful viewpoint of what they saw. It was AMAZING. 

Wine Tasting

You can’t really come to New Zealand and not experience the wine. This region was specifically known for great Pino Noirs, but we tasted great whites, roses and more complex reds. We hit up Amisfield, Wet Jacket, Akarua, and Chard Farm. Here’s a full list of the surrounding wineries

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Exploring Queenstown

The towns around Queenstown are a must see. Arrowtown is a sweet little town full of big character. Its main street reminded me of something out of a 50’s movie set. We stopped for lunch at a bistro and walked around to find an adorable speakeasy that was one of the oldest bars in the area. It had a fireplace and barely any light. We found out they had an open mic night which some of the girls wanted the challenge of participating in. Mind you – we never had an intention of visiting bars on this retreat but one important aspect we wanted to address was being open to challenges and being spontaneous to what life has to offer. So we went back that night and had a great time singing and dancing!

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We did a road trip to Lake Wanaka where there’s a bustling tourist vibe in the summer and artisan boutiques to explore. The public toilets are very unique; I remember them being very futuristic and giving you a time limit. You also didn’t have to touch anything – all automated. Fascinating – oh and it talked to you and played bird sounds. Has anyone else come across this???

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We also took a detour to Lake Hawea where the water is FREEZING but so damn aqua and clear that you have to take a dip. We made it a challenge and we all ended up getting in! 

Self Love Day

We wanted one of the last days to feel really special. Throughout the retreat we incorporated aspects of self development and gratitude. This day we wanted to embrace being pampered and cherish that feeling of treating yourself to some love. We set up facials and took everyone to the Onsen Spa. This location has a personal hot tub with views of the aqua river and surrounding mountains.  At night, they surround the pools with candles and you’re treated to a special star gazing experience. 

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Creative Exercises

I’m an art therapist and I was so excited to bring artistic exploration into this retreat. Liz Gilbert just did a brilliant post on IG about how important it is for us to get back to our childlike, non-judgemental brains to explore emotions, behaviors, stories we may have forgotten, stories we need to analyze, and just let ourselves be free. We did just that. The next retreat will be full of artistic expression as well. 

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Photography and Photoshoots

Finally to the uniqueness of having a professional photographer intertwined into this experience. The fact that we didn’t have to be glued to our phones/cameras for fear of missing a moment let us relax and enjoy the retreat. It gave us a digital detox and you could see it in the pictures. We had group photos, scenery, action and individual short that we were all privy to.

To view all of our photos you can visit this link

 

BIG ANNOUNCEMENT! We loved this so much that we want to do it again!! (obviously) Queenstown was a hit and we think that it brings all the essentials of our retreat together in a stunning landscape and package. We have an early bird special price going on now until April 1st. Don’t miss out on a HUGE 40% discount. We know it’s a hike to get to this faraway place so we want to make it as affordable and enriching as possible to make it worth this cost. We’ve put our heart and soul into making this a unique experience for you ladies and we know at particular times in life it’s hard to take a break from life with crazy schedules and commitments. Here you will love fully, laugh loudly, and get the most out of this adventurous life.  We look forward to seeing you!

 

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Angie

Angie

The driving force behind AJ.life is committed world nomad Angie Johnson. Her energy goes into creating opportunities for self-awareness and personal growth in everything she does. She uses her education and experience in psychology and coaching to develop tools for connecting mind, body, and total way of being to life purpose.

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