By Debbie Griffiths – Travel Presenter on TV3’s The Cafe
The iconic Earnslaw steams up behind us and the setting sun throws a delicate pink haze over the mountains as we finish our yoga on the shore of Lake Wakatipu.
The setting is ridiculously perfect. And perfectly Queenstown.
It’s not lost on my hosts from Soul Journeys.
“I landed in Queenstown and fell absolutely love. I mean …tah dah … hello!” UK-born Amanda Woolridge laughs and gestures towards the scenery. “I arrived burned out from a corporate role so this place gave me a moment to take a breath.”
With this world-famous backdrop, it’s no wonder Queenstown welcomed nearly three million visitors last year. A million of those kiwis. Many come for the adrenaline activities but more tourists are taking advantage of the natural beauty to simply unwind. Amanda and owner of Nadi Wellness Centre, Sandi Murphy, tapped into that market and started wellness getaways two years ago.
“Queenstown itself is a retreat,” says Sandi. “Even just a hike up the back of Queenstown when you breathe the fresh air. You’re able to hit the refresh button.”
Soul Journeys offers retreats of varying themes and lengths; from half and full days and weekends to their annual five-day retreat in Bali. Through conversations, time in nature and space to listen to themselves, the hope is participants find inspiration and greater clarity.
“Amanda and I really hope that people can step out of their every day and come back closer to their own sacred inner journey – whatever that may be,” says Sandi. “Whatever walk of life they come from, they get the chance to look inwards and take that time to breathe and connect back in to their sense of purpose in life.”
Participants organise their own accommodation and then take part in yoga classes and group mindfulness sessions. They can also customise their own experience by booking holistic treatments offered by Sandi’s Nadi Wellness Centre.
“The centre is our base but we also go out into nature and to local cafes and restaurants so the participants get to taste and experience Queenstown,” says Amanda.
Their intention is for clients to have an amazing experience then leave with greater awareness and a plan for returning to ‘everyday’ life.
“We hope people will go away with the tools that we share with them to re-integrate back into their lives in a real way that’s more self-nourishing and self-nurturing,” says Sandi.
Amanda describes the retreats as ‘transformative’.
“You’d think the epiphanies would be quite expressive and big but they’re often a quiet moment. A shift is going on,” she says. “We nurture them along and through the conversations … that’s quite often when the lightbulb goes on.”
Sandi says the retreats are a “safe place” for participants and insists on confidentiality.
“There’s a lot of power in getting people together and having real time to share authentically,” she explains. “Not just chin wagging about the basics and the shallow aspects of life but actually getting down into the deep and juicy stuff. It doesn’t have to be the scary, vulnerable stuff. Just the stuff that allows people to feel again and to feel in a way that feels safe. We provide that space for people to feel safe.”
Their earnest expressions transform suddenly to Cheshire Cat-style grins when I ask if they also grow and learn during their retreats. Their next delightfully fizzing exchange catches me by surprise.
“We feel like we’re the luckiest women on the whole Earth!” enthuses Amanda.
Sandi reaches over and tweaks her business partner’s arm: “Sometimes we just pinch each other and say ‘is this real?’ ‘is this our job?’”
Amanda laughs and nods: “At the end of retreats we just jump up and down. We’re so excited. We just love it.”
For more information: www.souljourneys.co.nz
When planning your trip to Queenstown: www.queenstownNZ.co.nz
Follow Debbie Griffiths on Instagram: @debonthecafe and see more of her New Zealand and international travel on www.thecafe.co.nz