My Gaia Experience
As you probably know by now, I’ve recently returned from a three-night stay at Gaia Retreat and Spa in the Byron Bay Hinterland. It’s set on 25 acres of lush land and it’s a place that you have to visit to fully appreciate. I’ll do my best to encapsulate my experience in my words here but if you can, I highly recommend you book in to stay there on your own or with others. I can guarantee that you won’t regret it and if you find yourself questioning the price (I did in the beginning) know that it’s worth every single cent.
For years I’d dreamed of going on a health retreat but didn’t make it happen. When I got a voucher from my partner for my 30th birthday I was completely overwhelmed. I could see why he thought Gaia would be the best fit for me and a few months later I’d booked it in. Leading up to my arrival, I was anticipating complete bliss, a slower pace and the chance to move my body, get pampered, eat delicious food, take time away from screens, reflect and soak in the scenery. This is exactly how it played out. Let me fill you in.
As we drove through the gates and up the hill to the retreat, I couldn’t believe that I was there and that what I could see would be my home for the next four days. I was greeted at the main meeting point, Kukura House, which means ‘people’ in ancient Sanskrit. We chatted through the requirements for my stay as I sipped on herbal tea and snacked on some delicious organic fruit. I was then taken to my room and given some time to settle in before a wellness consultation with the head naturopath. At this point, I was still struggling to believe that I was actually there and this feeling stayed with me the whole time.
My consult was incredible and the naturopath and I just clicked. She could relate to my story, appreciated my level of self-awareness and reminded me to completely trust myself. She could also tell that I was ‘buzzing’ after quite a stressful morning with airport issues and some very full weeks leading up to my time away. She answered all my questions, was reassuring and had lots of knowledge to share. It was then time for Pilates and my first meal at Gaia. I decided to sit at the communal table with other women that I’d met in the class. I was then read the menu for the three course meal and after hearing the first three elements I said yes without hesitation. This turned out to be the case for every meal that followed. The food was incredible! Feeling very satisfied, wowed by the presentation and flavour of the meal and in need of a relatively early night, I headed back to my room with a herbal tea. I took some time to get my thoughts out on paper, burnt my Palo Santo and reflected on the day that had been. What a day it was.
The following days were made up of dewy sunrise strolls, flavoursome meals, yoga, sound healing, meditation, taking time out to just be, soaking in the amazing views, laying on the grass, going on long walks, reading, pampering, playing tennis, taking my first boxing class, setting new challenges, celebrating how far I’ve come, voicing gratitude, spending time in the spa, sauna and by the pool, having many laughs, listening to others’ stories, deeply connecting, letting go of urgency, going at a slower place, taking a break from almost all technology and focusing on nourishing myself on all levels. As the hours went by, I felt more and more like myself. I felt calm, at ease, content and connected. My mind had significantly slowed down and I wasn’t thinking of where I had to be or what I had to do.
Here are some of my highlights and reasons why I’d go back to Gaia again.
I felt deeply connected to myself, nature, guests and staff. I slowed down, soaked it all in, had deep conversations and did a lot of self-reflection. Meeting new people, everyone knowing each other by name and having acre upon acre to sit or walk alone was amazing. Giving myself this space, allowed me to quieten my mind, appreciate how far I’ve come, recognise areas for further growth and open my mind to new challenges. I felt whole when I was there, like the truest version of myself with very little effort.
I had read a lot about the food and heard all good things about it. It was organic, sourced from local suppliers and their big veggie garden, well balanced with many textures and flavours and beautifully presented. At breakfast the offerings were wide. I had the option a cooked meal or everything from granola, chia pudding and fresh fruit platters to smoked salmon, avocado and a range of different breads. I also had fresh juice, a shot of a digestive elixir, a smoothie or a herbal tea each morning. I left breakfast most days having eaten a lot more than usual but feeling great. Lunch was vegetarian and generous in size followed by muffins and some snacks in the afternoon. Dinner was three courses with either seafood or chicken as the main. It all smelt, looked and tasted incredible.
When you look out, especially from the lookout on highest point in the Byron shire, it looks like a painting with the green rolling hills, lush grass and vacant land. The air is so fresh (unlike Melbourne!) and it’s so quiet and peaceful. No phones are ringing, no horns are tooting, you only hear the cars coming into the car park if you’re close and people speak and move gently. All rooms and spaces have amazing views- even the outdoor toilet on the hill!
Each night after dinner, I got a card outlining the offerings for the next day along with anything else I had booked in. I loved this and it meant that so much of the thinking was done for me so I could focus on myself. I enjoyed the range of classes they had on offer and would recommend going early or mid-week as they seem to have more classes and wellness talks then. Another thing to note is that what they offer are all options, you can do as many or as few as you like. Rest assured, no one will come knocking on your door at 5am to drag you to yoga!
The staff were welcoming and professional from the moment I called to book to the time I left. They greeted me by name every time they saw me and made an effort to make my stay as easeful as possible. They were very approachable and had a true love of life.
I like to rise early, I’m not a coffee drinker and I can easily go without a TV and my phone for a few days, but if you can’t that’s ok. You can get up whenever you feel like it, go on your phone or the internet as you please, have a morning coffee at breakfast or go into Newrybar to get one, you can do all classes or do none, sit with others at meal times or enjoy them on your own, you can even get room service if you please. The retreat is yours to make your own and not once did I feel pressured to do anything.
As you’ve probably gathered by now, I loved my time at Gaia and wouldn’t hesitate in going back. It brought me back to earth both figuratively and literally and it completely aligned with what I value most in life. Having the time to focus on myself and be free of day-to-day distractions, to-do lists and mental clutter that often take me away from my authentic self was invaluable.
I feel like I haven’t fully done my experience justice in these words, but it’s a felt experience that has to be taken to be fully appreciated and understood. I hope you get there one day!