"How far you go in life is based on your relationship with fear. Do you retreat or leverage it?"
Kiwi Janine Hall is giving a workshop on fearbusting to a group of women in a clifftop villa overlooking Uluwatu Beach on the Bukit peninsula of Bali.
Hall is the owner of Escape Haven retreats, all-female retreats designed to help women rediscover themselves and find their truth. Overcoming fear - of failure, of the unknown, of pain - is often the first step, says Hall.
She should know. Back in 2008 she risked everything, leaving behind a six-figure salary and a future board position in a large corporate after realising on a yoga mat in Bali, that while outwardly she seemingly had everything, she was not happy.
This sliding door moment and how she transformed her life, became her new passion and business - Escape Haven.
Her hard work, belief in the premise of Escape Haven, and intuition in knowing what women want and need has paid off.
Hall and her fiance and business partner Trent have just returned from the World Luxury Hotel Awards in St Moritz, Switzerland where Escape Haven picked up two global wins for Global Best Luxury Wellness Retreat and Global Best Luxury Boutique Retreat. They also picked up an award for Asia Continent for Best Luxury Adventure Resort.
"We are elated and so thrilled. Having been pouring our heart and soul into our women's retreats for the past nine years, it is such an honour to be recognised amongst the world's best and as the best. This award is for the team who have such united passion and purpose for making a positive impact in women's lives. As a Kiwi I was particularly proud as amongst the 400 guests, I was the only Kiwi and I loved flying that flag all the way across the world in Switzerland!"
Hall tapped into a modern female desire, not just for rejuvenation, but to help women rekindle a belief in themselves, or discover it for the very first time.
I didn't know what I was doing with my life. Something led me to Bali. I didn't even like yoga but I made myself a promise that I would turn up on that mat every day.
Since Hall started Escape Haven in 2008 she has hosted 5000 women from all over the world, and notices a common theme.
"We meet women from all walks of life who are powerful and successful, but who are singing the same songs - the sacrifice of happiness for outer trappings of success, and people who are not living their true potential, because of fear."
The week-long retreats - held in two opulent settings in Bali in Canggu and Uluwatu, are designed to nurture mind, body and soul. The retreats offer yoga, fitness, spa, organic food and lots of pampering, as well as an array of motivational workshops to inspire and enlighten guests, with practical tools and techniques that you can take home with you.
"We use tools of surf, yoga, mindfulness, eating well, to help women 'return to their happy'."
It does not stop when women leave. Hall and the team host a Facebook page of Escape Alumnae where they continue to post videos, workshops, tips and recipes, and where women can continue connecting with others.
While many who come to the retreat are solo travellers, the camaraderie discovered is a powerful reminder of how strong women should lift each other up, instead of tearing each other down.
Hall says women often attend the retreats at a critical point in their lives.
"We often have women come to us on retreat who are at a crossroads, perhaps they are wanting to take a brave new step by leaving a relationship or getting clarity on starting a new one, or it could be a career change or their kids leaving home.
"The point is, often they come to us with something they wish to resolve or get clarity around. It's amazing seeing what can change for them over the course of a week away. By delving into mindfulness practices and allowing themselves to be pampered and revitalised and letting go of control and decisions, they experience not only freedom and the gift of time but clarity of thought by which to make balanced decisions from."
The Balinese believe Bali is a magical island, a place of manifestations. Bali affects people, says Hall, and she and her team have witnessed some radical transformations.
"Seeing the unbridled joy on their faces is priceless. We've witnessed women returning home, throwing in their jobs to pursue their passions, or going after a new relationship, saying goodbye to one that wasn't serving them well and moving places no longer allowing fear to hold them back.
It's amazing the higher version they step into which comes from their new-found confidence and clarity. We love getting updates on how their dreams are unfolding. To date, I've had over a dozen guests even move to Bali and create lives here post the retreat."
It is a road that 44-year-old Hall has travelled herself. When she first envisaged Escape Haven nine years ago on that yoga mat in Ubud, Bali (famous since Julia Roberts' characterisation of Elizabeth Gilbert's spiritual awakening in Eat Pray Love), she was a workaholic, burned out from an international marketing career. Hall knew success in material terms but was not happy.
"I didn't know what I was doing with my life. Something led me to Bali. I didn't even like yoga but I made myself a promise that I would turn up on that mat every day."
In Bali, Hall learned to quieten her 'monkey' mind, what the Balinese call our overactive thinking. It was then she saw her "truth" - a calling to provide women opportunity to reconnect with themselves and "rekindle their sparkle".
The point is, often they come to us with something they wish to resolve or get clarity around.
"The premise of Escape Haven is founded on my belief that every woman has the potential to blossom into the most radiant version of herself given the support of an uplifting environment."
Hall wanted to offer more than your regular spa break. Instead, Escape serves up a smorgasbord of holistic healing experiences in a deluxe week-long rejuvenation holiday.
At the retreats, women choose from a range of packages covering surf, yoga or fitness programmes. The week includes an "indulge and ignite day" with options ranging from eco-cycling tours, cooking classes, jewellery making, or a mystical high tea and tarot reading.
There are workshops offered on nutrition, mindfulness and lifecoaching. Hall also brings practitioners to the week according to women's needs who offer healing sessions including traditional Balinese healing, Reiki, chakra balancing, Heller Bodywork, and Ayurvedia.
Point of difference Since Hall began her retreats in Bali, a raft of wellness retreats have sprung up not just in Indonesia but around the world, with the trend for wellness holidays exploding. Hall says Escape's point of difference is the team's DNA, which is all about transforming lives rather than just providing a one-off week away.
"It's our passion and purpose and we have recruited a talented team who represent the very best of the best that make the brand what it is. It's easy to replicate a product, however what sets us apart is our why and how that governs and permeates everything we do. Even before our guests arrive we try to understand what they really want from their week away so we can craft something individual to their needs."
The current retreats differ in feel as well as location.
The Canggu retreat is set in a luxurious Balinese villa in the hip surf village Canggu.
The various rooms have outdoor en suite bathrooms and are set around a vast pool area in luxury tropical gardens. Guests are welcomed with a traditional Balinese cleansing ceremony, led by the villa's in-house healer, a local priestess.
The Uluwatu retreat which runs between July and September is Hall's most luxe location yet - set in two multimillion-dollar cliff top villas overlooking the oceans of Bali's Bukit Peninsula, famed for its sparkling azure waters and 4 metre surf breaks. The rooms, with four poster beds, white leather upholstery and huge marble en suites are airy, luxurious and modern. The villas include a gym, sauna, spa room and infinity pools.
In both retreats, Hall's attentive staff cater to guests every need. A team of Australian and Kiwi 'chief happiness officers' run the retreat and Hall's handpicked Balinese staff make each guest feel both one of the family. There is a 24-hour butler service to bring teas, fruit platters or bliss balls and each night guests return to their room to find a handwritten message and gift on their pillow.
The retreats do not just nourish your soul says Hall, here food is medicine.
Dishes are gluten and sugar-free, with vegan options, and tailored to personal tastes.
Food is indeed a highlight and a time when the guests come together, and forge some of the lifelong friendships Hall's retreats have fostered.
New ventures 2018 is set to be another busy year for Hall and Trent. They have expanded the Canggu retreat to another wing and introduced a new healing centre. Hall is diversifying the brand in Bali, and soon be introducing a new retreat, The Palm Tree House Bali.
"This will be a very private, boutique retreat made up of a series of independent three-bedroom villas which can house only four guests at one time. It will have less inclusions and be a lower price point to allow all budgets to experience a retreat. It also allows ultimate flexibility of being able to check in and out on any given day."
Escape will also be offering some signature inspiration retreats which will be led by key global women including Tedx speakers and wellbeing gurus. Escape will also offer some bespoke retreats out of Bali responding to requests from her previous guests for her to run retreats in Sri Lanka and Morocco.
Having identified another gap in the market, she is about to launch Bali Mums which is a holiday nanny agency where tourists to Bali can hire a nanny safe in the knowledge that they are trained and certified.
"It give families freedom to enjoy their holidays too and take some time out from being mum and dad. All our nannies are Bali mums who have been trained to NZ childcare standards and are mums themselves so they are being paid to do what they are best at, and love! "There was such a gap in the market and such a big pool of talented, nurturing mums that make great nannies."
Annemarie Quill goes on retreat An average day for me plays out like Henry Hill in Goodfellas when he juggles a million things at once, stirring the pasta sauce one minute, dropping off guns and planning cocaine heists, being chased by helicopters.
Not that I am a wiseguy - I'm stirring the sauce but dropping off kids, planning stories and being chased by editors ... but I relate to his daily sweaty panic where everyone wants a piece of him.
It played no differently the day before I was to leave for a transformational retreat in Bali - I stayed up until 3am finishing a story, packed off my daughter to the Gold Coast the same morning, and realised at the airport she still had my trainers, and I had forgotten my credit card, and horror, my phone charger. Fear gripped me.
Fear-busting is a key theme of the week long retreat at Escape Haven in Bali.
Myself and the other guests all have different reasons for coming to Bali and while we vary in nationality, age, career and life stage we all have something we want to heal, solve or discover.
The week is designed to work on this by nurturing mind, body and soul. It offers yoga, fitness, spa, organic food and lots of pampering as do all Escape Haven venues but this week differentiates itself by offering an array of motivational workshops to inspire and enlighten guests, with practical tools and techniques that you can take home with you.
Each morning starts with a session with yogini Lani, a Californian yoga goddess who uses mindful and meditation tools to invest the asanas with meaning - it's so much more than a yoga class but a counselling session and there are often laughter and tears in each class. Lani is a wonderfully intuitive human who tunes into each women's needs, and at the same time as leading us to higher ground is also down to earth, teaching us "fancy breaths" to "let that shit go".
It give families freedom to enjoy their holidays too and take some time out from being mum and dad. All our nannies are Bali mums who have been trained to NZ childcare standards and are mums themselves so they are being paid to do what they are best at, and love!
Throughout the week we were supported on a transformational journey through yoga styles including Vinyasa Flow, Power Flow, Hatha and relaxing and restorative Yin.
Yoga is followed by fitness with Finn, an Irish personal trainer who is highly skilled and knowledgeable, and I can't believe I am saying this but actually made fitness fun.
Transformational workshops include a nutrition session in which we learn about gut health, the immune system and the connection between diet and wellbeing. Hall is a firm believer in food as medicine and an organic, gluten and sugar-free menu designed by a nutritionist follows a no hunger policy with delicious dishes sourced from local ingredients. A favourite are the smoochie bowls and the beetroot kombucha.
Lani leads a mindfulness workshop which incudes practical techniques from being locked in the busy chatter of our mind to going with the flow, noticing the here and now, the colour of flowers or what our neighbour is wearing.
Hall runs a fear busting session to help us move from a fixed mindset of I can't, I mustn't to a growth mindset of I'll give it a go. It is a technique being used by big corporates to help people achieve their true potential. While some are born with a growth mindset, most have to practise and Hall gives tips to achieve this mindset which ultimately is the key to achieving what you want out of life.
Spa sessions are peppered throughout the week and a traditional Balinese massage in my room to the sound of the ocean is pure bliss.
The week also includes one-on-one personal training and yoga sessions and the options to access other gurus.
I have a tarot session with the intuitive Hungarian Sylvie, and a truly lifechanging Heller Bodywork session with Kiwi Malcolm.
Hellerwork is a deep tissue bodywork and movement education designed to realign the body and release chronic tension and stress and Malcolm uses dialogue to help you discover emotional stresses that may be related to physical tension.
Previous guests spoke of his incredible healing aura - one burst into tears the moment she saw him.
I was initially sceptical how a one hour session could achieve so much but on meeting Malcolm, all layers were peeled back. A sort of counsellor, massage therapist, physiotherapist and healer combined into one, he has an amazing capacity to scrape away 'the bullshit' that we tell ourselves.
As you stand there in your bikini, he deciphers what is "wrong" with your body in terms of alignment, and the dual approach of treating physical and emotional pain together really works.
I don't think I have breathed properly in my life before meeting Malcolm. After the session my mind feels lighter and my body so heavy as I am feeling the weight of my body as if for the first time, so much am I used to living in the mind. I vouch to definitely continue Hellerwork in New Zealand.
The week allows freedom for introspection, where you can immerse yourself totally in self healing or the opportunity to hang out with the group.
The week includes trips to local hot spots, such as Uluwatu temple, Finns Beach club - the place to watch the infamous Bali sunsets, and a day at Sunday's, a private beach club where you can swim, snorkel or just laze sipping cocktails and practise your newfound mindfulness by doing nothing at all.
Bonding with like-minded solo adventurers is part of the Escape experience. Groups of women return for reunions, having decided that Escape Haven is as important to her wellbeing as waxing and highlights.
The week left me feeling re-energised and reminded that in the quest to be the perfect mum or worker or whatever it is you do, you don't have to lose yourself.
Being pushed out of my comfort zone and facing fears (like going without your phone) with expert support left me feeling stronger, healthier, and yes, happier.
Get out your to do list now and put a week at Escape Haven at the top. You deserve it and it could just be the best thing you have ever done - with its glow lasting way beyond Bali.