If you never travel to another country or another place that is so different then you will never open your mind up to new possibilities. Traveling to new places, sampling new foods, learning to speak the local language - this is a learning experience that broadens your mind. Women who travel return having learned something about the broader world and have become more intelligent, more confident and more worldly. A caged mind is a narrow mind.

Some people travel so much that their minds have become free as a bird, and they have the frequent flier miles to prove it.

Suzanne MacNevin
British-Canadian Feminist Writer

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    Women's Retreats: Tourism for the Soul

    By Charles Moffat - September 2009.

    When men retreat I think the best analogy is a hunting or fishing trip with "the guys". Its a break away from the pressures of work, home and family life, and seems to have been going on for millenia, dating back to tribal hunting trips.

    Quite often women did the same thing however, although the way they did it was dramatically different although likely equally as relaxing. The concept is essentially simple: Go off with a group of other people of the same sex, relax, talk and hopefully return feeling revived and reinvigorated.

    I bring up the topic of men hunting and fishing because there is no "men's retreats". The closest thing I can think of is hunting and fishing trips with male friends. Or maybe Dude Ranches where men can play cowboy for a couple of days before going back to their regular lives. There seems to be something sublime and spiritual about going back to nature, hunting and fishing for food, and reconnecting with the way mankind existed before civilization took control.

    For women's retreats (who knows when this practice actually started?) there tends to be a spiritual element as well. Many women's retreats pay a lot of attention to serving the spiritual needs of women who come seeking to commune with nature, talk to other women about their problems, meditate on what they want to accomplish in their lives and presumably leave the women's retreat feeling like they've reconnected with part of their spirituality and purpose in life.

    Sounds rather New Age, doesn't it? Its a rather relaxed atmosphere.

    For the sake of examples I am going to pick the Isla Mujeres Women's Retreat which operates out of Mexico, but markets to Canadian and American women seeking not to just get away from work or family, but also seeking to retreat to someplace tropical and beautiful. Isla Mujeres makes an excellent example because they have many of the amenities women tend to look for when looking for a women's retreat:

    Activities / Hobbies.
    Fresh Fruit.
    Hammocks, I know I would love to stay in a resort with lots of hammocks.
    Local Cuisine.
    Local Shopping, because when you go to Mexico you're going to want to buy something to bring back with you.
    Old Buildings, again because you're in Mexico so why not check out what the Aztec/Mayans built?
    Sandy Beaches.
    Spectacular Views.
    Women's Circles.

    Its a case of bring the camera, your sunglasses, your swimsuit and a sense of adventure.

    Some people simply want a resort to relax in, drinks served regularly and a book to read while sunbathing on the beach. I suppose that is fine if that is all you are looking for. I personally cannot imagine traveling all the way to Mexico and not stopping to check out all the local archeological sites, Aztec/Mayan temples and pyramids. Although you will not be staying at a Cancun hotels, you will be on the Isla Mujeres, Cancun will be very close and the resort will give you plenty to do to take your mind off of your daily stresses. Isla Mujeres is just off the coast from Cancun which holds quite a few archaeological sites for you to see. Isla Mujeres is just off the coast from Cancun where quite a few archaeological sites can be seen.

    There's something about certain locations in the world that seems to bring out a spiritual aspect in people. There are places all over the world like this from the Pacific Islands to Jamaica. Although you do not need to follow a tour or some Jamaica vacation packages to find these places it can definitely help you in your travels. For myself I felt that way when I visited a little known coastal town in South Korea called Yeosu. I was drawn there because there because I read about a Buddhist temple that was built on a cliff side overlooking the Pacific ocean. The location must have been intensely spiritual for the Buddhists monks to build a temple on the side of a steep cliff, and being there myself was a wonderful experience. I liked it so much I went back a second time a year later.

    In the case of Isla Mujeres in Mexico the island is sacred to Ixchel (a Mayan Moon goddess) and traditionally a place for healing rituals for the Mayan people. Evidently the people thought the place was special and atmosphere/landscape there had a special spiritual significance. Sometimes nature is so beautiful it elicits an emotional and spiritual response in the viewer.

    In ancient times people would become religious pilgrims and travel long distances to places of worship. Its arguably the origin of tourism in the first place. People want to visit beautiful places and feel some sort of spiritual connection. For myself, I've seen photos similar to the one below of Myanmar in South East Asia where temples dot the jungle landscape for miles and miles around. That to me is just awe inspiring and its a testament to hundreds of years of pilgrims visiting the region to appreciate it for both its natural beauty and spiritual meaning.

    Thus it sparks the idea, if these places are so spectacularly spiritual because of their fantastical natural elements (both in terms of landscape and wildlife), it makes a bit of sense that people build such temples because the landscape surrounding them somehow inspires them to build. Not to destroy what is around them, only so they can appreciate it better with greater comfort.

    Call it the one underlying factor of civilization... its all about comfort and making things easier. Except in our modern culture we've become so obsessed with trying make things easier through the use of mass communication and technology that we sometimes need a break from all the computers, BlackBerries, Facebook and such. They're not making our lives any easier, if anything they're making our lives more complicated and hectic. It becomes one of the reasons why we want to go on vacation in the first place.

    Thus what we need is the perfect balance of civilized comfort, with the natural beauty of the earth around us. That concept seems to be largely what women's retreats are about. All the comforts and leisures of a resort, but with a closer tie to the surrounding and spectacular-to-look-at natural world.

    Back to the Isla Mujeres Women's Retreat one of the principal offerings mentioned above is the Women's Circles, which are essentially time for women to chat in an open atmosphere, share their stories, compare lives and make some new friends. Sometimes there are age gaps in the women present, but that is a good thing because it means there is a sharing of wisdom and youthful optimism. Sometimes people get stuck in a rut and they need a break, some intense thought and discussion, and then they can make some changes in their lives for the better.

    The local area of Cancun also has scuba diving, zip lining and a variety of leisurely activies and nightlife for people to check out. If you're anything like me you won't get bored easily in such a place and will be disappointed when your visit seems to be over too soon.

    Now obviously such places can also be quite romantic. Some women might be more inclined to bring their husband or boyfriend with them when on vacation. But that is not the point in the case of a women's retreat. The focus is more on YOU, getting in touch with yourself and finding some more spiritual meaning in your life.

    On the other hand I don't understand why we don't all live in such beautiful tropical paradises... Seriously, why are we building cities in Canada when we could be living on a tropical beach somewhere?

    Or maybe the relaxed atmosphere would cause us to just want to meditate and enjoy ourselves all the time? I am not saying that is a bad thing. Sounds quite nice compared to slaving over a computer every day.

    Regardless of where you go to retreat from your regular life, remember you can always go back to that place again to experience the beauty once more.

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