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How I got started in the luxury wellness travel industry

Never have I ever…. wanted to be in a gym all day

Wellness travel is something I’d always planned to make a career out of, since becoming a fitness trainer in 2001. As a lifelong traveler (competing internationally in sport until 2010), staying fit was a lifestyle.

Then in 2007, I traveled to a fabulous surfing academy in Costa Rica for six wonderful weeks. There, I did 4 hours a day of surfing with a coach, in a small group environment. Others in the group were like me! I made some fabulous friends and we motivated each other to success and progress.

This solo trip was a game changer, but it wasn’t the surfing itself that I loved the most. It was the all-day activity and being with others who had the same common goal – to surf the next wave a little better than the last.

These key elements became my ‘why’ to start a wellness retreat business. I felt so strong and empowered when I returned home, refreshed and HAPPY. For me, that’s was the pure definition of the perfect trip away.

A discovery-filled wellness vacation waits for you in Parksville/Qualicum Beach… amazing sandy beaches, picture postcard views, world-class biking and hiking trails, salt-tinged ocean air, and the small-town charm of the area’s communities. Make time for yourself. Indulge with a soak in a mineral bath; enjoy a mud scrub. Fall asleep under the skilled hands of your masseuse. Take a moment to appreciate your body and give it the treatment it deserves.

Wellness Travel B.C.

“Build it and they will come”

When I returned to my personal training clients it hit me! I needed to start a destination fitness retreat of my own – with similar environment to what I had in Costa Rica. I loved that I came back from vacation in better shape than I left. So often when I traveled it was a battle to stay fit and eat well (and my personal training clients had the same challenge).

I wanted to work either one-to-one on a customized weight loss boot camp, or in very small groups. Results were always highest on the list of priorities as to what I wanted my clients to achieve. To get the ball rolling, I contacted several contacts that I’d made in the film and entertainment industry. I’d worked with celebrities in the earlier stages of my personal training career, from 2003-2005 especially when I was working in Vancouver. “Did any of your talent need a body transformation within a deadline?” I asked.

Yep… turns out they did. One person booked me for a month-long fitness retreat, then another. Soon the bookings overlapped and I couldn’t run one-to-one programs anymore. I developed wellness retreats with different paces and abilities, eventually hiring staff. Fast forward, over 500 weeks of weight loss retreats in Canada later, I’m grateful for where surf trip led me.

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I'm Cat Smiley

An adventure travel photographer, professional blogger, and digital nomad.

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