It all started when I was offered a teaching job in Cozumel, an island just off Mexico’s Riviera Maya. In the U.S. I had been very successful. I was a professional academic, teaching university classes and finishing a PhD in international education. But as an only parent, I was exhausted from the hectic schedule. I wanted to have more time for my daughter, River. So I decided I was going to make it happen.
And I did… Three weeks after I applied, I was in Cozumel. Six months after that I took a different teaching position in Tulúm, a town further down the coast. Once I had taken that initial leap out of my comfort zone opportunities started to emerge at every turn. I was completely reprioritizing my life and truly enjoying each moment. The teaching jobs were in beautiful, inspiring places. But more importantly, I had time to share every day with my daughter.
I also had more time for myself, practicing yoga and meditation on a more regular basis. Little did I know at the time, this new lifestyle of freedom and exploration was about to sprout a successful business. I began to write about my experiences in a blog called Enlightened Globetrekker. It was a living journal of our life, discussing living abroad, parenting, adventuring, embracing life, and more. It documented our move to Mexico and my journey to rediscovering happiness. As a cultural anthropologist, I had always written academic-focused research papers and articles, but I had never written for my own self-expression. I started sharing my blog with my friends on Facebook, and on a few Mexico forums because much of the content at the time was Mexico-inspired, and other expats related to that. But people started to connect with my story, and my posts got shared to the point where they went viral.
I started to receive several emails a day from people reaching out after reading a blog post. Then I began to be contacted by magazines, journals, and newspapers wanting to publish my posts as articles and interview me. My blog’s popularity had exploded.
The idea for Enlightened Globetrekker Adventures arose almost organically from the success of the blog. I brainstormed a product that could serve the public. An immersive retreat—where my readers could come and experience the lifestyle I was writing about—seemed like the best fit.
The first retreat was in Tulúm, Mexico in October 2015. 12 people of all demographics joined us for a week of inspiration, hidden away in the jungle. It was an opportunity for those feeling as trapped as I had been to escape their lives for a week of self-care, yoga, candlelight meditation, and adventure with a group of like minded people. It was amazing.
After that trip was over, there was still a lot of interest, so I planned another. An entire inspired living adventure company was born.
Little Did I Know
our life would sprout a business
And we later expanded from Mexico to bring our retreats to all corners of the globe. The concept became tremendously successful. In only one-and-a-half years, we have hosted 13 global retreats in Mexico, Guatemala, Cuba, Greece, Croatia, Austria, Hungary, Slovenia, Nepal, and Germany. And next year we hope to add Italy and Africa to the roster. I base my trip locations and schedule on safety, ease of travel, setting, and potential for raw adventure and cultural immersion. Once I decide on a location, I select staff members to work that trip: a local guide, a yoga guide, and an adventure guide. Then I look for proper places to host us, and I utilize my growing web of local contacts to handle much of the details.
The cost range of our retreats is $1,500 to $3,000, which includes everything but airfare. Depending on the trip, groups are made
up of between 10 and 20 people, and trip durations are one to two weeks, depending on the location. All trips have different themes: “Mother Daughter Reconnection Retreat,” “Chica Yoga Dive Escape,” “Himalayan Culture Adventure,” “Private Island Hopping Sailing Retreat,” etc. I get creative and think what I would love in a trip and then I plan it out. I try to make them all as amazing as humanly possible.
I make sure the days are filled with fun adventures, from trekking ancient ruins, swimming in cenotes, and engaging with local tribes, to rafting, cliff jumping, sailing, and biking. I also ensure that all meals served through the trip are delicious and healthy. My retreats are designed for people in search of a respite from their fast-paced lives, who want to rejuvenate body, mind, and soul the way I did when I moved to Mexico.
All of the administrative operations for the company are virtual, and there aren’t many overhead costs. We are fully location-independent, except when it is retreat time. I still attend every retreat myself, and do most of the admin work, so I don’t have to hire extra staff.
In addition to hosting, I design and direct all affairs for the trip: coordinating transportation and flight schedules, securing visas and permits, ensuring safety, and encouraging participation in activities. Sometimes I teach the yoga or meditation too.
But with our growth, it has become easier for me to bring on instructors to do that. I am working on getting it to the point where guides can run trips alone and I can settle somewhere a little more permanently and take some time off. I usually use one Western instructor and one local to answer all questions relevant to culture, plan routes, and ensure safety. Wages for the instructors and guides can vary from $100 to $10,000, depending on their role in the retreat, and sometimes they are compensated in free travel. For help with administrative affairs, I have two interns: one who focuses on PR marketing and one who manages the website. I have other assistants who work for free travel. So I really have no administrative costs.
Marketing for Enlightened Globetrekker is done almost entirely online and through word of mouth. We have a Facebook and Instagram presence and post newly released trips there. We also have a newsletter that goes out four times a year. Returning adventurers always receive 10% off. The key to keeping operating costs low is having good contacts everywhere to ensure low costs on site.
We are fully cash-based and do not have any type of financing or investors whatsoever. I simply saved up money as a teacher (about $2,000), ordered some marketing materials, and put my first deposits down to book weeks at retreat centers. Most of the profits have been rolled over into reinvesting in the company. My priority was getting this up and rolling to sustain itself. But I have enough to live comfortably and fund my travel adventures.
Each year, I plan out my retreat travel schedule, and then fill in the gaps with personal travel. Every year we do a six- to nine-month world tour of about 15 countries. The other times of the year we are in the U.S. visiting family for the winter holidays or at our home in Mexico. The company provides me with an income to support our lifestyle overseas, both living and traveling. I can get write-offs for pretty much everything, and my days are rich in adventure, time with my daughter, and memories that will last a lifetime.