Wellness Retreat Etiquette 101

April 29, 2016



I recently had the good fortune to attend my first ever wellness retreat in the foothills of Malibu, California . This kind of getaway has become increasingly popular in recent years as people are leading such hectic lives that they find the need to unplug, reconnect with their health and generally decompress.

Although wellness retreats can vary in activities and in ethos, every retreat has a common purpose, which is to help their guests recharge. What I learned on my recent retreat was that in order for every guest to have their best experience, all of the guests have to abide by a few rules of retreat etiquette.

Many of the resorts and properties have specific policies in place but below is an outline of the etiquette 101 when it comes to being a wellness retreat guest.

1. Take a technology time out

Many retreats have full technology bans to the point where your devices will not receive signal. In the event that you do have access to technology, use this retreat as an opportunity to unplug. Ideally, you should leave phones behind in your room during any activities and if you must bring it as a camera, set your phone to airplane mode so that you aren’t tempted to take a call or tweet the moment. It distracts you from being present in the moment and it can undermine the experience for other guests as well.

2. Do not bring in contraband

No matter how tempting it is, do not bring in prohibited items. If the retreat is caffeine free or vegan, don’t sneak in coffee or ice cream. It undermines the program that you have invested in and limits its effectiveness. It can also be very disruptive to other guests who are trying to follow the program if they find out you are ignoring the rules, it may encourage them to give up as well or alternately make you extremely unpopular because it shows you don’t respect the choice that they have made in following the program.

3. Respect your instructors and guides

Even though you may be cranky from caffeine withdrawal and long hours of exercise you must treat your guides and program instructors with kindness and respect. They are obviously aware that it can be difficult to “detox” but we’re all grown ups and that means being polite and behaving appropriately even when all we feel like is jumping up and down and stomping our feet to get a cup of coffee or a slice of pizza.

4. Remember every guest has their own goals

Although you may attend a retreat to kick a caffeine habit or lose a few pounds, another guest may be there to recover for the loss of a loved one or to recharge after recovering from a serious illness. These different goals mean that every guest may have a different idea of how they want to be a part of the retreat. Some may want to chat and meet new people, whereas others may want to hike alone. As a guest, it is important to carefully observe social cues of your fellow guests, so that everyone can get what they need from the retreat.

5. Be respectful of the equipment rules

Wellness retreats can be very physically challenging and involve new equipment that you may not be familiar with, which means that you have to be very thoughtful about how you use it. For safety equipment like radios for hikes, be sure to follow any charging instructions and make sure that you bring it with you as directed. For outdoor gear like camelbacks for water or special footwear, make sure that you have followed the packing guidelines and that you talk to your guides if you are unsure of use. There’s nothing worse for a group than to have a guest with equipment failure that slows down a hike or changes the planned activity for everyone.

6. Bring an open mind, leave your attitude at the door

The purpose of a wellness retreat is to invest time in yourself to become more well, mentally physically and spiritually. A negative attitude and constant complaining about food or activities can bring down the mood of the entire group. Conversely, an open mind and a positive attitude can help you to overcome obstacles you never thought possible and inspire other guests to achieve their goals.

A wellness retreat can be a powerful transformational and restorative experience, and it can be significantly enhanced if you are with a thoughtful group of guests. On my recent retreat I was very fortunate to be a part of really wonderful group of guests who embraced the principles I described above which for me made a great retreat, spectacular!