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Weirdest. Retreat. Ever.

Have I got a tale for you!

For the past two and a half years, as we sat in our pandemic isolation and had so many challenges, there was a light at the end of the tunnel for me: The Barefoot Perfect retreat I was set to lead in Belize.

I led a retreat in Belize with one of my besties, Sam Bennett, in 2020. I got home on March 6, 2020, just before the world shut down. And we’ve been dreaming of going back ever since. I mean, just look at this…

We had hoped to go back in 2021, but well, you know how things unfolded. So we moved the retreat to 2022, originally February and ultimately pushed it to May to try to keep everyone healthy. And it was something that kept my soul alive. Visualizing the warm ocean breeze, jumping off a catamaran into the turquoise water, and lounging poolside with a cocktail in hand. It got me through 2021, which was the worst for me and my family.

All this is to say that Belize 2022 was something I was really looking forward to.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks before leaving for the trip and my 14 year old, Bee, and I came down with you-know-what. I was terrified it wouldn’t clear in time for the trip to Belize and, given that I have some underlying health challenges, I contacted my doctor and made the decision to take the antiviral, Paxlovid. And it worked! My symptoms were very mild and I was able to be 100% negative before the retreat began.

Sam and I did our opening circle and dinner filled with such joy. Every single participant made it to Belize which was honestly miraculous, given the times we are in. Here’s a snapshot of the our first dinner on the beach.

We asked our participants to rapid test the morning of our first full day for good measure so Sam and I and our team did as well. I glanced down at my test in horror as I realized I was testing positive again. WHAT?! I couldn’t believe my eyes. I felt great and was ready to lead, but the test said otherwise.

I moved out of the oceanfront two bedroom home I was sharing with Sam and immediately went into isolation at the resort.

My biggest concern was protecting all of the retreat participants. I was mortified this was happening.

It turned out I was experiencing the “Paxlovid rebound” that some folks get. I didn’t really ever experience symptoms again, but I tested positive for days and wanted to ensure that I didn’t create a super spreader event at my own retreat.

So instead of snorkeling in clear blue waters or playing in waterfalls or leading workshop sessions with inspiring women (see pic below for me and Sam in a waterfall from 2020), I was stuck in my (beautiful) suite taking baths and crying to my loved ones on the phone.

Weirdest. Retreat. Ever.

Thank goodness I had the best co-leader in Sam and amazing support from our team member, Usha. They rallied like champs and created an epic retreat. Our participants were so compassionate and loving about my situation.

I am happy to say everyone was cleared for travel back to the US and we all made it home with our health intact.

Needless to say, this was deeply frustrating, stressful and disappointing. But I made it through. When life delivers you a sh*tshow, my formula is to:

  1. Feel your feelings (really). Especially the big, ugly feelings. Cry, complain, get angry. Feel your truth. Don’t skip this step (AKA spiritual bypassing) even though you want to jump to the good stuff. Feeling the hard things is just that, hard. But it’s necessary when things don’t go as planned or life kicks you when you’re down.
  2. Get support from the right places. I tried the best I could to keep my big feelings away from Sam, Usha and the retreat participants and focus on getting my deeper support elsewhere. Huge thanks to my husband, my sisters, my dear friends for holding space for me. I wanted the team and participants to focus on the joyful and wonderful experiences they were having and creating vs. me and my situation.
  3. Surrender and accept what is. I love the quote by Adyashanti, “When you argue with reality, reality always wins.” After a day of throwing a tantrum, my Inner Wisdom reminded me that it was time to surrender to the situation. I could argue all day long with the reality of what was happening and just continue to create more suffering or I could move towards acceptance and breathe. Slowly, and I mean really slowly, I began to accept it. My process of surrendering usually involves listening to “Let it be” over and over again and doing The Surrender Plunge; standing at the foot of the bed yelling “I Surrender” three times then falling back. Getting physical with it helps a lot.
  4. Find your authentic gratitude. After the big feelings flowed and the acceptance kicked in, I felt grateful for so many things. First and foremost, I’m grateful I didn’t spread it to anyone. Grateful I felt good physically. Grateful for the resort, Naia, and their amazing team that delivered me delicious food, fresh cut lemongrass for healing tea and checked on me multiple times per day. Grateful for Sam and Usha taking such amazing care of our retreat participants. Grateful for the love and understanding from all the women that came from all over to be there. Grateful for the beauty that surrounded me. The ocean and stunning accommodations were my best friends, as was Selling Sunset. Ha! And so darn grateful for the gorgeous bathtub in my room.
  5. Reframe it. I don’t believe everything happens for a reason, but I do believe in reframing and creating a narrative about the events of our lives that can serve us and help us move forward. I had a friend say, “Well, you’ll never go back to Belize again.” My response was, “Absolutely not! Belize, and Naia specifically, showed me so much love and compassion during a hard time. I will go back with joy and delightful anticipation!” And let’s be clear, having a C-19 rebound in a foreign country, surrounded by beauty and kind souls when I was supposed to be leading 20 women in a retreat is NOT a crisis. It sucks, but I’ve been through way worse and I know so many people are in a true crisis right now. Ukraine is in crisis. Families grieving in Texas and Buffalo are in crisis. And on and on…

So, I hereby declare Barefoot Perfect Belize 2022 was the Weirdest Retreat Ever for me. That feels like the right story.

That said, I will not be deterred from doing more fabulous retreats in stunning places in the future. Plans are brewing, so stay tuned.

In the meantime, I’m sending you love and sunshine and strength to get through the true crises of the world.







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© Amy Ahlers | Wake Up Call Coaching 2023

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Wake Up Call Coaching

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