Postgraduate Diploma alumna Alaine (LRB 2015) has created a business to help clients escape into a world of hospitality and creativity. We caught up with this young entrepreneur to learn more about Social Zen Retreats and the group’s upcoming retreat this August.
Hi, Alaine! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m a global nomad and grew up as a third culture kid in Singapore, Indonesia, with summers spent in Australia and California. I have a BA in World Arts and Cultures with a dance studies concentration from UCLA and spent most of my 20s as a contemporary dancer, choreographer, dance educator in New York City. (You can read a little bit about my journey from dance to hospitality here.) It may seem like a stretch for a dancer to switch to the hospitality industry. But I always worked in hospitality at some capacity in events, F&B, and front desk, and I also did some retail, sales and marketing, and non-profit arts management jobs.
I had an epiphany while on a solo travel trip in Zermatt and not long after that I was in Bluche studying hospitality at Les Roches for the Postgraduate Diploma. I did my internship with Carlson Rezidor hotel group in their corporate office in Brussels as a social media trainee in the digital marketing department. During that time, there was a series of unfortunate events and I ended up working remotely for half the time. That was unusual, but I was very lucky that was an option. I became interested in the digital nomad work lifestyle and really liked that one could work anywhere in the world as long as there was reliable WiFi. Fast forward to earlier this year, I was having dinner with a friend who was interning as a kitchen trainee in a health food kitchen and we came up with the concept and ideas for Social Zen Retreats.
What’s the story behind Social Zen Retreats? How did you get started?
Social Zen Retreats was born out of the concept that one should not have to compromise self for the sake of pleasing others and to live a life of authenticity, balance and creativity. The ideas were really manufactured through brainstorming and combining all the experiences we’ve had as a team in wellness, dance, the creative fields and hospitality. I assembled a small team that really believes in our vision of living a life of authenticity, balance and creativity, with experience teaching yoga and meditation as well as handling guest services.
This August, you’re leading a 4.5-day retreat in Koh Samui, Thailand. What’s the goal of this retreat?
The retreat will be held in a beautiful villa in a more peaceful part of Koh Samui. The goal of this retreat is to give our guests time to reflect on themselves. [quote]Our guests will be able to participate in workshops to engage their creativity, self-expression, mindfulness and well-being.[/quote] We hope our guests will leave feeling more relaxed and ready to live their lives a little more authentically, balanced and creative.
What makes our retreat unique is the fact that we are not going to enforce strict rules like no talking, rigid vegan diet regimes or firm adherence to the schedule. This retreat only works for guest who wants to be an active participant in our activities, but we are not going to make any activities mandatory for them as it is THEIR retreat.
What kinds of activities will be held during those 4.5 days?
We will have yoga classes, dance classes, meditation, cooking demos, healthy homemade meals paired with a bit of wine for dinner, an essential oils workshop, creative writing, and a group outing either to a temple, local market, or the beach. It sounds like a lot, but we are also going to give our guests a few hours of downtime.
Since you have a hospitality background, I’m sure you’ve put plenty of thought into the guest experience, particularly in terms of accommodation and food. What can guests expect?
Yes, of course! We are going to welcome our guests with a dinner party and they will leave with goodie bags filled with natural body products. Each room will also have some of these products in the bathroom for our guests to use. I picked an awesome villa that has large rooms with private bathrooms, a shared kitchen where we will be doing the cooking demos, a pool, a garden and a yoga studio. It’s in a quieter part of the island so guests will be able to relax and sleep peacefully.
Are there still spaces available for the August retreat? How can guests sign up?
Yes, there are still spaces available for August. The cut-off date to sign up is 15 July. Guests can visit our website at www.socialzenretreats.com for more information about our company and about the retreat. If they are ready to book, they can use our booking site on WeTravel.