Serenity Retreat is in its seventh season. Amazing. Read what our guests say.
Back in 2003 ish I wanted to go on a holiday that was aimed at those interested in self-reflection and meditation - I went on a couple of ‘singles’ holidays but they weren't really my cup of tea. I love being with people who have an interest in their self development or in spirituality, whatever form that might take but equally I have come to love having my own space - and I like a lot of it! I don't want to feel obligated to do anything when I'm on holiday. At the time (2003 ish) there was very little out there, especially as I never had huge amounts of money to splash out and couldn't afford the holidays that I liked the look of!
So I decided to start my own. I knew that I wanted to be able to offer people their own rooms even if they come with friends. No single supplements - I’m of an age (born in 1967) where I just don’t want to have to share accommodation on holiday. I was happy to do it in my 20s and 30s and am happy to do it on a full-on Buddhist retreat but NOT when I'm on holiday. As I mentioned, these days I like to have my own space. I was getting massively fed up with single supplements pricing me out of everything I was interested in.
I knew I wanted to give people the option to add the courses on separately - I realised that sometimes folk don't want to do a course although they're very happy to be around those who do. Our guests are normally those who are interested in self-reflection, relaxing and meditation - my kind of people. And to be honest, if I'm going to be doing this with my life then I want to be doing it with my kind of people - otherwise, it becomes too much like work ;)
For 2016 I decided to make the majority of the courses by donation. That way people can come and sit and have a listen to what the course is about without having to commit a wedge of money. If they like it, they stay or drop in as and when and at the end of the week donations are welcome. If it's not their sort of thing, they can go back to the beach! No problem!
I knew the sort of place that I was after - somewhere quiet but with easy access to a bit of life if people wanted it - I like relative peace and quiet these days. Gone are the days when loud bars and thumping bass are important to my holiday. However, as much as I want to get away from it all and have some tranquility I don't want to be completely isolated. I want to be able to get out and about easily.
I wanted to offer a holiday where there’s potentially lots going on, but where none of it's obligatory and people can just pay for the extras that they do - I want my guests to have the choice. Whether that’s going on trips, taking a course or hiring a car for the day. Whatever it might be I want to know that my guests can pick and choose and pay only for what they choose to do.
And of course, it had to be in Greece because I fell in love with Greece the first time I came on holiday here back in 1990.
And so Serenity Retreat was born……
Yes, it might sound a bit worthy and ‘mission statementy’ to have values but we reckon they’re quite useful. They show you what’s important to us and what makes us tick. We got all our definitions from the online Oxford English Dictionary.
noun: the quality of being honest and morally upright.
It’s first on the list for a good reason. Everything we do is motivated by the best of intentions and by being as honest as is possible in our dealings with everyone we come into contact with. We realise that we sleep more easily when we practise honesty in all our affairs.
noun: very strong emotion, an intense enthusiasm for something
That’s us, that’s us!! We have massive enthusiasm for what we do. We love holidays, we love self development, we love being with people who are excited about change and growth and life. We can’t wait to meet you!
noun: the centre of interest or activity
We will keep the main thing the main thing. And the main thing for us is to be the best provider of holidays for those on a spiritual, self development or 12 step journey who are holidaying alone.
We’re not going to become a holiday company for couples or families (they’re already very well catered for).
We’re not Match.com or DatingDirect, we’re not Club 18-30. We will make every effort not to be something we’re not.
noun: the process of doing something to achieve an aim
The process of DOING something – not simply talking about it or thinking about it – DOING it. Action got the company where it is today. Action will get you where you need to be tomorrow. Action is good. (But not TOO much when you’re on holiday).
Here are some of the people involved in making your holiday happen:
Well, there’s me – I’m Kim. Hello!
This is me on the boat on the way over to Greek night on Meganissi island, 2011.
I came up with the idea in 2003 (ish) and have been plugging away at it since. I live in Greece in the season, so am always on hand to help with questions, tell you the lovely places to eat and to advise which trips suit which guests. I also facilitate the meditation sessions, the qigong and the walks. And I never, ever miss the welcome meal. Oh no. All that yummy food!
Bookings Co-ordinator- Jools
Word has spread about Serenity Retreat and as a consequence, my tiny little idea has been growing. I realised that I had to change the way I do things slightly... So I’m in the lovely position of being able to let someone else do some of the things I like least. I love talking to people, I love helping them choose courses and accommodation but the fiddly bits: making sure that everyone has given me their flight details, knows when their balance is due, gets all the bits and bobs before they travel etc. are not my forte. Obviously, these are Very Important Things to get right. So, I racked my brains for the
Person I Know Most Likely To Be Hyper Organised and came up with…….my sister! And here she is:
When it comes down to the nuts and bolts of booking, you’ll hear from Jools. I’m still going to be available to anyone with questions about specific accommodation or courses, it’s just that once the decisions have been made I shall pass you over to my lovely (most of the time) sister.
WEBSITE - Firemouth aka Andrew
Then there’s the website issue. It’s a tricky one – I had to have someone who will tell me when my ideas are actually insane rather than just a bit bonkers. They also had to be affordable, easy to get hold of and patient. But at the same time to be creative, listen to what I want and to not speak to me as though I’m 3. I have had previous dealings with such a character and so knew exactly who to get hold of: Andrew (or Android as he is sometimes affectionately known).
(Here he is, working hard)
We have conversations that go like this:
Me: I was thinking...... (silence from Andrew), what about if we did a, b and c. I think that would be fabulous. Do you think so?
To be clear, we’ve known each other for about 12 years now so he’s worked up to this level of honesty. I’m sure I remember him being MUCH more diplomatic when we first worked together....
BACK ROOM OPS - Mum and Dad
Because I live in Greece for the summer, I have to have someone to make sure that all the post gets opened – bank statements, invoices, taxman communications and the like. So then I had to think of:
People I Trust Implicitly and Who Are Very Good at Filing. I came up with… My Mum and Dad!
Dad is the Filing King, and he gets quite bossy if I don't annotate things correctly. Mum has also taken it upon herself to scour all forms of media for the latest vegetarian recipes. I then get presented with them when I go home. On the whole they are AMAZING. Just don’t mention the chickpea patties.
None of this would be possible (Oscar acceptance speech looming) without my friends. In the UK and in Greece. They keep me sane, they support me, they cheer me up when I feel rubbish and they are 100% behind me. They are (drum roll): Janine, Louise, Jess, Kate, Erik, Jo, Emma and Colleen in the UK. And in Greece: Genie, Manolis, Melas, Aspasia, Pantazis, Spiros, Dimitris, Tassoula, Maria, Tassos, Costas, Eleni, Pipina, Panos, Thanassis, Gianoulla and Theologos.
That’s it. You’ve met everyone on this side. Hurry up and book so that we can meet you too…
At least 5% of profit made by Serenity Retreat will go to a combination of charities. These include Amnesty international, Clic Sargent, Concern Worldwide and the Hope Community Village
Hope is a set of 6 houses in a purpose built community in rurual Kerala near Vembanad Lake. It is designed to give destitute children brothers, sisters and importantly, a mother. Each house can accommodate 10 children and a 'mother'. At the moment there are 7/8 children per house. These children are referred from a number of different avenues and are assessed by the in house social workers before they join the community and their needs are monitored as they grow up. Hope also has a kindergarten which is open to the wider local community - the aim being to give these children a free lunch, uniform, transport to and from the village and, of course, an education.
It costs about £50,000 a year to keep Hope afloat (bare minimum). Remember that this means that 47 children get security, education, food, safety and family and an additional 100 children get access to kindergarten. The biggest bill goes on wages and Hope pays local people to do the following:
There is NO UK ADMIN to be paid.
We know that all the money that is raised for Hope is spent only at the village for the good of the village and the surrounding community. About one third of the money is raised from child sponsorship, the rest comes from fund raising. All the fund raising efforts and admin in the UK is done by volunteers in (mostly) Yorkshire. They are a great bunch of people who just keep making marmalade, holding quiz nights and selling Christmas cards and getting their friends on board. They receive no public grants.
We think they're fab.