I travel a lot. Monthly for sure. Sometimes weekly. But it has been a long time since I have taken what I call a true vacation. I get to travel to incredible spots and I enjoy the heck out of my adventures and work trips. It is not uncommon to set an auto-response because there simply will not be time or access to connect. This week away just before the late December holidays felt different, I got to make up each day as I went, auto-response was a choice, and I got to sink into a new environment as opposed to run through.
Spending a week at Rancho La Puerta was definitely a new environment to me. The description on the home page sounded like an incredible combination of some of my favorite things- classes, activities, good food and trail - as well as an introduction to some fancier experiences that my tired body and mind could greatly benefit from. My parents were a little worried that I would be bored, I honestly welcomed the challenge. I can’t remember the last time I was bored.
Upon arrival I was pleasantly surprised to find a trifold brochure crammed full with a varied schedule for each day of the week. Options included Water Aerobics, HIIT, Yoga, Zumba, Lectures, Strength & Sculpt, Jewelry making, Circuit Training, Cooking Classes, Aerial Silks and too many more to put here, but you can see their sample class schedule to get an idea of what I’m talking about. It is a movement junkie’s dream, and just like they warned I was sore and moving a little more tentatively by Day 3.
The grounds offer plenty of great community spaces as well as space to wander off and find quiet isolation. I read two books while sitting in the sun and spent a few hours each day writing - two things I promised myself on this vacation. I got to stay in a Villa Room which had complete privacy, an outside deck that viewed the mountains and the lovely benefit of a wood fireplace that I curled up to one night to work on my writing project.
The Resort Staff paid such incredible attention to details, they call it “Ranch Magic” and I believe it comes from everyone there truly enjoying their day to day life being a part of the Ranch. Everyone I talked to, from land maintenance, to the coffee and wine bartender, class instructors and kitchen staff truly loved their work, loved the benefits provided to them as Ranch employees, and seemed to care about the experience created for each person. I love getting to practice Spanish and connect with those that are there daily in addition to the tourist/visitors and I was pleased to learn, but not surprised, that everyone dines on the delicious, local meals, and that there are classes available to the staff. The Ranch’s approach to quality of life applies to everyone involved.
I got the quick sense that I am not their typical demographic. I awkwardly walked along as the concierge rolled my duffle to my room while explaining the layout of the grounds. I was surprised daily as needs I didn’t know I had were met right as I needed them. But through Ranch Magic and the calm, open setting I realized there is no one demographic that fits, there is room for all ages, shapes and backgrounds.
I loved getting out on the trails, and finding the tracks well groomed and maintained to avoid erosion. The mountain was well signed with trail names, but I had to depend on my watch for mileage. Something else I’m not used to was having the hiking guides and rangers posted sporadically around the trails so concerned with my well-being. I smiled and talked my way past the passionate rangers who were worried about my safety. I rarely do this, but to ease their minds I called myself a professional runner, ensuring that I would take good care, be cautious and finally promised to call the concierge when I returned.
My favorite morning was that long run day talking my way past the rangers and racing the clock back to my room to make a quick change of clothing to ensure I made the breakfast buffet. Breakfast, definitely my favorite meal, and Lunch were served buffet/cafeteria style with a 2 hour time window to allow people to work around the varied class schedule. Dinner was seated and each night I joined a different group of people and enjoyed learning about where people came from and gaining insight to how others were spending their days. A common question was, how many times have you been to the Ranch? It was not uncommon to hear people returning 10, 20, 30+ years in a row. Another aura to the Ranch Magic.
The fancier opportunities that complimented the variety of classes included a women’s spa, befriending the lovely docent Jane who added tinsel to my hair, a delicious cooking class and tour of the farm, a facial, a seaweed wrap, makeup application and reading in a heavy bathrobe one afternoon on the quiet floor of the women’s spa.
My only curiosity left unmet, was the opportunity to meet Deborah, the Ranch founder. At 96 years old she is still traveling the world and speaking to health and wellness. She wasn’t able to make it to the Ranch the week I was there due to a broken hip, the first medical issue she’s had in years. I hope to meet her someday and share a hike on those trails.
The last evening we were entertained with a live salsa band and wine poured freely at the dinner tables (the first time all week). It didn’t take too long before the group I was sitting with all made it to the dance floor. We’d shared in classes all week and as I spun around testing out the refreshed salsa moves, I had to smile at the way this moment captured the week. I remember thinking, and suddenly its over and marked by dancing around with a bunch of people I barely know but we are friends through this shared experience. The funniest and perhaps telling moment - the last song was at 8:45pm. I was packed and in bed by 10pm.
Never bored. Returned well rested, well fed and ready to jump into the holidays and new year. I can get into this true vacation thing… :) I have so much gratitude for this experience. An amazing, healing and very timely gift.