Happy Friday!

Some women make the mistake of thinking that since retreat time is only for them, it doesn’t matter what they wear or pack. But whether we are talking about the clothes you bring or meals you plan to prepare, these sensory details make such a big difference.

My husband used to be a caterer for many years. (I know, lucky me!) And one of the things he learned from his friend and mentor in the business is that true freedom in the realm of cooking is actually very simple: it is the experience of knowing what you want food to taste like and knowing how to make it taste like that. Similarly designing your own retreat gives you an opportunity to tune into what you are hungry for (silent time, nature, deep conversations with a friend) and to gift yourself that experience

In short, matching desire with what you deliver to yourself.

Last week I talked about how to choose a location and prepare your mindset. Today I offer specific suggestions for clothes and other items to pack plus tips on how to handle food if you are going to DIY your own meals.

It is a beautiful day for me to share this reflection with you because I am just back in town after a mini-getaway with a dear friend. We traveled to one of the areas of Nicaragua I am least familiar with — another colonial city called Leon — and the beautiful black volcanic beaches nearby (pictured above).

And after this mini-retreat I am even more excited to share the really unique location and specifics for my upcoming retreat for women called Flourish LIVE, this May 17-21. Look for a special video and offer from me next week!

Now onto part two of your retreat packing guide!

Warmly, Courtney

PS Just a heads up, my upcoming May retreat is already half full and only six spaces remain so if you are interested I encourage you to be on the lookout for that email and all the details. xo

One of the things I write about in the The Flourish Formula is learning to make peace with the part of me that likes feminine, high-quality things, including clothes, and the part of me that is happiest when dirty in the garden or on a hike. While the Glamour quizzes of my girlhood might not know what to make of my unique fashion sense, I can find ways to incorporate and express them both. So whatever your natural style or preferences, there is no time is better to take care and pack clothes you enjoy than on your travel and retreat days.

Consider packing clothes like these:

1) Lounge wear. Since we made the move to Nicaragua, I pretty much live in Sudara pants and loungewear. These are cozy clothes for a day at home or perfect for a retreat. And each purchase provides job and skills training for women in India.

2) Yoga pants & shorts/leggings if you like to walk or jog.

3) Your swimsuit (assuming a pool/water is part of your retreat). This is another clothing item that can be tender for women but I really encourage you to allow yourself to get in the water if you enjoy it. It is one of my favorite things to see women at my Flourish retreats lounging with each other and enjoying the pool after a day of exploring and coaching. And there are so many great options for what to wear if a traditional swimsuit feels too revealing. I’m currently loving vintage suits from Modcloth. They provide more coverage and make me feel feminine and playful.

4) Cozy and pretty pajamas. Sleep is a big part of a successful retreat so you want to enjoy heading to bed!

5) Easy dresses/tunics/layers for any outings and travel days.

6) Your favorite scarf. Choose one that goes with anything. This always doubles for me as a blanket if I get cold traveling in air conditioning. Or I can lay it over my eyes if the room where I am sleeping is too bright.

Hopefully that gets your packing inspiration flowing. I’m not getting any financial compensation for recommending those brands, I just find that it is the specifics of any guide that are fun! I hope it inspires you to curate your own retreat suitcase filled with clothes you enjoy!

In a way packing feels symbolic to me of this next level of life you are wanting to receive or co-create on your retreat. You are inviting only your favorite things, only the clothes that fit you well and you enjoy. It can also be fun to have a new piece to enjoy, like some new pajamas or a fresh sundress.

TIP: Rather than shoving things in a bag give yourself enough lead time. Lay out your suitcase or bag a day or two early to let yourself enjoy every step of the process. Happiness researchers tell us that anticipation increases our pleasure so let yourself enjoy packing and looking forward to your outing.

In addition to clothes here are some other things to consider packing:

1) Yoga Mat.

2) Tiny speaker/iPhone for music.

3) iPad/laptop* This one is optional. I find if I am working on my biz it is helpful to have an iPad to look up my calendar or other resources. Otherwise I have tended to work on paper with journals and books.

4) Journal/s. I brought four different journals to my recent beach retreat. This might be a teeny bit excessive but I have one for daily morning reflection, one for business goals, one for continuing education/resources I am learning, and one which is a kind of “everything” catchall journal for new ideas and projects I am working through. With journals my only advice is let yourself choose a color and design you love. Here is a current fave.

5. A Book to Guide Your Process.

I have done personal book-guided retreats on meditation, on getting organized and on mapping my goals for the year. In fact, I wrote my book The Flourish Formula to be a wonderful guide/companion for a retreat.

6. Treats like nice soap, essential oils, or bath salts. One or two of these can really enhance your time away, like the lovely basil-infused handmade soap I picked up at the farmers market last week.

7. Make it Your Own! As women who come to my live retreats will tell you I have a thing for fetching, gilded temporary tattoos. Whether we are talking about temporary tattoos or champagne to celebrate your closing night, allow yourself to pack something just for fun.

8. Big sheets of paper and sticky notes. There is something magical here. It is how I mapped out my book. It is how I named big goals last year around starting international retreats. It just strangely works. Something about the impermanence and playfulness of the sticky notes seems to make it easier to dream. Once they are on paper you can move them around, try out different groupings. Put them in different orders. Play. I also find this the most helpful way to start to create an annual calendar which is based not on trying to do everything at once but rather on setting yourself up for one big goal a season. (I talk more about creating a schedule and calendar you love in The Flourish Formula.)
9. And Lastly – Delicious Food!

Ideally I like to stay in places with kitchens. Even if going to a hotel I stop at a local grocery shortly before I arrive (a natural one if I can find it) and pick up snacks or meals for the retreat. This itself is really fun as I let myself put things in the cart that aren’t part of my regular grocery list. 

When you are shopping, think nourishing, easy superfoods.

For breakfast and lunch I opt for easy to prepare things and might make a warm meal for dinner or go out. Some examples for breakfast: eggs to boil, whole fat yogurt and GF granola, blueberries or other easy fruit in season. (Papaya is my current breakfast favorite.)

Easy lunch/dinner/snack options: Sushi (for the first night), prepared kale salad, snap peas or other easy veg, guacamole or avocado with Gluten Free crackers (good brain food). Sometimes I also feel the urge to bake while on retreat, like making homemade bread or pizza, so if you enjoy cooking don’t be afraid to enjoy some slow food. It is good for the soul!

I share more behind the scenes shots from our travel adventures like these over on my Facebook page and on Instagram and I would love to connect with you there! And while you are there I hope you will like/follow me so we can stay in touch. xo
Courtney Pinkerton, M.Div & M.PP, is a holistic life coach and the founder of Bird in Hand Coaching. She holds dual master’s degrees from Harvard Divinity School and Harvard Kennedy School and is the author of The Flourish Formula: An Overachiever’s Guide to Slowing Down & Accomplishing More and creator of the 8-Step Flourish Coaching Program. Courtney helps busy women unlock their greatest gifts and thrive in their personal lives. In the summer of 2017 she followed a long time dream and moved to Nicaragua with her husband Richard Amory (they met in Nicaragua in the Peace Corps) and their three children where together they are exploring volcanic islands, colonial cities and area beaches. They have made their home in Granada where they are being tutored by their neighbors in the art of slowing down and living more.


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