Just a few weeks ago I left Denver on a snowy "spring" morning to travel to California for a small blogger retreat. The plane literally had to be de-iced. It was mid-April. Colorado weather can be a bit wacky, but our spring started in February this year, so I'm not complaining. I was lucky enough to be making the trek with my good friend Lauren, who also happens to be a Denver blogger.
After two hours in the air, Lauren and I were welcomed by palm trees and sunshine in LA. It felt a bit surreal.
(A mix of iPhone and dSLR images are mixed throughout this post.)
I think my jaw remained open the first hour we were there, but most likely for the entire 2 1/2 days of our stay. There were no roller coasters or elephant ears (my childhood fav) but there was basically everything else. I instantly became the most calm version of myself and tried to breathe it all in, while drinking the complimentary champagne we received at check-in and riding on a golf cart up to our room.
Was this seriously where we were staying? I could not have felt more grateful, lucky, or appreciative for this opportunity. What a dream.
Terranea arranged for us to stay in two of their villas that contained everything we needed and then some. We were planning on cooking and holding our group discussions in the rooms, so they worked out perfectly for what we needed. I drooled over the professional series Viking appliances. I've never stayed in a more luxurious place. I still can't stop thinking about the incredibly comfortable bed and sleeping with the cool ocean breeze coming through the sliding doors.
group photo credit: Jay Roberts Photography
It was my brilliant friend Amelia, who started this idea for a blogger retreat and who put it into action and planned the entire thing. She thought of every tiny detail and worked with a few fabulous companies to make sure the retreat was perfect. And it was.
Our first night started with a coursed dinner and wine pairings at one of Terranea's seven restaurants, mar'sel. We were able to meet and talk to the head chef and hear him speak with such enthusiasm about the freshness of ingredients he used to prepare our meals. They were extremely accommodating and went above and beyond to prepare gluten-free and vegetarian options for each course.
The next morning started with an oceanfront, sunrise spin class. I'd never actually taken a spin class before that morning and it kicked my butt. The only thing that kept me going was staring out into the ocean and watching the sun start to peak up over the horizon.
After cleaning up from the killer spin class, we all made breakfast together in the villa. I loved this aspect of the trip. We huddled together in the kitchen, sipping coffee + scoping out the spread that Stonyfield and Nature's Path sent our way. I made two separate breakfast bowls each morning. One bowl was filled with Greek yogurt and piled high with toppings, and the other was filled with oatmeal and nut butter, of course.
We had a full agenda planned for the day, with group discussions on a variety of topics we deal with as bloggers and freelancers. We were paired off with another blogger prior to coming to the retreat and assigned topics. The topics ranged from things like, "social media and time management," to, "how to grow your following." Each topic was extremely relevant and everyone who presented had smart and useful ideas.
I learned an incredible amount of new-to-me things but at the same time couldn't help but feel a bit overwhelmed. I'm not a social media sleuth, I barely know what SEO means, I am not the best at scheduling things ahead, and accounting has been known to send me into a panic.
But through the sessions I learned something more valuable than SEO or the best way to use Twitter + Facebook. I learned that it's okay to not know how to do everything. That may sound silly or like it should be obvious, but it was reassuring to hear others say that we all have our strengths and weaknesses. We all have different focuses for our careers, while they may all center around or stem from blogging. There were specific things we each felt experienced in and sharing that knowledge was the whole point of the trip.
We had a break for lunch that was prepared for us in the villa with many items from the gardens on site. We also got to sample fresh honey from the bees that are cared for on the property. Above you'll see a very fresh gazpacho that Lauren helped the chef whip up. Below you'll find the meal I want to eat every day of my life.
The perfectly creamy risotto had fresh herbs and strands of lemon zest running through it. The purple mash was actually made from cauliflower. I tried to recreate it home this week, which resulted in a major fail. The carrots were perfectly tender and the beans tasted like they had been picked that day.
We continued with the sessions after lunch, had a few hours for free time, and then headed to Nelson's for sunset cocktails and more blog talk.
Dinner that night was casual. We created a huge salad buffet in our villa with everything you can imagine, including avocados so ripe they melt in your mouth.
The following morning (also the day we were leaving) started with a 6am walk. There are running and walking paths that stretch for miles and weave all around the property. This was such a unique feature I've never seen at a hotel or resort before. The trails were so well disguised by the natural landscape you almost didn't even notice they were there.
After another double breakfast bowl morning, we continued with the last few sessions before people started to depart. My favorite of which was the "mastermind session," where we each had one minute to describe a problem we're dealing with. Then, each person had a few minutes to offer their advice on your question/problem. This really helped me realize where my time is best spent and how to be okay with not knowing or doing it all. After hearing advice and gaining support from these seven other brilliant women, it finally clicked for me.
After the sessions wrapped up I tried to savor the last few hours of ocean air.
Disclosure: An enormous thank you to Terranea Resort for so generously providing us with the villas we stayed in, more than enough wine, the spin class, and outstanding food. An equally large thank you to Stonyfield and Nature's Path for paying for our travel and stocking our kitchen with delicious breakfast items during our stay. This post was not sponsored. All opinions are my own. I appreciate your continued support!
And the biggest thank you of all to Amelia, for planning this unforgettable retreat!