There’s Always Time For You… and a Retreat / 3 Retreats to Try Now

by Oui We Contributor Sam Spahr

We have finally passed through the end of January, into month two of the year, however it’s not too late to take advantage of the New Year. In my opinion, it’s always a good time to start a different routine or to jolt “your” new year again (time is arbitrary and man-made my friends!)

Sam Spahr for Oui We

Feel like maybe you’ve already hit a rut in 2018 or can’t seem to ditch the stress you wanted to? Then sis, a wellness retreat could be on your next horizon. These rejuvenating getaways have been shapeshifting in recent years - to the point where you can find one to fit almost any aspect of your needs. Whether you’re game for an intense meditative experience or really need some pampering and digital detox, there is a retreat waiting for you. Two nights in the mountains, two weeks in the jungle, even a DIY a worry-free weekend with your ladies, the options are abundant. Dipping your toe into the wellness spring can be a little intimidating but there’s no need to be a yogi or total guru to tap into your self-care.

So what’s right for you?

Who hasn’t uttered “new year, new me” at least once (if even ironically). We instinctively know the best place to start is form the inside out - not just spiritually, but with our food and physical practices.

Sunrise Springs Spa Resort in Santa Fe, New Mexico reads like the most relaxing summer-camp-for-adults to exist. They boast several all-inclusive packages as well as à la carte options to completely customize your time there. Not to mention nearly perfect weather year round means you can be surrounded in the beautiful glow of the southwestern landscape (squeal)!

Sam Spahr for Oui We

A unique feature of this Santa Fe paradise is the culinary experience. With so many of us experiencing an enlightenment toward how we nourish our bodies, Sunset Springs boasts there own farm and opportunities to deepen your knowledge about food in every sense - think culinary classes, menu planning, sourcing your food, and social dinners.

Even more, their Sunrise Glow Cleanse package offers a deeply personal detoxifying retreat. With the help of a nutritionist and focused sessions, you’ll be guided toward your total health goals - mind, body, and spirit. You may also find yourself attracted to their art activities, hiking, or meditative spaces, but don’t skip over Puppy Play - yes, it’s what you think it is, excuse me, I’m still swooning…

This is it - me time. I set my space, settle down to meditate, and 45 seconds later I am mentally compiling my next to-do list or wondering if my fan has always been that loud. You too? Stay with me.

Shambhala Mountain Center of Red Feather Lakes, CO was made for people like us. We have the best intentions! I know! Luckily this mountain nestled retreat understands offering weekends workshops like Learn to Mediate or The Art of Being Human and longer immersive experiences for those who so desire. Shambhala seeks to help you look inward and truly supports your internal healing and growth.

Sam Spahr for Oui We

They have tapped the healing art of Qi Gong to help their visitors do just this. Qi Gong is gentle movement based meditation (yay! fellow wigglers unite!) It’s rooted in Chinese medicine and allows those who practice to reach a greater sense of self awareness as they connect to the meaning of Qi Gong, “life energy.” A series of coordinated poses, deep breathing, and intentional focus will move you toward true holistic balance.

And sometimes the calendar year shifts and nothing has changed. Be honest, I’ve done it - or more accurately I have done nothing to change my situation. It’s okay. Repeat. It is okay…

Force yourself to slow down. Take yourself out of your environment in every way. Come away to the jungle; you just need some R+R. The Haramara Retreat in Sayulita, Mexico provides the ultimate unplugged experience for anyone looking to completely disconnect from the norm and reconnect with the world. Electricity is found in the restaurant and yoga studios only, and yes cell service is limited, but take one look at the lush jungle around you, and I promise your digital woes will quickly be a thing of the past. Imagine waking up under a thatched roof open-air room with vibrant green views at almost every turn. Once you find the will to leave this dreamy space, you’ll find an spa menu to quench your relaxation needs. The spa is proud to source their products as locally and sustainably as possible using many traditional and botanical techniques from head to toe.

Sam Spahr for Oui We

Let’s not forget, Haramara is in Mexico, and what’s Mexico without a gorgeous beach. The resort provides a private beach for its visitors as well as a stunning infinity pool to keep the relaxed vibes a-flowing. And when the time calls for a little adventure, Haramara provides chances to go whale watching, hiking, surfing, and so much more. Just be sure to work in a yoga class at one of their open-air studios before you head on home totally rejuvenated.

Cant getaway at the moment? No need. DIY an amazing Wellness Weekend for you and your gals with out having to check out of town. See my tips here.


Sam Spahr is an artist-educator who gets her kicks sharing the magic of the arts with kids and adults alike. She has a penchant for ancient artworks and helping others find the connections between now and then. When not inside a studio or bookshop, you can find her paddling out somewhere with her hubs and pup. She loves experimenting in the kitchen, but loves eating even more, especially in new cities and cultures.

The Off Season is On: Head Here When Others Don’t and Absolutely Love It

by Oui We Contributor Sam Spahr

Beach in the summer, hit the slopes in winter, view foliage in fall, and peep those blooms in spring… whoa, whoa, whoa, find the brakes here! It’s true: every destination has it’s peak attraction or crowning season, but for every peak there’s a valley called the off season, you’re new best friend.

This is usually the time when prices drop just about everywhere from lodging to rentals, and sometimes even food. Yes, please! Not only will you score a deal, but this is an opportunity to have the place to yourself. Off season means low traffic and more time and space for you to explore wherever you are. See this as a chance to meet the locals and discover your destination through seasoned eyes. Those who live and work in these vacation hot spots have developed something that almost resembles a subculture of the place itself. I’ve found that when the season is low, and if you’re kind, they’ll share a piece of it with you. Plus, you’ve made a friend, and who doesn’t like spreading the love?

So, If you’re in the mood for destinations that have a sexy secret, then welcome to valley my friends. Check out these suggestions to get your off season going:

Put Your Best ‘Buds First (Tastebuds Y’all): Winter in Napa Valley, California


Napa Valley, Winter

Summer really draws the crowds in Napa, but if you can brave some rain and cooler temps then you will be oh-so rewarded! The rainy season means the grass truly is greener on this side. Just make sure you’re taking in the landscape from the tasting room of one of the many wineries. Upside? Being one of few visiting, you’ll receive the royal treatment garnering extra attention from the aficionados at the vineyard.

Relish in this moment; ask the questions you’ve always wanted answered about one of my personal favorite food groups. How often can you spend time learning about wonderfully talented people while scoring a peak into the rich world behind the booze? After all the indulging, make sure you’ve booked a place with a fireplace so you can cozy up next to the crackle. Retreat, relax, refill the glass.

Bonus: Get tickets to the annual Napa Valley Film Festival that takes place in November and treat yourself to some fine cinema, culinary demos, and you guessed it, even more wine tastings. You’ll get to view some amazing films in some truly unique venues (think an abbey and a farm).

Be One With Nature: Fall in Gulf Shores, Alabama

Gulf Shores, Alabama Fall

Go ahead, take a little stroll on a quiet beach and feel the breeze uninhibited by umbrellas and sun-seekers. Taste the salt in the air - get your fix quick though, because there is so much else to do! Step off the sand and you’ll find an outdoor wonderland. Barely minutes from the shore is Gulf State Park - which backs onto about 25 miles of paved trails to explore on bike or foot where you can spot dozens of critters in their natural home. Then, take in the wildlife from the lake where you can rent a kayak or paddle board. (Just try to stay on top of the water, chilly!) 

Osprey are large, beautiful frequent flyers in this area and are easy to spot while you float in the secluded and serene lakes. In case you haven’t seen enough animal friends, you can cruise with the local dolphin population or head over to Bon Secour Wildlife Refuge to learn about the different sea turtles who come to nest here even into the fall season. You can likely catch a nest hatchling during this time as well. *Cue adorable coos* When it’s finally time to take a break, lay your head in one of the lakeside cottages in Gulf State Park. You’ll feel worlds away from the sky grazing condos and miles of beachfront. 

Wanna Fly Away? Winter in Venice, Italy

Venice in Winter

There’s probably not a more authentic way to experience Venice than in the off season. Bring some rain boots, lots of layers, and a sense of humor because the city often experiences several floods they call aqua alta, high waterTraipse your way across constructed walkways or opt for floating transportation when the water rises, and remind yourself that for the city’s residents, this is just another day in the life. How many people can say they experienced Venice like a Venetian? Not many; when the crowds grow in the summer, the chance to truly take in the beauty, culture, and charm of its residents can be edged out by all the bustle that comes with moving bodies.

With no lines and little need for reservations, you’ll have to unique opportunity to be a bit more spontaneous and intimate with this ancient city. Allow the cold to push you into cafés and galleries you may have missed otherwise. Meet the local artists that keep the city afloat (no pun intended). Take a workshop or a class, and get creative in one of the most inspiring places in the world.

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The Runaway Spark

by Oui We contributor: Sam Spahr

There always comes a day when boredom and lack of inspiration strike. Yuck, I know. Crawling out from under the covers is getting harder. You swear someone switched your morning coffee for decaf. Every move you made today was carbon copy of yesterday, and don’t ya feel a little icky just thinking about it?

Me too! Plane, train, or automobile, near or far, sometimes you just gotta get out there and find where your little soul spark ran off to. And it happens to everyone. I promise you. Painter to paralegal, poet to plumber, we need inspiration to get through the day, but where are you heading to look for it?

This question prompted me to reach out to a friend about her experience with runaway sparks and efforts to search for them.

  Natalie in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada


Natalie in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada


Natalie Phillips @nattiephilphoto is a very much a modern woman (the kick-ass kind killlin’ it 7 days a week). No, really. Monday - Friday she’s an Admin Assistant at a local accounting firm and grows her business, Natalie Phillips Photography, on the weekends covering everything from weddings to lifestyle shoots.

Sam Spahr for Oui We: Natalie, working as much as you do, how do you know when your flame is fizzling? What’s your signal that it’s time to find a little inspiration to get through your jammed schedule?

Natalie: I can never pin point when the spark starts to disappear; I usually realize it after it’s gone. I get grumpy and feel tired, and that’s when I know it is time for a break. I think because I’m either at the office, on location, or turning out client galleries, I feel like I need a trip maybe more often than the the average person. It’s that feeling of being stuck in one place too long that can act as a signal for me.

Natalie Phillips | Banff


SS: Tending to that spark can be different for everyone, some need rest, or a relaxing place to tap back in while others need more excitement or adventure. What’s your inspiration style? What kind of things do you look for in your destinations?

NP: I look for a place that gives me a balance between rest/rejuvenation vs. adventure. The destination has to fulfill the deepest parts of my soul, and for me that means it also has to be aesthetically pleasing. In fact, I’ll often check Instagram to see photographs of the places I want to go to make sure they are going to strike me visually. That’s a huge part of the inspiration for me.

SS: It sounds like a place really has to work overtime for you! Where have you been that matched the qualities you describe?

Natalie Phillips | Banff
Natalie Phillips | Banff

NP: I’ve traveled a good bit in the last couple of years: Mexico, Costa Rica,  Europe, Canada and a couple of cross country road trips. But, I found Austria to be a favorite, and particularly Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada. I’ve been twice, so I guess it really does the job for me.

SS: What about Banff had you coming back for more?

NP: That place is absolutely timeless. It’s a never ending fountain of rejuvenation, of everything I need. Just standing in the grandness of the landscape can have you feeling like you’re on another planet. I could go there twice a year and still want more - it’s never enough.

SS: Well, I will certainly be adding it to my list. Natalie, thanks so much for this quick share! Before we go, something tells me you already know where you’re headed next.

NP: Yes! I’m hitting Mallorca, Spain in a few short months.

Time to burn out the “un” from the “inspired” neon sign in your soul? Let us know where you’ve gone to find that pesky little spark again.


all photos courtesy of Natalie Phillips

Sam Spahr is an artist-educator who gets her kicks sharing the magic of the arts with kids and adults alike. She has a penchant for ancient artworks and helping others find the connections between now and then. When not inside a studio or bookshop, you can find her paddling out somewhere with her hubs and pup. She loves experimenting in the kitchen, but loves eating even more, especially in new cities and cultures.