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A Day By The Billabong

Last week, I was lucky enough to be invited to Billabong Retreat for a few days for a little reset. Just one hour from the city, Billabong is an incredibly convenient escape for a day or two or even one week. Fortunately, I was there for the meditation program, which really allowed me to tap back into my practice, as I have let it slide recently (I go in and out of phases, yoga is my constant :)).

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I thought it would be a good idea to share what a typical day was like, as I have to say, my expectations were exceeded. It was better than the impression I received from the website – it was pure and blissful and very authentic. The staff there have a genuine enthusiasm not only for health and reconnecting with yourself but for ensuring you have the best experience possible. So let me share with you a day by the Billabong…

Morning:

Optional yoga was at 7am so I would wake up around 6:15am to the sounds of nature outside my balcony and natural light streaming through (the best way to wake up, don’t you think?). We had relaxing music available in the rooms so I would put that on, make a lemon and ginger tea and slowly get ready. No reception made checking my phone impossible, another small luxury.

Class would run from 7-8:00am in the morning, and was a more invigorating flow than the evening, but still available to all-levels and very relaxing. The studio is spacious, light-filled and gorgeous! All mats and yoga equipment were there and set up for you. Basia was a beautiful teacher and I loved the way she intertwined philosophy into our practice.

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Breakfast was straight after at 8am, and was always gluten-free and vegetarian. I of course got the vegan option, which wasn’t hard to do – basically no eggs and avoid the yoghurt. Think coconut milk chia puddings with lemon curd and berries, buckwheat pancakes, almond milk oatmeal with berry coulis and granola and/or roast vegetables.

Breakfast by the billabong with @nastasiamarj Vegan pancakes & lemon mousse chia puddings @billabongretreat @straightup_pr

Next, there was a meditation class at 9am for one hour. We were taught different methods of meditation throughout the few days, and got to try 2-3 each class.

After this, it was time to hit the pool – which was actually a magnesium pool!! Magnesium is great for achy muscles and joints, skin conditions and a general feeling of relaxation. It was very warm when I was there so reading by the pool and taking a few dips was just what I needed.

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Another day I decided to explore, and so I went on a 1.5-2 hour walk around the area. I saw some amazing properties, endless green fields, gorgeous trees and wildlife. Beautiful birds and farm animals and even a goanna up a tree which was the size of me!

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Afternoon:

Lunch time was 12:30pm and was again, another incredibly tasty delight. Many of the guests were not vegetarian and kept gushing about how yummy the food was. I feel like it definitely motivated them to eat healthier and try more meatless meals. This made me so happy! A bunch of different salads such as an avocado Greek salad, beetroot quinoa salad, roast pumpkin with black sesame were paired with dairy-free sauces like tahini, pesto or vegan aioli and often there was a frittata to accompany. I was made a special eggless frittata or loaf to replace, which was absolutely divine! I left very satisfied! There was also live music (guitar and vocals) on one of the days too.

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You can book spa and beauty treatments at Billabong, so I had a 60 minute massage, which was heavenly. I felt a little floaty after!

Afterward, it was back to my book or a wander around the Billabong. There is a gorgeous reading and sitting lounge area if you don’t want to read by the pool.

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They provide afternoon tea too, which was either a raw brownie or some bliss balls!!

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I grabbed one and would then head back to my room to run a bath in the outdoor tub on my balcony (I had the deluxe cabin). It was very private and overlooked the billabong. I stayed in here for over an hour reading with a tea. Bliss!

It's about to go down! Epsom salts, tea, book, outdoor tub with a treetop view..... Tranquil sound effects (ie birds) & more of the view on my Insta-story!! @billabongretreat

Evening:

There was an afternoon yoga class from 3:30-5pm…. A very gentle practice that really wound you down and prepared you for a quiet evening. People would then go shower or continue reading, or even colour-in a mandala (a form of meditation we were taught) before dinnertime at 6pm.

Dinner was either similar to lunch – a plethora of colourful salads and vegetables with a baked loaf – or it was a delicious vegetable curry and dahl dish. And don’t worry, they do provide desert! I had an incredible apple crumble one night and avocado mousse the other 🙂

All the colours of the rainbow - gluten-free, refined sugar-free, dairy-free, vegan .... @billabongretreat you get me ☺️ ps you gotta check out at my Insta story I saw a gigantic goanna today!!!!!!!

After this, there was a final meditation class for the day, before we would head back to our rooms and get ready for bed. I brought my dry brush with me, and some natural beauty products to have a little spa session of my own. Then, I would curl up in bed, read and fall asleep (very easily) to the frogs. You can imagine after a day like that, that sleep was very peaceful! It was so nice to get to sleep a little earlier than usual – no TV, internet, and social distractions – and I made a commitment to myself to carry this through when I came home!

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Thank you Billabong Retreat for a most restful, tasty, and rejuvenating experience! I will definitely be back. I highly recommend this spot for a quick getaway if you live in Sydney, or an extended stay if you are from afar. As I said, it is extremely authentic and has been curated with health, education and self-love in mind. There were people from all walks of life there and they all left talking about when they would be booking back in. A good sign!

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My Own Bali Self-Retreat

I don’t believe you have to go to an expensive health retreat to have a healthy experience in Bali. I believe that wherever we go – Bali, Bowral or Bermuda – we can curate our own health holiday.

While I was booking my trip I toyed with the idea of booking a fancy retreat for at least some of the trip. My partner and I do this trade off where he get’s to do what he wants for half the trip (it’s a no brainer – chase waves and surf all day) and I get to own the other half (duh, yoga). So I knew that I had a get-out-of-jail-free card to pick a hotel of my choosing. But the truth is, I ended up finding so many gorgeous boutique hotels that either offered daily yoga themselves or were close enough to a studio that did. What’s more, they were much more affordable, just as luxurious and most even had a couple of healthy items on the menu. But I knew from my previous time in Bali that there is absolutely no need to worry about where will I find gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free, vegan, healthy food, because Bali, especially where we were going, fully caters to this crowd.

So I booked into the places that appealed to me, knowing full well that I could create my own cleanse/detox/retreat with all the healthy food and yoga Bali has to offer and a few of my own guidelines to follow. I’m not going to pretend that the below “rules” were all planned out from the beginning – as a health coach and nutritionist-in-training, I guess these sort of came naturally to me as I went. By day 4, as I was sipping my daily coconut poolside, I had an idea that I was indeed creating my own wellness escape and that perhaps some of you who have lusted over a luxurious health retreat might benefit from me sharing my experience with you. So that is all this is – me guiding you on your own no-guilt getaway. All you need to do is pick a destination, do a bit of research on cafes and yoga spots (or gyms, pilates, whatever you are into), and commit to a clean holiday experience. It might seem a bit crazy, planning a trip without planning to drink, party and over-indulge on ice cream, but to be honest it really is what a vacation should be about – relaxing and recharging.

I’d prefer to come home from a holiday with a clear mind, fresh body and rejuvenated spirit so I can settle right back into the swing of things.

The below tips are specific to Bali but there is no reason they can’t be tweaked to a destination of your choice. So without further ado, here is my own Bali self-retreat that I hope can help you on your next trip to paradise!

Daily yoga most hotels offer morning yoga for around $10 but if not, a hotel or studio nearby will.

Incidental cardio walking around sight seeing, beach walks, not having a car, snorkeling, swimming etc. will all have you leading a much more active lifestyle then you probably do at home. I was making a conscious effort, where there was a long pool to swim 20-40 laps every other day – a luxury I don’t often get at home.

Ocean swims most days – if you can squeeze it into the schedule, jump into the ocean or pool. There is something so cleansing about this. It is especially nice after your morning yoga.

Vitamin D – 15 minutes of sun exposure each side (laying down) before creaming up with sunscreen and/or sitting under an umbrella. This might sound controversial considering “slip, slop, slap” has been ingrained in us here in Australia, but the research supports this. Sunscreen nullifies your bodies ability to receive adequate amounts of Vit D. Watch this video here for more if you are interested/concerned.

A coconut a day – sometimes 2! You obviously don’t have to if coconut is not your jam but other then the well-renown health benefits (hydrating, alkalizing, rich in potassium, magnesium, antioxidants, cytokinins → anti-aging, anti-cancer effects) It helps you feel like you are on vacay (in case you forgot), replaces the need for a pool-time cocktail and makes a delicious mid-morning healthy snack. Enjoy the young coconut flesh too!

Vegan diet – I always subscribe to a vegan diet when I travel through Asia, and I can honestly say I have never been sick to date. No Bali belly… ever (I’ve been 5 times). This might scare some of you or sound drastic but I truly believe a break from heavier foods such as meat can do your digestion wonders. There is a reason that most health retreats cater this way. It gives your digestion a well-deserved break, alkalises the body, cuts out a lot of processed sh*t and encourages you to eat more plants/raw food. Obviously don’t binge on hot chips and soy milkshakes, but open your mind up to the endless possibilities of plant-based cuisine, try those quirky cafes and most importantly embrace wholefoods.

Find your nearest health cafes – Bali is full of them! My 3 x a day looked something like… B: smoothie bowl or fruit salad with nuts and granola, L: quinoa or red rice salad with hummus, avocado & seeds or jackfruit tacos (!!!), D: Coconut curry with tempeh and extra veggies with a green/fruity juice. Snacks = coconut + flesh and maybe some local fresh fruit. Salaks are a favourite! Oh, and we would often make room for a raw, refined-sugar-free dessert. This is the kind of holiday indulgence I am all about!

10 glasses+ of FILTERED water – again, no Bali belly here please! Stick to filtered water. Obviously so important to stay hydrated in hot climates.

No alcohol – fruit juice, smoothies and coconuts for me!

8-10 hours sleep each night – I slept like a baby whilst I was away. It wasn’t that we were wasting our days sleeping in, but rather, getting to sleep earlier, especially without TV or computers keeping us up and messing with our sleep cycle. 9pm bedtime 6-7am rise!

Reading, writing, minimal social media use each day – do the things that better you not that waste time, make you feel insecure and distract you from the good all around you.

Massages and body scrubs – take relaxation to the next level and treat yourself to one, two, or twelve massages and other beauty treatments to really zen out and indulge your body (it’s not always about our tastebuds). They can be as little as $20 for one hour in Bali, so enjoy it whilst you can!

Meditate – this is one of those things we “just don’t have time for” in our everyday lives, so why not make the commitment to making the time for it now that you are on vacation. If you are new to it, download an app (I like insight timer – they have short and longer guided ones too), commit to 5-15 minutes and do it whenever you can. Feel the benefits and see if it’s something you want to bring in to your life back home.

And don’t forget to bring some of these essentials…

  • Dry Brush
  • Hair serum – anti-frizz, hydrating
  • Face mask – I like this cacao banana one.
  • Hydrating face mist – to freshen up mid-day. I’ve been using this one.
  • Books – lots! Some I brought with me were Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Big Magic”, Michael Pollan’s “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and Gabrielle Bernstein’s “Spirit Junkie”.
  • Diary / Scrap book
  • Earphones – for those long beach walks
  • Goggles – in case you want to do laps
  • Lavender oil – to induce calm/sleep
  • Water bottle – refill and carry with you
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