Oh, hey there! Have you seen part one of my Tulum Retreat Recap? Today we’re back with part two, wrapping up a retreat I poured my heart and soul into when I tried to make a home base in Mexico last year (a journey you’ll read about someday!)
Day three of our retreat took us where mermaids belong – the beach. Although we originally reserved this day for the monthly Daydream Aerial Arts Festival that my friend Colleen of Lucid Aerial Arts developed, the omicron outbreak had other plans. Still, Colleen was kind enough to organize a private event for our group, which wasn’t a bad plan B!
So during a full day of workshops, we found ourselves in silk hammocks with Colleen, handstands with Shiney, and fire bubbles (the perfect mermaid band!) with Alex from Tulum Fire. When they weren’t working, everyone bounced between the chic beach boutiques of Tulum, the ocean, and Raw Love, my favorite waterfront smoothie spot.
It took place at Lucid Aerial Art’s beach location in Ahau, where I spent countless hours learning from Colleen while being inspired by the sound of waves from the studio balcony. I was overjoyed to share it with our entire crew.
And, of course, we brought that High Flying energy with us, from stilt heels picking it up and wearing it all over to double hijinks that had me clipping every corner and cheering from the sidelines in full Dance Mom mode.
We ended the day with the fire bells workshop, and I’ll tell you right away – I had no idea what a fire bells workshop was and asked shockingly few questions. I just knew mermaids in the sky had to do something.
Normally I’m what some would call a “control freak” – I just don’t know where people get these ridiculous ideas! — while obsessively micromanaging every ten minutes when planning my retreats. But this reminded me that sometimes it’s worth trusting the process and my people. We laughed, screamed, and cried as Alex led us through fire meditations and faced our fears. (Okay, maybe not everyone was scared, but let’s just say I was terrified enough of everyone. Fire deserves our respect, guys!)
By the way, can we talk about how Daniella understood the packing job with that fire bikini?
It was quite a euphoric high note to end the day on. But there was more to come.
After a magical transformation thanks to Ahau’s beautiful outdoor showers, we headed to Casa Banana, one of Tulum Beach’s OG restaurant choices. This was a new place for me, and I was so excited! Even our wonderful driver Jorge, a Tulumer born and bred, had mentioned it as one of his favorite picks for a great night out.
I could see why everyone was raving about it! In our last circle, this meal was consistently ranked as a favorite.
Most of Tulum’s beachfront restaurants have incredible designs and an ethereal atmosphere. Many can boast of great and creative small plates and cocktails – however, few can claim warm and welcoming service. Casa Banana is one of them!
The next morning we started our day again at Holistika’s restaurant, Tierra. An open-air health food restaurant in the jungle was a welcome daily treat for all of us to escape the harsh February winters!
And again, we made our way to Holistika’s air studio. This is a bit of behind-the-scenes sharing, but when I started planning retreats, I had no idea that transportation would often be the puzzle piece that would lead me to meditate. So it’s hard to express my joy at how much this retreat occurred here in Holistika or within walking distance.
We had a fairly mixed group on this trip. For this airside workshop, instead of dividing it into beginners and advanced like we had the previous class, Brenna broke everyone into little pods (this word still goes for everyone, post-COVID ?!) with some members at each level.
I love the air community, so m, andel like this reminds me why it is so special and supportive – sharing knowledge and encouragement and this infectious Love of exercise and play! It was a good day.
Then it was time for an afternoon adventure. I was offered two options for lunch: one, my favorite plastic stool-type taco joint, or another cute Tuluminati-style cafe worthy of an Instagram feed. While everyone was free to do their own thing, the group was unanimous: tacos cerdos, here we come.
Taqueria Honorio is no longer a hidden gem; the line often gets long at lunchtime. Luckily Jorge knew a man (he knew every man!), and we immediately got to work and ordered a storm. My go-to? A cochinita gringa – a bit like a quesadilla – with a jugo de melón. Heavens, for under USD 5.
After some free time for last-minute shopping around Tulum Pueblo, we returned to the jungle. This time, a very exclusive corner of it – an afternoon in a private slice of paradise in the Sian Kaʼan Biosphere Reserve, a well-deserved UNESCO World Heritage Site.
What I thought would be a fun way to end an often-not-fun year was much more important. I spent December 31, 2020, with SUP Yoga Tulum. The reserve had healing energy, and the teacher, Mila, had the calm, radiant aura I craved.
When I started planning Brenna and my retreat in Mexico, I knew this would be part of it. There’s even an aerial view of the private palapa – I couldn’t think of a more magical mermaid aviation playground to splash the day away in.
And it was! After an incredibly hospitable welcome from SUP Tulum owner Nancy, we began with a wonderful class with Mila, whom I specifically requested because she is not only a wonderful bilingual yoga teacher but an aerialist herself.
I loved swimming with my underwater camera, flying my drone, and capturing this magical moment from every angle.
And, of course, jump on Brenna’s board occasionally for a doubles game!
In the traditional Mayan language, this place meant “origin of the sky” or “a place where heaven begins,” With the sun hanging low on the mangrove horizon, I could understand why it was considered sacred.
After class ended, everyone hunted for their bliss – some paddling around the lagoon, others playing on the silk, some mermaid with my Mahina mermaid fins, some waved and chatted.
We stayed until the sun went down, and as it did, I had one of those special retreat moments where I looked around and saw everyone happy and felt overwhelmed with my own gratitude and satisfaction.
This, here, was my Mexico moment of bliss.
And then I blinked, and it was the last full day of the retreat.
As always, we kicked off the day with an aerial photo shoot. And in true Tulum style, we did it in a cenote! As I told our crew on the way there, these photo shoots celebrate not what we looked like on any given day but the incredible things our bodies have done for us throughout the journey.
Personally, this trip made sense after I had just healed from my shoulder injury to start airing again in January. After being grounded for six months, it brought me incredible joy to rebuild my strength, go back to basics and learn from the best! I’ve never felt that so sincerely as I do to this day, so grateful that eight months after my shoulder-crushing fall, I could easily lift myself into a lyra.
We were so lucky that this photo (and video!) shoot was run by Colleen – a great rigger who set up a lyra and silk in a beautiful cenote coached our girls through beautiful poses, and made some magic with her team.
And I have to say, no one brings more sass, energy, or glitz to a photo shoot than a crew from High Flying Retreats. I can’t think of a more fun, sweaty way to spend a morning running through the jungle and being each other’s hype queens.
I had carefully chosen Burrito Amor as our post-shoot lunch spot, thanks to their incredible burritos, namesake bowls, and a range of fresh juice cocktails perfect for daytime drinking! A drink would be well deserved after such an adventure, am I wrong? (Hypothetical question.)
Back at Holistika, it was time for the retreat ritual I can’t wait to get done – back-to-the-US COVID testing! Once that was settled, it was time to really celebrate.
This crew sure cleans up (and colors up!) nicely, doesn’t it?
Brenna and I are both super fans of Cirque du Soleil, so we had no choice but to go to Joya, Cirque’s first and only show in Mexico! The theater is actually in Playa del Carmen, but it was well worth the drive – and we had drinks before the party bus, of course. (Unfortunately, our attempts to rent a real party bus with a pole and all out of Cancun were fruitless.)
We also had Colleen and Carmen, our local air and mermaid instructors, on the ride. This retreat wouldn’t have been the same without them!
I’ve been lucky enough to attend a few Cirque shows, and considering the full experience, this one was great. The theater itself is a masterpiece; it feels like walking into a live-action Avatar as soon as you enter the complex.
We had tapas and a half bottle of champagne per person, which was super nice, and the food was nice and whimsical to go along with the show; think of a small yogurt appetizer with bobs in it and an edible waffle spoon!
I was also thrilled that the show felt from the region, like an act designed to mimic the feeling of descending into the beam of light from a cenote.
And, of course, I clapped and, to Brenna’s amusement (blame the champagne), tears at seeing these amazing artists perfecting so many of the crafts we tried on that trip – acro, silk, and more!
We had the most fun dressing up in the classic High Flying style, so we looked pretty sharp for the street tacos and mojitos. We stopped for one on the way home.
Brenna, I, and a couple of hardcore retreaters danced the night away for several hours outside, which was appropriate given our early departure the next day. But isn’t that what it’s all about sometimes?
At the end of 2020, I went to Mexico totally broken, terrified my career would end, confused about the breakup of my relationship, deep in grief – just really lost. I can’t say Mexico solved those problems, but it did provide a soft spot to land and try to sort it out.
I did what I do there to heal – I moved my body, focused my mind, and placed myself next to nature and good people. I plunged into retreat research in the only country that, at the time, felt like a safe bet to try and do business.
And I made this.
This was the first of many retreats in Mexico, I hope. (A second, focused on freediving and mermaids, has been in production for a long time.) It’s meaningful because it took that time of pain, confusion, and loss and allowed me to turn it into something beautiful — sade of sunshine, play, community, air, ocean, and magic. Something I could share.
And now I have to share it again with all of you.
Thank you for being part of the journey, up close or far.