For Zoe Watson, 39 a car accident and a chance meeting on a plane – sparked a light-bulb moment that inspired her to open one of Bali most successful retreats designed for solo female travellers
You might not think that a little bit of whiplash from a car crash is a big deal. And when I was in a car accident, a few years ago, I didn’t think so, either. But, as it turns out, that one moment — and the chronic pain that followed — would turn my world upside down. Back then, I had my dream job as a manager at the Australian Traffic Network. I was in charge of opening the Sydney office, enjoyed the work and loved my colleagues. But within a few months of my accident, I was dealing with chronic migraines, pain and fatigue. Initially, I put it down to stress but, when it didn’t improve, I saw a doctor who diagnosed me with fibromyalgia. Something had to give. I asked my boss for some time out to recuperate, and he gave me a weeks leave. I really needed to get away, so I booked myself on a flight to Bali.
I stayed on Lembongan Island — a surfing island off the beaten track. It was less populated than some of the other islands, which is exactly what I was after. I didn’t want to be in a family-oriented resort or surrounded by honeymooners. I just needed space to rest and recuperate.
“I handed in my notice at work, found a location in three days, moved to Bali —and haven’t looked back ever since”
On the plane on the way home, I met a woman in her 40s, who’d also been holidaying alone. We started talking about the lack of places for women who want to feel comfortable travelling solo, but didn’t necessarily want to stay somewhere teeming with couples, or children, or go to a yoga or meditation retreat. The truth is, even when we’re on holidays, we’re almost always trying to better ourselves via exercise or a healthier diet — not just purely taking time out. It was on that plane trip I had my big ‘A-ha’ moment. I always knew I would start my own business one day and here was a huge need that no-one seemed to be doing anything about. So I decided to move to Bali for a year and see if I could create a place for women where there’s no pressure — just the freedom to take time out. I figured if I couldn’t make it work, at least I’d learn something and have a great 12 months.
Within two weeks of arriving back home, I’d written my business and marketing plan, started doing my research and working on my website (blisssanctuaryforwomen.com). The next month, I handed in my notice at work, went to Bali to find a location (which I did, in three days), bought all the furniture I needed to deck out the villa and went from there. I moved to Bali in April 2011, and my first guest arrived on May 1.
Since opening the Bliss Sanctuary doors, I’ve had nothing but positive feedback. I’ve had women tell me it was the best holiday they’d ever had. Bliss was one of the 2012 certificate of excellence winners on TripAdvisor and has been consistently booked since my fourth month of trading.
Some women write on their booking forms, before they arrive, that they want to do yoga every day, but when we sit down with them, it’s a different story. So many women are just really tired and all they need is rest. Many of them sleep a lot for the first couple of days and just have their massages. To be honest, it can be quite a transformative experience.
Most of the women who come to Bliss Sanctuary are in their 40s. They often have kids and families at home, yet they’re taking time out themselves. They’ve got to a point where they’re still giving a lot to all the people in their lives, but have started seeking more balance. A lot of women come to celebrate birthdays or to recuperate after going through big life changes, ranging from a cancer diagnosis to divorce. I’ve noticed the really significant change that happens in our 40s is that we finally give ourselves permission to act on the things that we need for our mind, body and soul.
For me, the definition of bliss is deep rest and relaxation — something I never had in my life before I moved to Bali. I always just assumed that by the time I was 30 I’d be married with kids. The truth is that the life I have now could not be more different to the one I’d imagined. I’m still single — which I didn’t expect to be the case — and after all the injuries and illness I’ve had, I decided not to have children. I’ve worked a lot on my self-acceptance over the years and now that I’m about to turn 40, I feel I’m finally there. It’s liberating to reach this stage, where we don’t have to make excuses anymore. We can just embrace life and enjoy the choices we have ahead of us.
Since moving to Bali I’ve learnt a lot about my own energy levels. It became obvious to me that I was doing too much and that I really needed to give myself the same level of care as I give my guests. I’ve certainly found a lot more balance in my life. And if there’s one lesson I’ve fully embraced? It’s that we often teach the things we need to learn the most.
Bliss Sanctuary for Women – a unique retreat style relaxation vacation for Women travelling on their own, combining a spa vacation, yoga retreat and wellness holiday for body, mind and soul
Designed to meet all your needs, we create a carefree atmosphere that you can enjoy without feeling the travellers pressures of organization, isolation, or fear of the unknown. This is ‘eat pray love’ style self nurturing but all in one week on the beautiful island of Bali. You can see all of our Bali retreat packages here.