An Inside Look: Our Exotic Yoga Retreats Partnership


Exotic Yoga Retreats owners, Danielle, Gayle and Erika.


When Gayle Olson, Erika Honerkamp, and Danielle Brown started their Exotic Yoga Retreats partnership, they agreed to stay connected regularly through weekends that capture the essence of what Exotic Yoga Retreats is all about - wellness, active adventures, delicious food and wine and friendship.  Here’s an inside look at how we spent our time together at our May gathering this past weekend, written by Danielle, our host.

Friday evening

Time to meet up! We try to meet in different places for our partners weekends -- sometimes, it’s exploring a new location we want to add to our retreat portfolio, other times, one of us hosts. This time, we headed to Scottsdale, Arizona, for a weekend at my house.

We are all pretty constant travelers, in our personal and professional lives, and our weekends together usually begin with us arriving at the airport after traveling in from somewhere.  This time, Erika arrived from New York, I came in from San Francisco, and Gayle flew in from Sonoma, CA. Miraculously, we all arrived on time!

I knew that everyone would appreciate a relaxed evening to decompress from the week and get our creativity flowing.  Since May is so beautiful in Arizona, we headed to a restaurant with a terrace where we could enjoy a stunning sunset under the desert skies.  Cocktails in hand, we started our time together with a toast to our new partnership, to our amazing team and clients, and to all the adventures ahead.  In our celebrated Exotic Yoga Retreats tradition of appreciating the balance of health, connection and mindful abundance, we shared a bottle of wonderful wine with a delicious meal of fresh seafood and local vegetables.  We spent time enjoying each others’ company, catching up on life and looking forward to the year ahead—what we are excited about. We stayed up a bit too late, but that’s what happens when you don’t get enough time with your friends!

An Exotic Yoga Retreats tradition - toast the sunset!

An Exotic Yoga Retreats tradition - toast the sunset!

Saturday morning

What would an Exotic Yoga Retreats weekend be without some yoga?  We greeted the morning with a rejuvenating flow class taught by one of Danielle’s favorite local instructors, Julie Kaplan.  Julie guided the three of us, and a few of Danielle’s friends, in a special Mothers’ Day themed practice, ending the class with a beautiful poem that touched us all.  After enjoying coffee, smoothies and a delicious veggie and egg scramble, it was time to get down to business.  As our planner-in-chief, I create an agenda for our weekends in advance and send it to Gayle and Erika for their input.  The end product is a wide-ranging set of topics that we all play a part in leading.

We start our work with some real talk and an honest check-in.  Running a business isn’t easy, and let’s face it, creating a successful partnership takes work.  We make sure to take some dedicated time to check in... how is everyone feeling about how things are going?  What’s working? What’s not? Where do we need support? These topics aren’t always smiles and easy banter, but it’s key for any high-functioning team, and makes us better partners to one another - something we all take seriously.

After our check-in, we took turns updating one another on the work we lead for Exotic Yoga Retreats.  Erika, who does an amazing job leading our marketing with Nina, gave us an overview of some of the big projects we have going on: the launch of our new website, social media strategies, and plans for some exciting new promotions.  I work with our venues and lead operations with our registrar, Lauren. I walked Gayle and Erika through details on a few of our new 2020 yoga retreats previewing to clients next week.  And, I always lead a review of our financials, ensuring that our business is healthy and sound.  Gayle led a discussion about some big creative ideas she’s been exploring during her sabbatical, including some new trips she’s scouting, some exciting new ways for our clients to experience Exotic Yoga Retreats, and some ideas to ensure our communication is fresh and engaging.


Saturday afternoon & evening

A hard day of work should always be balanced with some R&R and downtime.  I always include breaks in the agenda for each of us to enjoy some time at leisure - just like we do on retreat.  Erika headed off to the pool to swim laps, Danielle curled up on the couch with a good book and Gayle enjoyed a dip in the hot tub and a refreshing nap.  We then took a long walk to get our energy flowing and to enjoy the beauty of the sunset desert skies.

Enjoying delicious, healthy food and good wine are a big part of many of our yoga holidays and retreats, and yes, an important part of our working weekends too!  We decided to stay in and teach Gayle how to make homemade pasta using an old recipe Danielle and Erika learned in a cooking class when they were roommates in Chicago, almost 20 years ago (wow, time flies!).  We got out the old-fashioned hand-crank pasta machine, opened a few special bottles of Italian wine, and got to work! After a magical evening of great food, wine, conversation and a solid day’s work, we all sank into a deep sleep.


Sunday morning

We try to pack in a LOT during our time together, so walking and talking is a great way to bring exercise and nature into our meeting time.  I wanted to share with Gayle and Erika the desert mountains in my backyard, so at 7:30 am we headed up into the hills for a challenging 4-mile hike, and added a few yoga stops to make “cactus arms” with the Saguaros lining our trails. We talked about the cool trips we want to scout for next year, the variety of yoga styles we would like to offer, how to continue building a great roster of Exotic Yoga Retreats teachers, and how to keep priorities in line over the next six months as we enter our busy summer season.

Back at the house, we were ready for a good brunch. I love to cook and don’t get to do it enough, so I treated Gayle and Erika to some of my house specialties—a local heirloom tomato and avocado salad (see the recipe and photo in the snapshot below!) and a butterscotch-banana tarte tatin (it’s all about the healthy balance, am I right?)  Over brunch we finished up our agenda, reviewed new decisions, next steps and who’s doing what. Communication is a huge part of a strong and healthy team, so we made plans to update and bring up to speed the rest of our EYR team during our weekly meetings.

Saying Goodbye

All good things must come to an end, and alas, this weekend did too.  We said goodbye feeling connected, energised, rejuvenated and inspired for the year ahead – and that we had walked our talk and lived well the spirit of our yoga retreats.

We hope you enjoyed a glimpse into our world and our work together!  We bring this joy and balance to all of our Exotic Yoga Retreats experiences.  If you love the outdoors, great food and wine, time to connect with yourself and your fellow travellers, R&R and yoga, come join us!  We would love to greet you somewhere exotic in the world sometime soon.

With love,

Danielle, Erika and Gayle

Our outstanding and totally exotic new destinations for 2020:

Danielle’s heirloom tomato salad recipe, just for you: