Exploring the World Together: A Mother and Daughter Open Their Worlds

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This March,  Danielle Brown,  Exotic Yoga Retreats co-owner, and her mom, Sandy Gumtow, went on a yoga safari retreat together to South Africa and Botswana.  Here’s the story of what they experienced and what they learned about themselves and one another, in their own words….


Danielle:  So, mom- what did you think when I reached out in January to invite you to join me in South Africa and Botswana on an Exotic Yoga Retreat?

Sandy:  Well, I was so excited!  At this stage of my life, time is very valuable, and I don’t get to spend as much time with you as I would like- we live far apart, and you are so busy.  So having the opportunity to travel together was something I was not going to say no to.

Danielle:  I know! We had so much fun traveling together a few years ago in Italy, and I learned something on that trip- we travel well together.   You are really easy going and always up for an adventure, even at the last minute! So I thought I would invite you to join me in Africa, which I knew would be a big deal for you.  What were your thoughts about coming to Africa?

Sandy:  I’ve always, always wanted to go to Africa; it’s been on my bucket list for a long time to do a safari!   I was less sure about the yoga- and what a yoga safari would be like. I’m pretty new to yoga, so I wasn’t sure how well I could keep up, and whether this trip would be something for a beginner yogi like me.

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Danielle:  I’m glad you said that, because that’s one of the things we hear a LOT from clients- I think people might sometimes assume you have to be really advanced at yoga, or we do yoga all day- and that can dissuade people from joining us.  So, what do you think about yoga now, after a 10 day yoga retreat?

Sandy:  Well, first, I’m happy that I could completely go at my own pace and there was absolutely no pressure to do more than I wanted to.  Nina, our instructor, was amazing and helped make adjustments and corrections, and took the time to explain things so I could learn.  There were so many levels and facets to yoga that I didn’t realize before this trip- the different methods of yoga, the poses and what they are good for, all of the correlations to life regarding love, inner self, discovery…. I absolutely loved the yoga, and that was not the part of the trip I was most excited about before I came. In fact, I’m going to be working more yoga and meditation into my daily life now that I’m back from retreat.   But I will admit, the best part of the retreat for me was the amazing wildlife. Would you agree?

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Danielle:  Yes, for sure!  In the past, I’ve gone on yoga retreats mostly for the yoga; that’s how I seek out and choose a retreat.  But the absolute highlight of this trip for me was the wildlife and the safari game drives. I don’t know if we got lucky or not, but having multiple lion sightings (5 lions in all!), seeing a leopard up close (almost too close!), seeing a mother rhino and her newborn, and coming upon a herd of 40 elephants– from the giant matriarch to the tiniest baby elephant– at their morning trip to the watering hole, exceeded all expectations I had about what we were going to see.   And of course, that doesn’t even cover the numerous giraffes, warthogs, zebras, antelopes, wildebeest, baboons, hyenas and ostriches we saw all week. There were too many amazing animals to count.

Sandy:  For me, I loved the evening sundowner drives.  The bush at night really comes alive. My favorite moment was when we came upon a bull elephant just as the sun was setting- he was directly in our path!  I have never been so close to such a giant, magnificent animal. He surprised us and we surprised him. And of course, the evening tradition of having a cocktail and watching the sun go down in the gorgeous African landscape is something I loved on this retreat.

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Danielle:  They call this time of the day the golden hour, and for good reason.  As the sun sets over the sandstone rock formations, it turns everything a beautiful shade of rose gold.   It was such a spectacular setting to gather at the end of the day around a handcrafted cocktail, enjoy the gorgeous sunset together, and watch the animals prepare for nighttime.  One other really great surprise for me on this retreat was the food and drink. A lot of our retreats are really centered on amazing culinary experiences, but I didn’t necessarily have high expectations going in to this retreat. But that ended up being one of the most special parts of the trip!

Sandy:  The food was just incredible.  And not just the food, but the entire culinary experience.  We enjoyed so many wonderful South African wines on this trip, and a few unique varietals that I loved.  And each meal was just gorgeous. We started each morning with a leisurely brunch outside on the grounds of our lodges, enjoying made-to-order eggs, fresh fruit and juice, and delicious local specialties, like vegetable pies.  In the afternoon we enjoyed a delicious high tea- a simple, tasty snack to nourish us after yoga. Dinner each evening was a three-course meal, full of surprises- one evening we enjoyed a delicious braai (a Botswanan barbeque), other nights we had dinner in a stunning outdoor setting with local entertainment.   The food we enjoyed on this trip was incredible.

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Danielle:  And I think that builds on what the entire experience was like at the beautiful safari lodges we stayed at.  They were so luxe, but so down-to-earth and approachable. The staff at each lodge treated us like family, and we really enjoyed getting to know them during our stay.  Speaking of people, what did you think about our retreat group?

Sandy: Our retreat group was amazing.  We were a group of women, ranging in age, yoga ability, cultural background and interests.  But we really bonded over the course of the trip. I came away with friends that I’ll have for life and so enjoyed meeting these women.  We had so many huge laughs and emotional moments over the course of our trip and I cherish that.

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Danielle:  So, did this trip change you?

Sandy:  Looking back on it, it really did.  I came to the trip a very beginner yogi and came away having learned a lot about the practice and art of yoga, and a greater appreciation for it.  I learned much more about the culture of South Africa and Botswana, and saw an amazing new part of the world that was brand new to me. It really did open my world, in many ways. What about you? 

Danielle:  Every yoga retreat I take changes me in some way. This particular trip was good for my soul, exactly what I needed as life has been so busy lately for me.   I came here in order to let go of some things- stress, anxiety, worry- and let in creativity, peace, and kindness. I rested and refreshed. I unplugged (isn’t that often one of the greatest luxuries).  And I came back a better version of myself. I am so glad you came away changed for the better as well! So, can we travel the world together again soon?

Sandy:  Absolutely!  It was so much fun to spend time with my daughter.  Now we need to find our next retreat to go on together in 2020.  Yoga retreats are the perfect way for us to stay connected and spend quality time together.

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Inspired by Danielle and Sandy’s story?  Bring your mother- or your daughter (or son, niece, nephew!)- on one of our retreats in 2019!  Danielle and Sandy’s pick for the next best retreat to do together is in TUSCANY! 

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