Serenity Retreat is in its fourth season. In 2012 our business grew 130%. Amazing. Read what our guests say.
I wanted a holiday company aimed at those on a self development or spiritual journey - I’d been on a couple of ‘singles’ holidays but never felt that I had that much in common with my fellow travellers. I’m a sociable type. I love being with people who have an interest in their self development or in spirituality, whatever form that might take.
I wanted to be able to offer people their own rooms even if they come with friends but without the single supplement - I’m of an age (I’m a 1967 baby) where I just don’t want to have to share accommodation on holiday. I was happy to do it in my 20s and 30s but these days I like to have my own space. I was getting massively fed up with single supplements pricing me out of everything I was interested in.
I wanted to give people the option to add the courses on separately - I might not necessarily want to be involved in any of the scheduled courses or go on the trips, but I think that if people are interested in self development then they’re my kind of people, so I’d like their company.
I wanted to find somewhere quiet but with easy access to a bit of life if people wanted it - I like relative peace and quiet these days. Gone are the days when loud bars and thumping bass were important to my holiday. However, as much as I want to get away from it all and have some tranquility I don't want to be completely isolated. I want to be able to get out and about easily.
I wanted a holiday where there’s potentially lots going on, but I don’t have to do any of it if I don’t want to and I pay only for what I use - I want to have choice. Whether that’s going on trips, taking a course, having a massage or hiring a car for the day. Whatever it might be I want to know that I can pick and choose and pay only for what I choose.
And of course, it had to be in Greece because I fell in love with Greece the first time I came on holiday here back in 1990.
And so Serenity Retreat was born……
Yes, it might sound a bit worthy and ‘mission statementy’ to have values but we reckon they’re quite useful. They show you what’s important to us and what makes us tick. We got all our definitions from the online Oxford English Dictionary.
noun: the quality of being honest and morally upright.
It’s first on the list for a good reason. Everything we do is motivated by the best of intentions and by being as honest as is possible in our dealings with everyone we come into contact with. You, our Greek partners, the bank, the VAT man. We realise that we sleep more easily when we practise honesty in all our affairs.
noun: very strong emotion, an intense enthusiasm for something
That’s us, that’s us!! We have massive enthusiasm for what we do. We love holidays, we love self development, we love being with people who are excited about change and growth and life. We can’t wait to meet you!
noun: the centre of interest or activity
We will keep the main thing the main thing. And the main thing for us is to be the best provider of holidays for those on a spiritual, self development or 12 step journey who are holidaying alone.
We’re not going to become a holiday company for couples or families (they’re already very well catered for).
We’re not Match.com or DatingDirect, we’re not Club 18-30. We will make every effort not to be something we’re not.
noun: the process of doing something to achieve an aim
The process of DOING something – not simply talking about it or thinking about it – DOING it. Action got the company where it is today. Action will get you were you need to be tomorrow. Action is good. (But not TOO much when you’re on holiday).
Here are some of the people involved in making your holiday happen:
Well, there’s me – I’m Kim. Hello!
This is me on the boat on the way over to Greek night on Meganissi island, 2011
I came up with the idea in 2003 (ish) and have been plugging away at it since. I live in Greece in the season, so am always on hand to help with questions, tell you the lovely places to eat and to advise which trips suit which guests. I also facilitate the meditation sessions and the stretching sessions. And I never, ever miss the welcome meal. Oh no. All that yummy food!
Bookings Co-ordinator- Jools
Word has spread about Serenity Retreat and as a consequence, my tiny little idea has been growing. I realised that I had to change the way I do things slightly... So I’m in the lovely position of being able to let someone else do some of the things I like least. I love talking to people, I love helping them choose courses and accommodation but the fiddly bits: making sure that everyone has given me their flight details, knows when their balance is due, gets all the bits and bobs before they travel etc. are not my forte. Obviously, these are Very Important Things to get right. So, I racked my brains for the
Person I Know Most Likely To Be Hyper Organised and came up with…….my sister! And here she is:
When it comes down to the nuts and bolts of booking, you’ll hear from Jools. I’m still going to be available to anyone with questions about specific accommodation or courses, it’s just that once the decisions have been made I shall pass you over to my lovely (most of the time) sister.
WEBSITE - Firemouth aka Andrew
Then there’s the website issue. It’s a tricky one – I had to have someone who will tell me when my ideas are actually insane rather than just a bit bonkers. They also had to be affordable, easy to get hold of and patient. But at the same time to be creative, listen to what I want and to not speak to me as though I’m 3. I have had previous dealings with such a character and so knew exactly who to get hold of: Andrew (or Android as he is sometimes affectionately known).
(Here he is, working hard)
We have conversations that go like this:
Me: I was thinking...... (silence from Andrew), what about if we did a, b and c. I think that would be fabulous. Do you think so?
To be clear, we’ve known each other for about 7 years now so he’s worked up to this level of honesty. I’m sure I remember him being MUCH more diplomatic when we first worked together....
ACCOUNTANT - Lucinda
Then there’s the business of accounts. It’s another potential minefield. I have no desire to break the law, I am happy to pay my taxes (really, I am) but I don’t want to pay A PENNY MORE than I need to. Once again my criteria were: affordability, integrity, bossiness (in a nice way – sometimes I need ‘reminding’) and a super huge sense of humour.
Lucinda is an accountant with a difference. The first one being that she’s not an accountant, she’s a massage therapist. Well, she’s a massage therapist MOSTLY. She was in the corporate sector (as an accountant) and decided that she’d had enough, jacked it in and did her massage training. She joined us for 2 months last year to give massage to our guests and she went down a storm. I cornered her toward the end of her stay and asked her if she still did any accountancy work. Hmm, she said, possibly…
And now she not only runs her massage business (check it out here those of you in the St Albans area) but she also provides affordable accountancy for other holistic and start-up businesses who maybe don’t understand the minefield that can be HMRC.
And she’s my pal.
THE PHONE TEAM - EasyAnswering, Helen and her team
If you call the landline, you’ll get to speak to one of the ladies from EasyAnswering. This was a no-brainer for me. I have been using Helen’s services (and her team) for over 2 years now. I have never felt as though I’m ‘just another client’ with Helen and so I knew that my guests wouldn’t feel like ‘just another caller’. They can tell you the general bits and pieces you might want to know as well as give you an idea of availability. And they make me laugh. When I asked them for a picture, Ann-marie said ‘Just so long as everyone knows that we look better in the flesh’ (said in a very lovely Scottish accent).
So, the picture’s on its way. They promised…
BACK ROOM OPS - Mum and Dad
Because I live in Greece for the summer, I have to have someone to make sure that all the post gets opened – bank statements, invoices, taxman communications and the like. So then I had to think of:
People I Trust Implicitly and Who Are Very Good at Filing. I came up with… My Mum and Dad!
Dad is the Filing King, and he gets quite bossy if I don't annotate things correctly. Mum has also taken it upon herself to scour all forms of media for the latest vegetarian recipes. I then get presented with them when I go home. On the whole they are AMAZING. Just don’t mention the chickpea patties.
None of this would be possible (Oscar acceptance speech looming) without my friends. In the UK and in Greece. They keep me sane, they support me, they cheer me up when I feel rubbish and they are 100% behind me. They are (drum roll): Janine, Louise, Jess, Kate, Erik, Jo, Emma and Colleen in the UK. And in Greece: Genie, Manolis, Melas, Aspasia, Pantazis, Spiros, Dimitris, Tassoula, Maria, Tassos, Costas, Eleni, Pipina, Panos, Thanassis, Gianoulla and Theologos.
That’s it. You’ve met everyone on this side. Hurry up and book so that we can meet you too…
10% of profit made by Serenity Retreat will go to the Hope Community Village
Hope is a set of 6 houses in a purpose built community in rurual Kerala near Vembanad Lake. It is designed to give destitute children brothers, sisters and importantly, a mother. Each house can accommodate 10 children and a 'mother'. At the moment there are 7/8 children per house. These children are referred from a number of different avenues and are assessed by the in house social workers before they join the community and their needs are monitored as they grow up. Hope also has a kindergarten which is open to the wider local community - the aim being to give these children a free lunch, uniform, transport to and from the village and, of course, an education.
It costs about £50,000 a year to keep Hope afloat (bare minimum). Remember that this means that 47 children get security, education, food, safety and family and an additional 100 children get access to kindergarten. The biggest bill goes on wages and Hope pays local people to do the following:
There is NO UK ADMIN to be paid.
We know that all the money that is raised for Hope is spent only at the village for the good of the village and the surrounding community. About one third of the money is raised from child sponsorship, the rest comes from fund raising. All the fund raising efforts and admin in the UK is done by volunteers in (mostly) Yorkshire. They are a great bunch of people who just keep making marmalade, holding quiz nights and selling Christmas cards and getting their friends on board. They receive no public grants.
We think they're fab.