Exposed to the hotel industry in his youth and with a lifelong passion for sports and adventure, it seems only natural that Andrew Barnard step in to run Sunswept Resorts, which manages BodyHoliday – an inclusive wellness resort on the pristine white sands of St. Lucia. He shares his stance on lifestyle changes and the importance of hitting the ‘reset’ button.
Was it your own passion that brought you to working in wellness travel, or were you following in your father’s footsteps? It was a bit of everything – I’d been involved in hotels and doing summer jobs since I was about 10 years old, and that was before we got into the wellness game. I’ve always been a keen sportsman and am involved in ultra-running, windsurfing, and kitesurfing. I have a love of the outdoors and exploration and adventure. I guess ultimately when you’re in a family business, you do what you love, so my dad and I built an experience around our passions and what we enjoy.
Do you need a ‘holiday’ from regular life in order to focus on wellness? It depends on how you see your work: as a chore, or as a passion and enjoyment. When I leave this place, I’m taking a break from the direct stress, but really, I start looking forward to coming back and doing other things while I’m still away. Having said that, I think pressing reset is important from time to time.
And what helps you hit the reset button? For me, it’s sports. I do yoga from time to time, but also extreme sports. The thing about those is that there’s no space for anything else in your mind. When you’re climbing, you’re totally concentrated. It’s the same for trail running and kite surfing and windsurfing; you have to be totally in it. That in itself is a mindful journey.
Do people come to you ready to enact a lifestyle change? We shouldn’t be telling people how to change their lives or that they need to be doing it in the first place. They should make up in their own minds that they’re ready. It’s a bit like quitting smoking – everybody can tell you to do it but when you are truly ready inside of you, that’s when it sticks. When you’re ready for a lifestyle change, you’ll know what to do. We say ‘give us your body for a week and we’ll give you back your mind’. That’s our way of saying to our guests that this is a place where you can come and change. But you have to come and want to do that. Lifestyle change doesn’t come from us but from our guests. We’re simply here to encourage and support them on their journey.
And what makes this the right place to do that? The public is educated now – they know what to do, they know how to get a personal trainer. What they need is a facility that is congenial to them and that will support them. We have a wide range of facilities and options for all fitness levels – for people looking to lose weight, recover from an accident or injury, quit smoking, or people looking to get back on track.
Do your guests arrive with certain expectations about their experience? Some have been in touch prior to their arrival with clear ideas about what they want to achieve while they’re here. Most people arrive with a pretty open mind, ready to explore. Quite often with destination spas, you don’t get the most out of them on your first visit – it’s your third or fourth (or even fifth) time in where you begin to really understand what you need and how that facility can service those needs for you. The seasoned spa-goer will have a few more expectations – they know what they’re looking for, whereas people coming for the first time are often a bit more of a blank canvas, and it’s more about them discovering things about the place and themselves.
What makes the BodyHoliday retreats stand out among other wellness retreats? All the world’s leading destination jobs all do a fantastic job. Some are more medical, some more naturopathic, some spiritual and emotional…but I think at BodyHoliday, it’s a really fun, relaxed wellness experience. We do everything to a really high level, but it’s very low key and relaxed and not necessarily in-your-face.
Does part of that come from the location? We have a very beautiful natural environment. Being a Caribbean island, we have fantastic sailing programs, sports regattas, and scuba diving – the silence of scuba diving is an extremely mindful and relaxing experience. We’ve got trail running, mountain biking trails all around us, we’ve got places for cliff diving and abseiling, a golf course down the road. It’s endless.
That sounds like nature’s own playground… The physical element part is huge, but the group environment aspect is important too. We cater to everyone, from those looking to participate in gentle stretching and tai chi to Olympian-run boot camps. We also have our own training academy for our wellness therapists and that’s a huge thing for us.
What’s in the pipeline for the next few months at BodyHoliday? We introduced a farm-to-table restaurant in October, and from November into 2018 we’ll begin running our retreat programmes – from Vedic retreats to weight loss and detox programmes and retreats focused on sport and fitness.
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