Active Escapes Founder Zanna Conlan on Finding Balance

Active Escapes Founder Zanna Conlan on Finding Balance

Surf's up | Image courtesy of Active Escapes
Surf’s up | Image courtesy of Active Escapes

Active Escapes founder Zanna Conlan and his fiance Ali Dixon are living the life most people dream about: having fun, keeping fit and travelling the world. A former Aussie rules football player and coach, Zanna heard the call of the sea and never looked back.

First becoming a surfing instructor, then founding Active Escapes, Zanna is now looking to conquer the world with a unique brand of healthy holiday retreats. We speak to him to find out what makes the perfect fitness holiday destination, and why balance is so important.

What got you interested in healthy holidays? I have always gone on ‘active’ holidays ever since I was a kid.  In the early days, they ranged from snow skiing, water skiing and fitting in as many adventure parks as possible. In the last 10 years, I would say surf trips are what I love to do most, as well as Active Escapes.

What inspired you to open Active Escapes? While on a surfing trip, I thought it would be really cool to start a fitness escape that included learning to surf. So, I went and got qualified as a surf coach and headed to Bali to find the perfect spot.

Active Escapes Founder Zanna Conlan with his fiance Ali Dixon | Image courtesy of Active Escapes
Active Escapes Founder Zanna Conlan with his fiance Ali Dixon | Image courtesy of Active Escapes

Active Escapes now offers healthy holidays in multiple locations. How do you select your new destinations? Our locations are carefully planned and we make sure we know the place back to front.  We always support the local community and get them involved as much as possible.  We find locations that are beautiful and fun to give our guests an awesome week.

So who would your healthy holiday destinations suit? We have guests from all over the world, all fitness levels and all ages.  Everyone has a great time and we have some people who have come back five times.

What sets Active Escape retreats apart from the rest? We are the original, and no doubt, the best fitness retreat going around.  We have been doing it for the longest time, and with many trips a year, we have the most experience.  We currently have five locations but stay tuned for many more in 2017 as we franchise across the world.

What are the crucial factors involved in implementing a successful healthy lifestyle change? The key we believe is balance: keep active and have fun at the same time.

Zanna Conlan | Image courtesy of Active Escapes
Zanna Conlan | Image courtesy of Active Escapes

What do you hope guests will take away from their stay? I hope our guests realise how fun it is to keep a balanced lifestyle.

What does true balance look like? Balance is different for everyone in many ways.  For me, it’s keeping active while keeping busy with work and socialising with friends.  Doing too much of any of these things is not good so I spread my week out to get a bit of everything. Do things you enjoy and make sure you bring them in weekly to your working life to give you a balanced life.  Everything in moderation is what true balance looks like.

Who do you admire professionally, and why? Richard Branson because he keeps business fun; Kelly Slater, for staying on top for so long and continuing to push the limits; Mick Fanning, for the way he recovers from setbacks.

What advice would you give to people looking to keep an active lifestyle amid their hectic daily routine? People make choices every day about their lifestyle, but it’s about you working out what you want to do.  Find something you love doing that keeps you active and put aside time in your day to do it.  You don’t need to be a gym member to keep active, just set aside 30 minutes of your day.  We are doing an online training programme launching in November that will give you daily workouts you can do anywhere with our crew.

Follow Zanna’s blissful Bali life on Instagram @ZannaConlan.

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Amanda Sheppard

The former Art & Culture editor at Time Out Hong Kong magazine, Amanda is a freelance lifestyle writer based in Asia's world city. Amanda grew up in Asia, loves hiking, stand up paddle boarding, and a day well spent outdoors. Her last holiday sunrise trekking along Indonesian volcanic landscapes gave her a taste of the healthy holiday bug, and she’s been on the lookout for her next great adventure ever since.

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