I'm Zach, and I've gone on two Ketanga retreats in Costa Rica the last two years and both trips were fun, active, and (literally) life-changing. Thanks to the inspiration from my Ketanga adventures, I left a job, moved to another state and started a business.
In January 2017, I was killing time at work and stumbled on a random Thrillist article that mentioned Ketanga. I got more and more excited reading about a company that could take me on a wild journey to a far-away land. I could join a dozen other strangers for a week in the middle of Costa Rica. And it wouldn't be a week of beach sitting and margarita drinking, but of boxing, yoga, interval training, hiking, surfing and exploring. As a die-hard Survivor fan, this seemed like the perfect way to scratch that adventure itch. When I wasn't able to convince any of my travel-loving friends to come along, I got discouraged that it may be weird to attend a retreat solo. I emailed Ketanga's CEO Stacy and she told me that plenty of travelers go on retreats alone, and because there are so many planned activities, it's a great way to meet people. I was in!
My first taste of adventure
In April 2017, I attended my first retreat, the Epic Fitness Scavenger Hunt. Wowza did that week live up to its name! Even though the retreat was only 5 days, it felt like we packed a month's worth of experiences into it. Our highly motivating coaches from Epic Hybrid Fitness gyms kept us engaged and busy. In addition to workouts and activities, we spent our days in Tamarindo completing all kinds of crazy tasks to try and win the scavenger hunt. Who would have pictured me serenading a family eating their lunch on the beach, or teaching kids how to do one of Epic Fitness' signature exercises? And my concerns about going on a retreat alone were quickly quelled. Almost everyone on the trip traveled solo as well and it was so great to spend a vacation with other fitness junkies from all over the US. I still keep in touch with many of them today!
After each of my retreats, I ended up making big changes! My first retreat was so eye-opening that I decided to uproot my life. At the time, I was working in nonprofit communications in DC and had been for about 8 years. After spending the week away and getting to know so many people with interesting stories and goals, I decided I was ready for a change too. Soon after I got back to DC, I let my employer and roommates know I would be leaving in the next few months. I wasn't sure where I was going to land, but I knew I was ready to add some adventure to my life and spice things up.
I moved back home to Michigan to figure out what was next. During that time, I focused on my own goals and interests to plan for my future. I took more time to read, try new things and travel. In late 2017, Stacy told me about a chance to return to Costa Rica for the upcoming Fitness, Food and Fun Retreat. The timing was right and I love cooking and eating healthy food. In February, I made my voyage back to Tamarindo.
I like to think my first retreat was Phase One of my "quarter life crisis" and Fitness, Food and Fun was Phase Two. Our coach Alyssa is the Meal Prep Chef and she started her company crafting home-cooked meals for New Yorkers. Before that trip, I always thought about healthy cooking as a hobby. I had never thought it could be a career option too. And this retreat was the perfect opportunity to learn more about food and hone my own skills and recipes.
I returned to Michigan inspired and passionate about the food I ate and lessons I learned. I was also inspired to bring my love of healthy meals to people in my community. Once I got settled back in Michigan, I started putting serious time and thought into how I could make this passion a reality. After months of planning, test cooking and brainstorming, I launched Literally Homemade, an in-home meal prep company in East Lansing, Michigan, to help local individuals and families eat nutritious food more easily.
In addition to the inspiration to start Literally Homemade, I also had another had a personal wellness change. One of the good friends I made on retreat #2 had recently gone vegan. She raved about her new dietary change and after talking with her during and after our time in Costa Rica, I decided to try it myself. A few months later I did VeganApril: one month meat, dairy and egg-free. I love a good challenge, and the endpoint made the goal feel achievable.I started the month fully expecting to do my 30 days and then go back to my normal diet, but I couldn't believe how much I enjoyed it. I felt healthier and veganism allowed me to be even more experimental in the kitchen. When May rolled around, I decided to stay vegan. Now, I'm still eating vegan and I love vegan cooking. While I don't cook exclusively vegan for my Literally Homemade clients, I'm hoping I can inspire others to try plant-based meals once in a while and pay forward some of the inspiration I got from my Ketanga retreat.
I don't know if everyone will have the dramatic life changes that I had after my retreats, but everyone I've traveled with has had tremendous benefits from their Ketanga adventure. It's a great way to try new activities, kickstart your own fitness goals and get away to an amazing destination. I've become close with people who live all around the country and I love how we can stay in touch and chat about fitness or our lives. Plus I have new workouts and recipes from my coaches!
If you would have told me even a year ago that I'd have gone vegan, I would have called you crazy! I also learned to be more comfortable doing things by myself, without having to rely on a friend wanting to do the same activity. Ketanga Retreats are a great way to break into solo travel.
It's really hard to choose from the food, the people, the workouts, beautiful Tamarindo. But my I will always remember the Pool Olympics workout on the last night of the Scavenger Hunt retreat. It was a great combo of celebration, physical activity and fun that totally capped off our week together.
I believe travel is good for the soul, especially travel focused on wellness! And I'm thankful for Ketanga for making it possible.
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To learn more about Zach's meal prep company, visit literallyhomemade.com and his instagram, @brooksza.
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