A Relaxingly Active Week at Moa Alm Mountain Retreat in Austria

Balance.  When I think back on the week I spent at Moa Alm, balance is the first thing that comes to mind.  If you’re looking for a vacation with balance – in every sense of the word – Moa Alm Mountain Retreat in Austria is the place to go!  I just spent a week at Moa Alm and I left feeling balanced, relaxed, and rejuvinated.

Moa Alm has different themed weeks, so what you get depends on the week that you choose.  The general concept is the same for every week, but certain weeks cater to different types of travelers and focus on different activities.  For example, there are family weeks, adult weeks, and mountaineering weeks.  I went on an adult week.

First, let me do my best to describe the concept at Moa Alm – a relaxingly active retreat.  “Relaxingly active” may seem a bit paradoxical, but let me tell you that the combination of yoga, hiking, free time, and planned activities is just that.  Every morning starts with yoga and breakfast.  There is usually one planned activity, like a hike, for the day.  You are free to participate in as many or as few of the planned activities as you want.  Dinner is served every evening.  While you will have your own room and plenty of alone time, there is also a social aspect to the retreat.  Activities are done as a group and meals are eaten together.

The Balance between Relaxation and Activity

Moa Alm accurately describes itself as “relaxingly active”.  I could not agree more with this term.  Every day starts with yoga taught by Barbara.  Barbara is an excellent teacher and does a great job of catering the practice to the ability of her students.  I had an ankle injury, and she made sure to give me different poses to try whenever a posture bothered my ankle.  We also went on a hike every day.  The hikes varied in duration and intensity, based on weather and what we felt like doing.  Afternoons and early evenings were generally left open, and we were free to sit on the property and enjoy the scenery, read, hike on our own, go downtown, or anything else we pleased.  While there were plenty of activities to keep us busy, there was also sufficient downtime to relax.

The Balance between Alone Time and Group Time

I came to Moa Alm alone.  I wanted to spend some time alone to recharge, but I didn’t want to be completely isolated.  Moa Alm offered the perfect balance between alone time and socializing with the staff and other guests.  I spent several hours every day alone.  I went on several hikes by myself and had the time I needed to recharge.  However, I also spent time with the other guests and the staff, so I didn’t feel lonely and isolated.  We all ate meals together and hiked together.  We talked about our jobs, travels, and life experiences.  Everyone was extremely friendly and had interesting life stories to share.  We all had a lot in common and got along really well.  I exchanged contact information with and keep in touch with some of the people I met at Moa Alm!

The Balance between Guiding and Letting Us Go on Our Own

While I find overly-guided tours to be too much, I don’t like to be completely alone to figure out my plans.  Moa Alm offered group activities, which we were free to participate in or not.  Additionally, the staff were happy to help us plan things on our own.  Hikes were generally planned at dinner the night before with the managers Hubert and Barbara.  It wasn’t overly standardized and planned.  We could all say what we were looking for (like challening, flat, waterfalls, etc.), and Hubert and Barbara chose hikes that met our requests.  They shared interesting information about the animal and plant life as we hiked.  I had been traveling and hiking before I arrived at Moa Alm and I desperately needed a pedicure.  I told Barbara, and she helped pick a spa and made an appointment for me.  I also wanted to summit a mountain in the Alps.  I had no idea which mountain, so I told Barbara and Hubert I was looking for something not too technical that I could do in a day.  They gave me several suggestions, and I picked the mountain that sounded the most appealing.  They then gave me a map, went over my route options, warned me about the weather, and told me everything I needed to know.  I hiked on my own, but was well prepared with minimal to no effort doing any independent research thanks to Barbara and Hubert.

The Balance between Healthy and Indulgent Food

The cooks are amazing.  Absolutely amazing.  First, let me go off on a little tangent about how well they accommodated my diet.  I am a strict vegan.  I was so busy before I arrived at Moa Alm that I forgot to tell anyone of my dietary restrictions until about an hour before the first dinner.  And I still ended up with a delicious, three course vegan meal.  Wow – talk about being accommodating!

The ingredients used at Moa Alm are as natural, local, and organic as possible.  But there are desserts too!  Like cake.  A lot of cake.  I loved knowing that I was eating high-quality food but it was also nice to indulge a little and eat some cake – it is a vacation, after all!

People Who Really Care

Undoubtedly my favorite thing about Moa Alm is how passionate the staff are.  It really does make all the difference.  Everyone at Moa Alm cares about the retreat and all of the guests.  They love what they are doing and it shows.  They are more than willing to go above and beyond to make sure guests have a good time.  They all have interesting backgrounds and life experiences and are easy to relate to.  Even though I went to Moa Alm alone, by the end of the week, I felt like I was with a group of friends 🙂

I Can’t Wait to Go Back!

I had such a good time at Moa Alm.  It is by far the best retreat I have ever been on.  I can’t wait to go back…and I definitely will!  I’m thinking that next time I may try a mountaineering week.  If you’re looking for a relaxingly active week in the mountains, go to Moa Alm.  You won’t regret it!

The Importance of Learning to Relax and Let Injuries Heal

So, relaxing isn’t really something I’m good at.  Which is a really bad trait to have when I’m injured.  I hurt my ankle in October and what likely would have been a quick healing injury has turned into something much worse and long-lasting because I didn’t give it the chance to heal properly.

I twisted my ankle while trail running in October.  I stopped for a minute, moved my ankle around a little, then finished my run.  My ankle was probably just sprained at this point, and a few weeks of RICE would have done the trick.  But of course I couldn’t make it that easy.  I kept running and hiking.  The pain gradually got worse, but I have a high pain tolerance and it wasn’t unbearable, so continued to ignore it.

In April, I was at Mount Rainier with a couple of friends.  They left earlier than I did, so I had a day to hike on my own.  I asked one of the park rangers for recommendations.  He mentioned one hike that was still covered in snow, difficult to navigate, on a trail covered with fallen trees.  I asked more about that hike and he warned me not to do it if I didn’t have experience navigating unmarked trails and warned me a girl had gotten lost on the trail the day before and had to be rescued.  Naturally, I chose that hike.  He was right about it being difficult to navigate…the combination of trees everywhere and a few feet of snow on the ground made distinguishing the trail quite confusing.  It had been miles since I had seen another hiker when I came across yet another fallen tree in the trail.  I stepped over the tree, but I landed on my ankle wrong.  It gave out and I fell.  For a minute, it was too painful for me to stand up or put any weight on it.  I started to think about how I might need to crawl the last few miles of the hike.  How would I know whether I’m staying on the trail while crawling?!  A few minutes of panic ensued.  Finally, I was able to put weight on my ankle again and I limped through the rest of the hike.  While that experience gave me a bit of a scare, everything ended up being fine, so it wasn’t enough for me to go see a doctor.

Two months later, I hiked a volcano in Bali.  It was a pretty steep hike, and my ankle was definitely feeling it, but of course I ignored the pain and kept hiking. The next day, I flew to South Korea.  When I got off of the plane, one of my toes and part of the bottom of my foot were numb.  At first, I thought the numbness was probably related to my long flight.  I was slightly concerned I had DVT (thanks, Google).  A week later, I realized that numbness can also be caused by sprained ankles.  And that is when I decided to see a doctor.

My doctor told me that I had a stress fracture, tendonitis, and a sprain.  Ugh.   He put me on steroids and anti-inflammatories and told me to wear a boot on my right foot for a month.  Great.  I had several hiking trips planned.  How was I going to hike with that boot??  I was going to Colorado the next day and had plans to climb a 14er.  My initial plan was to just start wearing the boot after the weekend.  I mean, I had already been running and hiking on it for 8 months, what was one more weekend going to do?  I guess it was a stroke of luck when I called my friend and she told me that the hike had to be rescheduled to the day I was flying in because of weather.  I wore the boot that weekend and did quite a bit of hiking.

I continued to hike with the boot.  I wasn’t running anymore, but I certainly wasn’t relaxing either.  When I went to the doctor a month later, the stress fracture had healed, but the sprain and tendonitis had not.  I got frustrated and tried running a few miles.  The next couple of weeks, my ankle hurt.  A lot.  It was like I had never even worn the boot in the first place.  I finally realized that I need to let my ankle heal.  I stopped running, and don’t plan on starting again for at least 6 months.  I wear an ankle brace at all times and ice my ankle regularly.  If I start to feel pain in my ankle, I stop whatever is causing the pain instead of just pushing through it.

Because I didn’t listen to my body and let my ankle heal properly, I’ve spent the last 10 months dealing with an injury that likely could have healed in a month.  So please, no matter how active you are or how difficult it is for you to sit still, if you have an injury, just let it heal.  Don’t make my mistake.