Five Reasons to Visit the Art of Living Retreat Center in Boone, North Carolina

Nestled high in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Boone, North Carolina, the Art of Living Retreat Center is the perfect getaway to unwind, find balance, and ground yourself. AOLRC offers a number of programs tailored to different goals. I attended the three day Happiness Retreat. Whatever your spiritual goals may be, AOLRC has a program for you.

Before I get any further, I want to share that AOLRC is giving away a free Happiness Retreat to one of my followers. Enter here:

https://artoflivingretreatcenter.org/lp/christine-connell-giveaway/

Art of Living was founded in 1981 by humanitarian and spiritual teacher Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and currently operates in more than 150 countries. Art of Living Programs are guided by Sri Sri’s philosophy “Unless we have a stress-free mind and a violence-free society, we cannot achieve world peace.”

Now, here are the top five reasons you should visit AOLRC:

  1. It’s for a good cause. Art of Living is a volunteer-based nonprofit organization that supports various service projects in the US and globally. In the US, Art of Living USA supports prisoner rehabilitation, disaster & trauma relief, youth empowerment in schools, and trauma relief for veterans. Internationally, the Art of Living Foundation works in collaboration with The International Association for Human Values and with the United Nations Social and Economic Council to implement numerous humanitarian and service initiatives including conflict resolution programs, disaster relief, sustainable rural development, empowerment of women, education for all, and environmental sustainability.
  2. You will learn to be present. I’ve always considered myself a happy person. I have a great life filled with great people. However, as a lawyer and a blogger, I’m always busy working and planning. I obsess over my schedule and planning in the future. I’m not always good at living in the present. But being present is necessary to be truly happy. AOLRC will teach you breathing techniques and other methods that will help you be present. You’ll also learn to have greater control over your mind.
  3. The food is healthy and delicious. I’m a vegan, so it’s often difficult for me to find food while traveling. AOLRC serves all vegetarian and mostly vegan food. Vegan food is clearly labeled, as are several allergens. AOLRC will work with you to accommodate any dietary restrictions you have.
  4. It’s a great place to meet friends. Everyone I met at AOLRC was kind and genuine. I met friends who have similar interests and values. I’m sure I will continue to stay in contact with them for years to come.
  5. The property is gorgeous. AOLRC is located in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina. When you look outside, you’ll see green trees and soft blue layers of mountains. I couldn’t imagine a more serene setting to relax and reset.

A Relaxing Weekend at Deerfield Health Retreat and Spa

Located just a couple of hours outside of NYC and nestled in the Poconos Mountains is Deerfield Health Retreat and Spa, a modern version of an “adult sleepaway camp.” Located in cozy country style inn, Deerfield offers a “choose your own adventure” style camp minus all of the planning. Deerfield is a great place to meet likeminded people. Meals are enjoyed with other guests and you can choose from many activities scheduled throughout the day – including hiking, fitness classes such as yoga and Pilates, and bingo. Deerfield is located just a few minutes from the famed Delaware Water Gap where guests can spend the day hiking or canoeing.

Deerfield is the perfect place to meet new friends while going through a healthy reset. Many visitors come back time and time again and claim they are “addicted” to this special place.

Britton and I drove from La Guardia airport to Deerfield on Friday evening. The drive took us about two hours. We were greeted and shown around the property. We enjoyed some tea and fruit before heading to bed.

Saturday morning we woke up, ate some fruit for breakfast, and headed out to hike Mount Tammany: Red Dot and Blue Loop trail.

The hike took us about 2 hours and 15 minutes including stops. The hike has a few light scramble sections, but is mostly an easy to follow trail.

I recommend stopping at the first viewpoint, as I think it is more scenic than the top, which also gets extremely crowded. We made the mistake of passing by the first viewpoint, assuming the top would be better.

On the way back down, there are beautiful waterfalls.

After our hike, we returned to Deerfield for dinner. I’m a vegan and Britton is a pescatarian. I got a rice and vegetables dish and Britton got salmon. The food tasted fresh and healthy. It was the perfect post-hike meal.

After dinner, we enjoyed Deerfield’s incredible spa. Britton and I both got facials. The esthetician was knowledgeable and customized our facials based on our skin types. The products were great as well. She did a great job with extractions and added a nice massage (she’s also a massage therapist!) while we had masks on. Britton and I spend a little more than our fair share of time in spas, and we both were impressed with our experience. Our skin was glowing the next day! We would go back to Deerfield for the spa alone.

After our facials, we went to sleep. We woke up Sunday, had breakfast, and got ready to tackle Deerfield’s fitness classes.

Britton and I took the butts and guts class and then Pilates reformer back to back. Both were good classes. Britton and I are fairly active and we felt like we got a good workout. The instructor was fun and supportive. All of the guests bonded over squats and lunges. It was fun!

Deerfield is a great place located conveniently outside of NYC and Philadelphia. If you’re looking for a relaxing escape where you can meet new friends and make a healthy lifestyle charge, Deerfield is your place!

Two Perfect Summer Days in Vail

I had always thought of Vail as a winter destination, so when I was invited to spend three summer days in Vail, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I can now confidently say that Vail is an excellent summer destination, offering fun mountain activities and stunning views. I will definitely be back.

We stayed at the Sonnenalp, which is a gorgeous, conveniently located hotel with four restaurants, a golf course, and a spa. I could have spent three days at the hotel alone!

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Arrival Night Dinner – Bully Ranch

Bully Ranch is one of the restaurants in the Sonnenalp. We got in late, so it was easy and convenient to have the restaurant right there. The restaurant has a cowboy vibe and the portions are large and filling.

Breakfast at the Sonnenalp

Staying at the Sonnenalp, heading downstairs for breakfast is easy. The buffet is filled with options – from hash browns to waffles to smoothies to açaí bowls. Yum! I enjoyed freshly squeezed orange juice every morning. It didn’t hurt that the breakfast room looks out over the pool and hot tubs – what a view!

I loved that as a vegan, there were plenty of options for me. I had freshly squeezed orange juice, mini açaí bowls, and dairy free oatmeal to which I added raisins, cherries, chia seeds, almonds, goji berries, and soy milk.

A Day at Piney River Ranch

We spent our first day at Piney River Ranch and it was wonderful. Everyone at the ranch is so friendly. It’s such a hidden gem.

We had lunch then went horseback riding with NuNu. The horses were incredibly sweet and well taken care of. NuNu was knowledgeable and her love for the horses was apparent. She talked to us about the personality type of each horse and matched us with horses based on our experiences and personalities. We had a great ride and she even let us go on a little trot! Plus, the view of the mountains was fantastic.

After we finished riding, we went for a canoe ride on the lake. The stunning mountain backdrop combined with the serenity of the isolated lake made for an unforgettable ride.

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Although we didn’t get to stay at the cabins or glamping tents at Piney River this time, I highly recommend staying for a night or two if your schedule allows. We already have plans to go back next summer and stay overnight!

Dinner in Vail

Vail is a cute town with a European vibe. We walked around after our day and ended up eating at Tavern on the Square. We started with freshly made artisan bread that was fluffy and delicious. They even had a vegan menu, so ordering was easy for me. The food tasted fresh and the restaurant had a cool vibe. Our server was friendly and talkative. He gave us great recommendations for our trip.

Second Morning

We started our morning with a quick walk around the town then had breakfast at the Sonnenalp again. It was just as good as the first day!

Rock Climbing with Paragon Guides

We spent our second day in Vail rock climbing with Paragon Guides. We requested “easy climbing with good views” and Jim, our guide, delivered. It was clear that Paragon put safety first – we wore helmets and although we knew how to climb, Jim explained all of the safety equipment. He also checked with us the night before and made sure to bring food we liked for lunch the next day.

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We talked with Jim about some other tours Paragon offers – including mountain biking, backcountry skiing, snowshoeing, and multi-day backpacking. Needless to say, we’ll be seeing Paragon again!

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Climbing photos by Caroline Foster

Dinner at Matsuhisa

We had dinner at Matsuhisa, an upscale sushi restaurant in Vail village. We enjoyed cocktails, wine, and sushi in a hip environment. Our waitress was very helpful and gave us great recommendations. There were plenty of vegan options (yay) and the food was delicious. The portions were perfect for sharing and we got to try a bunch of different dishes.

It was an excellent finish to an amazing trip, and we can’t wait to get back to Vail!

 

My Stay at the Hilton Dead Sea

I received a complimentary stay in exchange for writing this post.  As always, all opinions are my own.

I have always loved taking advantage of the natural healing powers of the earth. I use natural and organic products and I am a vegan. The Dead Sea has been a dream destination of mine for ages. The minerals in the water have been known to help with many skin problems. The salt in the water helps heal scrapes (don’t go in with a serious wound though). And the low elevation makes the Dead Sea one of the easiest places to breathe in the world because of the high oxygen level. My dream came true and I spent a few days at the Hilton Dead Sea.

The hotel has a vibe that feels close to nature. The decor is simple, fresh, and natural. All of the staff members are incredibly kind and helpful. It is the perfect place to unwind, relax, and let all of your worries slip away.

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We even got specially made vegan food, including these adorable desserts:

The Hilton Dead Sea almost feels like a wellness retreat. Our days started with breakfast and relaxing by the pool. Later in the afternoon, we would walk down to the Dead Sea for a soak, mud massage, and salt scrub. Then we would eat dinner, go to sleep, and repeat.

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Did I mention that the mud massages and salt scrubs are free for guests? That’s right, a daily treatment on the beach is included with your stay.

When I left the Hilton Dead Sea I was mentally relaxed. It was just what I needed. My skin was the softest I can remember it ever being. My face had a glow. My pores were smaller. The Dead Sea is like magic. And the Hilton is the perfect place to stay during your visit.

My Stay at the Grand Hyatt Amman

I received a complimentary stay in exchange for writing this post. As always, all opinions are my own.

The Grand Hyatt Amman is a gorgeous luxury hotel situated in the heart of Amman. It is conveniently located within walking distance of many sights in Amman, a short drive to the airport, and close enough for a day trip to the UNESCO world heritage center of Petra. If you’re looking for luxurious accommodation where you can see the best Jordan has to offer, the Grand Hyatt Amman is the place to stay.

The first thing I noticed when I reached the Grand Hyatt Amman is the high level of care for guest safety. The security is top notch and I immediately felt safe.

The lobby is warm, inviting, and comfortable. It’s the perfect place to sit down, relax, and read or talk.

The staff are extremely friendly and helpful. The hotel worked with the Jordan Tourism Board to set up a day trip to Petra with a wonderful guide.

Restaurant staff were friendly and very helpful with making meals suitable for my vegan diet (including dessert!).

After a few weeks filled with flights, early wake ups, and tours, there was one day I just wanted to relax. Lucky for me, the Grand Hyatt has a lovely steam room, sauna, and whirlpool in the spa area. I spend the day enjoying these facilities.

I highly recommend the Grand Hyatt Amman to anyone traveling to Jordan!

My Stay at the Cairo Marriott

I was invited by the Cairo Marriott to experience and share about the hotel for a weekend getaway.

The Cairo Marriott isn’t just a hotel – it’s a historical palace rich in history. The palace, originally called Palace Al Gezira, was built in 1869 to serve as a guest palace during the Suez Canal inaugural celebrations. The palace hosted several noteworthy weddings and other important ceremonies throughout history. The hotel’s meeting rooms were once bedrooms. Much of the furniture and decor has been preserved. You really feel like you are in a palace.

The hotel staff are friendly and accommodating. We are vegan and Saraya Gallery made us a delicious vegan dinner.

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The rooms are spacious and the beds are comfortable. And of course the location is excellent! The hotel is conveniently located near the historic sights around Cairo – including the pyramids, Sphinx, and Nile River. There is a lot to do around Cairo, and the Cairo Marriott is the perfect place to stay to immerse yourself in history.

Finally, for those of you who are worried that Egypt is an unsafe place to visit, it is not. Before visiting Egypt, I was admittedly concerned. Once I arrived, I felt 100% safe. In fact, I felt safer than I do in many European countries. Egyptian people are kind and friendly.

My Stay at Calimera Habiba Beach Resort

I received a complimentary stay in exchange for writing this post. As always, all opinions are my own.

Before I visited Calimera Habiba, I didn’t know that Marsa Alam exists. It’s a small, hidden gem on the Red Sea in Egypt. Marsa Alam isn’t crowded and it’s a divers paradise.

If you find yourself in Marsa Alam, Calimera Habiba is the place to stay! The staff are friendly and attentive. The rooms are spacious. The beach is amazing. And the dive center next door is awesome.

Aside from diving, there is a 4×4 tour company across the street and the desert dunes are so much fun!

The front desk was extremely accommodating and arranged all of our activities for us. We just said what we wanted to do and within an hour, they had it booked. Talk about good service!

We are vegan and the restaurant managers were quick to come up with delicious vegan options for us. After we went to our first meal, every server knew about our dietary restrictions and was prepared to cater to us.

I can’t recommend Calimera Habiba and Marsa Alam enough!!

My Stay at the Inn at Gig Harbor

During my last trip to Washington, I did something new.  In the past, I’ve always stayed in Seattle or ventured off to the national parks.  But there is so much more to see in the area!  This time, I decided to visit a small town called Gig Harbor, on a peninsula right outside of Seattle.  Gig Harbor is close enough to visit for a quick overnight trip from Seattle.  Despite being so close to Seattle, Gig Harbor feels like a different world.  It’s quaint and filled with history and culture.  If you’re looking for a place to get away and relax, I can’t recommend Gig Harbor enough!

Below are some photos from my stay at the Inn at Gig Harbor

My Stay at Serengeti Migration Camp

When I arrived at Serengeti Migration Camp, I was handled a stainless steel water bottle and told where water refill stations are located. The manager explained that the camp is environmentally conscious, and doesn’t want to produce unnecessary plastic waste. I already knew I would love it here. The rooms are run by solar power. I love when places are environmentally friendly, especially when they are so close to nature. It just makes sense.

I forgot to mention that I’m a vegan before I arrived. I wasn’t expecting much in the way of food because of my restrictions and the late notice I gave. However, in the 45 minutes it took me to take a shower and walk to the dinner tent, the chef had already prepared two vegan options to choose from for each course of a three course meal. And they weren’t simple options either. I ended up having sweet potato soup, a curry dish, and banana crepes for dessert. And that banana crepe was quite possibly the best dessert I have ever had. Every meal was carefully prepared and catered to my dietary restrictions. Even my packed lunches were vegan. As a vegan, I’m used to getting bland meals, but my meals at Serengeti Migration Camp were flavorful and unique.

When I got to my room, I almost couldn’t believe my eyes. I knew it was called a luxury tented camp, but I wasn’t expecting this! There was a huge bed, a double sink, a sitting area, and a massive balcony. The decor was elegant but felt natural. I could hear the hippos. It was like all of the good things about camping but without any of the discomfort. Instead, it is luxurious and comfortable.

The customer service at Serengeti Migration Camp was out of this world. Every employee knew my name and was more than willing to help me with anything I wanted. It was a personalized experience that I’ll never forget. When I looked cold, someone always offered to bring me a blanket. If I sat down in the lobby, I had a drink and vegan appetizers to eat within a few minutes. I couldn’t have asked for a better place to stay.

Of course most people who come to Serengeti Migration Camp want to see animals, so I’ll talk about my game drive as well. My guide was friendly, knowledgeable, and flexible. It wasn’t like other safaris I’ve been on when we just stopped to take photos – my guide actually taught me about the animals we saw and the environment. He knew so much information and it was amazing to learn from him. We saw some incredible animals and I’ll never forget the experience.

Touring the Great American Southwest from the Inn at Entrada

I received a complimentary stay from The Inn at Entrada and complimentary tour from ATV & Jeep Adventure Tours in exchange for writing a review.

We spent six nights in southern Utah and I still feel like we haven’t even scratched the surface on seeing this beautiful area, but here is what we did:

 

ATV Tour with ATV &a Jeep Adventure Tours

We started our trip riding ATVs around the desert. The views were gorgeous and our guide was knowledgeable. It was a great introduction to the area.



Zion

Most people think of Zion when Southern Utah comes up – and for good reason. Zion is one of the most beautiful national parks I’ve been to. It’s filled with red rocks, crazy drop offs, and beautiful water. The downside to Zion is that everyone knows how great it is, so it can get really busy. To avoid the crowds, we got permits for a technical canyon. Talk about an amazing adventure! It was a tough 15 miles filled with rappels, downclimbs, and sliding into pools. If you have the technical skills, getting permits for a canyon is a great way to avoid the crowds at Zion. We didn’t see another group all day!

The Wave

The Wave is probably one of the most insta-famous and iconic locations in the world, and we were lucky enough to be one of the 20 people to score a permit one day! For those of you wondering, there are two ways to get a permit for the Wave. The first is to apply online at the BLM website four months in advance. https://www.blm.gov/programs/recreation/permits-and-passes/lotteries-and-permit-systems/arizona/coyote-buttes. The second is to show up to the BLM visitor center in Kanab and enter the drawing for a next-day permit. Either way, your chances of getting a permit are very slim. There are about 2,000 applicants a day for 20 permits. If you do happen to be lucky enough, it’s a fairly easy hike – about 3 miles each way, however the trail is not well marked. Please be careful and study a map beforehand. And don’t forget to bring enough water!



The Inn at Entranada

Last but certainly not least, our beautiful accommodation. We stayed in a casita at the Inn at Entranada in St. George. I cannot recommend this place enough! It’s conveniently located about an hour from Zion and right next to Snow Canyon State Park. The Inn in stunning. The staff are friendly. Every last detail is looked after meticulously. The property blends right in with its surroundings, and you enjoy nature even when you’re inside. If you’re ever in St. George, you know where to stay!