Escaping the kids and the rat-race, former Hong Kong interiors consultant Elisha Rickward joined a Creative Immersion Retreat to the Greek island of Lemnos last year.
“It’s hard to put into words the magic that was Lemnos – although I did take away a heap of photos as it was an absolute visual feast,” says Rickward of the trip, which was part of a curated tour organised by Australian-based travel company, Mediterranean Wanderer.
“An amazing group of women came together from all over the world and over five days, we were treated to a smorgasbord of wonderful activities and workshops.”
The tour was led by Mediterranean Wanderer founder, Paula Hagiefremidis, who is in the throes of putting together a ‘Food, Writing and Creative Escape’ back to Greece and the island of Serifos in the western Cyclades this autumn.
Relaxing, restorative and highly enjoyable, the tours were first put together when Hagiefremidis hit a low point emotionally a few years ago. “I had got to a point where I wasn’t doing what truly made me happy,” she says. “I was running a very successful Japanese restaurant which myself and my husband had started from scratch. It was doing enormously well but I wasn’t content.”
So she decided to ease herself out of her comfort zone and follow her heart – “which was daunting, I was terrified” – and set up a series of writing retreats to Greece.
“There are two significant reasons for picking Greece. Firstly, although I was born in Australia I have Greek heritage and spent countless childhood summers in Greece. I speak, read and write Greek, as my parents insisted I attend Greek school after my normal school hours. This was agonising as a child but now I can’t thank my parents enough – I couldn’t imagine visiting Greece today and not being able to immerse myself as a local. Secondly, I wanted to give participants a unique experience, taking them right away from everyday life. The purpose of the retreats is for participants to feel restored, nurtured and inspired and the environment was always going to play a huge part in this,” she says.
The islands are carefully selected to suit the style of course being offered, Hagiefremidis explaining that each one has its own charm. “It’s important people get to experience the authentic side of Greece, to meet the artisan producers, to sample the produce and to experience the warmth of Greek hospitality,” enthuses Hagiefremidis.
Groups are purposefully kept small – no more than 10 people for the retreat this coming September – to allow participants to form stronger connections with each other. She stresses that although the tour has a writing component, no prior skills are needed, it is merely the vehicle for people to enhance their creativity.
“The retreats are as much for aspiring creatives who want to further their passion as they are for those who are feeling stuck and in need of direction and inspiration. Last year this was achieved through photography and styling, but the majority of women who attended were neither one nor the other. This year it will be all about using writing and our daily travels across the island to enhance, reflect and connect with what’s important to you. It’s also a chance to connect with an inspiring group of likeminded women.”
Along with the workshops, there will also be the chance to swim the aquamarine seas, share delicious meals, with a little bit of ‘Zorba dancing’ thrown in.
This autumn, participants will be staying in two private Cycladic-style seaside villas. Guests can opt for a private room or shared accommodation and each bedroom has its own bathroom. There will be day trips around the island, both by road and by boat, as well as meet-ups with local artisans and freshly cooked local-style meals. “The schedule is all about allowing a balance of activities to both restore and inspire, as well as developing creative and personal pursuits. A full schedule is available on the company website.
“Paula’s love of Greece was very apparent,” commented Rickward at the end of her retreat. “Her enthusiasm was infectious. We climbed mountains (literally and figuratively), set up a styling shoot in a local town, picked wildflowers, danced with the locals under the stars and swam in the beautiful Aegean Sea. My time on Lemnos with a bunch of inspiring women was a true life highlight and one I’m hoping to repeat someday.”
For further information about this September’s retreat, ‘A Food, Writing & Creative Escape’, see mediterraneanwanderer.com Or contact founder and host Paula Hagiefremidis directly at email@example.com