Immerse yourself in a nature retreat
You've heard of nature retreats, but you're not sure what they are? Are you a lover of the practice and want to come and try one out with us? Find out everything you need to know in this interview we conducted with the great expert on the subject, Marion Geray. She's passionate about walking, people and Qigong . After living and working in five countries, she has now added a sixth to her "Wanderlust portfolio": Portugal. Every day she is impressed by the warmth and patience of the Portuguese people, for which she is very grateful.
1. What exactly is a retreat?
MG: In this experience, as we immerse ourselves in the world around us, we contemplate new perspectives, in harmony with the moment, and enter into simplicity. We disconnect from our daily routines and even our hardware (just out of obligation). Healthy, fresh local food, spring water, fresh air, nature surrounded by mountains and without noise pollution are always present. A well-balanced daily programme will guide you through the day, including a nap after lunch. It's time to reflect, but also to enjoy the moment, surrounded by lovely people.
2. How did you come up with the idea of organising retreats in nature?
MG: Hiking has always played a fundamental role in my leisure activities throughout my life. The spirit of adventure and curiosity have been regular partners. Throughout my professional career, I have been certified as a European Walk Lead and Business & Life Coach. Finally, I combined all my essential skills and passions into a unique journey that embraces the three E's: Experience, Energy, Equilibrium. Walksperia was born (walk: to walk + speria: to experience). I also want to make a positive impact on the sustainable and slow development of travel in Portugal.
3. What do people who go on retreats look for and to what extent/in what way is it given to them?
MG: Walksperia's healthy walks release unknown forces to stimulate the body, mind and soul. Our customers can explore and experience new things in a new environment. A balanced programme of activities and rest phases allow our customers to reflect and take a break. They can take their new learning home in their backpack and enrol in a Qigong course in their hometown. All our clients so far have shared with us that they left with hearts full of warmth and contentment.
4. What does it mean to be a spiritualised person?
MG: A spiritualised person is someone who has embarked on a journey of personal and spiritual growth. They may follow a specific religion or philosophical tradition, or take an individualised approach to their spiritual practice. They may take part in various activities, such as meditation, mindfulness, Qigong or hiking. Some common characteristics of a spiritualised person include:
Inner awareness (sense of self-aware, emotional and personal);
Values and ethics (compassion, kindness, honesty and integrity);
Mindfulness and presence (practising being totally present in the moment; cultivating a sense of mindfulness and the ability to appreciate the beauty of everyday life).
It's important to note that spirituality can be a deeply personal and subjective experience, and the path can vary greatly from person to person. It is a lifelong journey of growth, self-discovery and transformation.
5. Are retreats only for those who believe in religions, dogmas or energies?
MG: We believe in ourselves, in the positive effect of nature on healing and we believe that exercising in nature is the best thing you can offer your body and mind. However, the Qigong we practise comes from China and is an important part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). During our Qigong practice, we activate our Qi (spoken: tschi). You don't have to believe in religions, dogmas or energies to go on a retreat. Just believe in yourself and the benefit of being exposed to new experiences.
6. It seems that the retreats take place in slow motion. Is that true or is there a small revolution happening in each of the participants?
MG: In our retreats, each participant responds individually. Some begin with meditation and self-reflection on their status quo, their values and their goals. Others organise their thoughts to find clarity and peace of mind. Some are deeply impressed by the peace and tranquillity of the surroundings and the deep conversations we lead. It mainly depends on how far the participant is on their journey of personal growth. And on their openness and curiosity to explore further.
7. What are the ideal conditions for a retreat to be successful?
MG: The main success factors are food and beverage service, a well-balanced programme, minimalist accommodation, warm yet flexible people and excellent service from the organiser.
8. What made you choose Serra da Esperança and TheVagar as one of your favourite places to hold your retreats?
MG: I consider Portugal to be a popular, family-friendly tourist destination and the practically unknown interior embraces the most breathtaking natural scenery imaginable. That's what encouraged me to create Walksperia - guided health walks - through Portugal's natural magnificence. What could be better than relieving stress, improving your health and enjoying the countryside? Nothing! TheVagar is the perfect place to disconnect and reconnect with what matters most, with no barriers between people and nature.
9. Did the reality of what you found in this space match your expectations?
MG: Marta, André and their two adorable children, as well as Boneca the dog, made me feel at home and warmly welcomed into their space from day one. The whole team is friendly and very professional. My target group is mainly people from urban cities in Europe who are highly demanding and used to premium, excellent service. That's what I've found here. I can think of no more suitable partner than TheVagar and its staff. We all have the same vision of how to treat people and how to develop sustainable journeys in nature.
10. Leave us four suggestions of what we can do to feel the results of a retreat in our daily lives.
Create space for self-reflection (with the support of a coach, if necessary)
Learn something new: healthy walks and Qigong!
Experience the positive impact of being in nature and
Promote peace of mind and alignment between body and mind.
 Based on Chinese medicine, philosophy and martial arts, Qigong is a combination of gentle movements, good posture and breathing. It involves strengthening, stretching and meditation.