I’ve long been feeling that I needed a fresh start. So when Marpole Retreats invited me to spend a weekend at a beautiful, little-known resort not too far from Vancouver, BC, something told me I needed to do it for more than a story.

When I arrived at Loon Lake Lodge on a late August afternoon, I was warmly welcomed by Marie-Helena Fryman, founder, and host of Marpole Retreats, who invited me to get comfortable, drop my bags and check out the surroundings before dinner and lakeside campfire time. Each retreat takes place at different properties, but they are chosen for their natural beauty as well as exceptional amenities. Loon Lake Lodge offers a uniquely tranquil setting, perched on a crystal-clear lake at the end of a 3.5-mile forest service road. The area is managed by the University of British Columbia for forestry research and education, and except for the occasional plane or helicopter flying over, there was no drone of traffic noise to be heard.

Koerner Lodge, Marpole Retreats, Healthy Living + Travel

Well-marked trails beckoned into the woods and around the lake; however, so did the delicious smell of dinner coming from the kitchen downstairs. I took a short stroll to check out the view from the dock below the lodge and soon found myself seated on the deck with the other participants enjoying chicken in a creamy red pepper sauce with rice pilaf, and berry crisp for dessert. All meals were included in the retreat, and those on diets like gluten-free or vegan were well provided for.

Firepit, Marpole Retreats, Healthy Living + Travel

After dinner, it was time to gather around the firepit with our teas and beverages and socialize. On the first night, sprinkles of rain caused us to adjourn to the fireplace inside the timber-frame lodge. On the second night, the skies were clear enough for stargazing (a rare treat for us city dwellers) and it was warm enough for a few brave souls to take a nighttime swim in the lake.

On Saturday, there were workshops on goal setting and healthy eating, as well as a creative afternoon activity (painting) and yoga on the deck before dinner. There was also ample time for free exploration and meditating on the purpose and goals we tried to articulate in the workshops, whether chatting over meals, walking the Loon Lake Mindfulness Loop through the forest, or going out for a paddle on the lake. Depending on the location and length (i.e., weekend or long weekend) of a retreat, there may also be opportunities for cultural activities, spa treatments, and more.

In such a beautiful setting, away from normal life, one can’t help but feel relaxed. But the activities and personal development workshops are designed to help guests make changes beyond the weekend retreat, too. “What makes Marpole Retreats different is our genuine focus on holistic health and wellness,” says Marie. “We help our guests find what is going to make them happy and how to get there. This is why we offer goal-setting workshops and different activities, to bring guests out of their routine and ask questions about their purpose and passions.”

Though my relaxation levels were much improved by Sunday afternoon, I still didn’t know what my life’s purpose was. But after the workshops and walks and hearing the stories of others, a tiny, undeniable sense of direction was becoming clear, like how you look for the next colored marker on a tree when hiking in the forest. The retreat also includes a follow-up session with a personal development coach, further encouraging accountability for your goals once you get home. So I guess I’m on this journey now.

Marpole Retreats has more weekend retreats coming up, including a New Year’s Resolution retreat at Harrison Lake, BC, in December and at Vancouver Island’s Tigh-Na-Mara Seaside Spa Resort in spring 2023, as well as online workshops focused on health and wellness. Visit marpoleretreats.com for more information.