“Wanderlust” — a strong desire to explore. Wanderlust Snowshoe offers the means to explore ourselves.
It’s “life changing,” said Joelle Connors. It gave Lindsay Schooler, a yoga instructor, “so many tools to bring back here.” And for Eriks Janelsins and Lea Ridenour who spent their first anniversary at Wanderlust Snowshoe last year, it was a “totally new experience to do together, a shared experience,” Janelsins said.
Wanderlust is a “summer camp for adults,” Ridenhour said.
“Transformation begins here,” says the Wanderlust website. The mission of Wanderlust is to “help you find your true north. True north is not a final destination. It’s a purpose, a journey, a yearning to explore and connect to your life’s purpose.”
If all this speaks to you, you may just be interested in the three-day adventure June 8-10 in Snowshoe, W.Va.
Wanderlust events are held east, west, south and north of us, but we in West Virginia are lucky enough to have one right here in the green mountains of our state.
In a nutshell, this is Wanderlust, said Kim Small, director of publicity: “Wanderlust was founded in 2009 and, since then, has come to the forefront of the international mindful movement, fostering a vibrant and active generation of seekers around the world who are passionate about finding their true north. Wanderlust’s immersive multi-day festivals combine world-class yoga instruction and outdoor activities, music by top global and local performers, organic food, art and inspirational talks from our Speakeasy lecture series in spectacular natural settings.
“Each festival provides a mindful retreat amid magnificent scenery where attendees can ‘choose their own adventure’ from hundreds of offerings during the course of the weekend,” she said.
There will be music, speakers, artists, chefs, music, workshops, outdoor activities and camaraderie. And yoga.
“With how crazy-busy all of our lives are … go, go, go all the time, super plugged in to technology … the idea of a weekend mountain retreat doing nothing but relaxing seemed like a mini-vacation to me,” Connors said.
It turned out to be more than a mini-vacation. It was “life-changing.”
“At the end of the first day, I thought, ‘What the hell just happened!’ Three days of that was just awesome.”
She felt “more peaceful inside — a sort of calmness, less tension in my shoulders. Throughout the year … more mindful.”
Some of the best of the best in their fields are instructors at Wanderlust. “You don’t have to go to India. You can go to Snowshoe, W.Va,” said Connors, who is external affairs manager at American Electric Power. One of her instructors worked closely with Deepak Chopra, a prominent figure in the New Age movement.
Connors’ goal was to focus on meditation last year. “I didn’t know how to start. I didn’t know if it was for me.”
Looking back on her journal from the weekend, Connors found words like “whoa.” And “wow” describing some of her revelations and experiences. Of course, her journal entries got a little deeper than that … “I want to feel worthy,” she wrote one day. “I want to feel worthy of health, worthy to return to my once-athletic physique, to deserve longevity, physical strength and energy.”
This year, Connors’ goal is to challenge herself.
“I am mostly looking forward to seeing how far I can push myself out of my comfort zone.” To that end, she’s signed up for hikes, acro-yoga and stand-up paddleboard yoga.
“I intend to be open to all experiences this year,” she said.
Looking at all the options can be a bit overwhelming, Connors said. “Now that I’ve been through a year, now I understand it. It helps to set an intension before you go, it helps set your plan. … If you can answer the question for yourself, “Why am I going?’ that will help guide which courses you choose.”
And, even if you’re not into yoga, you can go on hikes, go mountain biking, attend nutrition classes and workshops, listen to music. “You don’t have to do one minute of yoga,” she said.
Or, you could skip all the classes and just enjoy the mountain scenery and the music. There’s a chairlift to ride, you can rent a kayak on the lake or just “sit in a glorious chair on the beach,” said Schooler, who opened Happy Goat Yoga in North Wheeling a few years ago.
There is live music going on everywhere and a lot of the classes have live music — drums, a cello, a flute — or a live deejay.
“A stage is set up in the beautiful square. … There was an awesome band. … I danced my way through the crowd on my way to class, and then said to myself, ‘nope, I’m staying and listening to music,’” Schooler said. So she skipped her class to dance.
“The setting defines it,” said Janelsins, president and CEO of the Oglebay Foundation. “You’re up on the mountaintop surrounded by people from all over the world.”
“For Lea and I, we went to dinner together. We did lots of things together, but you’re also focused on yourself. To take three days out of the entire year and take care of yourself, and have people who are experts — who literally ‘wrote the books’ … You know how retreats are … they give you a million different things, but if one sticks,” it’s been a great experience, he said.
“Not having time for myself,” said Ridenour, vice president of trust and investment services at WesBanco, “my needs are secondary to everybody else. I was very focused on how much physical activity can I fit in in three days.”
She, like Connors, felt the experience was “absolutely” life changing. “I think, if nothing else, it emphasizes for me how little time I spend on myself, and how essential that is for me to perform for clients, children, spouse, community. You can’t run your life without ‘soul’ food, without replenishing your internal energy.”
This is the fourth year for Schooler to attend, and each year has been a completely different experience.
The first year, her husband Josh went with her. The second year, she took her son Dryden, who was 9 at the time. “It was profoundly good for him,” she said. Halfway through the first day, he told his mom that it changed his life. He was amazed at how kind everyone was.
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“He did every minute of every class. I was so proud,” she said.
Last year, Schooler went by herself and did a lot of meditation as well as yoga nidra and kundalini, all which were “deep and spiritual and energy-based, so it was very good for me.”
Kylie Ignace, a yoga instructor at Happy Goat and other spots in the area and a marketing coordinator for WTOV, is returning to Wanderlust Snowshoe for the third time.
“When I first went to Wanderlust, I had little to no expectations. After arriving, I was blown away how the ski village transformed. Like-minded people who crave mindfulness and outdoors flood to the sidewalks. Live music is playing around the village, and people are walking around in the most comfortable athletic gear with a huge smile and look of contentment after just taking a class from one of the most talented teachers around the world,” Ignace shared.
This year, she’s looking forward to her “absolute favorite” teachers — Tiffany Cruikshank, who she was trained under, Chelsey Korus and Mary Beth LaRue.
Kathy Szafran, president and CEO of Crittenton Services, makes it a girlfriend getaway.
“Snowshoe is beautiful in June. We rent a condo to share the expenses, and there are always several other groups of folks that we connect with from the Ohio Valley. The event itself is very well organized from the classes to the foods. The focus is on wellbeing and balance. It gives you an opportunity to practice your yoga with some of the best teachers in the world and to try a wide variety of classes, like aerial yoga. Kundalini yoga was a blast!
“But it’s not just yoga, there are classes on healthy eating, meditation, running, health, hiking, stress reduction, etc. And in the evening there are really fun activities. Last year we experienced a ‘silent disco,’ which is disco dancing with headphones, very fun,” she said.
“Wanderlust is an amazing adventure designed to meet you exactly where you are. Whether you are a beginner or experienced in your practice you are welcome to join any event and make it work for you,” said Cindy Becker, a senior executive academic specialist with Janssen Biotech.
“For me the peace that comes from being in the beautiful West Virginia Mountains practicing yoga with friends keeps me going back each year,” Becker said. “My favorite part of Wanderlust is the positive vibe and acceptance felt. All the stress of life goes away and the focus is peace and happiness. Our travel back to Wheeling is always one full of reflection and laughter and the desire to carry that on as we return.”
A yoga class from a “big, beefy triangle of a guy,” from Brooklyn, N.Y., had life-changing implications for Ridenhour. Something he imparted allowed her to “graduate from post-divorce therapy,” she said.
“It deepened my awareness to take the time to be good to myself in a compassionate and holistic way. So much of my time is spent taking care of others, my experience at Wanderlust helped me to focus on the importance of taking care of myself. And that’s a really okay thing to do,” Szafran said.
“I think getting our your comfort zone and being in a beautiful, open space filled with thousands of relatively like-minded people, really changes you in a way you don’t expect,” Schooler said.
“It’s a very individual experience, but a very collective experience, too,” Connors said.
Connors believes that whatever your purpose, “you’re going to have a great experience.”
“Maybe you just need to exhale. Maybe you just want to have fun. It’s different for everyone. I like that I can go to meditation, my friend can go to yoga, and we can meet up at the end of the day and talk about our experiences.”
Tips from those who have “Wanderlusted”:
Don’t over schedule yourself. And you can change your schedule once you get there.
Try something out of your comfort zone. Maybe Stand-Up Paddleboard yoga or aerial yoga? Or a hike up a mountain. Or visit the “silent disco.” Try a daily yin class or meditation class.
Take warm clothes, rain gear and lots of layers. Even though it’s June, it’s the mountains. But bring a bathing suit, too.
Most rooms have refrigerators so take some breakfast food and snacks so you don’t have to go out to eat for all meals. There are lots of food options, too.
Take some spending money! There are cool shops, outdoor markets and a very expensive ski shop with good sales on winter clothing because it’s summer!
Come Thursday, so you can hit the ground running early Friday morning. Stay until Monday, so you can have a few hours to absorb the weekend when the event is over.
You don’t have to go with a group to have fun.
Drink lots of water.
Go with the flow.
Pictured at the top of page, Lindsay Schooler strikes a pose in the beautiful setting of Wanderlust Snowshoe. (Photo courtesy of Jessie Tierney)
• After nearly 38 years as reporter, bureau chief, lifestyles editor and managing editor at The Times Leader, and design editor at The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register, Phyllis Sigalhas joined Weelunk as managing editor. She lives in Wheeling with her husband Bruce Wheeler. Along with their two children, son-in-law and two grandchildren, food, wine, travel, theater and music are close to their hearts.