Interview by Jade McSorley
Originally appeared on Twenty6magazine
What makes a good yoga retreat? Exclusively the yoga? The location? The meditation? The nourishing vegetarian food?
There is one person who makes these important decisions and proves significant in establishing that perfect yogic balance between restoration and exploration, and that is the Host. After staying at Summersalt Yoga on Vis Island, one of Croatia’s beautiful islands, we chatted to Founder and the perfect hostess, Milda Urban, who manages the retreat along with her partner, Mario Tomasovic. We discovered her ethos on running her own yoga retreat, her views on sustainability not only within the healthy meals she cooks herself, but also in her mindful regard to the community around her.
Tell us about Summersalt Yoga on Vis Island, How did it begin? What are your hopes from guests when they attend one of your retreats?
I’ve started Summersalt Yoga right before the wave of retreats had taken over the world. I wanted to put together three of my passions – travel, the Mediterranean and my new found passion of yoga. Living in Croatia, I had a perfect spot for all that, especially on the peaceful island of Vis that’s so beautiful; it offers so much to discover and at the same time is a perfect setting for a serene holiday, self-reflection and of course, yoga. That’s my hope for all of the guests – for them to experience both the balance and wholeness of the yoga and meditation practice, as well as to awaken the explorers within them.
Why Croatia as a destination? What is so special about Vis, in particular?
I’ve been living in Croatia for years now, so it was only natural to choose it as a starting ground. It is also an up and coming travel destination for people from all over the world and we love to show them around! Vis is special because of its laid-back vibe, serenity, unbelievably beautiful nature and views, and just that little something that you can’t put your finger on. It is also one of the less busy islands here, which we absolutely love!
What is your ethos on sustainability and do you think it can be achieved within luxury travel?
I have been personally interested and invested in exploring sustainable business for years now. I think it is possible to achieve it in luxury travel if you educate yourself, and inform and educate your customers. It is a process and we are walking this path – there are always areas to improve, but we are aiming to be respectful to our environment, to our community and how we do things: from basics such as the food, using local ingredients and hiring local partners to worldwide giving back projects. Giving back is so natural to me and within our business and, I think, in this day and age all businesses should find their ways to contribute.
As well as the yoga and SUP sessions, food is always a key part for guests. What do you usually cater for your yogis, and do you maintain your sustainable efforts when it comes to the cuisine?
First and most importantly, we try to use as much local produce as possible. Secondly, we are the opposite of the “all-inclusive” style establishments with limitless options and over-flowing quantities that are to be tossed away. We provide healthy and balanced meals and try to keep our waste to a minimum. All our meals are vegetarian or vegan, we offer a few dish options and combinations for breakfasts and dinners (smoothies, porridges, fruit, salads, main veggie meals and some sides). We try to always keep it fresh, interesting, healthy and inspiring!
You offer an Artist in Residency program. Tell us a little more about this program and how you hope this will enhance Summersalt Yoga?
We’ve had artists stay with us already before we officially named it “Artist in residency” and we found that both their contribution to the group and the workshops they offered, as well as the art they’ve created, has definitely left an impact on our guests and us. Art workshops complement yoga and meditation classes with another angle of mindfulness, creativity and freedom of expression. For example, painting a person taps into their inner-selves and can result in an experience of emotions, reaching creativity levels they thought they’ve lost or never had! We’ve done water color, life drawing classes, as well as sound-scaping workshop, which were very unique! The artists also leave some of their work for us – we use the paintings and photographs both as art to inspire our guests, as well as part of our marketing materials (e.g. using a watercolour to create postcards etc).This year we are also going to use the watercolour paintings in an online auction and raise money for our B1G1 business project.
As part of your Giving Back initiative, you are part of the B1G1 business for good community. What are the goals of B1G1 and how does Summersalt Yoga support these projects?
B1G1 is a social enterprise and non-profit organization with a mission to create a world full of giving. How it works is that each enterprise chooses the issues and causes closest to them and can directly contribute to their improvement. Our current focus is on women empowerment and environmental issues. With our contributions we help to provide business training to women in communities in need in Africa. Other projects include providing water, hygiene kits for girls, as well as social worker support.
Lastly, what has been your most rewarding feedback offered by past guest(s) about their stay with Summersalt Yoga retreats?
Getting positive feedback in general is one of the best rewards we can get! Some of the more common ones are from guests who say that after the week they been enabled to make a long-needed change in their lives or they have been inspired to shift their perspective on something they’ve been stuck on for a long time. But any positive experience is important – even if it is a simple beautiful, relaxing and long-needed holiday!