Hi Wellness Friends! Once a year, I head back to the place where I got my wellness groove on, both personally and professionally, to work at Rancho La Puerta’s annual Family Week. The next best thing to being with my own family, is watching other families smile, laugh, and reconnect with what it feels like to have fun as a family. Here’s a quick re-cap of this magical year.
Let’s face it. Family vacations are problematic. Keeping kids at various ages and stages of life happy, engaged, and eating foods other than fried chicken fingers, while enjoying a bit of healthy R&R yourself seems like the plot of a summer sci-fi movie.
And if your kids are a bit older, just the words “family” and “vacation” in the same sentence can set off a cascade of eye rolling, foot stomping, and tense family meetings that often end with your teens begging you to let them stay home alone.
Enter Family Week at Rancho La Puerta, the award winning destination spa just south of San Diego, in Tecate, Baja, Mexico.
The Ranch, as it is known to regulars, has overcome the stumbling blocks of family summer getaways by transforming itself into a family friendly, family connecting, wellness destination for one mid-summer week each year. The special program they create for ages 7 and up is fun, engaging, and multi-generational, all while staying true to its core values and message regarding the importance of wellness in our lives.
“There’s nothing like it for a family,” explained Rex, a three-time returning guest from the Seattle area, who visits with his wife and 13-year old daughter. As we sat together under the gazebo in the ease of a quiet afternoon he shared, “I can get up early and go off on my morning hike while my wife and daughter stay back at our room and sleep in. Later, my wife takes the classes she enjoys while our daughter is busy doing the activities she loves to do. Last year as we were leaving, our daughter was the one who said we needed to come back.”
During Family Week, the Ranch maintains the signature schedule of hikes and fitness classes that have made it a top-notch wellness escape. But the most memorable moments for both parents and kids seem to happen when the Ranch spreads its wings to provide a space and place for kids to roam freely and families to interact.
Kids enjoying a pick-up game of soccer golf on the lawn, raucous family water polo games played bobbing on pool noodles, and slow family meals sans phones, remind us that we can do things together, and it can actually be fun!
Fern, a returning Ranch guest since 1994, began bringing three generations of her clan when Family Week was announced. She said the only requirement for her family is they gather together for dinner at the end of each day. She laughs and explains that without TVs in the room, the younger ones have no choice but to venture outside to meet new friends and try new experiences.
From sun up to sundown there is no shortage of things to do regardless of your age or interests. Rancho La Puerta’s long and celebrated history attracts the highest quality guest presenters, and during Family Week they stack the deck.
Musicians, artists, writers, and storytellers all team up to create a welcoming “no-judgment” zone for all ages. These masters of their craft make it easy to pick up a paint brush or put on your dancing shoes without worrying who’s watching.
When was the last time you “Danced Like Michael Jackson” with your twelve year old, or drifted off into a deep meditative sleep, listening to the sound of healing crystal bowls, with your teen snoozing just a few feet away? As unusual as these images seem, it’s business as usual when families relax into the rhythm of the Ranch.
On the wellness side of things, an early morning hike to the Ranch’s neighboring organic garden serves as a template for unique farm-to-table style nutrition talks and interactive smoothie workshops with the family nutritionist brought in specifically for the week.
Kids learn best when they are engaged, and getting their hands dirty in both the garden and kitchen is often the light-bulb moment they need to connect the dots between what they eat and how they feel everyday.
While sleep comes early after a full day of fun, fitness, and family togetherness, the evening programs are often the highlight of the day. The fourth annual RLP’s Got Talent Show exploded this year with a full line-up of talent, and well . . . not-so-talented talent. Skits prepared during improv classes, Broadway worthy stage performances, and the obligatory joke telling category, all came together in an evening filled with laughter and high-energy support. Rewarding each act with a standing ovation became the perfect way to work off the second gluten-free brownie we all snuck on the way out of the dining room.
On Friday afternoon, a memorable tradition brings the week to a bittersweet close. Families gather in a big circle and listen to each other share one thing they will miss about the Ranch, and one thing they look forward to going home to.
Not surprising, many moms will miss the healthy organic meals that magically appear on the table at the end of each day, and kids can’t wait to get home and hug their pet hamster. But there are also realizations by both, that walking across the property together in the late afternoon sun chatting about their day is pure wellness gold.
The Ranch has been helping people reconnect with their wellness for decades, and now it is an annual tradition to help families do the same. The prescription is simple—-slow down, disconnect from our devices, sit across the dinner table from one another and share our stories, laugh, love, and get a good nights sleep.
It’s all present and accounted for during Family Week. And in the end, modern family wellness feels so good; your kids will be signing you up for next year on the way out the door.
Feel Good. Be Well. Meg
Have you found a family vacation that works for everyone? I’d love to hear your family vacation stories!
Or try this week’s wellness prompt on your own . . .
Wellness Prompt: Vacating our crazy busy lives with our family can be an opportunity to kick back, relax, and reconnect. What is your favorite family vacation or vacation memory? Take a moment to write about it. Where did you go? What were you doing? What did a typical day feel like? Is there a way to bring some of that relaxing family energy back into your day to day life? 10 minute write . . . go!