Baby Steps……To Big Dreams – Q + A with Soulfit Adventures Virginia Slevin
SoulFit Adventures is creating a revolutionary way forward in today’s offerings of active retreats and holidays. Although Virginia Slevin may seem like a textbook for success, her story is far from having sandy feet and a casual cycle whenever she desires. It’s taken years of sweat, sacrifice and more than a few courageous obstacles in her way to get her where she is today.
Today there are many companies and individuals offering retreats that have yoga and or, other activities - but few that offer yoga and cycling complimenting the yin and yang energies of the body and mind. Yoga is often termed a meditation in motion and the yogic philosophies encourage a lifestyle –both on and off the mat. Virginia guides her active adventures in a similar way with equilibrium both on and off the bike!
But there’s more to Virginia’s business of SoulFit Adventures than meets the eye and I want to know what drives her in placing SoulFit Adventures on today’s map of world-renowned active retreats. And so, I have decided to dive in and ask some questions to unravel the mystery of why her active retreats are becoming so popular.
Who am I? I’m Natasha, an editor and writer and share Virginia’s love of movement, meditation, and the adventurous life. I’m collaborating with Virginia and have come on board with SoulFit Adventures to write blogs and share informative and uplifting insights about the business and beyond.
And what better place to start than by asking Virginia questions—and she has openly agreed to put some curiosities at bay to some of the questions you may want to know too!
Virginia knew from the moment she envisaged SoulFit Adventures that it had the potential to inspire and create better lives for people around her and the world. Although she had a good job in the corporate world she knew that something was missing. She doesn’t know what ignited her entrepreneurial spirit but has always believed she could live a life she dreamed of incorporating her love of travel, event management, yoga, and cycling – with hard work, of course.
Let’s find out what happens when Virginia isn’t travelling and in between the social media posts in stunning location.
Virginia you appear to have a dream life darting off to France, Italy (twice!), Cambodia, and Bali this year alone! How did it feel to become SoulFit Adventures and not Virginia going on a Retreat?
As the one-woman behind SoulFit Adventures I am the one answering email enquiries, doing all the research, marketing, website updates and organising the small details for the retreats. It takes huge amounts of time to plan and cater for every individual on the active retreats—this is when I feel like Virginia the event manager and I just get on with the job.
Before I leave on a trip I constantly hear my colleagues, friends and family commenting “Have a good holiday Virginia”—It’s, at this point that I feel the separation from my business. I organise the active holiday retreats and I don’t get to have a holiday, although I am very fortunate that I get to work in such stunning locations. I am SoulFit Adventures and the business. Who knows maybe one day I will go on one of my retreats as a guest but for now I just smile and say “Ciao”.
I love my company and what the brand stands for encouraging people to live an active healthier life—and I certainly lead by example in my lifestyle but running a business is time consuming. On top of that I have a full yoga teaching schedule when I am not travelling and I am learning slowly how to be Virginia in my free time, SoulFit Adventures Virginia behind the screen of my computer and whilst on retreats.
Your retreats are different, you manage all the small details for a worry free holiday, how do you do it?
I wanted to create an adventure of cycling and yoga in the most luxurious destinations around the world. An active holiday where all you have to do is book your flight and arrive. There are many who don’t offer the detail I do. With so much experience in travel, hospitality and event management it’s something I know how to do and I collaborate with some fabulous local people in Italy, France, Cambodia and Bali who I couldn’t do it without and who help me bring the retreats together. I spend a lot of time on emails in conversation behind the scenes making the retreats completely worry-free. It sets the holiday apart and the guests are more relaxed and enveloped in the experience I set out to create – a whole retreat feeling without the decision-making and daily woes of life!
If someone was interested in starting yoga but didn’t know where to start, what would you recommend?
Choose your own adventure. There are as many different styles of yoga, and before you settle into a regular style, test out a few different classes at different studies to find the right style of yoga and teacher match for you. I incorporate two styles of yoga into my retreats: Vinyasa, the fluid, dynamic style that combines a series of postures with breathwork and Yin Yoga where the postures are more passive (but can still be challenging!), mainly on the floor. Yin Yoga is unique in that we target the fascia, connective tissue, and joints and you are asked to relax in the posture, and move closer to the bone.
To get you started: If you only practice for one hour a week, you will experience some of the benefits of the practice. If you can do more than that, you will experience more benefits. I suggest starting with two or three times (if you have the time) a week, for an hour each time. If you can only do 20 minutes per session, that’s fine too. You will likely find that after a while your desire to practice expands naturally and you will find yourself doing more and more which is exactly what happened to me! If you don’t have easy access to yoga studios, there are lots of online options available.
What advice would you give others if they wanted to take up cycling but hadn’t ridden a bike since they were a child?
That’s a great question and you might be surprised to know that it’s not unusual that a guest will book one of our yoga and cycling holidays and not have ridden a bike for 20 years! We cater to all levels of experience, but for your own comfort and safety, it’s not something I would recommend.
If you wanted to take up cycling regardless of whether you are interested in joining us on a retreat, at the beginning of training, the only thing to worry about is building a base and focus on three things: endurance, strength, and speed. It depends on your physical fitness and what you can handle but what I would recommend is that you focus on time, not distance. Not all distances are created equal. Consistency is more important than the length of the rides in the beginning. Everyone is different, but for myself it’s much better to ride three shorter days in a row rather than one day of 250kms. Start with thirty minutes to an hour each time and gradually increase the length of time on the bike. From there you will naturally start to increase the distance you have ridden on the bike. An ideal place to start cycling is on something like the Fernleigh Track, which is a fabulous sealed, off road cycling track here in Newcastle, where you don’t have to worry about traffic and other obstacles, or a velodrome. Then when you are or comfortable on the bike and using gears, you can work your way onto the streets. Alternatively, pick a short circuit close to your home where you know the streets and the traffic well and repeat that circuit until you are more confident to venture further afield. You will build your fitness and confidence up in no time!
What’s your favourite part of the retreat process?
Being on it!
What are your fears in business?
There are not enough people on the retreats for them to run.
How do you find balance?
Time spent outdoors and that can be a ride on my bike, yoga or a walk along the beach from Bar Beach to Merewether, Newcastle and back followed by a swim. It depends what the weather is like and how I'm feeling. Whilst I am on retreat I keep my balance by always allowing myself some time out—even if it is only ten minutes. It’s how I reset.
Why do so many of these type of businesses fail?
People think it’s a matter of booking accommodation and the guests will come! I believe the number one reason why they fail is because they fail to set the intention; they do not put the required effort needed to make the retreat, product, or service successful. If they don’t have the fire in their hearts and the will to make it happen, they won’t be successful. It takes a lot of hard work and the know-how for any business. My corporate role may have provided me more security—but Soulfit Adventures is where the fire is ignited in my life. You also have to love what you do and be of service.
Do you find Social Media a tool in your business?
I find Social Media the biggest time-taker in my business; it can be a full time job in itself! It is a must for any business though - it’s how we market and network today.
I create individual retreat social media pages linked to my webpage for all my retreats.
I’ve tirelessly created a list of followers on Facebook.
I direct people through social media to my email list.
I post pictures of the retreat, guests on the retreat, location shots and the list goes on, on Social media…
I have a pre-launch campaign for my retreat on social media.
I spend hours posting and connecting with followers across Instagram and other forms of social media…need I say more. A time warp I’m forever lost in. A love - hate relationship but an essential part of my business.
What advice would you give someone looking for a Retreat today?
There are so many options out there these days for you to choose from when trying to find the perfect retreat for you. I would ask as many questions as you need to before committing to make sure you know what you are going to get. Decide whether you want a more traditional type of retreat or, whether you prefer a bit more action and adventure like a SoulFit Adventure. It’s easy to become complacent in our day to day lives so push yourself a little to try something new. You never know, you might just surprise yourself at what you can do!
The main reason people attend my retreats is because they are active healthy holidays that traditional retreats or boot camps don’t cater for. I offer yoga and other activities, like daily cycling and a chance to see some of the country they are visiting, and if people want to enjoy a glass of wine in Provence or a gelati in Italy—they are more than welcome to. After all it’s their holiday retreat.
If you had your time over – what would you do differently?
I would be wiser. I was made redundant when the Global Financial Crisis hit back in 2009—I started my business on the smell of an oily rag and it’s been tough. I probably wouldn’t do that again or recommend it to others if I had my time over but, it’s been one hell of a ride…:-).
When you know something calls you and I knew there had to be a way of incorporating event management and travel together I had to perceive and make it happen, I would plan and know the better way to start a business if I had a replay option. Today there are lots of retreat companies and individuals running all different sorts of retreats and holidays. When I started SoulFit Adventures back in 2010, the wellness holiday industry was in its infancy, and no one was doing what SoulFit Adventures does. I really was starting blindfolded!
I would have more funds and learnt all the lessons in business, which I have just come through the other side from.
I would also be living in a villa in Tuscany – you never know, that may still happen!
Virginia and I invite you to join the conversation by writing your questions, comments, or insights if you have previously been a part of the adventure with SoulFit Adventures below and remember, NEVER STOP DREAMING!