Dominical Retreat Testimonial | Kirsten Robinson


It’s a Friday in January at 5:30pm—and instead of sitting at my desk in Manhattan, wrapping up work—I’m on a boat. A pretty big sailboat, off the Western coast of Costa Rica, surrounded by 18 laughing people I didn’t know five days earlier, but who are now like family. We’re watching dolphins jumping out of the water against the backdrop of one of the most epic sunsets I’ve ever seen—pinks and oranges that painters can only dream of. I’m also pink—the sun here’s no joke. And I can’t remember the last time I brushed my hair—nor do I care. Biting into a giant shrimp, I overhear:

“Is this real life? I just can’t believe that I’m here right now, doing all of this. It’s surreal!”

Yes, this is real life—and life is good. It’s an amazing start to 2017.

In 2016, parts of life weren’t so good, and that’s how I ended up on this boat. Have you ever had days where you wake up thinking, “How did I get here? This was not how things were supposed to turn out.” Or, moments where you look in the mirror and really don’t like what you see? Felt totally lost? Whether you know why you’re unhappy, or just feel stagnant, you recognize that you need change.   

In traveling to Dominical, I discovered there’s no better way to get started than by diving headfirst into an unknown adventure. You not only learn a lot about yourself—you learn a lot about the people jumping in next to you. In my case, they were my fellow Surf Yoga Beer adventurers. While I can’t tell you how to spend your PTO days, I can tell you that if it’s by going on a trip with SYB, it’ll be the best decision you’ve made in a long time.

Here’s why, featuring a magical place called Dominical, Costa Rica:

You Will Face a Fear (and Tell It to Buzz Off)

Once upon a time, 4-year-old me jumped into a pool with swimmies on her ankles and not on her arms. Cue water inversion, and a lifelong fear of drowning. The idea of learning to surf was terrifying, but in the spirit of testing myself, I had to try. And I’m still here. To my surprise, I even enjoyed myself. It helped to have a very legit local surfer named Eben on board (literally—he was pushing us). To be surrounded by the most beautiful, remote beaches. And with a group of fellow shark-bait cheering me on.

You Will Never Again Underestimate the Power of Teamwork

“Isolation” is a term that should be kept to exercise moves. It’s incredible what you can accomplish with the right support, partnerships and motivation—including catching that wave, or getting smashed by it and paddling out again; finishing that last set of reps when your arms are shaking; crawling through a barbed wire fence on your hike to a waterfall. Teammates provide the mental net you need when taking a leap. 

You Will Appreciate Your Body (for the Right Reasons)

Going on a “fitness adventure” led by someone with an 8-pack may seem counterintuitive to embracing strength over aesthetics, but Mantas is the best—seek mentorship from those who already embody where and what you want to be. Morning Bootcamp sessions that you’d cop out of on your own become invigorating and impossible to quit when you have the power of positivity jumping around you, encouraging you to push, push (what does he put in his coffee, anyway?). Scale a mountain? Do sprints up and down a driveway so steep, it should be illegal? Okay! With muscles screaming, I had more admiration for what my body could do for me than what I thought it was supposed to look like. Which leads me to…

You Will Realize No One Cares (in the Best Way)

What’s makeup? What’s a hairbrush? What’s soap? Oh, you have two left feet and are really bad at this salsa dancing lesson? No worries. The best part about bonding with complete strangers is the lack of preconceived notions. You don’t have to be what you’re expected to be. You can be who you are. No judgements. All kindness. It’s refreshing.

You Will Rediscover the Beauty Around You

Enormous, tropical trees stretching a canopy of green over your head. Verdant, rolling mountainsides. Hummingbirds flitting from flower to flower. Sand in your sheets, stuck to your toes. Sunshine turning ocean water to salt on your skin. Cold rain in a warm pool. The sound of cicadas lulling you to sleep at night. The taste of locally sourced, exquisitely cooked food. The easy smile of someone so relaxed, they can’t keep it from spreading across their face. A hug from a person you just met, but who already feels at home in your heart.

You Will Laugh (and Laugh, and Laugh)

Whoever said laughter isn’t contagious never tried multiplying 19 different personalities x 1 house x 6 days. Now add in a sprinkling of Eddie’s kickass cocktails, embarrassing stories, girls on deflating pool ducks, geographically-challenged boys, non-English speaking dancing teachers, 6am disco ball wakeups…I could go on. In a situation of unknowns, laughter was the constant sound—all day, every day.

(P.s. If you enjoy a kickass cocktail and healthy food, go to Salud. Vamos!)     

You Will Also Cry

It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle of Manhattan, suppressing feelings for another time. I.e., an evening in Costa Rica when you end up bawling after Ali, your resident yoga goddess, guides you through a meditation that would knock you flat with feels if you weren’t already laying on the ground. I was embarrassed by my uncontrollable tears until my roommate, Molly, walked around the corner also sniffling—and then we sat in silence with our arms hooked, soaking in each other’s company.

You Will Let Go

After the 2016 breakup that started me down this path, I asked a lot of people, “Let go? But how do you do it? How do you know?” No response was satisfactory. When I didn’t feel different, I felt defeated. I didn’t know I had let go until I sat down to write this post. I no longer felt the anger and sadness that had enveloped me for months. I still worry about the future—who doesn’t?—but there is more excitement where fear used to be. How? Maybe because there isn’t room. Open yourself up—to new adventures, new people, new opportunities. Open your heart up past what feels reasonable or comfortable, and you will be amazed by what comes rushing in to fill it: joy, hope, positive energy, laughter, growth, love. The things that have the power to transform you for the better are ultimately what drives the bad things out. Let them in, so you can let go.

You Will Fall in Love

In Dominical, I tested my limits, and surpassed them. I laughed and cried and judged myself for neither. I tried new things. I filled my camera roll with photos that will never compare to the real thing. I fell in love with 18 other people, and with a place. And, I fell back in love with myself.

A beach bum at heart, Kirsten is a writer and editor living and working in NYC. Check out her Instagram