SheLift Escape to Todos Santos, MX

Last month, 17 women decided to take a break from their work, children, friends, and devices to give themselves a gift they badly deserved – an escape to Mexico. Together, these women ranging in age from their 20’s - 40’s stepped out of their comfort zones physically and emotionally. For some, this meant kayaking in open water, for others it was sharing their feelings out loud to a group of strangers or for a few, it was setting foot into a yoga studio for the very first time.

This trip to Mexico wasn’t your average girl’s trip, this was a weekend for bonding, self-care and re-discovering one’s highest self.  I designed this SheLift inspired retreat after discovering that women with physical differences aren’t the only ones who could benefit from self-acceptance, connection and adventure. Women of all ages, sizes, abilities and backgrounds are seeking deep connection and meaningful experiences. When I first started curating SheLift retreats, I wanted to provide an experience for girls who’ve been made to feel “different” their whole lives finally feel like they belonged. That meant creating an environment where girls could feel safe, free to share, pampered, empowered and above all else, accepted. I wanted to create an opportunity for girls to discover their physical potential by encouraging them to opt-in to recreation that pushed their comfort zones. I also wanted them to receive the appropriate education and mentorship for working towards a place of self-acceptance. Lastly and most importantly, I wanted to create an experience that allowed girls to make lifelong friends with women whom they could relate to.

After hosting two successful SheLift retreats, I decided it was time to expand our reach. To test the waters, I put together an idea for a retreat and posted it online just to see who would bite. The trip would consist of SheLift programming; coaching, workshops and adventure plus a monetary donation to SheLift. Included in everyone's ticket was a $500 donation that would go directly to the SheLift scholarship fund to provide financial assistance for future retreat applicants. Simply curious to see who and if anyone would sign up, I was astonished to see that 10 of the 18 spots available were sold within the first week of sale, and the remaining within the month.

After eagerly awaiting the first SheLift Escape for months, 17 women (plus myself) showed up in Todos Santos for a weekend of unknown. What followed for the next four days will remain our sacred secret to keep, but it was nothing short of magical. We ate farm-fresh mexican fare, lounged by the pool, practiced morning yoga, journaled, workshopped, kayaked, shared, vision-boarded, shared some more, and laughed a lot. We had an entire property to ourselves, free to roam, bask in the sun, explore and breathe in. To cap the weekend, I asked the women to join me in what could quite possibly the most uncomfortable thing they’ve ever done – pose for a photo in their swimsuit.

Aerie, the swimwear and intimates line by American Eagle reached out to me about a photo campaign they were running in March in honor of International Women’s Day. Knowing that SheLift stands for body positivity, Aerie saw a ripe opportunity for us to get involved. Their campaign, #AerieREAL is encouraging women to post UNphotoshopped photos of themselves to Instagram to encourage and support positive body image. For every unretouched swim photo shared with #AerieREAL, Aerie will donate $1 (up to $25K) to NEDA, a non-profit that supports those affected by eating disorders. This was an opportunity and campaign I HAD to get behind. Knowing I had 18 women – all with beautifully different bodies – held captive at a private, resort in Mexico, I knew we had a chance to create a magical story in a safe, encouraging place. I emailed all the women before leaving for Mexico describing the empowering campaign and gave them the opportunity to opt-in ONLY if they felt comfortable. I impressed, however, that if they were feeling a little uncomfortable, it was probably a great exercise to explore.

Leading up to the photoshoot, we discussed our personal hesitations and insecurities about being photographed in a swimsuit. Come to find, those are the same reasons we felt compelled to do it. Collectively, we agreed that the things that make us self-conscious about our bodies are the things we don’t see enough of in the media and we had an opportunity to change that for other women. If more people could see confident, intelligent women with stretch marks, or trauma scars, or missing arms or legs, then maybe fewer women would feel alone. Empowered by one another, we put our swimsuits on and strutted our stuff out to the pool for the sunset photoshoot. I can’t speak for everyone’s inner monologue during the shoot, but what I witnessed and felt was anything but self-consciousness and shame. I witnessed confidence, excitement, elegance and radiant beauty. I saw a group of women who felt 100% comfortable to be in their own skin, if only for a few short moments. They weren’t being judged, or looked at funny. They were exuding self-esteem.

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I can’t quite put to words how proud I am of these women for opt-ing into to make an impact on young women. We were able to raise nearly $8,000 for SheLift, but the emotional contribution given by these women was just as meaningful. Their bravery, willingness to dare and their vulnerability is immeasurable by words. My pride and gratitude can only be expressed in a thousand worship hands emojis. To the ladies who participated in this challenge, THANK YOU. To the ladies who still want to take on this challenge, GO DO IT, YOU SEXY THING. Show up for yourselves, the women who love you and the women who will look to you.

If you are interested in joining our next SheLift Escape, you can sign up to be notified as soon as it’s announced. 

> > > > > SIGN UP HERE < < < < < 

Thank you Nicole Balsamo for capturing these ladies’ unspeakable beauty and our forever cherished moments.

Thank you Allie Stark for helping us step more fully into our highest selves.

Thank you Pachamama, and Anabel, Clara and Elizabeth for hosting and feeding us in Todos Santos.

Thanks to Athleta, Raen, Aerie, GoPro, and Corksickle for the gifts.

Thank you Brenna, Chelci, Shelby, Amy, Corrina, Danielle, Ashley, Erin, Sterling, Cassy, Margie, Holly, Jocelyn, Tiffany, Devon, Allie and Nicole for showing up.

sarah herron