I state this with utmost confidence – one of the highlights of my 2017 will be attending The Hoop Dream Retreat all over again. Here’s why I’m counting down the days:
1. Stepping outside my comfort zone / Self-discovery
Before booking my tickets to 2016’s retreat, I bent the ears of my peers with the same question: ‘Should I attend a hula hoop retreat or an international arts expo?’ And then I did the opposite of what the majority voted. Everyone (myself included, initially) deemed it the obvious choice for a painter to expand her oeuvre by looking at other paintings, but it dawned on me that a painter can be a hula hooper, a zoologist or even an astronaut if she or he so chooses!
2. Effortless travel
In the months leading up to the trip, every participant received newsletters containing essential information, from currency exchange ratios to sightseeing tips. Transportation was largely taken care of (airport transfers; trips to and from the best bits of town) and The Hula Hoop Institute even organised on-site massages so we didn’t have to leave the comfort of our villas. Not having to sweat the small stuff only meant there was more room for enjoyment ☺
3. Exploring ‘The Jewel of Kedah’
Last year, our pied-à-terre in Bali was a villa surrounded by rice fields; I thought nothing would top that off, but of course, The Hula Hoop Institute has impressed us – in 2017, we’ll be at a beach resort on Langkawi Island, also dubbed ‘The Jewel of Kedah.’ The island is a sparkling gem stepped in folklore and mystery (ask me if you want to hear about the tale of Mahsuri and other Malaysian mythology). Keep your eyes peeled for reddish-brown eagles native to the island (the word eagle in Malay is ‘heLANG,’ hence LANGkawi), shop for duty-free alcohol and sunbathe!
4. Responsible tourism
One aspect of the retreat has stuck with me till this day, and will change the way I travel henceforth. Sidetracked by the allure of adventure, few reflect on sustainability, fair trade or ways to reduce our carbon footprints while travelling. Thankfully, The Hoop Dream Retreat was plenty ethical, in both small and large ways, from gifting us with bamboo straws (to eliminate plastic waste) to supporting small businesses and hiring independent tradesmen. Not only did the retreat promote #zerowaste, but it enabled local chefs, artisans, performers, drivers and the like to earn an honest living.
5. New friends from all across the globe
As someone who’s spent most of her life divided between Kuala Lumpur and New York City, I’ve always been surrounded by a melting pot of cultures. Even so, I was amazed by the diversity of the participants at The Hoop Dream Retreat, who hailed from as near as Singapore to as far away as South Africa. These incredible girls have already extended warm invitations to visit them and their respective countries!
To prove a point, check out this cute video (to the right) that The Hula Hoop Institute filmed to highlight and embrace our diverse group.
6. Learning from the world-class instructors
Mentioning that the world’s best hooping instructors were present seems like a cheap shot for effect, but here’s the thing: the world’s best hooping instructors were at The Hoop Dream Retreat. There’s a mind-blowing difference between imitating hooping moves from a Youtube video and receiving friendly, face-to-face advice from the likes of Deanne Love, Mishie Hoops, Dizzy Dynamic, Emma Kenna and Morgan Jenkins of Hooptown Hotties. 2017’s instructors are cause for excitement too!
7. Multilevel workshops – and a great start for beginners
One of my main concerns before going to The Hoop Dream Retreat was being forced to jump in the deep end, flailing, and walking away with my tail between my legs. On the contrary, each and every instructor took all levels into consideration and often started with the utmost basics or offered simpler alternatives to complicated moves. It was the ideal intensive for beginners such as myself, but even the intermediate hoopers managed to add some pizzazz to their own routines. After doing some research, I discovered that this isn’t the case with all retreats (some are specifically tailored for seasoned hoopers).
8. A proper holiday and ‘me time’
‘Travel brings power and love back into your life,’
quoted a 13th-century Persian Sunni Muslim poet colloquially known as Rumi, whose wise words unquestionably apply to The Hoop Dream Retreat. The six-day retreat was a much-needed wake-up call to stop spreading myself too thin. I love my job (as an arts journalist), but had let myself get sucked into a spiral of deadlines and the anxiety to save up.
Outside of classes and hanging out with awesome people, The Hoop Dream Retreat offered much-needed ‘me time.’ I spoiled myself silly with small indulgences such shopping and supping in style, and loved every minute of it. A holiday was all I needed to go from being jaded to rejuvenated!
9. Live your hoop dream
26 participants from all four corners of the globe had flown (halfway across the world, in many cases) to Bali all because of a shared passion: hula hooping. There may or may not be a community of hoopers where you come from, but in any case, it felt amazing to eat, sleep, hoop and repeat for a good week. Talk about living the dream! We were honing our craft, connecting with fellow hoopers, receiving priceless advice from professional hoopers who had also started from the bottom, and getting inspired.
10. Create lifelong memories
Where do I begin? From late night chats to hiking excursions and coconut breaks to inside jokes… I still experience flashbacks to The Hoop Dream Retreat and break into a smile. There should be a word for it: when a fantastic time is punctured by a fleeting feeling of sadness. The best I can describe it is ‘premature nostalgia.’
The Hoop Dream Retreat wrought plenty of that; I simply didn’t want the dream to end… which is why I have my golden ticket to 2017’s retreat in Langkawi – also known as the Jewel of Kedah, Malaysia. Spaces tend to run out fast (no surprise there) so I strongly suggest hopping to it! Hope to see you at The Hoop Dream Retreat 2017 and/or 2018!
Sammi Lim is an Arts & Culture Writer presently based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Sammi attended her first hoop event at The Hoop Dream Retreat 2016 in Bali, Indonesia and is a returning as a Certified Dreamer for The Hoop Dream Retreat 2017 on Langkawi island, Malaysia. View her writing samples at iscribestories.wordpress.com and follow her on Instagram @ilikeloofahs.