We had the good fortune of connecting with Jessica Van Antwerp and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jessica, how has your work-life balance changed over time?
I used to work 90 hours/week growing my business. Waking up at 6am to start work and staying up until 1am. It. Was. Exhausting.
I had no social life much less a romantic life. Even my self-care was suffering. I was subsisting on coffee for energy (however false that energy might have been), beer for relaxation, and I had even started smoking cigarettes as an excuse to get away from the never-ending to-do list for five minutes – even if I was inhaling toxic air during that break.
This led me to a nervous breakdown in 2012.
And made me start thinking about Quality of Life. We don’t know when we’re going to die. I might live to be 98 years old, but I could also die in a car accident TODAY. So why am I pushing so hard for some future that may never come to pass?
It took me six months to fully recover. And after that, my thinking about work changed. If I’m not enjoying life every day, what’s the point? So now I have a normal eight hours work-day, and use the rest of my hours to be a normal human being: do laundry, clean the house, play with my dogs, spend time with my husband, get together with friends, exercise, meditate, and RELAX.
Even if this means my business grows more slowly, at least I’m enjoying the ride.
My mantra now is more about telling myself that I was doing enough, that I AM enough.
What should our readers know about your business?
Oh my gosh, I could write a book answering these questions.
There are so many things that set us apart from other retreat companies. First and foremost, most others are focused on yoga. We take a broader approach. While we include yoga in our itineraries, we also expose our guests to other practices that keep them healthy and promote longevity.
We strive to be eco-friendly, only working with environmentally conscious vendors in other countries, and we purchase carbon credits to offset the footprint of all of our guests’ travel. We print all of our materials on recycled paper and even use a printing company that’s wind-powered!
Behind the scenes, we pay our leaders livable wages. Most retreat companies compensate their teachers with “free trips,” but this just takes away from their income-earning time at home. It’s not a sustainable career for most people. So not only do we pay their way, but we pay them for their time and expertise, so that they can pay bills back home, save for retirement and get ahead a little.
We fill a huge gap in the public education system – that is, teaching people simple tools to take care of their bodies and unlock the body’s natural capacity to heal itself.
Getting Integral Travel to where it is today has been incredibly challenging. The first retreat I ever led was a fiasco. Almost everything that could have gone wrong DID go wrong. We had a participant go to the hospital. We had a guest leave the trip early. There was in-fighting among the students, and I had to act the mediator. The teachers we hired couldn’t have cared less about imparting the information and one of them even engaged in illegal activity with some of our students! And my business partner completely let me down, ultimately deciding to move on from the business.
But I learned an incredible amount, rose to the challenge, and felt every cell in my body say “YES! This is what I want to be doing!”
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I would definitely take them up Flagstaff Mountain in Boulder to get a good view of the Great Plains. We’d go up to Estes Park to see the Stanley Hotel and ride the Gondola. On the way, there’s an amazing pie shop called the Colorado Cherry Company that’s worth a visit. The Denver Botanic Gardens are a must-see as well, for some healing nature time. A hike or two in the mountains. We’d catch a concert at Red Rocks, of course! And I LOVE Izakaya Den on Pearl Street.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I’d like to thank Helen Grigg, who allowed me to join her massage program three months late because she saw my dedication and enthusiasm. My life looks the way that it does now because of her decision.
Dave Goetz has been an incredible teacher, boss, and colleague through the years, inspiring me to become better at whatever I do and to stay on the path.
And I owe an incredible amount to Sunny Klaber Vanderstar, the founder of Integral Travel, for allowing me to take the reins of the organization and steward its evolution.
Sunny Klaber vanderStar, Jessica Van Antwerp, Jungleyoga, Philippe Antoine