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I Spent A Week In Grecian Paradise Writing And Doing Yoga With Cat Marnell And Beth Cooke

I have finally returned home after a long trip of drinking wine, soul searching, writing and discovering I'm a Yoga Bitch now. The last 7 days I was in Sithonia, Greece, a gorgeous peninsula south of Thessaloniki, with highly acclaimed, ex-party girl author Cat Marnell and yoga priestess, Beth Cooke. Myself, along with about 20 others, worshipped at their altars as we explored a new, exciting and very different part of the world. Here's how it all went:

Each day, we would start the morning (yes, I was waking up at 8:30am) with a yoga session hosted by Beth. She's not your regular yoga instructor, she's a cool yoga instructor, and she made sure to cater each session to the group at hand - a few people who were experts, and many, like myself, who were novices. Our first and last sessions were underneath a grove of olive trees, which in itself was centering enough that it nearly brought me to tears. I LOVE NATURE! This may have been a brilliant play by Beth, now I associate yoga with this beautiful scene:

She's a wonderful person who really took the time to make us all feel good about trying something that may be new or difficult to us, and stressed the importance of being good to your body. She lives in NYC and hosts classes here, if you're interested, and she's also on Obe. Her passion for what she does is infectious, and exactly the kind of thing I respond well to - very chill, encouraging, but not pushy. Every class was light, fun and made me feel like I was finally treating myself right. BOW DOWN TO THE QUEEN!!!

The reason I went on the retreat at all, was because of Cat Marnell. I've spoken about her plenty of times over the years - her book, How To Murder Your Life, is one of my all time favorites (buy the book, but also listen on Audible, she reads it herself and it's awesome.) Back at my first NYC job as an Events Manager in 2013, Cat was one of the people we always kept an eye on to know where the "cool" parties were going to be. If Cat was there, it was cool, full stop. Her memoir details her life as a beauty editor, nightlife aficionado, drug addict, and art activist (I think she'd be okay with me calling her that, considering she's been dabbling in statement graffiti for years):

Overall, she's an extremely interesting person who is unapologetically honest about herself and the world around her. I've always loved the way she writes, and considering she is a New York City icon of my lifetime, when this opportunity came up, I jumped. Back in January or February, Cat reposted an instagram story about this retreat she would be hosting, and how to get involved. After coordinating with our local Greek Goddess Zina Wilde (who also happens to be a fabulous actress) I venmo'd my money and hoped for the best. 7-8 months later, I prayed I wasn't getting scammed somehow, and boarded my flight to Greece. BOY WAS I IN FOR A TREAT!

Every evening before dinner, we would get together as a group for a writing workshop hosted by Cat. She would have sent us prompts the night before, asking us to write about things like unique animal experiences, clutter, sound, the RAIN!! We would then go around sharing what we'd written with the group at large. I don't know how most people would feel about this kind of setting if you aren't into writing or listening to other people's styles of writing, but I was fucking obsessed with these workshops. It's so interesting to hear stories written by other people, how they interpret their respective prompts and where their stories come from. We had a very eclectic group from all over the world; lawyers, nurses, mothers, sugar babies, humanitarians. All bases of life were covered and I'm so grateful to have had the opportunity to hear snippets of it all from so many strong, flawed, creative, passionate, empowered women. I think we all did a little bit of healing through our writing over the week, and I wish everyone could go through this experience. I left each workshop feeling lighter, accomplished, respected and seen. It's not every day you get to surround yourself with thoughtful, encouraging and like minded people who aren't there trying to get something out of YOU, but are sharing the same experience. I feel strongly bonded to these women because of it, and I have Cat to thank. 

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All in all, it was everything I wanted and more. Other cool things that happened:

- we visited Aristotle's birth place and hiked through the excavation with one of the archaeologists that helped bring it all up from the earth. VERY COOL, much cooler than I anticipated.

- there were animals everywhere. Cats mostly, dogs too, but wow - I don't know if they're all strays, or they belong to homes and restaurants in the area, but I have never seen so many cats in my life. I loved this. 

- The first day we went to a local beach that had a restaurant/bar next to it, and I felt like I was from mars. Totally sticking out like a sore thumb, it was a glimpse into a true everyday beach day in Greece and they picked out my Jersey Shore ass in seconds. I loved feeling like I was blending in, even though I wasn't. 

And some things I wish were different:

- it rained almost the entire time. Greece was literally having a record breaking hurricane slide through and of course, we were there just in time for it. I do think that the rain provided us all with a different kind of inspiration, and I'm not sure how well we all would've been expressing ourselves at the workshops if we were busy getting drunk in the sun all day long. So, I guess it wasn't that bad. I did want to come back as a bronzed goddess but, I guess my newfound air of entitlement is all I have to offer. 

- I was comically sick the entire time. Day 2 of the trip I felt like I was hit with a bus. Cold, congestion, coughing, you name it. I had to skip day 3 of yoga because it would've been impossible for anyone to find their zen while I hacked up a lung in the back corner of the class. It prevented me from going out at night so I didn't really get to vibe with the locals at a bar, but I got to live vicariously through several of the other more brave (healthy) members of our group. Guess I'll just have to go back!

- WATER. Water seemed to be a major issue. Like, nobody was drinking water. They would give you a bottle in your room each day, and a couple bottles on the table to share at any restaurant we went to. Is water just not important to the Greeks? I'm not exaggerating, it was the most precious resource we all had to really go out of our way to find. The tap water was fine from what I heard, and I often filled up my one water bottle from the hotel everyday, but for someone like me who is already bad at staying hydrated, to notice the lack of water, is crazy. We did however have PLENTY of wine, so, we survived. 

At the end of the day, I couldn't be happier with how everything turned out. It was an experience unlike any other, with a group of people I will cherish as long as I live. We all took a chance on something that is out of our comfort zone, and we dove in head first. I think that's called….LIVING UR BEST LIFE. 

A huge thank you to Cat, Beth, Zina and her entire family for making this trip completely unforgettable. If you think this sounds like something you'd be into, I'd follow along and run to figure out the next retreat, before it sells out. 

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