Simon Dunn, Co-Founder of Lighthouse Retreat discusses wellness in the UAE and why we can all benefit from taking time to work on ourselves.
The Lighthouse Retreat is an exclusive UAE-based wellness destination that encourages guests to focus on nourishing their mind, body and soul and taking time to reset and escape from their busy lives. Situated in Ras Al Khaimah this waterfront destination offers an all-round wellness experience from holistic treatments to delicious healthy meals, healing therapies, coaching, meditation, yoga and more. The Lighthouse Retreat was founded by couple Simon and Laura Dunn after they experienced wellness destinations around the world and decided to bring something similar to the UAE. We find out more about what to expect from a visit and why we should all take time out to work on ourselves.
Tell us a little about why you decided to launch Lighthouse Retreat and what is your goal and vision?
About 5 years ago my wife and I were both very stressed and struggling with hectic work schedules and overall burnout. We had several health concerns and had taken time away from work on several occasions in an attempt to escape it all without success. My wife Laura went to a detox retreat in Thailand as a very last-minute decision to work on herself and I visited the same retreat a month or so later. In the next 18 months, we both visited retreats three times. It was an amazing transformation and helped us course correct. We worked on ourselves physically, mentally and emotionally. I managed to reduce a lot of my medication and lose around 15kgs as well as becoming a fully qualified yoga instructor. Laura discovered Reiki and completely transformed her outlook on life in the process, as well as also completing her yoga qualification.
Our wellness journey and experience at these retreats were amazing and gave us a new outlook; it helped us find balance in the chaos that is modern life. Our thought process from there led us to see if we could bring our favourite elements from our wellness experiences together into a singular retreat and make it more accessible for people in the UAE and the Middle East in general. Our goal is to create a safehaven and sanctuary for healing and growth. Our mission and vision statement is: “We create a safe and supportive environment that empowers guests to develop awareness and sustain a healthy mind, body and soul connection”.
Who are the kinds of people that visit the retreat and what can guests expect?
The majority of our guests are women in professional roles however, we have had a variety of guests visiting the retreat. Guests come for a minimum of two days upwards and we highly recommend three to five days where possible to get the most out of the experience. We are fully welcoming and accepting to all but our policy is adults only at the moment.
The programme runs seven days a week, from 7am to 6pm. Every day is different and we have seasonal variations such as hiking in the mountains and desert walks in the winter. We have higher intensity activities in the morning and more restorative healing sessions later in the day. The activities and sessions are designed to give a well-rounded retreat experience that includes yoga, reiki, sound healing, fitness, experiences in nature, fire and ice (sauna and ice immersion) plus many more. The programme is supported by either a raw vegan food menu or juicing, depending on the goals and experience of the guest. Guests can begin their retreat on any day that fits their schedules. We have an amazing waterfront location that offers lots of chill out or sun areas to find your perfect relaxation and healing space.
Why is it important for us all to take time out and think about our wellness?
We are all on our own personal journeys in life. Some are more hectic than others. Modern life versus life one hundred years ago has changed beyond expectation. The last 20-30 years especially so. The evolution of communication and technological devices gives everyone access to digital content and to be contactable 24/7. The home/work/family divide is now so blurred that people don’t know if they are really living in the matrix or just bumping from one pillar of life to the next! Somewhere within this “blur”, people need to find balance and work on themselves to best serve their own body, mind and soul. Sometimes you need to get off the “wheel” to understand that you are actually on a “wheel” in the first place. Give yourself the space and opportunity to grow and find that balance in whatever you can.
How do you think the perception of wellness and looking after our wellbeing has changed in the last few years?
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed things for everyone. The home/work balance is now more misunderstood than ever and twisted for most, as some who worked from home during the lockdown don’t want to return to work and others can’t wait to. It has highlighted everyone’s vulnerability to something that was or wasn’t within their control. People have been prompted to start taking care of themselves and to be healthier for sure. Whether they accept that challenge though and do something about it is up to them.
Can you share with us some of the latest programmes and experiences the Lighthouse Retreat is offering?
We provided a well-designed set of activities that inspires the body, mind and soul. It includes our well-noted sound healing and fork tuning sessions, reiki healing and experiences in nature such as the popular “Fire and Ice” treatment (sauna and ice immersion), along with yoga and hiking activities.
How do you believe we can benefit from being in nature?
Being in nature and “grounding” ourselves (literally grounding our bare feet on the earth) is something we try and do as much as possible of at the retreat. It is very important for the soul but also for allowing us to discharge bad energies away from the body and soak up the goodness nature has to offer such as vitamin D among others. There is a reason why we feel so good being outside and in natural environments versus artificial.
What is something we can all do every day to focus on our wellbeing?
Where possible, it is great to work on and find your own morning routine that offers the basis to start your day in the best possible way and work on your wellness journey. Find something that resonates with you and that you enjoy. This could be yoga, meditation or something fitness-based. Find a way to create time and space for yourself to complete this every day or most days to make it part of your habits and behaviours.
How important is food when it comes to our wellbeing?
Food is extremely important. There is a generally accepted rule in fitness and health that the majority of one’s health and wellbeing is down to food habits. Some even say that this can be up to 80%, regardless of your physical exercise habits. We use a mostly raw vegan food regime at the retreat to kickstart guests’ wellness journeys but we are not promoting raw vegan food as a must. Where possible we would always recommend eating the best quality produce that has a short “farm to fork” transportation time and be conscious of additives, sugars and processed foods. A well-balanced food regime is wildly regarded as the healthiest versus narrow short term food habits.
What would you say to those who believe a focus on wellness is not for them?
That is absolutely fine. We are all on our journeys in life and the universe. There is no grand plan that we all need to follow or focus on. As long as everyone is happy and healthy in life, that is what we are all really after.
What is something you would still like to achieve?
I have a lot of personal goals that keep me motivated to strive towards. For the retreat, we are working on The Lighthouse Retreat 2 and 3 in new international locations. Nothing is confirmed yet but we hope to have news towards the middle of 2023 with the amazing new locations and exciting opportunities for guests to follow the evolution of our retreat experiences.
In general in the UAE what are some of the trends you have noticed around wellness and what still needs to be done?
I think things in the UAE towards wellness are extremely positive both from an individual and corporate perspective. More and more organisations are realising the importance of active and pro-active wellness programmes and the wellbeing of their employees, especially with the emergence of things like the great resignation and changes within the working dynamics, such as remote work etc. Corporate wellness programs are generally more focused on traditional medical wellness but we are starting to see a shift and increasing acceptance and adoption of a more holistic approach. Looking at alternative and restorative options that empower employees and individuals and their habits into yoga, meditation, mindfulness and the like. Not just talking about height, weight, BMI and diet.
Can you tell us a little about your own journey to where you are now?
I am still working on improving my own physical practice which includes yoga and cardio. I try to do a personal retreat overseas once a year to reset and have a mental getaway. I still have some weight I want to lose, as most of us do. As long as the overall trend is positive, I am happy. I caught COVID-19 in February this year and I struggled with fatigue and my body was not as responsive to my usual routines so I had to make a few changes along the way.
What is the motto you live by?
I try and recommend the 80/20 rule. Try to be good and work on yourself 80% of the time in terms of food habits and physical activity. Then enjoy yourself 20% of the time and enjoy the fruits of your hard work and job. Unfortunately, most of us do it the other way around! Enjoy ourselves 80% of the time and then try and recover during the 20% 🙂
What is a message you would send to our readers on why they should visit Lighthouse Retreat?
We offer a great sanctuary away from the hustle and bustle of the city and everyday life to help you find some balance and work on yourself. We are here and ready to support you at any time, whether it is your first visit to a retreat or as a seasoned retreater. Whatever the reason you are joining us, our team has been where you are. Enjoy the positive journey towards a better and healthier you.