Laura Montesanti, a visionary founder and wellness enthusiast, embarked on a transformative wellness journey while living in London, which led her to become a yoga teacher and establish a consultancy company organising wellness retreats. Laura’s unique insights on transformative wellness journeys stem from her belief in the need for the wellness and travel industries to collaborate for more impactful experiences.
She identified a disconnection within these industries and sought to bridge this gap through her retreat show, Synergy, emphasising experiential learning and incorporating local heritage and healing practices. Laura’s perspective is centred around collaboration, connection, and creating meaningful experiences for participants.
Join Catherine Kontos and Laura Montesanti on this episode of the Retreat Boss The Podcast to delve deeper into these insights and the transformative power of wellness retreats.
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When it comes to planning a retreat, there’s ways to get it to go from average to incredibly transformative. Welcome to Retreat Boss, where we speak about inspired travel for fun, transformation and profit. Guest experts will give you their tips and tricks on creating the most impactful retreats, both for you and your clients. Whether you want a meditative getaway, a wellness trip or a business escapade, we provide you with the best advice in organising and hosting a tremendous event. Join Catherine Contos as she talks with fellow experts about creating exclusive and successful retreats. Dive deep into the most unique activities, the best destinations to visit, and the most uplifting trips out there that you can discover. Here is your host, Catherine Kontos.
Welcome to another exciting episode of the Retreat Boss podcast. I’m your host, Catherine Kontos. And today we have a very special guest joining us. Laura Montesanti, the visionary founder behind the Synergy Retreat Show. This unique blend of collaboration, relaxation and information has been making waves in the retreat world. Today we’ll delve into the story behind its creation, its mission, and the profound impact it has on participants. Welcome, Laura. It’s a pleasure to have you here.
Pleasure to be here. Thank you, Catherine.
Let’s start from the beginning. Who are you and what made you create this beautiful show like what, give us the background about Laura and what, what happened before all this came about?
Yes, with pleasure. So it’s a personal journey. As for everybody that entered the wellness world. For me started many years back when I was living in London and having a very stressful life. And that’s when I, you know, got in touch with wellness practices. And the first thing I did was really entering, you know, meditation and learning about meditation. And from there, my desire to learn more grow. And I started exploring around the world, travelling and finding different practices that really would contribute to my journey. And that’s really how it started.
From there I became a yoga teacher. I worked in in wellness for for a while. And just to give you a brief version, because it’s a very long story. Eventually, I created the consultancy company a few years ago, and I started putting wellness retreats together on board of yachts. And also I was approached by properties that wanted to increase the wellness offering, and by attending many trade shows around the world, while the years you know, attended yoga festivals, but also travel shows, wellness shows and so on. I really felt there was a disconnection between all the parties involved.
Retreat leaders didn’t have a place where we could meet properties. Travel Agents didn’t really have a place where they can interact with retreat leaders and learn more about the wellness space. So there is no real, there wasn’t a real space for wellness, as an industry which is on its own is a big and complex industry. And in the travel industry, which again, is big on its own to meet and actually learn from each other.
And I really thought there was the need for them to meet to really create more wellness experiences together.
So that’s how I decided to create synergy, really finding that space for the two industries to come together and learn from each other and with the ultimate goal to really create more wellness experiences that can benefit people out there and help people healing.
And this isn’t, you know, for anybody that knows anything about events, and this is not, like, this is big, it’s a big deal. No, there’s a lot of pieces of the puzzle that you have to put together. A lot of people, a lot of companies, a lot of like stops, whatever it is. It’s a lot. Right? People get stressed out over a 15 person retreat right, like a 15 person retreat. It’s because that’s a lot. But you know, you need, you need a team. Like what’s your team like, I could imagine the support you must have in order to be able to pull this off.
We have a wonderful team of people that are based in different locations, from the states to Europe in different places, and all with different skills, and the different skill sets come together to really help with putting the event together. So yeah, I’m very grateful for that. I definitely wouldn’t be able to do this on my own, even though I started on my own during COVID.
So that’s when we launched in 2020 during COVID time, but I really think and that’s something that you see with many people, the vision and the determinations is what really helps. And I think if you keep that focus on your goal, you will make it no matter what you can do it, and I really hope that this resonates with other people out there.
How long did you have this vision before it actually happened?
Um, it’s been quite a while, it’s been brewing for a long time and a sense that I always knew that at one point I had to put my skills together and my passion to come together in something that really was going to be meaningful for people. When you enter wellness as a practitioner, and I’m sure many people that are yoga teachers or wellness practitioners out there, they went through a very similar journey. You experience something in your life. You feel that you know, you’re struggling with something and then you find this practice that really helps you and you’re like, This is just so powerful, so amazing. I need to share it. I need to do something with it. And then you become the teacher, you become the the facilitators for these practices. Just because you feel this is just so unique, so special, I need to do something with it. I need to help others. Right. And that was exactly what happened with this.
I really felt I collected all these skills throughout my experiences in life. And I had to do something with it. And I felt that was something that could have been done to improve the industry in order for the industry to deliver more healing. And I really think that as an industry, wellness travel industry, we have the power to change things out there, to do, to have a huge impact on people. But unless we come together and we get inspired from each other and learn from each other, it’s very hard to do it because many people feel isolated in his own kind of world and or stuck in the corporate daily life. And really Synergy is the moment for feeling inspired and learning and, and seeing that there’s so much more that you can do. So…
Well, personally, I want to thank you for that because being part of the industry, you know, I know that people that are in it. They’re there for the transformation that probably happened to them at one point in their life and they just want to share that gift. And that’s what you’re doing. You know, you’re creating an impact that has, like, a butterfly effect where it affects many at one time, not just one person at a time, which is, you know, which is, where I am at right I don’t do just one by one. I try to like teach and collaborate with everybody. But more in the digital space.
You, you’re bringing it in here physically. So thank you, thank you for doing that because it just makes the world a better place. And I’m sure you’re surrounded by amazing people that are helping you, you know, your team and all of that stuff internationally. Isn’t it great to just collaborate with people with different cultures, different ideas that you know, because it does bring in different ideas and concepts. I’m sure you know, right?
Yeah, it’s just so stimulating. That’s a great, great thing about what I do. I really get to speak with so many amazing people. And every day that really inspires me because you see the life journey and what they have created or the desire and the you know, the drive that they have behind what they do and you really see how much good is out there and how much can be done. And that really is so stimulating and, and that’s why I always can’t wait to bring everybody together because I get to meet everybody individually. That’s one of the requirements for Synergy. We had a call. We speak with everybody that participates, we understand the desire and why they come in. We need to create that energy that is all about collaboration and coming together for that sharing and being together. So we really have a chat with everybody and then I get to know them and then I’m like, can’t wait for you guys to meet because it’ll be fantastic and the energy you feel it. You’ll really feel it once you’re there!
Amazing! So, walk us through a day at your show. What does that look like for you know, someone who’s participating as a I think there’s different, like different types of people that are there right or different types of companies. So I want to just show up and be a participant as in like meeting other people seeing what’s available. Give us what a day looks like in one of your, in when in, during the show.
We have I would say three main categories of attendees. We have the exhibitors and within the exhibitor category, we have properties that do wellness, so they supply wellness experiences already but they want to probably increase the wellness experiences to bring more retreats to the ground, and so on. And we’d also, conscious travel and sustainability at the core of the value so something that I think goes hand in hand with retreat and well-being is something that everybody should really incorporate in what they do nowadays and have it as part of them. So then the requirements.
And then we have DMCs, Destination Management Companies, also supply and wellness experiences around the world. And then we have vendors and our products from yoga mats to consultants. And this is a smaller category. We don’t have a lot of that otherwise it becomes a bit disruptive in the process. But we have these as the main exhibitor categories.
And then we have the travel agents. So the buyers as you call them in in the travel industry, the buyers in this case are travel agents and concierge companies focused on selling wellness. So they have clients as well as experiences. They want to expand the experiences that they can sell within wellness and market retreats a bit more.
And the third category is the retreat leaders, the practitioners, the facilitator, so these wellness journeys, and in many trade shows, you see they’re missing in the conversation and I think actually is something so important because they are the ones that actually are understanding in that how these practices can really impact people’s lives. And their journeys. So we bring all of them together in one place, really neat a network, and then we have media that is focused on wellness travel, we have our sponsors from different backgrounds. So these are really all the different participants for you to have a picture.
And the way that we’ve structured events is a bit different actually quite different from what you get in a normal trade show. And the reason being is because I really feel that when we talk wellness, we need to feel things, we need to experience them to really understand things in that. So we made it a bit more experiential than you will get in any other trade show. And also informational, because information is what helps us grow and evolve.
So the day looks like more or less I took you through a regular day. We start the morning quite early with optional classes if people want to attend, so we start even at 6:30. We have fitness classes and yoga or breathwork, different classes starting very early who want to start the day that way but is optional. And then we move on to meetings around let’s say 9: 30-10 o’clock and you start your day with a meeting. So you actually sit throughout the three days. You sit in thirty for meetings of 20 minutes. So you really get to speak with different parties involved and then I can tell you a bit how the meeting structure works, but you really get to meet nearly everyone during the show in general because you really are surrounded by everyone all the time and participate in all the activities together.
And then from there we move on to an experiential class or a workshop so that you can actually start feeling and understanding more in depth how these practices really work and impact you. And then when you go back into these meetings, sometimes you have that realisation “Oh, okay, that’s what we’re talking about. Let’s switch from that business talk and actually talk about different things.”
Because sometimes they connect even more deeply. So it’s very interesting. You see the shift throughout the days and how people relate to each other.
And many times you see the business talks switching to something more personal or people started walking around the grounds of the venue and really talking about life and people hugging each other and that’s such a different venue from out of business trade shows.
And then we have the information inside of the events more in a conference setting. We call it more of a sharing space more than a conference because we really facilitate a space where people can interact and contribute in the conversation. You don’t hardly have someone on stage that speaks that you, like you actually part of the conversation and get to ask question or you know, do a little work together to really get deeper into that specific topic. And then you usually move on to more meetings and then you close the day.
You know you have a lunch of course, a networking lunch, and then you have you know your evening meals and networking if you want in the evening as well. But people are really free in the evening to do what they like. This year we also introduced evening classes, they are going to be around 9:30 to 10:30 because we felt sometimes it’s nice to really close the day to really switch off with something more calm like a sound healing session or something like that. So it’s available again as optional, but if you want to take advantage of that it’s good that it’s there for you.
I feel like giddy inside. It sounds so much fun. And just like I could actually see that. You know how people can connect and collaborate so easily the way you set it up, and it’s not just like business business business business. It has that element of retreat, which you know, you’ve done so great adding incorporating in it. Oh, wow. So your next one is coming up in October. And it’s in Mexico. Tell us a little bit. Give us some information on that one.
Yeah, so we are a roaming events so we change location every year. Last year we were in Ibiza and we picked the location even though it was very random for many people to think Ibiza could be a wellness destination, but there is so much there in actually healing practices and practitioners really go into the need for that. And the same is with Mexico. We found that Tulum as always drawn lots of seekers for healing. And there are so many practitioners who have based there throughout the year and many retreats around there. So we thought it was a very suitable destination for people to go and feel the energy that is present there is going to be very different energy from Ibiza even though you know, Ibiza still has the element of water and it’s an island but the last visitation that is on the Riviera Maya, where we are this year with the beautiful ocean and the white sand beaches is just very, very different. So you can feel it. And one thing that we are really trying to bring forward is how much you can learn from the local heritage that is presence within wellness practices. So we’re really trying to bring forward the Mayan heritage in healing and practices that they have been adopting for many many generations. And so will be a nice and interesting twist to what we had last year as well.
I think that area of the world is probably the most visited by me. Go there. Really well. Which resort are you holding it at? Or which Center?
It’s a place called by Palmaïa, The House of AïA and it’s about an hour drive from Cancun.
Okay, so easy to get to. Very good anytime soon is very like I think there’s flights coming in from everywhere to Cancun, it’s very easy to get to. So that’s good. And what are the dates?
24th to the 27th of October.
Okay, how many people are you expecting?
So we always have up to 300 attendees. That’s one thing that we set from the start. It’s one thing that I really felt was very important for us to hold. Because I’ve seen loads of events growing and being very big. And in one way its good, you have a bigger pool of people you will meet but we have a real retreat feeling to what we do. And I think when it gets too big then the human connection gets a bit lost. And so for us to set a maximum 300 is a very important thing. So that’s what is now and will always be.
And I think you’re sold out for this year. Am I right in saying that?
Correct? Yes. Yeah.
Good. Congratulations. Congratulations. That’s great news. So give us a little hint, since you know. If you can, for the people that can’t participate this year because it’s sold out. Maybe they could plan for next year. Is there any idea as to where in the world it’ll be?
Yes, there is. But we usually announce the last day of the event. So it’s a big reveal at the end of the event, so I cannot share yet but it is a completely different area than where we are this year. Okay.
Okay, so we’re not doing the Americas probably. I’m trying to get some more out of you. Amazing. Thank you. Thank you so much for all that you do. Thank you for sharing this incredible journey behind the retreat show. It has been truly a pleasure to have you on and to our listeners. Remember to check out the retreatshow.com Am I saying it right?
Yes, yes. That’s correct.
For more details. For this year, you know, I’m sure you’re gonna be posting a lot on Instagram or wherever you, you know, where’s, where do you showcase all your stuff on Instagram?
Yeah, we use a lot of social, and actually, we are sending out a newsletter in a few days revealing the, all the new upcoming speakers that we have this year. So watch the space because we have some amazing people come in to speak.
Okay, so follow them on Instagram so you can see what’s happening this year, get a taste of the show. And you know, again, go, go look at them at the retreatshow.com and see where it will be next year and hopefully we’ll, we’ll get to know in October. When’s the last day October 27? I guess around that time.
So you will get to know around those days. We’ll, we’ll put it out there for sure. And there are more surprises coming so watch the space because we’ll announce some more things that will be coming up as well.
Beautiful. I’m excited to see it all reveal itself. Thank you so much. And until next time, stay inspired.
Thank you, Catherine, lovely to speak to you!
About Laura Montesanti
With a career that spans over 25 years working in wellness, travel, retail, yachting and hospitality, Laura Montesanti is not only well versed across the industries but has also gained a deep understanding of how they interconnect and complement each other.
Laura’s personal journey with wellness began in 2000 while she was studying in London, where she enrolled in a university meditation class. Her experience had a profound effect and left Laura thirsty to learn more practices which could facilitate her personal journey in wellbeing. Laura went on to enrol in a reflexology and Thai massage course in Thailand, followed by a yoga teacher training course in India in 2007. After completing her training, Laura travelled around Asia to expand her knowledge and learn more about the arts of meditation, movement and other holistic practices.
In 2007 Laura moved to South Africa where she spent extensive periods volunteering with community causes such as the Scalabrini Centre for Refugees and Ubuntu Africa for HIV Children in Cape Town. She also opened a yoga school in Cape Town where she taught clients on a donation basis, believing the practice of yoga should be available and attainable to all.
Throughout her career Laura has travelled around the world visiting luxury hotels and spas for work and pleasure, as well as spending time in Montenegro where she developed the Marina of Porto Montenegro, which has given her a unique understanding of how properties can enhance their guest experience.
In 2014, she moved to her current home in the south of France and launched LM Luxury Consultancy, supporting brands with pioneering new concepts and lead generation. Past projects include spending over three years leading the sales of diving and onboard wellness experiences for a luxury yachting services company, and helping luxury hotels across the world to host retreats, curate wellness journeys, and partner with some of the industry’s most esteemed wellbeing practitioners.
Having attended countless travel and wellness trade shows in her time, Laura felt the industry lacked an event that fully focused on combining wellness, travel and retreats in the same space, hence the reason she decided to launch Synergy -The Retreat Show, a sophisticated, holistic business networking event for wellness and travel professionals. Taking place in a beautiful location on the Rivier Maya in Mexico this October, Synergy will bring together insightful retreat entrepreneurs and inspiring industry leaders and provide a space for them to learn from each other and evolve in a more informed and conscious way.
“Following the pandemic and the effects it has had on people, we can see that travel is shifting,” says Laura Montesanti, founder of Synergy. “People are putting more meaningful and transformative experiences at the top of their ‘must have’ holiday requirements, and wellness is at the centre of this.”
Laura knows first-hand how truly transformational retreats can be and wanted to create the opportunity for leading experts across industries to connect. She believes today more than ever there is a collective need and desire for more immersive experiences targeted towards regeneration, self-discovery and spiritual exploration as travellers re-emerge from lockdown and determine how they want to spend their resources, a gap that she believes Synergy can fill.