Ten years ago, Janine Hall, a 32-year-old hard-working and upbeat Kiwi businesswoman, was blue, burned-out and wanted a life more extraordinary. Fast forward to today, she runs one of Bali's highest-rated yoga retreat, Escape Haven. What’s more is that her business has just expanded to Australia's Byron Bay and starting in 2014, has been hosting retreats in Portugal and Morocco!
Escape Haven, Janine’s yoga haven is where women from all over the world now come to her to reconnect with themselves and to rediscover their joy. In this interview, Janine shares with us what made her take that leap of faith to turn her love for yoga retreats into a bustling and successful yoga focused business:
How did you come to the point where you decided on such a career shift?
I had put in the hard yards after studying at the University of Otago and carved out a successful career in Europe, Australia and the States working for different fashion houses. My travels took me all over – to Thailand, Spain, and Miami; I even lived on a boat in the Caribbean and had an absolute blast. It was there where I rediscovered my love for the water sports lifestyle that I'd had growing up in Auckland and the Coromandel; I love the way water makes me feel and the beautiful qualities of the ocean. It calms my mind and gives me this wonderful feeling of peace and stillness.
After a year of a fun outdoor lifestyle, I returned to New Zealand to chilly winter days and an uncertain future. I accepted an employment contract, but I was so depressed. For the first time I felt really blue; and just to rub things in, there were nationwide headlines saying a 32-year-old woman has as much chance of meeting a man her age as an 82-year-old woman does. I had just turned 32… Brilliant! And for the first time in my life, I was really worried about being single and what personal and professional future looked like.
I'm usually an upbeat and positive person and I couldn't bear for my friends to see me this way. I hibernated in Australia for a nine-month work contract and it was there where I discovered yoga and meditation. I enjoyed that time to slow down and be present. However, that didn't last long. I was headhunted for a job back in Auckland and took it up; I went straight back into a crazy, busy lifestyle, working in a high-pressure marketing job and running myself into the ground. I was burned-out. I needed another escape, a permanent one, and this time I also wanted to offer that same feeling to other women.
Watersports is one of Janine's big passions. Image: Escape Haven
Why did you think it was important to open a retreat?
I recognized the fact that there would be other women like me who were giving this incredible amount of energy and time to others and they weren't actually feeling fulfilled. So I thought if I could create a space and bring in the elements of water sports, wellbeing, meditation, yoga, nutrition and nurturing, then other women could step out of their lives momentarily to be really inspired and to become the best versions of themselves. The ‘ time out’ would give them the chance to remember who they are, not who they've become through circumstance or routine. I wanted the hardest decision for my guests to make for the day to be whether they'll have banana or pineapple pancakes for breakfast.
Why did you choose Bali as the retreat location?
I had visited Bali previously and was drawn to the region. Initially, I was going to set up a yoga retreat in Brazil, but there were just too many red flags, so I pulled back from that idea. Bali felt right. I was drawn there and I had done a lot of surfing and yoga there. I knew no one in Bali and began the process of setting up a retreat (then named Surf Haven). My savings had dwindled, but I was so passionate about what I did, and still am. The way I look at life is if you want an extraordinary life, you have to put in an extraordinary amount of time to create that life. I'm a marketer: I had no idea about finance, operations or process, and I didn't have any support as I didn't know anyone. I felt quite alone and isolated.
Balangan Beach, Bali. Image: Tommy Schultz
How did you stay motivated and inspired?
Often when you're climbing the steepest mountain—like I felt I was—there's the most incredible thing when you get to the top. I certainly felt like I was being tested, and I did ask myself whether it was worth it, but I discovered that persistence pays off. After months of set-up work I went to my local internet cafe and opened my inbox, where typically I'd had about five inquiries a week, and I had hundreds of inquiry emails. I shook and I cried; I was sitting in this humid internet cafe with stray dogs and people were looking at me—a blubbering blonde chick—and I thought, 'This is what it feels like when something takes off.' I later discovered that my business had received amazing publicity as the lead travel story in many Australian newspapers.
Yoga class at Escape Haven. Image: Escape Haven
How did (and do) you look after your wellbeing during a busy time?
I was and still am mindful to practice what I preach. I vividly recall on one of my 'head in my hands' moments when I made up a list of what makes me happy. One of those things was a beach walk. Yoga and surfing were others. So I made sure that I was doing one of these things each day to give me my joy.
What do you see as the driver for change in women you meet?
It's different for every single person. But often we see that women just want to step out of what they're doing for some deeper reason; it could be a break-up, an epiphany, failing health—there's generally something. In my case, it was a relationship break-up and work stress. It gave me one of those rare times in our lives where we sit down and really check in with ourselves. That's why I love meditation; it's our time away from the world; it's self-indulgent (which is totally okay!) and it's necessary. I think often as women we don't listen to cues that can tell us our body needs or feels something.
Women having fun with Escape Haven. Image: Escape Haven
Do you see a shift in women and their feelings towards change?
In a general sense, I think women are questioning the status quo, questioning the pattern of what we think life should be and what society has told us. I'm seeing that a lot of women who come to my retreat feel that; a lot more are actually breaking free of the shackles that have bound them until now—throwing away the roles and the labels (even if just for a week to recharge), doing things that make them happy and trying new activities. It has definitely been a shift over the past four years that I've seen; it's courage and non-acceptance of the rules, if you like. That spans across different nationalities as well. And this change is another thing that makes me happy—I must add it to my list!
* This article is originally published in Good Health, November 2013 and has been republished with permission.
Want to learn more foolproof tips for happiness when you’re single? Why not sign yourself up for a yoga retreat for singles? Meet other single women and men while you deepen your yoga practice and get in touch with your inner self!