A planned trip around the world morphed into a life-changing journey from chaotic New York City living to a humble tent in Maui. Me-Shell Mijangos reignited her passion for yoga, surf and the outdoors which ultimately led to the discovery of a reinvented life centered in bliss. Realigning her priorities in a way most of us only dream about, Mijangos left behind the corporate world to start SwellWomen, a surf camp and wellness retreat for women. Founded in 2003 SwellWomen caters to women of all ages, offering a full service luxury retreat experience, including a variety of activities such as snorkeling, windsurfing, and of course, exploring the Hawaiian Islands . And most recently, SwellWomen added SwellCo-Ed, surf and yoga retreats open to men, women, and couples.
The SwellWomen experience is as much about internal wellness as the external. Mijangos gets it . . . the rat race, the stress, the obligations, the never ending tasks. She’s been there. She’s done it. And now she can show you how to sit back, take a deep breath, and treat yourself to some swell-deserved bliss.
Life of Riley: Much of your career focused on empowering women in some way. Why has that been such an important element of your work life?
Me-Shell Mijangos: I don’t know really. It’s just something that makes me feel good–there’s a real purpose behind it. I see the strength in women and like seeing women blossom in their personal growth. We (as women) really have so much to offer to other women.
LOR: People dream of leaving behind the chaos of every day life and searching for a more peaceful existence. How were you able to do it?
Mijangos: It was easy for me, I followed my bliss and it led me to Maui. I made some sacrifices to live here, i.e. going from Soho to living in a tent for a month in Maui. Then, I upgraded to a converted garage studio. I was in alignment with my purpose, and even though I was living much more simply than I did in NYC, I was happy. I was happy to be back in nature.
LOR: While you were living in New York, you took a trip around the world, and it turned out to be the trip that changed your life. How did the idea for that trip come to life?
Mijangos: It was a dream of mine that kept on ‘nagging’ at me. I love NYC—it was a wonderful time in my life to be there and it’s a place that I will never forget. However, I knew it wasn’t me to be there. I saved up all my pennies from my corporate job and took off on a wild adventure that I never completed. That’s how I ended up in Maui.
LOR: Why Maui?
Mijangos: The surf, the sunshine, the aloha spirit, the slow paced life, why not?
LOR: What was the inspiration behind SwellWomen? Tell us more about the company.
Mijangos: During my trip around the world, the first stop was in Costa Rica to participate in a yoga teacher training program. It was there that I started to teach fellow yogis and yoginis how to surf. I took the concepts and poses of yoga and transferred them onto the surfboard. I really enjoyed teaching and using yoga as a teaching tool. Fast forward to Maui, I ended up getting a summer job as an assistant director at a teen surf camp. While I was there, my ideas of owning a wellness retreat that incorporated two of my passions—surfing and yoga—began to take shape. I knew Maui was the place for that to happen!
LOR: Who are the women joining your retreats? Is there a specific SwellWoman?
Mijangos: Our SwellWomen come from all over the world and range from 19 (our youngest) to 68 (our oldest). They are from all walks of life from business owner, doctors, CEOs, full time moms, and everything in between. One thing in common is their sense of adventure and wellness…I think that’s what draws them to our retreats.
LOR: What do you hope these women take home with them?
Mijangos: I hope these women take home with them more ways to incorporate bliss into their lives. This can range from spending more time on themselves, taking yoga classes, eating more healthy, taking walks, or as extravagant as a career change.
LOR: Have you found your bliss?
Mijangos: …yes, and then some.
LOR: For those who can’t leave their current job or change locations, do you have any empowering tips to help them achieve a form of bliss in everyday life?
Mijangos: Yes, find out what feels good for your body and do more of it. We disconnect so much from ourselves when we get caught up in the rat race of life (I’ve experienced this personally) and we ‘forget’ what brings us bliss or makes us happy. Pay attention. Go play. See what happens. It could be sunshine on your face for a few minutes, a new brand of tea, or taking 5 minutes to be present with your child that can bring you bliss. Blissful moments…they are wonderful.
You can learn more about Me-Shell Mijangos and SwellWomen at www.SwellWomen.com. Check out the SwellWomen Promo video for a very blissful overview of this amazing adventure. And you can also connect with SwellWomen on Twitter and Facebook.
Standing along the East River, surrounded by a large group of twenty-somethings dressed in the latest lululemon athletic wear, I hold my head high. Decked out in my old Target jogging pants with the faded out crotch and an unraveling waistband—the same tired pants my husband and daughter christened the “uniform pants,” I try to ignore the startling contrast in age, fashion, and physique.
Five minutes in, the trainer introduces himself as G5, asks us to sign in, and then directs us to line up in rows. Before I have a chance to find a comfortable spot, G5 reaches for the whistle dangling from his toned neck in what seems like slow motion and, suddenly, a shrilling sound echoes in my ears. I sprint up the hill desperately trying to stay in front of someone, anyone, so that I will not be last. But last is where I finish each time.
Read the post in its entirety at New York Family Magazine.
Guest Blogger Amy Richmond
Ever since my parents took me on a plane to Disneyland when I was in the first grade–in the days when air travel was restricted primarily to businessmen in suits–I’ve been hooked. Our family took two big trips a year: one by air in the winter and a road trip in the summer. Once I got to high school (and French class), I couldn’t wait to see more.
I spent a month in Switzerland and France when I was 17. That’s when I discovered that I could branch out from the peanut butter sandwiches that were my meal staple–and that Mme. Sczarka hadn’t taught me as much as I thought she had. I couldn’t communicate past “Bonjour” and “Il fait beau.” If the sun wasn’t shining, I was in trouble. But that summer, I learned a lot about life–a good girl could get drunk and survive, an American in Brittany was a very popular entity, and communication isn’t always about words. In fact, it generally isn’t.
When I boarded the plane in Paris to go home, I had one goal. To go back.
Many, many times.
Then my international travel slowed with a career and then a gig as a stay at home mom. I packed the suitcase for my daughter and me to cross the border out of the States a few times, but it wasn’t enough. I missed my fix.
By the time my daughter was 7 or 8, my only New Year’s resolution was to leave the country at least once a year. And ever since then, I’ve fulfilled the goal quite well.
Last month work took me to Birmingham, England. We stayed at the famed Belfry and I was never more grateful for my job than when I walked the beautiful grounds. Contrary to my previous experiences in Britain, the food was delicious. What happened to turn the tide? The staff was solicitous and the people friendly. The work event was a success and then came some pure fun—A few days of girl time with a dear friend.
Kate and I hadn’t spent any concentrated time together since my daughter was 3. Her 4 children were young at the time so even though we were together for a week–and it was wonderful–I don’t know how much one on one time we actually got with 5 kids swarming about.
Kate has long lived in France–and I can take some credit for that. My broken leg from a skiing incident in the Swiss Alps maneuvered a meeting with her husband of almost 30 years. That first meeting–between 2 people whose communication was mostly nonverbal–took place on the night train from Geneva to Paris.
We were well familiar with train travel. Kate and I’d been traveling with Eurail pass in hand for almost 2 months. We hit somewhere between 10-15 countries, using the train as a frequent hotel. We made new friends, picked up additional vocabulary, and formed a life-long bond. Repeatedly sharing a miniscule sleeping compartment will do that to you.
Back on the train for a day trip in England brought back a flood of memories–and made some new. Once again we had an unlimited travel pass and we took advantage. Our first stop was Henley-in-Arden, a quaint town in Warwickshire. We had a lovely lunch in a cozy restaurant before venturing down the one main street to take it all in. We sped through the Heritage Centre after being told we’d want to be there for hours (it was tiny!), checked out the two main churches and tested out the goods at the famous ice cream shop.
And then we hopped back on the train to continue onto Stratford upon Avon. The countryside is lush and lovely. We saw cows, sheep, and lambs. My iPhone didn’t do the scenery justice, but the images are printed indelibly in my mind.
I’d been to Stratford before. We couldn’t see much this visit. By the time we arrived, most everything was shut down for the night, a surprise to this New Yorker, and even for Kate, because it wasn’t late–5 pm–but we took our cue and went back to Birmingham.
The next day we explored the city and as we navigated the streets by foot, we shared stories–current and past. We caught up on the details even though our friendship had never lagged behind. Our chance meeting with the American expat at the Town Hall nudged some talk about meeting husbands, and the long-time effects of that; the visit to the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery led to a discussion about our current television viewing habits. A boat ride in the canals reminded us of our shared time in Italy. The topics wove in and out, just as our feet did the same on the cobbled streets. The one constant? A friendship we can trust. One that we appreciate.
It made me realize that these days, the best travel moments include connecting with loved friends. The location is just a bonus. But who doesn’t love a good bonus?
Amy lives in NYC–the perfect city for someone who wants to feel like they’re on vacation when they’re at home. You can follow Amy’s travels and adventures on her blog Stop Whining About Your Life. Change It.