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Work-Life balance for business owners

The health and wellbeing of business owners works hand in hand with the success of their business. These top retreats will benefit any business owner looking to strike the right balance between work and life.

A few years ago, Tourism NT had a TV commercial designed to reacquaint jaded viewers with the idea of a holiday. It featured popular travel presenter Ernie Dingo relaxing in an expanse of water, declaring: “This is called doing nothing.”
Business owners would be forgiven for forgetting what ‘doing nothing’ is like, particularly when most believe they don’t even have enough hours in the day to run their business. But business owners shouldn’t forget that there are many ways in which taking time out can assist with working on the business, not in it.

TURNING OFF
Just like a computer drifting in sleep mode rather than shutting down, the weekend is not long enough for business owners to truly recharge. For that you need at least a week, preferably more. The best way to turn yourself off is to give yourself over to someone else to look after. That’s right, they take care of everything.
Health retreats offer services that cater for all aspects of health and wellbeing from what you eat and how you exercise to reminding you how to relax. Some health retreats offer stays that focus on a particular aspect of your wellbeing, for example, they may offer a detox program that targets your physical health, or a meditation program to attend to your mental health. Most retreats, however, allow guests to tailor programs to their individual needs.

In Australia: Living Valley Springs (Kin Kin QLD), Kangaroo Island Health Retreat (Kangaroo Island SA), The Golden Door (Hunter Valley NSW, Gold Coast QLD)
International: Chiva Som (Hua Hin, Thailand), Hippocrates Health Institute (Florida, USA)

Spa holidays are a popular option for vacationers who want to be spoilt rotten when they leave work. There’s more pampering involved in a spa holiday than a health retreat: think massages and facials, body wraps and hot stone therapy. Unlike a health retreat where you might do all this with celery and ginger juice in one hand, spa holidays are more indulgent, so if you’re not in a darkened room being manipulated into relaxing, you’re probably stretched out by a lagoon with a cocktail in one hand and a book in the other.

Andrew Griffiths, author of 101 Ways to Have a Business and a Life, writes: “Pampering means different things to everyone, but at its simplest it’s something that makes us feel good. Figure out how you really like to be pampered. Be selfish, be honest, be decadent-it doesn’t matter. It is all about you.”

In Australia: Palazzo Versace (Gold Coast QLD), Sofitel Mansion & Spa Hotel (Werribee Park VIC), Cradle Mountain Lodge (Cradle Mountain TAS)
International: La Manga Club Resort (La Manga, Spain), Bora Bora Nui (Bora Bora, Tahiti), One&Only Royal Mirage (Dubai, UAE)

From a retirement treat to a schoolies beat, cruising now rests somewhere in the middle, catering for more discerning passengers. Cruise liners vary from party ships to floating paradise: you’ll want the latter in order to turn off and relax. The perfect thing about cruise ships is that there’s everything and nothing to do. They take care of food, beverages and entertainment while you can choose to engage in activities such as sport, games and onshore excursions-or not.

From Australia: Cunard QM2 (Sydney to New York), Sun Princess (Ex Melbourne, around Australia), Seven Seas Voyager (Sydney to Shanghai via Fremantle)
International: Abercrombie & Kent (The River Nile, Egypt), Coral Princess (Anchorage to Vancouver), MS Amalegro (Paris to Istanbul)

THE SWITCH
Inquisitive minds don’t like being idle, so if you want to get away from work but you’re a bit restless, learning a new skill is a great way to take your mind off your business while engaging your brain. Learning different skills gives people a different perspective on things, promoting creative thinking. Perhaps it will help you find the next big idea to make your business become more innovative-or it could just be for a bit of fun.

If you’re heading overseas to a non-English speaking country, the best way to engage with the culture is to take language classes. The length of your stay will affect the intensity of classes you take. If you’re there for a good time, conversational skills are all you need: after all, you don’t want to be stuck in the classroom learning conjugal verbs for the entire trip, you want to get out and practise your linguistic skills with the locals-and they might want to practise their English on you.

Marketing executive Jade Farley fell in love with Italy on holiday and decided to return to learn Italian. “Learning another language while living in a different culture and experiencing life in a different way is fun and rewarding. It really opens one’s eyes to the world and is a great way to meet the locals.”

Skills can also be souvenirs. Farley settled in Florence and now works for Good Tastes of Tuscany, a cooking school run by two US women, Elizabeth Morris and Meaghan Barr, located in the 13th century Villa Pandolfini. Taught by native Tuscan chefs, cooking classes range from a one-day introductory session to weeklong courses that teach you how to recreate Italian feasts. And yes, you do get to eat the results. “Aside from having a great experience, practising your cooking skills will always be a great reminder of your time in Tuscany, of your holiday,” says Morris. “The best thing is that you are not doing the standard tourist thing, getting trolleyed from place to place by a pushy tour guide.”

You might also want to combine new skills with recreational activities in your holiday: it could be learning to scuba dive that unlocks the wonders of the ocean for you, or you could sign up for an interactive art history class, touring the world’s greatest galleries.

Adios Travel (Spanish language holidays): www.adios-travel.com.au
Good Tastes of Tuscany: www.tuscany-cooking-class.com
Dive Queensland: www.dive-queensland.com.au

Volunteering is one way to pick up skills and give back to the community. Depending on your appetite for different kinds of engagement, volunteer holidays can range from teaching English in Vietnam to restoring castles in France, or monitoring sea turtles in Panama. Many volunteer breaks require no previous skills, just a positive attitude and an open mind. A number of organisations also combine volunteering with complementary activities, for example conservation projects might also include bushwalking or wildlife tours.

Program lengths do vary from a week to several months, so make sure you’re comfortable with the time commitment before you sign up.

Conservations Volunteers Australia: www.conservationvolunteers.com.au
Overseas Working Holidays: www.owh.com.au
International Exchange Programs: www.iep.org.au

OVERLOAD
An unvarying routine can sap your energy just as much as a busy schedule. If this is you, reinvigorate yourself by stepping outside your comfort zone. Whether you choose to seek your thrills on an expedition somewhere or just want to get active, the natural high of adrenaline-pumping holidays will inject some verve back into your life-energy you can use to freshen up your business.

Thrillseekers will be enamoured with places like New Zealand, which has marketed itself as an adventure destination. From bungee jumping and falling out of planes to white water rafting, caving and snow sports, New Zealand has thrills, spills and natural wonders packaged up. If you fancy a bit of a challenge, perhaps gear up for mountain-climbing in the Himalayas, location of the world’s highest mountains, where summiting provides its own special rush, or gear down for a hair-raising bike ride from La Cumbre to Coroico on Bolivia’s ‘Death Road’-don’t forget to buy the ‘I survived’ t-shirt at the end.

100% Pure New Zealand: www.newzealand.com
Explore Himalaya: www.explore-himalaya.com
Gravity Assisted Mountain Biking: www.gravitybolivia.com

For activities of a less heart-thumping nature, hiking holidays have special appeal. If you’re not too keen on the risk of getting lost in the bush, there are plenty of guided tours to suit different comfort levels, as well as different interests. How about a gastronomic cycling tour through France taking in vineyards and chateaux? Or you might like to put up your feet but still enjoy a rollicking ride on the back of a safari vehicle while wildlife populations go about their fascinating daily lives.

Into the Blue Creative Walks: www.intotheblue.com.au
DuVine: www.duvine.com
Africa Uncovered: www.africauncovered.com

If you’re okay with aching feet and a sense of achievement but you don’t want to get too dirty, consider holidays centred on shopping excursions. The shopping destinations for high end fashion include the big four-London, Paris, Milan and New York-but depending on what you want to buy, you shouldn’t discount places like Dubai, Bangkok and Hong Kong. Did I mention discount? If you’re savvy, you can plan trips around seasonal sales such as the Great Singapore Sale, where the whole country goes on sale from mid-May to mid-July every year.

Worldwide Shopping Tours: www.worldwideshoppingtours.com.au
Chic Inspiration: www.chicshoppingtoursny.com
Great Singapore Sale: www.greatsingaporesale.com.sg

SHORT CIRCUIT
It’s nice to dream of a few weeks off, but sometimes it’s just easier to book a weekend getaway and work around these islands of rest. If you like being in the driver’s seat, Australia has some of the most astonishing drives in the world, whether you prefer coastal routes, mountain escapes or desert landscapes. Book yourself into a quiet B’ n’B somewhere and enjoy the serenity.

If you frequently travel for business, consider taking a couple of days off before or after the ‘business’ part of your trip. Most business trips consist of constant meetings or conference sessions and no time to actually enjoy the location, so taking time out to enjoy your surroundings can help you feel as if you’re there are a traveller as well as a business person.

Luckily, conference destinations are starting to get a bit more exotic-even Darwin wants a share of the action, recently opening its new convention centre as part of the grand waterfront development underway in the city. But even if you’re stuck in the same city for the ninth time, treat it like you might a weekend getaway, hire a car or hop on a train and get out of town for a few days. And don’t forget that hub cities are great for short breaks to more holiday-friendly locations: if you’ve already seen Hong Kong, you could try a slice of mainland China for something different, for example.

NRMA Travel Planner: www.mynrma.com.au
FCm Travel Solutions: www.au.fcm.travel

Running smoothly
A good break is one where you don’t have to worry about a thing, so make sure you have everything in order before you go.
* Inform your clients that you will be away and name who will be in charge until you return.
* Give responsibility of the business to someone you can trust to manage your clients and your staff.
* Ensure that you have your finances in check, including paying bills and chasing debts, so your cash flow cycle is sustainable in your absence
* If you really must stay in contact with the office, give staff or clients windows of your availability via phone or let them know you will check emails periodically.