A road trip, a retreat centre and a restart

retirement, road trip, Ontario, Grail Springs, RBC, planning, spa, retreat, health, finance, future, Bancroft

Grail Springs main building is rustic, luxurious and beautifully situated

How a trip to Grail Springs Wellness Retreat helped me prepare for the future

Recently, I learned about a unique approach to retirement, and I chose to explore the concept with an experience. I discovered that RBC Your Future By Design retirement planning is about figuring out who you want to be, and what you want to do in retirement. I want to be healthy and travel, so I decided to go on a road trip to the Grail Springs Retreat Centre near Bancroft, Ontario. Here’s what I learned about planning for the future you want.

GRAIL SPRINGS IS A HEALTH and wellness retreat, beautifully situated in central Ontario amongst the dramatic natural beauty of the Canadian Shield. With 13 luxurious rooms, gourmet vegetarian fare and an impressive array of wellness programs, amenities and recreational options, Grail Springs has everything anyone could want in a retreat centre.

I went to Grail Springs in March, as the early spring thaw was starting. It seemed like the ideal time to devote a week to taking stock of my health and starting a new chapter in life.

retirement, road trip, Ontario, Grail Springs, RBC, planning, spa, retreat, health, finance, future

My lovely room at Grail Springs overlooked the lake

Planning for the future

Before setting off for Grail Springs, I sat down with Bill Hill, National Retirement Planning Consultant for RBC. He told me about the unique RBC Your Future by Design approach to retirement planning. I was intrigued to learn that they start with finding out about you — what kind of life you want to lead, and who you want to be, when you retire. I find this so refreshing because, as a creative, health-conscious, active, global traveller, I am unlikely to want a “typical” retirement (whatever that is).

I was given a pack of eight cards representing different lifestyle choices, asked to choose three and explain my reasons for choosing them. On the back of each card are several thought provoking questions, which got me thinking strategically about my future. I chose Health, Lifestyle and Mind & Spirit. An interactive version of this tool is on the website here.

The Health card spoke to me because it asks: “Have you thought about how your health will affect future plans?” This is something I think about often, and one of the reasons I wanted to visit Grail Springs. I want to make sure I am doing everything I can to ensure a healthy retirement.

retirement, road trip, Ontario, Grail Springs, RBC, planningThe Lifestyle card invited me to dream. It asks: “Have you thought about the types of activities that will continue to provide you with meaning, purpose and enjoyment?” As a traveller, with a keen sense of adventure, staying active is very important to me.

The Mind & Spirit card specifically addresses travel. It reads: “Does this sound like you? I’ve always wanted to learn more about our world and about myself. I have so many opportunities to do that now.” The words resonated with me deeply, as this statement describes me exactly. And that’s the point of the cards. They help you become more aware of what values, priorities and activities you care about most and how they fit into your retirement planning.

It turns out that health and travel are the two top activities that working Canadians over 50 years of age chose in a recent survey (Vision Critical Study, 2016). About 67% chose health & fitness and 66% chose travel as the activities they want to pursue in retirement. So it seems I am right on track, and a road trip to Grail Springs was exactly on target with my priorities!

I was looking for a way forward on my path with both regards to health and my future life, including in retirement. And here’s how a five-day retreat at Grail Springs — called the Fresh Start Retreat — helped.

retirement, road trip, Ontario, Grail Springs, RBC, planning, spa, retreat, health, finance, future

The snow-covered lake, as seen from the outdoor hot tub

Finding balance and learning to receive

On my first day, I was given a bio-energy consultation with Barb Shaw, Head of Programming, Resident Speaker, Coach & Yoga Instructor. Grail Springs has the technology to produce a full-colour bio-energetic map that reveals your “energetic frequency.”

Barb’s reading of my energy field, and how my chakras are out of balance, gave me a profound insight into how I need to change my life. I have been feeling drained and the reading showed me why, and what I need to do to balance my life and increase my energy. Barb even came up with the perfect single-word mantra to express my new path: receive.

That insight about being more willing to receive provided the theme of my retreat at Grail Springs. Each day, as I went through the daily routine, activities and treatments, I incorporated the insight, which gave everything a deeper shade of meaning.

retirement, road trip, Ontario, Grail Springs, RBC, planning, spa, retreat, health, finance, future

All the fixings for healthful tonics you create yourself

Each day of the retreat was an immersion into a healthier and more conscious way of living. All of the meals prepared by chef Jared and served in the charming dining room are vegetarian, mostly gluten-free and largely alkaline. The theory is that a diet that’s about 75% alkaline is better at maintaining health and preventing illness.

The food at Grail Springs is as delicious at it is healthy. I loved most of the meals, especially the soups, salads and desserts. We had French Toast with maple syrup one day for breakfast, and things like braised endive and stuffed peppers for dinner.

retirement, road trip, Ontario, Grail Springs, RBC, planning, spa, retreat, health, finance, future, food, diet

Each day’s menu, plus who is cooking and serving, on the big board in the dining room

The emphasis on nutrition and eating fresh, organic, vegetarian food, is an important element of the Grail Springs experience. They view “food as medicine,” or as a way of maintaining health, of course increasingly important as we age and face our retirement years. Experiencing this type of diet can encourage guests to incorporate organic food and more plant-based food into their daily diets when they get home.

retirement, road trip, Ontario, Grail Springs, RBC, planning, spa, retreat, health, finance, future, food, diet

French toast and fruit

The property is just as beautiful as it is devoted to a healthy lifestyle. Situated on Chalice Lake and surrounded by forests, it’s a peaceful place — and also stimulating.

Talks, classes, films, activities and demonstrations are scheduled throughout the week, to keep guests engaged and learning. I learned to make healthy desserts and salad dressings from Jared Collins, the chef, and learned some good meditation techniques from Barb. One of my favourite sessions was with Richard, the “horse whisperer,” who taught us about equine wisdom. Grail Springs is home to five horses.

retirement, road trip, Ontario, Grail Springs, RBC, planning, spa, retreat, health, finance, future

Five horses live on the Grail Springs property

An opportunity to begin anew

For those who are interested, and paying attention, Grail Springs can offer an opportunity to break old patterns and habits and start a new, healthier and more conscious lifestyle. Barb Shaw explained to me that, “At Grail Springs, we see ourselves as a retreat centre. We want people to try the lifestyle we offer. To live authentically even for a brief time will give people the experience and motivation to change.”

To take things a step further, guests can book nutrition, wellness, fitness and other coaching sessions. “Everything you’re learning here, you’ll take home,” said Laura Milcawich during a motivating talk one evening.

Good health is not something you end up with, but rather good health is a continuum, a constant journey rather than a destination.” – Madeleine Marentette

In a welcome letter each guest receives from Grail Springs founder Madeleine Marentette, she writes, “When the decision to begin a new path towards optimum health and wellbeing has been made, it’s just a matter of time before we begin to see the outward changes. The seven essentials of the Grail Springs Program (assess, cleanse, nourish, breathe, move, mindfulness, support) is a way of life. We hope you enjoy, learn and adopt this philosophy as your own.”

By the end of the week, I had experienced several more magical moments — such as seeing a fox at the outdoor hot tub — and felt a personal transformation was well underway. And the timing was perfect.

retirement, road trip, Ontario, Grail Springs, RBC, planning, spa, retreat, health, finance, future

Laura giving a talk on the importance of

Designing a healthy retirement

My experiences at Grail Springs showed me that planning for a healthy, balanced life is important at any age, but essential as you plan your later years. Same is true for retirement. I’m at the age when I’m starting to think about these things, and I was very interested to find out about the RBC approach to retirement.

I have never paid attention to retirement messages before because they didn’t seem to really speak to me. But sitting down with Bill Hill From RBC about the Your Future by Design program was completely different. When he told me the emphasis was on figuring out who I wanted to be in retirement and what I wanted to do, the wheels started spinning.

I imagined myself as feisty (and possibly pink-haired), continuing to have adventures, travel the globe and lead an alternative lifestyle. Bill got me thinking in a new way about the future, as something I can imagine, design and prepare for. The experience was light, inspirational and creative. Very different than what I expected!

retirement, road trip, Ontario, Grail Springs, RBC, planningNow, I am starting to actively plan my future years, and anticipate what kind of income I will need to sustain the lifestyle I am imagining. I know I will want to travel, and I also know my domestic needs will be more modest. This will affect my budget of course, and I am now thinking about it and planning.

Pulling those RBC Your Future by Design cards, and visiting Grail Springs, was a perfect way to celebrate spring, the renewal of life, and to begin planning my healthy, adventurous future.


You can find out more about the RBC Your Future By Design program here. And you can make an appointment with an RBC consultant to design a dynamic, flexible and personalized retirement plan that will enable you to achieve the lifestyle of your dreams here.


Disclosure Note: My trip to Grail Springs Wellness Retreat and this post is part of a paid campaign to promote the RBC Your Future By Design service. 

retirement, road trip, Ontario, Grail Springs, RBC, planning, spa, retreat, health, finance, future

Beautiful sunset over the lake, as seen from the dining room

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3 Responses to A road trip, a retreat centre and a restart

  1. Luminita May 2, 2016 at 5:03 pm #

    Hi Mariellen! It was really inspiring to read about your revelation. It’s great you decided to find the right balance, so that you can still enjoy travel, while also making plans for the future. Best of luck with that and may you have a long, adventurous life. 🙂

  2. Xplorato May 25, 2016 at 12:48 pm #

    This looks like the perfect reboot location for anyone who loves an introspective time away from the hustle and bustle of life. My type of holistic experience Beautiful 🙂

  3. Sanjeet Veen August 22, 2016 at 3:26 pm #

    These images looks really nice & beautiful
    Sanjeet Veen recently posted..Nation in Action, The Ecstasy of Indian Athletes on Rio GroundsMy Profile

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