Situated on the outskirts of northwest Sydney lies a sanctuary called Billabong Retreat where all your wellness needs can be met in one place.
Billabong Retreat is the vision of founder and owner Paul von Bergen who swapped a corporate career for a life with purpose in the wellness industry.
In 2009, he and his wife sold their apartment in Bondi and bought a parcel of land of exquisite natural beauty and began their journey creating a retreat where guests can relax, eat nutritious buffet style food made from local ingredients and enjoy yoga classes and the serenity of the surroundings.
Billabong’s vision is ‘to create somewhere where people could come and reconnect to the nature and life within them and around them.’
Paul shared with The Carousel how failure in a business venture led him to travel through Thailand and India because at the time it was all he could afford but from the depths of one of the lowest periods in his life he embarked on a life change, learning about ancient wisdoms and the art of yoga.
Suddenly, a match lit up the realisation he wanted to forge a different path, one that was far removed from his previous marketing days in the UK where he was born and had excelled in marketing, ironically promoting tobacco and alcohol brands.
Paul also realised after the tragic death of his mother from alcohol abuse that there was a huge need for people to have the tools to live a life of wellness. Trained by Michael de Manicor, Director at the Yoga Institute, previous President of Yoga Australia and psychologist, Paul’s teachings at Billabong Retreat combine ancient wisdom with modern scientific thinking.
The beautiful sanctuary features a range of retreat programmes such as ‘Stress Less, Thrive More’ and ‘Rejuvination and Wellness’ with luxury spa treatments including massages, Reiki and even Neuro Emotional Technique. You can also stay in a range of accommodation from the Deluxe Cabins which are perched on the cliff overlooking the billabong with indoor and outdoor bath, to a Treehouse Ensuite, and a Lodge. There is also a heritage cottage which provides a more affordable option as it includes twin single beds and a shared bathroom, ideally located next to the pool and main retreat.
“The whole idea of building a retreat seemed too hard, too impossible,” Paul reflects on his early journey. “But then my mother passed from chronic alcoholism. That was the turning point. We wanted to create a place where people could come and find peace of mind, get help with their mental health, physical health and spiritual health, and become a place where people can heal.
“There are a lot of people leading these busy lives but without the support structures. And that is what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to be a place where people can come and talk to each other. When you realise other people have the same challenges, you can share support and motivate each other.
“Since I have started studying ancient wisdom, I’ve realised that the lessons that have been taught for thousands of years are not less appropriate now, but they’ve actually become more appropriate because of how the world has become more busy and stressful.”
Paul also practices kindness and has even launched the Church of Kindness, although he explains that the retreat is not affiliated with any particular organisation or religion but instead a summary of the experiences and knowledge that he has acquired in his own life.
“Kindness starts with yourself,” he says. “It’s not selfish or narcissistic. It’s about realising that you’ve got to learn to nurture and nourish the human being.”
Not surprisingly, people flock to Billabong to experience Paul’s own brand of wisdom.
“Around 33,000 people have come to Billabong retreat in 11 years,” Paul says. “A lot of them come back year after year, and the message spreads through word-of-mouth which means we don’t have to spend a lot of money on advertising. We just keep delivering a good experience.”
You can discover more about Billabong Retreats here: https://billabongretreat.com.au/
Billabong Retreat address:
41 McClymonts Road, Maraylya, Sydney, NSW 2765 Australia