Fitness enthusiasts around the world are paying up to $700 a day to spend nearly a week with people they’ve never met. The six day long event called Active Escapes has brought people from all over the world including Australia, Sweden and Dubai together to work out and hang out in exotic places including Bali, the Maldives and Hawaii.
Though the idea of exercising on vacation with a bunch of fitness fanatics may sound daunting, athleticism isn’t a factor holding people back from going either. Australian surf coach and founder of Active Escapes, Zanna Conlan, believes it’s for everyone of all levels. No one is forced to exercise and many people actually kickstart their passion for fitness at Active Escapes. Conlan told Nextshark:
“They come and get a little bit of inspiration and do a bit of training with other people. Everything is optional. There are a lot of sessions during the week and not many get to every session.
“[…] If you don’t train as much you might be a bit sore and have a session off. We understand that, it’s not a crazy army camp; we don’t wake people up and drag them out of bed by their hair or anything like that. You stay sleeping, that’s completely up to them.”
The company was founded in 2013 by Conlan who thought of the idea after going on a number of surfing trips. Bringing together his passion for working with people and fitness, Conlan created Active Escapes to connect like-minded people who share similar interests.
He continued: “We do different activities depending on where we are. We also have paintballing, boat trips and snorkeling. A lot of people come alone so we do it as a group. It’s about meeting new people and likeminded people so they can have fun together.”
While there is no application process for Active Escapes, there are waiting lists as the spots are first come first serve. Last year, the company hosted 17 trips to Bali, the Maldives and Hawaii. They are growing and currently looking to expand to new places such as Thailand.
Though recent trips for Active Escapes have been completely booked out, Conlan said it wasn’t always that way when they first started out. He said:
“Especially in the early days, getting people coming on your trips. Now it’s okay because people know us and people book to come. I remember in the early first few struggling to get numbers. It’s really good now, the last five or so trips have all been booked out.”
Active Escapes has earned the trust of its customers in the past years and even boasts a healthy social media following on Instagram. Conlan explained that publicity for the getaways have mainly been through reviews from happy and satisfied participants in the past. He said:
“We had people in the early days worry about paying us, thinking that we might not turn up. Now we have thousands of photos and videos and people that have written about how much fun they’ve had on their own accounts. That’s the best marketing: word of mouth.”
Before creating Active Escapes, Conlan started an IT business when he was 20 and an awnings design company in 2011. With a bachelor’s degree in business from RMIT in Melbourne, Conlan considers Active Escapes to be one of his best ideas yet.
The company chooses destinations based on ideal weather conditions throughout the year and books a handful of resort rooms and villas in advance. Aside from hotel accommodations, healthy and personally designed menu options are also inclusive for guests.
In addition, fitness experts and renowned trainers are recruited by Active Escapes to tailor the experience to travelers’ health goals. On how he got started, Conlan explained:
“I knew one [trainer] who was a writer and an expert in fitness in Australia. He wrote for the biggest Australian newspaper for 10 years — his name is Damien Kelly. Then the second person that I got on board was Ashley Freeman from Sydney… She loves it, she came on last year actually.”
Depending on the particular destination, package prices can run from $1,750 per person for a shared room to $3,950 for a private room for six days (excluding flights). Anyone 18 years or older is eligible to participate. Though there are outliers, the demographics of attendees for Active Escapes tend to fall between 20 to 40 years of age. Conlan added:
“We think we’ve got a really good package for everyone. Usually a lot of people are scared of coming by themselves, so we get a lot of emails asking us about it. It is the best way to do it — those people have the best time.”
Conlan spends a good amount of his time traveling throughout the year on an endless vacation with Active Escapes. His favorite part is seeing his guests have fun every week and thanking him and the team for an incredible time.
Conlan, who teaches others how to surf during Active Escapes, said:
“I think that’s the most rewarding part of it all. The fact that I get to do that every week with 20 new people makes each week different. It doesn’t get boring because I have different people to have a laugh with and have a bit of fun with.
“That’s what the whole active escape is about: having fun. It doesn’t have to be too serious… People do get scared sometimes that they’re not fit enough or they’ve never surfed… Most people struggle with the training during the week, but are having fun trying surfing. It’s not supposed to be really serious — it’s about having fun.”