Self-Improvement Travel

Marin Magazine, Carmel Valley Ranch

While most New Year’s resolutions fizzle like a day-old glass of champagne, some targeted trips can actually help you get where you wanted to go. Here are three goal-oriented getaways that help you self-improve while having fun.

Swing, swing, swing

Up until now, Mike Moser of Mill Valley would have described himself as an inconsistent, recreational golfer. “Rare birdies. Par some holes and quadruple bogey some others,” he says, “but I’m getting better.” Moser credits much of this transformation to monthly visits to the golf academy at Carmel Valley Ranch. Motivated by an open window of time, the retired advertising executive from Goldberg Moser O’Neill found Todd Southard, director of the CVR golf academy, online. “After 16 years on the PGA tour, Todd obviously has all the technical knowledge of a golf swing and great course management tips,” says Moser, “but he also has techniques to help me slow down enough so I can feel my golf swing.”

The typical routine consists of morning lessons, including chipping, pitching, golf swing, and sand traps. Then Moser plays the course with Southard. “I love getting a chance to put it all together by playing nine holes,” he says,  “during which I get a chance to feel the pacing, rhythm and focused relaxedness of a good game of golf. Playing with a true pro makes me a better player.”

Coincidentally, Carmel Valley Ranch has undergone a transformation of its own. As of last summer, under new Joie de Vivre management, it’s positioned itself as a playground for grown-ups (families too). Additions include an expansive fitness area, saltwater pool, infinity hot tub overlooking grapevines, an organic garden and the golf course, remodeled rooms, and a 10,500-square-foot spa. Moser and his wife had been to the property years ago; he recalls a ’70s vibe and a fragmented feel between the golf course and hotel—“I didn’t even know if they had a restaurant,” he recalls. After their recent stay, he reports, “it’s a big change­—everything feels connected. The rooms have been upgraded and modernized and the restaurant food is great. Touches such as the lavender fields, organic chef’s garden and grapevines bring a natural continuity throughout the property, and the staff is really very welcoming.”

As for the golf aspect, “I love learning,” he says. “I love exercising. I love that feeling when my game clicks in and my mind, body and emotions are working together in a balanced, harmonious way. It keeps me feeling young and energized. Plus, having a beautiful, natural setting where I can eat well, sleep well, exercise, take advantage of the spa and play golf to boot is really cool.”

Move Forward

Life coaches come in many forms, and the process can be just as varied. One option for Marinites is Martha Borst’s one-on-one three-day intensive in Healdsburg. Borst has been coaching individuals and corporate clients for nearly 30 years and has earned a reputation for enlightening people so they can have the kind of future they want (without dwelling in the past). “I went to see Martha thinking that I would figure out what to do with my life,” says Jennifer Stewart of Corte Madera, “when in reality, it is not about what I do but how I bring myself to whatever it is I am doing in life. What I liked best was, it’s not like therapy or diving into the past; it’s about checking in and seeing if I am living up to who I say I am.”

Borst says, “All my work is custom designed, but it very closely follows the format of the Self Mastery Course that I deliver to corporate groups.” Her program starts with the completion of a detailed questionnaire at home; then, during the intensive, Borst reveals concepts and principles she believes will show her client how to get past particular roadblocks that stand in the way of happiness and well-being. “I give them practical tools they can immediately put into use to redirect their lives in a more powerful, proactive way,” she adds. “I am never interested in making anyone right or wrong; I am only interested in doing what ‘works’ (i.e., gives people the results and the experience they are looking for).”

Stewart stayed at the Hotel Healdsburg during her three-day intensive; the coaching happened at Borst’s estate. “Three days is an ideal amount of time to kick-start a paradigm shift that can change the rest of your life,” Borst observes. “At the end of it, people are tired. But it’s a great kind of tired, the kind that you feel when you have given it your all.” $6,000 per person; she also works with couples

Stylist Shopping

Inner well-being is great, but sometimes the outer being likes attention, too. To that end, fashion editor Somer Flaherty ventured south for a bit of counseling from celebrity stylist Aly Scott, who’s teamed up with the Ritz-Carlton Los Angeles to create a package called Red Carpet Getaway. The itinerary, customized to fit individual style needs and budgets, includes access to the area’s “hidden” boutiques, designer showrooms and unknown-to-mere-mortals ateliers. Scott, who has worked with stars like Scarlett Johansson, is featured as a style expert on Access Hollywood, Extra and E! network and worked for years in fashion magazine publishing. “She not only understands her clients’ unique personal styles,” Flaherty reports, “she seems to have relationships with many of the up-and-coming designers, which makes it fun to walk into these potentially intimidating venues with her, as opposed to on my own.”

Shopping starts with an online questionnaire seeking details about your size, budget and lifestyle, and then it’s off to the stores, via eco-friendly town car (champagne flowing).

“Even those familiar with traversing the L.A. shopping scene should be surprised with Scott’s itinerary,” Flaherty says. “For instance, who knew Rodeo Drive’s Tods had a VIP terrace, or that you could actually get an appointment at those appointment-only vintage stores? You could shop with celebrities at trendy South Robertson’s Kitson or Lisa Kline boutique, score a custom bikini at North Cahuenga’s Ashley Paige or hang out with the Kardashian sisters at Dash, but to get the real scoop on the Los Angeles shopping scene (paparazzi-free), I was happy to take Aly Scott’s lead.”

The package includes two nights in a club-access room at the newly renovated Ritz-Carlton Los Angeles; dinner for two at Wolfgang Puck’s WP24 restaurant, with panoramic views of the city skyline and Chinese cuisine ranked as an Esquire Best New Restaurant; and a spa credit or personal training session at the hotel. The first skyscraper to be built in downtown L.A. in almost two decades, this Ritz also has a LEED-certified design and doesn’t skimp on amenities, which include a rooftop pool and an 8,000-square-foot spa. “The 123 guest rooms feature some of the best views of downtown L.A.,” Flaherty adds; “in fact, my 24th-floor room looked out on panoramas including the famous Hollywood sign.

Barry Design, a firm known for its work at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel and the One and Only Ocean Club in the Bahamas, was responsible for the decor,” she adds, “which includes oversize rooms with sleek enclosed rain-shower sanctuaries and separate soaking tub. For ample space, choose a junior suite, which has a separate foyer, office and sitting room along with an entire wall of windows showing the L.A. skyline. And the location (Staples Center, Grammy Museum) isn’t too bad either.” $3,000, 213.743.8800,

This article originally appeared in Marin Magazine’s print edition with the headline: “Transformational Travel”. 

Mimi Towle

Mimi Towle has been the editor of Marin Magazine for over a decade. She lived with her family in Sycamore Park and Strawberry and thoroughly enjoyed raising two daughters in the mayhem of Marin’s youth sports; soccer, swim, volleyball, ballet, hip hop, gymnastics and many many hours spent at Miwok Stables. Her community involvements include volunteering at her daughter’s schools, coaching soccer and volleyball (glorified snack mom), being on the board of both Richardson Bay Audubon Center. Currently residing on a floating home in Sausalito, she enjoys all water activity, including learning how to steer a 6-person canoe for the Tamalpais Outrigger Canoe Club. Born and raised in Hawaii, her fondness for the islands has on occasion made its way into the pages of the magazine.