Meet Janine, founder of Escape Haven

Escape Haven invites you to experience absolute indulgence. You will be nurtured, supported and pampered so you can return home truly revitalised and with a full tank. Escape Haven luxury Bali retreat allows you to experience freedom from all the responsibilities of daily life, with an experienced, friendly and dedicated Bali retreat team that make you feel like family from the moment you arrive.

What is your story?

I came to Bali 14 years ago with a  dream of setting up a luxury woman’s retreat for burnout corporate woman or to prevent women getting burnout. And, I left the corporate world back then and I decided that I wanted to set up a luxurious sanctuary where women could come and really fill up their cup so they wouldn’t reach burnout like I had in the corporate sector.

So Bali actually wasn’t even my plan B. It wasn’t my plan C. It just wasn’t a plan. But I ended up here and I’m so glad I did, because I always say I’m still on my Bali honeymoon. But I actually went to Brazil, so I quit the corporate rat race, drained all my life savings, cashed in shares, sold my car, even sold my laptop, which wasn’t a great idea at the time. And I went to Brazil to set up a wellbeing retreat, and I lost pretty much everything. So I had ten grand and came to Bali, and that was 14 years ago. I didn’t know a soul. I was so wide eyed and just believed anything was possible. And I really wanted to create this vision that I knew so firmly had a place in the world. Retreats went around back then, so there was no kind of blueprint to follow, but I just really recognized the need for something like this. 

We’ve had 10,000 women join our retreats from all over the world since then, both here and in Australia. And we did some in Portugal as well. And now we have two locations. We built our wellness hotel over the pandemic, which was very interesting, to say the least. But I’m so glad we did persevere with that, because we knew that on the other side of the pandemic, there would be so many women around the world that really needed a healing sanctuary to come and escape to us, to that crazy kind of two to three year period. And so we wanted to offer that, we really expanded our facilities, particular around wellness facilities, and now have a new, beautiful property here in Canggu.

Can you tell us more about the beginning of Escape Haven?

I didn’t know soul 14 years ago, but had this dream that I didn’t want to let die. And so I lay it down on a beautiful luxury villa in Seminyak.  I just invested in marketing. I’d done this market research group where I knew that what women wanted from a retreat was beautiful luxury accommodation, great service, yoga, beautiful food.

It was through a bit of a stroke of good fortune where a journalist had contacted me over that time and said, “Hi, you’re doing this retreat thing. Can you tell me about it?” I remember one morning I went in there and I opened up my email. I was used to getting maybe one or two email inquiries a day and I opened up my email and I had 3000. And I remember in that moment thinking, I guess this is what it means when something takes off. And I just yeah, I’ll never forget that moment. 

So on the back of that PR, it ended up being the lead travel story in Australia and the pop up box on the Internet. And then Channel Ten invited me down, CNBC, Barefoot Investor, and then this little show in the States called House Hunters International that went up to 30 million viewers just profiling my journey here in Bali back then.

And then looking back 14 years later with two babies and a beautiful husband and just a really amazing feel good business with 80 beautiful staff having survived the pandemic. It feels great. Bali is definitely home.

Why Escape Haven is only available for women?

I think the reason that it is just woman is I wanted something that was a really safe sanctuary, a safe space. And I find that when you add men into the mix, as wonderful as they are, women end up playing to that, or they end up playing a role. And so you lose that element of the ability to just relate with other women and to let down the competition and let down the need to be anything. The beautiful thing about retreats, and the whole essence of a retreat, is where you don’t have to play a role to anyone.

The beautiful thing about retreats is you can just hit pause in your life, like all of the roles and responsibilities that we’re sort of shackled by and unknowingly carry around. And often there are a number of roles that we play seamlessly  that falls away and you can just show up as yourself. So if you have men in the mix as well, you can’t necessarily let your guard down completely.

There’s something really beautiful and powerful I’ve found over the 14 years and the 10,000 women that we’ve had that have come on to retreat that I’ve seen, is that when women come together and they connect and they share this experience and journey through this retreat together, amazing things happen. And so I didn’t want to tamper with that. And that’s why I’ve kept it exclusively woman and won’t be changing that.

Why sustainability in the hotel and retreat is important to you?

It’s really important to us to really look at our footprint here in Bali. One of our core values as a brand ever since the day we started is about impact and impact in terms of how we positively impact our beautiful guests that come, how we positively impact our staff that work for us, our team but also how we impact our community. And one of the key ways in which we can do that besides employment and being a really great employer is also about our footprint and so that’s something that we are learning more and more about and certainly growing with over time.

Play Video

What are some of your sustainability commitments at Escape Haven?

A lot of the basics that I think everyone should be doing are simple things. We have solar panels, so we try to be as energy efficient as possible. And that was especially important in terms of our build and our development, making sure that we had really good insulation so we weren’t overusing electricity and that we had solar panels.

Also, we have PABA free, so we got rid of all plastic many years ago. And we got PABA free refillable, drink bottles and drink stations all around the retreat. So moving away from plastic, even like small things like we’re in a land of banana leaves and being able to use those as packaging, as bin liners when a guest is picked up from the airport, having those instead of plastic packaging or boxes has been a really nice implementation and something that our guests notice as well.

Having salt water in our swimming pool instead of chemicals, water filtration systems. Those are just some of the key things that are quite foundational in terms of our commitments.

A big thing for us is very much community. So giving back to the community and also our team, and that was particularly important to us, especially over COVID. So we felt that and very much firmly believe it’s one of our core values around impact, but impacting internally as well as externally. And so we had 80 families that we needed to provide for over that time, even though all of our guests are international and so when the airports were closed, like so many businesses here in Bali, we stood by our team and continued to pay salaries and went a step further and created a training academy on retreat. So we created butler training, food training, spa training, et cetera, and came together as a team because we knew once the Pandemic was over, we would be stronger as a team.

We also put together Meals on Wheels. We’ve got yellow golf buggies that you may have seen flying around Canggu, that we take our guests shopping in and down to the beach and et cetera. So we use those as vehicles for Meals on Wheels. We called it Karma Kitchen and we used our kitchens on retreat as a way of creating “sembako” and “nasi bunqkus” for all of the community. So we got busy over the Pandemic, but we also drew together as a team to see what we could do on a community level.

I think that was especially important for our team because when you’re in a state of giving and you’re actually doing something that is of service to others, you’re in a place of abundance. So just from a mindset point of view that was really important to our team and I think one of the key things that really helped help them over that time also on the community front I set up a foundation very early on in my time in Bali called Creating Futures and that’s about giving orphans. I was an orphan myself, so giving orphans better futures.