Return to The Source
August 2018 | Seattle
First things first. To all of the incredibly generous people who donated to my GoFundMe campaign to help make this trip possible: I know some of these people prefer to remain anonymous so I won't list everyone here, but you know who you are and I appreciate you so much. Thank you.
Return to The Source was an epic 8-day movement seminar in and around some of the most beautiful nature that North America has to offer. The size of the group was perfect, the food was amazing, the instruction and agenda were epic. Rafe is an incredibly knowledgeable teacher and a powerful mover. There was never a dull moment: always new fun and engaging movement game to play, activities to wind down with, food to eat. In fact, there wasn't enough time to do it all! If you are an intermediate/advanced mover of nearly any discipline, or a beginner parkour athlete, this is a good camp for you. If you are an intermediate or advanced parkour athlete I think Rafe's other event "Hero's Journey" is probably a better choice for you and will offer more of a physical challenge.
The tribe. Spending 8 days & nights with a group of 20 people is profound. Especially when the activities and accommodation are very conducive to team building. The interactions, conversations and experiences with each person in the group lead to a very strong feeling of unity by the end of the camp. I'm sure some of the relationships I build at RTS will last a lifetime.
Driving. If you know me, you know how much I hate sitting in motor vehicles. While I greatly appreciated the diversity of training grounds offered at RTS, the distances were a bit frustrating because of the long drives required. Especially after a full day of training, the last thing I wanted to do was get back in a car and sit for an hour.
Instructor - Rafe Kelley
As with any movement seminar, the most important part is the instructor. In this case, the instructor comes heavily equipped and highly recommended. Rafe Kelley is a movement specialist, philosopher and anthropologist. He's one of those people who you just ask random questions to: because he seems to know something about everything. Of course, he also knows everything about something, in this case that something is human movement. You can read more about Rafe on his website, but I will say that I was heavily impressed by Rafe's knowledge of kinesiology, anthropology and nature, as well as his attention to detail and leadership skills. It would be hard to overstate his level of competence, so in general, you should believe what you read from/of him.
Day 1 - Volunteer Park
Arriving at Return to The Source was, of course, a journey of its own. I spend the night before in the Seattle airport: since I am hyperfrugal and thought that spending $50 on an AirBNB for one short night was just a total waste of funds.
Walking up to RTS at Volunteer park was just epic. I just remember walking across a big field and seeing this funky fresh looking group of movers sitting/standing/moving around in the distance. The first thing I noticed as I got closer was the footwear: almost nobody was wearing "basic" shoes: I saw Vibrams, Fleus, Vivo's, etc. Most impressively: I even saw a few people (I specifically remember Angelo) without shoes on! FTW! All sorts of foot friendly things were happening, I knew I had arrived.
After everyone showed up, Rafe welcomed us and took us through an epic "Joint Washing" routine: basically going through our whole body (fingers to toes) and moving/articulating/educating us around everything.
We moved on and played some group ball games as icebreakers and to get moving a bit, then we did some awesome breakfall drills with partners, chatted a bit more, and broke for lunch as a group at a local food co-op.
The afternoon was full of Parkour fundamentals in the trees, dynamic games, climbing, and DANCING! Yes, we danced with trees. Rafe even busted out some "Amber Run" tunes!
After all of that, we jumped in the cars and headed into the wild: to the Kelly family wonderland in the mountains outside of Seattle!
WHAT IS THIS PLACE?!
Definitely one of the coolest parts about RTS is the epic base camp location. Rafe's father (Sunray) has spend decades building INCREDIBLE natural structures in the forest using trees, boulders, and anything else he can get his hands on. The property features six unique structures, a natural spring, outdoor shower, wood-fired sauna next to two spring filled ponds for cold plunges, and a diving board. It's the closest thing to Rivendale you will ever find, and Sunray is Gandalf and Elrond in one.
Partner joint washing
One of my favorite takeaways from the whole RTS experience were the partner joint washing/mobility work that we did on day 2. The gist is this: get a partner, move/articulate a single joint at a time (wrists, neck, hips, knees, ankles) to challenge the outside ranges of their mobility. Start slow, move a bit faster, build from there. I would recommend learning these from the master (Rafe) before trying them on your own, because he has some really great tips/tricks and techniques to make the experience better for everyone. Although we had been grouped as "buddies" earlier in the day, this is where I really met Thor Gudnason. We had a total blast with this, and our bodies were totally ready to go afterward.
We spent time at 5 locations over the course of the week:
Larrabee State Park
Kelley Family homestead
Whatcom Falls Park
Each of these locations had so much to offer, and I won't go into all the details (you will have to attend RTS yourself for those) but here are some of the most memorable activities:
Bouldering, Bird calls and tracking with Kyle, creek run at Whatcom, waterfalls (climbing up, jumping down), cliff and tree diving/flipping, rope swinging, rock and tree climbing, roughhousing, contact improv, glacier and sand sliding, hiking, alpine lake swimming (with Wim Hof breathing), log parkour, sauna and cold plunges, delicious food and natural spring water 24/7.
Of course, money always matters. If you read my Blog regularly you know that I survive by not spending money. So shelling out ~$2,000 for a one week experience is very out of character since I can survive for ~2 months almost anywhere in the world on that same amount of money. So how did I justify this? Well, I really needed to get out of Colorado, I had Southwest Airlines points to use VIA my Credit Card Hustle, and I decided to do a GoFundMe campaign to help with the cost.
The premise of the GoFundMe Campaign was two-fold:
I would seek support from friends and family who Love me and want to support me
I would offer a "recap" class as a perk, and give donors a discounted class rate
Both of these worked out, but I got ~80% of the funds from generous friends/family whom I am SO GRATEFUL to. If you are reading this: THANK YOU.
The recap class brought in the final 20% of the funds and I ended up almost breaking completely even! Wow, what the heck?! People are amazing!
Teaching the recap class also forced me to take really good notes on the movement activities we did, and teaching the class was a wonderful refresher for me. Of course it was also amazing to be able to share some of this knowledge and inspiration with friends/students in Boulder, and I hope some of them were inspired to attend RTS in the future because of this. I would HIGHLY recommend planning a recap class for any seminar you attend.
Housing + General food: Included
Cost of living: ~$160 (~$15/day for lunch out, $5/day for gas if you pitch in for your car)
Average cost per day: $302
Return to The Source was was definitely the best movement seminar/week of my life, however this must be caviatted with the fact that I am very new to the movement retreat/seminar game. I did hear from several more experienced people at the retreat that they have done many seminars worldwide with people like Ido Portal, Tom Wexler, Wim Hof, etc, and this is the best event they have ever been to as well, that definitely carries weight. In fact, I heard from a very trusted person that Ido Portal retreats absolutely do not live up to expectations and are a waste of money, who knew?! Glad I know now! I will not be attending RTS in 2019, but I will definitely be attending a week+ Rafe seminar again someday. If I could give one piece of advice to anyone interested in attending this seminar (or any other seminar for that matter) I would say TEACH A RECAP CLASS: this will force you to take great notes, review and spread the material and help support your trips financially!
Amor y Paz
Meet Thor, from Iceland
Not only is Thor a badass mover (his Dad was the first personal trainer in Reykjavik), but he's also a Wim Hof Method instructor and founder of Primal Iceland: and epic gym in the heart of Reykjavik!
The creek run at Whatcom Falls was probably my favorite single activity at RTS, which is saying a LOT because I enjoyed almost every activity thoroughly.
Basically, we began at the top of the creek, and Rafe just went. Not on the edges, not the "easy" way, but straight down. Hop, skip, jump, teeter, flow, fall, splash, balance, jog, sprint, crawl, trip, GO GO GO. What an epic way to spend a day. Nothing is predictable: you never knew if a rock would be slippery, unstable or too far away. Of course, everyone went at their own speed and had to be very careful, but that's part of the game!
"Imagine trying to recreate an experience like this in a gym."
The experience was so reactive, so varied and so epic. We ended up at some epic cliffs and got to jump ~20-30 feet into deep water! One of the smaller cliffs even had a tree leaning out next to it, and after Rafe jumped from the tree he encouraged me to do the same: this was the scariest experience of the week for me and left me feeling very shaky and accomplished!