MINNEAPOLIS -- When Katie Quade planned her return home to Minnesota after living in Australia for three years, she was at an impasse in life.

Although she had spent the last 10 years working in the world of advertising, she still felt that she had yet to discover her life’s true purpose.

So, rather than hop into another job search that would surely leave her feeling unfulfilled, Quade decided to flip the search internally -- on herself.

Katie Quade is the founder and creative visionary of Balanced Roots Retreats, a lifestyle retreat experience that helps women disconnect from the hustle and bustle of daily life and reconnect in the northwoods of Minnesota. Photo courtesy of Rachel Lea Photography
Katie Quade is the founder and creative visionary of Balanced Roots Retreats, a lifestyle retreat experience that helps women disconnect from the hustle and bustle of daily life and reconnect in the northwoods of Minnesota. Photo courtesy of Rachel Lea Photography

What she found was that she had been lost in “busy culture” -- society’s emphasis on constant busyness and its disregard for leisure -- and was eager to help other women confront, and escape, the same seemingly never-ending bombardment of work, errands and over-use of technology.

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Throughout her period of soul searching, Quade developed Balanced Roots Retreats, a lifestyle retreat experience that takes women to the Northwoods of Minnesota -- among other tranquil destinations around the state and Wisconsin -- and empowers them to stop and take time for themselves.

“I came up with this idea of having a place for women where they can come and relax, recharge and disconnect from the hustle and reconnect with themselves,” Quade said. “I think all too often we’re just so busy going from one thing to the next, and I think that everyone deserves the chance to focus on themselves a little bit.”

Each of the all-inclusive retreats are designed with Quade’s “magic formula” of elements to promote guests’ physical, emotional, mental and spiritual well-being. These include intimate group sizes, creative play, food experiences, life coaching, yoga and meditation.

A comfortable stay set amid rustic-chic lodging pulls everything together.

When staying at a Balanced Roots retreat, guests enjoy aesthetically pleasing lodging that is described as rustic-chic mixed with modern glam. Photo courtesy of Rachel Lea Photography
When staying at a Balanced Roots retreat, guests enjoy aesthetically pleasing lodging that is described as rustic-chic mixed with modern glam. Photo courtesy of Rachel Lea Photography

In early February, prior to its launch, Balanced Roots Retreats held a test-run experience for a select group of women at Gathered Oaks, a picturesque and award-winning venue featuring a converted farmhouse and barn space set in the countryside of Alexandria, Minn.

For one weekend, the women were treated to a series of experiences that Quade carefully curated, all allowing for various degrees of introspection, self-discovery and enjoyment.

“I’ve designed the schedule very strategically in order to channel different types of energies throughout the day,” Quade said. “I don’t want it to be too serious or too playful. I want a little bit of everything.”

Welcomed with hors d'oeuvres and wine upon their arrival, the small group gathered at the soft launch on a Friday evening. The limited size was set to ensure an environment favorable for “building relationships and camaraderie.”

“I really wanted to create this intimate setting where people could really connect with each other and get to know each other,” Quade said. “They could feel comfortable sharing things with each other that they might not normally talk about with their friends.”

And while all were there to benefit from the weekend, some also doubled as vendors, bringing an entrepreneurial spirit along with individual expertise into the mix.

“All the women that I work with, who I brought in to help me bring this retreat to life, are small business entrepreneurs and they're all local to Minnesota,” Quade said. “I want to support local businesses in Minnesota and Wisconsin as well as every person that I bring in to help run the retreat.”

Guests to the soft launch of Balanced Roots Retreats enjoy a relaxing yoga session at Gathered Oaks in Alexandria, Minn. Photo courtesy of Rachel Lea Photography
Guests to the soft launch of Balanced Roots Retreats enjoy a relaxing yoga session at Gathered Oaks in Alexandria, Minn. Photo courtesy of Rachel Lea Photography

On Saturday morning, the group arose to coffee, tea and smoothies followed by a yoga and meditation session led by Angela Mattingly, the founder of Feel At Om Yoga based in Woodbury, Minn.

The session, which catered to all abilities, was designed to be introspective with messages of gratitude and self-focus scattered throughout it. The following morning’s session would be upbeat to ensure guests left the retreat with a positive mindset.

“A lot of people told me they were kind of skeptical about the meditation portion because I think people are afraid of being silent,” Quade said. “But when everyone was finished, they were total zen and in this great head space.”

To counterbalance the introspection, guests also enjoyed a creative play activity with a Minnesota wreath-making class guided by Alexandria-based bakery and floral company Flour and Petal.

Guests partake in wreath-making, a 'creative play' activity developed by Balanced Roots Retreats, during their stay at Gathered Oaks in Alexandria, Minn. Photo courtesy of Rachel Lea Photography
Guests partake in wreath-making, a 'creative play' activity developed by Balanced Roots Retreats, during their stay at Gathered Oaks in Alexandria, Minn. Photo courtesy of Rachel Lea Photography

Quade said each retreat will feature a different form of creative play, ranging from a lesson on calligraphy to jewelry making to a drink mixing course.

“People really enjoyed this because it’s a break from thinking and being introspective,” Quade said. “It’s a time to chat with each other and really have fun and be playful.”

When it came to mealtime, the group indulged in a charcuterie and wine lunch as well as a three-course dinner later that evening. Each course was developed by both Quade and Jamie Preuss of So Happy You Liked It, a Twin Cities-based food and lifestyle blog.

All meals were intended to be light yet filling and incorporated fresh local ingredients.

“We focused on serving food that helps your body feel really nourished and never leaves you feeling too heavy or gross, like how you might feel after a weekend away on vacation,” Quade said.

Balanced Roots Retreats include life-coaching sessions designed to help guests gain a fresh perspective, as well as define and act on personal goals. Photo courtesy of Rachel Lea Photography
Balanced Roots Retreats include life-coaching sessions designed to help guests gain a fresh perspective, as well as define and act on personal goals. Photo courtesy of Rachel Lea Photography

The retreat experience also offered group and one-on-one life coaching by Angela Stocke, a Duluth-based certified business and life coach. Quade said that, like the meditation portion of the day, guests were initially skeptical of it but found themselves ultimately impacted by its teachings.

“Life coaching is something that’s really different about our retreats, and I don't think a lot of other retreats offer it,” Quade said. “People can leave the weekend with some actionable next steps and know how to apply it to their lives.”

Following a construct similar to the soft launch, yet featuring additional female entrepreneurs, the official Balanced Roots Launch Retreat will take place at Gathered Oaks from March 20-22.

Quade said she ideally hopes to host a retreat every month or so and looks forward to holding focused weekends, which would cater to women of similar professions and interests.

She also plans to experiment with multi-day retreats that would branch out into other states and allow for further incorporation of nature.

“What I’m most excited for is how Balanced Roots is going to evolve, and what I’m going to find out this year through hosting all these different retreats and meeting all these different people,” Quade said. “I will feel really good if women leave the retreat and something has really clicked for them. I just want them to have the time to think in their own mind and be sparked by those around them in order to have some kind of aha moment.”