We are BJ Graf and Lauren Rathvon, the founders of RetreaTours. We’re so happy you care enough about your travel experience to learn more about us!
What is RetreaTours?
RetreaTours was formally founded in 2012, although it had been organically developing long before then. Once upon a time, BJ owned an import shop in Sarasota, Florida, and customers would ask to join him on his buying trips to India. He brought a friend here and two friends there, and it became quickly obvious that his knack for itinerary planning matched his personal passion for travel.
In 2010, BJ and Lauren brought their first official group abroad and the seed of RetreaTours was firmly planted.
In order to focus full time on developing itineraries and leading trips, BJ and Lauren moved out of the U.S. in January 2013 and have been on the road 24/7/365 ever since! As you can imagine, living in hotel rooms and eating every meal in a restaurant gives us unique insight into the needs of our guests and their comfort!
No, I mean literally—what the heck is a “RetreaTour”?
Retreat + Tour = RetreaTour!
For many years we created yoga and meditation retreats all over the world, but we never felt comfortable with the idea of our guests traveling all that way to only see the inside of a yoga studio or meditation hall in one location. So, we aimed to combine the breadth of a tour with the depth of a retreat, creating the RetreaTour.
Although our focus is on Around the World tours and cultural journeys these days, we’d like to think that ALL of our itineraries provide that breadth and depth. Our trips allow time to explore and engage with the local sites and culture, with enough downtime for our guests to integrate and appreciate their experiences
Who are we?
BJ and Lauren were married on New Years Day in 2012. No one else knew it at the time, but they had already hatched their plan to move out of the U.S. in just a year’s time in order to focus full-time on their travel company!
But let’s rewind.
BJ has a Masters in Education, but worked in the mental health field for a non-profit agency, Volunteers of America of Florida. BJ’s role in the agency evolved and he began to develop & manage housing for low-income individuals all over the state. He is also a LEED®AP (a specialist in “green” building and design). Oh, and his “side gig”? He owned an import shop in Sarasota, Florida, selling artifacts, jewelry, and furniture from South and Southeast Asia, but he only worked there himself on Saturdays. (<— foreshadowing)
Lauren? She was a Board Certified Doctor of Oriental Medicine and Acupuncture Physician, as well as a college instructor of the same subjects. She spent years immersed in the world of natural health, including a 13-year stint at Whole Foods Market. She bought all of her Tibetan refugee-made necklaces at a cute little import shop in Sarasota, Florida. One Saturday afternoon she went into the shop and the rest, they say, is history.
We’ve been on the road since January 2013, carrying everything we need in our suitcases. We visit the U.S. very briefly every year (sometimes only for a matter of days), mostly to restock our suitcases and load up on Chipotle. When we’re not actively leading a tour, we are researching new destinations or deepening our connections in old ones. We occasionally settle for a month here or there, from Nepal to Argentina, in order to catch up on our ‘paperwork’ and develop new projects. We have street dogs in every port and an endless supply of memory cards for our cameras. Our curiosity about this world has only grown in the past 7 years, and our passion is sharing that sense of awe and gratitude with our guests.
What do our guests have to say?
“Traveling with BJ & Lauren is like traveling with young grandparents—they cannot spoil you enough and every day is a wondrous adventure.” Christine
“BJ and Lauren are compassionate, gracious, kind, interesting, knowledgeable, entertaining and a total treat to travel with.” Jane
“BJ and Lauren are absolutely the best tour leaders and tour planners I have encountered. I think the ultimate compliment I can give to them is to say, as a ‘protective’ dad and grandfather, I would feel very comfortable if my daughters or grandchildren chose to travel alone on one of BJ and Lauren’s trips.” Don
“You succeeded in setting a tone of inclusiveness and love (congruent with your personalities).” Sherise
“Nothing has been too much trouble for them; they have bent over backwards for us, like having your mum and dad look after you!” Patricia
“You feel more nurtured and cared for by your trip organizers than you could have ever hoped for….you feel like you have a new family AND you laugh a lot!” Annie
“Traveling with them is like being ‘held’ in a safe space yet with plenty of opportunities to spread your wings.” Cynthia
“We have used many tour operators and guides in our time…none were as amazingly organised, professional, accommodating, efficient and yet so personable and friendly as BJ and Lauren. They are simply in a totally different league.” Karyn
Hear our guests firsthand…
Who do we serve?
- People new to international travel who would feel more comfortable with expert guidance
- Experienced travelers who know they don’t want the hassle of developing an itinerary, researching sites and activities, finding quality hotels and restaurants, arranging transport, interviewing guides, researching visas and vaccines, creating a packing list based on the weather…
- People who finally want to shorten their “Bucket List” and see more of this gorgeous planet
- Solo travelers who want the ease and comfort of small group travel with enough opportunity for downtime and solitude
- Friends who want to reconnect in a fun atmosphere where all the details are taken care of
- Couples celebrating a milestone anniversary, birthday, a newly emptied best, or retirement
- In short: anyone with a curiosity about this big, beautiful world of ours and a couple of weeks to spare!