The people have spoken! Read what our guests have to say…
I have traveled alone and in groups to over 50 countries. BJ and Lauren are absolutely the best tour leaders and tour planners I have encountered. They care deeply about each tour member’s experience AND importantly they treat their local guides, drivers, hotel and kitchen staff very well. I found their trip itinerary to be very organized and well balanced between structured events and free time. I was relaxed the whole trip and at no time did I have to engage my personal “traveling radar” to feel safe. They are incredibly competent and I felt not only very safe but very well cared for for the entire trip. 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. They would have fun and be safe and be well taken care of.
My tour with Retreatours was amazing! Any hesitation traveling solo melted away because Lauren and BJ did a fantastic job ensuring our safety, health, and making everyone feel welcome. BJ and Lauren also take beautiful photos at every site so you have wonderful mementos without having to worry about missing anything. The trip itself was well paced and every site/experience was thoughtfully chosen. The addition of an Egyptologist to the tour just added to the experience, I learned so much more than I would have ever expected. I would highly recommend Retreatours to anyone looking for unique travel destinations. They really do a great job ensuring you have the most magical experience.
I’ve been to 6 continents (not Australia as yet) and many tours and cruises. This trip rates as one of the best, if not THE best, I’ve ever been on. The cost for the tour—room, food, activities—was ridiculously low (thanks to BJ, Lauren and the strong US dollar). Having BJ and Lauren know the area as well as a local permitted us to stay in fabulous places, eat wonderful food, do great activities without going to the most expensive, USA-tourist-geared hotels, restaurants and excursions; a five star experience at 3 star prices (maybe even 2 star prices). I would strongly recommend using BJ and Lauren for any trip they plan. I’m looking forward to more tours with them. They are extremely knowledgeable, very friendly, considerate, open to suggestion and care deeply about our world and its people.
My trip to Ladakh, India with BJ changed my life. Not only because of the places I saw, the people I met, the history I learned and the culture I experienced, but also because I was able to do so with someone who knew the territory well and has a personal passion for this far off region. BJ took care of all of the details and even made a “how to pack for India” video to help us plan. This enabled me to really immerse myself in the adventure without worry, because I was with a seasoned pro who has close connections with the people and places we visited (he’s a minor celebrity in this part of the world!) I was so happy he and his wife decided to start RetreaTours, because it means more people can get to experience India and other faraway places the way I did…more intimately, with logistics taken care of, personal attention and insight about a place most people only read or dream about. I wouldn’t have done that trip any other way. It is THE way to travel. This kind of trip really is within your reach.
BJ and Lauren are the most amazing guides you will ever find. For someone like myself who is incredibly busy but wants to travel, these are your people! Thinking about something so far out there like a trip to India is overwhelming. The planning that would be involved to conquer something of this magnitude on your own would overwhelm you. It’s not impossible, but you will never have the experience you would have if you let them guide you. When you factor in the cost of the trip, it might cost you a little less financially to venture on your own. However, what you’re losing by not going with experienced and seasoned travelers, you could never recover. You’re affording yourself the simple luxury of peace of mind. I can’t wait to go back!
I have walked barefoot through Hindu temples, marveled at the cold beauty of the Taj Mahal, witnessed The Everest’s indomitable peak, felt my heart sing as I mediated on the stone floor of a monastery at 10,000 ft, watched bodies burn along the Ganges, been a VIP guest at Mr. Turban 2013, clung to the back of a techno-blaring rickshaw speeding through the streets, supped with Sikhs (truly the kindest people in the world) and haggled for goodies among camel trading nomads. It’s been a wild, incredible, amazing adventure and I already miss India and Nepal, places of such dynamic sensory experiences.
The Bali yoga retreat far exceeded my expectations! Accommodations, yoga facilities, meals, and excursions were some of the best I have experienced. Everything was seamlessly orchestrated!
I have just returned from an incredible tour in India and Kathmandu with Lauren and BJ. You could search the planet to try and find better tour leaders but it would be near impossible. They are so genuine and caring and attract really good people to support them on tour. They leave smiles and good will wherever they go. The hotel staffs love them. They are amazing organisers, it all happens seamlessly and yet they have time for every individual. They share a great passion for travel and food and are very sensitive to the local cultures. It is an absolute pleasure to travel with them and I will be returning on another tour.
Having recently completed an Indian and Nepalese ‘holy city’ 12 day tour with RetreaTours, I want to say what wholehearted and exciting experience it was! BJ and Lauren covered every detail before and during the tour, from packing lists to helping with flights and eating safely. We were nurtured the whole way and we had FUN. They were approachable, well organised and totally immersed in our experience. Their knowledge of local customs and ability to build relationships was a added gift. Just GO WITH THEM, you will have a once in a lifetime experience!
My family and I enjoy traveling to exotic places and can list India, China and Sri Lanka among our favourite destinations. As is often required for such trips, 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.
They think of absolutely EVERYTHING: they give you pocket money in small denominations on arrival; they know all the best restaurants and laundry places; they personally vet all the hotels/resorts before taking groups there, and BJ scopes out the best positions for classic photo shots (essential if you’re a photo crazy person like my hubby).
BJ and Lauren have a real passion for what they do, and it shows! They make real friends with everyone they work with, so that you (the traveller) get the best service and attention wherever you go with them.
We thank them for making our trip one we will never forget.
A trip with BJ and Lauren is like being on a luxury cruise, but better! Everything is taken care of and all you need to do is show up and go along for the ride.
I had an incredible time with my tour and with BJ and Lauren, they were very professional and also very humble and accommodating. They have amazing experience and knowledge with India and Nepal and were more than happy to share it with me and the group. The activities and even the travel days were all effortless and enjoyable and rife with plenty of good fun memories.
You are truly in good hands when you travel with RetreaTours and BJ and Lauren.
My excitement and expectations for exploring the Galapagos with BJ & Lauren were far exceded by the reality of this once-in-a-lifetime trip. Every day, we were treated to new ways of exploring the natural wonders of the Galapagos. BJ & Lauren’s excitement about the Galapagos is infectious & I knew I wasn’t going to miss out on anything because of their attention to detail & unique way of presenting the very best it had to offer in an authentic & un-prepackaged way. After the birth of my children, swimming & frolicking with sea lions off Isla Lobos is the next highlight of my life!!! Muchos Gracias Lauren & BJ!!
This is my first tour with BJ and Lauren, and I would most definitely travel with them again! When we arrived in Cairo they were there to greet us and such a warm welcome. Felt like I’ve known them forever. From the first day until the last day BJ and Lauren made sure that if we needed anything it was there, all the tours and the accommodations that they had planned were wonderful, I personally can’t complain about anything, BJ and Lauren are so full of life and energy, They are so dedicated to making sure that traveling with them is a great experience!
BJ and Lauren are consummate professionals. They are truly great people, individually and as a couple. They take the time to make everyone feel special and taken care of throughout the trip and do so in a genuine manner. There level of preparation and communication regarding all details of the trip is unsurpassed yet they are so easy going that it feels as though they are guests on the trip as well at times. If you are looking for the trip of a lifetime that is well researched, planned and executed with a team whose personalities are awesome, then look no further, you will find it here!
I wanted to thank you for organizing such an incredible experience in India and Nepal. From my perspective, logistics were seamless and you both were extraordinarily accommodating. I wanted for nothing on the trip and felt like I could trust you even to the point of taking a break from “thinking” for a while since you took care of everything so well. From food to excursions to ensuring our comfort (including accommodating individually nuanced ‘needs’), you bent over backwards for us. You were also there just to hang out with us, which is nice for those of us traveling alone. You succeeded in setting a tone of inclusiveness and love (congruent with your personalities). Thank you from the most sincere confines of my heart for making this experience so special for me.
Lauren and BJ are the best! Kind, calm, knowledgable but never overbearing, the picture of grace under pressure when needed. I’ve never been a group travel person but I’d go with these two ANYWHERE!
Truly, there is no better way to fully experience India than through RetreaTours! While visiting a third world country can be intimidating to most, BJ and Lauren are experts at making you feel at ease and handling all the little details. Everything from bargaining at the markets to ordering dinner was made easier with BJ’s natural ability to interact with the locals. His long-term relationship with the monks allowed us access to places we never would have seen otherwise. Lauren’s sense of humor and down to earth attitude helped make a foreign place seem more comfortable. Both are super approachable and great at accommodating everyone’s individual needs. We are so thankful for the opportunity to have traveled with such amazing, organized guides /friends! (Seriously, we cannot stress enough how special and unforgettable this trip was.) We could not have done it without them… and are looking forward to our next venture together!
Traveling with BJ & Lauren is like traveling with young grandparents—they cannot spoil you enough and every day is a wondrous adventure. Love & Thanks!
RetreaTours allows you to experience great sites & adventures in India. I’ve been able to see things in India through traveling with BJ & Lauren that I would not have experienced with larger travel agencies.
This trip to Egypt was the experience of a lifetime presented by two extremely knowledgeable people (BJ and Lauren) with valuable connections to the locals. When asked what I liked best, there were so many competing ‘bests.’ Being a photo aficionado, it was beyond exciting for me that both Lauren and BJ take professional and artistic-level photos and share them so quickly, usually on a daily basis. Giving full credit, I could share their pictures with my friends, who commented on how great they were. Traveling with Lauren and BJ is an exceptional experience in itself. They see to every detail for travelers, provide information to prepare travelers for the trip, look after the wellbeing of each traveler (right down to convenience stops!), and are two of the warmest, kindest, most interesting, most generous, and most engaging people I know. The planning of the trip was carefully crafted to make each activity even better than the one before, all the way to the end. As tour operators, they looked after the travelers better than any I’ve experienced before. I can’t imagine experiencing Egypt with anyone but BJ and Lauren. Thank you both for a most memorable experience.
I have had the most wonderful time in Bali with BJ and Lauren. Nothing has been too much trouble for them; they have bent over backwards for us, like having your mum and dad look after you! PS. The warm welcome at the airport when we arrived was so lovely.
I’m currently in the Philippines and am witnessing first-hand some logistical machinations with a group of similar size to what you led in India and Nepal…. I’m reminded how great you two were in arranging, re-arranging and accommodating everyone—and everything—during our excursion with you. I bow to you in awe; it cannot be easy, as I’m reminded, and you were fantastic. Thanks!
I am very interested in going on some more of your trips, and I think that is the sincerest compliment I could offer. Truly exciting locales made easy, although I can appreciate all the hard work that has gone into making it look easy. I felt safe and appreciated. BJ (aka Vijay) and Lauren make a great team!
A quote that I heard recently is ‘turning sights into insights’ by Pico Iyer. I think this is appropriate as we saw many wonderful sights and at the same time we were presented with a lot to consider. Thank you so much!!
I’ve traveled a lot, but always alone. This trip was the perfect combination of an intimate small group, relaxed pace, and excellent cheer plus mind-blowing competence on the part of the leaders, BJ and Lauren. I hope I have the chance to take another trip with them some day!
The hard work that you put in researching all aspects of the tour was nothing short of amazing! It’s not often that I would see an ad on Facebook, respond to it with nothing but faith and trust that things would go well, and they did! My appetite has been whetted for more international adventures. I’ve been telling friends that if they’re considering taking a culturally immersive tour to check out RetreaTours. Thanks again for contributing to the best time of my life!
The Beyond Leh trip to Ladakh was an experience of a lifetime. The itinerary was varied, interesting and allowed for each visitor to have the maximum experience. BJ and Lauren are adept at tailoring the trip to meet the needs of each in the group, which is critical for any with special needs. BJ and Lauren are compassionate, gracious, kind, interesting, knowledgeable, entertaining and a total treat to travel with. Because of Lauren and BJ’s long relationship with the people of Ladakh, and, particularly, Thiksey Monastery, we were able to do things that other tour groups would never be able to do including a couple of visits to the living quarters of monks who are friends of BJ and Lauren, visiting temples/museums that are not open to the public, and special performances specifically arranged for our group. Their expertise at putting together the tour was valuable in making travel to and from Ladakh seamless. The useful information they shared about weather, packing list, airport transfers, hotel selection, currency exchange, the itinerary, cultural norms and the anticipated experiences eased the preparation for the trip allowing travelers to arrive well prepared for this truly amazing experience. BJ and Lauren are seasoned travelers and the safety of the group was a priority for them. At no time on the trip were there any safety concerns. This trip has had a lasting impact on me and my life, and I am beyond grateful to BJ and Lauren for making it possible.
Lauren and BJ take extra special care with individuals and planned an extraordinary itinerary—stops in places some folks never see, at least one visit for a home-cooked meal, and cultural experiences that highlighted music and dance along with art and history. From the start, they communicated what they what we would need to have a wonderful adventure. When a wrench in their plans cancelled a hotel or slowed us down in the mountains, they seamlessly wove a new path without our even knowing a problem had arisen. We always felt safe, secure in their hands, seeing all of the relationships they fostered across cities and sites that ensured our having a unique, transformative experience.
In our busy 24/7 lives we are not afforded many opportunities to pause, evaluate our lives and change direction if necessary. RetreaTours provides that opportunity through their led cultural immersions. BJ Graf and Lauren Rathvon’s deep knowledge of place and extensive contacts of people enable both a novice and seasoned traveler to saturate themselves in the land, customs and atmosphere of somewhere exotic and make it immediately recognizable and comfortable.
This month I traveled with them to the Thiksey Monastery in Ladakh. Every day we worshipped and learnt from the monks. Our access to their homes, their knowledge of Buddhism and understanding of their profound devotion to the happiness of others would not have been possible without BJ and Lauren’s introduction.
Now back home in the always turned on city of New York, I find myself aware of a subtle shift in both my psyche and the way I encounter others because of my experience in Ladakh. I thank both BJ and Lauren for making our retreat at Thiksey a profound experience that I will cherish. And, I look forward to the possibility of taking advantage of their expertise again in the not-too-distant future.
BJ and Lauren are the ultimate tour guides! They planned a seamless tour where all I had to do was show up. They took care of absolutely everything. Everything was First Class. Thanks for an amazing experience!
Always, always, always travel with BJ and Lauren. They have your back, they are extremely flexible with people’s needs and desires for their vacation. No compulsory participation required, you can do your own thing or join the group activity. BJ and Lauren are the BEST!
2012: I have always had a passion for India for as long as I can remember. Finally, this year I was able to fulfill my dream of going there. BJ and Lauren are a dynamic team and take you truly on an excursion of a lifetime. They work tirelessly to ensure that you are totally immersed in every aspect of the great culture that is India. RetreaTours is unique because you get more than your money’s worth. The trip I went on, to various locales such as New Delhi, Agra, Ladakh, and Amritsar, was jam packed with mind-bending, eye-opening thrills and experiences of a lifetime…I will never forget it! They have a unique vision because each trip is tailored to suit the wants of the group as well, while showing you everything that needs to be seen and experienced in the area you are in.
2013: With BJ and Lauren’s intricate planning and creative arrangement of the trip, I was able to have not only a tour of great places such as Varanasi, Kathmandu, Khajuraho, Pushkar, and Allahabad, but to have an enriching experience of being totally immersed in India’s vast culture. The height of my experience was witnessing the Kumbh Mela (the biggest religious festival on Earth); I was able fulfill my dreams of being part of this event without having the worries to plan and organize the trip; that was Lauren and BJ’s task–and they did one hell of a job!!!
I highly recommend taking a Retreatour with BJ and Lauren. My wife and I went on the India/Nepal yoga retreat and were very impressed with the constant attention we received, the smoothness with which most arrangements were carried out, our guides’ ability to quickly adjust when unexpected developments arose and their good nature throughout. They truly love what they are doing and they want us to love it as well. If something isn’t happening and it should, they will make it so. If you have a special request they will make it so. Engage BJ and Lauren!!!
I joined RetreaTours for an Indian Retreat in March 2015. Never having travelled to India previously, my knowledge on what to expect and what to pack was minimal. From the moment I booked onto the tour I was support by BJ and Lauren regarding packing requirements, visas, flights, and extra travel options.
I ended up staying longer than the retreat (and why would you not if the opportunity arises?), with BJ and Lauren assisting with accommodation, tours, flights and itinerary, all of which turned out to be top rate.
On the yoga retreat BJ and Lauren ensured our accommodation, food, outings met every expectation, no request was out of the question, and they just rolled with any challenge placed in front of them.
I was so impressed with RetreaTours and I am planning to go onto another Indian tour in 2016, bringing my husband – and I can’t wait :)
The most powerful memories of my recent trip to India and Nepal are full of color: bright silk saris in every color imaginable, the Golden Temple, orange marigolds, pastel-colored buildings, sunrises and sunsets over the Ganges, smoke rising from cremation pyres, Lauren and BJ’s brilliant white smiles, and Lauren’s pink hair. How could you not love someone with pink hair?
Nearly a year before the retreat, I was already in frequent contact with both Lauren and BJ. They ensured that every detail was taken care of to my satisfaction, from dietary preferences to researching flight itineraries from New Mexico to New Delhi, with options for flying east or west (with a day tour of Hong Kong if I wanted to add that on!). We were given detailed instructions and timely reminders for important, but easily overlooked, details inherent to travel to India.
Throughout the two weeks of the retreat, Lauren and BJ saw to our every need: bottled water, updates in daily itineraries, money for lunch, food accommodations for upset stomachs, meeting individuals’ wants for pursuing special interests, and much more. What I valued most, though, were the frequent glimpses into their character. Sure, they knew the history and culture of every place we visited, and they had established contacts in every city we visited who helped to coordinate our activities. But their authentic love for people and place left lasting impressions: BJ’s tears when he spoke of the damage to the temples of Kathmandu and Bhaktapur in the 2015 Nepal earthquake and the reconstruction efforts, and Lauren’s reunions with street dogs, especially those in Bhaktapur who had not seen her in two years but acted as if their last meeting had been just the week before.
There is so much more I could write! These are the people I want to travel with again. I was better prepared for and taken care of than with any of the other six international trips I have taken in the past twelve years, and they helped to make the people and places come alive for me. I can’t wait for my next adventure with them!