The Wanderlust brand of four-day retreats and one-day festival turns ten next year, its evolution paralleling greater trends in the mindful fitness space. Sixty-five full-time employees and thousands of local and temporary employees now execute 60 events annually, including the new Wellspring conference in Palm Springs. Below, CEO and Co-founder Sean Hoess describes how the festival has evolved in their 10 year history, what’s next and why the work they are doing matters not just to personal wellness but cultural wellness, too.
How broad has the scope of Wanderlust events become?
"We’re at over 60 events annually. We did 25 one-day events in the US and six festivals this past year, the rest were international. We originally started with Wanderlust Festival, our four-day retreats that combine large-scale yoga retreat with a music and arts festival. Around 2013, we thought it would be fantastic to be able to reach people where they live and not require them to travel 500 miles to the mountains. So we dreamed up a simpler version called Wanderlust 108, which sometimes I think of as Wanderlust 101. It’s an accessible, linear event in contrast to our larger festivals, where you have over 200 events to choose from. The 108 events are beginner-friendly mindful triathlons, created to get people together and being active in their local park. We now have four-day festivals in Australia and New Zealand, most of our growth has been with the one-day Wanderlust 108 events, which are now happening everywhere from Russia and Japan to Western Europe and Chile.
With our new Wellspring event taking place this October in Palm Springs, we wanted to work to redefine wellness, in a broader sense than personal wellness. It’s a cross between an ideas conference and wellness festival. The new event lets us focus on on environmental wellness and societal wellness, too, which we’re really excited for."
How has the ethos and offering of the festival evolved?
"Yoga has and will continue to sit at the center of our vision of a mindful life. Your personal practice might be yoga or meditation or another form, but we do think that ‘practice’ more generally is part of the process of finding one’s true north. We were very deep into yoga in the beginning, but even in 2009 and 2010 we were offering a wide-range of other outdoor activity like meditation and hikes and stand-up paddleboard. For our audience, while yoga might have been the be-all-end-all for them in our earlier days, now it is still an important part of their wellness regime but a lot of them have started cycling and exploring more outdoor activities.
As far as the other part of the festivals, our music, art, food and wine have and continue to be a big interest of our community. We work to make that piece of the offering feel fresh and exciting each year."
How has having Adidas as a title sponsor changed the evolution of the festival?
"When I think of mindful fitness, there is fitness-fitness like HIIT or Crossfit, but mindful fitness would encompass yoga, Pilates, SoulCycle. It’s fitness that has a component of personal empowerment. Yoga is a forced digital detox, and a lot of other modalities have picked this up, which has fragmented the market a bit. ClassPass has helped with this. Our goal is get everyone into developing a meditation practice in one form, wherever it sits on this spectrum.
As far as Adidas goes, they have a strong interest in reaching women. They work with athletes, and started out with core sport and competitive sport. We’ve seen athletes adopt yoga as part of their physical and mental health programs, and Adidas wanted to understand it better and get more involved in it. They saw an opportunity with us to access our expertise. We are Wanderlust - we are this global container for a community that is out there already. It’s hard as a small company to do this expansion ourselves. Our partnership with Adidas has made it a lot easier for us to grow internationally."
I hear there are more changes to come! What is next for Wanderlust?
"We are always focused on our events and what they represent. I would like to see Wanderlust be more of a global lifestyle community, rather than a series of people who attend an event or buy a piece of apparel. I’ve always seen it as representative of a lifestyle, but it is a sort of container that brings people together. Everyone has the ability to bond through social networks and shared interest. We are in a position to offer this globally. This is the mission statement, expressing this. And to that end, we are launching a Wanderlust Passport. We will sell a pass that lets you go to any Wanderlust event in the world for an entire year. You could stay within your country or travel internationally. This would extend to our studios, too, and services and products that support the lifestyle of the wandering, conscious yogi and joining a global community. We really want to bring the community together in-person.
In addition to that, we are going to bring the Wanderlust festival experience to new cities for the first time. It’s also our 10th anniversary next year. Instead of four-day festivals on mountain resorts, we will bring a two-day version of this to cities and public parks. It will be done in lieu of the 108 version in that city - and really create a festival in a park, very much aligned with what we do on the mountainside. We want to a. raise the visibility and accessibility of the deeper experience of what Wanderlust offers and b. increase the awareness among people who can’t really travel to the destinations. Stay tuned."