The Golden Door – No Ordinary Moments

There are no ordinary moments in life. We are just too busy thinking or talking or worrying or texting to notice most of them.

Prayers Answered

My mom passed away last month after a 4 year battle with cancer. She was as stubborn on the way out as she was in her prime. Or maybe when we get really close to our end, we suddenly want to hang on and ride life a little longer. On her final night when there was nothing else left to do, I prayed really hard and really loud to God to call her home. And he did.

The truth is, my mom and I were not close. I had been home several times in the last few months and we had made our peace. But her wishes were to die at home with just her husband and I intended to honor that. So when I lost my job and knew I’d be taking some time off, and she didn’t need me, I decided to go to Africa.

Universal Interference

Why not? That’s a major trip that most people put on the bucket list for someday and then someday never comes. I had time and had some money saved up. Why put it off any longer? As it turns out, you can’t just jump on Expedia and book a safari.

I also tried to book a cruise to the Amazon, a trip to Southeast Asia and even considered Egypt but the stars just wouldn’t align. Then I decided to keep it simpler. A wellness retreat! Couple days of yoga, couple spa treatments? Nope. No matter what I Googled, there was either no space, prices were unacceptable or COVID was still wreaking havoc. This restlessness to run to somewhere went on for days with dead end after dead end. And then I got the call to go home and help my mom to die.


So that was the reason none of the trips would come together. Because God had a different plan for me. I’m usually more respectful of the universe’s energy. When you are having one of those days where you are hitting a wall at every turn, stop walking. Turn around. Go home. Start again the next day.

So I went home and did what I was called to do. And it was really, really hard. Despite my years of experience working in acute healthcare, I was unable to successfully navigate the hospice system to ensure my mom was pain free and at peace. My sister and I hadn’t spoken in years, but there was no other choice and we teamed up as if not a day had passed since we’d last been a team. Long days. Longer nights. Almost no actual sleep for 10 days.

I don’t share this for sympathy. I’m sharing this so you’ll understand why what happened next was no ordinary moment.

When One Door Closes…

I left the hospital and headed back to my hotel. I remember looking up at the sky and thanking God for getting me through. And then I said, “God? I sure could use some time off now. I need to get back to me so I can move forward and find my place in the world of the living.”

Five minutes later my phone rang. “Hi! This is The Golden Door calling. We had you on our wait list and we just had a cancellation. I don’t suppose you’d be available to come next week?”


The Golden Door
The koi pond outside the dining room at The Golden Door

About Us

The Golden Door experience has been designed to empower our guests to reposition themselves at the center of their own lives by tending to their bodies, their minds and their spirits.” 

The History

The Golden Door was opened in 1958. It was the sister property to the world’s first wellness retreat – Rancho La Puerta in Tecate, Mexico – which had no frills. The founder of Rancho La Puerta was Edmond Szekely, a linguist, philosopher and natural living enthusiast. His wife Deborah designed Golden Door to be an upscale version of her husband’s original.

It was legendarily exclusive for a long time. Hollywood A-list. Then, it changed hands several times and took the inevitable decline that corporate management inevitably inflicts. It was purchased back from a management company in 2012 by a long-time guest (and wife of a billionaire) that wanted to see it regain it’s former glory. Joanne Conway now owns it, but day to day operations are overseen by Kathy Van Ness who has a glittering business resume. I asked to meet with her and, let me tell you, she is the real deal. Under her leadership, all proceeds from Golden Door Spa and skin care go to a foundation that serves victims of child abuse.

Labyrinth Golden Door
The Labyrinth at Golden Door

14 Days, 40 Birds, 41 Women & 60 Miles

There is no way in words to describe the experience.

I was supposed to stay 7 days. By Day 3 I knew I was transforming in ways I could never do at home and decided I was worth the investment to stay 2 weeks.

Days looked something like this:

  • Get up a 5am, have a cup of coffee, hike anywhere from 5 to 10 miles
  • Be back in my room by 8am with a hot breakfast waiting
  • Soak in hot tub or steam or hit sauna
  • Have an entire day left to participate in a variety of activities or do nothing at all
  • Have an in-room massage every day
  • Savor a facial every day
  • Enjoy a hot herbal wrap twice and a sugar scrub once
  • Have healthy snacks and meals provided throughout
  • Commune with 40 other amazing women who have come here to renew just like you

Spiritual Rebirth

I chose The Golden Door because in addition to the above, they offer the opportunity to work with a variety of practitioners that serve the spirit and who can offer healing to the body’s energy and it’s various misalignments that come from living in our day to day world.

I took advantage of it all (not included in the price). This is where I might lose some of you. But I hope that you will at least read the following with an open mind.

Red Hawk trail Golden Door
Views from Red Hawk Trail

Transformation and Realization

I had a tarot card reading that validated the direction I knew my path was headed and which gave me a sense of excitement and confidence to continue to follow it and not chalk it up as a pipe dream. That was followed by a formal session of crystal and chakra clearing. Of the 7 chakras, 6 of my were blocked.

I attended a workshop called “breathwork”. Some may be familiar, but basically breathwork involves altered breathing techniques that help you get into a meditative state faster. It was powerfully effective for me and helped me to begin the process of letting some things go that needed to be let go.

I had an astrology chart done – that was fun and interesting though I still have to locate the exact time of my birth (this matters a lot as the star alignment changes pretty much hourly so you really need to know your exact time).

I tried thai massage for the first time and I’m totally sold. That’s my massage from now on. I also had a Watsu massage which can best be described as an underwater shiatsu massage in a hot tub. It was beautiful. It’s like being a ballet dancer with a partner who just floats you and lifts you and moves you without you putting any effort in at all. It’s kind of like returning to the womb. Magic. And I’ve never slept better in my life.

View from Eagle Trail

Sink Or Swim?

One of the best things I did during my stay was to learn to swim. For real, I had never learned. Yes, I can paddle around in a pool. But I never learned how to put my face in the water or swim proper laps for exercise. It was a simple but extraordinary accomplishment for me.

The Flock

One of the first things I noticed when I arrived was that the place was teeming with birds. I kicked myself for being too lazy to pack my binoculars and camera. The menu of services I had received said they offered a bird walk so I figured they’d have binoculars to loan. No bird walk, no binoculars. By Day 2 I was losing it and I had them Instacart me a pair.

I took a walk by myself just to meet the neighbors. Turns out they were anxious to get introduced. For 4 hours the birds of the Golden Door led me from one to the other to the next, each waiting their turn to show up and greet me. I saw over 40 species I’d never seen before. It was one of the most magical nature walks I’ve ever taken.

One of the most amazing things I found on that walk was a nest. A beautiful, just completed nest still warm from it’s maker had been knocked out of a tree and was laying out on a dirt road just waiting for me to find it. It was a sign.

Not THE nest, but a nest that momma hummingbird showed me. That’s a brand new baby inside.

Going Home

I didn’t want to leave even after 2 weeks. My legs hiked more than 60 miles but my soul had gone a distance far greater. I felt so called to that place. California. Never in my life had I considered or desired to live on the West Coast, but there it was. I was being called. Where the mountains meet the ocean, where the sun shines all the time and where people of my tribe are found.

The spa car service dropped me off at San Diego airport on Sunday afternoon. Just as I was about to board my flight home, it got canceled. Weather in Dallas. And there were no other flights for 3 days.

I literally laughed out loud and then I started to cry. I knew why the flight was canceled. Their are no ordinary moments.

Frittata Cross Country

So I spent a few days in San Diego. And I fell more in love.

Here’s the Big News: I flew back to Florida, packed up my car and left. I’m moving to California. I’m already on my way, but I have all the time in the world to get there.

I hope you will come on the journey with me. I’m on a higher path now, and it feels amazing. There will be birds. And food. I’ll be celebrating my rebirth and showing some love to my inner child again. I have no idea what the next step will be once I get there, but I also know it will be there when’s it is time. And I’m at peace with that.

First stop? The Florida Everglades. Wait til you see what the universe sent me for my tour kickoff!

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Published by Jenny G

I'm sipping coffee in the morning, reading a cookbook for fun. Always planning my next trip and what I'll eat when I get there. Hoping to inspire others who share my love of cooking and eating, and to celebrate the wonderous diversity of food. I love to explore the world so I'll share my best itineraries and travel tips. Of course, sometimes I'd rather be snuggled up with a glass of wine and a good book so let's discuss those here too. And don't forget to feed the birds!

3 thoughts on “The Golden Door – No Ordinary Moments

  1. Congratulations, good luck, most of us are on a merry go round, you chose the zephyr. Enjoy the ride. Eyes open , but hold on ! Best wishes.
    Stephen Harkness

  2. That is fantastic news! I’m happy for you. I did a similar thing in my twenties.I lived theCalifornia life for five years. It was a great adventure before marriage and kids! I look forward to seeing your posts and if you cross through here, let’s go get gas station Indian food!

  3. J, such A Renaissance Woman you are….so unique and with such spirit …Cudos!

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