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Yoga Adventurer: An Interview with Natalie Magee of Yogi Magee Expeditions

by Jake Case

Natalie-Magee-interview

From the mountains of Telluride to the jungles of Costa Rica, Natalie Magee leads yoga-focused adventure retreats to some of the most beautiful places on the planet.

Also known by her nickname Yogi Magee, the Colorado native is as busy as they come. She maintains a 14-year-strong career as a flight attendant, owns and operates Yogi Magee Expeditions, kills the social media game every day on Insta (@yogimagee), and still finds to time for adventures with her husband and daughter.

And don’t sleep on the fact that Magee has climbed 53 of Colorado’s 58 fourteen-thousand-foot peaks and takes her retreat guests on rock climbing excursions when they’re not on the yoga mat.

Yeah, she’s a bonafide badass when it comes to yoga, outdoor adventure, and life in general. After connecting with Magee on Instagram (she’s a must-follow, by the way), we had to find out more about why (and how) she does what she does.

 


Territory Supply: What motivated you to start leading adventure retreats?

Natalie Magee: The studio I was teaching for after I completed my yoga teacher training in 2011 had hosted a series of yoga retreats. I was always envious I wasn’t asked to co-teach due to my lack of experience.

In 2012 I attended one of these retreats in Costa Rica and was so transformed by the adventure. I knew I wanted to give that experience to others. I love to hike and Telluride, Colorado was always intriguing to me for the beauty in the surrounding area so I came up with the idea to run a hiking and yoga adventure retreat in Telluride the summer of 2014.

yogi magee expeditions

I wanted to create an experience for women who wanted to hike and meet new friends, but didn’t have thousands of dollars to spend or a week to get away. I guess you could say my motivating factor was creating a retreat that I would have wanted to go on as a guest, but I had to create the concept because, at the time, there was nothing similar.

TS: I’d love to hear about your favorite place you’ve held a retreat. Where was it and what made it extra special?

NM: Telluride will always hold a special place in my heart because that is where my inaugural retreat was held. However, Belize has to be one of my favorite locations that I’ve hosted a yoga retreat.

yogi magee telluride

What makes Belize special is it was the first international retreat and I learned so much from that experience from co-teaching with another instructor to having attendees I didn’t know previously.

I challenged myself to get to know each and every individual who attended and participated in all the activities that were scheduled. It was exhausting, and I didn’t make any money and I never worked with that yoga instructor again, but it was so worth the learning adventure.

TS: Not counting places you’ve already gone, what’s your dream location to take your guests?

NM: I have my heart set on taking a group to Patagonia someday. To me, this is the ultimate adventure destination. It would have to be a group of people that were OK with long hikes and fickle weather, but I think the payoff would be worth the struggles in getting there.

The ruggedness of the mountains combined with the crystal blue alpine lakes has always captured my imagination and I will take a group there in the future!

TS: Leading retreats sounds like a super fun and rewarding job. What’s the one thing you love the most about it?

NM: I honestly love seeing the connections made during the retreat that extend far beyond our time together. My first year in Telluride I roomed a group of girls together…some of whom knew each other and some who didn’t.

Over the years I’ve watched them attend each other’s weddings and art shows and take trips together. The opportunity to connect women together and see them encourage and push each other is what makes leading retreats so rewarding.

yogi magee yoga retreat

Even if the participants don’t become lifelong friends of mine at least I know I had a hand in introducing them to someone else who became that person for them. To me that’s everything.

TS: Climbing mountains and running your own business while maintaining a career as a flight attendant — you must constantly be running into challenges. How do you stay strong when the going gets tough?

NM: I always try to book at least three trips a year that are just for me and my family. Being a flight attendant and leading retreats means I find myself taking care of others a lot. I like to put myself on the other end of that spectrum and have people take care of me.

When I first started flying I documented my travels through a blog, but now my instagram account has become my outlet.

yogi magee retreat

Documenting my feelings helps me sort through them and there are many times I write out what I feel then delete. It’s very cathartic to remove yourself from the pressures of day to day life whether that’s through travel, writing or reading a book.

I love reading books about people who have climbed Everest or memoirs from people who have survived the odds. To me, that makes my day to day challenges feel small and gives me hope that everything that happens to me, happens for me.

TS: You have a goal of climbing all 58 Colorado 14ers, with 53 done. What’s your favorite one so far and why?

NM: I’d have to say my favorite 14er was South Maroon Peak. My mom, daughter, husband and I went to the Maroon Bells for the first time when my daughter was little and I remember feeling this magnetic pull towards those mountains.

In fact, I started walking towards them after taking photos at the lake and my husband called after me to ask where I was going. I poured over trip reports for that peak and read about all the deaths on the Bells and never thought I’d be strong enough to climb those mountains.

A friend, who had already climbed South Maroon, was scheduled to climb with my husband and I, but had to cancel at the last minute. My husband convinced me that we were strong enough to climb on our own, so that’s what we did.

yogi magee mountains

That particular mountain is confusing, not well traveled and there’s many different routes to reach the top. To me, to stand on the summit and look down on the same lake I looked up from years earlier, was the greatest accomplishment.

We went back the following year and climbed North Maroon which seemed easier (although ranked harder) in comparison. There’s no tangible way to measure your growth as a hiker and climber other than continually challenging yourself with new peaks and seeing how you feel from one to the next.

The fact we didn’t die on either mountain when others have (and is a real possibility) is an accomplishment in itself.

TS: Which 14ers do you have left and what challenges do they present to you?

NM: Capitol Peak, Little Bear, Blanca, Ellingwood and N. Eolus are the only mountains I have yet to conquer. Little Bear, Blanca and Ellingwood are all remote 14ers with a nasty road that must be walked in on before you even reach the trailheads.

Blanca and Ellingwood themselves aren’t the hardest peaks, it’s just the access to base that’s kept them at the bottom of my list. I don’t want to hike the road twice, but I also don’t want to climb Little Bear just yet so therein lies my conundrum.

yogi magee ice climbing

Little Bear has eluded me because the crux of the route involves an hourglass gulley you must climb that often has water running through it. As if there weren’t type two fun enough they call the hourglass section the bowling alley because people climbing above you will often kick rocks down on accident that end up in the gully.

I don’t want to be the pin in the bowling analogy, so I’ve put off the climb.

Capitol is considered one of the hardest in the state and has a long approach before you even reach the technical parts of the climb. Since it doesn’t receive as many climbers as the front range peaks, the precariously balanced loose rocks are just waiting for someone to step on and give way.

N. Eolus isn’t considered an official 14er if you only count 54, but if you’re counting 58 (and I am) then it’s just one you have to climb. It’s only accessible via a train ride from Durango to Needleton (unless you fancy bushwhacking in the back country) and a long 6 mile approach just to reach the campsite.

yogi magee mountaineer

When I climbed the other Chicago Basin peaks we didn’t have time to add in N. Eolus so I’ll go back to the area sometime in the future. My sights are set on Capitol Peak to attempt next, whenever that day might be!

TS: You also have the goal of trekking to Everest base camp. Besides the challenge of climbing to 17,000 feet, what entices you to go there?

NM: A few years ago I accepted the fact that I most likely would never be one to climb Everest. Besides the expense, I just can’t justify risking my life for a summit that deadly.

I decided set Everest base camp was more feasible and, because I’ve never hiked over 14,000, I feel the next logical step would be 17,000 to see how I acclimate. To be in the presence of all the amazing climbers at base camp and have a look at the tallest mountain in the world would be a dream.

I’ve also adding Kilimanjaro to my lifetime goals list because if I can’t climb all the highest summits in the world, at least I can try for one!

TS: As a successful entrepreneur in the outdoor industry, what’s the best piece of advice you have to offer a fellow adventurer looking to start their own business?

NM: To anyone who wants to run their own adventure retreats I would say you have to lead by example. If you aren’t putting yourself out there daily, challenging yourself through your own adventures then why would anyone want to adventure with you? At the end of the day you’re not just selling a retreat, you’re selling yourself.

You’re trying to convince people that you know what you’re doing and that you’ll show them a good time doing so. You have to convince people you’ll push them, but keep them safe because that’s what you do for yourself. One winter, I was snowshoe hiking every weekend.

yogi magee yoga

I hiked to some of the hardest locations in Colorado like Chasm Lake and Sky Pond in RMNP and documented the adventures on social media. People started noticing and emailed asking for the best places to snowshoe, what to wear, etc.

So, I put together a winter daycation hike where people could pay to spend a day snowshoeing with me. I could never have facilitated an event like that without previously showing others I was capable. Your vibe attracts your tribe, so if you embody the clients you hope to attract you’ll be on the right path!

TS: Where do you see your path in the outdoor industry leading you in the next couple year?

NM: In the future I’d love to lead retreats for entrepreneurs. I think the retreat industry is growing and there’s a big sector of people looking to break into this business but they don’t know how.

I’d eventually love to have my own retreat center that I could rent out to people looking to host retreats so I could, in theory, train others how to lead retreats then host them at my facility.

yogi magee natalie magee

Finding the right property and investors for such an endeavor is a dream of mine. I’m won’t be around forever and I know that I am limited in how many retreats I can run because there’s only one of me so figuring out how to make my business scale-able so I can remain relevant for many years to come is my goal!

Find Natalie Magee online on Instagram (@yogimagee) and on her website: Yogi Magee Expeditions. All photos courtesy of Natalie Magee.

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