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The end of summer is fast approaching, evident by shorter days and cooler nights, but there is still time to squeeze in one more vacation. Sure, there’s always Hawaii or Disneyland, or renting a beach house to catch a few final rays of summer sun, but have you considered other alternatives? Today people are looking for more options, braving new adventures and exploring unknown terrain. And these needs have not gone unnoticed. Popping up everywhere are alternative retreats, aiming to satisfy multifaceted interests, ranging from creative writing to kayaking to creating your own CD. Most are all-inclusive or offer customized options for the hard to please. So go ahead and indulge in one more trip before the summer ends. Who knows after you experience the exciting alternatives available you might go back for more.

The first company Wild Women Expeditions offers outdoor adventures for women. The concepts surrounding every excursion is a love of nature, nurturing artistic needs and trust in your fellow woman -- to form a spiritual union with your surroundings and the people around you. The pace is slow, with a relaxed schedule that will allow for plenty of socializing and outdoor fun.

Warning: these trips are not intended for those looking for the modern comforts of a four star hotel. They want you to experience nature as it was meant to be -- a no frills package. The base-camp is located in Ontario, Canada and is set on a bountiful spread of unspoiled wilderness. Come prepared for a rustic adventure as shared accommodations take place in either riverside cabins or prospector tents and showering facilities are located outside along with outhouses. However, they do boast of a private swimming area with canoes, organic gardens, walking paths through the woods and excellent country roads for cycling.

Upcoming retreats include: a three night drumming workshop focusing on world music and rhythmic theory for both beginners and experienced players, a three night creative writing workshop where you will work on prose and poetry, tapping into the imagination and listening to nature, and a three night Autumn Outdoor Getaway where you will hike, paddle upriver during the day and sit by the fire at night. All guides for the retreats are experienced outdoorswomen and all instructors for the workshops are experts in their fields. For more information go to their website:

The second option is considered one of the best destinations spots in California. The Oaks at Ojai is a health-spa with so many perks and programs it is difficult to count them all - not to mention that you will want to try them all. The emphasis is on relaxation: a positive, nurturing place to enjoy a healthy lifestyle -- where you can also get facials, massages and lose ten pounds at the same time if you so desire.

They offer 1000 calorie-a-day spa cuisine food and numerous fitness classes and activities available for those who want a jump-start on their weight-loss. Everything is at your own pace and fitness level, with professionals there to guide you every step of the way. Classes and seminars offered vary greatly, but you will be sure to find something that fits your needs. They wish to create an environment where you can learn without fear, failure or criticism. Such as with their Sexuality Secrets seminar where people can be comfortable learning and asking questions, because they believe a healthy attitude towards intimacy and sexuality is important to achieve no matter what your age.

So whether you want to stop smoking naturally, control stress or learn how to use self-hypnosis techniques to control your weight you can find it at Ojai. A list of their activities for September and October is available at their website:

The next one on the list is a unique find, so all you aspiring musicians listen up. Sure you could book some time at the local studio and see what you can create, but wouldn’t it be oh so much more fun to do in France? That’s where Revolution Studio in Normandy comes into play. Run by the non-French sounding couple Scott and Jenny Thomas, this couple operates their business on an 18th century farm manor located on six acres of privately owned grounds with a stream running through it for those who want to get some fishing in as well as music-making.

The studio and living area were newly refurbished in 2000. The studio includes a vocal room, a drum room and a control room. Listed on the site is all the equipment available to use and -- though not a musician -- I will say it looked extensive. There are three double bedrooms, a shower room and a reception area. Alongside the accommodations is the main house where you would have access to a lounge area to relax, watch television or listen to music. A beautiful place, get creative and enjoy yourself. For more details:

If you want an all-women alternative retreat that gives back to other communities then you must check out Mind Over Mountains. Founder Kim Reynolds started the company because she believes that that nature has something to teach all of us and as a 24-year veteran Outdoor Educator she really knows her business -- it is impossible to list all of her experience. But she's not just skilled, she has huge heart. Every outdoor program incorporates a service component, such as her ice-climbing clinic called Chicks with Picks, which has raised over $43,000 for local women's shelters.

They also provide physical community service work, as some of her programs have helped to build schools and teachers facilities in disadvantaged countries. And the activities just can't be beat: yoga, massages, mountain climbing, hiking and more. Mind Over Mountains offers thought-provoking activities that benefit the body and spirit. For a truly a phenomenal experience that will leave you feeling even better knowing that you are helping others at the same time you will not want to miss this one! Go to their website at:

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© Melt Magazine 2003