Sofie and Ed Templeton set up their retreat company Soul & Surf after packing in nine-to-five jobs in media and fashion. Ten years on, they haven’t looked back. Here Sofie shares the steps leading up to their leap into the unknown.
Before you set up Soul & Surf, you and your husband had more conventional careers in the UK. Where were you living then?
We were living in Brighton as we do now. It’s home, no matter where we travel. Ed had a graphic design agency and I worked for a womenswear label.
Had you both always lived near the sea?
We’re both originally from the Midlands. There was a tree at the bottom of my road with a plaque on it stating that this exact point was the middle of England. We couldn’t have been further away. I guess now we’re making up for lost time.
You started hatching plans for new ways to live and earn a living during a holiday to Panama. What prompted that blue-sky-thinking session?
It was our personal passions overlapping and coming together that shaped our plans – my love of yoga and Ed’s love for surfing. We knew we wanted to change our lives, and we did a session based around a Tim Ferris worksheet to create what he called a “dreamline” to work out what – in an ideal world, where time and money were no object – we wanted to be, have and do. Then we worked out which of these would have the most impact on our lives and how we could achieve them without winning the lottery. All of them pointed to a change from the day-to-day creative and media world to one involving travel, surf, yoga and time. The fear of the unknown was the only thing stopping us. We sat down and worked through what the worst-case scenario might look like if we took the leap. We realised that the worst case wasn’t actually that bad and it removed the fear of the unknown element. We were free to follow our dreams.
I read that David Hieatt – founder of Howies, Huit Denim and the Do Lectures – helped inspire you to make a change. Is that right?
We had ripped a poem out of a Howies catalogue and stuck it to the fridge before we made the jump. Then we took it with us as we travelled. It’s called “Find Your Love” and it became the voiceover to a film we made.
Not long after returning from Panama, you went on a unique journey. What prompted the decision, and where did it take you?
We quit our jobs and company, saved for 10 months and set off on a yearlong surf and yoga exploration taking in France, Spain, Portugal, India, Indonesia, Australia, Tonga, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatamela. Researching and plotting as we went, we knew we had nothing to come back to at home. But I wouldn’t say our journey was unique. These days, lots of people enjoy round-the-world trips – it’s just that ours never stopped!
During your time away, you fell in love with Varkala in India. What about it stole your heart?
India: there’s no place like it. Being near to the very southern tip, Varkala has a much slower pace than the rest of the country. It’s gentle, and the people are so welcoming. It really is a spiritual land. Ed was out surfing every morning, and he had the pick of completely uncharted surf spots. Discovery every morning! I practiced yoga in the motherland, completing my teacher training whilst we were there.
Since setting up Soul & Surf in Varkala, you’ve launched popup retreats and other permanent sites. What keeps you hungry to keep exploring?
We all have a list of places we’ve fallen in love with, made a connection to and need to find a way to get back to. Well, that’s how Soul & Surf started, from love: a love of special places, people, food, music and lifestyle.
Looking back to when you first launched, are you surprised at the success and direction of the business?
Ten years on, no one’s more surprised than we are. The first season we opened, we only ever intended to be open for six months, just to see if we could do it, to extend our trip and to enjoy a different lifestyle filled with all the things we love.
The things you love seem to resonate so well with guests. Is there a secret recipe?
Surf, yoga, interesting and inspiring people, new and exciting cultures, breathtaking natural beauty and incredible food, all sprinkled with a soundtrack compiled by us that I think is now something like a month’s worth of continuous Spotify playlists! We’ve focused on the things we most value and removed all the things that distract us from it. I think that’s what draws people to Soul & Surf. There was no five-year business plan, just two people’s freedom to dream.
Follow Soul and Surf @soulandsurf https://www.soulandsurf.com/