REVIEW: The Source of Wellbeing retreat

Jon Clarke, editor Olive Press,  visits a brand new retreat in a hidden valley 20 minutes from the coast, where multi-talented owner Martina Willis is weaving her magic on many different levels.

ECHOING to the sounds of running water, croaking frogs and nightingales, it was hard to believe that I was just 10 miles and 20 minutes from the fleshpots of Fuengirola and Marbella.

Following an intensive massage, and with a healthy chickpea tortilla salad and a bottle of gewurztraminer awaiting me on my dining terrace, things rarely get much better.I had been invited to check out the hottest new wellbeing retreat to open on the Costa del Sol; a place where smiles are guaranteed.

Set up by a talented Austrian, whose CV would put many a CEO’s to shame, The Source of Wellbeing is set to become one of the must-visit hideaways this year.Also running as a luxury B&B, this amazing spot, based on the banks of the bubbling Alamino stream, is a genuine oasis of near-tropical vegetation. Well-appointed with spacious rooms, outdoor jacuzzis and hectares of grounds, it is a wonderful place to hole up for a few days, and a great base to explore the nearby Guadalhorce Valley.


Also expect to be spoilt by Martina and her team, which includes a great range of masseurs, chefs and therapists. Based at the heart of one of the true secrets of the Costa del Sol – the Barranco Blanco – there is only one way in and one way out… a dirt track, with one very small sign. But, once located, you drop down into a stunning valley which counts less than a dozen properties and one of the loveliest streams and waterfalls in Andalucia.

The Source of Wellbeing is the brainchild of Swiss-educated Martina Willis, a woman still in her 30s who counts working for Larry Ellison and Bill Gates on her CV. After studying mechanical engineering and marketing, she worked for 19 years in the IT sector, in particular with Oracle in Europe and Microsoft in Seattle, where she became the youngest product manager in the company’s history. But, after the inevitable burn-out, working sometimes 120-hour weeks with her own company, based in the UK, Saudi Arabia and Sweden, she decided to look for a career change.

Out went the private plane and yacht and in came a focus towards self-development and a drive for health and happiness.She moved into life coaching, got a diploma in MindTraining and has started to help focus and train senior executives and corporate teams around Europe. “I have now made it my life goal to equip people to become the driving force to change organisations,” she explains. “Let’s face it, the economy needs to adopt a new business model, away from profit and towards customer and employee satisfaction. “In short: a happy successful employee will generate a happy customer.”

Her new Wellbeing project encourages executives and business owners to learn from her, as well as offering hard-working women, or those who have lost their identity, the chance to escape and enjoy a well-earned pampering break.“When people look at me, they see this petite blonde who’s had a lot of luck to be successful in business and seems to have it all,” she says.“What they don’t see is the incredible hardship I have had to overcome along the way. The physical and emotional abuse I endured in my life from an early age and the obstacles I have had to overcome in my private and business life to be successful.“It has been a hard drive to become happy and I have had to break through detrimental and addictive behaviour patterns to become the assertive and strong person I am today. “Ultimately, I love to help people face the fear they have in their lives and help them achieve their goals without the need for approval of others

Paradise found: My Source Of Wellbeing

In a new, colourful monthly column, for the Olive Press Martina Willis describes her transition from a boardroom boss to the owner of an Andalucian wellness spa

I CAN’T help but see the irony in the new path I have chosen.

The first half of my life was spent surrounded by hard facts and logical thinking, as I navigated my way around giant corporations in the technology sector.
Now my job is to create balanced, happy and healthy minds, bodies and spirits.
Back then, I didn’t give a megabyte about the so-called ‘beautiful’ things in life, as I was doggedly worked my way up to board level.
Beauty products were for the female assistants of my ‘boys’, who worked for me… certainly not for me.
Yes, I needed to look the part when I entered a board room and tried to convince the men around it to part with their money or follow one of my schemes.
But my fashion sense only went as far as a tailored black suit, and a very moderate level of make-up, usually bought at the airport on the way to a meeting.
To be honest, I wouldn’t have recognised the modern-day me, with a new passion for Coco Chanel lipstick and my favourite red Jimmy Choo stilettos.

Now the proud owner of an idyllic wellness retreat, the Source of Wellbeing, hidden in a stunning valley near Marbella… my life has changed 100%.
The old me was driven by the deep psychology of human emotions and the intricacies of business.
I learnt how to lead and coach my employees to success in my many years working in Europe, USA and the Middle East, mostly sleeping little more than four hours a night.

Now, I usually get eight hours a night, get a siesta if I feel like it and take as much time as I want to walk my dogs, work out and hang out with my friends.

Sure, setting up a wellness business here has had plenty of challenges, in the loosest sense of the word.

There are a myriad set of different problems to cope with on a daily basis, but as I remind myself when I get a bit desperate about the ‘Spanish’ way of things: ‘Come on Martina – you’ve dealt with a lot worse.’
And yes, if a water leak the size of the fountain in Lake Geneva is spraying into my courtyard, I can deal with it.
Because, after all, I moved here because of the weather, the lifestyle and the life-loving locals… not the kind of things you usually associate with a boardroom.

Over the next few months I will share my successes and pitfalls in setting up a retreat in – frankly – the middle of nowhere.
I have become an expert in keeping ‘cool’ with all the many challenges one runs into when building a business in Spain and at the same time navigating through the endless jungle of beauty, wellbeing and body treatment therapists.