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My name is: Kathy Van Ness.

I live in: Manhattan Beach, but spend part of my week in San Marcos, at Golden Door.

I’m known for being: General Manager/Chief Operating Officer of the Golden Door Properties. 

I'm talking about: Golden Door Wellness Resort.

Before I began working here, I was: My career had been in the fashion industry prior to my now ten years in hospitality. I was president of Diane Von Furstenberg, and then later at VF Corp, Warnaco, which licensed designer swim brands such as Ralph Lauren. I was most recently the president/EVP of the WSG Group, working with brands such as Michael Kors, Calvin Klein, Nautica and Speedo.

My interest was sparked when: I have known of the world famous Golden Door since my teens when I bought the first Golden Door cookbook. I shared with my friends at the time, saying, “We must make Golden Door Tecate Bread!” because it was so healthy—and we did. How amazing that years later I would be reimagining and managing the Golden Door! 

The idea behind it is: There is no place like Golden Door, which is why we have such a high return rate (60% of our guests are repeat visitors). The Golden Door experience empowers each guest to achieve a healthy mind, body and spirit by offering a completely bespoke experience with a 5:1 staff/guest ratio and a maximum occupancy of 40 guests per week. The design inspiration is from the ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn, with spaces specifically designed for serenity. Each guest stay is customized. No two programs are ever the same: we offer a personalized program including fitness, spa and beauty treatments, daily in-room massage, a meal plan, as well as activities and experiences dedicated to mindfulness and spirituality. We just finished a multi-million dollar renovation to our pool and bath house, where we have a visual healing space that was created in partnership with renowned time-lapse cinematographer Louie Schwartzberg.

My favorite lesser known detail is: Our guests are always blown away by the other people they meet. Week after week, you see so many natural bonds form between the guests.  Many walk away with friends for life. With only 40 guests per week, you can be as private or as social as you’d like, but I always encourage everyone to make friends.

A moment of true retreat happened for me here when: Our sunrise hikes are one of my favorite things at Golden Door. The hike that has a profound effect on me was our Meditation Hike. The property spans 600 acres, and you can literally hike right outside your door. We hike slowly up the mountain in total silence starting at 6:30AM. Each of us are 30 feet apart so the experience is intensely private. You can hear the first birds of the day, the sound of fog falling on the leaves, and you can see the rays of the morning sun fluttering through the groves. Once at the top of the mountain looking out to the Pacific Ocean, you are on top of the world. We begin a Tai Chi class which ends with 30 minutes of mediation. It’s quiet on the top of the mountain, surrounded by only sky. I usually sit on my own giant boulder. The hikes ends when we walk quietly back down, finishing with a labyrinth walk. I do this hike often, as being grounded in nature is where I get my best ideas.

Escaping is so important for all of us because: Because when you take care of yourself, you inevitably have more to give to the people you love. It makes you a better spouse, a better parent, a better worker. We all need time to reset and disconnect. We hear a lot: I could never get away for a full seven nights. But those who actually do it—and we have guests who run Fortune 500 companies, some of the busiest people on the planet—know that it’s the secret to being able to run at such a high frequency. They give themselves true down time. We often say that traveling to Golden Door is the best way to travel back to you. 

The words I live by are: Transform yourself, transform the world.

One truth that is so important, but people don’t always realize is: Living a joyful life is the key to wellness, and it is wonderfully contagious.

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