A “no-options” regimen at The Ranch at Live Oak Malibu, aboot camp for building physical strength, endurance and discipline—this was my summervacation of choice.


  • 8-10 hours of hiking, weights, yoga and otherexercise daily in the beautifulSanta Monica Mountain range
  • massage (of course!)
  • adaily intake of 1200-1500 calories (no dairy, no sugar, no carbohydrates, no caffeine, no alcohol)
  • living BlackBerry/smartphone-free

The chance to revitalize my mind and body thrilled me, andthe coverage I read about The Ranch confirmed that this would be an exciting challenge—and in anexquisite destination. I would relinquish my usual “Type A” control and my 3 p.m.every-other-day M&M ritual!

And so, I joined 13 guests and put the pedal to the metal. Uponarrival, the very capable and physically fit staff encouraged everyone to remove their watch. (Minewent into my safe and stayed there the entire time.) Our accommodations were comfortable. Hairdryers, yes...television, no way!

I followed (and loved) the The Ranch’s Rule #1: Living in the moment...responsibility- and care-free!! When I felt my thoughts drifting (“I should have... I couldhave”) I remembered the program director Mark’s instruction: “Return and payattention to the breath.” Easier said than done, but when you’re discovering rare flowersin a sea of brush, it works!

Hiking this Southern California terrain was amazing. On any givenhike, I felt I could have been in the South of France or Switzerland. Yes, think Julie Andrews inThe Sound of Music!

Chef Kurt’s meals were hearty, satisfying, and among some of the mostcreative I have ever had especially considering the calorie limitations.

Talented massage therapists, along with lots of yoga and stretching helpednurture my body along the way. It’s amazing what the body and mind can do!

The week felt like the culmination of all the New York City or Boston marathons I have wanted to run—and I made it to the finish line!

While I bought somespearmint rosemary soap as a souvenir, my favorite takeaway of the trip was its imparting wisdom:“Return and pay attention to the breath.” Great advice for life!

Jill Davison is the V.P. of Corportate Communications at American Express Publishing, and occasional blogger for Carry On.