Meet BJ and Lauren
BJ Graf & Lauren Rathvon formed RetreaTours with the goal of making world travel accessible, authentic, and astounding. As the owner of a South and Southeast Asian import shop, BJ had been bringing people overseas informally for years. When he would plan his buying trips, his customers often requested, “Take me with you!” and with that, he did. Realizing his knack for creating sensible & satiating itineraries, BJ wanted to expand.
RetreaTours was formally created in 2012, but BJ and Lauren took their show on the road in 2013, moving out of the U.S. in order to fully focus on their boutique tour company. Now, each day is spent exploring new destinations, strengthening local ties & relationships, and creating memorable, transformative, engaging retreats and tours (aka, RetreaTours™!)
BJ & Lauren take great pride in the trips they plan. They craft each element of the trip with intention, and they understand that it is this careful attention to detail that sets them apart. Fueled by their passion, armed with know-how, and supported by knowledgeable local contacts in all of their destinations, BJ & Lauren set the scene for the vacation of a lifetime.
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Lauren is enamored with making travel truly accessible to people—intellectually, emotionally, and financially. She understands that international travel can seem intimidating at first, but knows the rewards far outweigh any initial hesitation.
As an Acupuncture Physician and Doctor of Oriental Medicine and a former medical college instructor and guest lecturer, Lauren enjoys learning about traditional systems of medicine and ‘folk remedies’ around the globe. Having worked for more than 13 years in the natural food industry with Whole Foods Market, travel always seems to come back to food and exploring indigenous recipes and local fare.
Lauren’s favorite activity while traveling is hanging out with the local street dogs and the various organizations dedicated to their welfare (such as Street Dog Care and Bhaktapur Animal Wellness Society in Kathmandu and the Bali Animal Welfare Association). Her second favorite activity is snorkeling, which equally terrifies and delights her to no end.
You can reach Lauren at Lauren @ RetreaTours.com
BJ has a passion for helping people travel through South and Southeast Asia, sharing his knowledge of the terrain and affection for the culture. His wish to bring this opportunity to a larger audience sowed the seeds for RetreaTours.
BJ has been traveling the world for over 20 years. Originally from Chicago, he was initially inspired as a 7th grader by his family’s foreign exchange student, a high-school senior from Mexico. Interacting with high school students from around the globe that year opened his eyes to the endless variety that the world had to offer. During his time studying abroad in Australia, BJ met a Danish couple who were in the process of circumnavigating the globe. Fascinated by this concept, he grilled the couple for information and decided to take a year long trip around the world himself. Having no internet to research (can you imagine?), a backpacked BJ made his way around the world in 1995, learning the ins-and-outs of each culture as he went. During his initial trip around the world, he interacted with thousands of people; while appreciating cultural differences, BJ was drawn to the similarities between all people.
Until moving overseas, BJ enjoyed his position in the social work field, bringing support services and housing to homeless veterans, persons with mental illness, and low-income families.
You can reach BJ at BJ @ RetreaTours.com.