Many of us have heard about the Oprah Effect or the Obama Effect – but I have just encountered first hand what I’m calling the “Rancho La Puerta/Deborah Effect.” The “Effect” being that people like Oprah or Obama have transformed lives and I believe I’ve been changed for the better or “woken up” in the last week thanks to time spent at the ranch and meeting Mrs. Szekely.
Rancho La Puerta www.rancholapuerta.com is a health and wellness fitness resort and spa just 45 miles south of San Diego. Deborah Szekely, the co-founder, in my opinion, is one of the most influential, determined and important women of our time. She has lived her life as a conservationist, philanthropist, activist, educator and tenacious entrepreneur. Although she stands only five feet tall, her confidence and unwavering repertoire revel a much taller and younger woman despite the fact that she’s now 88-years-old. The path from her childhood to her elder years is one of extraordinary measure, hard work and strong will. It’s a lesson in taking care of your mind, body and soul and if you do, the long lasting rewards will come.
Experiencing the ranch and all it has to offer for a week sounded at first too good to be true. I hesitated spending an entire week away from home because as a working mother my first thought was “I can’t get away, I have too much to do.” Thankfully my husband and family jumped in to help and encouraged me to go discover what it means to visit a “wellness and fitness” resort. I’m so glad I did because we’ve all heard the saying “when opportunity knocks, open the door.” Well fortunately for me, the “door” led me to the ranch, which is fitting since “Rancho La Puerta” translates to “Ranch of the Door.”
Wellness, physical fitness, embracing nature and an overall immersion in smart eating practices is what I obtained in just a week. In this short time, I feel lighter, stronger and more prepared to live a healthier life just by spending seven days on 3,000 acres of beautiful land. I did this by eating fruits and vegetables from their organic 25 acre farm, going on their nature led hikes and taking a multitude of fitness classes like yoga, hydro-water works cardio in the pool and a “aerobics for the soul” dance class.
This kind of experience is very much like what guests were exposed to 70 years ago when the ranch opened; although back then it was only $17.50 a week and you were required to bring your own tent. My how times have changed! The leadership and visionary of Deborah Szekely helped turn the simple fitness camp into the world-class resort it is today.
It seems that Deborah was destined for a life of good eating practices because her connection to organic food began as a child. This is a lesson I believe we should all teach our children. Her mother, a trained nurse, was Vice President of the New York Vegetarian Society and due to the lack of fresh fruits and vegetables during the depression; she moved the family from Brooklyn, NY to Tahiti. That’s how important healthy eating was to the family as early as 1930! In Tahiti, destiny brought together Deborah with her future husband Edmond. Edmond Szekely, an author, philosopher and Renaissance man (known to his followers as the Professor) read in eight languages and conducted health camps around the world. A man ahead of his time, Edmond was against all pesticides and opposed processed foods.
This kind of healthy living touched many people around the world, including Deborah’s family. At the age of 17, Deborah worked as a secretary at Edmond’s camp in Urupan, Mexico. Before the teenager was set to leave for college, Edmond realized that Deborah was an invaluable asset both professionally and personally and asked the young woman to marry him. The newlyweds had planned to move to England where he was to begin a new position as the Director of the British International Health and Education Center, but the outbreak of WWII changed everything. Edmond’s passport was cancelled, and as a reserve in the Romanian army, he couldn’t go home because he wasn’t going to fight in Hitler’s Army. The last straw came when the United States notified the couple that if Edmond was found in America after June 1, 1940, he would be considered a deserter and arrested immediately. That’s when they decided to cross the border to the town of Tectate, Mexico and set up camp on the grounds known as Rancho La Puerta.
The early years of their fitness camps had hardworking conditions and little luxury. Although there was no running water or electricity, it didn’t stop guests from coming to the ranch knowing that they were going to learn from the Professor, eat fresh food from Deborah’s organic farm, hike Mt. Kuchumaa www.rancholapuerta.com/activities/fitness/hiking.html and exercise in the river.
Deborah says she “learned how to run the ranch from the bottom up, the hard way, but the most effective way.” She was a pioneer then, and still is today. 70 years later, Deborah is still the driving force behind one of the most successful fitness resorts in the world and her credits don’t end there. Never satisfied with resting on her laurels, she worked as a public servant in Washington, D.C. for 17 years and was the President of the Inter-American Foundation. She continues to work as a an activist on immigration issues and combating childhood obesity, as well as a philanthropist on countless educational causes that serve both the United States and the people of Tecate, Mexico. In fact, the Szekely foundation, Fundacion La Puerta www.fundacionlapuerta.org/en is working to promote social awareness and conserve the natural land in Tecate by conducting many educational activities, such as providing training for teachers to help the children of the region learn about the
The motto of Rancho La Puerta is “Siempre Mejor” which translates to “Always Better.” Deborah is the true spirit of that saying and continues to help people understand just a little bit more about how their actions affect not only their lives, but the lives of countless others. Rancho La Puerta is an oasis that encourages natural living and holistic health practices that lets people find a way to renew and refresh their purpose in life.
The “effect” that the ranch and Deborah has had on the thousands and thousands of lives is helping people like me realize it’s time to pay attention to what I’m really eating, the long term importance of fitness, and how my conservation habits really do play a role in saving our planet. What I’m taking from this trip is exactly what Deborah pointed out in her lecture “this is stuff you already know, I’m just putting it all together for you.” Thank you Deborah, I’m finally listening.