Life & Travel

I Took A Happiness Workshop In Curaçao & It Gave Me Healing Through Community

The first thing I felt after a long day of traveling was ease. It would become the common thread experienced throughout my 5-day stay on the breathtakingly beautiful Dutch island of Curaçao. There’s something innate about the energy of healing on an island. Life feels slower. Nature surrounds you and grounds you. And you are called to mirror your surroundings in a way that ushers in ease and flow. The environment itself is healing and if you let it, you can be blessed by those effects.

Aside from the shining faces of strangers, the warm hot heat of the island’s climate and the gradient of navy and turquoise blue of the expansive Southern Caribbean Sea was the undeniable throughline of self-care. Deeper than that, self-care is community care, something I’ve never felt as pronounced as I did during my time in Curaçao. The healing power of the island is complemented by an element of neighborliness from locals that nurtures you and nourishes you in tandem with the island’s offerings.

Upon arriving at the Universal Alchemist, a restorative space offering high vibrational wellness and lifestyle products, my travel group and I were greeted with a hug from Elly. Little did we know, its warmth would pale in comparison to the workshop she hosted for us and how alive, seen, felt, and embraced each of us would end up feeling by the end.

Marerly “Elly” Sambo pictured at The Bar at Universal Alchemist.

Sheriden Chanel/xoNecole

Marerly “Elly” Sambo, the owner of Universal Alchemist, is a woman who wears many hats, including one of a microbiologist, alchemist, clinical and community herbalist, and yoni steaming specialist, just to name a few. As she led us through her farm to sit in a circle underneath a large mango tree on the property, we were able to see the many plants she grew there and the intentionality she put into cultivating healing and products from the earth.

To Elly, the earth not only grounds us, but it births us too.

At 150 years old, even the mango tree we gathered underneath was an ancestor. She encouraged us to see all plants as that. The warmth we felt in our initial greeting of Elly continued as we shared our stories as a group and encountered a similar embrace with each other. Elly revealed to the group the life-changing journey that brought her back to her home in Curaçao o after years of being away.

The circumstances involved a health scare where she was diagnosed with two benign tumors in her breasts. She declined to have a procedure to get them removed and decided to instead make a "potion" with fruits and ginger to make them shrink. However, within three months of relying on a holistic approach to healing, she learned that the tumors were completely gone.

She found that the more she focused on healing the physical symptoms, the more she healed her emotional and mental ones too. “I went very, very deep in my core, and I think that’s why the tumors are gone,” Elly explained to the group.

She also went on to share the importance of community care and kinship with other souls in healing, saying that the more she connected with herself, the more she connected with other people, and the more she connected with other people, the more she connected with herself. It was the art of well-being. Although she left Curaçao to pursue her career as a microbiologist in Holland, her healing work on the island created a pathway for a business rooted in expansion, self-cultivation, and high vibrational healing. She co-founded Universal Alchemist alongside Femi and has been there for eight years.

In addition to her story, our truths left each of us so easily with such openness and vulnerability, that you would think we’d known each other for years and not just a night. The end result felt like such a release, with the leaves of the trees waving in the wind around us like confirmation. And after each person shared their story, Elly stood up and pulled each of us into a hug, reinforcing release with a tangible action of safety.

Without even realizing it, our workshop with Elly had already begun, and it was the first way to tap into our happiness hormones. Through a hug, we unlocked oxytocin, the love hormone.

Sheriden Chanel/xoNecole

Sheriden Chanel/xoNecole

Sheriden Chanel/xoNecole

Effortlessly, we segued into the happiness hormone serotonin through a guided meditation practice led by Elly. Shortly after, we enjoyed a light snack underneath the mango tree prepared by Femi that was inspired by happiness hormones, healthy, and hearty. It would be the beginning of a few other farm-to-table light bites shared that morning that drew inspiration from each of the hormones our activities were inspired by. Between the food, the activities, and the feeling of kinship, the morning epitomized mindfulness. The balance was divine.

The next part of the workshop was the MOOD Table Elly created with a focus on joy. It was more hands-on and involved crafting a DIY happiness-infused oil incorporating essential oils. Mandarin and lemongrass spoke to me the most, so I used that for my body oil blend. Through essential oils, we were tapping into our endorphins. An important aspect of crafting our “potions” was giving our creations names because of the intention we speak over them and, therefore, over ourselves whenever we use them.

Sheriden Chanel/xoNecole

Sheriden Chanel/xoNecole

Sheriden Chanel/xoNecole

One of my favorite parts was the tea crafting workshop, where we made our own tea blends from seven types of herbs, offering a variety of physical and emotional benefits that she provided for us that could all easily mix and match with each other. The name of the game was cultivating what you feel called to. By completing the task and doing self-care activities, we successfully accessed a feeling of dopamine.

A few of the herbs that stood out to me most were the Melissa plant, also known as lemon balm, known for its ability to restore clarity and reduce stress and anxiety; Moringa, which is a mood booster that facilitates harmony and Elly refers to it as a “master healer”; and Raspberry leaves which is a hormone balancer that can also be used for emotional disturbances. I named my three teas Eternal Sunshine, Heated, and Everything In Its Right Place, respectively.

Courtesy of Universal Alchemist

We ended our MOOD Table session by taking turns expressing gratitude for the transformative time we spent together that day and the healing we cultivated. We each answered for ourselves the question, “Are you happy?” We shared tears and hugs and created a safe space for one another to be and to let go. It further cemented a recurring message of a pivotal aspect of healing being about people outside of you just as much as it is about doing the work inside of you.

By the time we left the MOOD Table organized by Elly and Universal Alchemist, we weren’t strangers, we were sisters. We were renewed. We were healing through each other, and it was glorious.

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