It all began as a holiday for Brad Wells, founder of Reunion. A trip to a Costa Rica was intended to provide rest and relaxation, but it ended up redirecting his life completely.
“I was looking for an escape, maybe some beach walks, organic foods, and yoga. I ended up at an ayahuasca retreat. It wasn’t what I planned, but it was transformative,” Wells recounted in a recent interview.
His first encounter with plant-based psychedelics was accidental but profound, leading him to start Reunion, a not-for-profit retreat centre aimed at harnessing the power of these substances for healing and personal growth.
Life before Reunion
Before venturing into the world of plant medicine, Wells was a successful entrepreneur with a thriving business named Sym-Tech Dealer Services. “After university, I realised the entrepreneurial path suited me best. With Sym-Tech, I built something that was satisfying,” Wells said, reflecting on his 25-year journey with the company.
However, with exposure to plant medicine, he began to reassess his self-worth, often closely tied with his business identity. “What drove me was to achieve. Achievement for me was just to prove self-worthiness,” he admits.
Wells founded Reunion in 2019 after selling Sym-Tech and some smaller ventures. “After my transformative experience, I saw this as an opportunity to contribute,” he said.
Wells poured the proceeds from the sales into the development of Reunion, located at Sugar Beach in Costa Rica.
Safety and integration
Wells places significant emphasis on providing a safe and inclusive environment at Reunion.
The Reunion retreat follows strict safety protocols to ensure the wellbeing of their guests.
Wells revealed, “We have a licenced medical clinic on-site. The doctor conducts checks before the ceremonies. And there’s an extensive questionnaire we go through, as well as physical checks on-site.”
He added that their not-for-profit status eliminates the need for up-selling, and the focus remains on the guests’ physical and emotional safety.
As to aftercare, Wells believes in the importance of post-retreat support, particularly for guests who undergo profound life changes.
Wells reflects on the non-profit ethos of Reunion, where success is defined by the impact they have on guests, not monetary profits. “I just wanted the energy and the reason for doing it to not be in the traditional sense of driving a profit. It’s a nice change from what I’ve done for all of my adult life,” he explains.
Reunion and the Costa Rica community
Wells shares the three facets of their community initiatives: the Reunion Scholarship Programme, The Replenish Ayahuasca Project, and supporting local indigenous wisdom keepers. “We give back in really three different areas,” Wells states.
The Scholarship Programme, although unable to offer everyone a full scholarship, has been remarkably popular.
The integration of indigenous wisdom into Reunion’s programs is vital, Wells emphasises.
The centre recognises the historical context and origin of the medicines used, and this deeply rooted respect fosters an atmosphere of reciprocity. “They’re the wisdom keepers; they’ve been working with these medicines for many years,” says Wells.
Yet, to bridge the cultural divide and to meet the increasing demand for these medicines, Reunion also includes non-indigenous facilitators who have extensive training and understanding of the medicinal practices.
Wells speaks on the necessity of training more facilitators as the interest in these medicines grows. While most indigenous wisdom keepers they work with focus on ayahuasca, psilocybin is gaining popularity.
Future prospects of Reunion
When asked about the prospects for Reunion, Wells speaks of a desire for sustainable growth without sacrificing the intimacy of their small groups. “Our goal is to be sustainable financially and continue to offer these programmes,” he states.
He also acknowledges that the increasing demand for these medicines will likely necessitate more centres and locations, including within Costa Rica, a challenge that Reunion is open to tackling. “We don’t see other retreats as competitors, they are providers. There is a need for these medicines, and the more providers there are, the better,” he explained.
Demand for psilocybin, in particular, has seen a significant rise in the last year, with Wells observing that “half of our time now is devoted to psilocybin weeks.”
Many people are less intimidated by psilocybin than ayahuasca, leading to increased interest in the former.
Through Reunion, Wells hopes to provide transformative experiences similar to his own, promoting healing and personal growth using the extraordinary potential of plant-based psychedelics.
Supporting the LGBTQIA2S+ community
Starting in October, Reunion will offer retreats specifically tailored for the LGBTQIA2S+ community, initially focusing on individuals identifying as gay men, with plans to expand the program to other members of the LGBTQIA2S+ community in 2024.
When asked about advice for someone from the LGBTQIA2S+ community considering using these medicines for their spiritual journey, Wells encourages a thorough self-reflection on the individual’s reasons.
Wells discusses how each program is delivered “The content of the week is unique, as are the integration programs afterwards. They are specifically designed to support each retreat, such as the one for the gay men’s retreat week,” he said.
Reunion focuses on guests who aim for personal growth rather than those seeking a new adventurous experience.
Wells concludes the interview by sharing his deeply personal journey with these medicines and the profound transformation they have brought about in his life. “I’ve always known I didn’t like myself. I didn’t realise just the depths of how much that was there. And it was through doing ayahuasca that I came out. I was married for 25 years. This LGBTQIA2S+ community is not just a programme that we’re marketing, it’s something very, very dear to my heart,” he shares, cementing the transformative impact of these ancient medicines and the sincerity of Reunion’s mission to share them.