A conversation with Maria Christodoulou, the founder of Bliss Without Bother
I met Maria Christodoulou when my digital and physical worlds converged. I’d discovered her wellness retreat company, Bliss Without Bother, on Facebook, only to discover we share a (wellness-focused) co-working space called Primary in Lower Manhattan. Synchronicity! And so it was a no-brainer to interview Maria for Delphi Reclaimed. Her professional background has a running thread of service, which is now the drive behind Bliss Without Bother, which focuses on yoga, meditation, and wellness events both in NYC and elsewhere.
Maria found wellness much like so many of us: through burnout and a desire to help others avoid (or at least heal) from the same feeling. She’s one of those people who exudes compassion, and it follows that her professional endeavors do the same. From yoga in Costa Rica to Greece, her retreats are stunning and curated to leave you feeling rejuvenated. And, of course, growing up Greek influenced her interest in herbalism (which she’s now studying) and her interest in how to cultivate bliss.
Tell us a bit about your early career in the non-profit field. What drew you to that initially – you have such a beautiful thread of goodness and love through all your endeavors!
My work in the non-profit field reflects my personal ethos of service. I had always been drawn to volunteer work and helping others, so it was a natural fit to work towards raising money and awareness for worthy causes in education, arts and culture, and humanitarian aid work.
I began my career at Bucknell University, my alma mater, where I learned the fundamentals of a successful fundraising campaign and effective research and data management tools. I then became a member of AmeriCorps NCCC, a national team-based service program with projects across the country. I built hiking trails in Tennessee, helped rebuild homes post-Katrina in New Orleans, and worked alongside extraordinary peers and locals in each community we lived in. After this incredible 11-month experience, I moved to Washington, DC, and worked at the Smithsonian Institution, where, for a brief time, my office looked out the central rose window of the Smithsonian Castle. During this time, I also volunteered for a humanitarian aid agency, for which I organized many fundraising events.
After DC, I decided to move to Brooklyn, where I have now been for 4.5 years. I have worked at several non-profit organizations, and continue to maintain my connection to the field by serving as a consultant on a project-basis. I find it so fulfilling to work towards a goal that improves society – whether it be for education, health, the arts, social justice – there is no greater satisfaction than knowing I have made a difference somehow.
Your company, Bliss Without Bother, focuses on yoga, meditation, and wellness events. You also help with programming at a wellness-focused space in NYC. what brought you into the wellness world?
Almost three years ago I realized how little energy I had and how little I was tapping into my creativity. I also have always struggled with my health and maintaining a healthy work/life balance, so when I began to struggle with adrenal fatigue again, I realized I really wanted to work on something that provided me flexibilty in my schedule, wellness opportunities, and a creative outlet. I had participated in several wellness retreats with friends and realized how transforming and healing they could be. So in September 2016, I quit my job, launched Bliss Without Bother, and also enrolled in herbal medicine school. It has required a lot of patience and very hard work, along with making many mistakes and learning along all the way.
I recently started managing event rentals at Primary, a wellness-focused co-working space in FiDi, which is an amazing space run by an equally amazing team. This work compliments my work on retreats, so it was a great fit from the start.
You’re also pursuing a degree in herbal medicine from ArborVitae School of Traditional Herbalism in New York City. Greece has so many inherent natural gifts. Are you inspired by any of these? (no need to answer if not 😉 )
Yes! Absolutely. Both my parents were born in Greece, so my curiosity for Greek herbs and remedies is strong. I’ve always loved learning about natural remedies in lieu of pharmaceuticals, which can be very toxic to the body and cause a myriad of other symptoms. Most herbs have very few, if any, side effects. Learning how to help others, including myself, feel healthy through herbs and nutrition has been very rewarding.
Have to ask – did anything about growing up Greek draw you to study classics in college?
Ha, of course! Growing up, my dad would often tell stories about Alexander the Great or Aristotle or Plato, so I already had an idea of how culturally rich the Greeks were. I’d also been intrigued by ancient civilizations and how they lived; imagine how delicious their food would have tasted and how clean their water was, how much they knew about the natural world around them and what plant remedies to use for any ailment. If there was any period of time I would have liked to have lived, it would have been during the pinnacle of ancient Greece.
Who do you aspire to reach with Bliss Without Bother?
Everyone who needs a reset, which means everyone living in New York City! Mainly those who want a vacation that incorporates wellness activities, and also those who work long hours and don’t have the time or energy to plan a trip or those looking for a fresh adventure with new friends.
I’ve had really amazing experiences with people who had all kinds of intentions, so retreats are a magic way to support them all.
Where do you hope Bliss Without Bother and your career will be in, say, five years?
I would love to skip out on New York City winters and live in Greece or Costa Rica for part of the year and have grown the business enough to have additional staff on board to help manage day-to-day operations. My life changes so much every few years, so I just hope that I’m still going strong with something I love to do.
What’s your favorite place for a retreat? Or top three, if a favorite is too narrow?
So hard to choose! I have a network of retreat centers in several different countries, some of which I have not been to yet, so I can’t quite pinpoint a favorite. I recently visited Mystica Lodge and Retreat Center in Costa Rica and had an amazing time. I’m planning to visit Eumelia in the Peloponnese in Greece this summer which was recently ranked one of the top 50 places to visit by Travel and Leisure.
What do you wish non-Greeks knew about Greek culture? Any common misconceptions? etc.
Greek culture is incredibly rich in hospitality and the people are so friendly. I lived in Athens for a brief time and noticed that almost everyone, especially men, will stop on the street to make funny faces with children and be playful, even for the briefest of moments. It’s very endearing.
A question I ask almost everyone: do you think it’s important for Greeks to identify with their heritage? Why or why not?
Absolutely. I think for all cultures it’s important to honor our ancestors, as that’s who we are made up of.
Retreat with Bliss Without Bother April 13-15 in tranquil Greenport, Long Island!
Editor’s note: if you’re in NYC, be sure to check out Primary in Manhattan where Maria books amazing events and I (yes, the interviewer) guide meditations!