“It all began in 2006 when a hotel had double-booked our room and we had to find another place to stay,” recalls Brenda Ooteman, the Dutch mother of three and owner of Osa Major, a beautiful yoga retreat located on the island of Mallorca...
She’s taking us back to the beginnings of how she came to live on the magical island. “We are sailors and up until then, we had seen Mallorca mostly from the water. We had explored and grown to love the sheltered coves and countless beaches but what lay inland was very much unexplored territory for us.” They quickly discovered that the island’s rural soul had much to offer. “We were quite astounded that a place that has been a hub for tourism for decades has managed to retain parts that are still wild and completely untouched,” she says.
Ooteman is an intellectual property lawyer and yoga teacher, and lives on the island with her husband, Roland Verbeek, an innovator in sustainability (they have three grown-up children – Max, 30, Nina, 27, and Luca, 23). Given yoga and spirituality have been long-term companions for Ooteman (she ran the yoga studio Yogatree in Amsterdam for ten years), it’s no wonder she went on to found Osa Major, she fascilitates yoga retreats.
Ooteman spent the first 12 years of her life in Africa, and ultimately, always wanted to return to that barefoot way of life. “I spent the first 12 years of my life barefoot and with lots of sunshine. Even though I consider my long-time home of Amsterdam one of the most beautiful places on Earth, I always knew I’d eventually want to live that barefoot kind of life again,” she says.
When creating Osa Major, they dreamt of a very old finca (a traditional farmhouse) which they could do up slowly. They ended up stumbled upon a plot of land that, while offering that million-dollar view, had already exhausted the patience of a German architect and came with a well-meant warning from the local estate agent. “There was no road leading to it and one had to leave the car and walk the last few hundred metres – not a great starting point for a building site as the estate agent did not fail to mention. And then there was the fact that in the process of putting up the exterior walls, archaeological remains had been found and everything had ground to a halt,” says Brenda. It took three years just to get the licences to continue building and when things finally started moving, two successive building contractors we employed went bankrupt.
“The place has such a beautiful energy that even without a house, it was worth being there. We would fill a picnic basket, rent a car and come to the site to just sit, enjoy all the different views and make plans. These visits allowed us to believe that, at some point, it would happen,” she says.
Finally, in 2011, fours years after they had begun to envision their new life, there was reason for celebration. “Our eldest son had decided he wanted celebrate his 21st birthday at the finca and that became a big driving force and helped us push the project across the finish line in May that year.”
Since then, the finca Osa Major, which they named after the ‘Great Bear’ star constellation that is visible above it every night, has gone from strength to strength. Four years ago, when their three children had fled the nest, Ooteman and Verbeek decided to permanently relocate to Mallorca. “I think it’s impossible to foresee all the opportunities that may arise in the future when you follow your dreams, and while I always envisioned running yoga retreats at Osa Major, I never could have imagined people would ask to hold their wedding here or even ask me to help decorate their house,” she says.
“I have found that, if you stay curious, opportunities open up all the time and, failing that, you can, of course, also create your own possibilities,” she says.
Here, we find out more about her dreamy life in Mallorca and shares her go-to spots on the island. So while travel may be off the cards for now, we can still keep dreaming.
Tell us about your childhood in Africa?
My most vivid memory is that I always wanted to be outside. I had many pets: a dog, a cat, some birds, quinipigs, etc. I loved to wander around in the big garden. I remember the sounds, the smoky smell, the distant noises, strange animals.
When you were 12, you moved to the Netherlands where you’ve said you adjusted with “great difficulty” – why do you think it was such a difficult adjustment?
It was too cold, I had to stay inside, there were only grey colours and the change was too extreme for me.