Business name: Avalon
Founder: Alejandro Carbó
Business activity: Avalon is a holistic healing center in Barcelona (Spain), designed for self-discovery and deep healing journeys. Our retreats and ceremonies combine ancient wisdom of sacred medicines like Ayahuasca, Magic Mushrooms or Bufo Alvarius with a strong integration program and personalized care.
The future may teach us how to exercise a direct influence, by means of particular chemical substances, upon the amounts of energy and their distribution in the apparatus of the mind. It may be that there are other undreamt-of possibilities of therapy.” – Sigmund Freud (1940)
My name is Alejandro Carbó and I have been an entrepreneur since I was sixteen. The process of creating and materializing an idea has always fascinated me. I remember that when I was a child, I spent hours on the street in front of construction sites observing their development. At nineteen I started working in the nightlife industry. I did it for eleven years in Barcelona, Ibiza, New York and Santiago de Chile and I went through almost all the positions that exist in a club. It was a lot of fun, and I learned a lot; I learned about myself, about human beings and about life. At the same time, I developed a small real estate company in Barcelona which managed seven properties and, together with a partner, we created a ticket sales agency for sporting and cultural events specializing in football. I also co-created a start-up, Exclusive Tables, a platform for an instant way to buy VIP tables in high-end restaurants, clubs, and lounges. We established it in Dubai, Lebanon, Barcelona, and Ibiza.
In 2014, at the age of 28, I went through an existential crisis and began to rethink my life. I asked myself questions to which I couldn’t find answers to, so I decided to study a master’s degree in Neurolinguistic Programming at the Gestalt Institute in Barcelona. It was two years in which my perception of reality changed, expanded and I began to gain a new understanding. I read several books that had a great impact on me. Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha was responsible for my interest in Buddhism and my decision to go to India for two months in the winter of 2016 and do 10 days Vipassana meditation course there. When I came back, my life was no longer the same. I decided to focus on nutrition and movement and a few months later I came across the event that would change my life forever, my first Ayahuasca retreat.
The fascination was such for what I experienced that a few months later I organized my first Ayahuasca retreat. On the one hand, I wanted to share it with my family and friends and, on the other, to go further along the way, to learn more about myself and the Universe. It started as something very simple and humble and little by little, unexpectedly for me, something very special, with a lot of growth and projection, was forged. The key was finding the right people with the same purpose, a genuine desire to contribute to the world, and together we went much further. To this day some continue in Avalon and others took other paths; however, I remember all of them and have a great feeling of gratitude for what we created together. There are many good ideas, what is not so common is the right human team to develop them.
On September 24, 2022, it was three years since the celebration of the first Avalon retreat. We designed it as a pilot and with very few resources and it was a success. The concept of the holistic retreat with Ayahuasca was greatly appraised and worked very well. Holism comes from the Greek holos: whole, entirety, totality; to conceive each reality as a whole, different from the parts that compose it. Consciousness goes beyond Ayahuasca, it is everywhere if we look carefully. At Avalon’s Ayahuasca retreats in Europe apart from the sacred medicines we include yoga and meditation, holotropic breathwork, healing massage, silent ecstatic dance, integration workshops, access bars therapy, food awareness workshops and energy healing. Since we started we have already carried out 14 editions open to the public and one for companies.
In August 2021 we wanted to bring sacred medicines to the center of Barcelona and since then we regularly carry out Magic Mushrooms, Bufo Alvarius, cacao and tobacco ceremonies. The proposal was based on the assumption that there is a growing universe of people interested in healing, inner work and consciousness and consider psychedelics and ancestral medicines as tools for their development and that, however, are not yet willing to take the step with an Ayahuasca retreat. We were right. For 2023 we are preparing the expansion to Ibiza where I have lived for two years. Ibiza is very special, the spiritual movement created in the sixties by the hippies is still alive in the north of the island and is in good health and the beauty of nature is simply magical. The island heals, the island challenges, the island teaches. The future, while uncertain, is exciting.
There have been many challenges that we have had to overcome to get where we are today and, I am sure, we still have many more to come. These challenges are exercises to learn, to face your fears and be more and more free. That’s how I understand it. Here I mention four:
1. One initial challenge that we have had to overcome in Avalon has been legality. It cost us a lot to find and build the legal structure that protects us in Spain. I give thanks for having been supported by Simone Gualianone, a great friend and lawyer, as well as unconditionally by my brother Victor, also a lawyer. The two also know about the spiritual world and the sacred plants, so their advice was crucial. At that time, we did not know of any similar case, it was a solo navigation through unknown seas. We made it.
2. Therapeutic work with plant medicines or psychedelics is not regulated. Most European proposals are developed in underground closed circles. From the beginning we did not have many examples to follow or sources of inspiration. We had very good intentions but were lacking in experience. We made many mistakes and learned from them. Step by step we have professionalized the activity and implemented our learning. It has been a great challenge now that process has an incalculable value.
3. After the second edition in February 2020, the pandemic hit and complicated the equation considerably. We found a way to legally operate and organize retreats in Barcelona from July, but there were still movement restrictions, and they changed every week. Most of our participants come from outside the Spanish territory, so it was difficult to organize retreats with so much uncertainty. The formula was to establish ourselves in a bastion outside the maelstrom of fear and to trust. Be prepared for the worst while trusting. We did it again.
4. Another, and still present, has been the social stigma towards plant medicines and psychedelics. The universe of people open to this type of proposal is still very small. Moreover, there are a few people who want to collaborate or provide any service to this type of initiative. Most companies and people do not want to be associated with Ayahuasca because of what third parties may say. The communication of our activities has been extremely difficult: Google and Facebook classify Ayahuasca as a recreational drug, so it is not possible to promote our activities.
One of my best friends, Álex De Sena, with whom I have done and continue to do business, often says: “I don’t see any problems, I see opportunities”. He not only says it but he has it well integrated into his belief system and embodies it perfectly. I really like that approach. Here I mention another four:
1. Luck favours the brave and now the wind is blowing in favor of the market. Documentaries such as “The Last Shaman (2016)”, “Fantastic Fungi (2019)” and Michael Pollan’s “How to Change Your Mind (2022)”, many articles on the benefits of plant medicines in the media as well as scientific studies are accelerating what some call the new psychedelic renaissance. At the same time, the legal space for its therapeutic use is opening up. Whoever hits first hits twice.
2. Thanks to this renaissance of sacred medicines, an opportunity of incalculable value is to give the space that their guardians deserve, the indigenous communities: Wixárica, Yawanawá, Cofán, Sápara, Huni Kuin, Inga, Muisca, Shipibo, Siona… They have been the carriers of tradition, experience and ancestral knowledge for thousands of years. I am convinced that they hold one of the keys to the well-being of our civilization. The opportunity is to listen to what they have to say and integrate it into our world.
3. Beyond plant medicines there are many opportunities for proposals that heal and expand the consciousness of human beings because we have created an organisational system that generates illness and unhappiness and, at the same time, we have lost connection with our spiritual essence, with divinity. I don’t know if conventional medicine doesn’t arrive or doesn’t want to solve the scenario we are in and that is why there is an interest in alternative therapies. The problem is systemic and until the foundations of the existing structure are changed there will be a great need to cover in the market and therefore an opportunity.
4. The reason for my fascination with psychedelics is because I do not know of a tool with greater power and potential for the deep transformation of the human being. The biggest opportunity, from my point of view, is the momentum that exists right now. If we make a correct, ethical, responsible, respectful use, for the ancestral traditions of these medicines, all with a good intention, what we can create can be wonderful. Albert Einstein said: “We cannot solve our problems with the same level of consciousness we used when we created them.” What would our world be like if we raised the level of collective consciousness?
Advice? I can only talk about my life experience and my learnings, about my subjective interpretation of reality. I think the learning process is very personal. What has gone well for me is aligning my professional activity, the purpose in my life, what I am good at doing and what I love. Infallible combination. It is better to work in what you love because you are going to have to dedicate a large part of your life to it; not to work or create for money; abundance is the result but not the goal.
The best advice I could give my version of the past is “Alejandro, always trust yourself and the Great Spirit”. Against all odds, trust yourself, hold on there in the storm and turn it into your mantra. In the end the Sun always rises again.