Midlife isn’t a crisis. It’s a calling.

Say the word “midlife” out loud. Now what’s the next word you think of automatically?

If the word “crisis” pops to mind, you’re not alone. And perhaps a midlife crisis was in order back when humans had much shorter lifespans.

But these days, we’re living well into our 80s and beyond. Our 40s, 50s, and 60s are decades full of tremendous potential. It’s a time when we’ve amassed enough wisdom and experience to know what’s important...and what’s not. Our emotional intelligence is higher than ever before. And as our bodies, minds, and life circumstances shift and change, we have the opportunity to reconsider how we want to live, work, and contribute to the world. (And boy, oh boy, does the world need wisdom right now.)

Here’s the exciting challenge for all of us: Let’s embrace midlife and move forward with less stress, greater resilience, and more intergenerational collaboration. If you imagine living until you’re 90, what percentage of your adult life is still ahead of you? Most of our attendees realize they’re not even halfway through their adult life if they start counting at age 18. How do you want to use this time?

MEA is on a mission to reframe midlife—from a crisis to a calling. We’re dedicated to helping you discover and pursue yours.

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chip conley

A man on a midlife mission

Chip might be best-known as a hospitality entrepreneur and New York Times bestselling author.* But he’s also the founder of MEA, the Modern Elder Academy.

After founding Joie de Vivre Hospitality (JdV) at age 26, Chip grew the company from a single inner-city motel to the second largest boutique hotel brand in America. It was a notable accomplishment. Yet by the end of his tenure, Chip felt burnt out, stuck, and depressed.

It was 2008 by then. The economy was being ravaged by recession. Not coincidentally, five of Chip’s friends—all in middle age—ended their lives in the span of just two short years. It was a blaring wake up call for Chip. Something had to change.

In the midst of an economic downturn, and against the advice of just about everyone he knew, Chip sold JdV. He had served as CEO for 24 years.

You did the math right: 26 + 24 = 50. Right there in the middle of midlife, Chip experienced a seismic shift, full of reflection and reinvention. And things started to get really interesting.

Mentor/Intern

In 2013, the young founders of Airbnb asked Chip to help guide their promising start-up. They had the tech knowledge, but not necessarily the hospitality knowledge, to become a huge player in the industry. Meanwhile, Chip knew he had plenty to learn from his 20- and 30-something colleagues who spoke tech as their native language.

Chip served as Airbnb’s Head of Global Hospitality and Strategy for four years, during which he shared more than hospitality know-how: Chip offered some of the softer skills he’d honed through years and years of experience. This intergenerational, mutual mentoring became the inspiration for Chip’s book [email protected]. And in turn, the book became the inspiration for his founding the world’s first midlife wisdom school, Modern Elder Academy.

*A few more details for those who care to know:

Chip’s five books have made him a leading authority at the intersection of psychology and business. He was awarded “Most Innovative CEO” by the San Francisco Business Times, is the recipient of hospitality’s highest honor, the Pioneer Award, and holds a BA and MBA from Stanford University.

So why found a school?

Why not retire early and live off the proceeds of a successful career? Like so many others in midlife, Chip had found a calling. He’d been a for-profit entrepreneur his entire life. It was time to create a social enterprise—a business that served a larger, societal need. He wanted to create a place where people could come get tools to navigate midlife, so they could emerge refreshed and better-equipped to flourish during the second half of their lives. He'd also read the Yale study that showed how shifting one's mindset about aging can add 7.5 happy years to a person’s life, but there didn't seem to be a school that specialized in this kind of midlife transformation.

The Academy was born in 2018, and has been growing steadily ever since. Chip has invested millions of dollars of his own funds—and countless hours of blood, sweat, and even occasional tears—without personal payout because he believes in the greater good he’s trying to achieve. The school is just one piece of a larger movement to give midlife the attention it deserves—from government funding and public policy, to academic study and cultural change. MEA may be the first midlife wisdom school, but Chip hopes it will serve as a catalyst for much, much more.

Introducing our non-profit

A.G.E.

Because there’s a lot more change we want to see in the world.

Our culture doesn’t make midlife easy: One way or another, we’re all affected by negative stereotypes and self-limiting thoughts. So one little school down in Baja? It’s just not enough to create the broadscale change we want to see. Which is why we started A.G.E. (The Association for Growth and Education) a non-profit dedicated to providing scholarships to programs that help people navigate midlife.

MEA is deeply committed to diversity of all kinds, including socio-economic diversity. We’re excited that A.G.E. is opening more doors, for more people, to more schools than we ever could have on our own. Participating schools include Eselen, Omega, Kripalu, and of course, MEA, with more coming soon.

Would you like to help other midlifers learn, grow, and bring their wisdom back to their communities?

Pledge a tax deductible donation to A.G.E. today.

Chip Conley

Founder

Chip Conley

Founder

Chip is a hospitality entrepreneur, New York Times bestselling author, and the founder of MEA. His most recent book, [email protected], forms the core of MEA’s curriculum. It was inspired by his experience of being both a mentor and an intern, at a time when he was well into his 50s, as Airbnb’s Head of Global Hospitality and Strategy. But here’s the thing no CV will tell you—Chip’s greatest assets are his kindness and generosity, his deep care for the people he works with, and his infectious laugh.

Christine Sperber

Co-founder/Chief Experience Officer

Christine Sperber

Co-founder/Chief Experience Officer

Home is Baja and Breckenridge for this former pro snowboarder who’s launched and operated hotels, produced events on beaches and glaciers, managed pro athletes, and worn the hats of writer, restaurateur, and more. The common thread? Christine is passionate about creating experiences that change people’s lives—be it in our classroom, our community, or in our workplace. Christine cares deeply about the wellbeing and happiness of her amazing team and the broader El Pescadero community where she lives with her husband Josh and their family of rescue dogs.

Jeff Hamaoui

Co-founder/Chief Education Officer

Jeff Hamaoui

Co-founder/Chief Education Officer

Jeff is a seasoned teacher and master facilitator. Sustainability + Systems + Surfing = alliteration played out via an entrepreneurial mind, a teacher’s heart, and a seeker’s soul. After key stops on the journey—from Wharton Business and Presidio Graduate Schools to NASA, IKEA and Nike—he landed in Baja at midlife. Serendipity intervened. MEA changed Jeff’s life, and inspired him to join our leadership. Life in Baja has given him the spaciousness to think about the tools we all need to live better lives, and to begin creating those tools with a team of thoughtful, likeminded collaborators. In fact, Jeff is also the founder of Pescadero’s new agri-hood community, Baja Sage. Find out more about Jeff here.

Debra Amador DeLaRosa

Head of Admissions & Communications

Debra Amador DeLaRosa

Head of Admissions & Communications

Debra is Chip Conley’s longtime collaborator and Story Gardener who uses her words for good. After launching [email protected], and diving into MEA’s development, curriculum, and launch, she had her own “Modern Elder moment” and took on the role of the alchemist who brings deep wisdom and empathy to bringing our cohorts together. "Debs" is a communications veteran with a passion for activism and service. A lifelong seeker, she is a graduate of The Forum, The Four-Fold Way, and The Hoffman Process, and lives in Northern California with her husband, teenager, and sweet pack of dogs.

Araceli Montes Sánchez

Head of Hospitality and Operations Director

Araceli Montes Sánchez

Head of Hospitality and Operations Director

Araceli began her hospitality career in the front of house at Ritz Carlton, Cancun, and has only skyrocketed up since then. She’s the mighty force who keeps the wheels on the bus here at MEA, treating her guests with grace and her staff like family. Her unofficial motto, “No tengo un corazon de pollo” (I don’t have a chicken heart) is as true for her work as it is in her life. Araceli lives in Todos Santos with her beautiful daughter, Coti, who looks just like her.

Jenn Maer

Facilitator and Brand Storyteller

Jenn Maer

Facilitator and Brand Storyteller

Jenn’s career as a storyteller began at age seven when she penned (well, actually, penciled) her first novel—a 75-page, double-spaced, spiral notebook tour de force entitled “Shark!”

Since then, Jenn has worked as a writer, creative director, designer, and brand strategist in the advertising world, at IDEO, and as a solo consultant. She also teaches IDEO U’s online Storytelling for Impact course. She’s happiest, however, under a wide open sky with her feet planted firmly in the sand.

Luis Miguel Arce Espinoza

Jefe de Maintenance

Luis Miguel Arce Espinoza

Jefe de Maintenance

Jefe means “boss” in Spanish, and we lovingly mix Spanish and English in Luis’ title because he is truly the boss of everything he touches. Luis grew up in El Pescadero, where he enjoyed helping his father farm. This experience cultivated his love of the land. He values hard work, honesty, kindness, and his wife, most of all. As our maintenance and groundskeeper, Luis takes pride in making sure everything on campus is thriving and in tip top shape.

Lupita Guadalupe Gastelum

Lead Housekeeper

Lupita Guadalupe Gastelum

Lead Housekeeper

Lupita leads our housekeeping team with an eye for detail and a warm smile for everyone she meets. She moved to Pescadero 14 years ago from Culiacán, Sinaloa, and is a proud mom to three amazing kids.

Guadalupe (Lupillo) Rios

Mr. Everything Ever

Guadalupe (Lupillo) Rios

Mr. Everything Ever

Lupillo was born in Oaxaca, but moved to Pescadero when he was a baby. (Which certainly gives him local cred in our book.) Lupillo is our resident animal whisperer—though he actually has a degree in Computer Science. We turn to him for help with just about everything on campus, and his joyous smile truly lights up the room.

Maria de la Luz Fierro

Sous Chef

Maria de la Luz Fierro

Sous Chef

Maria hails from Guerrero, but lived and trained in the U.S. before moving back to Mexico and here to Pescadero. She’s Chef Tony’s right hand in the kitchen, delivering soulful food, packed with flavor and made with love. (By the way, Maria’s last name, de la Luz Fierro, means “of the iron light.” Which pretty much says it all.)

Tony Peralta

Head Chef and Rock Star

Tony Peralta

Head Chef and Rock Star

Chef Tony feeds our souls, as well as our bellies, with five star, locally-sourced and inspired cuisine. His commitment to bright, seasonal flavors is matched only by his sense of humor and meticulous process. For Tony, food is an expression of love: You can taste his devotion in every bite. And when we say he’s a rockstar, we’re not kidding. Tony spent his younger years in a regionally famous reggae band, and continues to rock the mic on special occasions.

Adrián León

Head Gardener

Adrián León

Head Gardener

Adrián was proudly born and raised in Pescadero. He’s been working the land since he was a child, and even owns his own farm. His experience growing plants of every variety in this region is unparalleled, and his green thumb is especially helpful in MEA’s organic garden. Adrián loves to chat with our guests, so give him a wave and spark up a conversation if you see him! As a father of three, he has plenty of stories to share.

Hesed Najera

Facilitator, Reiki Master, and Massage Therapist

Hesed Najera

Facilitator, Reiki Master, and Massage Therapist

After representing México in the International Young Physicists Tournament, Hesed caught the science bug and decided to study marine biology. He ultimately earned a M. Sci in Sustainable Development and published his work in academic journals. But why stop there? He also studied yoga, vipassana meditation, temazcales, tai chi, chi kung, reiki, and ceremonies with master plants. As if that weren’t enough, he’s a Reiki Master and a consolidated massage therapist, trained and certified in Auroville, India. (His two teachers were trained by the personal masseur of Mahatma Gandhi, Ayurvedic master S.V. Govindan.) Hesed brings his unique combination of scientific systems perspectives and deep healing practices to his work here at MEA.

Teddi Dean

Mindfulness Teacher, Facilitator

Teddi Dean

Mindfulness Teacher, Facilitator

Curiosity led Teddi from life as a Southern California pro skateboarder to travels as a student of the Buddha. Teddi’s approach to teaching yoga and meditation is clear, practical, and grounding: He makes it incredibly easy for first-timers to dip their toes in the water, without feeling overwhelmed or daunted. Teddi encourages his students to cultivate their own curiosity about the body and the breath through a balance of effort and ease—guiding them back to their own true nature.

Maria del Carmen Gonzalez (Maricarmen)

Massage Therapist

Maria del Carmen Gonzalez (Maricarmen)

Massage Therapist

Tijuana born and raised, Maricarmen was encouraged by her instructor to become a Certified Massage Therapist. After starting her career in Tijuana, she spent 18 years at Club Deportivo Valparaíso and Vita Spa. In 2016 she relocated to Todos Santos to continue her healing path. And what an incredible path it’s been—not only does she work her magic here at MEA, Maricarmen also owns her own spa in Todos Santos.

Linda Grubbs

Diversity and Inclusion Consultant

Linda Grubbs

Diversity and Inclusion Consultant

Linda brings a wealth of knowledge in building organizational diversity and inclusion programs and elevating voices and contributions of marginalized communities. Linda enjoys coaching and motivating others: She’s a passionate teacher, trainer, and learning consultant, and adept at using presentations and personal influence to build bridges. Her diversity and inclusion work focuses on “getting to the heart of the matter” by helping individuals and teams be intentional, mindful and conscious of their behaviors, and how it contributes to team culture.

Saul Kup

Resident Shaman

Saul Kup

Resident Shaman

Our mystic man of diversity, Saul, is a Mexico City-born, Jewish, Yoruban-trained Shaman. For him, Baja California Sur is the place where the “spiritual wifi” receives five bars. Saul’s connection to the natural world, and his unique ability to help us peer behind the curtain of what the naked eye can’t see, is just one of the reasons we hold this magic man so dear. We’re constantly in awe of his gift for turning complicated messages into simple principles we can all learn from.

Leslie Bartlett

Director of Alumni Programs and Community Development

Leslie Bartlett

Director of Alumni Programs and Community Development

Leslie keeps our alumni community thriving with her boundless enthusiasm and passion for bringing groups together. She’s also a Certified Professional Life Coach with a Masters in Spiritual Psychology. But don’t let the sweet disposition fool you. Leslie is a hard core travel junkie, who danced on the Brandenburg gate when the Berlin Wall came down, been arrested in Moscow for buying art with Western dollars, ridden a charging elephant in Bali, and seen all of the Big 5 in Africa.

mea in the press

We could talk your ear off about MEA, but sometimes it’s great to hear it from other sources.

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academic applause

Academics and authors agree: MEA is on to something big.

"I love [email protected] and the Modern Elder Academy! What a fabulous and creative idea.”

Becca R. Levy, Professor of Epidemiology and Psychology, Yale University whose research has shown that creating a positive perspective on aging can add 7.5 years to one’s life.

“Unless you keel over in the prime of your professional life, you are going to see decline in your abilities. And the higher your abilities, the more you will notice when they slip. That’s the ‘winner’s curse’--the reason that people who do really well in life often suffer the most as they age. Trying to hang on forever is an exercise in frustration and futility. But there’s good news, too. If we can detach ourselves from our self-concept as “success machines”--a self-concept that is nothing more than self-objectification--it opens up time and energy for new avenues of personal growth and excellence...Obviously it’s not easy or simple, which is...why MEA is so successful, of course.”

Arthur Brooks is a professor of the practice of public leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School and senior fellow at Harvard Business School. He is the bestselling author of 11 books and The Atlantic article, “Your Professional Decline is Coming (Much) Sooner Than You Think.

“Our contemporary world is crying out for a return to the cultivation of elders. MEA weaves together curated wisdom of the ages, a sense of deep ties embedded in ritual, and awe and beauty at nearly every moment of the day, from sunrise to star filled skies at night. It is the communal rite of passage the middle of life deserves, and that we are in such need of today. MEA’s wisdom, kindness, sense of community, and purpose will stay with you for years.”

Dacher Keltner is a professor of psychology at University of California, Berkeley, where he directs the Berkeley Social Interaction Lab. He is also the founder and faculty director of the Greater Good Science Center, the host of the podcast The Science of Happiness, and an MEA faculty member.

“To make full use of longer lives, we need a new map of life. We must radically rethink the social norms and guideposts that take us through life, from the nature of family to education and work. MEA is a new kind of midlife wisdom school dedicated to helping people chart this new map of life with both social support and a new set of tools that helps them be more adaptable and resilient."

Laura Carstensen, Director of the Stanford Center on Longevity and a Stanford Professor of Psychology and Public Policy

"How to Overcome the Struggles of Midlife”

Chip Conley, U.C. Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center

“MEA is so well thought out. It evolved over time both in Chip's work and writings, but also through his 25 years of experience in business. He evolved within his companies, which is the aging process. Watching the environment, himself, and others he noticed a gap in the understanding of what happens when you become 40, 45, 50, 55. I think what is happening at MEA is so formative and so relatively new that it is hard to say how it's going to play out. I think it is going to be seen in hindsight - not in the sense that it's passed, but in terms of its formation - as a truly seminal aspect of human development. You’d think we'd have every technique, means and process for human development already invented, but MEA has really created something that is novel and socially brilliant.”

Paul Hawken is an environmentalist, entrepreneur, and author of NYT bestseller Drawdown and Blessed Unrest, an activist who has dedicated his life to environmental sustainability and changing the relationship between business and the environment. He’s on the MEA mastery faculty.

"This is ultimately a book about how we can develop deeper connections, disrupt how we think about teaching and learning, and make more meaningful contributions in our lives and our careers. With stories, questions, and strategies, Chip shares his heart and wisdom on every page. This is exactly what we need right now!"

Brené Brown, Ph.D., LMSW, Author of the #1 New York Times Bestseller, Braving the Wilderness (writing about MEA founder Chip Conley’s book [email protected], the inspiration for MEA)

“I am a huge fan of MEA which is a great initiative. I love the idea of ‘long-life learning’. It's clear that longer lives and technological change will require lifelong learning and much of that will be skills focused and based around jobs. And that’s appropriate. But education has a much deeper role to play. The Latin root of ‘education’ is linked to ‘educere’ which is about the ‘drawing out of oneself’. As life expectancy extends we need to find time in midlife to update our views and values, consider what we have learnt, update it by mixing with new people and new challenges and then thinking about what comes next. The insights and values that are forged in our early 20s at college may still be the right ones but for many their relevance has often been lost and commitment to them loosened. Education isn’t just about learning how to code in Python but working out who we are, what we stand for and using that as a core foundation for what we do. In a longer multi stage life we need to ensure that our identity is not formed by our roles but the other way around. That’s why I love the idea of ‘midlife wisdom school’ and a reset.”

Andrew Scott is a British economist, currently Professor of Economics at London Business School, known for his work on macroeconomic policy and longevity. His book “The 100-Year Life: Living and Working in the Age of Longevity” became a worldwide sensation.

“Millions are moving through midlife, searching for deeper purpose and the chance to make a meaningful difference in the world. They want to be Modern Elders! All too often, though, the path from aspiration to action has been a solitary and confusing one. Enter the Modern Elder Academy, a beacon in the wilderness, a new rite of passage to elderhood, and a model for how we can make the most of the great gift of longevity.”

Marc Freedman, Founder/CEO, Encore.org and author, How to Live Forever: The Enduring Power of Connecting the Generations
Guest Satisfaction

Allow us to “humble brag” just a little bit.

MEA students are more than “customers” to us. They’re our guests, our friends, and an important part of our community. We care deeply about creating an environment that helps people feel welcomed, engaged, challenged (in a good way), and happy. Which means we take guest satisfaction scores very seriously around here.

For those of you who like to geek out on numbers like we do, here are a few stats we’re very proud of:

  • 98% of our alums give MEA a 9 or a 10 on a 1-10 scale when asked if they’d recommend the program to friends or family.
  • 97% agree or somewhat agree that they’re more mindful and present in their life now, after their MEA experience.
  • The number one skill alums deepened at MEA was “Exploring your purpose”, with over 80% reporting this.
  • A whopping 98% of alums stay connected to members of their cohorts.

chip conley

A man on a midlife mission

Chip might be best-known as a hospitality entrepreneur and New York Times bestselling author.* But he’s also the founder of MEA, the Modern Elder Academy.

After founding Joie de Vivre Hospitality (JdV) at age 26, Chip grew the company from a single inner-city motel to the second largest boutique hotel brand in America. It was a notable accomplishment. Yet by the end of his tenure, Chip felt burnt out, stuck, and depressed.

It was 2008 by then. The economy was being ravaged by recession. Not coincidentally, five of Chip’s friends—all in middle age—ended their lives in the span of just two short years. It was a blaring wake up call for Chip. Something had to change.

In the midst of an economic downturn, and against the advice of just about everyone he knew, Chip sold JdV. He had served as CEO for 24 years.

You did the math right: 26 + 24 = 50. Right there in the middle of midlife, Chip experienced a seismic shift, full of reflection and reinvention. And things started to get really interesting.

Mentor/Intern

In 2013, the young founders of Airbnb asked Chip to help guide their promising start-up. They had the tech knowledge, but not necessarily the hospitality knowledge, to become a huge player in the industry. Meanwhile, Chip knew he had plenty to learn from his 20- and 30-something colleagues who spoke tech as their native language.

Chip served as Airbnb’s Head of Global Hospitality and Strategy for four years, during which he shared more than hospitality know-how: Chip offered some of the softer skills he’d honed through years and years of experience. This intergenerational, mutual mentoring became the inspiration for Chip’s book [email protected]. And in turn, the book became the inspiration for his founding the world’s first midlife wisdom school, Modern Elder Academy.

*A few more details for those who care to know:

Chip’s five books have made him a leading authority at the intersection of psychology and business. He was awarded “Most Innovative CEO” by the San Francisco Business Times, is the recipient of hospitality’s highest honor, the Pioneer Award, and holds a BA and MBA from Stanford University.

So why found a school?

Why not retire early and live off the proceeds of a successful career? Like so many others in midlife, Chip had found a calling. He’d been a for-profit entrepreneur his entire life. It was time to create a social enterprise—a business that served a larger, societal need. He wanted to create a place where people could come get tools to navigate midlife, so they could emerge refreshed and better-equipped to flourish during the second half of their lives. He'd also read the Yale study that showed how shifting one's mindset about aging can add 7.5 happy years to a person’s life, but there didn't seem to be a school that specialized in this kind of midlife transformation.

The Academy was born in 2018, and has been growing steadily ever since. Chip has invested millions of dollars of his own funds—and countless hours of blood, sweat, and even occasional tears—without personal payout because he believes in the greater good he’s trying to achieve. The school is just one piece of a larger movement to give midlife the attention it deserves—from government funding and public policy, to academic study and cultural change. MEA may be the first midlife wisdom school, but Chip hopes it will serve as a catalyst for much, much more.

Introducing our non-profit

A.G.E.

Because there’s a lot more change we want to see in the world.

Our culture doesn’t make midlife easy: One way or another, we’re all affected by negative stereotypes and self-limiting thoughts. So one little school down in Baja? It’s just not enough to create the broadscale change we want to see. Which is why we started A.G.E. (The Association for Growth and Education) a non-profit dedicated to providing scholarships to programs that help people navigate midlife.

MEA is deeply committed to diversity of all kinds, including socio-economic diversity. We’re excited that A.G.E. is opening more doors, for more people, to more schools than we ever could have on our own. Participating schools include Eselen, Omega, Kripalu, and of course, MEA, with more coming soon.

Would you like to help other midlifers learn, grow, and bring their wisdom back to their communities?

Pledge a tax deductible donation to A.G.E. today.

Team

Chip Conley

Founder

Christine Sperber

Co-founder/Chief Experience Officer

Jeff Hamaoui

Co-founder/Chief Education Officer

Debra Amador DeLaRosa

Head of Admissions & Communications

Araceli Montes Sánchez

Head of Hospitality and Operations Director

Jenn Maer

Facilitator and Brand Storyteller

Luis Miguel Arce Espinoza

Jefe de Maintenance

Lupita Guadalupe Gastelum

Lead Housekeeper

Guadalupe (Lupillo) Rios

Mr. Everything Ever

Maria de la Luz Fierro

Sous Chef

Tony Peralta

Head Chef and Rock Star

Adrián León

Head Gardener

Hesed Najera

Facilitator, Reiki Master, and Massage Therapist

Teddi Dean

Mindfulness Teacher, Facilitator

Maria del Carmen Gonzalez (Maricarmen)

Massage Therapist

Linda Grubbs

Diversity and Inclusion Consultant

Saul Kup

Resident Shaman

Leslie Bartlett

Director of Alumni Programs and Community Development

Chip Conley

Founder

Chip is a hospitality entrepreneur, New York Times bestselling author, and the founder of MEA. His most recent book, [email protected], forms the core of MEA’s curriculum. It was inspired by his experience of being both a mentor and an intern, at a time when he was well into his 50s, as Airbnb’s Head of Global Hospitality and Strategy. But here’s the thing no CV will tell you—Chip’s greatest assets are his kindness and generosity, his deep care for the people he works with, and his infectious laugh.

Christine Sperber

Co-founder/Chief Experience Officer

Home is Baja and Breckenridge for this former pro snowboarder who’s launched and operated hotels, produced events on beaches and glaciers, managed pro athletes, and worn the hats of writer, restaurateur, and more. The common thread? Christine is passionate about creating experiences that change people’s lives—be it in our classroom, our community, or in our workplace. Christine cares deeply about the wellbeing and happiness of her amazing team and the broader El Pescadero community where she lives with her husband Josh and their family of rescue dogs.

Jeff Hamaoui

Co-founder/Chief Education Officer

Jeff is a seasoned teacher and master facilitator. Sustainability + Systems + Surfing = alliteration played out via an entrepreneurial mind, a teacher’s heart, and a seeker’s soul. After key stops on the journey—from Wharton Business and Presidio Graduate Schools to NASA, IKEA and Nike—he landed in Baja at midlife. Serendipity intervened. MEA changed Jeff’s life, and inspired him to join our leadership. Life in Baja has given him the spaciousness to think about the tools we all need to live better lives, and to begin creating those tools with a team of thoughtful, likeminded collaborators. In fact, Jeff is also the founder of Pescadero’s new agri-hood community, Baja Sage. Find out more about Jeff here.

Debra Amador DeLaRosa

Head of Admissions & Communications

Debra is Chip Conley’s longtime collaborator and Story Gardener who uses her words for good. After launching [email protected], and diving into MEA’s development, curriculum, and launch, she had her own “Modern Elder moment” and took on the role of the alchemist who brings deep wisdom and empathy to bringing our cohorts together. "Debs" is a communications veteran with a passion for activism and service. A lifelong seeker, she is a graduate of The Forum, The Four-Fold Way, and The Hoffman Process, and lives in Northern California with her husband, teenager, and sweet pack of dogs.

Araceli Montes Sánchez

Head of Hospitality and Operations Director

Araceli began her hospitality career in the front of house at Ritz Carlton, Cancun, and has only skyrocketed up since then. She’s the mighty force who keeps the wheels on the bus here at MEA, treating her guests with grace and her staff like family. Her unofficial motto, “No tengo un corazon de pollo” (I don’t have a chicken heart) is as true for her work as it is in her life. Araceli lives in Todos Santos with her beautiful daughter, Coti, who looks just like her.

Jenn Maer

Facilitator and Brand Storyteller

Jenn’s career as a storyteller began at age seven when she penned (well, actually, penciled) her first novel—a 75-page, double-spaced, spiral notebook tour de force entitled “Shark!”

Since then, Jenn has worked as a writer, creative director, designer, and brand strategist in the advertising world, at IDEO, and as a solo consultant. She also teaches IDEO U’s online Storytelling for Impact course. She’s happiest, however, under a wide open sky with her feet planted firmly in the sand.

Luis Miguel Arce Espinoza

Jefe de Maintenance

Jefe means “boss” in Spanish, and we lovingly mix Spanish and English in Luis’ title because he is truly the boss of everything he touches. Luis grew up in El Pescadero, where he enjoyed helping his father farm. This experience cultivated his love of the land. He values hard work, honesty, kindness, and his wife, most of all. As our maintenance and groundskeeper, Luis takes pride in making sure everything on campus is thriving and in tip top shape.

Lupita Guadalupe Gastelum

Lead Housekeeper

Lupita leads our housekeeping team with an eye for detail and a warm smile for everyone she meets. She moved to Pescadero 14 years ago from Culiacán, Sinaloa, and is a proud mom to three amazing kids.

Guadalupe (Lupillo) Rios

Mr. Everything Ever

Lupillo was born in Oaxaca, but moved to Pescadero when he was a baby. (Which certainly gives him local cred in our book.) Lupillo is our resident animal whisperer—though he actually has a degree in Computer Science. We turn to him for help with just about everything on campus, and his joyous smile truly lights up the room.

Maria de la Luz Fierro

Sous Chef

Maria hails from Guerrero, but lived and trained in the U.S. before moving back to Mexico and here to Pescadero. She’s Chef Tony’s right hand in the kitchen, delivering soulful food, packed with flavor and made with love. (By the way, Maria’s last name, de la Luz Fierro, means “of the iron light.” Which pretty much says it all.)

Tony Peralta

Head Chef and Rock Star

Chef Tony feeds our souls, as well as our bellies, with five star, locally-sourced and inspired cuisine. His commitment to bright, seasonal flavors is matched only by his sense of humor and meticulous process. For Tony, food is an expression of love: You can taste his devotion in every bite. And when we say he’s a rockstar, we’re not kidding. Tony spent his younger years in a regionally famous reggae band, and continues to rock the mic on special occasions.

Adrián León

Head Gardener

Adrián was proudly born and raised in Pescadero. He’s been working the land since he was a child, and even owns his own farm. His experience growing plants of every variety in this region is unparalleled, and his green thumb is especially helpful in MEA’s organic garden. Adrián loves to chat with our guests, so give him a wave and spark up a conversation if you see him! As a father of three, he has plenty of stories to share.

Hesed Najera

Facilitator, Reiki Master, and Massage Therapist

After representing México in the International Young Physicists Tournament, Hesed caught the science bug and decided to study marine biology. He ultimately earned a M. Sci in Sustainable Development and published his work in academic journals. But why stop there? He also studied yoga, vipassana meditation, temazcales, tai chi, chi kung, reiki, and ceremonies with master plants. As if that weren’t enough, he’s a Reiki Master and a consolidated massage therapist, trained and certified in Auroville, India. (His two teachers were trained by the personal masseur of Mahatma Gandhi, Ayurvedic master S.V. Govindan.) Hesed brings his unique combination of scientific systems perspectives and deep healing practices to his work here at MEA.

Teddi Dean

Mindfulness Teacher, Facilitator

Curiosity led Teddi from life as a Southern California pro skateboarder to travels as a student of the Buddha. Teddi’s approach to teaching yoga and meditation is clear, practical, and grounding: He makes it incredibly easy for first-timers to dip their toes in the water, without feeling overwhelmed or daunted. Teddi encourages his students to cultivate their own curiosity about the body and the breath through a balance of effort and ease—guiding them back to their own true nature.

Maria del Carmen Gonzalez (Maricarmen)

Massage Therapist

Tijuana born and raised, Maricarmen was encouraged by her instructor to become a Certified Massage Therapist. After starting her career in Tijuana, she spent 18 years at Club Deportivo Valparaíso and Vita Spa. In 2016 she relocated to Todos Santos to continue her healing path. And what an incredible path it’s been—not only does she work her magic here at MEA, Maricarmen also owns her own spa in Todos Santos.

Linda Grubbs

Diversity and Inclusion Consultant

Linda brings a wealth of knowledge in building organizational diversity and inclusion programs and elevating voices and contributions of marginalized communities. Linda enjoys coaching and motivating others: She’s a passionate teacher, trainer, and learning consultant, and adept at using presentations and personal influence to build bridges. Her diversity and inclusion work focuses on “getting to the heart of the matter” by helping individuals and teams be intentional, mindful and conscious of their behaviors, and how it contributes to team culture.

Saul Kup

Resident Shaman

Our mystic man of diversity, Saul, is a Mexico City-born, Jewish, Yoruban-trained Shaman. For him, Baja California Sur is the place where the “spiritual wifi” receives five bars. Saul’s connection to the natural world, and his unique ability to help us peer behind the curtain of what the naked eye can’t see, is just one of the reasons we hold this magic man so dear. We’re constantly in awe of his gift for turning complicated messages into simple principles we can all learn from.

Leslie Bartlett

Director of Alumni Programs and Community Development

Leslie keeps our alumni community thriving with her boundless enthusiasm and passion for bringing groups together. She’s also a Certified Professional Life Coach with a Masters in Spiritual Psychology. But don’t let the sweet disposition fool you. Leslie is a hard core travel junkie, who danced on the Brandenburg gate when the Berlin Wall came down, been arrested in Moscow for buying art with Western dollars, ridden a charging elephant in Bali, and seen all of the Big 5 in Africa.

mea in the press

We could talk your ear off about MEA, but sometimes it’s great to hear it from other sources.

podcast
March 17, 2020

Conversations with Michael Gervais: Chip Conley on Overcoming Limiting Beliefs

On this week’s Finding Mastery podcast, Airbnb Strategic Advisor, Chip Conley, discusses curiosity, wisdom, and courage.

podcast
March 3, 2020

Fostering Midlife Resilience

Chip is a major thought leader in our space and, luckily, one of our good friends. He has been instrumental in the early days of the creation of AGEIST. We last profiled him a few years ago here, and since then he has created the Modern Elder Academy in Baja, with now over 800 graduates. Why are all these people flocking to Chip and his school?

podcast
January 28, 2020

A New Take on Aging, Ageism w/ Chip Conley

Today’s episode is from a sitdown with fellow entrepreneur Chip Conley. We talk about his start-ups and his unique perspective on aging and ageism.

podcast
January 14, 2020

Chip Conley, A Modern Elder at Work

In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Tami Simon speaks with Chip about socially responsible entrepreneurship and the movement toward making workplaces into spiritually fulfilling spaces. They talk about the modern business obsession with short-term profit and why this attitude does damage to both our culture and environment.

article
December 2, 2019

Fully Alive at the Modern Elder Academy

Waking to the sound of Pacific waves breaking had become a welcome change to the usual morning symphony of traffic and sirens in our Harlem home. It was my last morning at the Modern Elder Academy and I wanted to get out for one more beach run before the meditation class. As I headed out I definitely felt different than when I arrived a week ago.

video
September 5, 2019

Chip Conley, Wisdom at Work

Chip Conley is an American hotelier and New York Times bestselling author who helped grow Airbnb into the world’s leading hospitality brand. In 2008 Chip collapsed while giving a speech – technically dying 9 times on the way to hospital – which led him to drastically reshape his life and sell the business that he founded at 26-years-old.

podcast
June 20, 2019

Building Empires, Tackling Cancer, and Surfing the Liminal

At age 52, after selling the company he founded and ran as CEO for 24 years, rebel boutique hotelier Chip Conley was looking for a new chapter in life. Then he received a call from the young founders of Airbnb, asking him to help grow their disruptive start-up into a global hospitality giant. He became their head of global hospitality and strategy.

article
April 14, 2019

At this Baja School, Post-50-year-olds Learn to Grow Whole, Not Old

I am supposed to be meditating. In front of me is a serene man, an empty beach, a Swarovski sea and two breaching whales. I have never been good at seated meditation, so I give thanks instead. I recently learned that noting three gratitudes a day makes you a happier person. Here goes: 1. I’m in Mexico in the middle of a work week. 2. I’m surrounded by beauty. 3. I’m not feeling like the oldest person present for once.

article
March 16, 2019

How Travel Could Cure Your “Midlife Crisis”

Transformative travel is not just a game for the young. Although the idea of a life-changing trip may be stereotypically tied to the post-grad years, one hotelier is arguing that a mid-life trip may be the best antidote for the dreaded "mid-life crisis."

article
February 5, 2019

Why Everyone Has Midlife Wrong

Chip Conley is the founder of Joie de Vivre Hospitality, an advisor to Airbnb and the author of 5 books, including his most recent work; Wisdom at Work: The Making of a Modern Elder https://amzn.to/2FGPUAI.

In this episode of Impact Theory with Tom Bilyeu, he talks about wisdom, curiosity, and what it means to live a good life as you age.

article
January 24, 2019

Wisdom at Work, Why the Modern Elder is Relevant

Historically, the boss typically has been older than the staff. But in the last few decades, several trends converged that made it more common for employees to have younger managers. One catalyst is the shift from seniority-based promotions toward those based on merit, according to a research article in the Journal of Organizational Behavior.

article
January 10, 2019

Wise Eyes, Fresh Eyes

Chip Conley, one of the execs behind Airbnb’s rise, is on a quest to help people restart their careers—and end the office generation gap as we know it. Step one: Stop thinking in terms of “old people” and “young people.”

article
December 4, 2018

The New 50s, Far From Retirement

After Chip Conley sold Joie de Vivre, the boutique hotel company he created and ran for about 24 years, his life took an unexpected turn. At 52, he was sought out by Brian Chesky, the then-31-year-old chief executive of Airbnb, for advice on how to turn the fledgling home-sharing start-up into a major player in the hospitality field.

video
November 1, 2018

What baby boomers can learn from millennials at work—and vice versa

For the first time ever, we have five generations in the workplace at the same time, says entrepreneur Chip Conley. What would happen if we got intentional about how we all work together? In this accessible talk, Conley shows how age diversity makes companies stronger and calls for different generations to mentor each other at work, with wisdom flowing from old to young and young to old alike.

article
October 23, 2018

Airbnb’s Chip Conley is Doubling Down on Being a “Modern Elder”

Chip Conley found himself at a crossroads at age 52. He had already found success with the boutique hotel group Joie de Vivre that he ran as CEO for 24 years. At midlife he wasn’t sure what was next, until he got a call from the young founders of Airbnb, who asked him to join their startup and guide their growth into a hospitality behemoth.

podcast
October 16, 2018

How to Find Your Calling at Age 50 (Or Older)

People always ask “What number do I need to retire?” Which really means “Do I have enough?” “Will I have enough?” “Can I survive?” “Will I be happy?” But people aren’t retiring as much as they used to. People are reinventing. They’re working longer. Or starting something new. They’re getting a second wind. But that hasn’t stopped anyone from asking the retirement question. So I wanted to break it down.

article
September 23, 2018

Modern Elder Academy, the Cool School for Midlifers

Going back to college in midlife to take a class and update your skills may sound appealing. Now there’s a pretty cool school on Mexico’s luxe Baja peninsula where you can learn skills to become a “modern elder.” It’s called, appropriately, the Modern Elder Academy. The school’s motto: “Come to Baja California Sur, Mexico to reset, restore and repurpose your life.”

academic applause

Academics and authors agree: MEA is on to something big.

"I love [email protected] and the Modern Elder Academy! What a fabulous and creative idea.”

Becca R. Levy, Professor of Epidemiology and Psychology, Yale University whose research has shown that creating a positive perspective on aging can add 7.5 years to one’s life.

“Unless you keel over in the prime of your professional life, you are going to see decline in your abilities. And the higher your abilities, the more you will notice when they slip. That’s the ‘winner’s curse’--the reason that people who do really well in life often suffer the most as they age. Trying to hang on forever is an exercise in frustration and futility. But there’s good news, too. If we can detach ourselves from our self-concept as “success machines”--a self-concept that is nothing more than self-objectification--it opens up time and energy for new avenues of personal growth and excellence...Obviously it’s not easy or simple, which is...why MEA is so successful, of course.”

Arthur Brooks is a professor of the practice of public leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School and senior fellow at Harvard Business School. He is the bestselling author of 11 books and The Atlantic article, “Your Professional Decline is Coming (Much) Sooner Than You Think.

“Our contemporary world is crying out for a return to the cultivation of elders. MEA weaves together curated wisdom of the ages, a sense of deep ties embedded in ritual, and awe and beauty at nearly every moment of the day, from sunrise to star filled skies at night. It is the communal rite of passage the middle of life deserves, and that we are in such need of today. MEA’s wisdom, kindness, sense of community, and purpose will stay with you for years.”

Dacher Keltner is a professor of psychology at University of California, Berkeley, where he directs the Berkeley Social Interaction Lab. He is also the founder and faculty director of the Greater Good Science Center, the host of the podcast The Science of Happiness, and an MEA faculty member.

“To make full use of longer lives, we need a new map of life. We must radically rethink the social norms and guideposts that take us through life, from the nature of family to education and work. MEA is a new kind of midlife wisdom school dedicated to helping people chart this new map of life with both social support and a new set of tools that helps them be more adaptable and resilient."

Laura Carstensen, Director of the Stanford Center on Longevity and a Stanford Professor of Psychology and Public Policy

"How to Overcome the Struggles of Midlife”

Chip Conley, U.C. Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center

“MEA is so well thought out. It evolved over time both in Chip's work and writings, but also through his 25 years of experience in business. He evolved within his companies, which is the aging process. Watching the environment, himself, and others he noticed a gap in the understanding of what happens when you become 40, 45, 50, 55. I think what is happening at MEA is so formative and so relatively new that it is hard to say how it's going to play out. I think it is going to be seen in hindsight - not in the sense that it's passed, but in terms of its formation - as a truly seminal aspect of human development. You’d think we'd have every technique, means and process for human development already invented, but MEA has really created something that is novel and socially brilliant.”

Paul Hawken is an environmentalist, entrepreneur, and author of NYT bestseller Drawdown and Blessed Unrest, an activist who has dedicated his life to environmental sustainability and changing the relationship between business and the environment. He’s on the MEA mastery faculty.

"This is ultimately a book about how we can develop deeper connections, disrupt how we think about teaching and learning, and make more meaningful contributions in our lives and our careers. With stories, questions, and strategies, Chip shares his heart and wisdom on every page. This is exactly what we need right now!"

Brené Brown, Ph.D., LMSW, Author of the #1 New York Times Bestseller, Braving the Wilderness (writing about MEA founder Chip Conley’s book [email protected], the inspiration for MEA)

“I am a huge fan of MEA which is a great initiative. I love the idea of ‘long-life learning’. It's clear that longer lives and technological change will require lifelong learning and much of that will be skills focused and based around jobs. And that’s appropriate. But education has a much deeper role to play. The Latin root of ‘education’ is linked to ‘educere’ which is about the ‘drawing out of oneself’. As life expectancy extends we need to find time in midlife to update our views and values, consider what we have learnt, update it by mixing with new people and new challenges and then thinking about what comes next. The insights and values that are forged in our early 20s at college may still be the right ones but for many their relevance has often been lost and commitment to them loosened. Education isn’t just about learning how to code in Python but working out who we are, what we stand for and using that as a core foundation for what we do. In a longer multi stage life we need to ensure that our identity is not formed by our roles but the other way around. That’s why I love the idea of ‘midlife wisdom school’ and a reset.”

Andrew Scott is a British economist, currently Professor of Economics at London Business School, known for his work on macroeconomic policy and longevity. His book “The 100-Year Life: Living and Working in the Age of Longevity” became a worldwide sensation.

“Millions are moving through midlife, searching for deeper purpose and the chance to make a meaningful difference in the world. They want to be Modern Elders! All too often, though, the path from aspiration to action has been a solitary and confusing one. Enter the Modern Elder Academy, a beacon in the wilderness, a new rite of passage to elderhood, and a model for how we can make the most of the great gift of longevity.”

Marc Freedman, Founder/CEO, Encore.org and author, How to Live Forever: The Enduring Power of Connecting the Generations

Guest Satisfaction

Allow us to “humble brag” just a little bit.

MEA students are more than “customers” to us. They’re our guests, our friends, and an important part of our community. We care deeply about creating an environment that helps people feel welcomed, engaged, challenged (in a good way), and happy. Which means we take guest satisfaction scores very seriously around here.

For those of you who like to geek out on numbers like we do, here are a few stats we’re very proud of:

  • 98% of our alums give MEA a 9 or a 10 on a 1-10 scale when asked if they’d recommend the program to friends or family.
  • 97% agree or somewhat agree that they’re more mindful and present in their life now, after their MEA experience.
  • The number one skill alums deepened at MEA was “Exploring your purpose”, with over 80% reporting this.
  • A whopping 98% of alums stay connected to members of their cohorts.
MEA COVID-19 RESPONSE

MEA is taking every precaution to keep our students and staff safe during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Learn more