Prior to the “Great Travel Shutdown” caused by Covid, Wellness Holidays were one of the fastest growing sections of the travel industry. While fly and flop holidays still remain popular, increasingly travellers are looking for a holiday with a purpose. Lockdown has focussed attention on wellbeing, particularly mental wellbeing, and interest in Wellness Holidays is only going to increase. This will mean more destinations, more styles of holidays, and a much greater focus on the outcomes of the holiday.

What is Wellness

Wellness focuses on a number of areas or pillars of life which we seek to continuously improve. I am concentrating more on Travel than on Wellness in this article, so I will very briefly summarise the key pillars of Wellness. As with all summaries I may be leaving out as much as I am including, but I hope that this little thumbnail gives an idea of the core principles of Wellness and, more importantly gives a fair context to what I will be saying on Wellness Travel.  

  • Emotional: being able to cope with the ups and downs of life
  • Financial : being comfortable with one’s financial position. Knowing the value of enough
  • Occupational : Deriving satisfaction from one’s job/career
  • Social : A sense of belonging, being one with a community
  • Spiritual : Expanding upon one’s sense of purpose, or the meaning of life
  • Intellectual : Recognising and giving free rein and expression to creativity
  • Environmental : A pleasant and stimulating environment 
  • Physical : which includes activity, sleep and nutrition
The Ultimate Guide to Wellness Travel

Wellness Travel 

Let us start by reminding ourselves what wellness travel is. The Wellness Tourism Association defines Wellness Travel as travel that “allows the traveller to maintain, enhance or improve a healthy lifestyle  and support or increase one’s sense of wellbeing.” This definition is perhaps as far away from the occasional spa and treatment that one might enjoy in a luxury hotel as it is possible to get. It presupposes a certain degree of healthy lifestyle prior to the travel. This does not mean that someone who has not yet started that Wellness Journey cannot travel on a Wellness Travel holiday. The best time to start anything is now, and a Wellness Holiday is as good a way as any to start. You should, however, at least intend to carry through the activities that you undertake on holiday into normal everyday life on your return. 

The most recent trend within the Wellness Travel industry is to treat the wellness experience as a holistic journey incorporating multiple elements, rather than being a series of single events or experiences. The experience will be designed to enable the traveller to undergo a period of self reflection and to make meaningful change to one’s life.

FOOD

Food is important in every holiday. When travelling we will probably make a point of trying out local delicacies and drinks. Nutrition is an extremely important part of the Wellness Holiday, and as such more and more hotels and resorts are investing in “Farm to Table” resources. This is not just about healthy food, it emphasises the importance of sustaining local communities and sustainable practices. Many of the Wellness Centres will focus on education around food, what is healthy, what is not, and how to prepare food for a healthy lifestyle.

Extreme Travel 

Not all Wellness Travel is relaxing and stress free. Some travellers like to be pushed to their limits, both physical and mental. The holiday may well expect a certain amount of preparation before you travel. Extreme travel can be in fairly hostile environments such as in the Polar Regions, Desert, Jungle, and mountains. It can involve long distance walking or cycling, climbing or other hard physical exercise 

Fitness Retreats

Perhaps less extreme than “Extreme Travel” Fitness Retreats are becoming increasingly popular. There have always been football and tennis academies, but a fitness retreat will be aimed at building up one’s fitness. They are often led by former athletes or boxers

At the other end of the spectrum there are yoga, Meditation and more spiritual retreats, perhaps more aligned to that life changing transformation that the modern traveller seeks to achieve

Digital Detox 

Connection forms a key part of Wellness, but not in the digital sense. We are weaned off our dependence on our screens and left to connect with ourselves, our community, and of course Nature. The connection is perhaps at its strongest in forest retreats, where the sounds of the forest are an important part of the experience. 

Architectural Wellness 

One of the emerging trends which might not spring immediately to mind is a focus on the architecture and environment of the hotel or retreat. Environment plays an important part in Wellness, particularly in the workplace, and this is being transferred into the holiday space. 

Wellness Destinations 

Pretty much every country will be able to provide a Wellness Destination, but there will be significant differences in the delivery of styles and outcomes. 

The Far East, particularly Thailand and Bali, will focus on the more spiritual side, with yoga, massage and meditation featuring highly. There are of course exceptions. The Como Canguu in Bali offers an occasional boxing fitness retreat, which has proved extremely popular and books up very quickly.

India is perhaps the spiritual home of the Retreat. Finland will be known more for its great outdoors, its saunas and ice pools. Morocco is the home of the Hammam, and there are thermal healing resorts from Bath to Baden. Costa Rica specialises in back to nature, jungle and wildlife retreats, while New York offers an urban spa. 

I cannot go through every destination in the course of this article, so I will pick out a few favourites and supplement it in due course with posts about other destinations.

Thailand 

Thailand is the land of Smiles, a friendly nation with amazing, and healthy food, beautiful surroundings and healing practices which go back centuries. Thai massage must be one of the most available healing practices available in the UK. So it is hardly surprising that Thailand is among the top ranked countries for wellness travel. 

It is very difficult to pick out one provider to represent the country of so many outstanding health resorts, but if I had to do so, I would pick the Kamalaya in Koh Samui for that spirit of transformation of which I spoke earlier. 

The Kamalaya 

Wellness Travel in Thailand

The resort describes itself as the Spa with a soul, and one look at its menu shows the full depth of what a wellness holiday might consist of. 

  • Healthy Lifestyle
  • Detox 
  • Stress and BUrnout
  • Emotional Balance
  • Yoga 

As well as tailor made programmes. Each section has its own menu, so we could be looking at restoring and improving our immunity and balance, learning how to relax and to embrace change. Each program will focus not just on what you need now but will provide you with the tools to continue and to grow. The Embrace Change programme seems particularly valuable to me. We all go through change at some point. That could be emotional such as divoce  or relationship breakup, stress or anxiety at work, perhaps redundancy or fear at how technology is overtaking us. We will suffer loss from the death of parents, or worse still, the loss of children. Perhaps we have become dissatisfied with the way we are and want to change, but don’t know how to effect and sustain that change.  These are big outcomes for 5 to 7 night stays, but their reputation is unchallenged.  A stay Kamala is not limited to learning how to deal with the bad and negative things in life. They can help you to find your full potential in life. Where would that take us? What would we do? Come to Kamalaya and find out. 

Let us now leave Thailand, and leap westwards to Bali and The Shambhala Estate

Bali 

The Como Shambhala Estate is situated in a spiritual space in the jungle about a 20 minute drive from Ubud and 90 minutes from Denpasar. It provides a “retreat for change.” If you have ever felt that nagging sense that something is not quite right with you, you are not sure what it is, but you are not firing on all cylinders, or that you could be doing things better, the Shambhala is what you are looking for. A time away in the jungle, detox your body, clear your mind, destress and reboot with their treatment plans tailored around your needs. Sometimes it is best just to start all over again and you will return from your stay with a renewed sense of purpose, and a programme to help you achieve your goals. 

You should try the water spring blessing. You will dress in traditional Balinese attire and be led to an ancient spring and be washed beside a statue of the god Ganesha. The local priest will splash you three times, after which you will be clean in body and soul, a baptism or new birth. 

Wellness Travel in Bali

India 

India may be losing a little of its Wellness Crown to Thailand and Bali, but perhaps it remains the spiritual home of the Wellness Holiday.

Yoga was developed in India over 2,500 years ago. Yoga, Meditation, Ayurveda detox are all combined in effective wellness retreats throughout India. 

Vipassana Meditation helps to see how things really are, to provide clarity in one’s mind. Ayurveda Detox not only clears the body but is also used for rejuvenation and strengthening the immune system. 

The Ayurvedic approach is an holistic one, encompassing body, mind and soul through yoga, diet and massage. It is not just about dealing with existing complaints and conditions, but promoting an overall attitude to your health. 

Ananda in the Himalayas

If you want to be wowed on your wellness journey, how about staying in a Viceregal palace in the foothills of the Himalayas. The Ananda is spectacular both in its architecture and in the range of its treatments, so it is not surprising that Conde Nast readers recently voted it the best spa in the world. 

Wellness Travel in India

Their wellness programmes are tailored around your personal goals from improvement in health to a more rigorous transformation in your lifestyle. The journey is to heal, cleanse, relax, and revitalise. Treatments include a range of Ayurvedic experiences, yoga and meditation and various other healing practices including crystals and reiki. Your personal trainer will devise a personalised programme for you and put you through your paces. 

FINLAND 

WHen talking of Wellness, you might  be thinking of meditation and yoga, but Finland offers a very different experience. Fresh air, fresh food, heat and cold make up a Finnish wellness holiday. Nature plays a huge role in Finland particularly the lakes and forests. Yoga, yes, but Forest Yoga is particularly beneficial. Forests have been proven to lower blood pressure. If you think of the forest environment of the Como Shambhala in Bali, and then move to Finland, you will see the connection between trees and wellness is widely accepted. 

Finland is Saunas. Everyone takes a regular sauna from a very young age. The heat simply melts your stress away. And then you warm up with the cold! A refreshing dip in the snow, the lake or the sea, 

CALIFORNIA 

And from frozen Finland let us travel across the Atlantic and the US and touch down in the desert outside LA. We are at the We Care Spa ready to try something else out. We are advised to prepare ourselves four days before we arrive because we are about to switch to a liquid diet to thoroughly detoxify ourselves.

There are classes in meditation, breathing, healthy nutrition, cooking classes and a host of other classes and many detoxifying treatments

The Spa is normally booked up 6 months in advance, so it pays to plan ahead. Many of its attendees are regulars, which gives an idea of how popular this spa is. It may be demanding, but nothing good is ever easily earned. 

Conclusion 

It is important to appreciate the difference between Wellness and a Spa Holiday. Spa Holidays are a great way to relax, the treatments are amazing and can make you feel much better in yourself. But they are perhaps off events. After the stay at the Spa, you go back to your previous way of live. A Wellness Holiday is about transforming the way in which you live, learning how to live better. Not every type of Wellness holiday will be for you. The idea of a rigorous detoxification may not appeal to you, huge amounts of physical activities outdoors may not be right for you. But the underlying purpose of improving the way in which you live, learning to live better is common to all types of wellness and all wellness destinations. Part of the adventure of life if to find out what suits you and what does not. 

The Ultimate Guide to Wellness Travel

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