Travel To Heal: Wellness Vacations Now Go Beyond Massages And Diet Advice

Jan 27, 2022, 20:34 IST


Isabelle Karan, owner of Sabel Yoga & Wellness, a healer, yoga trainer, and meditation and pranayama expert, elucidates on the changing nature of wellness vacations

When it comes to vacations, we all have a different idea of what we would love to experience and dive into. The range is wide, and goes from adventure travel, slow travel, responsible travel, city hopping to yoga and wellness retreats. All these have one thing in common: you want to de-stress and have some fun.

A few years ago, the idea of a ‘wellness vacation’ brought up an image  of five-star hotels with very large and luxurious spa areas, wellness coaches and nutritionists. This idea has changed and expanded. Wellness resorts are booming all around the world. The energy in these resorts runs deeper and slower, and a holistic way of looking at a person and at life as a whole is shared.

The resorts aim to reflect an authentic lifestyle and, quite often, it starts with responsible construction and operation of the place. The team reflects a family, safety and it offers us the freedom to be who we are or at least to let down our guard a bit. This freedom makes all the difference. We don’t have to hide or pretend anymore and that’s when even a regular massage can move much deeper into the tissues,  into emotional release as well.

The surroundings of the resort might look different  too, from the expected. There are no manicured gardens anymore; instead you might find permaculture and wild spaces to celebrate, support and understand nature. Insects might not be seen as a hazard any longer, but rather as an important and essential part of the ecosystem.

The term ‘wellness’ used to be seen in a rather passive way: I need to relax, hence I’m receiving a massage or any other treatment. Today, wellness is very much seen as an active and involved process. Your inner peace is your responsibility. Yoga, qigong and meditation are all mindfulness-based practices, but that does not mean they are without hard work and pain. To find freedom, quite often, we have to walk through fire.


Any treatment you might receive is based on holistic principles, and the range of treatments is vast. Energetic healing, Shamanic healing, sweat lodges, ayurvedic treatments and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) are just some of the most common ones. What all these treatments have in common is the holistic approach. There is no one-fits-all anymore, and, at the same time, the customer is guided with a strong hand in a velvet glove. All are welcome, but no nonsense is tolerated. Your stiff shoulder might not be looked at as just a muscular stiffness anymore, but as a suppressed emotion or an old trauma.

Most importantly, there is a lot of adventure and fun. Everything seems to be dipped in a calm but wide open freedom. Your energy level might collapse at first, only to recover to full speed again. But it is a peaceful speed because your nervous system managed to recover a bit.

Wellness vacations are better booked for a longer time than just a few days, because it takes time to let the nervous system understand that it is safe to let the guards down, and that’s the time when healing can take place. We, men and women equally, need the courage to be vulnerable.

Vulnerability, Sensitivity And Mindfulness Are Now Appealing

The whole experience is about learning and growing as a human. You get information about what you eat and why it is prepared that way. You walk around and  someone probably points out a bird’s nest or some other wonder of nature. Cultural excursions are not something foreign any more, but seen as an open cultural exchange of wisdom. Authenticity is the keyword. Meeting people from different cultures and learning about their lifestyle profoundly widens our horizon and can lead to beautiful and long-lasting changes in our perception.

Wellness vacations are a combination of slow travel, responsible travel and wellness-based practices. One can further divide them into vacations and immersions.

Slow travel means the traveller takes the time to understand the places visited, learns from the experience, and integrates it into his or her system. The tick-off list has been exchanged for the understanding that there is way more to experience than what we can imagine while sitting at home. Our horizon expands if we are open to receive with wide-open hearts and senses.


Choose A Wellness Break At A Socially-Responsible Resort

Responsible travel is a carefully-crafted journey to places that include three principles: Care for nature in and outside of your resort; care for the land the resort is built on; and care for the people and the community the resort is built into. These principles are not easy to include into the daily operations and the financial aspect of running a place. It is hence a constant effort these wellness resorts make to live up to these standards. This constant effort leads to an authentic and holistic experience that can be felt by the guest. We can sense truth and it does move energy deep within our system.

Wellness Vacation vs Immersion

Usually you would start with a wellness vacation. That means the practices and treatments are taken seriously but in leisurely fashion. If you don’t show up for the early-morning meditation, it is okay, and usually you don’t need much preparation or knowledge prior to the vacation. With an immersion, you go deeper. The practices and treatments have the power to shake you up a bit and emotions will surface. You are better off if you have done some inner work before. The facilitators are masters who know why and what they are doing and are able to walk through the storm with you. The healing that can grow out of an immersion is on a deeper level than you would experience on a vacation.

Wellness vacations are, on many levels, inner journeys. We are all just walking each other home.

Images: Shutterstock 

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