image by: SarahRichterArt
Wellness defines the murky divide between ‘health’ and something even better - Gideon M-K
Some call them boot camps for the soul. Others claim they are more like sanitariums for both body and spirit. Either way, whether it’s a yoga camp in Mexico, a boutique spa in Tuscany, or a shaman fire-walking seminar/workshop in Bali, wellness vacations are now putting their corporate stamps on what we used to call holiday getaways.
Historically, vacations existed solely in the realm of the very rich. Mineral waters and hot springs were available exclusively for the privileged. Only a couple of centuries ago, destinations such as Niagara and Saratoga might just as well have been castle fortresses with their drawbridges hoisted up for all the chances that ordinary citizens could have access to their facilities.
By the mid-nineteenth century, the growth of the middle class and the emergence of white collar workers transformed the concept of “vacation” to something more focused on pleasure and fun. Eventually, gambling and drinking destinations such as Las Vegas and Atlantic City pushed their way to the top of the heap for hedonistic seeking vacation travelers. The rise of amusement and theme parks (Disneyworld, Universal Studios, and Knott’s Berry Farm spring to mind), with their accompanying hotel and meal packages, have paved the way for entire families to travel and vacation together.
Times are changing, however, as wellness and mindfulness are quickly overtaking fun and pleasure as the motivation for vacationers around the globe. This transformation could have been predicted as early as October, 2013 at the Global Wellness Tourism Congress, when experts in the field estimated that wellness travel would make up half a trillion dollars of the vacation market and 14% of all tourism revenues (remember that a trillion equals 1000 billion). Since then, between 2015 and 2017, the wellness economy has grown 12.8% from 3.7 to 4.2 trillion. This growth has been twice as fast as that of the general global economy.
Any way we look at it, that’s a lot of yoga pants. Whether it’s a health spa, holistic cruise, spiritual retreat, or weight loss clinic, tourists today are willing to lay down big bucks for a little pricey abnegation and material self-denial. Fun is where you find it, and if your version of a good time includes chia pudding, bee pollen, and a dose of colon cleansing, then a wellness holiday is where you want to be.
What we’re looking at here is spiritual self-improvement, or as someone once called it, “serious fine tuning of your chakras”. And seeing as we are dealing with sacred time as opposed to your just ordinary conventional time, we shouldn’t be too shocked if the price-tag rockets up to over $10,000 per week (provided, of course, we have submitted the proper formal inquiry and passed the interview stage). Naturally, we would expect such an exclusive getaway to come with all the fixings of the finest accommodations and the very best offerings upon which we could wine and dine.
Think again. If it’s true healing and cleansing that we’re looking for, we must be willing to make some small sacrifices for a successful wellness outcome. Forget about the luxury villa with the king size bed and the patio opening up to an azure tinted tropical lagoon. We’re expected to be thankful if our holiday digs comes equipped with a rolled up yoga mat and shared floor space in a partially walled bamboo hut covered with an almost leak-proof thatched roof.
The gourmet meals that will be served to us come practically free. By free, they mean gluten-free, dairy-free, carbohydrate-free, sodium-free, soy-free, and all-things-flesh-free. We will basically be fed “living food”, which consists of raw and vegan dishes that we might have eaten eons ago before humans discovered hunting, fire, and the barbeque.
Although we’re looking for a spiritual experience, spirits, per se, are not part of the deal. We’re not about to be dipping into some fine wines, champagnes, and 200-year-old brandies. Instead, we can expect to be elbowing up to the cold-pressed juice bar to indulge our palates in a snifter or two or of freshly squeezed quinoa grass and partially fermented spinach extract.
If all this minimalist pampering isn’t enough to make us cry out “uncle”, we can still choose more zenned-out stuff such as Mayan spin classes and virtual meditation ashrams where higher consciousness can be attained 24/7 via text messages from our wellness guru.
As we all know in our inner sanctums, the ultimate luxury in life is total helplessness. It is only in this safe haven that we are completely taken care of and free of any spirit-wrenching decision making. A well-oiled wellness vacation makes sure that everything is planned in advance for us so that mind, body, and spirit can focus on truly important matters such as whether to slip on Lululemon or Alala leggings before heading out for a session with our pranayama breath coach.
Perhaps we need to hitch our wagon to a tried and true purveyor of wellness safaris. The Pravassa Wellness Travel Company promises to “combine the best of Pravassa’s wellness expertise with your own idea of the perfect trip to curate something unique to you”. A pioneer in the field of journeys to wellness (been at it for a whopping 10 years!), Pravassa can offer us group travel to a potpourri of exotic destinations which include Indonesia, Costa Rica, Vietnam, and Cambodia, as well as “women only” group pilgrimage to New Mexico. With a 5-word mantra to sustain our glowing aura (Breath. Movement. Mindfulness. Nourishment. Experience.), nothing can possibly interfere with our voyage to healthy enlightenment.
Let’s do our due diligence and get a second opinion on this traveling wellness business. This is a global industry, after all, so for comparison sake, let’s take a look at the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health. We won’t even have to leave the continent, as the Kripalu has its facilities in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Among the over 700 seminars that are available annually on exploring the healing arts, we can choose from such diverse subjects as “Knit, Pray, Love” and “Dressing for Confidence and Joy”. Kripalu also has a 5-word tagline mantra (Breathe. Connect. Move. Discover. Shine.), which is eerily similar to that of Pravassa.
Joining in the fray for our wellness buck (or more likely, our entire bank account) are “mindfulness at sea” cruises. There are dozens from which to choose from, of which Silversea and Aqua Expeditions are just a couple of examples. Aqua advertises a four-night Mekong River sailing aboard its Aqua Mekong. Among its features are a “wellness-themed itinerary with personalized fitness and wellness instruction -- including sunrise yoga, guided meditation, daily biking and boating outings, and personal training sessions -- against the distinct backdrop of the Cambodian countryside”. There’s no mention as to whether paddles are included.
There we have it. We’ve completed the boot camp of all things having to do with wellness and travel. We can imagine our beautiful, lean bodies (dowsed in lavender essential oil) silhouetted against a gorgeous tropical sunset. The wellness yacht is setting sail shortly. All we need is one more gut cleansing purge, and we’re ready to go.
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