There’s a reason why the practice of “self-care” has exploded in recent years. The hamster wheel of anxiety plaguing our world means we’re longing for interludes of rest that leave us with more than just new experiences and nice Instagram photos. We want to reconnect with our bodies, our minds, and something bigger than ourselves. Perhaps that’s why there’s been a shift towards wellness travel in the past couple of years.
Mindfulness retreats, yoga holidays, and meditation breaks are no longer reserved for overworked urban dwellers or New Age types—they’ve gone mainstream. From 2013–2015, the global wellness market grew 6.8% to reach $563.2 billion, according to the Global Wellness Institute, a non-profit promoting the wellness industry. By 2020, that number is expected to climb to $808 billion. One thing is clear: We’re now on the hunt for more meaningful travel experiences—and less bacchanalian escapades.
A buzzword that’s been on the wellness circuit for a while now is “transformational travel.” According to the Transformation Travel Council—a Seattle-based organization that supports the movement—the term is defined as “any travel experience that empowers people to make meaningful, lasting changes in their life.” Instead of simply relocating from one point to another for a short period of time, transformation travel is about embarking on a journey that involves mindful interactions, thought-provoking cultural experiences, and heaps of personal reflection. In other words, it’s a “life-changing” experience that stays with you even after the vacation ends.
For travelers seeking curated trips in this vein, look no further than GOOD Travel, a company facilitating sustainable and ethical travel that aims to empower local communities, minimize environmental footprints, and leave a positive impact. Whether it’s a wellness retreat to Tanzania where you can support local entrepreneurs and watch dolphins or an adventure to the Democratic Republic of the Congo filled with wildlife experiences, GOOD Travel designs itineraries that inspire self-discovery while ensuring each part of the trip is designed with social responsibility in mind.
The daily deluge of dings and dongs and pings and posts we face each day means that many desperately crave a sense of stillness. While meditation apps like Calm and Headspace are surging in popularity and provide pockets of quiet, there’s still a need to completely unplug from our hectic lives to rejuvenate. That’s why there’s been a newfound interest in digital detoxes, restorative breaks, and silent meditation retreats among the general population.
At Eremito, for example, a monastic eco-retreat located in Umbria, Italy, there is no access to WiFi, television, or a mobile signal. Surrounded by 3,000 hectares of spectacular greenery, the hotel rooms are designed to resemble ancient monk cells—or celluzze as they’re called in Italian—which are catered to rest, relaxation, and meditation. The sanctuary offers morning walks in the woods, yoga classes, a spa facility, and a stone steam bath among other amenities. At dinner, guests are served a fixed menu of simple vegetarian dishes, which are eaten in silence until a gong is sounded.
Of course, breaking away into nature and solitude to tap into a deeper consciousness is no new concept. It’s been a fundamental part of meditative practices for centuries. There’s a reason why hermitages are usually located in remote locations, away from ceaseless everyday chatter. But it’s not the only way to recuperate.
Another kind of wellness getaway that’s been gaining traction lately is summer camp for adults, which is exactly what it sounds like. Retreats like SOMMERJUNG and Camp Breakout in Germany, are about (stressed out) adults reliving their childhood experiences in the woods for a couple of days. Usually these camps involve outdoor activities, DIY workshops, and socializing in groups—far away from any digital devices. The idea is to briefly retire from adult responsibilities, release your inner child, and rekindle a dewy-eyed eagerness to make new friends. It’s a good opportunity to dabble in activities like canoeing, drawing, windsurfing, yogilates, archery, and face painting.
Underlying the latest plethora of wellness retreats and experiences is our desire to escape from our hyperconnected world to find rare moments of peace. Our culture’s ever-increasing obsession with visible progress and wanting more and more and more means there’s little time and space left for being, a mode of non-doing that acknowledges the richness of the present moment. Now more than ever, travelers are intent on maintaining a mindful outlook even after they’ve returned to the hubbub of daily life. Whether it’s a spa resort in Portugal or a guided meditation session with an app, the crucial thing is to carve out time to slow down, restore your spirit, and cultivate a sense of oneness with the universe.
Text: Charmaine Li
Images: Courtesy of Good Travel
This article can also be found in The New Traveler magazine, published on the occasion on the first Berlin Travel Festival, March 9–11, 2018 at Arena Berlin. The Good Travel platform offers a selection of sustainable, inspiring, and authentic destinations, which have been carefully selected for these qualities and can be booked via their website.