As a food and travel journalist, I take pride in being a tequila-drinking, burger-eating woman of the 21st century, and currently resist trends around “wellness.” Don’t get me wrong, I’ve tried it all over the years. I begrudgingly recognize that self-care is important, and sometimes, I’ve even acted on it. I’ve dabbled in essential oils, I was a vegetarian for four years, I’ve had my fair share of Sober Octobers and Dry Januarys, I once even swapped out my morning double espresso with celery juice because some chick on TikTok said it was good for digestion. But none of it has stuck. I am what I am.
Yet, when the days get too long or the hangovers hit too hard, I dream of a world in which I can be, well, well — so I toy with twisting the narrative. I live a work-hard, play-hard life; what should make my wellness approach any different? I have zero intention of giving up midnight bricks of cheese, medium-rare steaks and that third glass of wine, so over time, I’ve incorporated wellness into my life in a way that works for me: in quick stints to far-flung destinations to reset myself.
If you, too, want a quick fix of wellness while living a seemingly unwell life, here’s where to go.
Trentino is a region in northern Italy with strong German roots, and when in the German part of Italy, one simply must partake in Aufguss. Translating to “infusion,” Aufguss traditionally takes place in a steaming hot sauna, and is led by an Aufgussmeister, where essential oil-infused water is thrown onto hot stones, steaming and perfuming the room. At La Roccia Wellness Hotel in Cavalese, Aufguss is 10 minutes long and, depending on who your Aufgussmeister is, there might be intense, drum-heavy music during the ritual. I was able to partake in the hotel’s Aufguss ritual, and at one point, ice-cold water was thrown onto the hot stones, creating a chilling effect and eliciting plenty of gasps from those participating, both from the shock of the cold and the intensity of the experience. I found it was best followed by a dip in the resort’s infinity pool overlooking the dramatic Dolomites.
Aside from Aufguss, La Roccia has their Fiemme Dolomythical Spa, which has a wide array of amenities. I tried the Zerobody dry floating experience, and I can honestly say it is the most relaxed I have ever felt in my entire life. For 20 sweet minutes, I was floating as the machine lifted me up, gravity free without any water surrounding me. Naturally, it took a few minutes for my mind to shut off, but once it did, I never wanted to return to the normal world. Returning, it turned out, wasn’t so bad, largely because La Roccia also offers a guided hike through Val di Fiemme, which, in true Italian fashion, leads to the hotel’s privately owned winery, Maso Battiston.
Westlake Village, California
Healthcare in the U.S. is tough to navigate, and going to the doctor can be intimidating. Going to a wellness retreat in sunny California, however, hardly takes the twist of an arm, especially when it’s at a hotel as prominent as the Four Seasons. The Center for Health and Wellbeing at Four Seasons Hotel Westlake Village hosts a monthly wellness retreat, where each service offered is guided by the philosophy that wellbeing is rooted in five tenets: nutrition, life balance, medically-sound data, fitness and healing spa therapies. How can guests be so sure they are meeting all five tenets? Through expert consultations, skill-based workshops and wellbeing classes, of course. The center has on-site registered dietitians, exercise physiologists, clinical psychologists and mindfulness teachers who work with each retreat participant to help reach their individually-set goals.
What’s particularly incredible about the retreat at the Four Seasons Westlake Village is it’s not a one-shoe-fits-all mission. Instead, each guest can choose from three retreat options: sustainable weight loss, optimum performance, or spa and beauty. Regardless of their differences, all options, which are all-inclusive four-day and three-night stays, comprise but are not limited to one-on-one consultations based on area of focus, pre-program individual consultation with an advisor, a body composition analysis, guided hikes through the Santa Monica Mountains and along the Malibu coastline, daily workouts, a treatment at the largest spa within the Four Seasons family and daily guided morning meditations.
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Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
There are plenty of wellness resorts that have a cell phone-free policy, and while I’m not personally against the idea, I admittedly fear sitting alone with my thoughts without the distraction of doomscrolling. However, if you were to put me on a mountain, where I get a major bucket list tick out of sacrificing my cell phone for a few days, I might be more interested. Enter: Mount Kilimanjaro.
While parts of Kilimanjaro now offer wifi, this was not the case when I hiked this beast of a mountain in 2019, and just because it’s there doesn’t mean you need to use it. I spent six glorious days without a cell phone, other than for camera usage, climbing Africa’s highest peak. I smelled the flowers, I sang Rihanna and Lion King tunes with my guide, I challenged myself physically and mentally in ways I had never done before, and when our hiking days were done, I sat with my own dreaded thoughts, which suddenly didn’t feel so scary anymore. As I fell asleep each night, I’d think of the usual things that kept me up and I journaled every thought, emotion and feeling. As cliche as it sounds, it took little time to realize how I was simply just a dot on this massive earth, namely on this massive mountain. I did indeed accomplish my goal of reaching Uhuru Peak, and little can replace the feeling of strength and resilience I felt at the top. When I got to the bottom, I celebrated with a Kilimanjaro beer, hesitant to ever turn my phone on again.
Ocho Rios, Jamaica
Is it possible to have a true “wellness” getaway at an all-inclusive resort? Too many of us are addicted to hustle culture, and sometimes the only way to get well is to step away from it. While many might associate all-inclusives with drinking as much liquor and consuming as much buffet food as humanly possible, I surprised myself when I recently learned this doesn’t need to be the case.
As a proud adventure traveler, I try to steer clear of this type of vacation experience, but desperately needing a break and wanting someone else to do the heavy lifting, I booked myself a weekend getaway to the newly opened Sandals Dunn’s River in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. I wanted to lay in the sun and not open my laptop for a solid three days, and that’s exactly what I did. Sure, I had some rum cocktails, and I ate some damn good jerk chicken at Jerk Shack right on the beach, but the quality of the cuisine, beverages and service at Dunn’s River made me forget I was at an all-inclusive resort to begin with. The entire experience served its purpose: I left feeling rejuvenated and reset. The resort uniquely offers guests a stargazing experience from their Rondoval rooftop suites, which are equipped with a private pool. Even if you can’t manage to snag one of these hard-to-secure rooms, you can enjoy a bath out on your balcony with a Tranquility Soaking Tub while overlooking the electric blue waters of Jamaica, which was the relaxation highlight of my stay.
Mustang District, Nepal
If you find solace in the mountains, a visit to the Mustang district of Nepal is in order. Mustang is known as the “last forbidden kingdom of the Himalayas,” and only opened to tourism in 1992. A visit to Mustang, which is largely Tibetan Buddhist, means the chance to immerse yourself in a culture that’s likely far different from your own. According to a study done by the National Institute of Health, people who are open to immersive cultural experiences often have a shift in perspective of both themselves and others. While the change might be more gradual, getting out of your comfort zone and everyday routine opens your mind and increases your empathy. So if going somewhere unfamiliar technically makes you a better person, so long as you’re accepting and open, then sign me up.
It can feel confusing trying to navigate a far-flung place on your own, so to ensure you get the most out of your Mustang experience, lean on the expertise of tailor-made luxury tour company Red Savannah. This year, they’re offering the Secrets of Mustang tour, a 10-day adventure to properly explore the region. The itinerary includes visiting ancient monasteries and local Tibetan communities, riding Mustang horses through captivating landscapes, visiting a Bon community where traditions such as shamanism and sky burials are still practiced, going on a guided trek to the glacial Chhyama Lake, making a butter lamp offering at the Vishnu temple, practicing yoga, enjoying spa experiences and eating farm-to-table cuisine.
For the over-socialized butterfly who needs a quiet respite, head to an island that’s actually stranded away from it all. Each Caribbean island is dreamy for its own reasons, but for a rejuvenating wellness experience, fewer do it better than Tobago. Sister island to its well-known, wilder sibling Trinidad, Tobago’s atmosphere is tranquil and peaceful, and all the best activities are aquatic, whether it’s hiking to the serene Argyle Falls or enjoying the island’s unspoiled diving.
It should come as no surprise that being surrounded by water on a remote island is the ideal definition of wellness for many people. “Bodies of water invoke positive childhood memories, invite us to get curious about things we cannot explain, and ground us in awe and wonder that we allow ourselves to sit with without needing to explain, answer or constrict,” says Domenique Harrison, a licensed therapist and clinical counselor. Yes, it goes deeper than all the pop songs about island paradises, and you’ll find that depth on Tobago.
While I am all for wellness travel, especially if it includes unlimited outdoor adventures, I struggle with the idea of agreeing to a full-blown wellness retreat. What if I want a bloody steak or a glass of wine at the end of my long, hard day of being well? A wellness retreat at a winery could be my (and your) happy medium, and Mendoza, Argentina, one of the world’s top wine destinations, is the perfect place for that compromise.
Entre Cielos Wine Hotel and Spa, set on a 20-acre vineyard overlooking the Andes, offers a monthly Vital Reset program. It’s a three-night package, but in that span of time it includes everything from a group tea ceremony to a hamam circuit for a full skin detox to a gong bath to a hot-stone steam. Uniquely offering hamam wellness in Latin America, you’re guaranteed to leave feeling refreshed without missing out on the local wine scene — what Mendoza is perhaps best known for.
All it takes to look 10 years younger (without injections) is a flight to Castries, Saint Lucia, followed by a visit to the island’s famous Sulphur Springs. Arguably the most romantic of the Caribbean islands, you might think you need to save Saint Lucia for your honeymoon, but I’m here to tell you otherwise. Whether you’re riding solo, with the love of your life or with a group of close friends, the island is a wellness paradise, all thanks to its natural beauty. Dive deep into mud baths, rubbing that grey Elmer’s Glue-like paste all over, and be amazed at how fast your skin feels as smooth as satin. The mud mixture is made with hot spring water and volcanic ash, leaving it with a high mineral content which will be absorbed by your skin as it’s applied, removing toxins in the process.
If mud dives don’t feel like your thing (trust me, they are), there are other wellness offerings on the island. Simply being amongst the dramatic Pitons is enough to take your breath away and offer you a meditative experience. For access to one of the most exclusive and secluded places on the island, head to Windjammer Landing Resorts and Residences, where you can treat yourself to offerings such as hummingbird yoga and paddleboard yoga, a spa detox, pilates and a juice bar stocked with fresh fruit from the island.
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