It's hard to be human these days, and people are increasingly looking for respite and answers everywhere, including in the cosmos.
Wellness is no longer just about being physically fit; the majority of the more than 16,000 Americans surveyed for the 2022 MindBody Wellness Index said they are seeking mental and spiritual wellness, too.
It makes sense. We’ve been enduring a global pandemic (among other traumas, tragedies, and natural disasters), while science has continued to forge on. That’s some fertile ground for soul searching. It turns out wellness + vacation might just be for all of us. Read on to hear why this trend might be your cup of herbal tea after all, tips for a first-time trip, and recommended places around the world to tap into yourself, whether that’s Bali, the Caribbean, or a Four Seasons in New York City.
So why are more people turning to woo-woo?
“Advancements in science have proven how interconnected everything is, which edges us more toward self-reflection and insight,” Dana Childs, an intuitive and energy healer, says. She notes how things like quantum physics, entanglement theory, and even the discovery that trees communicate with each other address the power of belief, the mind, and consciousness. Childs says this awareness of our interconnectedness combined with modern communication and global travel leads us to consider how we are connecting—to ourselves, others, the environment, and our own true essence or higher self.
“Couple that with the COVID pandemic and isolation, trauma, and hardship, and it’s a recipe for spiritual seeking,” she says. “There’s a global awakening that there must be something more beyond our everyday existence… and there is. We’re waking up and asking the question, ‘How can I be and feel better?’”
“‘Woo-woo’ or alternative healing… was actually helping them with things like overwhelming stress, anxiety, and fear.”
And the travel industry is responding, expanding wellness offerings to include things like astrological readings and intuitive healings that were not all that long ago aimed only at a fringe market. In Hawaii, at the Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina, Childs leads a Transformational Wellness Retreat in partnership with Native Hawaiian healer Pi`iali`i Lawson.
Lawson says the pandemic lockdown pushed people to explore a broader range of healing options. “What was seen [previously] as perhaps ‘woo-woo’ or alternative—healing through nature, meditation, crystals, or energy, for example—was actually helping them with things like overwhelming stress, anxiety, and fear. These alternatives were providing tools, higher levels of consciousness, and awareness to navigate and heal.”
“Remember, the worst possible thing that can happen is you have a few days of vacation in a dynamite setting with beautiful souls.”
The trend is not limited to tropical locales like Thailand and Hawaii, which naturally attract travelers seeking an escape. Nicole Hernandez, founder of The Traveling Hypnotist and resident healer at Four Seasons New York Downtown, says she’s seen a noticeable uptick in bookings since January 2021. “In the past, spiritual and alternative healers weren’t as popular among professionals. However, many of my clients today come from the finance, tech, sales, and marketing industries.” She attributes this largely to the shift in priorities that has come from living through the pandemic.
“We began to ask ourselves, ‘What matters?’ Buying designer clothing, having the nicest car or home, or a glamorous job didn't matter. Instead, we realized health, safety, and community were of the utmost importance for survival,” Hernandez says. Going back to work and the old way of life was a relief for some. But for others, she says, “they couldn't bear going back to a lifestyle that didn't feel purposeful or authentic. When you've spent your life following the rules and living by the unspoken social norms and expectations, you don't know what an authentic and purposeful life looks like for you. This is where spiritual and alternative healers can help.”
“Alternative healing isn't magic.”
Booking a psychic sesh or joining a transformational retreat can be intimidating for first-timers. It can seem like retreat regulars have their own lingo and uniform. But you don’t have to speak “spiritual” or pack a suitcase full of flowy linens and yoga leggings to participate in a transformational retreat. Be yourself and allow things to unfold as they’re meant to. Before you dive in, here are a few additional words of advice from the experts.
Tips for a first-timer
Consult your doctor. “It's essential to first consult a doctor about any health issues, before seeking out spiritual and alternative healing,” Hernandez says. “Then use alternative healing to complement your treatment.”
Research your options. “Determine if the person is relatable, wise, and professional,” Hernandez says. “Read their blogs and testimonials and watch their videos. Ensure that the healer has worked with clients who have overcome similar problems. Schedule a phone or video consultation if possible, so that you can discuss your issue and understand [the practitioner’s] process.”
Expect the unexpected. And the uncomfortable. “Be open-minded and curious. A sincere desire for change and growth is a bonus. Throw caution to the wind and take advantage of all the offerings,” Childs says. “Trust that the goal of a healing retreat is to stimulate your mind and encourage you to examine beliefs, thoughts, and events that may be holding you back. Be open for healing and for the occasional discomfort that may happen on your way to a healed mindset. And remember, the worst possible thing that can happen is you have a few days of vacation in a dynamite setting with beautiful souls.”
Participate. “Alternative healing isn't magic,” Hernandez says. “You must fully collaborate with your practitioner to make the most out of your session. Some clients have significant breakthroughs after one session, and others require multiple sessions and ongoing work.”
Don’t compare your journey with others. “Trust your intuition or your inner knowing and let that be your guide,” Lawson says. “Healing is a lifelong journey and everyone's journey is unique to them. All will occur in divine timing when we are ready.”
Here are a few of the many places around the world where you can hit reset with astrological readings, energy cleansing, intuitive healing, and more.
Where to have a wellness vacation around the world
Learn from an indigenous healer in South Australia
For the true beginner wondering how to dip a toe into transformational retreats without diving into the deep end, the Australia Coastal Safaris Health & Wellness Weekender in South Australia is the answer. As Sarah Hayes, an ecologist, yoga instructor, and Wellness Weekender facilitator says, “It’s accessible for the everyday adventurer looking for a wellness experience without all of the ‘fluff.’”
The two-day itinerary provides a holistic retreat that invites participants to better understand interconnectedness through the activities—without the lingo-learning curve.
Skipping the deeper academic discussions doesn’t mean skimping on transformational possibilities and opportunities to immerse in Indigenous knowledge. “Deeper spiritual and energy explorations weave their way in when we spend time with a Nangkari (a First Nations healer),” Hayes explains. “A Nangkari is someone who cares for peoples' physical and emotional health—kind of like a doctor/psychologist. They are often called medicine women or medicine men. The Nangkari that we work with speaks on her experiences and work with the spiritual and energetic realms, but keeps it simple enough to understand.”
The Australia Coastal Safaris Health & Wellness Weekender costs AUD $760 per person and includes all activities listed on the itinerary as well as daily lunches and selected beverages (accommodations are the responsibility of the participant). With its pristine natural landscapes, an abundance of endemic wildlife, fresh seafood and local produce, and rich culture, the Eyre Peninsula of South Australia is an ideal setting for this first-timer-friendly experience.
Soak in the moonlight in the Dominican Republic
If you have some flexibility with your travel dates, let la luna lead you to Amanera in the Dominican Republic. There you’ll find a Healing Through Lunar Rituals experience and learn more about how the moon can impact—and empower—physical and emotional healing.
During the multi-day stay (three- and five-day retreats are available), local wellness therapists and Taíno guides impart their moon wisdom. The guides harness the power of the moon through outdoor mind-body activities and hands-on experiences. Participants can embark on medicinal walks by day—learning ancient knowledge from a Taíno healer and harvesting ingredients for their health and wellness needs—then bathe in the light and transformative energy of the big glowing rock during moonlight yoga sessions.
As this experience is based on lunar cycles and the benefits available during the various phases, travelers should consider their personal goals and then pair those with the appropriate moon phase. For example, those seeking growth and creativity will want to attend during a waxing moon, while those looking to release emotional blockages should book dates that fall during a waning moon. Amanera can help travelers choose the best timing and customize their experience.
Talk to a soul whisperer in Maui
Grand Wailea’s UnWind the Soul Experience with Juliet Doty offers an island escape with a side of psychic guidance. This experience is for the seeker who prefers to skip the full-on retreat schedule and dive straight into a one-on-one with a psychic… in between a morning swim and an afternoon surf sesh.
Sit down with resident astrologist and “soul whisperer” Juliet Doty for a 90-minute UnWind the Soul Healing. Doty uses her psychic abilities to identify and help clear emotional, mental, and energetic blockages. She also offers natal chart readings (on-site and virtually). And if you don’t know what that means, don’t worry; I’ve received one and still can’t fully explain it. No fault of Doty’s; it’s definitely a lot of information for an amateur to absorb. The image of the natal chart alone—where all the planets were positioned at the exact moment you were born—is incomprehensible to the untrained eye. Thankfully, Doty takes the time to walk you through the various symbols on the chart and elaborates on what was happening when you were born, how it is impacting you now, and what you can do to adjust or surrender.
Through these two offerings (alone or combined), Doty helps participants better understand their soul’s path—where they’ve been and what they’re here to learn in this lifetime. This can help people who’ve been feeling stuck, discouraged, and uncertain find clarity, harmony, and purpose. Psychic sessions at Grand Wailea start at $275 (which does not include any other services, accommodations, or meals). Contact Grand Wailea for a tailor-made itinerary and hotel package pricing.
Trance-form in New York City
If you need a change, like, RIGHT NOW and can’t fathom going at a caterpillar-to-butterfly pace, a Trance-formation Healing might be a better fit for you.
Nicole Hernandez, founder of The Traveling Hypnotist and resident healer at Four Seasons New York Downtown, uses hypnotism and the True Trance-formation Healing (TTH) Method to help her clients make breakthroughs in their careers and relationships. Options include one-on-one sessions, starting at $285 for a 60-minute session or the 120-minute TTH Breakthrough experience at Four Season New York Downtown is $550 (the experience includes access to the spa facilities, but accommodations and meals are not included). Trance-formational experiences are customizable depending on client goals and can be combined with other spa and hotel offerings.
Go far out to immerse your mind in the Maldives
For those that need to get far, far, farrrrr away from it all for a reset, JOALI BEING provides a secluded sanctuary on the island of Bodufushi in Raa Atoll, Maldives. The well-being retreat was designed in harmony with the natural environment to create a sense of weightlessness, dissolving the boundaries between you and your surroundings to facilitate a feeling of interconnectedness. So, as the name says, just BEING on the island may be enough to kickstart your transformation.
Immersion retreats can be customized from five days to three weeks with experiences tailored to your needs. The Mind Immersion Programme aims to increase mindfulness and productivity while decreasing stress through a combination of sound therapy, mindful movement, and energy balancing treatments. Optional add-ons include water therapy and conscious cooking.
The five-day Immersion Programme starts at $1,665 per person (including full-board meals). Accommodations are not included in this price, but if you travel all this way, you’ll likely want to linger a little longer.
Choose your own wellness adventure in Arizona
If you prefer to DIY your retreat from an ala carte menu of on-site wellness and energy healing activities, consider a rest and reset for your body and soul at Castle Hot Springs.
Arizona is known for its vortices, and the healing energy is palpable in this region of the Sonoran Desert, with its storied saguaro cacti and mineral-rich hot springs. Set out on a meditative morning hike in the canyon, get a chakra tune-up, take an inner journey through sound healing, and experience your interconnectedness with an after-hours hot springs soak, embraced by a blanket of stars above and the therapeutic waters below. Resident wellness guide Colleen Inman can help craft an itinerary suited to your personal goals. You determine the pace, open your heart and mind, and let the desert work its magic.
Castle Hot Springs also hosts other unique healing and health-focused group retreats, such as a Sleep Retreat with sleep expert Dr. Rebecca Robbins. Inquire directly with the resort for upcoming retreat offerings.
Unblock your chakras in Bali
Bali has no shortage of wellness retreats, and you don’t need your third eye to see why: the tropical setting, friendly people, and deep-rooted culture rich with spiritual and wellness practices make it an obvious destination for personal transformation. (But where the wellness travelers go, unfortunately, con artists posing as “spiritual gurus” often follow. So be very discerning when booking a wellness retreat in Bali.)
Visitors take a lot from time spent in Bali: inspiration, spiritual learnings, personal growth, and, inevitably, the island’s limited resources. This is why it’s important to find a retreat like Global Family Travels’ Seven Chakras Regenerative Wellness Retreat, where you can give back to this sacred place that provides so much.
The 11-day experience works with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, an experienced yogi and healer who works with people from all backgrounds and abilities, and a team of local Balinese healers, non-profits, and practitioners. Guided by their “learn, serve, immerse” approach, Global Family Travels helps participants understand and unblock the seven chakras (energy “wheels” or energy centers in the body) through immersive experiences. For example, a day spent exploring the heart chakra includes mindfulness exercises in the morning, a visit to two nonprofits that focus on women’s health and empowerment, and a dinner at the Women’s Center.
Through engaging with and understanding local people, culture, and the natural environment, the goal is that participants will better understand themselves. The longer length of this retreat allows for a more gradual evolution and time for group discussions, private journaling, and reflection. The Seven Chakras Regenerative Wellness Retreat costs $3,250 for a shared double room or $4,150 for a single room and includes all activities, transfers, and meals listed on the itinerary.
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Sunny Fitzgerald is a contributor for Thrillist.