The World's 3 Healthiest Countries

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As the founder of a wellness travel company, I'm on the road quite a bit and have experienced my fair share of ailments abroad.

In the mid-'90s, I left a potluck dinner party in London with a severe case of strep throat. I went to a local hospital and was promptly treated for free. On the other hand, I came down with a stomach bug in Indonesia and didn't even have access to clean water. It's experiences like these that have made me interested in the ways that countries around the world prioritize health and well-being.

Earlier this year, the UN General Assembly published the results from a 10-year comprehensive study, which determined a country's health by looking at 17 development goals, such as ending poverty in all its forms, promoting sustainable agriculture, and ensuring healthy lives for residents of all ages. Here's a look at what the three healthiest nations are doing differently.

1. Iceland

From a publicly funded health care system to multiple sustainability efforts, Iceland tops the list of the world's healthiest countries. The country's sparse population means that its natural resources are relatively untouched and pristine, and 85 percent of its energy comes from renewable sources such as geothermal power stations, which means less reliance on fossil fuel. Not to mention, the 120 hot spring pools around the country, which have historical significance of positively affecting social, mental, and physical health.

Since 2005, Iceland has enforced strict smoking laws such a banning smoking entirely from schools and installing a ban on tobacco advertising. Its residents tend to eat diets that are packed with fresh fish, which have been shown to keep heart disease and inflammation at bay. Add all this together and you have a recipe for healthful, happy living.

Want to know which countries came in at #2 and #3? Read my original article published on MindBodyGreen. 

10 GET-READY-FOR-SLEEP TIPS

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We've said good-bye to another year and have gotten the stress of the holiday season behind us. January is the perfect month to settle in for some serious downtime. Take your cue from the early sunset and focus on getting a great night's sleep. Not sure where to start? Try adding these tips to your day and see if they help create a new sleep routine.

1) Eat a light dinner.

2) Shut off the TV and computer 1 hour before your ready to sleep.

3) JOURNAL BEFORE BED to get out of your head.

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4) Leave your phone in the living room.

5) Take a bath TO RELAX YOUR MUSCLES and nervous system.

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6) MAKE A CALENDAR APPOINTMENT TO SLEEP AND KEEP IT.

7) Reserve your bed for sleep and sex—no other activities.

8) Invest in a foam mattress so you don’t feel your partner move.

9) Do a 10-minute yoga for sleep sequence.

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10) Play soothing music or mantras.

- Linden Schaffer

{We're Obsessed} Naoshima, Japan

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We've been obsessed with the Japanese art island of Naoshima for a while. The island's story of a crumbling forgotten land revived by an out-of-the-box idea tugs at our heartstrings and makes us want to support this underdog story any way we can. Sending wellness travelers to experience this magical environment is a favorite of our customWELL team. Check out CNN's wonderful video about this island and let us know when you're ready to explore it yourself. 

40 of the World's Incredible Eco-Hotels

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Don't let the word 'eco' throw you. These are some of the world's most luxurious hotel stays. From treetops hideouts to animals at your feet - or in your breakfast - these hotels top our bucketlist too. Here's a small sample of the 40 properties that made onto Matador Network's list:

Soneva Kiri (Ko Kut, Thailand)

Misool Eco Resort (Raja Ampat, Indonesia)

Hoshinoya Karuizawa (Karuizawa, Japan)

Daintree Eco Lodge & Spa (Queensland, Australia)

Jicaro Island Ecolodge (Granada, Nicaragua)

Check out the full list here. Then ASK PRAVASSA to start planning as we can book you into 15 of them.

All images via each hotel's website

{WELL ON THE ROAD} Erica Stenz & Tommy Stracke

ERICA STENZ & TOMMY STRACKE
FITNESS INSTRUCTORS

Most recently in: London and Siesta Key, Fl

The one snack you can always find in our carry on is: A Questbar - Double Chocolate Chunk. These are our my favorite protein bars because they have a good balance of protein and carbs and are not too high in fat. Plus, this one is sweetened with Stevia (no sugar or sucralose) and are good for emergency situations. It’s hard not to get addicted to them, so I would only recommend a couple a week (NOT every day). 

Tell us your in-flight rituals. We pre-game our flight by creating to-do lists. Once on board, I’ll spring for an internet pass so I can work in peace. It actually keeps me calm.

How do you conquer jet lag once you've arrived? WORKOUT! It's the best remedy and the first thing we do upon arrival. 

Describe your workout on the road style: If possible, we’ll hit a Barry’s Bootcamp class wherever we are going. We are lucky that there are Barry’s locations all over the world! But if we can't make it into the studio, then we’ll hit up the hotel gym or get some fresh air by going for a run outside.

How do you keep sickness at bay? Working out definitely helps us stay healthy. We also travel with probiotics to maintain good gut health.

What's your 'go-to' restaurant item? We've never met organic meat or greens we didn't like.

What do you do to stay grounded? It's the same stuff we do when we're at home: get a healthy amount of exercise, practice good nutrition, sleep, and surround ourselves with good people. I, Erica, am also very spiritual so I pray for safety and good health every day.

What is your preferred method of staying connected with loved ones? If you're not our moms, you'll hear from us by text. 


Join Erica & Tommy this April as they lead their first Pravassa Bootcamp trip to Costa Rica. Limited spots remain so book yours now.

When not on the road, or learning how to scuba dive, you can find both Erica & Tommy at Barry's Bootcamp San Francisco. Log onto Instagram to follow both Erica and Tommy's adventures.

This Holiday Season, Get Active Rest

Pravassa in Thailand

Pravassa in Thailand

This holiday season it's time to slow down and be good to your body. Between feeling anxious about traveling, attending countless holiday parties, and trying to stick to your food plan, your brain is working overtime and your body is feeling the stress. If getting to a good night’s sleep isn’t happening during holiday time, then turning to active rest may be a way to restore your body and mind. Sleep specialist Dr. Matthew Edlund has written a book documenting how controlling the process of restoring your physical and mental bodies – active rest – keeps your blood pressure, muscular tension, and nervous system in check. Similar to meditation, active rest allows you to turn off your brain and your body and just be. Instead of lying awake at the end of a long day wishing for sleep to come, pop in you headphones and listen to a soothing voice guide you into an active rest. You maybe be surprised to find this is more restorative then a few hours of shut eye. - Linden Schaffer

11 World Class Wellness Resorts

It's no secret that our founder, Linden Schaffer, has one of the coolest jobs around. No matter where she travels around the globe, staying at a hotel that promotes health and wellbeing is paramount. From New Zealand to India to right here at home in the U.S., Linden reveals some of the best options in Singapore's World Travel Magazine.

Read the full article
Book a Pravassa customWELL journey to one of these hotels.

5 Essential Truths That Unite The World (From Someone Who Travels For A Living)

Linden in Thailand | photo: @sfreneenyc for Pravassa

Linden in Thailand | photo: @sfreneenyc for Pravassa

From the time I got my first passport at 16, I've had a case of wanderlust.

The need for constant exploration has taken me across six continents and into 40 countries and counting. Traveling opens your eyes to the fact that no matter our race, religion, ethnicity, or circumstance, we are all in this together. As Mark Twain so famously wrote, "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness."

No matter where in the world I find myself, my journey of discovery has led to these universal truths.

1. Simple is better.

During a family vacation I took as a child, my mother accused the maid at our hotel of stealing her engagement ring. After a day of upheaval, my mom found her ring, secreted away in a hidden layer of her suitcase. She had been so afraid of losing the ring that she had actually hidden it from herself. After much embarrassment and profuse apologizing, nothing like this ever happened again—to my mom or me.

The experience taught me once and for all that you need less than you think when you travel. Today, I advocate for using a carry-on whether you're traveling for five days or five weeks. Having less with you at the start of your trip is physically and spiritually freeing, and it shows you can really survive on less than you think.

2. Intuition is your guide.

Fear stops many people from ever taking a step outside their comfort zone, let alone outside their country. Remember that some basic common sense and intuition is all you need to head in the right direction. A motorbike ride up a mountainside, a trek through the woods, dinner with a family of strangers—these are all experiences that have enhanced my travels. I've embarked on these somewhat uncomfortable adventures because they felt right, and I've declined a fair share of offers that did not. You know more than you think, so be open to your intuition and trust what your body tells you.

3. Plans change.

Traveling is a lesson on relinquishing control, as something is always bound to go wrong on the road. Life goes on after canceled flights, lost hotel reservations, sudden changes in local government, and other unexpected hiccups. Sometimes these diversions from the original itinerary can even lead to unexpected lessons or exciting discoveries. Stressing out over the things you cannot change is wasted energy. Early on in my travels, I began leaning on my yoga teachings and quickly noticed that being able to go with the flow can mean the difference between an amazing trip and a terrible one.

4. You have the power to make someone's day.

Energy, both good and bad, is contagious. If you make the decision to start your vacation on a positive note—saying hello to the person next to you before you curl up to sleep on the plane, smiling at the taxi driver who picks you up from the airport, learning how to say "thank you" in a new language—you can set yourself up for a wonderful experience. It may not always be easy, especially when your plans change, but take a breath and tap into the feeling you had when you first booked your trip to give yourself a boost.

5. People are inherently good.

Travel is the best educator, and learning from other cultures is priceless. Everyone in the world is seeking a way to feel more connected and less alone. From the waitress I chatted with in a cafè in Istanbul to the history professor I met in Cairo to the young woman studying to be a nurse in India, I've connected with all types of new people and found it extremely easy to make friends on the road. These complete strangers have enhanced my travel plans by suggesting new things to see and do, inviting me to their dining tables so I wouldn't have to eat alone, and sharing their life stories—all of which have shifted how I relate to my surroundings. To me, these chance connections are what make the world so beautiful. - Linden Schaffer

Article originally appeared on MindBodyGreen

Are You on the Brink of Burnout?

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Take a moment for a quick 5-step self-evaluation.

1. Sleep—Would you generally say that you are not getting enough sleep or hours of quality rest?

2. Eating Habits—Do you lose your appetite when you’re busy or reach for the unhealthiest option to cope in what seems like an unmanageable situation?

3. Exercise—You know movement is the way to counteract the ill-effects of our increasing sedentary lifestyle. Do you find yourself overwhelmed with the thought of adding exercise to your schedule?

4. Coping Mechanisms—Do you lash out at others over minor issues? Do you fire off emails that you later regret?

5. Success—Are there never enough hours in your day to complete everything on your list? Do you forget to stop and celebrate the small victories because you bypass them on your way to the next thing?

If you answered yes to more than half of the above questions, congratulations, your fight-or-flight response is in a constant state of readiness. That means, it's time for a VACATION!

Good news, you came to the right place! Join one of our upcoming group trips or get in touch to plan a custom wellness vacation of your choice.

We look forward to reigniting your spark. - Linden Schaffer

We thrive when we are free

IMAGE PRAVASSA© IN NOSARA

IMAGE PRAVASSA© IN NOSARA

There’s a story about a jaguar in a zoo who lived for nearly a decade in a 500 square foot enclosure. The zoo had provided it with proper food, water, and, for the most part, stimulation. However, over time, the wild cat began to feel the stress of living in captivity. These animals hold the memory of freedom deep in their bones, so the jaguar began to pace. Back and forth it went, day after day, month after month, year after year, until a dirt ring had sunk below the green grass around the perimeter of the cage. A well-worm pawed path to trace the anxiety of a wild creature held captive.

Eventually, the organization built the jaguar a larger cage. 3,000 square feet was the new size. It was over six times as big as the old enclosure. There was a large swimming hole, trees to lie under, plenty of rocks to climb. There was even a cave to curl within. They reintroduced the cat to its new home. It explored a bit, took a dip in the swimming hole, slithered into the cave. Almost immediately, the jaguar resumed its habit of circling those 500 square feet where the perimeter of the cage used to be, and was no longer. And now again, day after day, week after week, the majestic cat would slink back and forth as if nothing had changed.

We are not so different from jaguars. We thrive when we are free. We thrive when we can roam without border. We also live within habits. Sometimes we do not realize that the limits that used to surround us are no longer. We get so busy, or stressed, or preoccupied with our lives, that we forget to look around to see if the cage is really, in fact, still there.

This pacing jaguar speaks to the nature of habit. At one time, the habits we formed were helpful. Perhaps they let us cope with stress, or unpredictability. They gave stability. Over time, if we want to thrive, we must shift our habits. The jaguar in the cage represents those well-worn neural pathways in the brain. These are the automatic things we do without thinking. From the way we eat, to the words we speak to ourselves, our habits shape our lives. Neuroplasticity is a relatively new discovery in the scientific community that says we can actually create new neural pathways in the brain. Through many practices (like yoga and travel), we can actually change the patterns of our brain; we can shift out of that old cage.

Travel increases neuroplasticity. We step all the way out of the cage. We are gifted new eyes with which to see the world. We literally cannot repeat the same routine we do at home. We are ushered into new cultures, new sights, and new people. The sunsets have a different hue of purple than we’re used to seeing at home. We smell cooking that we do not recognize, and feel our mouths watering for that unknown blessing. We get to meet people we wouldn’t otherwise, who have some piece of the puzzle and perspective in the web of life that is completely, uniquely theirs. Whenever we immerse ourselves in these experiences, we are forever and irreversibly changed. We cannot go back. We have peeled a layer of the world back. We can see. We carry this new vision back with us into our lives. When we re-enter home life, we see that the cage had long disappeared. - Nicole Nardone

Join me in creating a new path for you: Nosara, Costa Rica March 11 - 18