What is your vacation personality?

PHOTO PRAVASSA©

PHOTO PRAVASSA©

Vacation is supposed to be a time for relaxation and rejuvenation. We're all for exploring an overcrowded city or a nature spot with no one around for miles, but the key to any vacation is balance. This is why it's so important to us to include free time in every itinerary we plan whether it's for a group or an individual. That's why when we read this latest article in the New York Times, we knew we had to share it with you. 

"Research cited by the Harvard Business Review shows that people derive little to no happiness boost from vacations they perceive as stressful. Jam-packed itineraries and tight connections may look exciting on paper, but they could end up meaning you return no happier than when you left."

Read the full article, written by Arthur C. Brooks, here.

Wellness tourism taking the vacation world by storm

PHOTO©: PRAVASSA IN THAILAND

PHOTO©: PRAVASSA IN THAILAND

In the past, vacations were ways for many to shed responsibilities and relax. That trend, however, seems to be as old as Disney World, as the idea of wellness trips slowly take over the vacation scene.

This week on “Take Care,” print, television, and digital journalist Ismat Sarah Mangla talks about the new traveling trend and what fuels people to be active during their vacations.

Listen to the radio spot

5 Ways to Wellness: Amsterdam

Although perceived by many visitors as an adult playground, Amsterdam is a city with much more to offer than its open-minded lifestyle. Hands down it is one of the best places to wander and get wonderfully lost. 

PHOTO: PAIGE HALLELAND

PHOTO: PAIGE HALLELAND

Stress Reduction

Boating. Relaxing on one of the many waterways is mesmerizing and a moving meditation in its own right. Looking for a romantic way to see this city? Holland International offers a two-hour candlelight tour that takes you through the entire UNESCO Heritage site. Traveling on a tight budget? Do as we did and take advantage of the benches that line canals. Sit to unwind, read a book, or just appreciate nature. The tranquility of water always helps our worries drift away. 

Physical Activity

Cycling. Obviously no trip to Amsterdam is complete without joining the Dutch way of travel. Despite it’s small size, there are 400 km of bike paths within the city. Rent a bike by the hour or a week to tour the city on your own or join in an organized group and get a history lesson. One of our favorites is Mike’s Bike Tours and Rentals because they offer both city and countryside excursions. Conveniently located in the city center, the guides speak to their own passions, which offers a truly genuine experience. 

PHOTO via amsterdamnow

PHOTO via amsterdamnow

Food Education

Restaurant De Kas. If you’re in town from May through October, Restaurant De Kas is a must visit. Guests are welcomed to tour the restaurant’s nursery and garden or attend a workshop in the field to learn more about the growing food. The greenhouse grows the restaurants vegetables, herbs, and edible flowers - giving new meaning to ‘from field to fork’. No menu is printed as the restaurant serves Mediterranean inspired dishes, which change daily based on the harvest. Don’t fret; you’re in great hands with the Chef as the courses just keep arriving. 
 

Spiritual Connection

The Begijnhof. Off-the-beaten-path, this enclosed courtyard dates back to the early 14th century. Home to several interesting religious buildings including Amsterdam’s oldest surviving house, Het Houten Huis, it is known to locals as a serene oasis and peaceful escape from the chaos of the city center. Cut off from Amsterdam’s traffic noise, visitors are asked to respect the courtyard’s silence. Pop in for a few moments to ground yourself and enjoy the stillness in the midst of the vibrant bustling city that is Amsterdam.

StEDjlik Museum | Photo: Paige halleland

StEDjlik Museum | Photo: Paige halleland

Cultural Involvement

Museumnacht. The first Saturday of November, museums and art galleries participate in National Museum Week leaving their doors open until 2 a.m. In addition to the special exhibits, you’ll find music, dancing, eating, and full on revelry. Tickets range from 14 € - 17 € and offers access into over 42 locations. Use the website to plot your path and find out where the after parties are if you are not ready to go home. 

Pravassa’s 5-tenet wellness philosophy is rooted in these core concepts: physical activity, stress reduction, food education, spiritual connection, and cultural involvement. These principles have guided our company’s wellness practices from inception and informed how we create our itineraries. While we don't currently plan trips to Amsterdam, you can clearly see we live our philosophy even on vacation. – Paige Halleland

Solo Travel Tips

IMAGE VIA SHUTTERSTOCK

IMAGE VIA SHUTTERSTOCK

Out the other night with friends, the topic of solo travel came up during dinner. My husband had just returned from a two-week solo adventure to Hawaii and I have been traveling solo for years. A friend commented that, while she has yet to travel solo, she dreams of the day when a solo getaway will offer her some much needed time to clear her head and think about her future.

Actor and author, Andrew McCarthy describes solo travel in his book, The Longest Way Home, as the time when he feels most at home in himself. I couldn't agree more. Solo travel changes you. Being on the road alone, you are forced to confront your true nature. You depend on the kindness of others and step outside of your comfort zone in search of new, fulfilling experiences. It is liberating!

Now that you're ready to pack your bags and head off on your own adventure, here are some tips and tricks that I've learned throughout my years of travel that not only make myself, but my family, more comfortable saying good-bye.

Prearrange accommodations and transportation - My loved ones and I feel more comfortable when I'm able to leave behind an itinerary of where I'll be on which dates. Hotel phone numbers are handy especially if you're traveling to a foreign country or place where your cell phone may not work. Pre-booking a taxi or shuttle for my arrival saves me the stress of trying to figure out what to do upon exiting the terminal especially if I'm jet-lagged and in unfamiliar territory. That being said, there's nothing like going with the flow or taking recommendations from the people you meet while traveling. Therefore, I always make sure my reservations are refundable in case something better pops up.

Plan arrival during daylight hours - As a woman who only speaks English, with a few key foreign phrases, I prefer to arrive at my destination during the day. If I have to wait for my bus or taxi I can at least get my bearings and feel a bit more comfortable as more people are usually around during the day.

Respect the local culture - When it comes to packing, I do my research in advance about what is acceptable attire where I'm traveling. Typically I pack casual and conservative clothing or layers so I can cover up when needed. Since I'm not in the market for unwanted attention, good jewelry and revealing outfits stay in my closet at home.

Make friends at your hotel - Spend some time talking with the concierge or hotel owners if they are around. Not only will you get some great local advice and perhaps a dinner reservation at a hotspot, but also you will develop a relationship that invests someone on the ground in your comings and goings. Often these people will keep a watchful eye out for anything amiss.

Trust your gut - Often times we are so busy in our daily lives at home, we don't listen to our instinctual side, but on the road this is an important guide to your health and safety. If you find yourself in a situation that makes you uncomfortable in a threatening way, then excuse yourself and move on. If it's late at night and walking back to your hotel seems daunting, then grab a taxi. Your body has ways of warning against bad choices, you just need to tune in and listen.

The more you travel solo, the more comfortable you will become with being on the road alone. Like me, you may even come to crave the time away. Solo travel is like exercising a muscle, the more you do it, the better and stronger traveler you become. - Linden Schaffer

This article was written for and originally published on The Huffington Post.

{Well on the Road} Erin Marie Musich

PHOTO VIA THEWORLDWANDERER

PHOTO VIA THEWORLDWANDERER

ERIN MARIE
CREATOR & WRITER OF The World Wanderer

Most recently in: New Orleans & Dublin

The one snack you can always find in my carry-on is: I try to keep my carry-on snacks as healthy as possible so usually I pack a Kind bar, a snack-size bag of popcorn, and a piece of fruit. I also always pick up the biggest bottle of water they have near my gate to keep hydrated on my flight.

Tell us your in-flight rituals: As soon as I get on the plane, I try to get as comfortable as possible. I take out anything I think I’ll need so I’m not constantly reaching for it throughout the flight. I trade my shoes for socks, since my feet are always cold, and use my scarf as a blanket. I’ll usually read for a little while, settle in with one glass of wine, write if I’m feeling inspired, watch a movie or two and then try to sleep for the rest of the plane ride. I also try to moisturize my hands and face throughout the flight so I arrive at my destination looking as rested and refreshed as possible.

How do you conquer jet lag once you've arrived? I used to nap as soon as I got to my destination, but found that it only threw me off more. Now, I drop off my bags wherever I am staying, freshen up, and head out to explore. Even if I didn’t sleep as much as I should have on the plane, I find that just getting right into the day no matter how tired I am actually helps. Then I go to sleep at a normal time that night and usually feel great the next day.

Describe your workout on the road style: I don’t really separate travel from fitness, so I tend to walk everywhere while traveling and find an outdoor activity to get involved in. I try to include a hike in all of my travels or find a bike tour if I’m in a city. If I can’t find the time for that, I’ll practice yoga in my hotel room during any free moment I may have.

How do you keep sickness at bay? I’ve usually been pretty lucky at keeping healthy while traveling. I try to load up on vitamin c, get enough sleep, use hand sanitizer, keep hydrated, and eat vegetables and fruit with every meal.

What's your 'go-to' restaurant item? I try to stick with the cuisine the country is best known for. I’ll try just about anything, so will usually ask locals what to try. If I’m traveling for a long time, I may crave something from home and search for something similar, but for the most part, I try to assimilate into the culture as much as possible.

What do you do to stay grounded? At home, I try to practice yoga and meditate daily, and the same goes for when I’m on the road. It isn’t always possible, though I think I am actually more grounded when traveling. For me, just walking down the streets of a new city or people watching at a cafe are enough to stay in the present moment. It’s usually harder for me to keep grounded while at home, which is why I make time for yoga and meditation.

What is your preferred method of staying connected with loved ones? Facetime and WhatsApp, but my mom always jokes that as long as she sees that I’m posting on social media, she knows all is well. Social media is probably the easiest way to keep in touch with all my friends and family at once, so it’s usually what I use most.

About Erin: Erin now takes her day job lecture skills as an elementary school teacher to the realm of blogging where she leads courses in NYC and soon-to-be around the world. Stay connected with her adventures via FacebookTwitterInstagram and on her own travel blog, The World Wanderer.

{We're Obsessed} Wander Magazine

wander_Cover.jpg

A new publication that celebrates the health and well-being of body, mind and soul? We're in - and we're obsessed! Wander is a just launched digital magazine for all travel related wellness and adventure experiences. From inspiring content that revolves around destination-based adventures, culinary travel, spas and lodges to the best gear and products to take with you, we're in love. Ok, they featured us so we're biassed and thankful. Download your own copy of the premiere issue now.

Florence | Italy

PHOTO PRAVASSA©

PHOTO PRAVASSA©

What is more romantic than a trip to Italy? From the rolling hills of Tuscany to the artistic masterpieces positioned throughout the open-air piazzas of Florence, any experience will have you falling in love. With the birth of the slow food movement and special attention to travelers who are gluten-free, you can find yourself eating your way through every day. As always we find the best way to explore any new city is by putting down the map and getting lost. Check out our latest wellness travel finds in the gallery below. 

Interested in booking a #customWELL itinerary to Italy? Click here

Simple Ways to Eat Clean for Overall Wellness

IMAGE VIA SHUTTERSTOCK

IMAGE VIA SHUTTERSTOCK

Make your calories count, but don’t count your calories.
— Jared Koch, Clean Plates founder

This phrase has been making the rounds lately with nutritionists and dieticians alike. It's a move away from the calorie counting diets of yesteryear, and towards more conscious eating. The theory speaks to consuming "clean" food that doesn't contain artificial flavoring, coloring, sugar substitutes or chemical ingredients.

Dr. Andrew Weil, author Michael Pollan and Chef Alice Waters (all champions of clean eating) have been spreading the message that what you put into your body plays an even bigger role in your overall wellness than you realize.

For example, take meats. If the cuts are not labeled "grass-fed," that means the animals were probably factory-raised and fed a combination of GMO corn, grain, soy and other animal scraps pumped full of hormones to fatten them up for a faster growth cycle. Contrastingly, grass-fed livestock eat exactly what nature intended: high-quality grasses and forage. The meat is also likely to taste better, because the animals roam the pasture, whereas factory-raised meat spends its life in a small cage or overcrowded pen.

The movement toward clean eating has been gaining momentum as more information becomes available about the ways our food is grown, harvested and shipped. The Obamas even brought back the White House garden after 60 years to educate the public about the role food consumption plays in obesity and diabetes.

Don't get me wrong: I'm not saying you have to give up eating cheeseburgers or skip bacon at brunch. What I am saying is that you should be more conscious about where your food comes from. This understanding will help you make smarter choices and your body will thank you.

Here are four ways to ease into a clean-eating lifestyle, starting now:

  • Shop the farmers market whenever possible. Local organic goods are in heavy rotation here. Make it your mission to know your farmer and ask questions -- don't just assume that everything they have for sale is clean food. Ask any questions you have about their farming and growing practices so you can make smart decisions about what to consume.
  • Eat more vegetables. They lower your blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease, help you lose weight and level out your moods... need I say more?
  • Consider the fish entrée first. Before pasta, before meat, you should consider ordering the fish for its healthy omega-3 fatty acids and immunity boosting properties when dining at your favorite restaurant. Just make sure your dish is not fried or grilled -- baked or broiled is preferred!
  • Commit to eating only grass-fed meat. For all the reasons we mentioned above, we're in favor of grass-fed meat. Not sure if it's on the menu? Ask your server! - Linden Schaffer

This article was written for and originally published on The Huffington Post.

Spa del Sol | Aruba

Photo via Spa Del Sol

The beach front Balinese-inspired huts that make up Spa del Sol are located at the water's edge just in front of Manchebo Resort. With sweeping views and a nice breeze you'll be relaxed before you even get onto the massage table. 

With open-air huts and expansive views you won't notice that the massage room itself is actually quite small - not that it matters once you lie down. Our therapist had strong hands and began with a traditional back series before asking us to flip over. The best part of our relaxing massage treatment at Spa del Sol: the stomach massage! With the majority of your digestive system located here, massaging the stomach has such a detoxifying effect and is not often massaged in Western spas unless you make a special request. 

Post treatment skip the steam and jacuzzi and just enjoy a glass of cold water and the private lounge area that looks out over the ocean. If you're ready for this experience in Aruba, remember to make your appointment a day in advance as they need to arrange for a therapist.

 

Cost: $95/50 minute massage                               Location: Eagle Beach | Aruba

 

Click here to request this wellness experience be added to your Aruba customWELL itinerary.

{WE'RE OBSESSED} Hammams

IMAGE VIA

IMAGE VIA

Where you find this wellness ritual: Egypt, Morocco & Turkey: Hammam
Prescribed for: Purification, relaxation, skin exfoliation, socialization

Islamic hammams, those we've come to know as Turkish baths, have their roots in religious purification rituals. A traditional hammam is constructed of three interconnected rooms, a large domed room with glass windows and a central slab of marble with running water, a warm room, and a cool room. Separated into men's and women's quarters, you start with a full body exfoliation, have your hair and body washed in the second room, and end the treatment in the cool room with tea and relaxation. Many spas in the U.S. have opened areas that resemble traditional hammams, but for the real thing, you'll need to book a flight across the pond.