Feeding 150,000 people a day

 IMAGE:  EMILY POLAR

About 10 hours north of Delhi in the town of Amritsar you'll find The Golden Temple. As one of the most revered spiritual sites in India, the temple sparkles as it's literally a 24-karat-gold-plated masterpiece. Our own Katie Jehenson had her most recent #changedbytravel experience in this temple and has been sending Pravassa travelers here as part of a wellness pilgrimage. 

Below travel writer Emily Polar capture her experience. 

Located in Amritsar, Punjab, The Golden Temple is one of the most revered spiritual sites of Sikhism, but it’s not only Sikhs who make the pilgrimage here. The temple receives and feeds 50,000 to 100,000 people daily from all religions and walks of life, and during big festivals such as Diwali, the numbers can rise to 150,000 per day. 

There are four entrances, one on each side of the Temple – not to confuse, but to emphasize that it is open to all – and one bridge leading to the Temple that, I later learned, symbolizes what Sikhs believe to be the ultimate goal of human life – to become one with the Divine.

Read Emily's full story here.

To book a customWELL vacation to India and include The Golden Temple in Amritsar, click here

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.

6 Influencers Name Their Favorite Places in the World to Practice Wellness

At Pravassa, we believe that committing to a wellness practice deepens ones travel experience. We asked five incredible wellness travel gurus to share their favorite place around the world to practice wellness. Scroll down to read about their experiences firsthand. 

Interested in planning your own wellness getaway to one of these breathtaking locations? Let us book it for you. We'll handle all the details, so that the only thing on your mind will be timing your sun salutations to sunrise. Don't wait, book now: pravassa.com/customwell
 

Leah Santa Cruz • Bali

My favorite place to practice yoga, meditation, breathwork and qigong is Bali. Here, you're completely immersed with nature, surrounded by lush jungle, exotic animals and natural beauty. I believe we become quite unwell when we lose contact with nature for too long. Most of us that have lived in cities for most (or all) of our lives are in deep need for communion with the elements of nature. We often don't even realize how badly we need this—just being in Bali does something incredibly healing to the mind-body system.

Despite tourism on the island, the Balinese still live, eat, dress and uphold their traditions. It's beautiful and mystifying to witness. Yogis from around the world travel here to practice together with a like-minded community. Surfers and tourists come for the scenery, and others come for the healing. Bali teaches you to slow down, let go, enjoy life and be grateful for what you have—all things that lead to happiness. 

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Kelley Ferro • Thailand

There’s something about Thailand that is very spiritual for me. While traveling throughout the country on my honeymoon, I felt so connected to the Earth, the people and the nature. I was even more in tune with myself. Practicing yoga just as the sun was rising over a lily padded lake at the Four Seasons Chiang Mai was one of those spiritually connect moments.

I thrive from being outdoors, so having this practice at dawn added so much more to the experience. The rhythmic voice from the instructor mixed with the birds ringing in the morning and the breezes sweeping across my face, I felt totally transported and at ease. Wellness is infused not only the resort, but in the landscape of Thailand. There’s this overwhelming appreciation focus on being outdoors and on the energy of the country.

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Jessica Wright • Washington

My favorite place in the world to practice wellness is at The Rolling Huts, a modern camping alternative in Winthrop, Washington. The wellness modality that I practice there is simply unplugging and spending time in nature.

The Rolling Huts a truly special place for me as I go every year with my husband to truly disconnect from the world for three nights. It's one of the few places I've found where nature is untouched in the Cascades National Park and the slow mornings on the patios of the minimalist cabins really grounds me. This time to "just be" has become an annual retreat for us, and it's something I look forward to every spring.

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Sarah Anne Stewart • India

Northern India is one of the most incredible places in the world to practice wellness, particularly at Ananda Spa. This beautiful hidden gem, placed in the Himalayan foothills, is truly a one-of-a-kind wellness spa experience and offers a variety of amenities for their guests. Among one of my favorites is the focus on the healing properties of Ayurveda. Ayurveda is one of the oldest systems of medicine in the world and is based on the belief that health and wellness depend on a balance between the mind, body, and spirit. 

If you are looking to fulfill your personal goals or make a commitment to a big transformation in your life, the Ayurveda experience is magical. Two of my favorite Ayurvedic healing practices include Abhyanga, a traditional synchronized full body massage given by two experienced therapists using Sesame oil, and Pizhichil, a rejuvenating experience during which lukewarm herbal oils anoint the entire body.  Whether it is to heal, cleanse or relax, there are a multitude of amazing experiences at Ananda in northern india.

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Lena Franklin • Vietnam 

My favorite place in the world to practice wellness is in my maternal homeland of Vietnam, and Mindfulness meditation is the practice that I immersed myself in while traveling there. Because most of the country is Buddhist, I like to seek out temples where I can sit, get still and absorb the ancient spiritual energy. Practicing meditation in this part of the world where it originated is transformative on multiple dimensions. The devotion and dedication that the Mahayana Buddhist monks have for walking the path of peace infuses into your cells and you return home renewed. Vietnam is the land of my ancestors who went through centuries of war and struggle. To feel the energetic resilience of the Vietnamese people will ground you into the heart of humanity.

Journeying through Vietnam is a moment-to-moment meditation no matter what you’re doing. Vietnam’s diverse landscape, from the rice paddies of the delta in South Vietnam to the limestone mountains of Ha Long Bay in the North, make it a country of tremendous natural beauty. Pair this beauty with the heart-centric welcoming nature of the Vietnamese people and spiritual depth of their Buddhist culture and you receive the alchemy of transformation through presence. Everywhere you turn in Vietnam, you are greeted by warm smiles and wafting incense billowing out of homes and temples. Your senses will take in the Vietnamese culture, awakening your heart to interconnection and love.

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Trevor Morrow • British Columbia

My favorite place in the world practice wellness is Nimmo Bay in British Columbia. Once a fishing lodge when it opened over 30 years, Nimmo Bay has long since evolved into one of the world’s most exclusive and luxurious wilderness resorts. Accessible only by float plane or helicopter, there is a deep sense of seclusion, peace, and privacy.

In this natural and remote location, you’ll feel a unique harmony with the elements around you—which makes it a magical place to practice mindfulness, reconnect with your body, and emerge feeling renewed. This can be enhanced by Nimmo Bay’s wellness offerings that include a holistic therapist, reiki master, intuitive, and masseuse; the resort even has a floating sauna, which sits on a raft in a secluded bay where you are dropped off and picked up by boat. From outdoor showers to body balancing treatments along with guided meditation, you'll feel at one with nature and be able to focus on your self-care. Oh, and don’t leave without taking a dip in their hot tub, located directly next to a powerful waterfall that flows with cold water from a snowpack at the top of the mountain a few thousand feet above. 

World's Most Relaxing Places

The list is out! CNN's has crowned the World's Most Relaxing Places and we're thrilled to say that we can send you to 6 amazing ones that made the cut.

Let us help to you take relaxation a step further, by planning the entire getaway making the most stressful thing you have to worry about: what to pack!

Don't wait, book now: pravassa.com/customwell
 

Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

 For  Wellness aficionados  ready for a glass of green juice overlooking endless rice fields, a built in yoga community, and local healers.

For Wellness aficionados ready for a glass of green juice overlooking endless rice fields, a built in yoga community, and local healers.

Ise Jingu, Japan

 For  spiritual seekers  in search of tranquil relaxation amidst a series of shinto shrines known as the "soul of japan".

For spiritual seekers in search of tranquil relaxation amidst a series of shinto shrines known as the "soul of japan".

Arenal, Costa Rica

 For  Nature Lovers  ready to explore wildlife, impressive volcanoes, and time just sit in the hot springs or your own private plunge pool.

For Nature Lovers ready to explore wildlife, impressive volcanoes, and time just sit in the hot springs or your own private plunge pool.

Siem Reap, Cambodia

 For  adventurous travelers  seeking a gateway to the ancient world of angkor wat, magical sites, trendy cafes and jungle ruins.

For adventurous travelers seeking a gateway to the ancient world of angkor wat, magical sites, trendy cafes and jungle ruins.

Hoi An, Vietnam

 For  laid-back explorers  ready to slow travel the beguiling riverside, admire exquisite architecture, enjoy traditional boat rides and afternoon bicycle tours.

For laid-back explorers ready to slow travel the beguiling riverside, admire exquisite architecture, enjoy traditional boat rides and afternoon bicycle tours.

Byron Bay, Australia

 For  beach lovers  WHO CRAVE supreme surfing conditions, powder white sand and a relaxed, down to earth vibe. 

For beach lovers WHO CRAVE supreme surfing conditions, powder white sand and a relaxed, down to earth vibe. 

{We're Obsessed}: Costa Rica

 Costa Rica  |  Photo Pravassa©

Costa Rica  |  Photo Pravassa©

So close to the U.S. and with a multitude of direct flights, it’s time to pack a bag and head to Costa Rica. Touch down in paradise in under 6 hours (3 if you’re traveling from Miami or Houston) and you’ll find you can experience 12 different microclimates in one tiny nation. From lush dense tropical rain forests to cool cloudy mountains to pristine untouched beaches, take a look at what has got us so smitten with this sustainable country that operates on 100% renewable energy.

Pravassa's scouted, vetted and specially curated wellness travel offerings are the hallmark of our company. Ready to head to Costa Rica? Get started here.

5 Great Audiobooks for Your Next Summer Adventure

Your bags are packed. Your passport is ready, and you're headed to the airport for your much-anticipated summer adventure. You can't wait to arrive at your destination, but how do you pass the time while you're up in the clouds? We're big fans of audiobooks to keep you entertained and engrossed in a compelling narrative. Plus, plugging in your headphones in can help drown out the noise of the plane or a toddler crying in the next aisle—a win-win. Check out our top five books of the season to listen to during your next travel adventure. 

To inspire some (more) wanderlust: Alone Time by Stephanie Rosenbloom 

Rosenbloom’s wise, passionate book on the pleasures of solo travel explores topics such as dining alone, finding silent spaces, and discovering interests and passions. Warning: This read may have you calling us to plan your next solo adventure as quickly as you can say “bon voyage"! 


To expand your mind, body and soul: Kintsugi Wellness: The Japanese Art of Nourishing Mind, Body and Spirit by Candice Kumai

In the crowded wellness space, blogger Candice Kumai’s new book stands out as she shares her favorite Japanese traditions for cultivating grace and inner strength, dozens of healthy recipes, and practices to reclaim the art of living well. 


To have a good laugh: Caypso by David Sedaris 

Sedaris's new collection of essays is both deeply personal and laugh-out-loud hilarious; using his legendary keen powers of observation, this book is a must-listen for those who want a good chuckle at the banalities and monotony of everyday life.


To impress your book club: Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent

Looking for a novel as gripping as Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl? Look no further than this psychological thriller about a Dublin family whose dark secrets and twisted relationships are suddenly exposed. 


To feel inspired and uplifted: Clock Dance Anne Tyler

Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Anne Tyler takes us through the narrative of her protagonist's life, culminating in her decision to fly across the country to care for a family she’s never met. This impulse decision takes her to unexpected places—and helps to re-write her own story in the process.
 

Still like the feel of a paperback book in your hands? Pick up a copy of Living Well on the Road by Pravassa founder Linden Schaffer for practical tips and knowledge on how to enhance your own personal wellness journey. 

5 Packing Tips for Your Wellness Weekend Getaway

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Vacation doesn’t have to mean that your usual wellness practices go out the window. In fact, infusing your health and fitness regimens into a weekend getaway can actually enhance your travel experience, helping you ground more quickly into your new surroundings. We've rounded up our top five tips to supercharge your wellness weekend getaway, from on-the-go mindfulness techniques to the perfect packing essentials. 

1. Pack a Multi-Use Yoga Mat: Double duty! Add a yoga mat as a non-negotiable on your packing list. This ensures that you get your sun salutations, plank series or jump squats in no matter where in the world you are or what type of workout calls to you. Bonus: It doubles as a picnic blanket or a comfy mat to lay on beachside.

2. Excuse-Proof Your Workout Regiment: Pack a reusable pouch with all your pre and post workout essentials (deodorant, shower gel, body cleansing wipes) to make it impossible for you to skip a day, even while on the road. Sounds like too much work already? Grab a pre-packed kit with compact, portable items like no-rinse body cleansing foam and muscle recovery gel today.

3. Pack Only What You Love to Wear: Have you ever packed multiple outfits or workout ensembles, only to arrive at your destination and feel uninspired by everything in your suitcase? To prevent this issue, pack only what absolutely you love to wear. Even if you end up wearing the same outfit twice, no one has to know. This tip is a super simple game changer that will give you a daily dose of confidence—and save you precious suitcase space. 

4. Replace Your Supplements With a Travel Tonic: Herbal supplements are a must-have in our wellness routine, but packing all of the individual bottles can take up precious space—especially when we're taking a lighter packing approach. For a weekend getaway, opt for a wellness tincture or tonic packed with supportive herbs to add to your H20 on the go. We love this Travel Tonic, complete with ginger root and lemon peel. 

5. Don’t Forget to Namaste: The easiest way to keep wellness alive in your weekend getaway is to incorporate a mindfulness practice, which helps you ground more quickly into your new surroundings. Sound daunting? Set a timer for 5 minutes, sit in an upright position, close your eyes and focus on your breath. If you need a little more support, our swear-by app Welzen will help get you going.

Changed By Travel: Leah Abrahams

 Photo: Elizabeth Hay Photography

Photo: Elizabeth Hay Photography

The summer I turned 18, I had the life-changing opportunity to go live and work in Costa Rica, on a small sustainable farm located near the surfer hub Dominical. My friend’s sister had traveled to this same farm a few summers prior, and I fell in love with her tales of a simpler life: fresh mangos picked off the trees, daily yoga sessions in the garden, and fresh, organic meals every night. The deal looked like this: Travelers were to perform several hours of work each day in exchange for free room and board. Before departing, I knew there would be plenty of farm work involved, but for some reason I pictured this element as somewhat of an afterthought— a supporting plot line to the scenic trip I would be taking. 

The farm was breathtakingly beautiful: Acres upon acres of lush greenery, cascading waterfalls, and tropical wildlife surrounded me at every turn. But shortly upon arrival, I quickly learned just how much manual labor was required in a given day. On day one at the farm—after being roused at 5:30AM by the sound of roosters—I was tasked with making cinnamon from scratch. Using a machete, I was instructed to shave the bark off several trees, and transport it in wheelbarrows up a steep hill. Although stimulating at first, I found that after merely an hour my arms were burning, my skin was sunburned, and I was ravenously hungry. I couldn’t believe that I had six more hours of work ahead of me — all I could think about was a cold shower, a nap, and clean sheets.

Our tasks on the farm ranged from shoveling manure and transporting up to fifty pounds of supplies to chopping down trees and picking fresh peanut plants. For the first few days, exhaustion overtook me and deeply tested my resolve. But by day four of five, I noticed a subtle but major shift: My energy levels were increasing, even though the work was getting more challenging. I wasn’t hitting my mid-day slump anymore, and I was waking up fully energized and clear. This, I realized, was the product of having developed a daily routine: rising with the sun each day and going to bed as soon as it set was putting me more in sync with nature, and giving me a natural energy boost that I hadn't experienced since I was a child. I quickly became hooked on this new feeling I was experiencing: I thought about the days that I needed coffee just to get out of bed in the morning and vowed never to go back to that state.

It has now been 10 years since the summer on the farm, but the importance of cultivating healthy and mindful habits has stuck with me. I learned that the rituals we followed in Costa Rica were similar to those of Ayurveda, a 5000-year-old traditional medicine system from India: Sleeping from the hours of 10pm to 6am for sustained energy, eliminating caffeine, eating a nourishing, mostly plant-based diet, getting sufficient exercise, and learning to take restful breaks. In Costa Rica, a common saying is "Pura Vida" or "pure life" and this is indeed what we cultivated by following some simple yet profound daily practices. 

We worked hard on the farm, and yet when our bodies grew tired, we rested. This taught me the importance of listening to my body, as opposed to pushing through and drowning out its messages with sugar or false energy boosts. Years later when I entered the corporate world, as my co-workers began to reach for energy drinks or coffee when the 3pm slump hit, I knew that the best re-charge was actually to do less, and I would take a brisk walk around the block or spend 10 minutes meditating. I still to this day wake up around 6am without an alarm, and try employ a "lights out" by 10pm rule in my home. The lessons I learned on the farm not only helped me to become #changedbytravel by shifting my perspective, but also taught me how to attain ultimate productivity and focus thanks to the cultivation of a healthy, regimented lifestyle.

Get Grounded in Your New Hood: 5 Mindful Moving Tips

 IMAGE  VIA

IMAGE VIA

I am born and bred New Yorker, but two years ago, I made the decision to pack up my life and move across the country from Brooklyn to San Francisco, motivated by a new job, a rekindling of a romance, and most significantly, by a deep desire for a big adventure. My love for New York City runs deep, but I was longing for a change of scenery, and the glamorized “left coast” felt like the perfect place to make some new memories.

Moving across the country—at least logistically—was far easier than I thought it would be: I packed, sold what couldn’t be transported, booked a one-way ticket, and went. But emotionally, the move tugged on my heart strings as I underestimated how difficult it would be to leave my east coast tribe. Now that it’s been two years I can say confidently that I love my life in California.

Life transitions are never easy, but leaning on my wellness practices helped. These are the top five things I learned, which work not only for a move, but for any major shift we experience in life. 

  • Ditch What You Don’t Love: Only things that you absolutely love should take up space in your life. From the teachings of Marie Kondo: If it doesn't spark joy upon touching it, it isn't worth holding on to. This made my packing extra light (I boarded a plane with two big suitcases!), but unpacking was also a super pleasant experience because I had a true affinity for every single item that I kept.

  • Walking—Do a Lot of It: The best way to see a new city is by strapping on your sneakers and exploring. About a month into my move I challenged myself to take a solo trip to a new part of the city each week. These excursions help me navigate my new home and helped distract me when I would start to feel homesick or overwhelmed.

  • Focus on Present Sensations: I tasked myself to keep my thoughts focused on present sensations. Every time I caught my thoughts spiraling I would encourage my mind to come back to my surroundings and focus on what I was seeing, feeling, smelling, and hearing. This practice kept me focused and mindful while exploring my new 'hood and allowed me to notice all the little details that would have previously eluded me—from the cherry blossoms in Golden Gate Park to the sand dollars on Ocean Beach. This mindfulness practice was extremely beneficial during my move, but it can help you stay grounded no matter the transition.

  • Find Creative Ways to Discover Community: Finding like-minded individuals to spend time with is one of the most effective ways to make a new place start to feel like “home”. I used Meetup to find events related to my passions and met tons of people with similar interests. ConsciousCityGuide is another great resource for events in the health and wellness space—both platforms have enabled me to find my new tribe. 

  • Embrace Free Time: After living a jam-packed life in New York City, I found it jarring and often lonely to have a less than full social calendar. However, once I shifted my mindset to gratitude for all the free time now available, I began to appreciate the freedom to pursue creative passions I had previously been neglecting—from daily journaling to watercolor painting. 

Have you experienced a major transition in life where your wellness practices helped ground you? We'd love to hear about it in the comments below. - Leah Abrahams

Nyepi Balinese New Year: The "Day of Silence"

While many countries ring in the New Year with loud parties, fireworks and celebrations, the island of Bali takes a different approach: 24-hours of complete silence, known as the Nyepi holiday. The holiday starts with the Ogoh-Ogoh parade. For months leading up to Nyepi, young men from each village gather and pull their artistic skills to create monsters, known as Ogoh-Ogoh, from light materials such as wood, bamboo, and paper. As tradition goes, the Ogoh-Ogoh get paraded down the streets after sunset to call out the spirits on the island. After a festive ceremony of music and dancing, the monsters are then burned in an effort to release the ashes of the spirits and to cleanse the island for another year. Once set free, the island falls silent for a day— the airport closes down, Internet is not accessible, and you are not allowed to leave your home or hotel; this is a sacred day of meditation. 

Experiencing Nyepi in 2018 with Pravassa's Journey Into Wellness small group trip.