Changed by Travel: Wanda Bogacka

WANDA BOGACKA IN MONGOLIA

WANDA BOGACKA IN MONGOLIA

When I made a plan to set off for Mongolia, people told me I was crazy. Not because I was traveling to one of the most remote areas of East Asia – a place with no running water or electricity, but because I’m vegan and absolutely hate the cold. A wild, desolate country, their winters are unforgiving and temperatures can drop to -40°C. Hearty local cuisine consists of meat in the winter and meat with dairy in the summer. Yet, I’ve longed to come here.  

Why?

Was it the raw beauty, sublime landscapes, or sense of adventure that called me? Was it seeing the rare, endangered Przewalski (Takhi) horses and wild Bactrian camels? Perhaps it was a combination of all these things. Once I arrived half way around the world, my journey took me to the far eastern border of Mongolia and China. It was here in the Altai Mountains where I met the remaining nomads of the Eurasian Steppe, the Kazakhs, that I would be #changedbytravel.

I spent three weeks with the nomadic people and found their life to be very hard; a life I certainly don’t envy. It felt as if I had traveled back in time to the era of Genghis Khan with the only reminder of the present, or at least a more modern time, being the occasional sighting of a Russian Furgan van, popular in the 60’s and 70’s. Despite the hardships, they are one of the happiest, warmhearted, and hardworking people I’ve ever met.

By Western standards, I’m a minimalist. But the nomads take simple living to a new level. I found this to be very liberating. I would spend my entire day exploring the vast Altai Mountains and sleeping in a traditional ger on the dirt floor. I wore the same clothes day in and day out. Despite no running water and a shared toilet, which was nothing more than a hole in the ground, I didn’t even smell – maybe because it was so cold.

 It was here I experienced true hospitality. Sharing food, tea, and sweets from my personal stash that I brought from home, telling stories, and listening to a father and daughter sing while they played the horsehead fiddle, moved me to tears. At no time was I criticized for being vegan. In fact, many nomads found it to be very good karma and actually respected me for it.   

In Mongolia all the distractions and noise faded away. The time for self-discovery was ripe and showed me that I am stronger than I give myself credit for. No matter how hungry, uncomfortable or exhausted I felt, I never compromised my values. It was here I realized I’m driven by my positive outlook: seeing the brighter side of things even when it’s easier to acknowledge the negative. Instead I express gratitude for the little things in life.

Living with the nomadic people was unforgettable, something that I will always cherish. Their authentic hospitality made me realize what is truly important in life: people, relationships, and nature. Everything else is just a distraction. It is these types of travel experiences, that show you that in discovering new places, it’s also about the journey of connecting with people, having an open heart, asking yourself important questions, and most importantly, expressing gratitude for the simple things, all so that you return #changedbytravel. - Wanda Bogacka

Ask Wanda to plan a wellness travel experience for you now.

Costa Rica: Biodiversity and Wellness Travel In One Glorious Vacation

PRAVASSA IN NOSARA

PRAVASSA IN NOSARA

Costa Rica is a dream destination for the intrepid traveler. The country’s unique ecosystem supports unlimited outdoor adventures, world-class surfing, teeming wildlife, and ocean-to-table dining. Add to all this a government-led sustainability program, harvesting 98% of its energy from renewable sources. With its year-round tropical climate and proximity to the U.S., Costa Rica’s nature-filled paradise is vacation heaven, offering something for everyone.

Situated in Central America bordered by Nicaragua (north), Panama (south), and the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, Costa Rica contains mountainous terrain, volcanic peaks, fertile valleys, dense jungle, and wild-rugged beaches. Fly into the centrally located capital of San Jose, or into Liberia, the northern airport situated near the country’s most popular beaches, to begin your adventure.

Once you land it’s time for a drive; through rugged mountain terrain and over dirt roads winding their way through rainforests and small towns. From Liberia, experience the mountainous areas of Arenal Volcano and the Monteverde Cloud Forest, which offer active holiday sports such as jungle hikes, mountain biking, zip-lining, and windsurfing on the lake. Head west to the Nicoya Peninsula, one of the world’s five Blue Zones, where people statistically live the longest and healthiest lives. There you’ll find the beach towns of Malpais and Santa Teresa, which attract people looking to unplug and chill out as well as Nosara, the trendier upscale beach town dotted with high-end boutique hotels and smoothie bars.

Further north along the coastline sits Playa Hermosa and Tamarindo, famous beach destinations offering high-end hotels and luxury golf resorts. This area plays host to the country’s largest foreign population, many of whom have chosen to retire to Costa Rica’s beaches. 

PRAVASSA AT THE RETREAT

PRAVASSA AT THE RETREAT

Land in the capital of San Jose and discover historic neighborhoods, contemporary art galleries, and a burgeoning contemporary food scene, all situated on narrow, traffic-filled streets. The area just outside the city limits is home to numerous fincas (farmhouses), coffee plantations, and wellness resorts that offer incredible views, both of the city and vast swaths of nature. 

Continuing south through the central valley and the Central Pacific Coast, you’ll pass through the rolling green hills of the agricultural region before reaching the coastline. Jacó, a backpacker beach town, and Manuel Antonio, one of the country’s most famous national parks (known for its wildlife spotting, including the elusive sloth), lead to Uvita, a highland sanctuary offering a whale’s-tail shaped coastline, virtually uninhabited beaches, and new luxury boutique hotels.

Further south along the Pan American Highway you’ll encounter the southernmost part of the country. Most of this area is uninhabited, being that protected land forms Corcovado national park. The country’s most famous luxury eco-lodges can be found in the Osa Peninsula, where people come for a glimpse of the country’s big cats, scarlet macaws, and the endangered giant anteater.

The Caribbean coast (lesser-traveled terrain, as some is only accessible by boat or small plane) plays host to banana plantations and Afro-Caribbean cuisine. No matter where you send your travelers, Costa Rica will excite them with its adventure and thrill them with its rich biodiversity.

Want to mindfully explore Costa Rica with Pravassa? Choose how you spend your vacation with us:

ONDEMAND ITINERARIES  |  CUSTOMWELL TRAVEL  |  SMALL GROUP TRIPS

Take Flight with your Wellness

At Pravassa we spend so much time in the air scouting new travel destinations and vetting our wellness itineraries that we’ve created check-lists and pre-travel programs to keep us healthy in flight – no dehydration here!

This year, 5 airlines announced they were stepping up their game and offering wellness-inflight so that no matter how many miles you accumulate, you’ll feel taken care of while doing it. Here’s the low-down from the Robb Report.

PHOTO VIA  VIRGIN AIRLINE

PHOTO VIA VIRGIN AIRLINE

Virgin Australia

Virgin Australia has partnered with Australian mindful meditation company Smiling Mind to create programming targeted to anxious fliers. The initiative features a series of calming guided meditations and deep-breathing exercise videos in the in-flight entertainment system. Up next the carrier plans to introduce additional support, both before and during the flight, for passengers who identify themselves as nervous fliers.

Turkish Airlines

The new “Fly Good, Feel Good” program is rolling out in stages and features expert tips for healthy travel—before, during and after a flight—via short expert-led videos available on the airline’s web site, social media accounts, and in-flight entertainment systems. Covered topics include handy exercises for dealing with air pressure changes or dehydration. Healthy herbal teas blended to combat indigestion, fatigue, and stress, will be served on board, as will flavorful meals crafted by the airline’s famous, toque-wearing on-board chefs, who never use any frozen ingredients.

Air France

Long-haul passengers in all cabins can call up a series of original guided mindfulness programs on their seatback screens, which includes six options for adults—with exercises focusing on topics such as “achieving inner calm and peace” and “mindful travel”—and six designed for kids using characters from a children’s book.

Singapore Airlines

Designed by a team of experts from Canyon Ranch in areas including integrative medicine, exercise,  and nutrition, the new initiative focuses on wellness cuisine (with chef- and nutritionist-created menus centered on nourishment and hydration), rest and relaxation (via specially-designed lighting and passenger sleep tips), and movement (with guided stretching videos, led by Canyon Ranch exercise physiologists.)

Cathay Pacific

The new inflight “Travel Well with Yoga” inflight program, developed in partnership with the Pure Yoga chain of studios is a series of six custom videos (available on demand in the seatback), Pure Yoga instructors show guests how to get comfy and stay centered before, during and after a flight with targeted yoga and meditation techniques. The exercises focus on issues like joint mobility, circulation and mental relaxation, with some suitable for an airplane seat, and others better performed in your hotel suite.

Enjoy the complete article on Robb Report here.

{We're Obsessed} Sri Lanka

SRI LANKA | PHOTO PRAVASSA©

SRI LANKA | PHOTO PRAVASSA©

A pearl-shaped gem in the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka (once known as Ceylon) is a tropical destination that’s still largely untouched by mass tourism. Start exploring high in the tea plantations, head out on a hike to commune with nature in the jungle, then grab a surf board and catch a wave. The island boasts the largest concentration of Buddhist faith, which means there are temples and caves to sit in and meditate along any route you choose. With a long-standing history of holistic living, Sri Lanka will entice even the savviest wellness traveler. 

Pravassa's scouted, vetted and specially curated wellness travel offerings are the hallmark of our company. Ready to fall in love with Sri Lanka? Get started here with a custom trip or join our upcoming small group.

Lena Franklin: Mindfulness Guru & Pravassa Guide

LENA FRANKLIN IN VIETNAM WITH PRAVASSA | PHOTO MADELINE PENFOLD

LENA FRANKLIN IN VIETNAM WITH PRAVASSA | PHOTO MADELINE PENFOLD

We love traveling the world with wellness guru's from all walks of life. Years ago we connected with Lena Franklin via Instagram - proof that technology can be used for good - and we've been following her own transformation ever since. Lena's latest interview in Where Traveler gives you a deeper look into her own journey.

How did you get interested in meditation?

It’s been a journey for sure. I’ve always known I wanted to be a therapist. I’m a psychotherapist by training, and come from a [family of] mental health professionals. My dad is a psychologist, I have two aunts who are social workers, so it was definitely all in the family.

While I was in University my mom suddenly passed away, and she was really the one who taught me meditation and mindfulness. Once I experienced this loss, I really realized there is something more we can utilize for our own healing. Something beyond the traditional therapy hour, and that’s when I really started delving into yoga, finding my meditation practice and then I went on to do different trainings in mindfulness meditation.

It was through my own experience that I felt how powerful it was, because it is really this way to be with all of our emotions, the ebb and flow of life, without breaking. The capacity to be aware, to honor our emotional systems and to be compassionate towards the self, all of those elements fit in, and there’s something really amazing here. I started my psychotherapy practice— a mindfulness-based practice where people come in and I do therapy and meditation instruction. That cascaded into doing retreats and mindfulness trainings and corporate trainings and talking more about mindfulness with companies and different organizations.

For those who haven’t practiced meditation, or perhaps busy travelers on the go, where do recommend they start?

I would say mindful belly breathing. Our belly area is where we feel grounded and where our intuition exists, and the energy there is usually very depleted when we are stressed, anxious or depressed. Most of us are under that category in some way. If we can wake up and do 5-10 minutes of belly breathing using an affirmative mantra—for example, inhaling, ‘I am’ and exhaling ‘at peace’ into the belly—and letting go of the tension there, just a few minutes of that practice can be transformational.

 

Want to join Lena's next trip with Pravassa?
We head to Sri Lanka in October

 

3 Ways to Mindfully Explore Bali

When it comes to travel, the universal thread that connects all our journeys is the desire to get away. Whether that means lying on a beach, heading into the woods surrounded by the quiet force of nature or getting lost in the music of a pulsing nightclub, the goal is to disrupt our daily routine, destress, and feel free. Add Mindfulness to your trip and receive the added bonus of being fully present, multiplying the restorative effects of your vacation. Bali is one of our favorite travel destinations where Mindfulness is effortless. 

WATCH THE SUNSET

IMAGE: PRAVASSA©

IMAGE: PRAVASSA©

We’ve written a lot about how to reduce jet lag when traveling, but watching the sunset does more than just help sync your circadian rhythm. It ties you to the land you are visiting. “In Indonesia the sunsets are magical. Every night you can see a dance of different colors as the sun dips behind the horizon with a view of mountains, palm trees, or beach in front of you,” says our founder and frequent Bali traveler, Linden Schaffer. It can take as few as 5-minutes to watch the sunset, which is a grounding activity and visual meditation of it’s own.  

TRY NEW FOODS

IMAGE: PRAVASSA©

IMAGE: PRAVASSA©

The beauty of visiting a new location is the exposure to people, traditions and foods, which are different than what you’re used to at home. Bali is a haven for gluten-free, vegan travelers as many traditional healing recipes are plant-based. On our most recent Bali trip, lead by Dr. Andrea Paige, she reminded us “Eating something inflammatory can have an effect in your body for up to 5-days. So eating simply is key.” With gorgeous scenery all around and fresh fruits and vegetables in abundance, sitting for a mindful meal in Bali is easy to do.

TAKE COUNCIL FROM A BALIAN

IMAGE: PRAVASSA©

IMAGE: PRAVASSA©

Traditional healers are a way of life in Bali. Locals visit their village Balian or healer for a variety of reasons ranging from medical to mystical advice. According to the Balinese, each healer has been chosen by an otherworldly power to act as a vessel for healing and transformation. Whether you believe in this linage or not, it promises to be “A truly meaningful experience,” said Nikki Sigal of her recent Balian visit during Pravassa a trip.


Want to mindfully explore Bali with Pravassa? Choose how you spend your vacation with us:

OnDemand Itineraries  |  customWELL Travel  |  Small Group Trips

 

Destinations To Watch In 2019

World Travel Magazine just named the top destinations to watch in 2019. Did yours make the cut?

sri lanka

PHOTO: PRAVASSA©

PHOTO: PRAVASSA©

Sri Lanka offers a paradise that surfers talk about as the Bali of thirty years ago, while tea lovers oh and ah about the Ceylon tea and beach bummers, well, bum on the tropical beaches. Sri Lanka offers a cave monastery, the Golden Temple of Dambulla, the old city of Galle comes with a dollop of picturesque colonial charm, and Yala National Park should be on the itinerary for nature lovers because of the many opportunities to spot animals like leopards and elephants. High season is December-March in the western and southern coasts, April-September is best for the eastern and northern part of the country.

Click to request your customWELL Sri Lanka vacation.

Indonesia

PHOTO: PRAVASSA©

PHOTO: PRAVASSA©

Indonesia is made up of islands set against the backdrop of turquoise oceans and full of a long list of underrated natural attractions. Meet the Komodo dragons who inhabit the islands of Komodo, Rinca, Flores, Gili Motang and Padar, sip Sumatra coffee in Sumatra, while visiting the orangutans in Bukit Lawang, dive the Coral Triangle, which offers 2,000 species of fish and underwater beauty. Java is the island where visitors will find the world’s largest Buddhist temple, Borobudur and of course Bali is a wellness paradise. Indonesia is an all year-all weather destination and ideal for short breaks to month long retreats.

Click to request your customWELL Indonesia vacation.

colombia

PHOTO: PRAVASSA©

PHOTO: PRAVASSA©

From treasure hunting, to trekking through the rainforest, Colombia offers a lot of exceptional experiences. Nature lovers can bike around the coffee country and stop to drink fresh cups at different coffee farms or choose a hard-core trek to the Lost City in Santa Marta, which goes through the rainforest and takes three to seven days. More of a city person? The walled city centre of Cartagena, with its Spanish Colonial architecture is an excellent place to sit and watch the sunset, while the capital of Botogá, nestled high up in the Andes Mountains, offers old-fashioned, open-air markets and trendy neighborhoods. December to February is warm and dry everywhere, while April-September is best for the eastern and northern part of the country.

Click to request your customWELL Colombia vacation.

Northern Italy

PHOTO: PRAVASSA©

PHOTO: PRAVASSA©

Visiting Tuscany calls for a cooking class where you can make pasta, tomato soup, biscotti and pizza the way it was meant to be. Piedmont is the home of truffles and the slow-food movement where you can sit back and enjoy the fresh ingredients. Old world charm, can be found in Venice along the canals and piazzas, Lake Como, and even a visit to Verona, the famed city of Romeo and Juliet. The best time to visit is April-June and September-October, due to the mild climate.

Click to request your customWELL Northern Italy vacation.

read the full World Travel Magazine article here.

Travel: A portal into presence

PHOTO: SHERI GIBLIN | PRAVASSA©

PHOTO: SHERI GIBLIN | PRAVASSA©

Initially, we travel to escape, but ultimately, travel allows us to re-enter our lives. We travel to widen the lens of our worldview, to gain an embodied experience of how time has impacted the way of life for those outside of the neighborhood in which we live. Time is a curious thing. Moment-to-moment it’s passing, but yet, our hurried lives keep us in constricted mind states outside of the present moment. Personally, travel gets me out of the microcosm of my life – clearing blocked channels clouding my heart and getting beneath the film of stress where compassion flows freely. As I check all of my certainties about life at plane door, what I am sure about is that I’ll return from my journey with a deeper sense of belonging to the world we share. - Lena Franklin

Travel with Lena on one of Pravassa’s upcoming Wellness Vacations

Pravassa's Must Travel 2019

Inspired by Travel & Leisure’s Best Places to Travel in 2019, our own wellness travel team weighs in on what’s not to miss from this list and why we should be booking your wellness vacation here STAT!


Hoi An, Vietnam

IMAGE VIA  LIVING NOMADS

IMAGE VIA LIVING NOMADS

As I plan for my honeymoon this year I have my eye on Hoi An, an atmospheric port city in Vietnam. Home to many incredible boutique hotels, you can can find a blend of old and new whether you choose to stay in town or on the incredible picturesque beaches. - Leah Abrahams, Special Events

South Island, New Zealand

Queens_milfordsound.jpg

Where do I begin with New Zealand? From learning about Maori culture to adrenaline pumping adventure - you can do it all here! My dream trip includes hiking a glacier and flying over the breathtaking Milford Sound. Last, but not least, riding the TranzAlpine train across the plains of Canterbury and horseback riding in Glenorchy where you can take in the stunning scenery from Lord of the Rings. - Katie Jehenson, Wellness Travel Manager

Guanacaste Province, Costa Rica

SURING IN NOSARA | PRAVASSA©

SURING IN NOSARA | PRAVASSA©

“I don’t get an opportunity to vacation often, so when I do, I look for places that have a bit of everything to really maximize my experience. Guanacaste, Costa Rica is on my personal “must-see” list thanks to its perfect balance of relaxation and adventure all wrapped up in a beautiful, biodiverse environment.” - Chrystal Hunsberger, Graphic Designer


Matera, Italy

“A day spent wandering Matera, Italy’s limestone Sassi structures? Yes please, followed up with a food forage in the caves of Murgia National Park. Over my gourmet cave meal, I’ll toast to 2019 with local rosé.” - Ruth Beach, marketing and copywriting

Northern Territory, Australia

IMAGE VIA  BORED PANDA

IMAGE VIA BORED PANDA

“Visiting Ayres Rock or Uluru, a sandstone monolith in the center of the country with ancestral ties to Mother Earth, has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember. A visit in 2019 will be extra special as artist Bruce Munro has created an epic light installation that spans seven football fields.” - Linden Schaffer, Founder and CEO