America’s Southwest is filled with vast sprawling landscapes and colorful floral oases that can be mistaken for mirages. New Mexico has an added air of Wild West and Butch Cassidy fused with healers and art galleries that make it unique in its own right.
Full of colorful saris, fragrant spices, and rich cultural heritage, India is magic and one of my favorite destinations of all time. My first visit to Northern India included being welcomed into a family’s home for an extravagant dinner, a privately guided tour of Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur led by a Sanskrit scholar, and sitting in silent meditation in Sarnath, where it is said the Buddha gave his first teachings. But it was in Varanasi on the Ganges, where my hand was grazed by a dead body laid to rest in the holy river, that the cycle of life and how small a role we all play in this world became apparent and provided me with a #changedbytravel experience that will forever be like none other. - Linden Schaffer
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Article was written for and originally appeared on MindBodyGreen.
Almost one year ago on a scouting trip to Vietnam I ended up in a White Thai village on the outskirts of an area called Mai Hich. Walking around the empty streets it was quiet and peaceful – birds singing, laughter in the distance. I asked my guide a question about one of the houses and not knowing the answer he looked around for a local to ask.
At that moment, coming toward us up the road was Minh Chung, a 19-year-old boy. A chance meeting that would change my life and his life forever. After our brief conversation, which happened on November 9, 2016, I could not get Minh Chung out of my head. With thoughts of the U.S. election on my mind and the crazy divisiveness on display for the world to witness, I was moved to send a very personal email to my close family and friends. It read:
I’m writing to you from the jungle of Vietnam. Today I met Minh Chung, a 19-year-old White Thai Villager who is studying English on his own from a journal where he writes down every new word he learns. His hope is to pass his university entrance exam and win a free scholarship to school to study to be a tour guide. This is just one example of the many #changedbytravel experiences I am lucky enough to have every time I travel. It reminds me there is hope and the desire to better ourselves all around the world no matter your current situation.
What this email did not convey was the depths of my compassion and empathy for Minh Chung. I literally called my husband to discuss the possibility of sponsoring Minh Chung and sending him to University. As thoughts of helping him continued to swirl in my head, I struggled to find a sustainable solution that would further Minh Chung’s education without taking him away from his single mother, who desperately needed him around for her care and to contribute to their household.
Last week, Pravassa and our Vietnam group of travelers were lucky enough to return to this White Thai village and meet Minh Chung. What I had decided to do was ask our wellness travelers to bring university to him, by building a library to help him further his studies. Thirteen people from the U.S. (and Costa Rica) traveled thousands of miles with their favorite English language travel novel and shared how important these books were to them. Sitting in Minh Chung’s house being served tea in borrowed cups from the neighbors and sharing our collective knowledge was an indescribable moment. At a loss for words, Minh Chung wouldn’t stop smiling and saying thank-you, telling us how words were failing him at that moment.
He did mange to tell us that often the tourists he meets give him money. And while “I like money, sure. It is a gift like this that is much more meaningful and will help me in my life.” This is the reason I travel. This is how I’ve chosen to use my place and privilege in this lifetime and pay it forward. It is small moments like these that I strive for. These moments connect our souls to each other and the to the world. Many thanks to the Pravassa group and our guide Lena Franklin that helped make this dream come true and truly offered a #changedbytravel experience to Minh Chung. And a big thank you to Madeleine Penfold for the beautiful image that captured a moment of pure joy. – Linden Schaffer
Author & Professional Tree Hugger
Most recently in: Augusta, Georgia (man that sounds so exotic)
The one snack you can always find in my carry on is: Bananas or LaraBars
Tell us your in-flight ritual: When I first get seated, I pull out my journal and use that first 15 minutes do some gratitude reflection. The headphones go on too. I find that I can avoid the tension of boarding an airplane by putting on music that puts me in a happy, peaceful state. Once I'm up in the air, I pull out my laptop and use that time to work on my books, send thank you letters, or just journal more random thoughts. If it's a long flight, I usually always take a nice nap. For my food choices on the plane, I almost never eat what they give out, even if I'm in first class. As a vegan, there is NEVER an option for me, so I just bring my own stuff. The bottom-line for me on planes: plane time is my game time; I've literally written entire books by using airplane time effectively.
How do you conquer jet lag once you've arrived? Immediately upon landing, I chug 20 ounces of water, sometimes with a packet of Amazing Grass added in if I have one. Once at the hotel, I move my body by taking a short walk, a short run, 25 push-ups or if anything that moves me. Moving definitely decreases the effects jet lag.
Describe your workout on the road style: Growing up as a pro cyclist, I love biking. However, on the road it's pretty tough. Up until 2 years ago I was still racing actively, so I'd rent a bike if I were able to. Nowadays I'm more of a runner. The first run in a new city is always really fun for me. I put on music, lace up and head out to explore what's around. I love finding new parks, new restaurants, cool museums and always make the first run just a complete surprise. If the weather is bad, I do a short run on the treadmill, and some weight training. Truth me told though, I hate gyms so I also do push-ups in my room, step-ups on chairs, wall sits etc. Music is always a must for me. My hotel neighbors probably hate me.
How do you keep sickness at bay? Hydration is huge for me. In the morning I do 40 ounces of water or liquid green drink before my coffee. If I feel like my body is just really tired, I do supplement with zinc and vitamin C. Staying away from sugar is key. I meet with hundreds of people each weekend, so washing my hands is huge too. When we sick on the road, I think that we build up a stronger immunity to things, yet I've very, very rarely been sick in 6 years of travel to hundreds of locations.
What's your 'go-to' restaurant item when traveling? Being vegan an awesome salad is great, but veggie burrito is definitely a favorite.
What do you do to stay grounded? I have a pretty specific morning routine, which really grounds me for the entire day: waking up with gratitude journaling, working out, and a short meditation. I also love to take short power naps!
What is your preferred method of staying connected with loved ones? I really like to video chat. It offers a feeling of greater connection versus just texting or talking for a few minutes on the phone. It definitely can be hard. Sending funny messages and laughing even though we are in different places is really great too.
Growing up is hard to do. From the time we get our first homework assignment we’re expected to be masters at time management and stress reduction. Early on my mother decided that once a year, when things became too stressful, her kids could have a mental-health day—the opportunity to call in sick and use the next 24 hours as we saw fit for recovery.
As a teenager, this would mean sleeping in, eating whatever I wanted, and watching as much TV as I could stand. Now, as the founder of Pravassa, I recognize the significance of a day like this, albeit a much healthier version.
As a nation, we consistently average 47-hour workweeks and drink 3.1 cups of coffee a day. 130 million of us are not getting enough sleep, and 26 percent report going to work completely burned out after sleepless nights. Each year, statistics are released that show that Americans do not use all of their allotted vacation time. Some save days only to let them expire come December, while others hope to take big chunks of time off for an extended trip that never materializes because they are too busy to plan it.
Now more than ever, it’s time to pause your busy life and create a wellness retreat day—an occasion dedicated to restoration and recovery that will have significant impact on your well-being. - Linden Schaffer
How To Create A 1-Day Wellness Vacation
Choose your day.
Look at your schedule and find a weekday that works within the next few weeks. Why a weekday? With friends and loved ones committed to their daily routines, a weekday will offer the best opportunity for free time without interruption. Personally I like Wednesdays as it allows me to catch up from the weekend and then totally disrupt my routine, allowing for greater appreciation of change and a more mindful awareness of my self-care.
Research ahead of time.
The last thing you want to do is waste precious hours of your retreat day trying to figure out how to spend it. Instead treat this day as vacation, and do some advanced planning. Make a list of all the places you want to go, including everything from spas to museums, restaurants to yoga studios. Then sit down to commit your schedule to paper, with all the particulars in place.
Set expectations of those around you.
Decide how available or unavailable you want to be, and prepare those around you. Let your coworkers know in advance that you’re taking a vacation day and will be completely unreachable. Set up an auto-away message on your email to drive home the point. If you do not live alone and are working with a larger budget, consider checking into a hotel for the night or even for a few hours during the day (thank you, Day Use).
Gift yourself eight hours.
Setting yourself up for a good night’s sleep will only enhance the effects of your wellness retreat day. By 9 p.m. the night before your big day, shut down all your electronics and rock the sweetest sleep routine you’ve ever seen. Start with a long, hot bath or shower, then make yourself a cup of tea and write down what you’re looking forward to tomorrow while you drink it. Apply some calming essential oils to your feet and as you curl up in bed, mindfully relaxing each part of your body until you drift off to sleep.
Savor your schedule.
Make the most out of your wellness vacation day and wake up with the sunrise. On my retreat days, I gather my belongings and head out before most people are awake. The sound of silence is somewhat of a luxury these days, but by starting out early and leaving your phone at home you remove sensory input, allowing the brain to relax and restrict the release of cortisol, the stress hormone. I’ll spend my first hour outdoors in nature taking in everything around me and writing in my journal. Next I’ll head to a new café, one where no one knows me, and take up residence in a comfy area to mindfully eat my breakfast. Oftentimes I’ll eat all my meals on this retreat day with my headphones in, the cording trailing to nothing in my pocket, in order to dampen the sounds around me. Then without hurrying through the rest of the day I’ll head to the baths or a spa, where I can linger in self-care bliss, take in an exhibit at a museum, enjoy an early dinner in an uncrowded restaurant, and end at a restorative yoga class where I’m being fully supported by props.
Throughout the wellness retreat day, try to use minimal language and keep a smile plastered to your face. By the time your head hits the pillow for the second night of sweet retreat sleep you’ll feel completely refreshed, de-stressed, and ready to head back into real life with a better attitude and a brighter outlook.
Article was written for and originally appeared on MindBodyGreen.
Solo travel is awesome, exhilarating, challenging, character building, lonely, blissful, and everything in between. Solo travel is one of the best gifts you can give yourself as it shows you that you are stronger than you think, that you can be more creative in your approach to problem solving, and is a great confidence builder. And it can teach you more than that. Travel writer Ann Abel, delves into 4 more things that you can only learn from a solo travel adventure.
Read the full article on Well+Good now.
Les Clefs d’Or Concierge and Host/Producer of Ask A Concierge
Most recently in: Berlin, Prague, Paris, Chattanooga, Huntsville, Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, and San Diego (it’s been a busy 4 months)
The one snack you can always find in my carry on is: Almonds! They are a lifesaver when I’m hungry. Plus they go through TSA easily.
Tell us your in-flight ritual: I always get a window seat, don’t put anything under the seat in front of me, keep out my phone and earphones, travel with a scarf, and wear sneakers. As soon as I sit down I buckle up, wrap up, stretch out my legs, and put on some fun music. Very often I end up falling asleep before the plane even takes off.
How do you conquer jet lag once you've arrived? I sleep with the window shades open so I can rise naturally in the morning. Then the first thing I do is get a work out in! Getting in a good sweat immediately settles me into the current time zone.
Describe your workout on the road style: I always pack running shoes, because no matter what, you can always go for a run! I usually work out a little less than when I am at home, but I do try to stay as consistent as possible. I aim to work out for about 30 minutes, and I combine weights and cardio. But I also factor in my daily activities, and if it’s going to be an active day, I might not force a workout. After all, sometimes you have to take full advantage of being in a location that is other than your home… why spend 30 minutes in a gym when you can get active outside or get on with your day!
How do you keep sickness at bay? I eat lots of fruits and veggies! Recently I discovered a Ginger Extract and a Wellness Shot Spray. Both of these are little one-ounce bottles of goodness. I drink some of the ginger extract in a little glass of water and I’ll spray the back of my throat with the Wellness Shot. I let it coat the back of my throat before drinking more water, but those two gems are amazing!
What's your 'go-to' restaurant item when traveling? I love leafy salads, but I’m also a huge fan of burrata. I’m vegetarian, so that normally narrows down the menu a bit. But I can always find something to eat!
What do you do to stay grounded? Funny enough, I try to stay off my phone. Of course much of my job is capturing so many moments on camera, but I’ll often stop and take note. Where I can, I’ll just enjoy the moment, the scenery, the culture, without trying to document it… but take a moment to actually experience it.
What is your preferred method of staying connected with loved ones? I stay in touch with loved ones by texting and sharing photos/ videos of my day. Since I share so much content online, many times they can follow along on my adventures. But I’ll send different or personal messages to my family as we have inside jokes and stories constantly running between us.
Based in Los Angeles when she's not traveling the world, you can follow Sarah's adventures across social media at @AskAConcierge and view her web series at www.askaconcierge.tv
Before launching Pravassa, I had a booming fashion career that required constant business travel. It was during these long stretches of time on the road that I decided to explore during her off-hours. Usually, that meant hitting up a local fitness class, sprinting through the city streets for an early morning running tour, and patronizing local cafes and restaurants for a great, healthy meal. Eventually left I left the fashion world to create Pravassa and I just shared some of my top travel trips with Sporteluxe.
Sit down for a full meal at the airport.
Approach food options mindfully by sitting to have a proper meal. Choose high-value vegetarian options, where it’s easier to stay away from high-sodium, added sugar ingredients, both of which will leave you dehydrated and more bloated on the plane.
Food allergies or intolerances? Research before you hit the road.
If you have a serious allergy or illness, get a Food Allergy Card, which translates your needs into the local language. If your dietary needs are purely a lifestyle choice, then relaxing your guidelines a little while traveling will make for a much more enjoyable experience. If your diet is non-negotiable, use websites like Happy Cow or Gluten Free Travel or book your trip with an experienced travel provider, like Pravassa.
Don’t eat on the plane!
The best wellness travel food hack I’ve learned is to fast on the airplane. The food airlines serve is not healthy. Instead, opt to give your body the opportunity to rest and reset. A Harvard University study concluded that fasting resets your stomach and helps to overcome the effects of jet lag faster.
As an expert traveler, you have to learn to be flexible and exploring a new location helps your body settle into a new routine. There is no better way to see a place than on a morning jog, a hike up a mountain, or on a bicycle.
Dedicate 5-minutes a day to self-care.
My number one, non-negotiable wellness practice? Meditation. You only need 5-minutes and no props. This self-care practice prepares you to handle airport chaos, lost taxi drivers, and language barriers.
Read the full article with more great tips here.