wellness travel

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

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.

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.

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

{We're Obsessed}: India

India | Photo Sheri Giblin for Pravassa©

India | Photo Sheri Giblin for Pravassa©

Brightly colored sarees, children on cell-phones in the streets, fresh country air gliding over vibrant landscapes and through cool stone passageways of palace ruins; this is India. Every time we journey here it’s a wellness experience that brings you up close with thousands of years of cultural traditions and people who make this land so unique. Here’s a look at our most recent adventure.

Pravassa's scouted, vetted and specially curated wellness travel offerings are the hallmark of our company. Ready to fall in love with India? Get started here.

Pravassa Wins Solo Travel Award

SOLO TRAVEL IN CAMBODIA | PRAVASSA©

SOLO TRAVEL IN CAMBODIA | PRAVASSA©

Pravassa wins Specialty Tour Operator in World Nomads Solo Travelers Choice Awards

Since 2009, Solo Traveler’s mission has been to advocate on behalf of solo travelers. The annual Solo Travel Awards, sponsored by World Nomads, showcases companies known to serve solo travelers and excel at serving these travelers by offering tours, cruises, and/or vacation packages with no or very low single supplements. 

We are thrilled to announce that Pravassa has won the 2018 Specialty Tour Operator Award.

For a full list of winners, click here.

Changed by Travel: Linden Schaffer

Image PRAVASSA© - Linden Schaffer (R) and Friends in Italy

Image PRAVASSA© - Linden Schaffer (R) and Friends in Italy

Riding through Paris on a motorcycle. Hitchhiking the German Autobahn unsuccessfully then pitching a tent as the sun lowered across the horizon. Watching Yugoslavia’s summer rays beat down over the glimmering, cliff-side sea.

I first heard of these adventures as a teenager and promptly made my father pull out the slides for proof that he was talking about the same people who raised me. Sure, I’d witnessed remote tribal villages through the pages of National Geographic as a kid – I knew there was more to the world than my small suburban existence. Yet imagining people so close to me exploring the other side of the world simply blew my mind.

At 10-years-old, my uncle gave us a globe. I spent countless hours studying it, wondering what it would be like to live in the Soviet Union, East Germany or any number of places that no longer exist within the borders of an old map. I never imagined a life dedicated to travel, but hoped to explore as many of those places as possible one day.

At sixteen I won a spot to compete in a volleyball tournament in Canberra, Australia. 4 flights and 30 hours later I was on my first international trip with a group of girls I’d never met. We lost the first day of competition, but it didn’t matter because I had made it to the other side of the world.

I still remember five girls huddled for warmth in sleeping bags, waking up to snowfall during what was summer back home; running along the Australian Parliament House’s rooftop garden; coming face-to-face with a guy who had puzzle pieces tattooed all over his face in Sydney’s red light district; feeding eucalyptus to a koala bear in my arms; and exchanging addresses to keep in touch with new friends.

Without social media to fall back on, I remember certain aspects of that trip so clearly because I was present for each moment. Traveling halfway around the world with no connection to home, experiencing new landscapes, animals, and people, and capturing them all with my father’s loaned camera (diligently loaded with film rolls and kept out of sunlight, of course).

Australia lit a fire in me and I vowed then and there that many far-flung adventures were to come. Returning home, it didn’t matter that only one of those film rolls actually produced any photos, because I had discovered it’s the journey that makes the lasting impression. I had discovered, for the first time of many, the feeling of being changed by travel. - Linden Schaffer

 

Want to travel with Linden? As the founder of Pravassa, she's often leading our group wellness vacations. See the latest trips here

AIRE Ancient Baths | NYC

PHOTO VIA AIRE ANCIENT BATHS

PHOTO VIA AIRE ANCIENT BATHS

We have no doubt you that you might recognize this romantic under ground space lit only by candles and the bathing pools from numerous TV shows and movies. With dramatic ceilings and warm toned brick you'll think you time traveled from the streets of NYC to ancient Europe.

AIRE NYC is the first international outpost from the Spanish company. Spanning a 16,000 square feet subterranean level of an 1883 TriBeCa building, the space and decor is a nod to ancient Greek, Roman and Moroccan days where people gathered in thermal baths as part of their social life. The co-ed space requires bathing suits and strange spa slippers to be worn at all times for hygiene, but you quickly forget about this quirk.  

We slipped into an afternoon slot and descended a large glass staircase into the bathing area, which was almost empty due to the time of day. With a jet bath, 102° hot pool, the 98° warm pool, a 57° cold pool, a 50° ice pool, the salt-water bath, and the steam room - to move through as you please - we decided we should just move in. Massages are done in a walled glass space containing about 7 beds separated by curtains. Complementary water and hot tea are available throughout your session and bathers are notified of the end of the 2-hour session with chimes. In our dreamy state we must have missed the call as we overstayed our session, yet no one seemed to notice. 

Cost: $96 starting                                                              LOCATION: TRIBECA | NY