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Breaking down the myth of ‘Wellness Travel’

written by James Shackell January 6, 2020
A woman on a boat in Turkey.

Who knew there was so much money in wellness?

According to the Global Wellness Institute (an international body dedicated to making sure you eat your greens), so-called ‘wellness travel’ has grown into a $639 billion market (the total wellness industry is currently sitting somewhere around $4.2 trillion). There have never been so many people travelling to get healthy. And canny destinations are already jumping on the trend, pushing their wholemeal, organic wellness credentials – you can now join ‘death meditation retreats’ in Thailand, try nature immersion in Greece, visit mindfulness resorts in Austin, and sign up for sleep therapy in Switzerland.

But you don’t have to sit upside down in silence for 14 days to experience wellness travel. Dedicated wellness retreats and detox ‘boot camps’ are really just the tip of the chakra. There’s a whole world of wellness travel out there – literally.

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT INTREPID’S RANGE OF WELLNESS ADVENTURES HERE

Wellness and overtourism

Two hikers looking at mountains in Nepal.

Photo by Matt Cherubino.

One of the benefits of wellness travel, besides the potential for a rippling six-pack, is its potential to alleviate the effects of overtourism. The Global Wellness Economy Monitor pointed out that wellness travel – by its very nature – is all about getting away from the crowds, and the trend is driving more travellers into rural, underdeveloped areas, like Italy’s beautiful South Tyrol region, or the mountains of Slovenia (which have been running a “small is beautiful” wellness mantra for years).

The Global Wellness Economy Monitor also found something else: ‘wellness travellers’ aren’t exactly the green smoothie-drinking, active-wearing, yoga goddesses you might expect. The report revealed that “the bulk of wellness travel is done by secondary wellness travellers, who account for 89 percent of wellness tourism trips.” This market is broadly defined as “people interested in maintaining a wellness lifestyle on the road.”

RELATED: WHAT TO EXPECT ON A WELLNESS ADVENTURE IN INDIA

How to travel well

A group of travellers at a ceremony in Bali

Photo by Damien Raggatt.

The beauty of ‘maintaining a healthy lifestyle on the road’ is that it can mean pretty much whatever you want it to mean. Wellness is in the eye of the beholder.

So how can you incorporate wellness into your travels without, you know, living in a Tibetan monastery or doing sun salutations every morning? Easy. When travel is sustainable and authentic and interesting, wellness is almost part of the package. It’s a symptom of good trip design. Just look for itineraries that include some remote travel, relaxation time and natural exploration – or a combination of all three.

RELATED: WHY TURKEY IS THE HOTTEST DESTINATION FOR WELLNESS TRAVEL

Wellness on the road

A group of travellers swimming in a lake in Mongolia

Photo by Mark Daffey.

Here are a few trip ideas to get you started. They don’t require prior yoga experience, religious enlightenment, or even the ability to touch your ankles. This is wellness for everybody, the way nature intended.

Float in the Dead Sea

Our Jordan itineraries all include a visit to the Dead Sea – a salt lake between Jordan and Israel. The water here is so salty that you can float on your back, eyes closed, bobbing on the surface of the water. Dead Sea Salt is also great for your skin; it’s packed with magnesium, sodium and potassium, and has been proven to help with acne, eczema and psoriasis.

CHECK OUT OUR FULL RANGE OF ADVENTURES TO THE DEAD SEA HERE

Cycle around Croatia

Wellness doesn’t necessarily mean standing still (just ask your average gym instructor). If you’re looking for wellness travel with a bit more sweat, quad-burning exercise and fresh oranges, try cycling along Croatia’s beautiful Dalmatian coast. You can work out against the perfect coastal backdrop, then reward yourself with Dalmatian olives, endless seafood and afternoons spent lazing by the beach.

WHEEL AROUND THE WORLD ON A SMALL GROUP CYCLING ADVENTURE WITH INTREPID. CHECK OUT THE FULL RANGE HERE. 

Practise your yoga in Bali  

Indonesia (and particularly Bali) have been doing wellness travel long before it was cool. But you don’t need to sign up for a 10-day silence retreat to enjoy some Balinese spirituality. Our Spirit of Bali and Nusa Lembongan trip includes lots of free time for yoga, meditation, afternoon beach naps, and even a special water purification ceremony (at the legendary Tirta Sudamala temple).

BEND AND STRETCH AT A YOGA SESSION ON ONE OF THESE ADVENTURES THROUGH INDONESIA NOW

Take a bath in a Moroccan hammam

A swimming pool in Morocco

Photo by Ryan Bolton.

Morocco probably isn’t known as an international wellness destination, which is odd, because public baths (hammams) have been part of the local culture here for centuries. As Islam spread through the country, bathing took on a more spiritual tone, and these days hammams are used for quiet reflection, deep relaxation, and purifying your body before prayer. You can visit several on our Morocco Uncovered trip.

SOAK UP THE SERENITY OF A MOROCCAN HAMMAM ON ONE OF THESE SMALL GROUP ADVENTURES

Join a tai chi class in China

You’ve probably seen them at dawn in Shanghai: groups of people bending and moving very slowly in perfect sync. Average level of spiritual wisdom: very high. A lot of visitors to China don’t realise that it’s easy to join a morning tai chi class. You don’t have to a be a master (or even vaguely competent). It’s more about giving it a go. Our China: Hike, Bike, Kayak & Kung Fu includes some time for tai chi in Yangshuo.

TRY YOUR HAND AT TAI CHI ON ONE OF THESE INTREPID ADVENTURES THROUGH CHINA

If you want to learn more about wellness travel, we’ve pulled together some of our favourite itineraries over here. But you don’t have to limit yourself. All travel is wellness travel, in a way. Anything that gives you space, time, perspective and excitement is going to feel good – a little adrenaline shot for the spirit.

So leave the goji berries at home. Pack the yoga mat, if you want to. It doesn’t really matter. Wellness and travel are exactly the same: they both depend more on the traveller than the destination.

Wellness travel is about so much more than acai bowls and downward dogs. Explore our full range of Wellness Adventures here

Feature photo by Liam Neal. 

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