Why do people travel? Some of the most obvious answers to this question include to visit or spend time with friends and family, to discover, learn and immerse yourself in a different culture, to find yourself, for love, wanderlust and adventure or simply for better weather.
One not so obvious reason to pack your bags and go on vacation, is for the sake of relaxation, self-improvement, and wellbeing. This is wellness travel. Unlike normal vacations, where itineraries are packed full of activities – sometimes requiring you to be up as early as 3 or 4 am – health and wellness travel takes things slower.
It is a break that allows you to unwind and reset, both things that can help improve both your mental and physical health. Read on to find out more about wellness travel trends, what to pack for such a vacation and even destinations that would be perfect for this.
What Is The Wellness Travel Trend?
The Global Wellness Institute, defines wellness travel, – also known as wellness tourism -, as travel associated with the pursuit of maintaining or enhancing one’s personal wellbeing (8).
National Geographic further states that this kind of tourism can be a number of things from fitness holidays, adventure travel where you do things or go to places that help improve a sense of wellbeing or life balance, or simply a mind and body retreat for some downtime and meditation (6).
Basically, the wellness travel trend is a type of niche travel where people choose to go around the world with the goal of improving their overall health and well being. Activities done during these wellness trips could be either physical, psychological, or spiritual and in some cases, a combination of two or all three.
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Why Are Wellness Holidays So Popular?
An article published by the Huffington Post in 2013 stated that wellness travel had become so popular then, as many people were looking for a relief and some time away from the daily stress of life and constant connectivity (9).
Now, a decade later, wellness trips are trending again for more or less the same reason. Since 2020 the world has seemed to be in a state of disarray. Almost every new day comes about with something new to worry about. Participating in a wellness travel retreat or adventure is a way to put pause on all this and simply enjoy life.
It is also a good way to take a step back, look at what is going on in your life and try setting actionable plans to not only deal with these things but also improve your life in ways that will not lead you to this same position again.
Aside from helping you rejuvenate and destress, a wellness travel trip could also help you (1)
- Improve dietary habits and nutrition
- Practice self-care
- Tackle and reach fitness goals
- Improve self-esteem
- Increase your appreciation and awareness of nature
What Is The Difference Between Health And Wellness?
What Is The Difference Between Health And Wellness? While health and wellness are very often used interchangeably, they are not the same thing. In an article published in the Canadian Veterinary Journal where the author was trying to determine why the rates of suicide in the veterinarian profession in Canada were increasing, health and wellness are defined as follows (4)
- Health – This is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.
According to this definition, when we say that someone is in ‘good health’, this line shouldn’t be simply limited to the fact that they aren’t unwell/sick. The World Health Organisation good health is determined by one’s social, economic, and physical environments, as well as their individual characteristics and behaviors.
So for one to be in good health, they will:
- Have to be in good health in the medical sense – i.e they are free from disease
- Have good environmental health – i.e, good social status, good economic standing and good physical fitness – and also they should make efforts and intelligent life choices to have and achieve these things.
- Wellness – This is defined as the active process through which people become aware of, and make choices towards a more successful existence.
The article goes further to state that wellness is based on 3 main principles which are:
- A conscious, self-driven and constantly evolving process that aims at helping you achieve your full potential
- A multidimensional and holistic approach that targets to not only change and improve your lifestyle, but also your mental and spiritual well-being, as well as your environment.
- It is a positive and affirming thing
In short, the difference between health and wellbeing is that the former refers to physical, mental, and social well-being, while the latter is the actual state of living a healthy lifestyle. Wellness enhances well-being, which in turn enhances health.
How Do I Start A Wellness Journey?
Sad, but true, we cannot all afford to pack our bags and jet across the world to the most popular wellness travel destinations on a whim. This is a privilege that many of us can only dream of.
This, however, does not mean that you cannot practice wellness at home and in your day to day life – as you hopefully plan the perfect wellness trip for the future. As previously said, wellness is a continuous process. Here are somethings that you can do for now to help kickstart your wellness journey:
Start with a vision/evaluation
The first step in making anything successful is to take a step back, assess where you are and then look at where you are trying to get/what you are trying to achieve.
In this step, take a look at your daily habits, do you like them? Does the person you aim to be have these habits? If not, what do you need to cut out, change or improve upon to eventually become the ideal you?
Doing this helps you set out a clear game plan for what this longterm journey will look for you. We advise getting a wellness planner where you can write both the good and the bad, and have something to refer to anytime to feel like you’re veering off your goals.
You don’t need to get a fancy wellness planner if you don’t want to/can’t afford it at the moment. A simple notebook should do – just have something to write and track things on.
Set reasonable and intentional goals
These goals should be clear, achievable and measurable so you can easily know when you’ve reached them. Some few examples include:
- If you tend to wake up late and would like to be an early riser, instead of writing something ambiguous like ‘wake up early’ write ‘wake up at 6:30 am, 5 days a week for a month’.
- If you want to prioritize physical fitness to lose weight, instead of simply stating ‘lose weight’ write ‘lose xyz pounds or inches in 3 months’.
- If you’d like to keep better boundaries and prioritize your needs more instead of writing something like ‘say no more often’ break it down to something like ‘say no to after work drinks if I feel too tired or overwhelmed or simply don’t want to’. ‘Say no when family members ask me to take on more responsibility than is fair to one person’ ,etc.
When goals are clear, attainable and measurable, they not only seem easier to achieve but they also keep us motivated and disciplined.
Make a wellness plan
This is where you now write down actionable plans to help you reach the goals you’ve set up and become the person you’ve envisioned yourself to be. This is where you break things into smaller bite-sized steps to allow you to paint the bigger picture.
- What would you like to tackle first? For some, mental health could be the biggest obstacle that they are currently facing and would choose to go to therapy first.
For others, their fitness might be an issue that is affecting their mental health and day to day life and would choose to tackle that 1st. Basically, prioritize the most pressing matter to you 1st.
- Find resources to help you achieve the goals – Therapists, gym coaches, life coaches, mentors, accountability partners, friends and family, books and podcasts that center on what you are trying to improve, etc.
- Safety net – There are always obstacles in life in everything we do. Try to imagine what obstacles you may face and write down in the wellness planner what steps you could take to avoid or overcome them
The point of starting a wellness journey is to actually start. Once everything is written down, don’t put the planner away and say you’ll start someday. Take action now and get the show on the road!
What To Do On A Wellness Trip?
The great thing about traveling for wellness is that it’s a niche that is packed with many different activities, meaning that there’s something for everyone. Some wellness tourism examples that you can choose from include:
- Spa retreats – These are the most common types of wellness travel retreats. For the most part, you don’t even need to leave the country for this. If you are looking to relax and get pampered to relieve stress, then this could be the perfect option for you.
- Nature retreats – This encompasses options such as hot spring therapy, ecotourism trips, swimming in natural pools, hiking in the wilderness or lush mountains, etc. The point of nature retreats is to enjoy and be immersed in nature as much as possible
- Fitness retreats – These are for anyone who would like to either start or push their fitness levels further. These can include any fitness activities like yoga, pilates, hiking, running, cycling, etc.
- Meditation retreats – This often goes hand in hand with a fitness retreat such as yoga. This activity often incorporates yoga to daily meditation sessions to help with distressing. People who struggle with chronic pain could also attend a meditation somatic movement retreat to not only help them relax, but to also manage pain levels better
- Culinary Wellness Retreats – For those who love cooking, eating, or even learning about a culture through its food, such a retreat would be perfect. Instead of simply visiting aesthetic cafes and hotels for their food, take the more immersive experience and learn how to make these meals yourself in this new place/country.
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What Should Be In A Wellness Room?
Wellness rooms are often seen in offices and are quiet, private spaces designed to help employees recuperate and escape from the noise and other work-related stressors.
If you are looking to set up such a room for your employees, here are somethings that you should add to the room to make it as relaxing and rejuvenating as possible
- Use calming colors on the walls or as a major part of the decor – Research done on students showed that their stress levels reduced significantly after being exposed to both pink and blue (7).
- Add some plants – Not only do they make any room look inviting and pretty, but the color green has also been shown to evoke feelings of calmness and comfort in people (3).
- Cozy furniture – Couches with soft plush fabrics, recliners, massage chairs, etc.
- Books – Some people enjoy reading in their free time. A shelf with some books could encourage a reading culture in the office.
- Black out tents – The are great for power naps
What Should Be In Your Wellness Travel Pack?
Depending on the kind of trip you are doing, you will very likely need to pack different things to suit your needs. However, here are somethings that everyone should have in their wellness travel kit regardless of whether they are spending time in the jungle or in a luxury hotel spa:
- A pill pack for anyone needing prescribed medication
- Water bottle
- Cozy clothes and comfortable underwear that suits the activities that you will be doing
- Sunscreen and other facial products i.e at least some moisturizer and a cleanser
- Toothbrush and some toothpaste
- A small journal/wellness planner
- Comfortable shoes
What Are The 7 Steps To Wellness?
Also known as the dimensions of wellness, they are sectors of your life that you must look into and balance in order to have a good life and health. They include (5):
- Mental health – Relax more and practice mindfulness
- Physical wellbeing – Make better dietary choices, drink more water and exercise
- Social – Spend time with people who are good to and for you, be open to new experiences and learn how to better balance social and personal time
- Financial – Invest in learning more about financial literacy, budget and learn how to leave within your means.
- Spiritual – What is spirituality to you? To some it’s connecting with nature, believing in a higher being, meditation, etc. whatever it is to you, take time to practice it. Spirituality is said to help give us direction in life.
- Vocational – Do things that will help you excel in your chosen career – learn a new skill, how to better manage your time, try finding some work life balance, set achievable career goals, connect with people in your field, etc.
- Environmental – Make an effort to spend time in nature – and no, your indoor plants don’t count
What Should I Spend My Wellness Budget On?
This largely depends on what your budget is. Some can afford to splurge on an expensive trip while most cannot. Work with what you have. Examples of what to spend on include:
- Fitness equipment or a gym membership/coach
- Health insurance
- Nutritional counseling or catered healthy and portioned-out meals
- Better athletic wear and accessories
- A visit to the dermatologist and skin care products
- Dental, vision or chiropractic care
- Good health supplements
What Is A Wellness List?
They are the 8 mutually interdependent dimensions of your life that you must take charge of to improve your life. These dimensions are physical, intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual, vocational, financial, and environmental (2).
What Is A Wellness Bathroom?
These are bathrooms curated to boost rest and relaxation. They are often curated using warm colors, natural materials, aromatherapy, luxurious decor and a systematic order to help anyone using them feel as relaxed as possible.
What Is A Conscious Traveler?
This is a person who practices mindfulness on their trip. Not only do they make sure to enjoy themselves and accomplish their travel goals, but they have the intention to leave a positive impact on the environment, people and even animals that they come across.
The Bottom Line
Wellness travel is a travel niche where people take trips to help them improve their health, life and general well being. Such trips could encompass anything from fitness, eating and enjoying local culture, to simple meditation and relaxation. They could also be abroad or just locally. Regardless of the place, the goal is to relax and rejuvenate.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Dimensions of the health benefits of wellness tourism: A review (2023, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Dimensions of wellness: Change your habits, change your life (2017, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Foliage colors improve relaxation and emotional status of university students from different countries (2021, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Health and wellness (2015, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Seven Dimensions of Wellness (n.d., students.wlu.ca)
- The rise of wellness travel, from rewilding to yoga and pilgrimages (2023, nationalgeographic.com)
- The Role of Colors in Stress Reduction (2012, researchgate.net)
- WELLNESS TOURISM (n,d. globalwellnessinstitute.org)
- Why Wellness Holidays Are the Hottest Trend in Travel and Where to Go (2013, huffingtonpost.co.uk)