Ahhh, the wellness retreat.
Even those of us who’ve never done a downward dog or tried a kale smoothie have dreamed of such an escape. And for years, such travel has been the ultimate excuse for a getaway without the kids. But those days may be coming to an end.
With yoga classes in middle school, mindfulness notes in the newsletter and tips on communing with nature over the school PA system, parents are raising kids who can “om” with the best of ‘em.
According to a 2018 Global Wellness Economy Monitor report, wellness travel is a US$639-billion business growing at a rate that is more than double the growth rate of tourism over all. And with a family-travel industry that is increasingly looking for ways to help parents raise resilient, global citizens, it’s no surprise that family wellness travel options are growing, too.
It’s a trend that Transformational Travel Council (TTC) co-founder Jake Haupert is excited about.
The council, formed in 2016, has been working to foster a more mindful approach to travel among consumers. This year, the TTC, a think tank which doesn’t sell travel outright, will offer people connections to 50 mentors (individuals) and 80 corporate partners who can work directly with interested travellers to create trips that inspire meaningful personal change. Itineraries could see your brood discussing the thought-provoking quote left in your tent at the end of the day at the Galapagos Safari Camp or spending time with a horse-whispering chagra (Ecuadorian cowboy) at Tierra del Volcan in Ecuador.
Haupert, who is a married father of two, is also a co-founder of Explorer X – an adventure travel company based on the TTC principles. The company is launching Explorer NeXt this spring to focus on bringing its introspective trips to families. The objective is to make sure that whether your family is heading out on a game drive at Udawalawe National Park, spending time with a Buddhist monk or hanging at the hotel pool, wellness goals are top of mind.
The first trips – to Sri Lanka – start this summer, and will even be led by a family: Explorer X travel mentor Sarah Burns, her husband and their two kids under the age of 8.
It's a long way to go to reconnect with yourself. Why not just stay home, save your money and hit a family yoga class for an hour?
“It’s the difference between eating sushi here versus eating sushi in Japan,” says Simon Ma, wellness brand manager at G Adventures.
The tour company’s Wellness Travel offerings were a natural progression of their philosophy of cultural connections, he says. Now, kids as young as 12 can join their parent(s) on a slow travel experience that works in aspects of mindfulness, movement and nourishment. That could mean a traditional prayer ceremony at a monastery in Nepal or geothermal baking classes in Iceland.
“In each destination there are local authentic rituals that are specific and unique," to that destination, Ma explains. “So, of course, we can do yoga in any yoga studio in Toronto, but being able to do yoga against the backdrop of the Himalayas, that’s an experience you just can’t get here.”
While I’ve never packed my teens off to a yoga studio, we have experimented with massage treatments, forest bathing and other calming wellness experiences.
And, even when mindfulness wasn’t the goal of the trip, it was often the result. Simply being away from peers or turning off devices has often resulted in some of our most meaningful interactions with each other and our surroundings.
Haupert isn’t surprised.
“This is where global citizenry is born,” he says, “where we move from judgment to empathy; where we move from expectation to engagement. This is where we go from being entertained to being fulfilled.”
Both Explorer X and G Adventures – along with others venturing into family wellness tourism – are careful not to force families into cookie-cutter programs meant for adults. These aren’t 10-day yoga retreats or silence camps: they are simply slower-paced, intention-based experiences that still have a lot of the fun, active elements kids crave. In some instances, a digital detox is encouraged, but not always.
You don’t have to be a spiritual guru to join these trips, Ma says.
“The end goal is to make sure the travellers will feel better at the end of the trip than they did before they left to go on the trip.”
Some wellness getaway options to consider with your family:
Mindfulness on the beach: At the weekly summer Sunset Celebration at the Beach Club at Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina in Charleston, S.C., roasting marshmallows on the sand is followed by making a wish on a shell before throwing it into the ocean. The intention setting exercise is meant to help kids live in the moment. charlestonharborresort.com
Fit Families: Gather your active brood and head to St. Lucia for a program hosted by professional athletes. Wellfit Family programming at the Body Holiday offers specialties in sailing, fitness or adventure with supplementary activities that get you out to see the island as well. thebodyholiday.com
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