How to "shop" wellness travel: Tips for authentic getaways that do less harm and more good

Going away on “retreats” seems to be all the rage these days, but choosing your next nourishing adventure might not be as fun and easy as it seems...in fact, some “wellness retreats” may leave you feeling less than stellar, especially if you factor in exactly who and how your hard earned money goes towards supporting.

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First things first, allow me to bring up the often controversial topic of “cultural appropriation”:

the adoption or use of the elements of one culture by members of another culture. Cultural appropriation is sometimes portrayed as harmful, framed as cultural misappropriation, and claimed to be a violation of the intellectual property rights of the originating culture. Often unavoidable when multiple cultures come together, cultural appropriation can include using other cultures’ traditions, fashion, symbols, language, and cultural songs without permission” (See more here).

While I personally feel that the mixing of cultures should be encouraged - or at least that we as citizens of the world foster an environment of openness and curiosity around various traditions and rituals in a way that is positive and inviting. This is preferred, rather than being overly fearful of possibly offending someone or some group of individuals. Regardless, cultural appropriation is a particular “topic” to be mindful of when choosing a wellness escape abroad. Likely, you want to travel somewhere far away not only for sunnier weather, but also to immerse yourself in a new culture which you can learn from and ultimately embrace a new sense of self, happiness, and furthermore widen your perspectives. Thus, I believe it’s fair to say that it’s best to experience those new lands with those who know and love it best - locals! Thus, without further ado:

tip #1 is to find a getaway that is actually run and facilitated by someone that is rooted in that particular area, and has meaningful cultural ties to the people and the underlying community, so that you can get to know it in a way that’s authentically relevant.

Think: learning the ways of the land on a meditative plant hike with a local geologist vs. practicing yoga on the beach by a teacher flown in from abroad (simply for the sake of the IG post!).

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Next up, #2 is a slightly more “tangible” tip and that relates to what sort of ecological footprint you’re leaving after taking some time to explore and unwind in a foreign blissful estate! Since feeling guilty should never be an emotion brought up by wellness travel, it’s highly recommended that you opt for an eco-friendly accommodation. Here are a few areas to consider and questions to ask at your place of stay:

  • Water Conservation: Use of mixer taps, intelligent irrigation for the garden, use of biodegradable cleaning and bathroom products

  • Energy Conservation: Use of renewable energy technologies, low consumption light bulbs, maximization of natural lighting and ventilation.

  • Waste Management: Implementation of the 3RV rule: reduce, reuse, recycle and valorisation.

  • Integration with the landscape: Use of local traditional architecture, interior and exterior walls made entirely of natural products, gardens include local or endemic plants, and integration of representative elements of the region’s culture and tradition.

Note that “eco-friendly” certainly doesn’t have to mean second-class living either - there are plenty of ecolodges across the world that are just as “bougie” as they are kind to the environment.

Last but not least - it’s perfectly fitting to list our 3rd and final consideration for your wellness retreat to be: mindfulness!

How is your escape allowing you to escape your “monkey mind” and get back in tune with the real you - mind, body, & spirit?

Having time for meditation, peaceful and restorative leisure, and quality alone time with the only and only - you, is vital to make the most of your experience and the ability to improve your health & wellness well into your future (beyond the one or two weeks you take a pause on your otherwise “reality”). For instance, did you know that just 30 min of “forest bathing” (AKA ‘Shinrin Yoku’) has been shown to decrease cortisol by 25% for up to a month? Imagine what a week away in nature could do for you and your entire next chapter upon your return.

Okay, ready to pack your bags and recharge with just the right amount of restoration alongside authentic exploration and adventure?! We’ve got just the retreat in mind for you! The upcoming Atlas Mountains Retreat of October 2019 set in majestic Morocco might just be the answer to your mindful wellness-travel prayers. For more details and to reserve your spot can be found at one of our AMC Co-Founder’s, Kiki’s website here.


Kiki Athanas