meditating at the W hotel in a bikini

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words: A Staycation Saves the Day

Sometimes the answer to all of your problems is a staycation. What’s a staycation? It’s the vacation where you stay close to home, you don’t have to get on a plane(because who loves TSA lines?!?), and you need to escape your own life for about 48 hours.

One of my most memorable staycations happened when an old boyfriend broke up with me on my birthday. I thought we’d be spending it together poolside, enjoying the warm July weather that washes away the June gloom, signaling that summer is finally here. But instead, it appeared he had made “other plans”. When I hadn’t heard from him a few days prior, I messaged…

“It’s my birthday tomorrow so I thought we’d be spending it together.”

“No, I have other plans.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. You didn’t think we were exclusive, did you?”

OUCH.

Shocked, I don’t even remember how I responded, but I remember sitting in my car sobbing as the gas pump clicked, signaling me to move on – literally and figuratively. With my gas tank full, I picked myself up off the proverbial floor, and drove home stunned. What would I do now with a free weekend, no beau, and no birthday plan in place? I called my best friends to tell them what had happened and they suggested the perfect solace: a staycation.

My staycation proved to be just that – a quick salve for my broken heart. Surrounded by friends, laughs, and my favorite part about L.A. summers – great pool parties! – my short visit to the W Hotel was exactly what I needed. Soaking in the sun, I felt my sadness melting away. This quick getaway was just what I needed!

Slipping away from the bouncy beats at the pool, I wandered away from the crowd. Peeking at me through the bushes was a little figurine meditating in lotus pose. I took this as a serendipitous sign to do the same.

I prostrate in gratitude for all those who made me suffer and helped me to become mature after hard times.

I first heard this mantra when I was at a Buddhist temple in Seoul last year. During an evening recitation of the 108 mantras, this one stayed with me as I reflected on different exes. As much as I suffered at the moment, I learned the lessons I needed to learn from that relationship. No bitterness. No regret. Just resolve.

A friend wandered down the same path, wondering about my whereabouts. “We miss you – come back to the pool!” With the pure love and support of my friends, I knew I’d be okay. This particular birthday was a rebirth of sorts; a painful release of the old, and an uncertain step into the new.

Looking back at this photo, I realize how much I’ve grown since then. Not in spite of my suffering, but because of it. And because of my daily meditation practice that pushes me into a more positive space.

I originally posted this photo on Instagram with the caption: Love is a gift of one’s inner most soul to another so both can be whole. – Buddha. Here’s to a future of fearless gift giving.

To learn more about meditation, click here.

a staycation saves the day at W hotel

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Casa & Mar: A Wellness Hotel in Rio de Janeiro

wellness-hotels-in-rio-de-janeiroA house and the sea. Such a simple concept, and yet that’s what makes it so elusive. What is it about the ocean, about nature, that draws us to ourselves? I had a chance to reflect on this while visiting Rio de Janeiro’s only wellness hotel, Casa & Mar.wellness-hotels-in-rio-de-janeiroCM25Set up on the cliffs outside of a small beach town north of Rio called Maricá, Casa & Mar is the perfect location to explore wellness – in every sense of the word. With sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean from every room, this ideally situated hotel is a natural gateway to healing and health.wellness-hotels-in-rio-de-janeiroSpeaking of healing and health, as I learned from Anna Bjurstam, Vice President at Six Senses Spas, during her presentation at ILTM in Cannes, “Wellness Tourism” is 25% of the global tourism market with a value of over $639 billion dollars. Just this past year showed a 14% increase in wellness travel bookings! As Anna pointed out, “wellness gateways”, a term she uses to define an experience, a person, or even a location, are a person’s first experience with health and wellness, and are often discovered on a vacation or retreat. Maybe I had just entered a wellness gateway here…

 

 

So why are people spending more time seeking wellness vacations? I found my answer at Casa & Mar. From the moment you enter the gates, there is a garden greeting you with fragrant flowers and fauna, including my favorite Brazilian fruit, maracujá! Walking down the path to the reception, I was welcomed by the owner of Casa & Mar, Alex Reznik. Greeting me with a guava smoothie, he told me more about the history of Casa & Mar.CM30“I had been looking for a place to build a health and wellness hotel; I searched all over the world. And I found this beautiful enclave!” Sharing more about his own health history and philosophy on fitness, Alex started my tour with a visit to the hotel’s impressive gym. With every angle overlooking the sea, I knew it would be an easy feat to stay on the treadmill and squeeze in a workout with such an incredible view! As we headed back towards the reception, I couldn’t help but catch a glimpse of the glimmering pool below. I already felt better!CasaMar1What could be better than a dip in this gorgeous pool? Sitting at the pool’s edge and peering out over the vast ocean. In fact, as I gazed out over the natural beauty, I was reminded of one of my favorite quotes by poet Khalil Gibran: “In one drop of water are found all the secrets of all the oceans; in one aspect of You are found all the aspects of existence.”ALEX01-yourshadowOf course, another key element of wellness is taking care of your body, both inside and out. As part of my visit to Casa & Mar, I had an evaluation of my posture by Dr. Alex Kalinin, trained in osteopathy, as well as a private sunrise session with yoga instructor, Julia Glazkova. Painfully reminded of my sedentary lifestyle back home, I knew that sitting for hours in my office chair was definitely not a key to wellness! With a spa menu that includes shiatsu, lymphatic drainage, and sports massages, just to name a few, it was hard to choose. But you must not leave Casa & Mar without trying their Signature Hammam experience. Tailored to fit your physical needs, the hammam experience uses essential oils from Brazil, clay, steam, scrubs, and of course a therapeutic massage to leave you feeling in total bliss!IMG_5441Bliss was just this. A meditative massage with the soundtrack of the sea below. I felt completely transformed! Back in my suite, I sank into my bed feeling both relaxed and rejuvenated. As the gently lapping waves lulled me to a sweet sleep, my freshly massaged limbs melted into the cool sheets, and my mind into a dreamlike state.EEAF1C30-44A5-4944-BB2A-98C776F94A0BIMG_6368IMG_6478CM5How to lure me from my dreamy suite? With the seductive aroma of freshly grilled shrimp and bananas coming from the café below! During my delectable lunch, I learned more about Mr. Reznik’s plans for future wellness-themed events around yoga, healthy cuisine, and homeopathy. Joined by guest chef, Karen Slater, who was visiting Casa & Mar to infuse the menu with some of her unique creations, we all chatted about the evolving trends in travel.CM15CM19CM18Biting into the succulent shrimps, I listened to Karen share some of her ideas for the new menu. Having owned and operated two cafes in New York, with a focus on organic, vegetarian, and vegan food, Karen highlighted the addition of grilled eggplant and sweet potatoes, and what already sounded like my new favorite – pineapple cake!wellness-hotels-in-rio-de-janeiroWith a full belly and a happy heart, Alex and I walked up to his neighboring hotel, Pousada Colonial, where he maintains a garden that fuels much of the hotel menu. Star fruit, aloe vera, papaya, grapes, mint, and so many more glorious finds in that garden! I knew Karen would be thrilled to use these local ingredients in her new menu – I’ll have to sample some of her inventive recipes on my next visit…CM6IMG_6449CM3Back at Casa & Mar, I ventured down to the rocks to get a closer view of this natural landscape that locks in the hotel from all angles. Once there, I was completely transported to another realm. There is nothing like communing with nature. As I listened to the roar of the rhythmic waves, a flood of gratitude rushed over me. Maybe this is why wellness travel is trending. To push people back to the simplicity of nature, away from our electronic lives. To open our hearts to gratitude and wonder. The longer I sat in this sacred space, the further my seaside meditation led me down a reflective path.CM24wellness-hotels-in-rio-de-janeiroCM26CM10As I thought about the name of the hotel, Casa & Mar, I flash-backed to a psychology class where I learned about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. With basic needs of shelter, food, and health met, only then do we move on to fully appreciate and experience love, strength, and self-actualization. Health – the important element that I was reminded of here at Casa & Mar. Reminded through the food, touch, conversations, yoga, nature, and meditation that I experienced during my visit. I felt complete.CM20CM21CM7wellness-hotels-in-rio-de-janeiroBack on the patio of my suite, I remembered a quote from one of the other presenters at ILTM Cannes: “The greatest wealth is health”. As I breathed in the balmy breeze, I knew exactly what that meant. Rich in every sense of the word, I was healthy, happy, and whole. COLINAL_VISTA01

Contact me to book your visit to Rio’s Casa & Mar!

 

 

Credits:

Photography: Bitlab Media

Makeup: Alicia Ramirez

Wardrobe: Lenny Niemeyer & VIX by Paula Hermanny

 

 

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Top 5 Insights at the Travel & Adventure Show

I recently went behind the scenes at the Los Angeles Travel & Adventure show, which is just one stop along the travel show’s ambitious tour throughout the United States. With my press pass, I was able to go behind the scenes and speak to some of the tour operators and country representatives about what makes their travel experience unique, and why travelers should spend their precious vacation time heading to their destinations. Here’s what I learned:

Never judge a book by its cover. Just like the old saying goes, think twice before passing judgement. Especially on a country you’ve never been to! When I spoke with Elsie from Bella Guatemala, I was surprised to learn that this Central American country could be an adventurous “girl’s trip” hot spot. How so? Well, Elsie shared with me that not only can your fellow girlfriends hike inside a volcano, but they can also follow that daring adventure with a spa trip near one of Guatemala’s picturesque lakes – awesome! And since Guatemala is one of the world’s largest producers of jade and silver, your girlfriends can participate in a jewelry making course with local artisans. Sounds fun to me!

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Relaxing at the edge of Lake Atitlán, Guatemala

Wellness is not a trend. Spa retreats and detox destinations made their foray into the travel landscape years ago as “alternative” travel. But if recent trends are any indication, like the $500 billion spent on wellness vacations in past years, wellness travel is here to stay. I had the lucky fortune of interviewing the cofounder and president of Wellness Tourism Association, Anne Dimon, who has been in the wellness travel sector since 2004.

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Wellness at Carillon Miami

“Wellness truly means something different to each of us, but generally it is simply the overall health of the mind, body, and spirit. When a wellness vacation is planned with intention or with a specific objective in mind AND it is the right fit, it can truly be a gift to oneself that keeps on giving,” Anne shared. I was even more thrilled to learn that Anne had helped plan the Wellness Sessions at Virtuoso Travel Week 2016 where I learned about Miami’s Carillon Wellness Resort. I excitedly told her that I had a trip to Carillon planned for April, and she smiled ear to ear when I told her about my very first wellness vacation in Spain many years ago. Stay tuned for more on Carillon…

Explore your own backyard. I’m lucky enough to live in California where there are plenty of escapes within a two hour drive, but I’m ashamed to say I haven’t taken advantage of all that my home state has to offer. And I’m sure that can be said for most of us. A couple of my favorite discoveries at the Travel & Adventure show are right here in my own backyard! After speaking with the team from Visit 29, the gateway to Joshua Tree National Park, I added this stunning natural oasis to my bucket list. Besides being an art colony to artists like Noah Purifoy, Twentynine Palms hosts the Joshua Tree Night Sky Festival – a must see for all of you stargazers out there!

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Noah Purifoy outdoor museum

Another find was Yosemite’s Tenaya Lodge. This luxury resort in the California High Sierra is perfect for family reunions, girls’ getaways, and year round fun – no matter what the season is! At the Travel & Adventure Show, the team shared with me some of their favorite amenities, including a private tour in their shuttle that has no roof so you can see all of the beautiful nature around you. I have to do this soon!

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Tenaya Lodge in Yosemite

Explore the “other” landmarks. Each country or travel destination has its proverbial bucket list landmark. Paris has the Eiffel Tower, Peru has Macchu Picchu, New York has the Statue of Liberty, and so on. But if you want to avoid crowds and have an experience that’s just as authentic and meaningful, sometimes it’s ok to head off the beaten path.

When talking with the team from India Tourism, I was enthralled to learn about all of the other places to see besides the Taj Mahal. On the west coast of India is Maharashtra state, which is home to the historic Ajanta and Ellora caves. These exquisite specimens of architecture are also a glimpse into the country’s faiths of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. And in central India, there’s the magnificent Khajuraho temples, a UNESCO heritage site that dates back to the powerful Chandela rulers. Definitely lots of exploring to do here!

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Khajuraho Temples

Africa is not a country. Well, I knew this already. But I often hear travelers say, “I want to go to Africa”. That’s like someone saying, “I want to visit North America”, and I think we can all agree that a weekend in Newport, Rhode Island is going to be quite different from a weekend in Cabo San Lucas.

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Lochinvar National Park, Zambia

Did you know that Africa is a continent made up of 55 nations. Wow! I admit I didn’t really understand its size and scope as a travel destination until the Travel & Adventure show when I had the chance to talk to representatives from Rwanda, Zambia, Tanzania, and specialty tour operators highlighting a diverse range of experiences. Did you know that Rwanda is the safest country in Africa, and the 9th in the world? And that you can see gorillas, chimps, and other primates in their rainforest habitat?rwanda-chimpanzee-volcanoes

Or maybe birdwatching is more your thing…and if it is, then head south to Zambia where you can visit Lochinvar National Park and see over 400 species of birds. Amazing! There’s always the African country of Tanzania for those travelers who want that unforgettable wildlife safari or an enviable beach vacation on some of the best beaches in the world along the Zanzibar coast. My bucket list is growing…

If after reading this, you’ve added a few new places to your travel bucket list, email me to help you plan your next trip. You won’t be disappointed! I’ll close with a quote from one of my favorite authors, Mark Twain. “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.”

Let me help you plan your next trip!

 

 

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Healthy Habits Go Global

My first solo trip was to a yoga retreat in Spain, back in the summer of 2006. I think I was prompted by Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love, with an emphasis on the “pray” part. Seriously!

But what was most pivotal about this trip was learning how to honor my body, from the inside out. I walked away from the Kaliyoga retreat with a fresh focus on my mental, physical, and spiritual health. Since then, I always travel with these things in mind and do what I can to foster that sense of calm, wellness, and peace wherever I go.

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Poolside yoga at W Beverly Hills, California

Whether or not you practice yoga, one thing that you should always try to integrate into your routine while you travel is some exercise. It’s a great way to both deter and recover from jet lag, as well as give you that natural high! Some tools that I always bring with me, and luckily don’t take up too much space in my carry-on, are my yoga socks and gloves, an exercise band, and a jump rope.

MBGSTaylor Workout Gear

Yoga socks are helpful when you can’t travel with your mat and want to squeeze in some yoga wherever you are. While they’re not critical to performing a meaningful yoga practice, they definitely help grip your palms and feet to slippery floors. If you’re staying in an Airbnb and there’s no fitness center or studio nearby, these are good to have on hand. Luckily, many hotels will deliver mats to your room, but better to travel prepared.

No studio? Don’t let that be an excuse! If I’ve forgotten a yoga sequence, or just want some new inspiration for my routine, I turn to one of my favorite Instagram accounts by Dr. Shauna Harrison, whose videos and photos take you step-by-step through all kinds of moves with some funky beats as background music. Read my interview with this fitness powerhouse here!

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That time I worked out with Dr. Shauna Harrison!!!

I love exercise bands, although I sometimes hate doing the exercises that go with them! They are multi-purpose and you can look online for different routines to get the most out of yours. They’re perfect for resistance moves, and take your leg lifts up a notch! An exercise band can also double as a make-shift strap for those yoga poses that require some serious stretching. Paschimottanasana, anyone?

I’ve traveled solo to many places, and some destinations are more dangerous that others. But don’t let this deter you from getting in some quality cardio! A jump rope is a good thing to carry along if you’re staying in a place where you feel unsafe running at night, but want to squeeze in a good workout. Or if your hotel doesn’t have a fitness center, this is a good way to get your heart rate up at a nearby park or plaza during daylight hours.

MBGSTaylor Nutrition Pack
My nutrition arsenal

Whether you’re traveling for work or heading out on that well-deserved vacation, one thing is for certain – your eating habits will change. There’s usually an increase in alcohol, whether at a client dinner or the trendy nightclub down the way, which ends up taxing your liver. This is one of the worst ways to derail your usually healthy diet and send your system into overload.

Before you even get to your destination, plan ahead and call your airline to change your inflight meal to something healthier. I always opt for the “Low Sodium” meal after learning the hard way that some airlines interpret “Vegetarian” as rice smothered in fattening, sodium-laden sauce.

MBGSTaylor Airport Snacks
Healthy fruit packed in a recycled container – easy!

Another thing to consider is what you’re going to eat while you wait endless hours at the airport if your flight is delayed(highly probable!). While airports are increasingly adding health-conscious options for travelers, plan ahead and eat something either before you leave home or on the way to the airport. One of my favorite pre-flight meals is my green smoothie recipe from Kimberly Snyder that I drink on the way to the airport. I also carry some cut up fruit in an old yogurt container that I can quickly eat and then toss while I’m in that long security line. Apples, bananas, and oranges all make good choices too, and have eco-friendly “wrappers” that can easily be tossed into the trash.

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Tea service at Belmond Iguaçu Falls

Snacks are another key part of staying healthy while you travel. I always have a small arsenal of teabags, nut bars, seaweed chips, granola, and a piece of dark chocolate in case I need to ease any hunger pangs. And don’t forget to pack your vitamins and supplements! Those can be hard to find in some out of the way locales. My mini-medicine cabinet includes magnesium, powdered greens, milk thistle, and elderberry supplements.

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Break open in case of an emergency!

Finally – relax! This means different things to each of us, but do spend some time offline. One of the best things about my aforementioned yoga retreat was that it was before the smartphone era, and so it was easy to “disconnect”. While I’m as guilty as the next person of scrolling through Instagram or reading work emails, it’s critical to your mental health and wellness to take a break every once in a while.

MBGSTaylor Decompress

One of my favorite ways to get in touch with my inner spirit is to write in my journal. Whether it’s reminiscing about my latest adventure or making a list of things that I’m grateful for(flight being on time, a room upgrade, or simply the opportunity to travel), spending time writing down my thoughts is a great way to relax.

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Candle: model’s own, Champagne & Bubbles: courtesy of hotel

Speaking of relaxing – create a mini-spa in your hotel room! I always bring along a eucalyptus-scented candle to freshen up my hotel room, in addition to some bath salts to soothe tired muscles from long overnight flights. And one of my favorite ways to treat myself is to do a calming moisture mask to revive my tired skin. Leave it on while sitting in the bath, or while you’re plotting out your itinerary, and emerge renewed!

MBGSTaylor Travel Spa
Travel-size spa-aaaahhhhh!

If you absolutely MUST look at your phone, at least put on Insight Timer. It’s one of my favorite apps that has endless guided meditations, soothing sounds, and positive affirmations to help you tune in while tuning out.

All of these items won’t take up much space in that precious carry-on luggage real estate. Choose your favorites and enjoy your next travel adventure with a healthy heart, powerful body, and revived soul!

RelaxHotel
Start and end the day with an attitude of gratitude!

Contact me to book your next relaxing & rejuvenating getaway!