sitting on bench in outdoor area with trees at Healience resort

Back to the Source: A Wellness Tour in South Korea

hills on lake in SeoulI’ve only recently begun to understand the power of my words, manifestation, and how to define my future with clear intention. In early October 2019, I stood up from my desk after a frustrating call with client and huffed, “I need a week in South Korea”. To my surprise, within a week I was contacted by the Korean Tourism office about a possible campaign highlighting their wellness properties. Yes, yes, yes!art park in SeoulHow could one say no to a week of wellness activities in a country that I fell in love with only a year before? But this trip would be quite different from my visit to Seoul in 2018. No fashion week runways, no tasting menu accompanied by wine pairings from South Korea’s best sommelier, no dancing until dawn. In fact, I’d be waking up with the dawn to enjoy wellness experiences like nature hikes, spa treatments, and meditation exercises meant to cure anything that ailed you.forest walk along small creekWhile en route to my wellness tour in South Korea, I thought back to a presentation that I had heard over a year ago on the other side of the world. At ILTM in Cannes, Anna Bjurstam, founding member of Global Wellness Summit, discussed wellness travel, its growth, and offered a name for that transformative thing that can happen while on a wellness tour. This transformative thing, which Anna termed a “wellness gateway”, typically occurs while we’re on a relaxing vacation, health retreat, or nature excursion far from the demands of our daily lives.

My wellness gateway in South Korea began at Vista WalkerHill, a luxury hotel nestled in the Achasan mountains just outside the bustling city center of Seoul. With panoramic views of the Han River, I enjoyed an invigorating foot spa, some much-needed laps after a long flight, a couple of vigorous hikes to the hills nearby, and my favorite – a private soak in a cypress hot tub under the light of a full moon. Time to define my future with clear intention!front window of Vista Walkerhillfoot spa with bubbles on deck at Vista Walkerhillfront façade of hotelsitting on edge of indoor pool at Vista WalkerhillOur next destination led us a few hours outside of Seoul, the perfect setting to escape from the fast pace of urban life. A stop at Museum SAN, the name a homage to Space, Art, and Nature, beckoned me into a dome that was designed to represent both a womb and a tomb. As the meditation music melded with the tinkle of tiny raindrops, I felt worlds away from any stress.meditation dome at Museum SANart display in field at Museum SANsculpture and red leaf trees at Museum SANtrees reflecting on pool at Museum SANyellow leaves on tree at Museum SANreflection of building and sky on pool at Museum SANMuseum SAN was the perfect transition to our wifi-free mountain retreat at Healience Resort. As we ventured further into the Wonju mountain range, I couldn’t help but marvel at the magnificence of the tall trees in all of their fall glory. Who knew that the next morning these same trees would lead me to happy tears, a pleasant side effect of this forest bathing experience amongst the statuesque Korean pines. yellow trees at Healiencemeditation cave at Healience resortsinging bowl at meditation cavehealthy meal at Healience resortFull moon at night over Healience resortMore meditation and mindful eating followed in this resort designed to help you go within. Into that endless well of wellness inside of you. But how to tap into that source? Our tour guide had the perfect answer: a visit to Jeju Island, home of South Korea’s first health and wellness resort, WE Hotel. WE, standing for “water energy”, is appropriately named after the healing properties of the high grade mineral water used in all of their treatments.

But treatment is an understatement to what I experienced at this wellness resort. A crystal sound bath was first on the agenda. As I relaxed on the floor, intense sound waves reverberated through my body. Earlier in the week, each of the tour participants had to choose a word to describe the mood after our forest bathing among the powerful pines. “Release”, I said. It seemed to envelop my feelings at that moment, and where I was at in my life overall. Ready to release the past, partial relationships, and previous disappointments. It was time.tea ceremony at WE hotel in Jeju Islandpool therapy room at WE hotel in Jeju IslandTears flowed endlessly. My body shook. This symphony of sound waves moved through every cell, clearing the chaos. It was as if I was both orchestrating it and a participant, as I watched a translucent figure rise up and out of my body. Pain leaving. 

A water massage awaited. Submerging into the soft touch of the water, I followed my therapist’s lead as he held me like a baby, pushing and pulling my body through the warm pool. After a delicate dance of therapeutic poses that left every limb loose, he lifted my cushy corpse up and out of the glowing water, leaving behind any remnant of discomfort. He held me up for what seemed like an eternity, but was really only a magical moment suspended in time. Offering me up to some higher plane, the gateway to my inner well.

Wellness never felt so complete! Of course this release didn’t happen like the flip of a switch. Harboring pain in different areas of my body, mind, and spirit had been a gradual process which required an even more paced and tender approach to the healing that was taking place on this wellness tour in South Korea.foot spa and rock massage area at Paradise Seouldj booth and sauna at Paradise SeoulRenewed with an assured aura and attitude, I now felt like stress would just slide off and out of me. As our wellness tour closed at the mega-spa in Paradise City Seoul, full of over a dozen treatment pools, stone therapies, water slides, and endless options for both relaxation and fun, I thought about how I could continue along my wellness path back home.indoor pool area at Paradise SeoulVIP area at indoor pool in Paradise Seoul hotelOn my return flight home, I realized that we are our best healers. Once we discover our inner wellness source, which exists in all of us, the opportunities for healing are endless. And it’s exactly what modern medicine doesn’t want us to know. Pharmaceuticals, prescription pills, and addictive drugs, whether it is in our food or prescribed by a doctor, all prevent us from becoming our own holistic healers. Whether it’s Coca-cola, codeine, or cocaine, it is designed to prevent you from becoming your best self.

Find those opportunities to tap your inner well. Go on a nature hike this weekend, book a spa vacation to Seoul, or download a meditation app. Foster those moments for wellness. Open up the gateway.sitting in black bikini in front of dj booth and sauna room

 

white flower that looks like a georgia o'keeffe painting

New Year, New Decade: Live Your Life with Value!

IMG_3212.jpgThis New Year’s, I didn’t want my resolutions to be made from a place of lack, or what I was “deficient” in, but from a mindset of motivation. Oftentimes, resolutions seem to highlight areas of our life where we feel we are “inadequate”, or have some behavioral issues that are preventing us from living our best life.

Instead, I wanted my resolutions to come from my own inner well of inspiration and insight. So I revisited an exercise that I had completed in the spring of 2019 from the Allbright Academy titled “Define Your Values.” This exercise was a segment in the first lesson from the Entrepreneurs course called Project You, an honest and reflective program that I needed to refresh myself, my brand, and my business.IMG_2330The exercise asked you to go through a list of over 100 words and narrow them down to the three, yes only three, that held the most power for you. Whoa! Narrowing this list down was going to be tough. To give you some perspective, just the words starting with “T” were going to be hard to get rid of!

Tact

Talent

Teamwork

Tolerance

Tradition

Transparency

Trust

Truth

After culling the list for the first round, I grouped the words into categories and noticed some trends. I admit it was hard to eliminate some of the 120+ words, so after realizing what was important to me, I made some statements about my values with the dozen words that made it through to the final cut. Here are two of the four statements I created:

“Vitality and health allow me to have the energy to be positive and live a full, fun, and happy life.”

“Abundance and wealth allow me to be generous and create opportunities for others while having choices in my own life.” 

IMG_5827I figured if my plan to improve my life in 2020 came from things that I valued, I would have a better chance at achieving my resolutions. Reflecting on that first statement, I looked at some of the words that contributed to that sentence: presence, health, image, spirituality. Having already partially committed to that statement in 2019, I thought about how I could magnify my health and vitality in 2020. 

In the spring of 2019, I stopped drinking alcohol. I found it was limiting my productivity, making me sick, and restraining my physical potential. How could I improve on this for 2020? What small change can I make in 2020 that will improve my vitality and health, allowing me to live by my values? A self-proclaimed donut addict, I will be reducing my processed sugar intake from my daily sweet in the morning to once a week. I’m going to start small! This is a new year’s resolution I can handle. 

This small commitment made me think of the book Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg, PhD. I remember something that he said that really stuck with me in terms of resolutions, behavior change, and all that good stuff that helps us get on track with our best life. “You can do this habit,” he recommends when choosing a behavior to change. Choosing something that I literally can do will set me up for early success with my resolutions, and inspire me to eventually make supportive and complementary behavior change later in the year, and in my life. IMG_3705

Gratitude

Learning

Education

Potential

Financial Freedom

These are some of the words that led me to create my second statement: Abundance and wealth allow me to be generous and create opportunities for others while having choices in my own life. One opportunity that I’d like to create is a writing scholarship. While that may seem like a daunting task for someone who still has student loans and credit card debt, at least I know that my core values are leading me in the right direction. 

So how can I turn this into a new year’s resolution? While I may not be handing out a scholarship in 2020, I am putting some tiny behaviors in place today that will lead me to financial freedom. Just last night, I looked through my spending habits and debit card activity, and found ways to reduce frivolous purchases. Tiny habit – go to CVS once a month instead of twice a week!IMG_3198After completing this values exercise early in 2019, I looked at how I was being compensated for my work. When some collaborative partners didn’t want to pay me for my creative work, I turned down those projects. As hard as that was at the time, I knew those projects were not in alignment with my values, nor were they going to enable me to become financially free and leave a legacy of scholarships. My content is quality, insightful, provocative, global – I wasn’t going to give it away for free. As I build on that statement for a 2020 resolution, I am charting out the ideal client. I want collaborative partners who share some of my other values: sustainability, adventure, intimacy, healing. 

However you formulate your 2020 resolution list, do what matters to you. Start with what you value and reflect on what matters to you. While it will probably look different from those around you, that’s ok! Encourage your support network to do the same and revel in the wide range of what keeps us all going. I’ll leave you with a quote from motivational speaker Rasheed Ogunlaru, “There’s no beauty without difference and diversity.”IMG_3234

 

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

 

 

where-to-travel-in-2018

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!

Guatemala spa
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.

Carillon Spa.jpg
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!

Noah Purifoy
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!

Tenaya_Lodge_T1
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.

Wattled-Cranes-Lochinvar_Griffin-Shanungu-ICF-EWT-750x400
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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