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

 

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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