Did you know planning a trip is good for your mental health?
Researchers at the University of Cornwall found feelings of anticipation and excitement or having something to look forward to, like a trip or a vacation, can offer a mental health boost.
If health, safety and happiness have been on your mind during the pandemic, perhaps your first trip should be a wellness retreat.
What Is Wellness Travel?
Wellness tourism is defined by the Caribbean Tourism Organization as trips taken by travelers with the principal purpose of improving health or well-being.
It’s a broad concept with wellness meaning different things in each country: seaside and slower living in Southern Europe and exercise and outdoor activities in Scandanavia.
The term “wellness” was first used by American doctor Halbert Louis Dunn (1896-1975) who studied the trends affecting the health of populations. He used the word to encompass physical as well as spiritual health.
Early wellness retreats included mainly eating habits and exercise routines, but later expanded to relaxation techniques, alternative therapies and spa treatments.
Today’s wellness vacations support both goals, enhancing the mind-body connection by reducing stress and anxiety. How you do that — from hiking the Appalachian Trail to participating in an immersive sound bath — depends on the type of traveler you are.
The Perfect Pandemic Option
Wellness travel was a growing trend before the coronavirus pandemic. According to the Global Wellness Institute, the wellness travel market was already growing at a rate of 6.5% year, which was more than twice the growth rate of tourism overall with an expected reach of $919 billion by 2022. In Europe alone, the reach is predicted to $275 billion in 2022.
The coronavirus pandemic has given people time to reevaluate their priorities and take a closer look at their health. Wellness is a new priority for all areas of life — work, home and travel.
“Once … we have made the decision to leave our homes for leisure excursions, our personal health and safety will top our list of priorities,” Wellness Tourism Association President Anne Dimon told online travel magazine Travel to Wellness. “If there are any silver linings to COVID-19, it’s served as a reminder not to take health and happiness for granted.”
The wellness industry has also adapted to customer needs and coronavirus protocols with limited class size, touchless treatments, secluded cabins and a rejuvenated focus on nutrition and exercise instead of appearance.
Five Wellness Trips for 2020-21
Global Rescue medical and security experts balanced several considerations — the health or wellness benefit of the trip, the country’s safety levels, COVID-19 travel restrictions and quarantine requirements — to compile a list of five options for a 2020-21 wellness retreat.
Sleep Retreat in Switzerland
Sleep is important. Even one bad night can wreak havoc on your day and your health, according to the CDC. The quality of your sleep is important, too. Who wouldn’t be interested in a sleep retreat that includes yoga, massage, healthy meals and a luxurious room in Le Grand Bellevue?
The hotel, located in Gstaad village in Switzerland, also offers 3,000 square meters of wellness facilities. Global Rescue currently has a low travel risk rating for Switzerland due to low levels of crime and COVID-19 cases. In fact, Switzerland has been ranked the safest country in the world right now for COVID-19 in a 200-country study by Deep Knowledge Group.
Biking Tour in Canada
Historical, scenic and ocean views: Canada offers a variety of biking options for mountain bikers, road bikers and trail riders.
The International Mountain Bicycling Association recommends Mountain Hero in the Yukon Territory, a 5-mile route following the path of a 1905 mule trail. Bike it in one day or make it a weekend trip by camping along the oldest road in the Yukon. Newfoundland’s biking trails allow riders a view of the coastline as well as some rocky terrain to test your skills. The Viking Trail is a seven- to 10-day route taking bikers through quaint villages and rugged coastlines.
COVID-19 advice: Your health will be assessed upon arrival in Canada. Then you must have a 14-day quarantine plan which includes travel to your destination and access to food/groceries and health care. The plan is mandatory — even if you have no symptoms.
“Canada has high quality and readily available medical facilities in urban areas,” said Jacqueline Sioson, operations supervisor at Global Rescue.
Geothermal Spas in Iceland
Iceland’s death rate from COVID-19 is one out of every 180 confirmed cases, or 0.56%, making it one of the lowest in the world, according to The New Yorker. In July, Iceland eased its travel ban to allow entry for citizens of some countries, but the U.S. is not included. Iceland is participating in the EU travel ban along with other Schengen states.
Natural springs are one of the many attractions in Iceland. The Blue Lagoon’s waters come from a geothermal sea and the seawater is rich in silica, algae and minerals — a combination that strengthens and nourishes the skin.
The water is filtered through volcanic lava and cooled by the fresh meltwater of the glaciers. The use of natural springs goes back to the Greek and Roman empires where baths were a place for cleansing, healing and socializing.
COVID-19 advice: Beginning in mid-August, all passengers arriving in Iceland must choose a 14-day quarantine or a double COVID-testing procedure, first upon arrival and the second by primary health care services five to six days later. In between the two tests, visitors must go into quarantine.
Forest Bathing in Vermont
Vermont is one of the best states for seniors during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new analysis by Caring.com. With 68 people per square mile, there’s natural social distancing and plenty of forested landscape in Vermont for everyone to enjoy.
Forest bathing is a Japanese term for “being in nature.” Not exercising in nature, but connecting with the great outdoors through all your five senses. The Strong House Spa in Quechee, Vermont offers an opportunity for nature immersion, which begins with instruction on Nordic walking and then combines aromatherapy and meditation with nature trails.
COVID-19 advice: If you’re traveling to Vermont by car, you’re required to complete a 14-day quarantine or a 7-day quarantine followed by a negative coronavirus test. Some travelers may have the option to quarantine in their home state and you can enter Vermont without further restrictions. If you’re taking public transportation to Vermont, the requirements are the same, but you must quarantine in Vermont.
Boosting the Immune System in Alaska
Alaska’s per capita hospitalization rate remains lower than most other states and just 10% of harder-hit states like California and Texas, according to The Covid Tracking Project. Villages locked down early in the pandemic to reduce the strain on the state’s health care system.
If you’re looking for immune-boosting treatments in a socially distanced location, check out Within the Wild’s two lodges in the backcountry of southcentral Alaska. Wellness programming includes sound therapy sessions, Ayurvedic self-massages and naturalist guided nature walks. Each lodge has only six cabins, ensuring minimal crowds and maximum privacy.
COVID-19 advice: Travelers are welcome in Alaska. With printed proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test, you don’t have to quarantine after arrival.
More Outdoor Options
- Looking for other opportunities to connect with nature? Whether you are hiking, camping or RVing, this list of links will help you research your destination.
- The European Union (EU) offers a map of which countries are open and who is welcome.
- The CDC lists which international travelers are allowed into the United States.
- The U.S. National Park Service provides a searchable map of parks open to the public.
- Recreation.gov offers a database of 3,600 facilities and activities and more than 103,000 individual reservation sites across the country.
- Tour operators, national publications and television shows all offer lists of the healthiest places to vacation or top spas worldwide. Start with one of these lists as the basis for your research. Two examples are America’s Top 20 Healthiest Cities by Travel Channel or 10 Life-Changing Wellness Trips by Travel + Leisure.
Also consider a Global Rescue travel membership. If you have questions about anything coronavirus related, Global Rescue’s operations team can help you navigate restrictions and quarantines. You can even sign up to receive the Global Rescue Coronavirus Report in your inbox or real-time event alerts right from your phone so you have access to the latest hotspot information.
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