Sunday, March 16, 2014

Can You Buy Your Own Peace of Mind?

For many of us, a spiritual journey means finding ourselves while making room in our “big girl jeans” for another slice of margherita pizza. But outside of reasons like PMSing, getting out of a relationship or just having a bad day, this unfulfilling vacation from reality very rarely lasts long enough to make any real changes to our wellbeing. Once our responsibilities return to focus, we leave that amazing Italian restaurant with our glass of wine dry and feeling just as empty. But if we’ve learned anything from Julia Roberts in Eat Pray Love, a spiritual journey isn’t just for those who are uninhibited from the stresses of work and family – and they’re available for purchase from the travel industry.

According to Travel Market Report, we will see a significant surge in the wellness travel industry in the upcoming year. This is because more people are realizing that the key to good health lies in their own hands, and with globalization opening doors to wellness lifestyle philosophies, more people are purchasing travel packages that provide them with more than just a tan. Gone are the days people long simply for a scenic view on a beach resort – we want to come home not only feeling renewed, but we want that feeling to last. And who can blame us? We’ve been taught that if we work hard we’ll be rewarded in the future. Now we’re discovering that the future is too long to wait – especially if we get there and we’re too burned out to enjoy it.

Of course, our journey doesn’t have to be quite as drastic as when Roberts leaves her marriage, her house and corporate North America to live on an island in Indonesia. But there is something to say about her time spent in an ashram in India that has other people packing their bags intending to meditate in a room full of strangers rather than party with them like they’re on spring break. In the film, Roberts learns to appreciate the things that matter most to her – not her husband, her home or having children – as it turns out, she doesn’t want any of those – but her dreams of traveling and waking up in the morning to feel passionate about something that gets out of bed. While some might call it selfish and stupid, others are lying awake at night plotting how they’re going to book a one way ticket to a far-away country and never return. We can’t all be like Roberts in quitting our husbands, our homes and the societal pressures of life, but we can buy temporary peace in the form of a wellness travel trip.

But what exactly does it mean to become spiritually awakened, and how do we get there? Depending on our religion or lack-there-of, what we’re looking for spiritually can mean a number of things. For some people, a spiritual journey means getting away from the noise of their busy lives and feeling more in tune with nature; this could be camping in the Rocky Mountains or staying in a lodge in Whistler. For others, they feel awakened enough in their every-day lives and don’t need to travel anywhere long distance – just the time to themselves will help them spiritually reconnect. So if peace of mind is available without a travel agent, what’s the point of purchasing a travel package?

“I don’t need to be anywhere on this planet specific to experience spirituality,” says one Ashley Fairall, yoga instructor. “It already exists within me. A vacation for me would be to actually have the time to sit in meditation.”

But as Trey Capnerhurst of the Green party suggests, there are some things you can’t do easily at home. You need a facility or expert to assist you in finding that peace of mind you’re looking for. For some, this could mean going to the gym or therapy – but for others, they want a more intense experience that is longer lasting. Think of it like a rehab for your spirit – your mind, your body and your overall state of being.

Places like the Gaden-Samten-Ling Tibetan Buddhist Meditation Society in Edmonton offers a mental rest at home and is easy on the wallet. “I go there every week, and they host retreats throughout the year,” says Janelle Aker of I Dig Your Girlfriend, co-founder of the local website for queer women.

So are ashrams in India unnecessary for those who are seeking spiritual awakening?

“If I was going to go somewhere, it would be this ashram in British Columbia,” says Ashley about the Yasodhara Ashram Yoga Retreat and Study Centre in Kootenay Bay, BC. “The only reason I choose this over any other location is that I can take the bus or train and have a smaller environmental impact than flying.”

What kind of wellness travel vacation you’re looking for depends on what kind of peace of mind you’re searching for and how serious you are about finding it. A spiritual journey takes place from within, not from whichever location you go to as part of your wellness travel package. So if you’re just interested in trying soul food or going on a cleanse, save your money by ordering in or buying a book on juicing. However, those who are looking for help with long term change will want to purchase a travel package to somewhere further away like an ashram in British Columbia or even India. Change becomes more authentic when you travel somewhere to make it happen, and a wellness travel package allows you to work on yourself without the outside world distracting you. So while you don’t need to take an actual vacation to become spiritually awakened, putting down money to travel outside your comfort zone and focus on yourself makes it happen a lot quicker.

Buffy Robblee, a travel adviser with Tier One Travel, says that more and more hotels and resorts are popping up or revamping to suit the needs of clients who are looking for a unique getaway rather than an all-inclusive vacation. Wellness travel can include areas ranging from fitness, spa, yoga and meditation to holistic/spiritual, medical travel, community/environment and nutrition. For a shorter stay, she suggests Arizona, California or Las Angeles. For a longer one, she recommends Bali, Thailand or Mexico. Buffy says the best time to take a wellness travel trip is anytime. Most women like to book six to twelve months in advance, and trips range from $400.00 per person for a local retreat weekend up to $3500.00 per person for a week away.

We deserve pizza. We deserve to experience the selfishness that comes with being uninhibited from the stresses of work and family – at least temporarily. We deserve to feel fulfilled in our lives rather than working to the bone to enjoy our rewards later in life. Through a spiritual journey, we can feel what Roberts felt in Eat Pray Love. We might not want to leave our husbands, our homes and corporate North America for a beach house in Indonesia, but we can do things for ourselves to help us feel renewed just the same. This year, whether you decide to invest in a wellness travel package as part of the growing number of vacationers in 2014, or just decide to take a yoga class, let your New Years resolution be about focusing on what makes you truly happy. What makes you want to get out of bed in the morning?

For more information on purchasing a wellness travel vacation, call Buffy at 403-702-5947 or email her at The travel advisor has been in the business for thirty-five years, specializing in wellness travel. In the past, she has organized women’s hiking weekends, spa getaways and in 2011, she brought a small women’s group to Bali where her clients were offered a palm reading by Ketut Liyer from the book, Eat, Pray Love. In November 2014 she is escorting a women’s’ group to the wellness resort of Lumeria in Maui, Hawaii. 

Published in Edmonton Woman Magazine's March/April 2014 Issue

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