Healthy Vacation

  • sidneyClimb the 429-feet Sydney Harbor Bridge in Sydney, Australia
  • sidney2Mountain Biking in Sydney’s Royal National Park
  • costaRicaZip-Line through the Rainforest in Costa Rica
  • costaRica-surfingSurfing in Costa Rica
  • napaBike through Napa Valley
  • HT_Casa_Grande_Canyon_Ranch__2_20101109_00_4x3_1600Canyon Ranch Spa, New Mexico

It seems hard to justify a vacation when many of us are glad just to have jobs. But now, more than ever, we need to take a break — a real break, not just a long weekend — from our stressed-out lives. All work and no play could be bad for your health. Many of us, who do take a vacation, are liable to take our work with us — checking email and voice mail regularly and using cell phones and iPads. This keeps us essentially connected to our work, while we are actually trying to escape. This is not healthy for many reasons. Studies have shown that:

• Vacations help with burnout: People who take consistent time to relax are much less likely to experience symptoms of burnout
• Vacations promote creativity: A great vacation helps us to reconnect with ourselves
• Vacations keep us healthy: Taking the time to “recharge your batteries” lowers stress levels
• Vacations strengthen relationships: When you spend time away from the daily grind with loved ones, it keeps your relationships strong
• Vacations will help you with your job performance: The benefits that come with regular and frequent vacations lead to an increased quality of life, thereby leading to an increased quality of work

Yet despite the clear benefits of getting away, Americans take less time off than citizens of any other country in the world: Employers in Finland and France, for instance, are required to give employees six weeks off a year, while the United States has no mandatory minimum vacation time and many are so overworked that they are unable to use up all of their allotted vacation time.

So, I am suggesting that a good vacation will increase productivity and soothe the soul. I mean, who couldn’t use a healthy vacation, a journey for healing body, heart and spirit? I know I sure could! It’s nice to let go once and a while and lounge on the beach drinking margaritas. We come back relaxed, but also a little bigger around the belly. But, when you come back, you should feel refreshed with a new perspective.

So that’s where a healthy vacation comes into play. While you don’t have to go skydiving or kayaking through rough waters, you might opt for a simple bike tour or relaxing yoga retreat as a way to keep your waistline in tact over the course of your holiday. Not all vacations have to involve a wrinkle inducing tan and an extra ten pounds! Fitness vacations can be a gateway to different locations around the world, from an exotic island to a dude ranch.

The fastest growing travel niche today is health and wellness. Many of my clients want to experience a vacation that is not only a beautiful location, but also somewhere they can be active and indulge in unique experiences. There are so many healthy places to choose from, but here is just a sampling…

Australia

Australia is also a great destination because it is known as the world’s healthiest country, and its people are among the least stressed in the world. The country is dotted with many beaches that are not just places to bake in the sun, but also sources of activity such as swimming, surfing, scuba diving, kayaking, and beach volleyball.

And you will want to visit the wonderful city of Sydney where you can take a walk around Sydney Harbor, climb the 429-feet Sydney Harbor Bridge, or hike or go mountain biking in Sydney’s Royal National Park.

Costa Rica

Not only is it a magnificent and eco-tourist friendly country, but there are so many exciting activities to choose from. Can you imagine spending a day zip-lining in the rain forest and white water rafting in one of the most spectacular rivers in the world. Or how about a surfing lesson from a pro. And if you would like something a little less challenging, you can explore the countryside on a bike or perhaps go bird watching….the choices are limitless. This is a trip of a lifetime where you come back home culturally enriched and “fit as a fiddle”.

San Francisco & Napa

As far as a fun and relaxing vacation, this should be on top of your wish list. It’s really a place where people like to stay fit. In San Francisco, you can’t walk a single city block without somebody running on the Embarcadero or climbing the Telegraph Hill stairs. The Bay Area is also known for its great air and water quality and local, organic food. And if you have the time, a short trip to Napa is a must! The famous bike tour company, Backroads, offers an unforgettable organized bike tour though this scenic area. And by the way, they always have a “sag wagon” if you get over enthusiastic with sampling the wines on your vineyard tours.

Cruises

If your vision of a cruise vacation is being trapped at sea in a box, spending day and night gorging on food, I am happy to report that you can spend an active and healthy vacation on a cruise. The cruise experience will vary ship to ship – but most all ships offer a gym. The larger the cruise ship, the larger the fitness facilities. Royal Caribbean, perhaps the most activity-oriented line, offers surfing, rollerskating, iceskating, rock-climbing walls and boxing, while Norwegian Cruise Line’s largest ships includes rapelling and bowling. Basketball, volleyball, tennis and squash courts are available on several ships. Also, when you dock in many of the ports, there are a variety of shore excursions that offer activities such as biking or hiking. During a recent QM2 cruise, my friend, Mary Ann Elliott from Trustmark and I led a group of adventurous clients on a biking trip through the Acadia National Park. It was a beautiful way to see the scenery and we felt less guilty indulging ourselves at dinner that evening.

Turning to wellness, the onboard spa experience has evolved over the years, and a variety of treatments, beyond facials and massages, are offered on many cruise ships, including aromatherapy, thalassotherapy, acupuncture and botox treatments. Lines like Regent Cruises, Cunard and Oceania feature Canyon Ranch Spa programs. Several lines offer wellness and fitness-based theme cruises and a number of cruise lines also offer spa cuisine menus in the dining room, or indicate which are heart-healthy choices.

Spa Retreats

Health spa vacation is a short break from a person’s daily life. You might think that a health spa vacation is full of treatments and massages. Actually, a health spa can have other activities besides these traditional spa activities. Walking, biking and some sports amenities may be included in the health spa vacation depending on where the spa resort is located and what season it is. For instance, Canyon Ranch in Tucson actually has a golf program included in their activities. Or you can experience the glory of fall foliage on a biking expedition at Canyon Ranch in the Berkshires.

The greatest wealth is health. Common sense suggests that vacations are good for you, but science is now proving what we’ve known all along. A great holiday can reduce the risk of heart disease, depression, and a host of other ills—and even slow the aging process.
Vacations are not simply a luxury. There is increasing evidence that they really are necessary for good health.