Fifteen years ago, it would have been a brave banker, teacher or journalist who admitted they were heading off for a WildFitness bootcamp in Scotland, or a week of vinyasa yoga in Ibiza. We’re British, and like to bang on about having a stiff upper lip, a lip inclined to slip into a sneer at anything that smacks of quackery, gimmickry or self-indulgence. But today it’s entirely run-of-the-mill to dedicate our holiday time to physical wellbeing. What we’re less comfortable with, however, is announcing that we’re off on holiday to work on our emotions.
This is about to change. The biggest growth within the robust “wellness travel” sector is in retreats catering specifically to mental wellbeing, reducing stress and healing emotional trauma. Caroline Sylger, founder of Queen Of Retreats (queenofretreats.com) has observed this rise. “The world needs retreating now more than ever,” she says. “We are right in the middle of a mental health pandemic, and as a consequence, we’ve seen a huge rise in retreats of a very high calibre that cater explicitly to psychological wellbeing, stress, emotional trauma and mental health in general.”
Every year, one in every five travel pounds is spent on a cleanse, yoga retreat, fitness bootcamp or other healthy holiday. And if a decade ago fitness bootcamps and yoga retreats proliferated, primarily ministering to our physical bodies, today we’re seeing the emergence of so-called “emotional detoxes” in retreat centres from Bali to Somerset to San Diego to Switzerland. The Covid crisis is the most radical shake-up of routines, priorities, social structures and lifestyle perhaps since the Second World War, and what we expect from a wellness-oriented break has changed forever.
Modern day wellness devotees are demanding a much greater emphasis on emotional restoration and psychological fitness – and as the pandemic continues to disrupt our lives, this sort of trip will feel less like a luxury, and more of a necessity.
Chris Connors is a wellbeing coach and mentor, and founder of the guided meditation app OPO (opo.world). “We are in an unprecedented time where uncertainty and anxiety are testing our mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health on all levels,” he says. “But we also have unprecedented access to knowledge, understanding and practices that can restore our wellbeing, no matter what is thrown at us. ‘Wellbeing’ is no longer a passive, pampering fix-me-up, it’s an active choice to balance our perspective, build resilience, work on our self-awareness, regulate our emotions and support our physical strength.”