Imagine being thrown into the middle of the Namib Desert in a helicopter: nothing in front of you or behind you, just a huge expanse of ocher sand, glaring African heat, a survival kit with GPS or compass and the knowledge that you were abandoned in one of the roughest landscapes in the world. You’d better hope that you can tackle the 100 mile hike along the Skeleton Coast by camping under a sky so vast that it only confirms your own insignificance. Don’t freak out. There’s nothing like a little danger to raise your awareness.
Such tests of mental and physical strength, part of a series of new adventures by tour operator Black Tomato, have become magnets for the discontented people who want to search for ailments. As an experienced spa journalist, I am much more interested in this type of wellness experience than in a fancy treatment menu. In truth, we’ve gone way beyond salt scrubs and meditation labyrinths. We are instead looking for the great emotional, spiritual and physical charge, the blood refreshment. Calum Morrison, the ex-Royal Marine behind the UK-based Extraordinary Adventure Club, organizes extreme expeditions with sophisticated extras for its affluent but tired clientele to face the fear of conscious retreat: living with Mongolian camel herders off the grid or an epic jeep trip from Johannesburg to Khartoum followed by a team of life coaches, psychotherapists and holistic practitioners. This is the new generation of transformation travel.
Transformation, of course, was the original promise. Historically, spas were founded by individuals on the fringes or ahead of their time: those who triumphed over their own health problems (or saw others do it up close) then felt compelled to share their revelations. Naturally living mentor Edmond Szekely opened the world’s first spa, Rancho La Puerta, in Mexico in 1940 to mixed reviews. The San Diego Union later headed “Romanian Professor Establishes Cult Across the Border in Tecate,” warning readers of the screw balls they might find there – health seekers who came for mountain hikes and later yoga (and soon Burt too Lancaster belonged). Sophia Loren and Aldous Huxley). Canyon Ranch opened in Tucson in 1979 after Mel Zuckerman saw his father die of smoke-induced lung cancer. Another spa scene has developed in Europe: Dr. Otto Buchinger opened the leading German fasting clinic Buchinger Wilhelmi on Lake Constance after he had cured himself of rheumatic fever with a 19-day water fast; Its anti-inflammatory detox formula is attracting even more followers today. The Austrian doctor Franz Xaver Mayr opened the first FX clinic in the 1970s after discovering in a military hospital that patients recovered the fastest if they only ate soup. Healing is based on the belief that disruption of the digestive system helps the body heal itself and is practiced in clinics across Europe (the Original FX Mayr, Viva Mayr, and the Lanserhof Group, to name a few). I can no longer recommend this method; On the third day you have passed the phase of incessant crying and a week’s stay leaves your cells fully energized.
But in the past 10 years, lifestyle diseases and obesity have become global plagues, burnout has been classified as a health condition, and the onslaught of technology has disconnected our minds from our bodies and the natural world. When our doctors cannot help, we look for alternatives. It is significant that, according to the Global Wellness Institute, the wellness business is now more than three times the size of the pharmaceutical industry. Asia has long been a hot spot for holistic therapies, but herbs, sound healing, reflexology, aromatic oils, and qigong are mainstream. India’s Vana not only offers a popular Ayurvedic grand piano, but also a center for Sowa Rigpa, or Tibetan medicine, where oils are prescribed according to ancient texts. Thailand’s newly refreshed Chiva-Som features superlative therapies based on local traditions: the Chi Nei Tsang abdominal massage, which relieves emotional tension, has a waiting list, while the new 10-night recovery programs have a waiting list for cancer treatment include. In the meantime, Kamalaya, the more spiritual of the two great Thais, offers week-long meditation retreats to help guests reconnect with their “divine depths”. As if the beauty of the surroundings with butterflies the size of your hands wasn’t enough.