If you're like many vacationers, your last trip was crammed with nonstop activity that left you feeling far from refreshed.
And let's not even bring up the BlackBerry.
That's why those in need of a break are foregoing a bike tour of Italy or a jaunt to Napa and signing up for the de-stressing getaway. Today, there are dozens of deluxe properties that offer these retreats.
"Upscale spiritual getaways have become a huge market," says Kathy Obbish, an agent at the Illinois-based travel company Custom Explorations, who has more than 16 years of experience in organizing such trips. "With the growing fast pace of our lives, people just don't want to go on vacation anymore. They want to go away and come back truly reinvigorated and recharged."
While these trips incorporate traditional spa services like massages, they are different than your average spa vacation because they usually include a spirituality element of yoga, tai chi or meditation. Some facilities even have an alternative medicine doctor on-site who creates a personalized program for guests.
Souped-Up Soul Food
It wasn't too long ago that the only "spiritual vacations" available were monastic retreats offering bare-bones accommodations and meager food. But spiritual seekers today (according to research company MediaMark, the number of Americans practicing yoga is up 144% since 2001) are often wealthy baby boomers who see no contradiction between lapping up luxury while groping for inner peace.
"They want lovely accommodations and good food," Obbish says. "They're not going to accept anything less."
Those meeting this demand include The Emerson Resort and Spa in Mount Tremper, N.Y. Spirituality is the emphasis at this 52-room property, which opened in March. It's even surrounded by monasteries. In addition to yoga and tai chi, guests can take advantage of Panchakarama, an ancient Indian tradition that matches the needs of your body with certain Ayurvedic treatments. Guests meet with a consultant who puts together a three- or seven-day program.
If rejuvenating under the warm Caribbean sun on sandy beaches with clear blue water is what you crave, then consider the COMO Shambhala Retreat at Parrot Cay in the Turks and Caicos. Parrot Cay, a tony Caribbean property on its own 1000-acre island offers week-long retreats several times a year. High-profile yoga instructors like Rodney Yee lead students through five hours of yoga and meditation daily. In between sun salutations, guests feast on organic spa cuisine and indulge in spa therapies from China, India, Japan and Thailand.
"We started off offering these retreats occasionally, but they were so popular that we increased them to a few times a year," says Yenni Maelianawati, sales manager for COMO Shambhala. "More guests were requesting this type of a vacation."
For many looking to relax, a long flight is not a detriment. Obbish says that 95% of such trips she books are to international locales.
"Sometimes people also want a sense of culture when they're looking to relax," she says. "They feel that if they're going to truly unwind, they should do it in an environment that is unlike any they could find at home."
The Desa Seni Village Resort in Bali meets that test, offering rejuvenation in an exotic setting. The 10-month-old property is actually a collection of 10 antique homes that are fitted with modern touches such as flat-screen televisions and DVD players. You can spend the days taking yoga classes in an open air studio overlooking rice fields or even practice poses under the full moon. Guests wanting to sample Balinese culture can visit nearby villages for shopping and sightseeing.
Africa has several plush properties that focus on renewal. The Breezes Beach Club and Spa in Zanzibar, for example, has a Swahili style spa with dozens of treatments. And, if you tire of the pampering, the resort arranges snorkeling and scuba diving.
But getting a taste of the spiritual life doesn't come cheap, and while you're lounging, your wallet is doing the heavy lifting. Obbish says these trips can cost up to $15,000 a week for two people without any airfare.
Nobody said enlightenment was cheap.