2015 was a big year for wellness travel as hard-working folks realized getting burnt-out was not on their bucket list. It's no longer trendy to brag about not using your vacation days and in some cases companies are mandating employees take time off. With more and more wellness travel opportunities out there, this year maximize your days off and return home not only refreshed and relaxed, but with better well-being. In need of some suggestions? Check out three hot travel spots where you can add wellness to your vacation.
Japan -- The average American spends 87% of their time indoors, which contributes to our high stress levels, lack of vitamin D and depression. In Japan, scientists found this to be a serious problem among their culture too and in 1982 coined the term Shinrin-yoku or as you may have heard it: Forest Bathing. In the past three decades Shinrin-yoku has been studied and confirmed as an effective treatment for both physiological and spiritual rejuvenation. The art of forest bathing requires you to leave your smart phones at home and fully engage all your senses in nature in a mindful way. Smell the trees, hear the crunch of leaves underfoot or sit and watch as the animals come out to play. Anywhere from a few hours to a few days will have positive effects on your health and well-being. Sixty-seven percent of Japan is covered in forests and with trails devoted to Shinrin-yoku, going direct to the source has never been so fun.
Colombia -- If you binged watched Narcos this summer you may have noticed the series takes place in the '70s and '80s. Twenty plus years later, Colombia is flourishing and the tourism industry is just ramping up. While the country continues to struggle to overcome its negative PR image, now is the time to soak up the sun on the Caribbean coast, trek through the parks to discover ancient ruins or hook up with an NGO that focuses on sustainability before the world rediscovers this gem. From local vegan dishes in one of Cartagena's fanciest restaurants to the country's first adults only wellness resort, this South American country wants you to consider it's mountains, beaches and forests as your new wellness destination. One of my favorite experiential wellness tours can be found with Experiencia Cafetera, a small team who is bridging the gap between responsible commerce and tourism. Spend some time with them on the coffee farms to learn about the cultural significance of the industry, sustainable production and the fair trade practices they advocate for. You'll leave with a better understanding of what it takes to wake you up in the morning.
Laos -- Tourism may be the fastest growing sector in Laos, but when that number is around 500,000 new people a year, you can rest assured there are still plenty of places to visit where you'll be the only traveler around for miles. From fairytale landscapes, which have preserved unique wildlife to local markets offering new smells and tastes, everyone can find their form of wellness here. In Luang Prabang, where the Old Town is less than a mile long, there is plenty to explore on your own via bicycle or Tuk-Tuk, but waking up for morning alms is a must do. Tak Bak, the gathering of monks at dawn, has them parading the streets collecting food and blessings from the local community. Ask around to find a local place away from the tourist crowd to participate. Here, you'll find a more authentic experience and be able to participate in giving back. Don't make your Southeast Asia trip all about the highlights, instead explore the more remote countryside by heading north into the mountains of Muang La. Here you'll experience the rich scenery and be surrounded by natural beauty. Stay at a secret retreat allowing for time to slow down and unwind. Visit the local villages and bring a smile to the Hmong people, and make sure to explore the salt mines and the hot springs, which are a perfect way to reconnect with yourself and to make new connections with a remote part of the world.