When we launched AFAR in 2009, we wanted to create a magazine for well-traveled readers who valued connecting with locals and having deep, meaningful experiences around the world. At its core, AFAR is about experiential travel—following your passions and seeking out the authentic essence of a place. We know that this kind of travel can take many forms. In past issues we’ve focused on food and on design. In this issue (January/February 2013) we’re taking an experiential approach to wellness travel.

Every spring for the past few years, I’ve gone to Tulum, Mexico, for a week of intense yoga and Pilates at the ecoresort Amansala.

The exercise is wonderful in itself, but I’m even more grateful for the week away from my laptop. I spend seven days staring at the Caribbean Sea and listening to the wind blow outside my cabana. For one week, I get away from the seemingly infinite tabs on my web browser.

For me, in the parlance of yogis, the trip is nourishing and grounding. I loll about on hammock beds on the beach and read a pile of books. (Last spring the stack included Cheryl Strayed’s Wild and Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers.) The trip offers more than just an escape. I swim in the sea and in the underground cenotes that dot the Yucatán Peninsula. I hike up, down, and around Mayan ruins. I eat fresh mangoes and jicama salad, and drink the juice of coconuts plucked right off trees.

I’m not just getting away, I’m engaging with a place. And it’s that engagement that makes my trips experiential. I return home refreshed and inspired, and with a new perspective on my everyday life.

Whenever I travel, I like to experience wellness traditions in different cultures. In Turkey, I went to a local hammam, where I was placed atop a marble slab and soaped, scrubbed, and oiled. One night in Iceland, I spent hours floating in the Blue Lagoon, rubbing silica mud all over my skin. Closer to home, I go to the Napa Valley, where I soak in the mineral waters at the Solage Calistoga resort. These experiences vary slightly depending on the place, but they all revolve around the universal desire to relax.

In this issue’s Wander section, we cover four destinations where wellness is a priority. In Stay, we look at hotel spas that celebrate local ingredients and rituals. And in “The Great Escape,” contributing writer Chris Colin brings an experiential spirit to the ultimate resort vacation. Chris shows what you can discover when you enjoy the indulgences of the resort, and also explore the world outside it. I encourage you to do the same—and embrace the experience beyond the escape.

Travel well,
Julia Cosgrove

Please tell me what you think of the issue on Twitter @jules_afar or via email at editorial@afar.com. And take a look at my Wanderlist of places to recharge.

This appeared in the January/February 2013 issue. Photo by Ilana Diamond.