There’s no denying the last three years have been...rough. Perhaps now more than ever it’s time to take care of ourselves, to make sure that we are paying attention to our mental health and to our overall well-being. Are we OK? What do we need to do to be OK?
While travel gives us so much in terms of expanding our horizons and introducing us to the beauty and complexity of other people and cultures, for many it can be stressful and hurried. The airports, the crowds, the logistics. During this time of inherent reflection and renewal, maybe what we really need is to slow down. To think more intentionally about what we want to gain from our journeys, not just the things we want to see and do, but the benefits—mentally, emotionally, and physically—of being out in the world. Are there actions we can take when we are traveling that can, in fact, help ease our stress and anxiety? Are there places we can go that are designed to give us the tools to cope and feel better?
Are we OK? What do we need to do to be OK?
A growing number of hotels, for instance, have created sleep-enhancing programs to help travelers get a more satisfying night of rest. Perhaps you will leave better equipped to do the same back at home. Other hotels and resorts have created wellness programs geared towards mindfulness and kick-starting healthier habits, such as the Ranch Malibu, which recently established a retreat in Italy that focuses on building strength through rigorous hikes, cleaner eating, and eschewing alcohol. Some destinations in the world are themselves designed to offer meditative and healing benefits, like spiritual walking paths known as labyrinths.
For me, there are definitely certain places that have always calmed me when I am at my most anxious. Nature has always been an elixir, and the desert in particular—the humbling, otherworldly expanses of the American Southwest—have helped me heal time and again. After a dear friend experienced a personal tragedy last year, we traveled to the Southwest to escape reality and find some sense of hope and joy as we hiked among the sandstone rock formations and hoodoos.
Wherever you go this year, remember that travel offers the ability not only to unlock new experiences but also to introduce you to new practices, remedies, and rituals that can help you confront whatever challenges you may face. Could there be a better souvenir, really?
Here’s to a year of better self-care out on the road. —Michelle Baran, senior travel news editor, AFAR