Booze-fuelled nights and drunken escapades were once the highlights of many 20-somethings’ trips — all documented on social media to make friends envious.
But while the destinations have remained similar, millennials are ditching hangover-inducing holidays for breaks of a different kind.
The rising trend of yoga and meditation retreats, fitness vacations or wellness holidays are no longer just for the rich and famous.
Switching off the phone, being unplugged and vulnerable and potentially alone, is becoming a popular prospect.
The health and wellness tourism sector is booming, and many hotels have adapted to include specialist wellness menus and gym and fitness programs. There are even dedicated fitness hotels.
Millennials are booking holidays that challenge them, and finding rejuvenation in sacrifice and physical exertion.
Bali is not just considered a destination for cheap Bintangs and walk-in massages.
CHALLENGE AND REWARD — Jessica’s story
Jessica Mitchard, 34, an offshore fly-in, fly-out worker, travelled to Bali on her break to become a qualified yoga instructor.
She wasn’t looking for a career change but booked the trip out of curiosity after friends and a colleague recommended the experience.
“He said he had the most amazing experience that he wasn’t expecting,” Jessica (top image) says.
“He had been on a holiday to India with his girlfriend and ended up doing a yoga-teacher training course and had this massive emotional release when he was in a yoga pose, bursting into tears. A big guy talking about how he was in a yoga pose bawling his eyes out, and I thought wow that’s really cool.”
She spent four weeks surrounded by 16 classmates from all across the world who completed 200 hours of yoga training followed by a final exam.
“We would get up at 6am, meditate for half an hour, practise yoga for an hour and a half and then have breakfast — then there would be various study groups throughout the day. Some of the classes would be practical yoga workshops so we could be doing yoga for up to five hours a day.”
While aspects of the course were extremely challenging, Jessica says it was a great experience and she has kept in touch with some of the course attendees.
“With all of these exercises you do, and talking about your feelings, you end up hanging out all of the time,” Jessica says. “You do really bond with the other people in the class.”
It seems that while technology has enriched and enabled lives to become easier, it has also consumed and stimulated our brains to the extent of needing a complete detox.
UNPLUGGED AND IN TOUCH — Jillian’s story
Jillian McHugh, 30, spent eight weeks disconnected from all forms of technology, friends and family after journeying to Bali and then Rishikesh, a remote city north of Delhi.
“I had been through a lot personally and in business in the year prior and I wanted something to shake me up and get my head on straight again. I wanted to do something hard to test my limits,” Jillian says.
“I went completely off all social media and cut contact with everyone from home while I was away because I wanted to focus on what I was doing, and not rely on anyone else to get through it. Instead of chatting with people from home throughout the day, I wanted to be absorbed in the experience.”
Jillian was surprised by what she learnt from switching off.
“We spend so much time looking at what other people are doing that we don’t make time to look inwards,” she says. “Taking away the distraction of my phone gave me the mental space to think thoroughly about my life.”
RELAX AND RECHARGE — Lisa’s story
Not all wellness holidays mean meditation, self-discovery and a bit of hard yakka.
Lisa Iacomella, 40, is a corporate high-flyer and a recharging trip for her didn’t mean sacrificing luxury.
She went to Byron Bay’s Gaia retreat, owned by Olivia Newton-John, where she stayed for three days. There’s no strict daily schedule, so guests can simply rest by the pool, sipping green tea, or reset their body with a complete wellness program.
“Each day started with a 60-minute yoga session overlooking the hinterland, followed by breakfast,” Lisa says.
“Daily activities vary and your can choose to partake or do you own thing. There are walks, a pool, spa or plenty of quiet places to be on your own.”
She also says the lack of mobile reception in the area helped her unplug and focus on relaxation.
“It really made a difference, by day three I was trying to see how I could extend my stay,” she says. “It took a few days to slow the body down and by the end I was totally relaxed and invigorated.”
WHERE THEY WENT
Desa Seni, A Village Resort — Canggu, Bali
What is it: A yoga-lover’s paradise, five minutes walk from the beach in Canggu.
There are manicured and lush grounds and a 15m lap pool.
The 36-guest, eco-friendly resort features traditional Indonesian huts and antique wooden homes, and focuses on healthy, organic cuisine with up to 80 per cent of produce grown directly on the property.
It offers yoga classes and workshops such as Heal the Emotional Body and A Healthy Spine Yin Yoga.
There are also 200-hour yoga teacher training courses.
For those looking to indulge, there is an extensive spa menu with options such as a Melukat Balinese cleaning ceremony, a purifying process.
The ceremony aims to purify body and soul by cleansing with holy water “in order to prevent havoc, bad luck and sickness”.
There’s also a range of massages, including aromatherapy and deep tissue.
Who is it for: It is for those who are in in search of a holistic wellness retreat, a day’s break from the bustle of busier areas like Kuta, or those wanting to develop their yoga skills.
Cost: Workshops, programs and classes can be bought individually, along with accommodation starting from $211 a night (plus government tax) in a single person village cabin.
Its Banjar five-night break, including daily gourmet breakfast, daily yoga, meditation and pranayama classes, two lunches, two dinners and a choice of a signature massage or reflexology treatment, is $1686 for single occupancy (including taxes and charges) or $2143 for double or twin share.
Gaia Retreat, Byron Bay
What is it: A mansion set in 10ha of the Bundjalung Country Byron Bay Hinterland. Part founded by Olivia Newton-John, it’s described as a place to refocus, relax and restore.
There’s an outdoor heated pool and spa, and 14 treatment rooms. Guests can choose to completely unwind and treat themselves to gourmet meals and spa treatments, or undertake a detox or weight-loss program.
There are packages to choose from, including its Restore package, with a naturopathic assessment or Chinese medicine consultation, along with a wellness consultation.
Who is it for: Those looking for a luxury getaway with health benefits. They also have mother-daughter and honeymoon packages.
Cost: A three-night Renew and Rejuvenate package starts at $1995 for a single including three nights accommodation, $3200 for a couple or two twin sharers. It includes meals, a half-hour wellness consultation, a $300 spa voucher, 90 minutes of morning yoga, full use of facilities and daily retreat activities and airport transfers.
The seven-night Restore package includes accommodation, meals, a massage, body polish, naturopathic assessment or Chinese medicine consultation, wellness consultation, full use of facilities, daily yoga and airport transfers. It starts from $4185 for a single, and $6585 for a couple or twin sharers.
Add-ons such as its detox package start from $490.
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