The drive for self-improvement has been fuelling a fascinating travel trend for some years – that of sacrificing indulgent holiday time for learning new, positive habits. Rather than overeating and drinking, we want to return home feeling and looking better, refreshed and refocused in our mindset and outlook. The default detox, fitness or yoga retreats are alive and well, but waves of niche options mean there really is a perfect retreat for everyone.
Ice and Fire…
My father’s enthusiasm for daily cold baths fell on deaf ears when I was young, but perhaps there was something to it. Wim Hof, the infamous Iceman, takes the practice far further on his retreats, which focus on cold therapy via ice bathing combined with breathing techniques; extreme measures for extreme health. While weekend workshops are available year-round, this January his expeditions take you to his home in wintery Poland, where you’ll learn the techniques then hike through snowy landscapes (in shorts!) before dipping fearlessly into icy ponds. The practice of exposing your body to severe cold results in an avalanche of health benefits, such as a boosted immune system, mood-enhancing endorphin levels, off-the-scales energy and mental focus, plus reduced stress. The carrot is the sauna back at Wim’s.
No, this isn’t a horse trekking retreat, although that’s on my bucket list too. However work-frazzled, emotionally fraught or life-lost you turn up to Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat in Australia, just spending time around horses enhances the place’s calming and mind-soothing influence. Renowned for their intuition, horses pick up on the emotions you’re going through, mirroring them back via body language, forcing you to own up to them and let them go. During a Gwinganna stay, which can include forest walks in the stunning Hinterland, mind-body practices, communal meals and personalised spa treatments, book an Equine Assisted experience, whether therapy, meditation or group session, and delve into a beautiful journey of intuitive self-discovery, with the odd nuzzle and neigh thrown in.
Five Star Run
Sporting tourism is becoming more common, and for runners the London marathon is one of the most iconic events on the global calendar. Check-in to Como Metropolitan London for their London Marathon experience (held next April 28) and you’ll get five-star prep and recovery. During your two-night stay, fuel up with a pre-race dinner and breakfast, both nutritionally calibrated to help load carbs, and served either side of the supremely comfy night’s sleep. In great shape to run your best time, enjoy every minute of the colourful and iconic route through the city. Then, perhaps best of all, the finish line is only a few minutes’ walk from the hotel – ideal when there’s a 75-minute massage, foot soak and juice waiting.
Write it Right
Staying just outside the charming Vietnamese town of Hoi An, on the 8 Days Journey to Self – Writing, Meditation and Yoga Retreat gift yourself the time and space to write or journal every day. Tune in to your inner voice and write as insightfully or creatively as you’ve always wanted. Daily workshops hone your powers of observation, guided writing exercises help with technique, and one-on-one feedback discusses your direction. Add in sessions of Himalayan singing bowls, gentle morning yin yoga and mindfulness, as well as a cooking class, paddy field bike tour and a river tour. Feed your soul, give up all those little secrets that stand between you and self-development, or a mighty good yarn.
Tri Like an Athlete
Swimming, cycling and running are the quintessential fitness trifecta, and at Thanyapura, Phuket’s magnet for athletes from near and far, you can sign up for a three-, five-, seven- or 14-day triathlon package, no matter your experience or fitness. Depending on your length of stay, you’ll start with a coach consultation and take advantage of up to 17 group triathlon coaching sessions each week. Longer stays add complimentary nutritionist and PT consultations to hack the hell out of your swim, bike and run techniques, speed and stamina. Add in daily breakfasts at DiVine Restaurant to fuel up for the day, and post-workout recovery in hot Jacuzzis and ice baths, infrared sauna and steam.