A good vacation should leave you feeling rested and recharged—but a wellness trip takes that bliss one step further.
“When I think about taking a trip, I think about coming back feeling more rejuvenated than when I left,” says Les Alfred, creator of the wellness podcast and website Balanced Black Girl. Whether it’s due to delays or an overbooked schedule, “we've all had the experience where we come back from a vacation and feel like we need another vacation. As we're all starting to travel again, we're wanting to do so in ways that don't feel stressful.”
In the latest episode of the California Now Podcast, Alfred and two other experts offer tips on planning a restorative getaway in the Golden State, which can include anything that feeds your body, mind, or soul.
Alfred tells host Soterios Johnson about a recent trip she took to Sonoma County, where wellness can come in the form of spa treatments, bike tours through wineries, or just spending a leisurely afternoon at the shops and eateries of The Barlow in Sebastopol. Alfred visited Osmosis Day Spa in Freestone, for instance, where she relaxed in a cedar enzyme bath treatment. The traditional Japanese treatment can “improve circulation and relieve pain, and is really good for your skin,” she says, “but it's a beautiful process, too.” She also visited Red Car Wines, which offers a wine-tasting-and-forest-bathing experience. “You're really just being out with nature without any distractions,” she says. “You go through the meditative experience, then you try some wine.”
The key to a successful trip, Alfred says, is to not plan too much. “It's okay to travel in flow, because you can always find a new adventure to wander into. Give yourself space to do so.”
East of Santa Barbara, the Ojai Valley Inn offers one such unique adventure—spiritual counseling sessions that draw on the region’s Native American Chumash traditions. “A lot of people refer to Ojai as having a spiritual energy,” says Nancy Furst, the resort’s spiritual artist and adviser. “Ojai is a charming, eclectic town with gorgeous land and surroundings,” she adds, and the Ojai Valley Inn has tried to honor the area’s history. Furst’s spiritual counseling sessions incorporate meditation, crystals, drumming, and the Native American ritual of saging. For the latter, Furst says, “I'm going to burn some sage and sweep you with it like the wing of a bird and guide you in a meditation state.” The 220-acre resort also provides contemporary ways to relax—pools, golf, a spa, and a Farmhouse with chef-driven events.
The goal of any wellness getaway, Furst tells Johnson, is to be able to take that relaxed state home. “The most common words I hear from people at the end of a session are ‘I feel so much better. I feel lighter.’ Some people will email me later that they've been able to re-create their lifestyle to cultivate greater wellness.”
In the Coachella Valley, the Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage delivers its own luxurious form of wellness, plus a mesmerizing view. “We are the only resort [in the area] on a mountaintop,” says Kelly Steward, the resort’s general manager. “It has an almost 360-degree view of the entire valley and mountains … just fantastic.” Guests can take part in wellness activities such as yoga classes and guided hikes, but even walking into the spa is calming, Steward tells Johnson. “You hear these tranquil waters, and there are 222 natural quartz crystals up above you. Then you smell our Mirage candle—it has notes of tropics and citrus, and it’s just beautiful.”
The resort also offers a quiet place to reflect, especially after dark. “It’s transformative at night,” Steward says. “You can see the stars and the moon, and the glistening diamonds of the valley. It is not uncommon to see guests in their robes lie down on our grass lawn and look up at the sky. Those are mindful meditation moments too.”