Gone are the days of having to take a vacation from your vacation. Sure, there’s a time and place for jam-packed itineraries and boozy beach parties. But now more than ever, people are looking to detox on vacation rather than deplete their adrenals, livers, and bank accounts. Wellness travel is one of the fastest growing sectors in the tourism industry, and it’s easy to see why when you look at all the restorative and rejuvenating wellness retreats out there.
Each year, millions of people take time away from their hectic work lives to go on vacation. Some are seeking rest and relaxation while others are looking for new adventures and experiences. Each type of getaway has its merits, but there is nothing more transformational than a wellness retreat.
Unlike regular vacations, which simply give you a break from your daily routine, wellness retreats are intentional getaways that offer a deeper and more immersive experience.
Wellness retreats come in all shapes and sizes – covering everything from spa resorts in exotic destinations to intense group trips designed to help you heal, grow, and elevate your life. These trips are purpose-driven and often incorporate yoga, meditation, and other physical and mental activities.
Whether you’re looking to recharge your batteries, overcome burnout, promote healing, achieve personal growth, master new skills, or discover your purpose, this unique way of traveling will nourish your soul. Here are the top 10 reasons why you should consider a wellness retreat for your next vacation.
Read next: The Coolest Wellness Trips in the World
Table of Contents
What are retreats: Exploring the Different Types of Wellness Vacations
A retreat is a type of getaway that lets you step away from ordinary life in search of something greater. It usually involves some combination of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual development, either in a solitary setting or with a group of like-minded people.
The main idea behind wellness tourism is that you travel to a place to take part in a preplanned program. It typically offers a specialized diet, exercise program, and other wellness activities.
Retreats have been around for thousands of years, but up until recently, they were mostly designed to serve religious purposes — involving prayer, fasting, abstinence, and other religious modalities. However, in recent years, retreats have taken on many new forms. They cover everything from tribal and shamanistic rituals to luxurious wellness resorts offering mindfulness activities.
Retreats can last anywhere from a day or weekend to a months-long journey. They say it takes 30-40 days to form a new habit, so the longer the better!
Wellness retreats are the future of travel. They have been around a long time, but it wasn’t until recently when these retreats became more mainstream and diverse. These days, there is a retreat for pretty much everyone, and the list of options continues to grow every day. Below are some of the most popular kinds of wellness retreats out there.
Different types of retreats you can experience
Personal growth retreats:
Gives you the tools and knowledge to level up and become your “best self.” Usually, these personal development retreats offer coaching, workshops, and courses to help you gain clarity on your passions and core values.
Brings you on an inner journey to discover the real you. Typically, this type of retreat is led by a life coach, spiritual guide, or a body-work expert. The main objective is to help you overcome emotional blocks and thought patterns that get in the way of living your greatest potential.
Promotes exercise and alignment between the mind and body. These wellness retreats typically cover everything from restorative yoga and vinyasa to kundalini yoga.
Pretty much all major religions offer spiritual retreats, with Buddhism and Christianity being among the most prevalent worldwide. The goal is to develop your spiritual practice and gain a closer connection with God (or the Universe).
An effective way to quiet the mind and restore a sense of inner peace. The word meditation means to become familiar with, so expect to leave this retreat with awareness over your thoughts and behavioral patterns as well.
Teaches you various breathing exercises and techniques that promote physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing. Intentional breathing has a remarkable way of bridging the conscious with the subconscious. This allows you to break old patterns and restore optimal health. The Wim Hof Method, Holotropic breathing, box breathing, and the breath of fire are some of the many modalities you can expect to learn on these types of wellness vacations.
Nutritional wellness trips:
Promotes healthy eating habits for people of all diets, from vegan and vegetarian to keto and carnivore. The goal is to reset your mind and body by detoxing from unhealthy eating patterns at home. These retreats are typically held in beautiful nature settings and are paired with yoga, cooking classes, and fitness activities.
Offers a mix of intensive workouts and restorative exercises that promote health and longevity. Some retreats focus on specific areas like CrossFit and martial arts while others zero in on yoga, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), surfing, hiking, and other outdoor adventures.
Trips geared towards senior management at corporations and entrepreneurs, often through creative workshops and exercises. These holistic retreats let you escape the day-to-day grind and gain clarity on how to perform at a high level in business. Some topic areas include leadership skills, organizational growth and transformation, change initiatives, problem solving, talent management, and other strategic priorities.
Hotels and resorts that offer luxury spa experiences, including thermal baths, pools and whirlpools, saunas and steam rooms, and spa services like massages.
This is one of the most impactful and uncomfortable mindfulness retreats out there. As its name suggests, silent retreats require total silence throughout the event (often up to 10 days long). This means that participants cannot talk (or even make eye contact) with other meditators on the retreat. The goal is to become mindful of every step and breath you take. This ultimately gives you space for solitary contemplation and personal reflection. Though mostly practiced in eastern cultures, solitude retreats are becoming popular in the West as well.
Dance and movement retreats:
Brings together dance lovers across all age groups and skill levels. One of my favorite activities is ecstatic dancing, where you lose yourself to the music rather than follow specific steps.
Plant-based medicine retreats:
Ceremonial retreats that promote healing and transformation using plant medicines like Ayahuasca, Psilocybin, and DMT. Because most psychedelics are not allowed in the US, you’ll have to go to places in Central and South America to partake in these retreats.
Emotional healing retreats:
While many of the retreats on this list can certainly help with emotional healing, this type of retreat specifically addresses traumatic events such as loss and grief. It offers a safe space to let go of these emotions and create space for something new.
Mental health retreats:
In a sense, everything on this list is a mental health retreat. However, this one specifically treats substance abuse and psycho-behavioral conditions. As such, it offers rehabilitation among other helpful services to help relax the body and mind.
Also considered digital detox retreats, these trips allow you to disconnect from your devices and enjoy the natural world. Nothing grounds the body and soul quite like nature!
Comes in the form of leadership retreats and summits, as well as general team/company bonding.
Men’s / Women’s retreats:
A helpful retreat for people of the same gender who are looking for guidance, community, and a deep understanding of their gender-specific issues.
Sensuality and sexuality retreats:
Promotes self-love and a deepened erotic connection. It encourages people to explore their sexuality and awaken their romantic lives through sexual education and body-work sessions.
All the retreats above involve self-care, but it can mean something different to everybody. So, choose wisely and listen to your heart. It won’t be long until you find the self-care retreat that is right for you.
Couples and relationship retreats:
Provides a space to strengthen your relationship through fun couple’s exercises and activities. These group trips are designed for people going through a rough patch and those looking to strengthen their existing relationships. Even if your relationship is going great already, a couple’s retreat will make it even better.
Reasons why you should consider retreats over typical vacations
In an increasingly stressful and fast-paced world, travelers are looking for more than just a change of scenery. Though there are countless benefits of retreats, here are the top 10 reasons to choose retreats over regular vacations.
1. You’re surrounded by like-minded people
Traveling is all about the people, and this also holds true with retreats.
As mentioned above, there are various types of wellness vacations out there. With so many to choose from, you can be selective about the focus of the trip. So, it’s no wonder that self help retreats attract people with similar passions and interests. It’s easy to find your tribe in this kind of environment!
On the retreats I have attended, I’ve found that others are going through the same things as me. Better yet – sometimes older people in the group have already overcome similar challenges, which can be super helpful. Even if we aren’t facing the same challenges, we are often moving in the same direction with similar goals.
Retreats remind us that we aren’t alone. They provide us with the opportunity to bounce off ideas with other people, and ultimately help us grow together. And the best part is that these friendships can last a lifetime. I still keep in touch with people I met well over a year ago. This is not often the case during my typical travels. The emotional bonding that occurs on retreats is unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced.
Read next: The Coolest Wellness Vacations in the World
2. Retreats provide long-term benefits
While regular vacations can create long-term memories, retreats bring about long-term benefits.
Think about it… you travel to an exotic location with a clear intention to solve a problem or create a new habit. After several days of learning new practices, making new friends, and gaining clarity on what you want in life, you can create lasting changes in the way you approach life.
Examples showing how retreats bring about long term benefits
For example, let’s say that someone with unhealthy eating habits goes on a wellness retreat. The retreat center only serves unprocessed, organic foods and offers a daily exercise regimen. You can bet that this participant would experience higher energy levels, weight loss, and a better mood. Just a brief taste of this new way of life would make it hard not to make lasting lifestyle and diet changes at home.
Another example would be somebody who goes on a meditation retreat and has a breakthrough. They have a profound breathwork or cold immersion session and just like that, they realize the job they’ve been working at for 10+ years is no longer what they want to do. Or, they process a childhood trauma, thus creating space for new and exciting endeavors. As someone who has had many breakthroughs on retreats, I have witnessed firsthand how such experiences lead to ripples and waves in the long run.
The following quote captures the idea perfectly: “No man ever steps in the same river twice. For it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” – Heraclitus
After going on a wellness retreat and gaining new and enriching experiences, you won’t return home as the same person. From gaining new levels of awareness to implementing new rituals, you can expect long-term benefits from going on retreats.
3. Build a deeper relationship with nature
From tropical rainforests to rustic mountain destinations, most retreats are held in scenic nature areas. These beautiful locations offer peace, serenity, and space to create something new and meaningful.
Imagine walking along a tropical beach filled with palm trees and turquoise waters or hiking through dramatic snowcapped mountains. This type of scene has a remarkable way of opening the heart and the mind.
Like the benefits of grounding, nature has a long list of physical, mental, and emotional benefits on the body. This includes reducing stress and cortisol levels as well as improving attention spans and clarity. Here’s a scientific study evidencing how nature affects mental and physical health.
Unlike city breaks, which can be hectic and fast-paced, nature trips are relaxing and rejuvenating. In nature settings, the air is clean and plants are sprawled all over. Add to that an organized retreat with meaningful seminars and activities, and you’ll totally feel recharged from the experience.
After immersing yourself in nature on a retreat, you’ll definitely want to prioritize more nature time back at home. Is this one of the top benefits of attending a retreat? Absolutely!
4. Break old habits, routines, and thought patterns
Traveling on a wellness retreat is one of the best ways to break old patterns. Here, you can forget about all the work, relationships, and other commitments and truly rediscover yourself. Being thrown into an unfamiliar environment, surrounded by supportive, like-minded people, makes it easier to gain clarity and adopt new habits.
In my own life, this has been one of the biggest drivers for going on retreats. It’s really hard to make major lifestyle changes while at home. Holistic retreats, on the other hand, allow you to ditch your daily routines and seek clarity in your life.
While routines can be helpful – creating certainty and structure in your life – it’s helpful to sometimes break free from them. Who knows: maybe you will learn something new about yourself and unlock new ideas that you haven’t received before. And for those habits that are no longer serving us – they can be replaced with new routines and rituals.
By stepping away from your familiar environment and going on a retreat, you can find much-needed clarity in your life.
5. You can (finally) relax and unwind
These days, life can be pretty stressful. Self-development retreats can help you escape that.
Practices like yoga, breathwork, and meditation—which are commonly found at retreats— have a remarkable ability to regulate the nervous system and promote relaxation. They also help you get a good night’s sleep so you can wake up feeling fully refreshed and energized.
Other modalities commonly offered on wellness trips include massages, aromatherapy, sound healings, Reiki energy healings, Tai chi, and Qigong. And unlike sipping cocktails at the hotel pool, you won’t feel hungover afterwards.
By leaving the hustle and bustle and stepping into a calm and quiet atmosphere, you can truly focus on relaxation. This is one of the main advantages of choosing a retreat as your next vacation, hands down.
Read next: Most Unique Quotes about Traveling
6. No need to worry about trip planning
Unlike traditional holidays, which require lots of travel planning upfront, retreats are pre-planned. All you have to do is show up, set an intention, and immerse yourself in the experience.
Most self help retreats are led by skilled facilitators, who handle all the logistics, lodging, and activities. So, you don’t have to worry about what to do, where to stay, and how to get around. Instead, you only need to focus on your wellbeing – hence the name, wellness retreats!
7. Leadership from subject matter experts
When attending retreats, you’ll have access to professionals who lead the trainings, workshops, and other exercises. These individuals provide you with information, techniques, and guidance to help you get the most out of the experience.
In addition to all their knowledge and wisdom, these experts in the spiritual, physical, and psychological realms are great to network with. Who knows, maybe someday you’ll be partnering with them on a new and exciting venture! What more could you want in a bucket-list travel experience?
8. Improves diet and lifestyle
In wellness tourism, you don’t have to worry about finding nutrient-dense foods. On these retreats, fresh and tasty dishes are a priority. So, you’ll seldom find yourself in a situation where you’re consuming too much sugar or alcohol.
On a Wim Hof retreat in Iceland and an entrepreneurship retreat in Costa Rica, only vegan food was served. During these two weeklong retreats, I felt absolutely amazing— experiencing clear and crisp thoughts and high levels of energy. Needless to say, I returned home with the intent to clean up my diet!
Unlike on regular vacations, where people return home more stressed and unhealthier than when they left, retreats often lead to improved dietary and lifestyle habits.
9. Retreats encourage you to push beyond your physical and psychological limits
Like other forms of traveling, retreats get you out of your comfort zone. They also provide you with a safe space to push beyond your perceived limits.
A good example of this is at plant-based medicine retreats, which often have doctors onsite to look after participants. This feeling of safety gives participants the green light to dig deep and push through any traumas, hardships, and other things holding them back.
The Wim Hof retreat I went to in Iceland gave me the opportunity to push well beyond my limits. During this trip, I did lots of cold immersions in subzero Celsius conditions. I hiked up a snowcapped mountain in just a bathing suit, jumped 10 meters off a cliff into Europe’s coldest lake, and did other (crazy) intrepid experiences. By pushing my physical and psychological limits, I felt closely connected to my higher self and the tribal/masculine part of me.
Overcoming such immense challenges made me feel high on life temporarily and shifted my paradigm forever.
10. Top reasons to go on a wellness retreat: You’ll gain clarity, perspective, and gratitude
Last, but certainly not least, on this list of the top benefits of retreats: they show you a more conscious way of living.
Holistic retreats offer so much in the way of clarity, perspective, and gratitude. Without all the noise and distractions of daily life, you can truly drop into a state of receiving. Retreats provide so many thought-provoking activities and exercises that help you align the mind, body, and spirit. From this natural state of being, you can download new ideas and perspectives that will deeply change your life.
For me, one of my favorite activities at retreats are Cacao Ceremonies, and not only because I’m a self-proclaimed chocolate connoisseur. These communal rituals open up the heart and make space for love and gratitude. Though it’s easy to get all caught up in the self-help and personal development stuff, the most important thing is love. From a place of heart coherence, we can overcome any obstacle, conquer our fears, and create the life we want. And only from a place of love, can we make the world a better place for ourselves and our posterity.
If you are interested in learning more about wellness and personal development retreats, feel free to shoot me a message on Instagram! Otherwise, be sure to check out my other article on the top wellness trips around the world.
Frequently asked questions about retreats
What is wellness tourism?
According to the Global Wellness Institute, wellness tourism is defined as “travel associated with the pursuit of maintaining or enhancing one’s personal wellbeing.” It often includes physical, psychological, and spiritual activities—all with the purpose of promoting general health and wellbeing. Throughout the past decade, this sector of tourism is outpacing the general travel industry. A recent study anticipates that wellness tourism will be a $919 billion industry in 2022. This encapsulates both domestic and international travel.
It’s important to keep in mind that wellness tourism and medical tourism are not the same thing. In addition to mindset and self-care retreats, there are also many wellness spas, resorts, and cruises in this space.
Are retreats worth it?
This question is very subjective and depends on who you talk to. However, I can say in my personal experience that retreats are well worth the financial cost. It’s hard to put a price on your physical and mental health. But I believe that the breakthroughs and takeaways I’ve gotten from retreats make it a worthwhile investment.
What do wellness retreats do?
The purpose of retreats is to provide opportunities for growth and personal development. This includes physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional tools (and exercises) to help guests achieve optimal health and wellbeing. They offer structured, pre-planned activities. Some popular modalities you can expect to find include meditation, breathwork, cold exposure, yoga, ecstatic dancing, dining in the dark, reiki and sound healing therapies, mindset techniques, emotional-based workshops, mindfulness practice, plant-based medicines, intermittent fasting, body work, and so much more.
How long do retreats last?
The answer will depend on the type of retreat. Some can be just a long weekend getaway (1-3 days), while others are a week or longer.