In the age of high-speed wi-fi and constant connectivity it’s harder than ever to unplug from cyberspace and really unwind. Here are seven places, from Japanese hot springs and Norwegian fjords to foodie tours of Rome and yoga retreats in Bali, where you can relax and get revitalised.
1.WATERS OF LIFE
In Japan, bathing in hot springs is a centuries- old remedy steeped in folklore and tradition that has given rise to the onsen. At these inns, guests can dine, sleep, and go for refreshing dips in the midst of Mother Nature. Not far from Tokyo, the Takaragawa Onsen is a prime example. Dating back to 1955, and fed by the nearby Takaragawa River for which it’s named, the inn is equipped with indoor and outdoor pools for bathing, both of which are chemical-free, and has both separate bathing areas for men and women, as well as a bigger pool for both genders. The Japanese flair for minimalist décor, replete with calligraphy, screens, pine floors and landscaping enhances the back-to-nature vibe.
Getting there is a breeze. On the bullet train it’s a one-hour zip from Tokyo Station to Jomo-Kogen Station where the resort will pick you up.
There’s no better way to get off the grid than to go offline. Free of social media and the constant flux of news, videos, photos, emails and stories, which excites so many negative emotions like anger or envy, cyber-nauts can escape the clutches of a virtual life for a device-free weekend from the only travel venture in Southeast Asia that specialises in such vacations.
Digital Detox Asia hosts these retreats at the Parco by Bonanza Resort in a pastoral setting near Khao Yai National Park in Thailand. Through the different creative activities and teambuilding exercises combined with yoga and meditation classes, and even a campfire jam session at night, the firm’s founders Nathaniel Simha and John Will Sail, have come up with a programme that allows people to reconnect with others as they dip into deeper wells of themselves and their own creativity that are not accessible in the vain and shallow world of social media. As Nat explained, “We consume digital media in a passive way instead of actively creating something.”
That does not mean Digital Detox Asia encourages people to ditch their phones and tablets forever after. As John said, “This weekend is about managing your devices instead of having them manage you.” The company’s next two retreats are on February 1-3 and March 22-24.
3.BENT INTO SHAPE
Travellers have been singing the praises of Bali for decades, but the loudest voice in that chorus over the last decade has been Elizabeth Gilbert who paid loving tribute to the Indonesian island in her bestselling memoir Eat, Pray, Love. Thanks to that book, and the film version starring Julia Roberts, Bali has become Southeast Asia’s most popular destination for female travellers on yoga holidays and voyages of personal discovery.
Although the mountain-surrounded town of Ubud offers a lot of different options for different budgets, if you’d like to go more upscale, Blooming Lotus Yoga has stunning villas with their own private plunge pools and en suite kitchenettes. Their all-inclusive three- or six-night packages include two yoga daily classes, two daily workshops, two meals per day, and one cultural excursion.
Norway is justly renowned for its fjords and natural phenomena like the Northern Lights, but even in the capital of Oslo visitors can sail away from the confines and conflicts of urban life.
The two-to-three-hour cruises that depart from the city pass through narrow inlets, hemmed in by imposing mountains, to manoeuvre around rocky islands with brightly hued cottages and lighthouses.
These year-round outings also provide a grand panorama of the capital and the country’s storied past as a sea-conquering empire. From the boat, guests can gawp at the Maritime Museum, where the sailing vessels of yesteryear are moored, and the Fram Museum, named after the polar ship housed here, or grab a glimpse of Oslo’s apex of contemporary architecture: the Norwegian National Opera & Ballet House which has been designed with sleek, ship-like lines.
The main company, Norway Yacht Charter, offers an array of other waterborne excursions, from private charters to cruises with live jazz and blues, as well as a hop-on and hop-off city tour.
This phrase suggests a linkage between people and the great outdoors that’s as old as humanity itself. Getting back to the natural world is a great way to reconnect with our own nature.
At Lisu Lodge, an eco-retreat in northern Thailand, guests can appreciate all the greenery of these highlands with enough modern amenities so no one has to stray too far from their comfort zone. Built in a Lisu style, the resort is a paragon of sustainability built of mostly local materials, embellished with organic rice and vegetable fields, and staffed by members of this local hilltribe.
Apart from its natural attributes, the Lisu Lodge features cultural performances by local entertainers, as well as all sorts of interesting options like meeting a village shaman or going white-water rafting.
Nothing becalms a worried mind like a gourmet meal and few things can help us to disconnect from the troubles of the present than revelling in the glories of the past.
Put these two pleasures together and you have the twin embryos of Eating Europe’s foodie tours of history-rich districts. Their itineraries for Rome feature a number of tantalising options that take in the oldest Jewish community in Europe, the backstreets around the Vatican, and the original birthplace of Roman cuisine, the neighbourhood of Testaccio, where you can sample old staples like pizza and pasta or try some new-fangled favourites like trapizzino, a combination of pizza, calzone and a triangular sandwich called tramezzino.
To see some slices of local nightlife and do somegourmandising en route, try the “Rome Food and Wine Stroll,” led by a master sommelier who will teach you how to pair a range of local delicacies with wines from all over the country
7.THE PEAK OF WELLNESS
When the world’s top travel, fashion and design magazines have consistently bestowed a resort with a bevy of best-of accolades, that should silence any naysayers.
Santani Wellness Resort and Spa in Sri Lanka is one such high-profile place. Some visitors rave about the spa facilities, while others marvel at the natural setting, compliment the tasty choice of healthy foods, or enthuse over the Spartan chic of the accommodation with mountainside vistas.
Most agree that the range of wellness packages, from detox and “De Addiction” to “Address Your Stress,” “Healthy Living” and Ayurveda, is impressively diverse and revitalising.
Guests can also partake of mountain hikes, visit hallowed temples and gushing waterfalls, or design their own “Bespoke Wellness Getaway.”