Turning A Trip Into A Honeymoon

“I wish we were going on our honeymoon,” I said to my husband as we boarded a plane to Bali. “Who says we can’t pretend,” he responded. It was this tiny comment that completely reshaped the way I ended up thinking about our 10-day trip to Indonesia turning it from just a vacation into a paradisiacal getaway.

As a travel writer and health coach, I’m extremely lucky to have travel as a part of my job description. I’m even luckier to have my husband tag along with me often. We’ve been able to see parts of the world and share new experiences together we might not otherwise get the chance to. But, often those trips are work related meaning I’m taking meetings, writing up posts and never truly disconnecting from my 9 to 5.

So, when I got asked to lead some meditation classes on a cruise through Indonesia in July, I had the mindset it was going to be that mix of exploring and working again. That was where my honeymoon comment came in.

IN THE SERENGETI ON OUR ACTUAL HONEYMOON.

IN THE SERENGETI ON OUR ACTUAL HONEYMOON.


Ross and I opted to go to Tanzania for our honeymoon in January 2016 and it was one of our favorite trips of all time. Not only did we get to check off bucket list items like going on safari, but we also completely unplugged and embraced all things romantic (private dinner under the stars in the Serengeti? Yes please!). Honeymoons are the one time where everyone at work encourages to take as much time as you want off and not worry about answering work emails, and everywhere you go people are pampering you. Not to mention, for some reason honeymoons just spark that urge to say “I love you” to your significant other like every 10 seconds.

But, even though we’re not newlyweds and already took an official honeymoon, who says we couldn’t behave like we were? So, we did.

Though I was technically working on the week-long cruise, leading a handful of meditations certainly wasn’t an imposition to our honeymoon plan. Yes, I did have to wake up early a number of days, but when I wasn’t working we went hiking, took naps, and laid on the beach without checking emails constantly. Then, after the cruise, we decided to extend our trip by spending a few days in Ubud, Bali and that’s where the honeymoon feeling hit a new high.

WE STAYED IN THE REGAL VILLA 2 AT THE VICEROY BALI.

WE STAYED IN THE REGAL VILLA 2 AT THE VICEROY BALI.


We stayed at Viceroy Bali and the moment you enter the intimate resort situated in the heart of The Valley of Kings, you feel transported. We were greeted with welcome drinks, flower necklaces, and cool towels, just like a couple of newlyweds. We enjoyed a drink in the restaurant overlooking the jungle before heading to our private villa (side note: it’s a villa only resort and there are only 25 total). When we walked in and saw our massive room, spa-like bathroom, beautiful thatched-roof ceiling our hearts began to pitter patter. Then it got better.

We looked out the window to see our own private plunge pool, lounge chairs and mini garden with unobstructed views of the jungle. Oh, and there was a natural waterfall serenading us in background. Even if you entered this place in a bad mood, you had no choice but to fall into the romantic swing of things. As soon as our valet left, we looked at each other like yup, this is a honeymoon alright.

We had arrived in the morning so we literally spent the entire day never leaving the room. We took a nap, lounged outside, went swimming, took a bath, talked, and everything else you want to do on a honeymoon. The staff took care of our every need and were happy to accommodate when we wanted to switch our five-course tasting dinner to that evening instead of the following.

THE BEAUTIFUL DESSERT AT CASCADES RESTAURANT.

THE BEAUTIFUL DESSERT AT CASCADES RESTAURANT.


The first time we left the room was for that dinner, which was just as romantic. Their restaurant, CasCades, is one of the top fine dining spots in the whole area and overlooks the valley from a bird’s eye view. We ordered a bottle of wine before settling into our decadent meal that, of course, was lit by candle light. The chef came out to greet us and even changed a course for me to make sure I was totally enjoying the dining experience. The staff kept apologizing about the rain that night, but for us it only made it more romantic. After the meal, we retired back to our villa and fell asleep to the sound of the rain in the jungle. Hello any romantic movie ever!

We woke up the next morning feeling more relaxed than ever and opted to go sightseeing that day with one of the guides from the hotel. They let us design our own private half-day tour so we could see exactly what we wanted without the hassle of a group. We visited the rice terraces, the Holy Spring Temple, did a coffee tasting, and went shopping all before heading back to the hotel where we kicked up the romance even more by doing a two-hour treatment at their Lembah Spa.

THE VIEW FROM THE SPA AT VICEROY BALI.

THE VIEW FROM THE SPA AT VICEROY BALI.


The two of us love a good massage, but they’re usually about 10 minutes at a nail salon in NYC. Getting a full pampering session happens once in a blue (honey)moon. We were massaged, scrubbed, and moisturized with yogurt. It didn’t end there. We then enjoyed a shower together followed by a rose petal-filled bath, steam room, and hot tub. To say we were relaxed and totally gushy for each other is an understatement. At that point, we couldn’t even fathom being with other people and opted for room service in bathrobes instead of dining out.

Sadly, we had to check out in the evening the following day, but still managed to enjoy a late check out, dinner, and pool-side lounging. By the end of our stay at Viceroy Bali, our mission of treating our trip like a honeymoon was a success. Even if we weren’t newlyweds, it was taking that mindset and making a few indulging, out-of-the-ordinary, decisions that really brought that feeling to life.

Obviously, we can’t always go on luxurious vacations, but we can make more of an effort to adopt that attitude of disconnecting from the world, reconnecting with each other, and embracing romance. With that mindset, we can perpetually be on our honeymoon.  

3 Life Lessons From A Peruvian Shaman

Machu Picchu is one of those destinations that has been on my bucket list likely since birth. Ranking in my top three places I must see ASAP (the others are Antarctica and seeing molten lava), I knew I had to book a trip sooner rather than later. That’s exactly what I did last month, but kicked it up a notch.


For starters, instead of just taking the bus up the mountain to see the incredible ruins, my husband and I opted to hike from kilometer 104. If you’ve ever considered going to the ancient site yourself, I highly recommend this trek. It’s the perfect middle ground if you like a bit of a challenge, but prefer not to sleep at smelly campsites when doing the five-day-long Inca Trail hike. You get the experience of the trail with a comfy hotel bed at the end (my idea of camping). Bonus: you get to see other Inca sites only reachable by foot like Winaywayna.
 
Next, wanting to fully take advantage of Machu Picchu, we decided to go back up the mountain the next day. This time with a Peruvian shaman. The Sumaq Hotel in Aguas Calientes offered this incredible opportunity to have a mystical tour of the grounds and learn about magical connections with Pachamama (Mother Earth) and the sacred temples. It is called the Sacred Valley after all!

Though we had been there the day before, it was a completely different experience arriving at sunrise with the shaman. He took hours explaining the history and meaning behind the many different parts of Machu Picchu. But, these were the biggest (and most practical) lessons I learned.
 
1. Big Ideas Start Small

While we were walking around, the shaman stopped at a rather unassuming wall (see picture above). He explained, with the help of an English interpreter, that the wall was built strangely with smaller rocks on the bottom supporting the large rocks on top. This was meant to signify that it’s the smaller ideas that allow our grand ideas to come to life. It’s a reminder to embrace and nurture our everyday thoughts to create support for our bigger, more creative thoughts of the future.
 
2. Slow Down
With many tour guides, their goal is to get you in and out as quickly as possible. At the end of our tour, the shaman took us to a grassy spot overlooking Machu Picchu and told us just to sit in silence and take in the moment. We could meditate, we could keep our eyes open or closed, we could lay down, we could do whatever we wanted, as long as we just soaked in the moment. How often do we have people instructing us to slow down? Usually it’s quite the opposite. The handful of minutes (I’m not even sure how long we sat there), gave me time to reflect on my goals for the future while appreciating the present.
 
3. We Can Rid Ourselves of Negativity
While the shaman went through a whole purification ceremony using crystals, coca leaves and other cosmic offerings, it was really the instruction of thinking about the negative energies in my life that left me feeling lighter. Before blessing us and using what looked like a handcrafted wand to whisk away negativity, he instructed that I think about the things bringing me down and how I wanted them to change. It was giving myself this time for some self-reflection that helped me work through some issues causing me stress. We don’t need a healer or magic wand to rid ourselves of negativity. We just need to devote the time to knowing we want a change.

How To Disconnect On Vacation (For Real)

Smartphones and computers are great for researching adventures, finding restaurants or posting waterfall photos during a trip. But, if you're really trying to take a vacation, staying glued to your digital devices can keep you attached to life's daily stressors like work, chores and plans.

According to a recent poll conducted by NPR,  30 percent of Americans focus a significant amount of energy on work during their “getaways” — meaning that our stress is getting packed right alongside our bathing suits and flip flops.

It’s time to break the vicious cycle! Make the decision to truly disconnect next time you travel, using these five simple steps as a guide. After all, you and your iPhone do have something in common — at some point you just need to recharge.

Bring a Legit Camera

Sure, our phones have cameras that rival most top-notch digital SLRs, but you might be tempted to quickly check Facebook while snapping a pic of that palm tree. Bringing an actual camera allows you to leave the phone in the room so you can stay focused on the adventure ahead. With so many compact and easy-to-use professional cameras on the market, we promise it will be just as easy pressing that button on your phone.

Take a Yoga Class

For most of us, it wouldn’t be vacation unless lots of vegging out and eating were involved.  But to really revitalize, try choosing someplace that offers daily, healthy activities. That sunrise beach yoga class will help you to get into a deeper sense of relaxation and focus your mind back to taking care of you, instead of the to-do list waiting for you back at home.

Go to a Place Without WiFi

This might be tough (and there may be some days of withdrawal!) but going to a place with no Wi-Fi or cell phone signal will force you to be MIA from the world. (Your parents did it their whole lives and you never had cell phone access as a kid, so this can be done.) Or simply choose not to sign up for the Wi-Fi your hotel or resort offers. Trust us, the world will keep on spinning without you knowing every one of your Aunt Milly’s status updates or the latest memo from your boss.

Indulge in a Spa Service

Whether it’s booking a traditional massage or attempting a unique treatment like a ritual bath, there are tons of spa services all aimed at one thing — helping you detox from your busy day-to-day life. Find one that suits you and spend a little extra cash to decompress.

Sleep

It may sound like a simple thing, but many Americans (42 percent to be exact according to The National Sleep Foundation) are sleep deprived, so getting some shuteye on vacay is a vital step to feeling recharged. Tom Brady and actress Brooke Burke-Charvet have even admitted to taking “sleepcations” where they book time off just to catch some zzzz’s.

Any tips we missed? Tell us your secret for completely unplugging during those precious vacation days.

Why I Needed to Take a Vacation From My Vacation

Hitting the road or hopping on a plane can be exciting, but it also comes with a lot of stress. There’s packing, getting to the airport on time, dealing with traffic and delays, drawing the short stick when it comes to seating options, and body clocks that often get out of whack. That’s exactly what happened to me this past summer when I decided to fill every waking moment with travel. 

I’ll admit, I’m one of those people who gets the travel bug if I don’t go somewhere every six or so weeks. I constantly need a change of scenery, even if it’s a quick trip upstate. So, when I was pushing the three-and-a-half-month mark of no trips, I went a bit nuts with the planning.

First up was a cruise around the Mediterranean, where I led meditation classes for a week, followed by a two-night trip to Denver, where I spoke at a conference. Then, I made my way over to Portland, Oregon for the Fourth of July, where I ate five meals a day, and lastly, headed down toRio for the Olympics, where sleep wasn’t on the itinerary. While I am immensely grateful for each and every one of these experiences, I was also extremely tired. 

The time spent traveling to and from airports and working non-top while on the road caught up to me by mid-August. My back was sore, my skin broke out, and I had a tension headache that wouldn’t go away. Although I chose this, I needed to reset and reboot before autumn set in. So what did I do? I planned another getaway. Before you throw your arms up in the air, hear me out. This trip was going to be different -- I would spend my days sleeping, eating healthy, exercising, and doing absolutely nothing.

To avoid another long-haul trip, I opted for a destination that's all about relaxing: Boca Raton, Florida. My husband and I booked a two-day stay at Boca Beach Club, an oceanfront hotel that's perched on a half-mile stretch of private beach. Translation: it's quiet enough to fall asleep to the sounds of the Atlantic. The property also has two fitness centers, multiple restaurants with health-conscious menus, and a top-rated spa -- all the necessary ingredients for a true escape. 

To get into vacation mode, we did the unthinkable: put away our computers and cell phones. Studies show that six out of 10 employees have conducted some work on a recent vacation. And a Framingham Heart Study found that men who didn’t take a vacation for several years were 30 percent more likely to have a heart attack. 

Once we got over the discomfort of disconnecting, we made an effort to relax. And what better way to do that than by eating? We chowed down on some delicious fish tacos and guacamole before heading back to the room and taking a nap. I couldn’t remember the last time I napped in the middle of the afternoon.

Food and sleep -- we kept it to the basics. We took advantage of the fact that we had time and a beautiful location on our hands, so we splurged for the romantic panoramic dinner. The next morning, we indulged in sunrise yoga. For us, it was something out of the ordinary, romantic, and the perfect activity to kick off a day of other healthy activities. We wrapped up by 7 a.m. and were at the pool two hours later, ready to take another short nap. The afternoon was filled activities like walking on the beach, chatting, and hitting the gym. Typically, our workouts are squeezed in the morning before work or after leaving the office, so it was a nice change of pace to exercise together. And before dinner that evening, we decided to catch up on a little grooming like haircuts and manicures (I even convinced my husband to get his first one ever). Then, it was on to another delectable dinner before calling it a night. 

On our last day, we went all out -- in relaxing. This was our spa day. We opted to try the ritual bath experience, followed by a couple’s massage to make sure we were 100 percent blissed out by the end of this marathon de-stress weekend. The 50-minute bathing experience was unlike anything I've encountered before. You go from an aroma room to a personal tub in a Turkish hammam-like setting, followed by a shower that feels like you’re getting sand blasted. Next, you're transported into another tub, where water is steadily dumped on your back for an aquatic massage. The whole experience ends in a communal whirlpool.  Needless to say, all the visible wear and tear on my skin from months of traveling had been scuffed away. The hour-long massage took care of my muscles, releasing the tension that had built up from carrying luggage and unsuccessfully sleeping on planes.

At lunch, in our robes, we looked at each other with a smile that said “we did it.” We were stress-free and feeling refreshed. Getting on the plane later that night didn’t have the same sting as the flights earlier this summer. And when we awoke the next morning in our New York City apartment, the world was a little easier to handle. All we needed was a vacation from our vacations.

Feng Shui Works. Find Out How To Make It Work For You.

If you read through all 30 of my health lessons I learned before I turned 30 (SIGN UP FOR MY NEWSLETTER HERE), you may have noticed one of the items was "Feng Shui works." Well, guess what? It does!

Feng Shui is a practice that I've learned over the years from my mom who just so happens to be an expert on the subject. I got so into the ancient practice, I began to research it more on my own and implement into my own life. Don't believe me? Listen to this story.

I had set up my money corner (check out he bagua map above to see where it is in your home) according to the principles of Feng Shui, but I felt like I was stuck in terms of increasing my income. So, I went over to that area one day and noticed the piggy bank was so full I couldn't put in any more money. I swiftly took that piggy bank to the bank, emptied it out, brought it home and put new money in it with the intention of I wanted new money to flow into our lives. Within a week both my husband and I got raises. 

Convinced yet? 

The practice of Feng Shui is often shrouded in confusion or is simplified to just cleaning up your home. Many people think of it as some kooky, munchy crunchy thing that hippies do. So, I figured I'd take one step with this newsletter to break through that misconception.

I promise there are no sacrifices or weird rituals you need to perform; just some simple changes in your space and you'll see a world of difference. 

While that basic idea does have benefits, there are some better and more surprising ways to take that energy flow a step further. "Feng Shui, particularly Holistic Feng Shui, goes beyond organizing your space because its not about moving your couch and getting rich" Laura Benko, author of the book The Holistic Home: Mind Body Spirit Space, told me. "It's connecting the dots between the challenges in your life and how they can physically manifest in your environment." 

Here are five simple Feng Shui tips you can implement right now to feel a difference: 

1. Take Command of Your Life By Moving Your Bed or Desk
As humans we spend most of our time at work or asleep in bed. So, how the energy flows during those precious hours can have a tremendous effect on your life. If you're feeling vulnerable or out of control, start by moving your bed or desk. "Most people don’t give much thought to the connection between how a piece of their furniture is located and how it can broaden a perspective, boost confidence and facilitate goals," says Laura. "But, one of the main tenants of Feng Shui is about the power of position." For example, if your back is to the door at work or you cannot see who is approaching your bed, you are not in command. "Give yourself an advantage by positioning yourself in the commanding spot wherever you can," says Laura. "If it's structurally impossible to situate yourself in this way (let's say your desk is a fixed cubicle or a commanding wall in the bedroom is impeded by a closet, radiator, etc) then set up a mirror in front of you so when you look in it, it reflects the entrance behind you."
 
 2. Check Your Mirrors and Décor to Break Bad Patterns
Major common issues like feeling stuck, having a fear of commitment or feeling like you don't measure up can all be stemming from the positioning of items in your environment. "Your home can reveal your subconscious issues," says Laura. "For example, if you haven't updated your decor in eons, chances are you are living in the past in other ways too." If you want to move forward you have to add new elements to your space and get rid of items from the past that could have a negative connotation.  If you feel like you're constantly not good enough your mirrors could be positioned too high. To change that perception, make sure to have a full-length mirror where you can view yourself frequently. Having mirrors that cut off the body can create a disconnect between your mind and body and distort how you view yourself. "The good news is, once you are aware of the connections, the fixes are easy and when your adjusted environment is in alignment with your goals, your mindset will follow."
 
3. Adjust your Nightstands and You'll Have A Better Relationship
Relationship problems are probably one of the most common concerns for many of us. A lack of balance between a couple can lead to arguments and even breakups. And those seeking relationships can find it increasingly more difficult. "The most common issue I see is a lack of balanced nightstands which inevitably mirror a lack of balance in a (romantic) relationship," says Laura. "The don't have to be match-matchy, just make sure that they are equal in height and quality. Nightstands are like energetic anchors in a relationship."
 
4. Clear Your Bedroom For A Better Nights Sleep
 Does your bedroom also work as your occasional workspace, workout room, library or electronics center? "Get rid of anything that is a reminder of tasks, exercise or a To-Do list," says Laura. "Place your bed in the commanding position so that you subconsciously feel empowered and not easily startled and you'll sleep better." And while it might be nice to catch that late-night show from bed, Laura suggests that you get rid of electronics in the bedroom. "Electronic pollution impedes a peaceful nights sleep."
 
5. Ditch Your Decorator
 It's considered a luxury if you have an interior designer or fashionable friend to decorate your home. Though your house may look like it's out of a magazine, it can affect your overall well being. "Being surrounded in a home that is filled with choices that are not your own can have a significant impact on your own inner voice and your confidence to share your opinions," says Laura. "Go over every item in your home and ask yourself 'Do I love it? Does it represent me? Will I use it?' Fill your home with items that you judiciously edit, that hold significant meaning and make you happy." When you create your home what you want your want out of life can more easily happen.
 
6. You Don’t Have to Use the Color Red
Red is a very powerful color in Feng Shui as it carries the energy element of fire. Many basic articles or books on the topic suggest using this color because it can spark passion, wealth and luck in your life. But, if you don't like the color, you shouldn't use it. "If you don't resonate with it don't do it because you think it will bring you luck," says Laura. "Your discontent will beget itself and put you into an awful mood. And that is not good Feng Shui!"

This Luxury Hotel is Offering a Meditation Package in Honor of Global Wellness Day

The Mandarin Oriental is known for many things: luxury, service, design and more. But, now they're also interested in helping their guests commit to a wellness practice. With more attention being paid to the health, emotional and psychological benefits of meditation in recent years, the New York location of the hotel is collaborating with a selection of experts to develop a series of immersive wellness experiences and unique programming for guests.

Building on its longstanding commitment to overall well-being and continuing to offer an oasis of calm high above the city, New Yorkers and visitors alike are invited to learn the practice of silent mantra meditation and attain a renewed sense of well-being under the guidance of consciousness consultant Shivangi Van Gogh, Founder of The Green Ashram, with the M-OHMents of Wellness immersive weekend journey from June 10 to 12.

In addition to four 90-minute guided meditation sessions led by Shivangi Van Gogh where guests will learn the proper techniques to become life-long meditators, the comprehensive program also features spa treatments, nutritious culinary experiences and a special yoga session on Saturday, June 11th in honor of Global Wellness Day designed to complement the meditation practice. 

I'm not sure I could think of a better way to celebrate Global Wellness Day. 

Click HERE to book the incredible package.