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Ask the Traveler: Can travel cure what ails me?

Illustration by Andrea De Santis

Now there’s the question of the moment. From racing minds and sleepless nights to a variety of other stress-related ailments and afflictions, pandemic living has taken a toll on everyone’s health, even those of us fortunate enough to have escaped its most serious impacts.

Personally, I clocked elevated cholesterol, nagging lower back pain, and—gasp—my first gray hair, though that last calamity wasn’t strictly medical.

In short, we’ve all been through the wringer, so of course wellness is top of mind as travelers venture out into the world again.

“More people are looking to use their precious travel time with a new emphasis on not only taking care of themselves, but learning how to improve their general health,” says Anne Dimon, president of the Wellness Tourism Association.

More focus on boosting fitness and reducing anxiety

Dimon notes that athletic pursuits and activities in nature, which can boost fitness and reduce anxiety, are becoming increasingly important components of many wellness vacations.

Pampering is not out, exactly. But, it’s evolving. “Prevention” is the new byword, especially in luxury travel, Dimon says.

A few months ago, I jumped on this trend without even knowing it. Browsing the menu at the Naia Resort and Spa in Belize, I skipped right past my go-to deep tissue and aromatherapy combo and opted for an active, guided stretching session in one of its luxe therapy rooms. There wasn’t any flickering candlelight or lilting pan flute music—just hamstrings on fire and the creaking of joints that had grown too accustomed to perpetual sitting. It was the highlight of my week in tropical paradise.

Resorts at home and abroad are racing to accommodate increasing demand, from adding on-site medical specialists to decking out rooms with high-end sleep aids. Programs range from weekends to weeklong, or longer. For example, The Ranch Malibu launched an elective program that gives guests one-on-one time with a wellness practitioner, a custom lifestyle regimen, and virtual follow-ups afterward.

Of course, no vacation is going to cure all that ails us. But, increasingly, travel offers those who are willing to rethink their leisure time the chance to concentrate on what counts most. And after all, what’s time without health?

Want to suggest an Ask the Traveler topic? Write to Jessica Fender at westways@aaa-calif.com.

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AAA travel alert: Many travel destinations have implemented COVID-19–related restrictions. Before making travel plans, check to see if hotels, attractions, cruise lines, tour operators, restaurants, and local authorities have issued health and safety-related restrictions or entry requirements. The local tourism board is a good resource for updated information.

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