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7 Uncommon Travel Destinations to Rejuvenate Your Body, Mind, and Spirit

Luke Armstrong | Jun 14, 2016

Uncommon travel spots across the world to renew your body, mind, and spirit.

Is it time to hit the reset button? If so, this post by travel blogger and world nomad, Luke Armstrong is just what you need for inspiration to travel.


In this post:

If you're seeking renewal and tranquility, Luke Armstrong has some amazing spots across the globe he highly recommends you should visit. Step out of your routine, and even your comfort zone, and envision yourself far, far away in a peaceful state of mind without a care in the world.

We travel for numerous reasons. The world is full countless things to do, places to see, and people to meet. But sometimes, we don't travel to go anywhere, but to get away from the place, or state of mind that we are in. Sometimes we just need to get away. Our modern, Western lives are a lot of things, but rarely are they relaxing and rejuvenating. To keep everything in balance, take time for yourself, slow things down and reconnect with your values in the slow tempo world.

Other times, we travel to seek healing. Outside of Western medicine, there is a world of places where people go to find the healing, rest, and rejuvenation that they need. Here are my top 7 picks from across the world where you can disconnect to reconnect.

1. The Sanctuary on Koh Phangan -- Thailand.

Koh Phangan is most known for its debaucherous full moon parties in Haad Rin. But just a ten minute skiff ride away, there is an especially special strip of coastline where a warm expat community of healers has set up an outpost which melds with the locals and mixes the classic version of postcard paradise with yoga, meditation, alternative healing, and community.

The Sanctuary Resort began as a humble outpost of dreamers on cushions on a wood floor and today is a circulatory center that feeds a few dozen conscious establishments across three adjacent beaches. The Sanctuary's “Tea Temple” has a rotating cast of healers who, judging by first person feedback and my own experience with them, deliver! If you have any musculoskeletal ailments, ask about Sarah and her Rolfing!

Judging from the the vacationing actors, apple farmers from upstate NY, physicist, backpackers, college professor, and Twitter employee I met there, this is a beach that brings people from all walks and budgets together.

Writers, artists, creative seem to be concentrated at a particularly dense rate. During my stay, Romi Grossberg, an award winning Australian writer, led a creative writing workshop through The Sanctuary's Tea Temple. The writers I spoke with there found the environment conducive to their crafts, so the workshop was a great way for aspiring writers to get to know one another and reflect upon the process of writing.

Koh Phangan is also home to Wat Kow Tom, where seekers engage in a 10 day silent meditation retreats. Everyone who emerges from one of these seems to unanimously agree they are powerful and life-changing. With these as your starting points, you could spend quite a while exploring the healing and rejuvenating outposts set up on this “magical island.”

2. San Marcos on Lake Atitlan -- Guatemala

Lake Atitlan is the Mayan word that means where the rainbow begins. Aldous Huxley described it as the most beautiful lake on earth. Few lakes can compete with its dramatic charm. It is the deepest lake in Central America, and being surrounded by three volcanoes, basks in an otherworldly glow. Dozens of Mayan villages dot Atitlan’s shoreline. One of these villages, San Marcos, has become a haven for self work.

For yoga retreats there is the Kaivalya Yoga Center. Those interested in meditation can check out the courses offered by Las Piramides Del Ka. And don’t you dare take a trip there without joining Chocolate Shaman Keith's cacao ceremony, a unique and out of this world experience.

You'll find a full schedule of these and other happenings in San Marcos on the community bulletin board in the center of town. Aside from the many workshops and going-ons, the lake is also just a wonderful place to just be. For around $25, you can hire a private boat and spend the day touring unique Mayan villages along the lake.

3. Vagabond Temple -- Cambodia

Located a two minute walk from a beautiful stretch of Cambodia's beach, The Vagabond Temple host week-long and month-long retreats that feature yoga, meditation, health, and dharma talks. These retreats take place in context of a supportive community, where participants are encouraged to use yoga to explore their life and calling.

People join these retreats for various reasons, but everyone leaves with a similar feeling of renewal and purpose.

For many Westerners, yoga is a fitness routine. The Vagabond Temple reaches deeper to yoga's original purpose and teaches yoga that raises consciousness and imbues inner harmony.

Kobi and Pazit, the founders, trained for over a decade in India and across Asia until they felt it was time to settle down and share their lessons with others.  

4. Bacalar -- Mexico

Bacalar is on many a most beautiful places in Mexico list. Still held as a treasured place in to the Mayans, where seven “mystical” lakes lie. As a local once told it, “Not only is this a place where oxygen first formed, in other words, life, this is a place where the elders of ancient Mayan astrology would come to read the stars of the waters. Why? Because these lake are the stillest of the still, calmest of the calm waters that reflect a perfect mirror of the sky—day and night, all year round.”

Just being around these lakes plants peace through your entire being. It is the perfect place to relax, unwind, get on a kayak, take a yoga class, or enjoy some of the freshest seafood around. Though its apt to change any day, Bacalar is still a quiet destination and has only popped up on the tourist street over the last few years.

5. Cenotes in Tulum -- Mexico

Only an hour bus ride away from the aforementioned mystical lakes, is Tulum, Mexico. Much more relaxed than the more famous Cancun, Acapulco, or Playa Del Carmen, Tulum is a beach town on the shores of warm Caribbean waters where the sun can dance that dance upon your skin. It's an access point to jungle havens where you can find hundreds of cenotes (fresh water holes connected through underground caves and tunnels across the Yucatan).

Once a spiritual Mecca for ancient Mayan civilizations, there are the known cenotes and the secret ones that you'll have to put your ear to the ground to locate. So if water is what relaxes you, throw your worries away, grab your snorkel, and take a dip in these cool fresh water pools.

6. El Zopilote on the Island of Ometepe -- Nicaragua

Ometepe is a staggeringly gorgeous island born from two volcanoes that emerges majestically from Lake Nicaragua. When pre-Columbian Aztecs stumbled up it they were certain, “We have made it to the promised land!" Ometepe promises to be what you need if you need some rest and relaxation in a setting of ceaseless natural beauty. Mark Twain traveled to the island and described its two volcanoes thusly, "Two magnificent pyramids, clad in the softest and richest green, all flecked with shadow and sunshine, whose summits pierce the billowy clouds.”

The best place to stage your peaceful unwinding on the island is at the eco lodge El Zopilote. If your travel budget is meager, they are usually looking for volunteers on their permaculture farm in exchange for room and board!

The eco lodge is as green as it gets and offers jungle huts, daily yoga, easy access to beautiful freshwater beaches, guided hikes, and a cultural clearing house that contributes to the local economy while preserving the island’s natural beauty. As they put it on their website, "Every week visitors of different nationality, gender and languages pass through the farm, investing their talents and energy in the space. This is a source of great inspiration and wealth for us as we are convinced that the positive encounter and socialization of different cultures brings forth long lasting fruits."

7. The Blue Mountains -- Australia

Australia being one grand spans of land, The Blue Mountains is another place to put you back into perspective. Just an hour and some minutes from Sydney, The Blue Mountains has hundreds of hiking trails and campgrounds. You could get lost in this aboriginal backyard for the rest of your life (as some literally have!).

Katoomba is one of the most famous destinations of the mountains where you will find the three sisters (part of the seven sisters) a treasured indigenous rock face

If you get the chance to, go beyond and travel further into the blue. You will make your way to Blackheath, a quirky, welcoming, arty, mountain town where 'everybody knows your name'. The place is infested with charming Bnbs!

In Blackheat you can find healing through arts, crafts, and nature around these parts and if you're really looking to go deeper into the self, you can find a S. N. Goenka vipassana retreat center hosting different meditation retreats by donation. It's a marvel just to see the center in the midst of the bush where families of cockatoos and kangaroos are waiting to welcome you.

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