Get out of town and into your happy place with one of these 16 truly transformative trips.
As if you needed them, here are some compelling reasons to stop fantasizing and actually book a dreamy getaway: According to the Framingham Heart Study, women who rarely took vacations had an eight-fold increased risk of heart disease; the more time off you take, the less likely you are to be tense, depressed, or dissatisfied with your marriage; and one Air New Zealand study reported that employees slept better and were 25 percent more productive after returning from a personal trip.
To maximize these benefits, pick a destination geared to transport your body and your brain -- a place where you are surrounded by natural beauty and have plenty of options for mental and physical refreshment. Our favorite example of such a spot is relative newbie Playa Viva near Zihuantanejo, Mexico, a seriously sustainable two-year-old resort on a stunning stretch of the Pacific coast.
Playa Viva's open-air casitas were built and furnished with local materials, the resort is 100 percent solar-powered, and an on-site organic garden supplies ingredients for meals. But owners David Leventhal and his wife, Sandra Kahn, who regularly spend time on the property with their son, Ilan, 10, and daughter, Ariela, 9, care about way more than just the carbon footprint."When we started talking about having children, my wife said she didn't want to bring kids into this messed-up world without doing something to make it a better place," Leventhal says. So they decided Playa Viva would "not just be sustainable but also regenerative," he says. Before building, they asked local leaders about their hopes for the community and then found ways for their new property and its guests to help achieve them. The resort has organized workshops to teach farmers organic methods that will improve water quality, set up a community-supported agriculture program to give residents a steadier income, and is currently helping a nearby salt co-op increase profits by marketing their product as upscale culinary salt. Guests at Playa Viva are also encouraged to work with La Tortuga Viva, a group of native fisherman and farmers who aid sea turtles by regularly collecting and protecting their eggs and guiding newly hatched babies to sea.
This regenerative philosophy expands to the resort's amenities as well: free morning yoga classes, ample meditation space, holistic nutrition instruction, healing-arts workshops, and, of course, a rotating menu of heavenly massage and spa treatments using locally gathered ingredients. More physical escapes include taking on impressive waves with a surf instructor, snorkeling with a spear fisherman to catch your dinner, kayaking through the nearby lagoon to admire the wildlife, or galloping on horseback down the beach.
"I hope people have a transformational experience during their stay, be it large or small," Leventhal says. "For some, it might just be knowing that they can live without their iPhones. For others, it's helping the locals and embracing their role as members of the global community. The more guests truly engage, the better off we all are."
How to Stay in Vacay Mode
Allow yourself to truly relax by following these tips from meditation teacher Susan Piver.
While away, don't talk about the "real world."
A spa vacation is just as "real" as your everyday life. If you start to view it as fake, you'll prevent yourself from fully experiencing it.
Don't set hard and fast rules about checking in.
Hours of vacation time can't be considered vacation if your brain is consumed with what might be happening at home. If checking email for an hour a day helps you relax and enjoy the other 23, go ahead and do it.
Literally bring your new habits through the front door.
Whatever you found most inspiring or restorative on the trip should be the first thing you do when returning home. Drop your bags and unroll the yoga mat, or make a cup of that detoxifying tea before you unpack or go through your mail.