Holistic Travel: Back-to-Basics Escapes

Health Features Fitness
Holistic Travel: Back-to-Basics Escapes

As I slowly sit back in the silk hammock, my yoga instructor tucks me in place as I get ready to fly. In aerial yoga terms, this means performing a series of postures flipping and spinning mid-air, pausing at just the right moments for meditation. After spending a few days in Athens, Greece, I made the three-and-a-half-hour drive into the countryside of Laconia to Eumelia Organic Agrotourism Farm & Guesthouse for my version of a yoga retreat.

I started my mornings on the 50-acre farm “flying” through the ancient branches of olive trees in aerial yoga silks before setting off on a mountain bike through the vineyard’s dirt paths. “There’s no way you can get lost,” owner Frangiskos assured me, since I didn’t have a phone to check my Google maps to see where the roads would take me. I didn’t need it though. All of the paths circled back to the farm, which has been in Frangiskos’ family since the 1890s. In the afternoons, he walked me through the gardens, where he was using nature instead of chemicals to grow organic vegetables and herbs. Everything we picked during the day was incorporated into that evening’s dinner that I helped cook alongside the chef.

My mustard yellow farmhouse-style cottage, dubbed Sunflower House, had perfectly working Wi-Fi and a flat-screen TV, but those were two pieces of technology that I planned on avoiding. My weekend had a different purpose: disconnecting from daily life and everything taking place back home thousands of miles away. Instead of posting photos of my trip on Facebook, I actually got lost in the moment. The working farm served as my own version of off-the-grid, back-to-basics living, where everything from honey to wine was produced on-site. Even my bright little farmhouse was entirely self-sufficient, running off solar power and renewable energy sources.

Eumelia cottage interior courtesy of Eumelia.jpg
Image: Courtesy of Eumelia

Last year, McAfee, the world’s largest security technology company, conducted a survey and found that 57 percent of people aren’t willing to part ways with their smartphone while on vacation. For those who do, over half aren’t successful with their digital detox. Part of the reason: Instead of being in the moment while traveling, we’re more focused on communicating about the moment, looking for just the right restaurant or graffiti-covered wall to post on Instagram and show our friends back home.

It’s this type of connected lifestyle that’s encouraging more back-to-basics living, with farm-inspired escapes becoming the new way to detox digitally and mentally. Networks like WWOOF, Working Weekends on Organic Farms, offer this type of experience, connecting volunteers with organic farms across the globe that specialize in everything from permaculture to pig rearing and cheese-making. You can volunteer for days or months, trading in your time for room and board as you learn how to live off the land. Hotels, meanwhile, are extending the farm-to-table trend to fitness and meditation, so not only are you tending to the garden, you’re also practicing yoga in it.

Abu Camp courtesy of Andrew Howard.jpg
Image: Courtesy of Andrew Howard

In Botswana at Wilderness Collection’s Abu Camp, connecting with nature takes on safari shape. Local researchers lead walks through the bush, where you’ll feel like you’ve joined the Abu African elephant herd. Days here are spent getting to know the herd by heart, following the elephants deep into the surrounding forest and taking in views by boat on traditional dugout canoes. Plan your own nature-inspired trek, setting off through grasslands and secluded island sanctuaries where you’ll spot giraffes, zebra and lions if you’re lucky, before calling it a night back at camp. The six luxe lodgings are just rustic enough to make you feel like you’re camping in the African bush—canvas tents and all—while still offering villa-style amenities like plunge pools and al fresco copper tubs, where you can sit and soak in a bubble bath while stargazing.

You can find another type of animal interaction at the one-year-old Sunrise Springs Resort in the New Mexican desert, where fluffy Silkie chickens act as a form of mindfulness meditation. When you’re not waking with sunrise yoga or tending to the chickens in the coop, the gardens and greenhouse become a living classroom where you can craft herbal teas and lip balms while learning basic gardening techniques. When you’re ready for a bit of spiritual renewal, head to the inipi wakan, or sweat lodge, and take part in a Native American ceremony that blends heat and herbs to balance the senses.

In the center of the resort, you’ll also come across a Medicine Wheel, or mandala, which represents the balance between the mental, emotional, spiritual and physical states of well-being. Counselors here look to the mandala as a “blueprint” to guide guests on the right path for both wellness and fitness, designing a plan that acts as the ultimate mind-body connection to leave you feeling mentally and physically recharged by the end of your stay.

Lane Nieset is Paste’s Jet-Set Bohemian columnist and a freelance writer covering all things travel from her home base in Nice, France.

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