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Where Wellness Tourism & Programming Miss the Mark

Mindfulness. Breathwork. Yoga. Plant medicine. Forest bathing. Sound healing. These are just a handful of things we have come to expect when we hear the word ‘wellness getaway’. Guests shuffle from one therapy to another, many of them hoping that one of these activities will cure what ails them.

But let’s talk about what ails them; what really plagues their mind, body, and has them in need of a wellness experience in the first place. Is this one-size-fits-all approach really helping everyone? Or just a very small percent of open-minded travelers?

In my own journey, I have come to realize that nothing heals until we get to the psycho-emotional root cause. I go to acupuncture, I move my body every day, I source my food from local farms, I drink herbal tea... but life doesn’t change until we start shedding the learned behaviors that keep us stuck. My own imbalances stemmed from a lifetime of perfectionism and seriousness. I didn’t need breathwork or another massage, I needed to reconnect with my inner child and re-learn how to play! I needed experiences that help me lighten up, make mistakes, and release rigidity.

The way I see it, the current concept of wellness in travel says something like, “let us perform this chakra healing on you” whereas a meaningful wellbeing experience says “let us show you what it's like to feel grounded, creative, empowered, devoted, expressive, intuitive, and spiritual". Which is more valuable in the long-run? Which has genuine, relevant impact for today's guest?

Leaders in this space have to start asking the right questions. Take burnout, for example. People are burned out. Why though? It could be a whole host of reasons. More often than not though, it's because they lack the courage and confidence to say no, to set strong boundaries, leave things/people that don't serve us, and to stand in their own power. Instead of giving them a few days of rest, only to send them back to their usual ways, we should be asking: how can we design a retreat that helps people build their sense of courage and confidence in going their own way?

As they are conceptualized today, the majority of wellness activities don't get to the root cause. They don't help people learn how to connect harmoniously. They don't reconnect people with their creativity & uninhibited self-expression. They don't give people what they need to re-instill a sense of optimism and hope. The sorts of things that people really need right now to thrive and flourish!

Some can and do, but most don’t.

So, am I saying throw it all out? Not at all! I’m saying find ways to offer programming and elevate current activities and experiences so that they address the psychological & emotional imbalances people are dealing with on a daily basis. Don’t settle for your experiences being simply band aids for bigger problems. View each activity as a steppingstone to where people desire to go.

Meet people where they are at in their healing journey. So many of these ultra-luxe wellness experiences are meeting people so far down the road. Is that really inclusive? What about your uncle – who is just waking up to the fact that his behaviors are harming him? Is he going to be ready for a plant medicine workshop? Most likely not. But could he be open to a fly-fishing retreat that is guided by wellbeing principles and values? I bet.

Can one experience, one weekend, or even one week change a lifetime of undesirable behaviors? Maybe, maybe not. Travel doesn’t have the benefit of being cumulative. But healing is a cumulative process. One cup of herbal tea isn’t going to heal you. One hike isn’t going to heal you. One hour on the massage table isn’t going to heal you. But when designed with behavioral progress in mind, one experience can be the spark of something, and that’s exciting and valuable.

At The Storied Experience, we believe that every experience has wellbeing potential and that we don’t have to confine wellness in its traditional box. We combine wellbeing with personality, purpose, and story. We let positive psychology guide us, knowing that when people are immersed into experiences designed to help them flourish in the long run, everyone wins.

When someone joins the Spark 5-Star Success Pathway, this is the first thing we ask them to reflect on. And now we are asking you. The answer to this will help you realize what direction you need to take your experience in. Look around. What do you see people struggling with that you wish you could help with? We would love to hear your response to this as well! Please share it with us here.


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