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7 Dreamy Destinations That'll Relax Your Body and Mind

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7 Dreamy Destinations That'll Relax Your Body and Mind

A nutritionist, author and traveler dedicated to merging ancient healing wisdoms with modern western nutritional science, most of the wisdom I’ve learned has been in the field while studying alongside Ayurvedic doctors, Balinese bone healers, Shamans, herbalists and other specialists in from spots that range from South America to Asia. I credit a few special destinations with making a deep impact on my work, each of them perfect for relaxing your body and mind — making it easier to invite more serendipity into your life. 

1. Ubud, Bali. If you’re on your own personal Eat, Pray, Love journey, Ubud is for you! This central Balinese city is a healers paradise, and the place I wrote my first book, Eat Right For Your Mind-Body Type. A typical day in Ubud is full of back-to-back vinyasa and yin yoga classes at the Yoga Barn, a delicious vegan brunch complete with a coconut the size of your head, an afternoon of creative writing, followed by your choice between Vedic astrology or conscious relationships workshops, completed with a night of sweaty ecstatic dance, a grounding sound bath and more fresh vegan cuisine. We call it Ubudtopia for a reason; mind-body healing is your full-time job in this paradise. 

2. Chiang Mai, Thailand. If ceremony and reflection are what you're craving, Chiang Mai is your place. You'll come face to face with an ornate temple dazzled with jewels in honor of the Buddha on each corner you turn. Ceremony is an integral part of everyday life in Chiang Mai, and you'll definitely walk into one at some point in your stay (especially if you live with a local Thai family like I did). Don't forget to visit the Sunday market for fresh fruit, elephant and Buddha souvenirs, along with a pair of oh-so-comfy Thai fisher man pants! 

3. Mykonos, Greece. This refreshing white and blue island feels as crisp as it looks (and it's the place I'm writing to you from). The deep ocean views stare back at you wherever you are, whether you're relaxing by the infinity pool, practicing your daily yoga flow, or indulging in an authentic Greek breakfast of fresh yogurt, honey comb, walnuts and figs. Mykonos is the perfect place to pamper yourself and let loose — all while having fun at one of the many beach lounges without the pretentious feel of south of France. 

4. Formentera, Spain. This off-the-beaten path island is the quiet sister of Ibiza, with private beaches and to-die-for restaurants operated by some of Italy's best restaurateurs. Fun fact: More people speak Italian here than Spanish. Formentera is referred to as "la isla azul" because you'll be surrounded by turquoise blue waters that match a Tiffany’s box no matter where you go on this small strip of land. Love a little bit of luxe on a relaxing, serendipitous trip? With it's harbor full of yachts, Formentera is for you.

5. Cusco, Peru. The city closest to the world-famous Macchu Pichu, Cusco is a spiritual mecca for anyone who needs a more grounded and shamanic approach to spirituality — Ayahuasca optional. Cusco's mountainous climate and ancient Incan ruins are ideal for the more adventurous traveler who loves a bit of historical depth in their journey of self-discovery, and doesn't mind a bit of altitude acclimation (the city is a jaw-dropping 11,000 feet above sea level). Even more, there are many orphanages in Cusco that are open to receiving help, which will truly complete your experience and remains the highlight of mine. 

 6. San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. Costa Rica is a top travel spot, but far fewer people venture to its neighbor country, Nicaragua. An up and coming hotspot, a trip typically costs a fraction of the price you'll pay to get to Costa Rica. San Juan del Sur is the most southern tip of Nicaragua and a total oasis in this country, offering rustic architecture, beachside sunsets and delicious Central American cuisine. In addition to lots of opportunities for yogis, there are also amazing ways to practice community service and get involved in town. I'll always remember the pre-school I helped build during the month I spent here.

7. Arambol, Goa, India. Do drum circles, hatha yoga, contact dance, and Tantra festivals call your name? If so, head to Arambol, Goa. This hippie town in the north of Goa (the southern tropical beach city of India) is for the more experienced traveler who seeks authenticity and flavor from their vacation without the frills of a typical yoga getaway; think beach huts with no electricity and ecstatic dance around a banyan tree. An Ayurvedic Practitioner, Arambol is the place I go to unwind and relax after an intense panchakarma experience. I’ve hosted retreats in Arambol and participants tell me they'd never imagined that this side of India even existed. 


About the Author

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Sahara Rose is the author of the The Idiot’s Guide to Ayurveda and has been called “a leading voice in the millennial generation into the paradigm shift” by Deepak Chopra. She is a Certified Ayurvedic, Holistic and Sports Nutritionist and specializes in making Ayurveda easy to understand and follow so everyone can benefit from it's ancient wisdom. Discover your mind-body type with her quiz and follow her adventures on Instagram and her podcast, Highest Self Podcast.

Connect with Sahara: Instagram, eatfeelfresh.com

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My Serenflipity Moment

My final 48 hours in India led me to see how these flips are greater than the sum of their daily missions: they’ve started to chisel away at how I think and act, slapped me right into the middle of India’s delicious and chaotic onslaught when I wanted to hover on the curb, and have even woven a giant, fate-like web to fall into.

Let’s rewind to last Tuesday, when I received a call from my friend Neet who happened to be in Delhi. “You should delay your trip to Bhutan and come to the Golden Temple in Amritsar with my family. I promise it will be an amazing experience.” As I wavered over what path to take, I remembered Zoe Settle’s and Dave Allan’s challenges to zig at zag and my resolution to kill that indecisive part of myself (a nod is due to Mike Rothman.) I scrolled through texts over the past few weeks from Samta (my chai victim and new friend, thanks to Becky Straw), encouraging a trip to visit her in Amritsar. All signs pointed to Punjab. Now it was time to just take the action, let go, and see what would happen.

The First Yes

On Friday morning, instead of landing in Paro, I arrived in Chandigarh, the capital of Punjab, and Neet’s hometown. I got to see the city through his eyes, including the Rock Garden, a labyrinth dreamed up from a local’s backyard into acres of winding paths and waterfalls, mosaic-like walls and villages of figures made from everything from broken bangles to ceramic from discarded sinks and toilets. Families, friends and scrambling boys explored every corner, and I began to imagine Neet and his friends hiding in a lost alley years ago, playing cards and eating samosas.

“It’s a lot like India and life in general,” we laughed. “You take the old things that don’t work, smash them, mash them together, and repurpose them into something beautiful.”

Day fell into dusk and the four of us were well into our five hour drive to Amritsar. Slowly, the broad highways and fields became dusty, bustling mazes, and trucks and cars were replaced by tuk tuks and clusters of locals snacking in the city’s savory streets. As we started to approach the temple, that nervous, awkward, you’re-not-a-member-of-this-holy-place feeling started to rumble. I quickly learned that Sikhism stems from the teachings of different religions and views all beings as equal, evident in its open temple doors and langar, whereby visitors from all castes and creeds can sit side by side on the dining hall floor and enjoy food prepared by the communal kitchen.

After washing our hands and feet, we descended down through the white entranceway and into an expansive marble courtyard, a frame to the holy pool, in the center of which floats the gleaming Golden Temple. Families laid together under the archways, friends huddled together in a low hum, and men cleansed and meditated in the waters. Singing of the day’s lesson was shared (and translated) over a giant screen and a loud speaker. Underneath, the reverent sounds of prayer and reading mixed with the soft paces of bare soles on polished marble. A calm but eager crowd spilled out over the bridge to the temple, waiting to get in after a long pilgrimage. I felt deeply grounded and lifted beyond myself at the seem time.

“This place is busy 24 hours a day,” I was told. “At any time, there are people sleeping, volunteering, praying, waiting. You’ll never not find a crowd.”

And find a crowd we did, as we went to the langar hall to break chapatti. The banging of tin began to intersperse the reverent din, and as we arrived, we melded into a line to receive a metal plate to bring into the hall. Plates in hand, it was time to wait until the prior shift finished, and the doors opened to the next round. With a slow scuffle and a few sharp pushes, we spilled into the empty hall, where rows of mats acted as tables and chairs. Men and women with baskets of chapattis, ladles of dal and rice pudding made the rounds, and hundreds of us sat, knee to knee and spoon to spoon, eating quietly under the fluorescent light and watch of the gurus. Slowly the crowd filtered out, and a cleaning zamboni (oh yes!) hurdled through each row, removing the residue from the prior crowd to get ready for the next. As we left, we dropped our plates into a vat and into a whole new process where rows of volunteers cleaned, soaped, re-soaped, scrubbed, banged and dried the plates back to new. Effortlessly feeding 80,000 people a day, this place could also be a Six Sigma devotee’s dream.

Full of curiosity, connection and some of the more flavorful dal I’ve had over my six weeks in India, it was time to retire for the night so that we could return in the morning to offer prayers and a donation for Neet’s birthday. It’s hard to describe (and I will save you from a feeble attempt), but going to the holiest of sites with a devoted family, and being the sole redhead (shrouded, of course) in a sea of bright turbans was deeply humbling and inspiring. I was welcomed not only into a culture, but into a faith. I learned about my own faith, and how easy it can be to sit on the sidelines and wave at it, versus walking whole-heatedly into the fray. I saw selflessness and other-centeredness in everything from the Narulas sharing their family experience to the dal-dolers and devotees constantly giving of themselves to the community. I felt woven into the fabric of a country, state and sacred site that were wholly foreign.

The Second Yes

I was contented that this would be the apex of my Amritsar experience. Unable to get on a flight or train that evening, and having waved off Neet and his parents, I planned a quiet night in at the hotel before my morning trip to Delhi. A handful of texts and phone calls later, I was to be picked up by Samta to attend a family function that evening. (If you recall, Samta and her family were the lovely folks that Blair and I met on a long-winded tour-boat, whom we engaged in a rollicking conversation thanks to a great challenge to talk to a stranger on a deeper level.) I was whisked into her nephew’s first birthday party, where I was a sight to be seen, a redhead in my “nice” kurta, which looked like house-wear compared to the gorgeous, embroidered and bedazzled saris and dresses that Samta’s sisters and cousins wore. I bumbled through my toddler-level Hindi, smiled and waved and ate snacks.

And then the music started. I was pulled into the dancing area and into the middle of the shimmying, dancing and singing. I couldn’t quite tell if the entire family was laughing at me or enjoying the spectacle of a foreigner attempting to imitate their flawless moves in my pre-teen-at-the-eighth-grade-dance style. But even as my Bhangra skills got worse, the veil of my self-consciousness lifted, revealing a spirited family that I began to feel deeply connected to, as we shook together, embraced and giggled.

A sharp jerk at my arm, and I was pulled off the dance floor by Samta’s mother with a serious and purposeful look. Perhaps I had inadvertently offended them? Perhaps my dancing was so appalling that it had to be stopped at once? She said nothing, but continued to pull me harder and closer to the buffet. “Food! Eat!” What relief… and what deliciousness.

As the night continued, we all continued to laugh and eat until our stomachs were heavy and our cheeks were sore. Words were translated and gestured, scoops of cake and kulcha were put into my fingers or into my mouth, and pictures and poses were snapped and shared. As I went to say goodbye to Samta’s mother, I vainly attempted a respectful gesture that Samta had taught me earlier. “No!” she cried, as her mother laughed and took my face in her hands. “That’s for the daughter in law. Not for family. She says that you are her daughter.”

To label what the Narulas and the Bhatias shared with me as “hospitality” or “generosity” would be the equivalent to calling the Taj Mahal “pretty” or “inspiring.” My foundational beliefs in family, faith and friendship deepened. I re-discovered that old feeling of being at home after six weeks of being anywhere but in a hometown. Faith has taken the lead over fear, and I will step into my next adventure and the unknown, trusting that there’s always a net to hurdle into.

The Infinite Yes

It would have been easier and less risky to just say “no” and continue with the program as planned. But I always would have wondered what would have happened if I’d said “yes,” and, looking back, I would not have had the chance to experience how one yes leads to another, and to a path that I suppose only the travel gods get to giggle about, gossip on, and decide.

So the point of this long-winded tale, I suppose, is to just say yes today whether it seems small or far-fetched, mindless or gut-nagging. Break your plans and chisel and repurpose them into something new. Or even better, give someone else the opportunity to say yes.

Originally posted at yestoexcess.com.

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