Here's Why You Need to Add a Vegetarian Vacation to Your Wellness Routine for 2016

Since it's only January, chances are many people are still dedicated to those New Year's resolutions to get healthy, eat better, exercise more and indulge less.

The gyms, yoga studios and boot camps don't start to become ghost towns until at least March, right?

So what better time to discuss one of the more interesting offerings on the wellness scene for 2016.

While health focused vacations are nothing new, (there are countless such pricey and exclusive getaways around the globe), what is new and noteworthy is the approach to wellness escapes being offered by the recently launched Museflower Retreat & Spa in Chiang Rai, Thailand.

To begin with, the nightly cost to stay at Museflower, recharge and reboot your approach to living and fitness, does not require entirely reorganizing your finances in order to squirrel money away to participate. Rates for a double occupancy accommodation start at just 1650 THB or $45 a night. And here's the kicker, that price includes all meals.

When compared to the steep prices at some of the world's most well-known health retreats, which are thousands of dollars per week, it's hard not to take notice of the price at Museflower. It offers a refreshing alternative.

The food meanwhile, is yet another distinguishing factor of the Chiang Rai property. While there are countless wellness resorts that serve up farm-to-table, organic or otherwise locally grown cuisine, while also still offering meat dishes to keep the masses interested, the menu at Museflower is completely and totally vegetarian. There is no middle ground, no chicken or fish to keep things mainstream.

A typical day at Museflower begins with fresh juice, oatmeal and an Asian breakfast item such as hot mushroom congee or perhaps pumpkin soup. Lunch, the biggest meal of the day, includes a salad buffet, and options ranging from vegetable curry to stir fry. And finally dinner consists of various simple hot dishes, salad, raw or steamed vegetables, fresh fruit and herbal tea.

Meat lovers may be tuning out right about now, but Cambridge, Mass. resident Noel Chan was no vegetarian herself when she booked a recent stay at Museflower. Nor did she convert to being a vegetarian as a result of her visit. What she did do however, after the retreat, was incorporate many small changes into her daily eating and cooking routine.

"The food definitely had an impact on me," says Chan, a Harvard University scientist focused on yoga and integrative medicine. "My husband and I came back and were buying cook books and trying to eat healthier. Because when we were there, we had seaweed soup in the morning, or some congee. And we thought 'We can make those when we go home.' "

Some of the other subtle changes Chan has made as a result of her visit include cooking with less sugar and using a healthier form of salt.

None of which touches upon the beauty of the Museflower's very carefully chosen location, (and the importance nature plays in the overall experience guests have), or the wealth of fitness options the retreat offers.

Located in a wooded area, surrounded by rice fields, about ten miles from Chiang Rai, Museflower's cottages are clustered around a small, picturesque lake where guests can swim. There is also an organic farm on the property, and a duck farm, where guests can help collect eggs.

The group fitness classes available on a daily basis include yoga, Tai Chi, Pilates, stretching, Reiki, guided walking and bicycle tours.

In addition, there are cooking demonstrations and vegetarian cooking classes with the kitchen team.

In between all of the already mentioned activities, guests can enjoy the spa or a swim in the Himalayan crystal salt water swimming pool.

Tania Ho, Museflower's owner and director, created the retreat to be a mindfully green, health-conscious wellness property.

"I was always interested in natural health and wanted to create something to heal people's emotional and mental health," she says.

"It's not necessarily about promoting being vegetarian, it's more about promoting the overall healthy experience," Ho continues. "Visiting is also a great way to break an unhealthy eating habit. Because this is really an eye-opening experience. You really feel lighter from eating vegetarian. Most people feel like vegetarian food is bland, but it just requires more creativity. So this is an educational experience."

Those who are intrigued by Museflower but perhaps aren't ready to jet all the way to Thailand, should not be discouraged.

Sean Kelly, a U.S. expat, self-described yogi and a vegetarian, is preparing to launch a website next month that's designed to highlight some of the best wellness vacations around the globe, while also helping users to find their ideal retreat.

Called BookRetreats.com, the site was inspired by Kelly's five years of traveling throughout India and Asia immersing himself in all things yoga and wellness.

"Book Retreats is designed to help people find something very, very special, to help them have that weekend or week to unplug," explains Kelly. "When you think about the amount of stress people go through in the West...These retreats are about not just flopping on the beach, even though that brings a certain amount of relaxation, but it only taps the surface. These vacations get deeper into the issues and really allowing us to relax."

The site will launch with about 200 retreats listed, places Kelly says he knows well and trusts. Moving forward, Book Retreats will begin including staff picks for the latest wellness destinations, as well as user reviews of the listings.

Some of the wellness retreat hotspots around the planet right now include Thailand, Costa Rica, Hawaii, Bali and California, says Kelly.

One of Kelly's personal favorites is Anamaya Body Mind & Spirit Resort. The property, also vegetarian focused, is set in the lush jungles of Costa Rica. It is a place Kelly describes as one of the most beautiful he's ever visited. Located on a hill, Anamaya has a panoramic view of the region and includes a yoga platform with its own stunning view overlooking the Nicoya Peninsula on the west side of Costa Rica.

Kelly describes the types of retreats offered by Anamaya and Museflower as an ideal way to spend time eating well and learning, (in a more natural way), how to implement healthy habits when at home.

"What you will get is a time when you will not have to worry about anything, such as who is cooking the food, you know you're going to eat well," he explains. "And it offers an opportunity to put those habits in place."

Ultimately however, no matter which retreat you choose, the takeaway, says Kelly, is almost always a refreshed and recharged outlook on life.

"The experience is just incredible," he adds. "Just imagine taking one week where you don't have to think about work, or kids, or about a relationship, or things that normally stress you out. Instead you're just eating right, being active, going on adventures, meeting new people, and exploring spirituality. You come out feeling like you have a new possibility in life. It's kind of a reset button."

 

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