The following is a guest post from a fellow travel blogger about why we shouldn’t feel guilty if we pamper ourselves a bit on vacation (not that I needed to be told that, lol).
Cultural Spa Experiences
I’ve never had fish bite the dead skin off my feet but if I had the chance, I would do it. When I travel, I splurge on self-care.
I believe pampering is a worthy cultural experience.
The traditions change from country to country and what you get out of it is different from a guided tour. Instead of learning, I get one-on-one time with locals and an immersive experience that makes me feel something.
“Whether it’s wonder or awkwardness, I feel and connect to the culture on a deeper level.”
In Alleppey India, I got an Ayurvedic massage. When I walked in the room I was given granny style panties made of paper. Confused, I looked back at the woman. She then pointed at the shower and motioned for me to strip down.
I walked out of the shower and sat on a short stool as she stood behind me. Without warning, she dumped unidentified oil on my head. The shock and awkwardness forced a smile as I laughed in my head.
After that, nothing was a surprise. Not even laying down on a plastic bed or the massage that felt more like a rug burn. It was the oddest massage I’ve ever had but that’s what my masseuse does multiple times a day.
I had a difference experience in Istanbul when my girlfriends and I went to a hamam for a Turkish bath. After we wrapped ourselves in towels, we walked into a pristine, white marble dome.
At the center was a flat, circular platform where everyone sat waiting to get bathed by half-naked, older Turkish women. After I got bathed, which is like a half-salt scrub, half-massage with a soapy towel, I washed myself in one of the surrounding coves and went back to the center platform to lie down.
I looked up at the dome thinking of all the women who got luxuriously bathed centuries before me when the older Turkish women started singing Little Mermaid style. The Opera-like voices harmonized and echoed, which made it all feel like a magical dream set in ancient times.
My best friend went to Iceland last winter and had to try the hot springs. Instead of going to the must-do Blue Lagoon, she boycotted and went to a local spot, Hot River, Reykajadalur. After driving down an empty road for miles, she had to hike through hail, snow and rain before seeing the first signs of steam. Only two pieces of wood covered her as she peeled off her layers to jump into the hot springs.
Being in a bathing suit surrounded by a winter wonderland was stunning. Then mother nature blessed her all with a beautiful sunset. It felt surreal.
Why these cultural spa experiences are a worthwhile way to spend a day traveling:
What made an Indian lady pouring oil on my head, Turkish women singing Opera in a hamam and an Icelandic hot spring soak in winter so special? It was the unique traditions, the different environments and of course, the locals.
If we hadn’t taken the out time to pamper ourselves we would have never had these experiences. Taking a “me” day is often overlooked so the next time you travel, add it to your itinerary.
Even if it seems touristy, it’ll be worth it. My next destination is Central America and I’ll probably try the coffee spa treatments in Costa Rica. I’ll let you know whether I feel caffeinated or relaxed after that!
Michelle Arrazcaeta was an avid traveler, amateur photographer and strategist in advertising when she started GirlGoTravel, a brand that gives girls the guts to travel on their own. She recently left her job to make traveling a lifestyle by roadtripping through US National Parks and solo backpacking Latin America. Over the next 6 months, she’s writing about her travels, coaching girls, and creating more resources that empower girls to travel solo. You can see her Website and follow her on Instagram.