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Why spiritual tourism is the next wave of wellness travel

The orange sunrise reflected off the lapping waves and rocks of the bay with a line of evergreen forests and a snow capped mountain in the background.
Sunrise in the Pacific Northwest, the region is home to many Native American tribes who've called this land home for thousands of years. ©AlonzoWright

The next big travel trend isn’t a destination, it’s a journey inside yourself.

Who are you? What do you really want? What really makes you happy? For centuries, people have been looking everywhere for the answers to those questions. But in the quest for meaning and fulfillment, we began stuffing the hollow parts of ourselves with all kinds of momentarily gratifying objects and behaviors: food, clothes, work, sex, booze, drugs. Somewhere along the way, we tuned into programming that promised us if only we had a bigger house, a nicer car, the latest phone, a higher-paying job and a better body, we’d be happier and more confident. Instead of confronting traumas in our past, we reached for that shot of dopamine with each swipe of the credit card.

But guess what, it turns out it was all a big, fat lie. More, more, more has left us sardined in our homes and spiritually bankrupt. But that’s starting to change. And that shift that we’re all beginning to feel, is coming in the form of spiritual awakenings. People are now willing to wander to the far corners of the earth to get insight into the universe’s greatest mystery: themselves. So, let’s go a little deeper and talk about why spiritual tourism will be the next trend in wellness travel.

Jungle and mountain scene overlooking teal blue Caribbean waters with a blue sky and fluffy white clouds in the Virgin Islands.
It's easy to see why tropical locales host a slew of wellness retreats. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Virgin Islands Dept. of Tourism

What are wellness vacations?

The Wellness Tourism Association (yes, that’s a thing) describes it as “A specific division of the global tourism industry that is defined by the common goal of marketing natural assets and/or activities primarily focused on serving the wellness-minded consumer and those who want to be.” That’s still a little vague and a two-dimensional way of seeing it, especially with the shift in consciousness taking place around the world.

Wellness vacations started gaining momentum around the same time people realized they needed to take better care of themselves if they wanted to improve their performance and satisfaction levels. They started hitting up swanky spas, attending yoga retreats in Costa Rica, or they hired private chefs and personal trainers for trail runs up exotic volcanoes in the Caribbean. That’s what wellness vacations had become. And they were great at lowering stress levels, increasing creativity and feelings of calm, at least while they lasted.

In 2018, a study released by the American Psychological Association (APA) found that 40% of the people surveyed said the benefits of their vacation had worn off a few days after they returned to work. So there was obviously still a piece missing. We continued to go back to our same old stressful lives where the effects of that restful trip lasted for a few fleeting days.