For some of us, vacationing is about taking respite from the hustle and bustle of the daily grind.
For others, it can be about more.
Last fall, three local longtime friends decided to take a trip to Thailand. But it wasn’t just any excursion. It found Cally Burkle, Jaime Ellerie and Lea Droessler fasting, getting in shape and detoxifying.
Most of all, it found them focusing on deepening their relationships within themselves.
Each shared, in her words, about the experience of their cleansing retreat.
Detoxing: The new way to vacation
It wasn’t until a trip to Peru and a hike on the Inca Trail in 2004 did I ever think of a trip being a spiritual experience. It wasn’t your typical “party girl” Vegas trip, where you party until you can’t. This time, the focus was staying healthy to hike 26 miles in the altitude.
I remember some laughs and jokes with my friend, but overall, the trip was so quiet and peaceful that one day, we barely talked. I even cried a little walking into Manchu Pichu as the sun was rising and the clouds were parting.
The trip was amazing, but coming back was different. Instead of wanting to sleep for a day, I came back at peace and even lighter.
In 2013, I was feeling heavy, fatigued and tired. I was longing for that same feeling I had during and after my trip to Manchu Pichu. At the same time, a client of mine was raving about a seven-day cleanse in Thailand that he takes with his best friend every year. I kept thinking that maybe this is what I need. Time away, alone, no drinking, no eating an opportunity to be on a beautiful tropical island.
So, I went and did the program and didn’t drink or eat bad food for three weeks. I came back so refreshed and clear that I decided to make a career change and move from Chicago to Iowa and open a yoga studio.
I would often talk to my friends about this experience and said I wanted to go back. And my friends Lea Droessler and Jaime Ellerie always said that they would go with me if I wanted to go back.
This time, I got to share the journey and spend some quiet time with good friends, versus connecting with other solo travelers.
Some build breaks into their busy lives naturally, and vacation is their only time to consume. Depending on your routine and your social circle, a trip away is your only way to detox.
Ironically, there are all kids of detox places you can go to these days. There are retreats all over the world various programs from detox and weight loss to fasting. It’s amazing how popular it is to take part in health and wellness destination retreats. You just have to go online to find a program and destination that works for you.
Kicking bad habits to the curb
From the very first moment Cally mentioned a fasting retreat in Thailand, I was all in. Having been in the alternative health care industry my entire adult life, I had yet to experience a week-long fasting cleanse. I was curious to see the effects it would have on my system.
Like many people in midlife, I was experiencing low energy, slow metabolism and pain. I wanted to re-evaluate my relationship with food. For 10 years, I traveled extensively for work, and my diet changed drastically many times. I definitely felt the affects different foods had on my body. Living and working in remote locations from Mexico to Alaska puts a damper on food choices. Having landed backing Iowa, my diet changed yet again, and I was feeling the effects of mid-west eating.
Once our tickets were booked, I became very excited and determined to get the most out of this experience. I choose to “pre-cleanse.” Each week before our trip, I would cut out acidic foods.
Week 1: No alcohol, no sugar.
Week 2: No grains.
Week 3: No dairy.
Week 4: No meat.
I lost 12 pounds in four weeks. I had more energy than I’ve had in years.
Mornings always were hard for me. It seemed to take forever for me to wake up. After week two of my pre-cleanse, I was jumping out of bed at 7 a.m. with tons of energy, completely rested. It simply was a decision, and I stuck to it.
Traveling with Cally and Lea was dream. Both are amazing women, travelers and business owners.
The flights were long and the travel hard, but we finally made it to our destination. A beautiful ocean front hotel on the southern Island of Koh-Sumwi.
The very next morning, we started our cleansing regimen, which consisted of herbs in the form of capsules and shakes containing psyllium husks (fiber) bentonite clay (to help remove toxins), which we drank five times per day.
The first two days were fine for me, minus the jet lag. We practiced yoga in the mornings and received abdominal massages in the afternoons.
Days 3-4 were a completely different story. I felt like I had the worst hangover of my life. I could barley get out of bed. This was the detox, and I felt it all over. I was told it was common to feel the way I did. It was my body getting rid of years of toxic build-up.
Day 5, I started feeling better.
Day 6 was when I started to get hungry. Up to that point, not eating was the easiest part of this process.
Day 7 was all about distraction. We did yoga, got massages, walked the beach. Anything to get through this last day.
Day 8, we broke the fast. At this point, I was calm and collected. There was no rush to the breakfast table. I practiced yoga and waited until someone could join me in our first meal. You must start slow when breaking the fast, so I ordered a plate of mango and papaya. It was absolutely glorious.
We had several days left of our trip, which we spent exploring and eating the delicious Thai food.
Coming home just before Christmas made it a little difficult to keep my diet clean, but I did my best. I have managed to keep off all the weight I lost, with little effort. I have more energy, my hair and nails are growing at a rate I’ve never experienced and all of my clothes fit better.
My relationship with food has shifted, and emotional eating has been kicked to the curb. I would do this cleanse again. The benefits have been long lasting and totally worth the effort.
A new focus
Last year, I made the very difficult decision to sell my business — “my baby” — for an unknown career change. With that life pivot, I decided to take one year focusing solely on travel.
Traveling always has been my thing, and I wanted this year to be centered on immersing myself in a location without rushing back for work. I even found a few short-term jobs to help me with meeting people, finding local spots and funding my travel.
During a cup of coffee a few years ago, Cally introduced me to the cleanse retreat in Koh Samui, Thailand. I had been to Thailand previously, but this trip was going to be different. It would be a trip entirely based on mind and body health. Instead of walking 20,000 steps per day exploring, I’d be meditating, reading, resting and rejuvenating my body from the inside out.
I made it halfway across the world to the resort (a term I use loosely because it was a very modest, small hotel) and past my first cleanse shake before I really thought about what was going to happen on this trip.
When it comes to travel, my answer always is “yes,” but how would I survive without the distractions of fresh coffee, beautiful food, quaint restaurants, daily adventures and, most importantly, cocktails? When this realization finally hit me on the first day of the cleanse, I panicked. No joke. Have you ever gone on vacation without the items I just listed above?
It was too late now. Time to let go and revert to my one simple travel guideline: Immerse myself in the environment, and soak in all the benefits.
This was a seven day cleanse daily consisting of:
1 hour of meditation.
1.5 hours of yoga.
5 psyllium husk fruit juice shakes.
1/2 hour of abdominal massage.
1 serving of broth.
1 coconut water from a real coconut (my highlight because it felt like a cocktail).
I had ups and downs with my mood and energy, but overall, I believed that the healing benefits superseded the short-term discomforts.
A journal entry from me right after I returned home summarizes my experience perfectly:
“Home a few days now, still working on my jet lag, up at 2:30 a.m. daily. This trip will stay with me a long time. I went searching for the three Hs: Health, hea and heart. Me time for the first time. A vacation full of sleep, meditation, walks on the beach instead of drinking, late nights and hangover food. I woke up every day feeling like my best me. Meditation was my biggest take away. Finding a way to calm my thoughts which lead to anxiety. Every morning, rushing out the door for my exercise, not realizing meditation is how I should be starting my day.”
If you find yourself craving this kind of trip, listen to your heart. You deserve it. Also remember, you don’t have to travel to the other side of the world to learn and practice self love and care.