I remember the first time I ever booked myself into a retreat. It was in the middle of Covid when my life consisted of waking up, looking at a screen, and going back to bed. I was working in sales at the time. The role required a lot of engagement with people, however the bulk of that was happening through a screen.

(Lead Image: me on the retreat) 

So when I heard about a ‘wild woman’ retreat in Costa Rica hosted by female empowerment coach Mel Wells, my heart leaped. The all-inclusive week-long experience was being hosted at a luxury yoga resort in Nosara – Costa Rica’s bougie surfer district. It was more money than I’d spent on anything at that time, but taking a deep breath I signed up.

Three years later I can still say it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Not only was the retreat phenomenal – I got to spend 7 days doing yoga, learning astrology, attending workshops, and trekking through the jungle – but I also built close connections with a like-minded group of women.

I came back from that retreat a different woman – literally.

Science has shown that new experiences create new neuropathways in our brains. Travel, which puts us in a new environment with new smells, scenery, and people, is the equivalent of a brain workout. When travel is combined with learning experiences – such as workshops and group activities – you’re looking at some pretty big transformations.

The retreat

With people globally spending on average 7 hours a day looking at a screen, real-life 3D experiences are growing in demand.

In a December 2023 article, National Geographic asked ‘Is experiential travel the next big thing?’ They revealed that experiential trips are now as high on the average traveler’s wish list as ‘conventional’ holidays which involve lots of rest and recreation.

Meanwhile, the Global Wellness Institute estimates that wellness tourism will grow by 21 per cent by 2025 (from 2020) and UK magazine Hello described life-changing transformative retreats as the top travel trend of 2024.

The global wellness tourism market is predicted to be worth $1.2 trillion by 2027, according to Colliers’ Wellness Tourism Report 2021.

Tour operators have been quick to jump on the bandwagon, with more and more trips now offering immersive experiences rather than simple itineraries.

Luxury Escapes’ signature series has been a resounding success. Its inaugural Vietnam foodie tour sold out in just 24 hours and it has since followed up the offering with food-inspired trips to India and Italy. Led by a celebrity chef, the trips allow food fanatics to immerse themselves in the local cuisine.

Luxury Escapes

Captain Cook Cruises Fiji recently mixed experience with sustainability with the launch of a seven-night voyage to the Lau archipelago. Not only does the trip include a guest lecturer – leading marine scientist Dr Penny Berents – but guests can get involved in Citizen Science activities onboard, even planting coral themselves.

Earlier this month Intrepid launched a 12-day Saudi Arabia women’s expedition. The itinerary features several visits to women’s homes and female-only spaces, putting equal focus on the host communities as it does the travellers. It has already been a hit with consumers already, getting ample attention social media.

In a world where we all spending more time than ever scroller, experiential tourism and retreats offer a valuable opportunity to get outside your comfort zone and grow as a person.

Its a travel trend that I for one can only see going from strength to strength.


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