I meditate, run, practice yoga, and pray. I know, I know, please pat me on the back. As much as my yoga physique might make me appear to have my life together, I’m mostly hanging on, doing my best to keep my head above water, scrambling to get dinner on the table at a decent hour without yelling at anybody. Rejuvenation just isn’t always in this busy woman’s agenda these days.
Before starting a family, I used to travel (a lot), but now, embarking on something like a month-long soul journey into the heart of Africa has become less and less realistic or even idealistic. Even so, I still subscribe to luxury travel magazines and feel a secret longing as my fingers thumb the glossy pages.
Recently, I had a conversation with a married girlfriend who shocked me when she told me she had taken a weekend adventure without her husband and children. It was impossible not to notice the glow in her eyes and the shift in her energy. She’s one of those alpha types who seems to do it all effortlessly. I asked her how she had justified taking a trip on her own and her reply struck me to the core:
“Rejuvenation is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. I make time to take care of myself, so I can take care of everyone and everything else that matters to me.”
Wait a minute. Rejuvenation could make me a better mom and wife? Maybe even help me become more focused at work? I observed my mind struggling to process this concept. Would taking a solo-weekend trip even be possible with piano lessons, birthday parties and carpool duties? I ran through a million reasons I couldn’t do something like that – I mean, my world would just fall apart. Or would it? If my friend could pull it off, why couldn’t I?
After some serious sweet-talking, I’ve miraculously convinced my husband (and myself) that his watching our kid for a couple of days is going to be “the best thing ever!” And just like that, I’ve decided to take off.
Only a two-hour flight from LAX there lies a hidden gem in Mexico that feels worlds away from the damage done to my psyche by my daily commute on the 101. In order to arrive there, I flew into Loreto, which is off the eastern coast of the Baja peninsula. From there I took a short bus ride to the resort Villa del Palmar, which sits where the majestic Sierra de la Giganta desert mountain range meets the indigo waters of the Sea of Cortez. The remote location and beautiful resort is a perfect spot for all of the R’s: reflection, restoration, reconnection, and rejuvenation.
Upon arrival, it was immediately apparent why explorer Jacques Cousteau dubbed this region the “Aquarium of the World.” The islands are known for their wildlife and the Bay of Loreto has been designated an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Within a few hours of being at the resort, I spotted manatees, dolphins, roadrunners, geckos, and even a desert rabbit. I also learned to shuffle my feet in the bay water to avoid getting stung by sting rays, a graceful move I attempted to recreate on the discotheque dance floor later during the trip. Next time you see hipsters dropping the “sting ray” at the club, you’ll know where it originated. No need to thank me.
The wildlife adventure really began on my second day. I took an early morning desert hike that wound through the mountains, and in the afternoon I hopped on a tour of the nearby Coronado, Danzante, and Del Carmen Islands atop an inflatable APEX boat, which is basically a lightweight boat constructed with flexible tubes containing pressurized gas. The simple, balloon-like design surprised me with its incredible speed and sturdiness. It felt more as if we were bouncing on top of the water instead of plowing through it, which is the case when I’ve experienced more traditional motorboats. The boat comfortably accommodated all 10 of us on the tour, and it had several waterproof storage areas to protect cameras and phones as we glided over the ocean’s surface.
We spotted whales, puffer fish, and dolphins, as well as hundreds of multicolored sea creatures. We anchored and jumped off the boat to snorkel in some of the brightest turquoise waters I’ve ever seen. After we worked up an appetite, our boat tour culminated with a picnic lunch on the beach on one of the islands. Let’s just say, I didn’t reach for my smart phone once – well, besides the photo app.
Hands down, my favorite thing about staying in a luxury resort is that someone will bring you food anytime you want and clean your dishes without any coercing.
Villa del Palmar goes beyond wonderful service by offering yoga, paddleboard yoga, meditation, wellness talks, and classes. While I was visiting, the renowned Ayurveda expert Lissa Coffey offered several short and wonderful workshops that added a rich educational aspect to my visit. Our group learned that there are basically three body types or doshas (vata, pitta, kapha) and in order to keep ourselves in balance (in mind body and spirit) we can choose foods and exercises to support this. I learned that I’m a pitta-predominant person, which means I have a medium body frame, I run hot both physically and emotionally speaking, and I’m prone to skin rashes (among other things). Lissa spoke to each dosha and gave several suggestions to keep ourselves in balance.
For example, for me, to calm pitta, it’s important to avoid spicy foods and overheating in general. I’ve had some experience with the practice of Ayurveda in the past, even working with a private practitioner a few times, and there we several things Lissa brought up that were new to me. She explained the basics for total beginners and was able to include more advanced aspects for those of us who were more well versed in the ancient practice. Her insights stayed with me and initiated a few profound lifestyle shifts after my vacation. The main one was getting off coffee, something I never thought I could or would do! But, here I am, three months later and I’ve fully switched to green tea in the morning. Maybe it was being in a different environment or simply being ready to make the change, but that has been a profound shift that I credit to Lissa’s workshop.
The spa itself may have set up the conditions that allowed me to make such a change. The 39,000-square-foot Sabila Spa and Wellness Center is a place that every caring parent (or hardworking person) deserves to spend an afternoon. “Villa del Palmar at the Islands of Loreto is the perfect spot for serenity, meditation and tranquility,” said Spa and Wellness Center Director Claudine Riemer. “People are looking for that reconnection through the energy of the mind, body and soul.” The state-of-the-art center has fully -equipped wet areas with a sauna, hot and cool tubs, and a deep cold water plunge. For my indulgence, I opted for a traditional Swedish massage.
The spa is one I will never forget. The hot and cool tubs were some of the most luxurious I’ve seen. I especially enjoyed dipping in and out of rose water, fresh aloe, and cucumber baths. In addition to massages, you can treat yourself to body wraps, facials, invigorating body scrubs, aromatherapy, reflexology, hydrotherapy, and even a full-service beauty salon. Yes, please!
All of this gushing, and I haven’t even addressed the actual resort! Villa del Palmar offers 181 suites with balconies or terraces, outstanding restaurants, an attentive English-speaking staff, five swimming pools, and two tennis courts. Not to mention the biggest outdoor hot tub I’ve ever seen in my life – it was basically a hot pool. For being in the middle of nowhere, Villa del Palmar pays attention to details and offers a luxury experience equivalent to some of the best stateside resorts.
To balance things out, I headed to the resort’s discotheque on my last night. A full bar, great beats, and a group of locals and tourists looking to let loose turned out to be the perfect ending to the weekend. Let’s just say, I let my shadow exercise itself on the dance floor for a few hours with the graceful shuffling moves I did in the bay to avoid getting stung by sting rays, and I found myself in a heated game of “Never have I ever,” a game where you come out with something outrageous that you think no one has ever done/experienced and the participant(s) have to drink if they have ever done that specific statement. There is nothing like a few rounds of that game to make friends out of strangers. Looks can be deceiving: buttoned-up shirts and sweet smiles don’t always mean someone doesn’t have an adventurist past!
After four jam-packed yet equally relaxing days, I felt myself yearning to return to my family. It was the perfect amount of time away and close enough to home that I could get back to the people I love quickly.
Since my homecoming, I’ve noticed my patience has increased and I’m able to be more present with myself and my family. Yes, I’ve still shouted some curse words during rush hour and glazed over at my daughter’s thousandth rendition of the Broadway musical Hamilton… but for the past couple of weeks, I’ve maintained my inspiration around incorporating a more Ayurvedic diet and even purchased a few cookbooks and tried some new recipes and spices. While I won’t say I’ve fully committed to every piece Lissa suggested, I’ve been surprised how affected I was by the wellness portion of the trip. I suppose it may have something to do with putting yourself in the right setting and giving yourself the space to really reflect.
Like my girlfriend so wisely suggested, I’m seeing that rejuvenation really is a necessity, not a luxury. I don’t think it is necessary to go to a luxurious setting to experience relaxation, but taking time for oneself, whether on a solo backpacking trip or in a five-star resort is something we can all use from time to time.
The only question I’m pondering now is: How can I get back next weekend? This time with my husband and daughter.
For more information about Villa del Palmar at the Islands of Loreto, visit: villagroupresorts.com