Booking a vacation isn't an indulgence—it's wellness. It's rejuvenation for your mind, body, and soul. That's why we scoured the globe, and tapped Marie Claire's network of writers and boss ladies, to inspire your next getaway. Start packing!
Even a Bad Trip Is Good For You
Julia Felsenthal found salvation—hell too—in a grueling cross-country road trip.
Sometime in early April 2015, I couldn’t sleep as I lay freezing in a tent in Nevada’s Great Basin National Park, smushed up against my boyfriend, trying to siphon heat away from his slumbering body. A few months earlier, Jake and I had both quit our jobs so we could take a much-needed sabbatical from our New York City life. Big questions loomed—Should we get married? Should we stay in the city?—and our waffling was becoming a problem. We needed space to consider our options, a way out of what was beginning to feel like a rut. So naturally we decided to pack up and spend four months trapped in a stationwagon, with only each other for company.
The plan was to road-trip our way to the Pacific, camping out much of the time. I was 31, a decade into a career I was unsure of, and a few years past a major health scare. I was ready to do some serious carpe-ing of the diem. In theory.
The only hitch: Prior to this trip, I’d spent about a cumulative four nights in a tent in my three decades on earth; that they’d all been sleepless didn’t occur to me as anything more than a coincidence.
It wasn’t a coincidence. That much was clear as we made our way across the United States, from Big Bend National Park in West Texas to Saguaro National Park in Arizona to the Lost Coast of California. These are among the most beautiful places I’ve ever been, but my recollections are filtered through an unrelenting insomniac fog that made me edgy and acrimonious. Minor gripes took on major contours. (“Only you could ruin Big Sur,” Jake memorably declared after I harangued him for hours on end about a phantom encounter with poison oak.) Traveling, we were learning, was a privilege, but it wasn’t a vacation.
In San Francisco, we ponied up for a state-of-the-art inflatable sleeping pad. By Oregon, it had sprung a leak. But Great Basin—where our campsite was more than 7,000 feet above sea level and our gear was pitifully ill-equipped for the tundral chill—stands out as the longest and coldest night.
Travel can be trying and dull and, as often as not, physically unpleasant. And yet: It’s still worth it. I came home from our trip creaky, sore, and operating on a serious sleep deficit. I was also mentally reinvigorated, reengaged with my career, and very much into a new idea of myself: as the kind of person who can rough it, who would quit her job for an adventure, who would do something just for a good story. Our trip yielded dozens of good stories, ones that Jake and I have been trading back and forth over the three years since. (That time he broke our tent on hour four of a three-day wilderness trek. That fleabag hotel in Arizona where I stashed the luggage in the bathtub because it seemed like the cleanest place.) The memory of all the discomfort and bickering doesn’t exactly fade with time, but it does become kind of funny. Oh, and, reader: I married him.
Don't be Afraid of Group Travel
How a skeptic found unexpected bliss on a tour through Morocco.
My travel style is about as far away from a package tour as you can get: I’ve hitched a ride across the border between Turkey and Syria, spent months backpacking around Southeast Asia, and once scored a guest visa to Bhutan, avoiding the country’s strict rules that force most visitors to join tightly-controlled tour groups. So when G Adventures offered me the chance to join a group tour in Morocco, I was dubious. Sure, it was a free trip, and to a country I was dying to visit no less, but would I spend the week being shuttled around on a megabus feeling like an ass?
In short: Nope. This isn’t your grandma’s group tour. G Adventures’ dedication to supporting local economies means you’re actually making a positive impact on the communities you visit while you Instagram brunch or shop for souvenirs. Our guide was Moroccan born and raised, hailing from a small village in the High Atlas Mountains, and in several locations—the cities of Fez and Marrakech, the ancient Roman ruins of Volubilis—we were guided by locals, their hometown pride palpable. We stayed in Moroccan-owned hotels (no major chains here), ate at restaurants frequented by locals and tourists alike, and shopped at women-led businesses, including an all-female argon oil factory outside of Marrakech.
G Adventures gives back in direct ways, too. Through its nonprofit arm, Planeterra, the company has contributed millions to healthcare, education, conservation, and emergency response services in the countries they work in. One day, we had lunch prepared by women employed by the Association of Rural Women and Children (AFER), which G adventures has been supporting since 2015.
AFER has been a game-changer for local women. In addition to providing healthcare and literacy and basic math education to 700 women and children in 10 rural villages, they teach classes on sewing and baking—things women can do to support themselves and their families right from their own homes. “It used to be impossible for women to get work in the village,” says cofounder Hanan Bourokba. Not anymore. One woman who has benefited from AFER’s work is a 37-year-old named Nadia, who learned how to sew and soon began paying other women to help tackle big jobs. She now employs more than 100 women.
Halfway through our tour, we rode camels into the Sahara Desert, camped overnight, climbed to the top of a dune to watch the sunset, and then rode back out on our camels the next morning in time for sunrise. I can’t fathom how I would have gone about arranging such an authentic experience on my own. Turns out you can get the realness you crave even when you’re seeing everything with 14 strangers (now friends). —Kayla Webley Adler
Pack Light and Embrace Danger
MC beauty director Jennifer Goldstein’s near-death experience gave her a new lease on life.
Things people usually learn on vacation: how many is too many margaritas; how little is too little sunscreen. What I learned: You can get struck by lightning when it’s snowing. Two summers ago, I signed up for a six-day mountaineering course in Washington’s North Cascades National Park. Mountains are my happy place, and I wanted to learn to climb big, technical peaks. Our group—two instructors and seven other students, all dudes—camped for two nights at the base of Mount Shuksan. On the third morning, we started the ascent. Around 3 p.m., it began sleeting. My pack developed a thin but surprisingly heavy coating of ice. Just beneath a ridge, on a steep scramble that had transformed into a waterfall thanks to the storm, I stepped onto a rock and realized I no longer had the strength to raise my body and the 60 pounds of gear I was carrying the eight inches necessary to move forward. I got down in the shallow, rushing water and crawled. We hiked another hour to the campsite, as the sleet turned to snow. It was a freak August snowstorm, and we had a new plan: survival.
We erected three tents and piled inside. I landed in a heap on 26 square feet of nylon with two men I had met only two days before. The guides told us they would come back when the snow stopped—30 hours later. By the time they returned, Bobby, Rob, and I were no longer strangers. I knew things about them that I didn’t want to know about anyone, including what their damp long johns smelled like after four days without a shower. We emerged to fresh air and views of the Sulphide Glacier, freshly iced with a fondant of snow. The air was charged with excitement.
Or maybe it was an actual charge. While we practiced swinging our metal ice axes, thunder clapped in the distance. And that’s when it happened. A shower of sparks exploded from the climbing-harness buckle on the guy next to me just as I fell to the ground, my body buzzing and my mouth filled with the taste of metal.
When I sat up, the sky along the horizon was the most brilliant blue I’d ever seen and the sun sparkled off the icy powder around me. We’d experienced only some of the residual electricity that had traveled through the ground. But that spark left me feeling alive—truly, gratefully, exhilaratingly alive in a way I never had before.
And if that escape from the everyday—that shock of the new and the adrenaline rush that comes with it—isn’t a vacation, then I don’t know what ever will be.
Skip Therapy and Book a Solo Adventure
Cookbook author Alison Roman healed from a breakup with good food and even better company: herself.
Eleven days before I was supposed to meet my boyfriend in Tan Son Nhat International Airport for a two-week vacation in Vietnam, I got dumped. I was suddenly single with two weeks off and $1,200 in travel credits.
At that point, I truly would have gone anywhere. I would have sold all my belongings to afford it, taken several layovers, and subjected myself to every crowded airport to be anywhere other than our one-bedroom in Brooklyn.But, damn, did I need a taco. Mexico (and its food) had always been a source of inspiration and restoration. So I booked a solo trip that started in Sayulita, moved on to Mexico City, then headed south to Oaxaca.
The real healing began in Oaxaca. Over the course of five very special days, I snacked on impossibly ripe papaya that made my hands and face sticky. I drank vibrant green juices every morning and sipped smoky mezcal every night. I did yoga on dirt floors, finding joy and actual physical strength in the practice rather than my usual frustration, and I swam and tanned naked without once thinking there was anything imperfect about my body. I went to bed before 9 p.m. and saw the sunrise (on purpose) for the first time in years.
During this time, I remembered that I liked traveling alone, probably because I like my own company, something I had definitely forgotten in the days following the breakup. I had booked the trip without an appetite for anything, just a desire to get away from everything. But being alone and abroad encouraged me to do the opposite. Crying over plates of charred chicken doused in lime, I sat with the heaviness and came to appreciate it. Biting into tlayudas topped with a fried egg and pickled onions, I asked myself the question “How are you?” and tried to answer it with brutal and savage honesty, allowing myself to be sad as hell for as long as I needed. With an icy coconut paleta as my companion, I replayed and remembered every single thing about our relationship and what led to the end of it, knowing it was the closest I would get to closure.
It was a different kind of healing that can happen only when you go somewhere new outside your comfort zone and really, truly nourish yourself. This wasn’t ignoring my pain with a regrettably late night out, crying in the bathroom of some shitty club; this was getting through it by really going through it. Sitting with it. Savoring it.
Tap into Your Wild Side
A crash course in conquering your fear of the great outdoors.
I want to love hiking. But there’s something about all that fresh air, all that peace and quiet, that just scares the shit out of me. That’s why I turned to outdoor-gear giant REI’s Outdoor School, which offers how-to classes for all levels, like its Women’s Wilderness Survival Course, an all female workshop that’s part hiking, part outdoors orientation (in parks and forest reserves around the country). “It’s a what-happens-when-things-go- wrong kind of class,” explains Hope Oldham, senior instructor at REI’s Outdoor School in Atlanta. At one of REI’s Wilderness Survival courses on a Saturday in mid-April in Montville, New Jersey, it’s less Naked and Afraid, more Girl Scouts. On the agenda: lessons in what to pack (dryer lint is a resilient fire starter, apparently), how to be aware of your surroundings (look out for “widowmakers,” trees at risk of falling over with the right gust of wind), and emergency shelter and fire building. (Old wood, leaves, and birch shavings make for a tiny home with heating.) “The hardest part is the mind-set of ‘Am I going to be OK if I’m going camping by myself?’” Oldham says. “I can teach you how to build a fire, but it’s about being OK with being by yourself in the wilderness.” And it works. Four hours later, nature doesn’t seem so scary. Knowing how to survive worst-case scenarios gives me back a sense of chill. “Women leave saying, ‘I can do this,’” Oldham says. “And that is almost revolutionary.” —Jen Ortiz
Class prices start at $65 for members, $85 for nonmembers; rei.com.
Itinerary #1: For the Glutton
DINNER WITH A SIDE OF ENLIGHTENMENT
What: Outstanding in the Field.
Where: Locations vary.
When: Summer season runs May–November; winter season runs January–February.
The long-standing outdoor dinner-party series, founded by chef and artist Jim Denevan in 1999, takes travelers to idyllic settings, like a ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, a farm outside of Nashville, and a vineyard in Savigny-lès-Beaune, France. The evening typically includes a talk from the host, an exclusive tour of the property, and dinner prepared by chefs such as Kim Alter of Nightbird in San Francisco at an epic table set for 100 to 200 guests. “Dinner is family-style,” says general manager Eden Reilly. “It’s fine dining with the intention of not being obtrusive and allowing people the space and the time to connect.” These dinners aren’t just Instagram gold, they’re also an opportunity to learn from the land and the people who grow the food on your plate. That, and they’re sustainable. Delicious, no?
From $225 per person; outstandinginthefield.com.
Itinerary #2: For the Girl-Power Enthusiast
LADIES’ NIGHT EVERY NIGHT (AND DAY)
What: SuperShe Island.
Where: Off the coast of Finland.
Entrepreneur Kristina Roth is redefining the phrase “girls’ trip.” This summer she’s welcoming womankind to SuperShe Island, an 8.4-acre private isle. SuperShe Island will host weeklong luxury health-centric 10-person retreats open exclusively to members of SuperShe, her all-women global networking society. (Membership to the community is free following an application process that includes a Skype interview with the Finland-based Roth.) On the itinerary: massages and facials inside the island’s spa yurt, sunrise and sunset yoga, hiking and forest bathing, kayaking, and more. “The good news is that it’s all women, so you can run around naked and connect to Mother Earth,” Roth says. But SuperShe isn’t just a back-to-nature detox. It’s about bonding with women—to inspire, encourage, and connect.
From $3,500 per retreat; supersheisland.com.
Itinerary #3: For the Adrenaline Junkie
THE SURVIVAL SKILLS TEST
Where: Remote Southeast Asian, Caribbean, African, and Oceanian locales.
This untraditional travel company specializes in tropical getaways that are more Tom Hanks in Cast Away than Tom Hanks on vacation. Destinations come with a choose-your-own level of off-the-gridness—from private villas and eco resorts to construction-less environments where it’s on travelers to do whatever it takes to stay alive during their holiday. (Think cracking coconuts for water, fishing for food, and building your own shelter.) Both of the most popular experiences, says founder Alvaro Cerezo, are the latter: the islands of Siroktabe (in Indonesia) and Marooning (in the Philippines). The most intense? “Definitely Devil’s Island,” he says. “It is a tough volcano in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. You need to be quite strong to survive.” Bonus: Your boss can’t expect you to answer work e-mails on a desert island.
From $65 per day for two people; docastaway.com.
Itinerary #4: For the Workout Fiend
What: The Ranch 4.0.
Where: Four Seasons Westlake Village in Los Angeles.
When you’re done pretending to be healthy—signing up for ClassPass but passing on classes, developing a $5-a-day green-juice habit—and really ready to improve your body, do it like celebrities do: on vacation.
A-listers flock to the Ranch, a Malibu luxury boot camp with legendarily strict rules. Guests wake at 5:30 a.m. and hike eight or more miles after their vegan breakfasts, then fill the rest of their day with fitness classes, massages, and, yes, more hiking. If you stick it out for a week, you can expect to drop up to 6 percent of your body weight (if that’s your thing), but the four-night Ranch 4.0 program offers its own rewards, like teaching you to eat mindfully and helping you kick dependencies on things such as caffeine, cigarettes, alcohol, and sugar.
Ranch 4.0 is $3,900; theranchmalibu.com.
Itinerary #5: For the Unhappily Unattached
THE BROKEN-HEART FIX
What: Renew Breakup Bootcamp.
Where: Upstate New York and Malibu, California.
Seven years ago, Amy Chan had a bad breakup. “My entire world fell apart and I didn’t know how to get better,” she says. If only she’d had a place to escape to. She didn’t, so Chan, a relationship expert, opened her own. Renew Breakup Bootcamp is a weekend-long women’s retreat with glamping, Airstream and cabin accommodations, and a hot tub, pool, and sauna. But Chan doesn’t call it a boot camp for nothing: The programming is nonstop, she says, and led by eight or so facilitators (psychologists, behavioral scientists, tantra teachers, you name it). Think of it as a digital detox and healthy-lifestyle kick-start (a plant-based menu is available, as are yoga, breath work, and meditation workshops) with marathon group-therapy sessions.
From $1,195; renewbreakupbootcamp.com.
Itinerary #6: For the Eco-Conscious
PARADISE FOUND (AND PROTECTED)
Where: Raja Ampat, Indonesia.
When: January–June and September–December.
This private-island retreat is the definition of “getting away”: There is no phone signal and limited Wi-Fi, and the nearest village is about 12 miles away by boat. But Misool isn’t just a luxury tropical vacation. It’s also an ambitious sustainability project with firsthand planet-saving experiences for guests. Like the Day With the Rangers program. (Other experiences include diving, snorkeling, paddleboarding, massages, and cooking classes.) “Guests spend the afternoon getting to know the team responsible for protecting the 300,000-acre Misool Marine Reserve,” explains Marit Miners, who cofounded the resort with her husband in 2005 (and later the Misool Foundation, a nonprofit that manages conservation programs in Raja Ampat and eastern Indonesia, in 2011). “They participate in beach cleanups, check on turtle nests, and tour the reserve on one of our patrol boats.” Like watching Planet Earth, only better.
From $2,825 for seven nights; misool.info.
Itinerary #7: For the Burnout Casualty
THE RESET BUTTON
Where: Koh Samui,Thailand.
Located on Thailand’s second-largest island, this holistic health resort is chill incarnate. In addition to yoga, fitness, and meditation classes and spa treatments, the resort offers several different targeted programs—including stress recovery and prevention and detoxes—that combine Eastern and Western healing traditions. If you’re hitting any sort of metaphorical wall, consider Kamalaya’s Embracing Change program. “It is ideal for anyone seeking support for life change and life-challenging situations,” explains cofounder Karina Stewart, “and for targeting behaviors such as emotionally driven eating habits; relationship issues, including loss or breakups; work-related difficulties; anxiety; and grief.” Guests meet with mentors whose “teachings are inspired by ancient Asian philosophies,” Stewart says, “delivered with a practical approach to modern-day questions, stressors, and concerns.” Feeling better yet?
From $204 per night (not including programs); kamalaya.com.
Itinerary #8: For Anyone With a Mad Max Fantasy
THE LAND OF BADASS BIKER BABES
What: The Dream Roll.
Where: La Pine, Oregon.
When: September 21–23, 2018.
Riders from all over the world flock to this annual weekend-long all-female motorcycle camp trip. This year’s retreat is taking place at a lakeside resort where guests can stay in cabins or camp out in tents or RVs on the property. Organizers are expecting 1,000 participants to attend. Don’t ride? “There is no mandatory-bike rule,” says cofounder Becky Goebel. Choose from dirt-bike trails, a 36-foot skate ramp, and swimming, fishing, and boating too. “We started the Dream Roll to push women who ride to come meet each other and hang out,” she explains, “and it’s evolved to just women who do cool shit.” The fun kicks off Friday night with a party: food trucks, a full bar, bands, a DJ booth, shops, a tattoo tent.
From $85 per night; dreamroll.com
We peeked inside the travel diaries of some of our favorite creatives and CEOs for some vacation inspo.
UZO ADUBA, star of Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black
“I traveled with the nonprofit Heifer International to Uganda—first in June 2016 and then again in March—and it was just amazing to see how giving someone a hand up, rather than a hand out, can lift an entire family and community out of poverty. Part of Heifer International’s work is distributing livestock to families and there is a ceremony where families pass on their first calves (from the cow they received from the organization) to another family in need. That’s how you repay the loan, by paying it forward. And Uganda is a beautiful country—it’s a very lush, mountainous area. We were there in the rainy season so everything was just super green. It’s like Africa’s Ireland or something. The people are just incredibly lovely, incredibly gracious, incredibly warm, loving people who are building a nation how the nation should have always existed, which is wonderful.”
RANDI ZUCKERBERG, founder and CEO of Zuckerberg Media
“One of my dearest childhood friends and I lived in Costa Rica for a month where we volunteered in an extremely under-staffed local school. To help ease the school’s untapped needs, we painted walls, started a choir, taught English, and even worked in the nurse’s office to get a first-hand look at the medical process of the country. To improve our Spanish, we lived with a local host family. My Spanish may still be no bueno, but it was incredible to have that kind of intimate experience—enjoying a country from a local’s perspective. I remember this beautiful funeral procession that brought out everyone from the village. It ended in a cow slaughter ritual that was designed to help the deceased pass onto the next world. I have such vivid and warm memories of watching an entire town come together like that.”
YVONNE ORJI, star of HBO’s Insecure
“Before the first two seasons of Insecure premiered, I took a solo vacation. The first was to Costa Rica; it almost felt like I had the place to myself because it was off-season and all the normal summer vacationers were gone. It was so quiet and serene. I brought my bible, worship music, and my journal and I would sit by the pool all day meditating, writing, projecting what I wanted to happen for the upcoming year. I centered myself and thanked God for the opportunity to be living in that moment. Before season two, I went to Hawaii after wrapping a pretty grueling press tour. It was so good; no work texts or emails—just new friends. Some people love activities but my life is an activity. I just want to sleep without feeling guilty. I’m not the adventurous vacationer. I need a pool, view of the ocean, sun, and quiet. No need to see volcanoes...that feels like work.”
CHARLOTTE TILBURY, founder and creative director of her eponymous beauty and skincare brand
“Every year I take all August off and travel to Ibiza. Because my life is so hectic in London, I love destinations that are magical and nourishing for me. Ibiza is where I go to relax and recharge my batteries. I grew up in Ibiza and my parents still live there so I stay with them on the north side of the island. We always do dinner (and drinks and dancing) at Las Banderas restaurant, which is owned by my sister and brother-in-law. Some of my other favorite places to visit on the island: La Formentereña, La Escollera, and Bambuddha. Family, friends, music, parties and dancing until late—it’s my fuel! And I always stock up on Sal de Ibiza, a natural sea salt, before leaving.”
SHIVA ROSE, actress, activist, beauty and wellness entrepreneur, and author of Whole Beauty
“The last trip where I totally unplugged was to Marfa, Texas with my partner Dan Dyer. He took us to an amazing place nestled by rocks off a big cattle ranch. There we made and cooked over fires and played music (he's a musician). The first day I felt I needed to check in with the world, but by the third day I was sinking into being unplugged. Our brains are so wired that we really need a day or two to adjust to being without those stimulants and electromagnetic fields. Now, I can't wait to go off grid again to feel connected to spirit, land, and truth.”
CLEO WADE, poet, activist, and author of Heart Talk: Poetic Wisdom for a Better Life
“A few years ago, I traveled to Istanbul with my best girlfriends, Mia Moretti and Margot. We stayed at the coolest hotel: The Kybele Hotel where every inch of the ceiling is covered in Moroccan lamps and you can sit in their rug shop late at night, drinking wine with other travelers. We got to spend a lot of time in the city, roaming through the bazaars and the incredible mosques. It is really important for me to make sure I learn about the local designers, artists, entrepreneurs and mom-and-pop restaurants. I am not the person who likes to travel and just get room service in bed or go to the fancy restaurant in the hotel. I loved the neighborhood surrounding the Galata tower called Karakoy. We would wander through it for hours popping into coffee shops, galleries, and admiring the amazing street art. And we ate mezze platters for basically every meal. It was heavenly.”
REBEKAH NEUMANN, founding partner of WeWork
“In my 20s, I traveled to Dharamsala, India, after I was invited for his Holiness the Dalai Lama’s birthday by the Namgyal Monastery. (I studied Tibetan Buddhism at Cornell University.) It was the first big trip I had ever taken alone in my life and I spent over a month studying yoga, meditation, and Buddhist culture. Every morning I would take Dharma classes from Tibetan monks who had recently crossed the border and I spent a lot of time meditating, hiking, and studying under an unbelievable yogi. When I travel I like to be in a state of personal growth. I don’t look to check out when I go on trips: I look to grow and evolve.”
TATA HARPER, founder of natural skincare brand Tata Harper
“The most scenic, most breathtaking trip that I’ve ever been on: Norway. I first went to Norway for ten days in summer 2004—I’ve since returned many times—with a group of eight friends. We stayed in Sandefjord, at a friend’s home by the ocean. We had dinner parties that were so dreamy, they would go on forever. It goes from super proper, everybody in a suit and tie, to everybody just in their underwear. People in the ocean, people on boats, people just all over the place. There was one dinner where I tried moose. Everybody was so excited, looking at me, and it was horrible. It was super gamey, super hard, yuck. But everything else was really good! I went to bed around 5 a.m. and the party kept going. During that trip, I also went skinny dipping for the first time. I went on a boat with ten Norwegian girls into a fjord and the tradition is to take off your bathing suits and jump in. It’s a very uninhibited culture, which is refreshing and empowering. But it was freezing! We also did a lot of road trips through Norway—I remember discovering this amazing goat cheese during a drive through Oslo. There were literally goats blocking the road. And my friends were like, “Oh my god, it’s this farmer who makes goat cheese!” and we go in and it’s like this weird-looking brown wheel, but it’s actually a sharp, sweet goat cheese called gjetost. I’ve been addicted ever since.”
ELLEN LATHAM, founder of orangetheory
“My unplug vacation happens every December. For about 15 years, every year, I head to Canyon Ranch Spa in Arizona with a group of old and new friends (and some strangers). It started when I was a manager of a fitness spa and I wanted a destination trip for my members. We hike, bike, meditate, exercise, eat, and laugh a ton for four days straight. It’s a way to end the year on a high note and prepare for the next. Everyone gets their holiday stuff done early—there is no procrastinating because you just want to come home and not be a maniac buying gifts and stuff. You go into the year feeling renewed.”