Sun, Mar 24, 2019 - Page 15 News List

Transformative trips are the new midlife crisis splurge

Luxury travel firms are sending their clients to live with Mongolian nomads or dye indigo with Japanese masters to help them overcome life’s frustrations or find inspiration

By Nikki Ekstein  /  Bloomberg

A woman stands by the swimming pool on the rooftop of the Gran Manzana Hotel in Havana on Feb. 11.

Photo: AFP

It is not inconceivable that your travel agent could soon take the place of your doctor — particularly if the doctor you see most frequently happens to be a therapist.

A rising number of travel professionals are now writing “prescriptions,” personalized vacations meant to address the questions and frustrations we feel in our daily lives. Whether that means strengthening family relationships, improving work-life balance, or curing an entrepreneurial dry spell, they are solutions to issues that do not individually constitute medical diagnoses, but seem as ubiquitous today as the common cold.

“I’ve been traveling this way for myself for many years,” said Tom Marchant, cofounder of the luxury travel outfit Black Tomato. “The most valuable things that I’ve brought back from my travels are the lessons that I’ve been able to apply from other communities into my daily life.”

That philosophy is what has led him to create Bring it Back, a collection of mission-driven itineraries that travelers can custom-tailor based on personal goals and challenges.

Among the needs that he is hoping to help clients address: how to turn a passion into a career, how to spark creativity or how to lead a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle.

“I constantly see people wrestling with frustrations that they need to unpack and they just don’t feel like they have the time,” Marchant said. “There’s nothing wrong with using your travels to recharge on the beach, but they can also be a brilliant vehicle to find those answers to the fundamental questions that we all have.”

Bring it Back, which debuted on Wednesday, consists of seven trip ideas built around profound cultural experiences. Unlike with traditional vacations, guests would book them based on what they want to learn — not where they want to go.

To create a better separation between the personal and the professional, for instance, Marchant recommended Copenhagen, where travelers can meet with a variety of experts that have shaped Scandinavia’s reputation for work-life balance.

To strengthen family relationships, he said Mongolia is best: There, travelers can spend time with multigenerational nomadic communities whose traditional lifestyles require youngsters to take care of their grandparents as much as the grandparents take care of the youngsters.

“It’s not about necessarily finding the right take — it’s about finding an alternative take,” Marchant said, recognizing that the same problems can be addressed differently by different cultures around the world. “We want to expose you to a different way of thinking so you can bring it into your daily life.”

Most itineraries use the client’s quest to inform each day’s activities. A six-day trip to Iceland designed to address “entrepreneurial inspiration,” for instance, includes daily lessons, such as “preparing your body and mind for transformation” (through a dip in the geothermal hot springs at the Retreat at Blue Lagoon), “better utilizing your resources” (a hike with the founder of the burgeoning travel start-up Into the Glacier) and “creating new opportunities from obstacles” (a day with an Icelander who almost lost everything in the Eyjafjallajokull volcano eruption — and then used the tragedy as a springboard for a now-thriving business).

The luxury trips start from US$5,420 per person based on double occupancy and generally last a week, covering destinations that range from Cuba to Morocco and Ibiza.

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