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A Message of Hope for 2021

There’s no doubt that 2020 has been a year filled with turmoil, anxiety, stress, and sadness for the global travel industry, and the world at large.

But we’re sending you this message with hope for the new year, and profound happiness.

Happy aptly describes how we feel at Great Wellness Getaways as we wrap up this annus horribilis. After much deliberation, we made a bit of a pivot mid-year and rebranded from Wellness Travel BC to Great Wellness Getaways (, to more aptly convey a renewed vision of wellness travel.

COVID-19 played a vital role in our decision to rebrand. The quiet throughout the travel industry rolled from weeks into months, and it has been deafening. We chose to step back, watch and learn from tourism and hospitality peers as they tirelessly adopted and adapted to new health and safety protocols – and new ways of doing business. Our industry’s survival through 2020 has come at a high cost in human and financial resources; however, the collective efforts to save BC’s visitor economy have been inspiring and show that we are strong and resilient.

With the pandemic we have witnessed the idea of wellness – mental, physical, and spiritual – flowing naturally into the mainstream’s consciousness. This has created silver linings in many tourism operators’ playbooks. Personal wellbeing has come to the forefront as so many individuals strive to improve their lifestyle and find true balance, guarding health and wellness above all else.

Our rebranding to Great Wellness Getaways aligns more closely with this new reality, and our goals for 2021 and onwards. With our engaging storytelling through podcasts and digital marketing, we want to inspire the travel industry and travellers to explore wellness and its healing transformation – locally only for the coming year, yes, but in 2022 and beyond to explore the world and all of its wellness offerings.

Deepest thanks go to the small yet mighty team that helped us polish and grow our concept – Gayle Morris (Founding Co-Partner of our previous incarnation), Rob Wilson (Web & Digital Strategist), Art Factora (Media Producer/Engineer) and Ashleigh McRaine (Social Media Goddess). While Gayle and Ashleigh have moved on to other projects, we are grateful for their unfailing belief in wellness travel. Their contributions aided immensely in where we are today.

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts to you, our audience [our wellness travel partners], for your continued support. Wellness travel is here to stay, and isn’t that wonderful?

Warmest holiday wellness wishes of love, joy and good health for you and yours,

Cheryl MacKinnon
Founder & Executive Producer, Great Wellness Getaways

Dipping a Toe Back Into Travel

By Catherine Dunwoody

I was nervous. After 4 months of lockdown (yes, I started even earlier than Dr. Bonnie suggested) my new normal consisted of barely leaving the house and a hyper-vigilante way of living safely. I have always been a bit of a ‘Niles Crane’ when it comes to germy stuff. I pull my sweater sleeve around my fingers to open doors. I wipe down the chair and the table in a café with a napkin before sitting. Hand-washing multiple times a day? Of course, doesn’t everybody? Niles was clearly onto something.

During this pandemic I feel blessed and proud to be a BC resident. We are flattening the curve. Phase 3 means we can travel within our province, if we do so with care. But my deep desire for a change of scenery and to escape the Coquitlam rainy, cold, June-uary weather didn’t outweigh my concern about how to travel safely. My 90-year old mother lives in a locked-down nursing home. My goal (ok, obsession) has been to stay healthy, so I can see her again one day. Me climbing the walls aside, did I dare dip a toe into the travel pool again?

My husband Neil reminded me that our wellbeing includes our mental health too, and that some vitamin D in the Okanagan could do us both some good. Hell, a round of golf and glass of BC rosé wouldn’t hurt either.

A Cathartic Drive Into Canada’s Desert

Photo Credit: Catherine Dunwoody

So, we hit the road. Even the drive was cathartic. Entering Canada’s desert had us downshifting into relax-mode and as we wound up the hill towards Osoyoos’ Spirit Ridge Resort, the late afternoon light dreamy and welcoming. Check-in seemed like the usual thing, other than some handy ‘stand here’ floor stickers and a stanchion that reminded guests to keep their physical distance. I felt, dare I say, quite seen, and quite safe.

Wellness, especially during these challenging times globally, is crucial. Self-care is important, sure – but I’d like to hope that this crisis has brought about a shift where we realize that our individual wellness keeps others well too. To me, wearing a face mask symbolizes not just the physicality of how we can protect each other, but it shows we are mindful and kind. Perhaps a little less self-centred, and a little more heart-centred.

Our lodging was lovely and tastefully renovated since Hyatt Hotels took on operations in 2017. One of the features I like about this resort is that all rooms are suites in the adobe-style buildings, and each has a full kitchen. Being able to prepare one’s own food if preferred, especially when social distancing is encouraged, is a good thing.

However, after a stroll along the adjoining Nk’Mip Cellars’ vineyard, past the stables and down to Osoyoos Lake and back, we opted to let someone else cook for a change. The Bear, The Fish, The Root & The Berry is Spirit Ridge’s new restaurant – and that ‘someone else’ cooking is none other than rockstar Canadian Chef Murray McDonald, founding chef of the famed Fogo Island Inn that was named #3 Best New Restaurant by Enroute Magazine. The restaurant name is a nod to the fact that Spirit Ridge sits on the traditional land of the Syilx People of the Okanagan Nation. A chaptik story passed down through the generations believes the Four Food Chiefs; Black Bear, Chinook Salmon, Bitterroot, and Saskatoon Berry, represent the key elements of Indigenous cuisine. The menus capture that spirit and abundance of locally grown and produced ingredients meant to be celebrated. I enjoyed the Three Sisters salad and sage-wrapped venison on the patio during sunset, with tables all well distanced and servers keeping up protocol for safety. So far, so good.

Touch-Free Golf with Spectacular Views

Photo Credit: Catherine Dunwoody

To me, wellness is a very personal matter. For instance, I find golf somewhat meditative. Rather than get rattled chasing a tiny ball around, I feel it is the ultimate ‘get your head into it’ sport. Neil and I shot nine-holes at Sonora Dunes Golf Course, situated right on the Spirit Ridge grounds, and with views that kept getting more and more spectacular as we climbed up the hill to each hole. Deep breaths in a desert landscape taking in Anarchist Mountain, Osoyoos Lake, and the sloping vineyards were our kind of ‘ommmm.’ When it comes to cleanliness and safety during these crazy times – golf, and especially this course, seem to have it figured out. No partnering-up twosomes, sanitized drive carts, elevated holes with flags that stay put, and no rakes. About as touch-free as one could get.

Lunch on the Patio (& More Jaw-Dropping Views)

Photo Credit: Catherine Dunwoody

Lunch on the patio at Nk’Mip Cellars followed, with a jaw-dropping view, a memorable local charcuterie platter and glass of their own rosé. Before we entered, we were warmly greeted by a woman behind plexiglass who asked a few questions pertaining to Covid-19 and our possible exposure. I appreciated the extra measure of safety. Ask away.

On the roof top deck of the Desert Suites back at the resort, Daniel Bibby, Executive Director and General Manager of Spirit Ridge, told me about the property’s wellness offerings. “We’ll continue to offer yoga classes up here, and at the beach with our SUP yoga classes, but now physically distanced of course.”

Come August, “a new artist in residence program will be in place, each week featuring a different BC artist. Painting classes will be held in the vineyard, with one artist working with guests to create their own beautiful journal,” Mr. Bibby added.

No wellness visit to this sacred land would be complete without some time spent honouring the people that went before us. Bibby tells me that partnering with the nearby Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre allows guests to experience “First Nations interpretive ceremonies tied to the significance of the land we are on,” including guided interpretive hiking trails to a teepee village, smudging ceremonies to cleanse negative energy, dances and songs, and various teachings.” During these times of raised awareness regarding systemic racism worldwide, it’s even more important to learn directly from our Indigenous people, and this opportunity seems like a gift.

Having fed my body, mind and spirit for just a few days here in Osoyoos, Neil and I sit huddled by the fire cauldron on the Spirit Ridge property. I’m reminded that Daniel mentioned a “star gazing event in September” that I would like to return to experience, “where the skies are crystal clear. It feels magical. There is a reason it is called Spirit Ridge.”

To learn more about the area, visit

Up-Level Your Wellbeing at Work with 3 Easy Tools

By Theresa Lambert

It won’t come as a surprise that in this world in which we are always connected it has become increasingly difficult to disconnect. At work, we often experience “rush hour” and for some that has become business as usual.

When our wellbeing suffers from chronic stress due to worries about what we have to do next, it can lead us to feeling exhausted and unfulfilled with work we once loved. And contrary to what we believe, that is that working more, longer and harder will help us, in actuality, we just can’t seem to get ahead of the ever-growing workload.

In short, it’s time to slow down and up-level your experience at work. Here are 3 simple tools you can use to increase your wellbeing and reduce your stress.

Tool #1: If you can’t go into nature, bring nature to you!

Because of our obsession with DO-ing, most of us have forgotten to practice just BE-ing. One of the fastest ways we are able to reconnect with ourselves is to be out in nature. But the reality is many of us may not have access to nature just around the corner so let’s aim for the next best thing. Buy yourself a plant and put it on your desk!

Yes, you heard me, placing a plant on your desk or in your office can help you reduce workplace stress. A recent study conducted in Japan found that looking at a plant on your desk for 3-min whenever you feel “tired” can greatly reduce your stress level!

Pretty awesome! So, for an investment that can be as low as $5 for a succulent plant, you can reduce your stress and at the same time brighten up your desk… and your outlook.

Tool #2 Find your Anchor

“Health is a state of Body. Wellness is a state of BE-ing.”

– J. Stanford

I love the quote from J. Stanford that reminds us that “Wellness is a state of BE-ing”! Keeping on this trend, in order for us to up-level our wellbeing we need to find ways that connect us to an ideal state of BE-ing!

Take a moment and think about a time, moment or experience that you were super present in and most importantly happy and relaxed. Answer these questions:

  • Where were you?
  • What did you do?
  • Who was with you?
  • What was the best thing about it?
  • How did you feel?

Now that you have a clear image of when you experienced this, is there anything that reminds you of this time? This could be an image, jewellery, perhaps a random item in your home, a person, a colour, a scent of something. Go ahead and write it down.

The item you find that reminds you of this, is your anchor! Make it a habit to look and ideally touch (or smell) your anchor at least three times per day. The more senses you engage the better this works. You could do it in the morning as you wake, at lunch and before you go to sleep.

If you want even more of a boost from this, set your timer for 1-minute and close your eyes while you are touching the item. Step into that experience, what can you see, hear, smell, taste, feel? Visualize yourself in the experience for 1-minute and watch your energy levels and wellbeing rise!

Tool #3: Connect with colleagues over lunch

This tool isn’t only fun, by setting a lunch-date we are stopping ourselves from the terrible habit of eating our lunch while we are working. Not sure how that was ever a good idea, but through-out my career it seemed to become standard.

Creating an experience around lunch and including human connection in this experience is super powerful. It can bring joy to the day to connect with your colleagues and spend 30-minutes talking about anything other than work. It is a well needed break in your day, yet it also fosters the state of belonging; one of our fundamental human needs.

When we feel connected to others and foster relationships that help us feel connected and heard we can significantly increase our wellbeing and experience at work.

“The business of business is relationships; the business of life is human connection.”

Robin Sharma

About the Author

Theresa Lambert is the Founder and CEO of Theresa Lambert Coaching & Consulting. Drawing from her nearly 20 years of experience in the industry and most recently her six year tenure as the General Manager of Nita Lake Lodge she brings both a real world view and proven applicable tools to support her clients by helping them smash through the cycle of feeling stressed, stretched and on the edge of burnout, and instead transform their experience so they can be wildly successful, have more fun and inspire the next generation of leaders to follow suit. Learn more at

Getaway to Thompson Okanagan Mountain Resorts

By Tracey Rayson, Travel Writer

Admit it: You’ve hit the snooze for a second time, now contemplating a third. But what you might not realize is there’s a layer of freshly fallen champagne powder eager to be discovered. Or better yet, disturbed. After all, you’re in the Thompson Okanagan and your wellness vacation is waiting for you.

When you’re ready to trade the comforts of your warm bed and cozy woolen blanket for an untracked trail bed and a blanket of snow, you’ll be presented plenty of opportunity to reboot and recharge. Believe it or not, the exquisite beauty of mountain-high tranquility is more energizing than an extra hour of sleep.

With an up and at ’em attitude, you’ll be amply rewarded. Take a long deep breath. Slowly exhale. Repeat. It’s the equivalent of gassing up the car, except you’ve just filled up your lungs with crisp invigorating alpine air. A restorative winter getaway in Thompson Okanagan may challenge your mindset but you’ll find stillness and your true balance. It will help get your physical and mental health, and positive energy on track. This is a place that will nurture you – mind, body and soul. Embrace the cold and take a self-care sojourn to these fabulous three resorts: Big White, SilverStar, and Sun Peaks, and explore beyond the verticals.

Big White Ski Resort

Photo Credit: Destination BC / Blake Jorgenson

Big White Ski Resort sits 56 kilometres southeast of Kelowna and offers a convenient 55-minute shuttle from Kelowna’s International Airport. On average, Big White receives 750 centimetres of snow every winter, so, it’s no surprise to see the annual ‘snow ghosts’ emerge – trees transformed into snow-caked creatures—a benchmark of the resort.

Explore the backcountry and view them on snowshoes via the Wilderness Trails, with / without a guide. On the extensive Nordic trail network, slice through feather-light pillows of accumulated flakes, while your heart beats in tandem with the rhythmic glide of every stride of your cross-country skis. You’re bound to boost your vitality levels taking in the intoxicatingly fresh pine air no matter what activity you choose. If you’re craving a different vantage point, perhaps you’re inclined to strap on your crampons and scale the 18-metre ice tower or lace-up your blades and experience Canada’s highest (1,755 metres above sea level) outdoor skating rink in Happy Valley.

Afterwards, you’ll be ready to round out your lofty activities with a visit to Elevation Spa (2,318 metres), for a soothing in-house treatment with eco-friendly Eminence Organics. Also on offer are male-specific treatments including manly mani-pedis.

SilverStar Mountain Resort

Photo Credit: Destination BC / Blake Jorgenson

Situated 22 kilometres northeast of Vernon and less than an hour from Kelowna International Airport, SilverStar Mountain Resort enjoys more than 700 centimetres of snowfall annually, blanketing a colourful Victorian-inspired village and varied and vast terrain. Despite its small-town charm and intimate utopian community – a large part of its appeal – SilverStar is one of BC’s largest ski areas with four distinct mountain faces.

Indulging in this escape, you can embrace a diversity of winter experiences without sacrificing tranquility. Canada’s largest cross-country network—105 kilometres of Nordic trails between the mountain resort and neighbouring Sovereign Lake Nordic Centre—delivers a blissful intimacy to reconnect with yourself. As you glide along seemingly endless snowy glades, expect the stillness to resonate a deep meditative silence and stir mindful reflection. Explore a skate on Brewer’s natural ice pond or snowshoe on singletrack dog-friendly trails.

Prepare to restore your energy and be revitalized with wellness services like On Mountain Yoga, or Elevate Spa, the mountain’s only full-service Aveda day spa. Their high standards are matched only by the altitude, and are fully committed in finding how best to recoup, restore and achieve your optimum balance.

Sun Peaks Resort

Photo Credit: Destination BC / Ryan Creary

Located 50 kilometres northeast of Kamloops, Sun Peaks Resort is a winter mecca (Tod, Morrisey and Sundance) and is celebrated as the second-largest ski area in Canada. This might not matter to those who come for other snow-focused activities (like the Moon Light Snowshoes & S’mores tour, horse-drawn sleigh rides, or the personal chauffeured Snow Limo—an on-mountain snow gliding experience), but it should. Especially for wellness seekers, because it translates to lots of space, fewer crowds, to wit, more serenity.

A wellness vacation at Sun Peaks looks like a potpourri of tension-melting undertakings and a welcome mat of spa pleasures: Four Winds Massage Therapy and Yoga; Spa Express; Sun Peaks Yoga; plus two mobile services: Knee Deep Sport Massage, and Hands on the Move. Sun Peaks Spa in the Kookaburra Lodge offers relaxation massage, and more, all with the aim of providing relief from your daily stresses.

Sure, spa culture may focus on clean living and cleansing, but oenophiles love pampering rituals, too, which makes it the perfect blend for village restaurants to pair unique menus with British Columbia wines during Sun Peaks Wine and Dine (part of the Sun Peaks Wine & Food Festival), March 5 – 8, 2020.

Three Top Healing Hot Springs in the Kootenay Rockies

By Tracey Rayson, Travel Writer

Curative Waters to Buoy Your Body & Soul

As you slip into the natural spa pool of chest-deep thermal waters, the soothing warmth will glide over your body like a smooth silk spun cocoon. Stretching out against the water’s soft resistance, you’ll feel the blissful rhythm of your breath in harmony with each fluid and flexible movement from limb to limb.

Experience a soak in the restorative properties of thermal waters containing naturally occurring elements from surrounding rocks and soil, which helps promote regeneration and a sense of general well-being. Of course, being veiled in the beauty of nature and breathing fresh crisp air is all part of the meditative escape to relax and rejuvenate.

Tapping BC’s natural resources, the nourishing hot springs of the Kootenay Rockies are situated in their natural environments so you can drench yourself in hydrotherapy amidst mineral-rich caves, flowing rivers, deep canyons, old-growth forests, and towering mountain peaks. These storied spots have powerful energy to be unleashed.

If you’re looking to recalibrate your body, these bliss-inducing and health-oriented hotspots offer various hot springs and mineral pool benefits, spa treatments, and amenities ranging from accommodations and swimming pools to hot and cold plunge pools, steam rooms, and saunas, just to name a few.

Ainsworth Hot Springs Resort

Photo Credit: Destination BC / Kari Medig

Located near Nelson in the heart of the Kootenay region, Ainsworth Hot Springs offers hot mineral waters that originate from the Cody Caves area—east of the resort—which flow through fractures in the rock. A natural horseshoe-shaped cave under a ceiling of stalactites highlights the springs, where falling mineral water forms into a pool (42 Celsius) and provides a natural steam bath.

The Ktunaxa—local First Nations people—has long revered these waters for their healing power. A high mineral content includes magnesium, known for its detoxifying properties, and potassium, which supports blood pressure, cardiovascular health, and contributes to a sense of wellness. Three odourless pools, a main lounging pool, and a stream-fed cold plunge offer exhilarating health properties. Luxuriate in the pools while surrounded by stunning views of the glaciated and rugged Purcell Mountains and clear waters of Kootenay Lake. Within the resort, adjacent to the hot springs lobby, the Spirit Water Spa provides a variety of body treatments for additional healing effects.

Radium Hot Springs

Photo Credit: Destination BC / Kari Medig

Expect the calming effects of deep relaxation in the odourless geothermal pools of Radium Hot Springs, tucked into the south entrance of Kootenay National Park in the Village of Radium Hot Springs. With a reputation for its therapeutic properties, the all-natural, outdoor hot springs pools are set amidst the rugged red rock walls of Sinclair Canyon (watch for Big Horn sheep sightings), integrating outdoor wilderness with premier spa facilities.

Unearth a new sense of vitality and balance with a dip in the relaxing 25-metre ‘cool pool’ (27 Celsius). For soaking, a larger pool (39 Celsius) contains the healing powers of sulphate, calcium, bicarbonate, sodium, and magnesium to help purge toxins, relieve stress, soothe aching muscles and leave you feeling rested. Enhance your well-being with day spa services available at Pleiades Spa & Wellness. The hot springs plunge pool is complementary with any spa service.

Fairmont Hot Springs Resort

Photo Credit: Destination BC / Kari Medig

Near Invermere on the east side of the Columbia Valley, the 1,000-square-metre pool at the Fairmont Hot Springs Resort beckons bathers with its medicinal benefits and curative powers. It’s visually stimulating, too, as the Fairmont Ridge surrounds you, the most prominent peaks in the Stanford Range of the Rocky Mountains. Once the billows of steam rise and drift above the warm waters, exquisite alpine scenery is exposed to reveal snow-laced summits, and immeasurable expanses of aspens, pines, and spruces.

The resort boasts Canada’s largest odourless natural mineral-rich pools, where fresh spring waters with calcium, sulphate and magnesium flows daily through two Nordic-style hot and cold plunge pools: the hot pool (39 Celsius) and the dive pool (30 Celsius), plus the large swimming pool (32 Celsius). Renewal extends to the Natural Springs Spa, positioned in the Fairmont Hot Springs Resort lodge lobby, where the restorative and naturally heated waters are used in a number of their treatments to promote further healing and rejuvenation. Other highlights include the steam room, sauna, and the eponymous hotel.

Indigenous Cultural Wellness at The Lund Resort at Klah ah men

By Michelle Hopkins, Travel Writer

When I was invited on a trip to Lund, I must confess I had no idea where Lund was!

Driving only 30 minutes north of Powell River through scenic coastal views, you will arrive at this tranquil town of just under 300 residents.

For the Tla’amin First Nation – who have inhabited this region for thousands of years – Lund is a sanctuary which they have long referenced as a place of rest and refuge.

Soon after placing my suitcase in my oceanfront suite in the newly refurbished Lund Resort at Klah ah men – the first, full service Indigenous resort on the Sunshine Coast – I met up with Tla’amin First Nation Cultural Ambassador, Drew Blaney.

We sat in the resort’s Back Eatery restaurant, overlooking the bay, enjoying a fusion of Coast Salish and west coast inspired cuisine. Blaney regaled me with the history of the First Nations people in these parts.

“Klah-ah-men (aka Lund in English) means a place of refuge,” notes Blaney. “This is a destination that literally translates into a place to reconnect with nature and decompress.”

While we both bit into the mouth-watering Tla’amin Burger, a deliciously messy combination of bison, smothered in a bacon onion and peach jam, requiring the need for several napkins, Blaney went on to say: “We (the three Northern Salish Nations people), are still very much one people, we speak the same language, share the same cultural practices and continue to have strong family connections.”

Originally built in 1895 by one of the Swedish Thulin brothers, The Lund Resort at Klah ah men has served as the heart of this quiet community for decades, and previously was a village site of the Indigenous Tla’amin People. Today, the resort has been transformed and the décor honours the rich Tla’amin Nation’s history.

Overlooking the bay, surrounded by old growth Douglas fir and Western red cedar, the resort, including my spacious waterfront view room, features beautiful art work and giftware throughout.  I was mesmerized by the sheer beauty and symbolism of the massive wall carving in the lobby depicting a bear by Coast Salish artist Alano Edzerza of the Tahltan Nation’s Raven clan.

As an outdoor enthusiast, I took out one of the resort’s kayak to discover the waters around the area, where granite walls are coated with seaweed and oyster shells; where eagles soar high above, and mountain ridges rise through clouds to glaciers on high.

Off for an afternoon cruise and picnic lunch on the Spirit of Lund vessel, a stop at Refuge Cove was a highlight. It is a popular marina stop for boaters to refuel and buy supplies. Old wooden boardwalks connect to weather-beaten buildings oozing with charm. I meandered into the bookstore, the art gallery, and one of those rural gems – the old-fashioned general store, selling everything from household wares to groceries and memorabilia, to art work showcasing local artists.

The following morning, after yet another fabulous meal at The Lund Resort’s Back Eatery, I headed for a two-hour cultural walk with Terracentric Coastal Adventures’ owner / guide Christine Hollmann. As we hiked along a portion of the Sunshine Coast Trail, Christine regaled us with her vast knowledge of the area’s fauna, the lush riparian zones, and thoughtfully included several stops for Instagram-worthy photos.

After only two days, it is incredibly easy to understand why the Tla’amin First Nation have long called this unique, quiet enclave a place of rest and refuge.

Learn more at Lund Resort at Klah ah men.

Naturally Inspired Rejuvenation at Homfray Lodge

By Michelle Hopkins, Travel Writer

Travel can be a great way to refresh and rejuvenate mind and body, yet on a recent visit to Homfray Lodge located in Desolation Sound, in British Columbia, I discovered a kind of magic about a resort which is truly isolated.

Accessible only by float plane or boat, this all-inclusive lodge allows you to immerse yourself with nature by relaxing on the expansive dock, kayaking on the calm water, enjoying the views from your private chalets, or joining an eco boat tour.

I felt my stress melt away the moment I boarded the refurbished fishing vessel that transported me from Lund on a two- and half-hour journey through the waters of Desolation Sound. Complete with bar, galley and open and enclosed decks, the journey aboard this small ship was scenic and unforgettable in its own right. However, once you’ve arrived at the Lodge, it’s time to take in all that makes this remote resort so special.

Immerse yourself in a private sanctuary away from life’s stresses

At the edge of the Great Bear Rainforest, along Homfray Channel, this far-flung wilderness lodge begged me to decompress. It’s hard to describe the sense of escape I felt when I reached my private ocean view chalet.

The mood throughout our three-day stay was set on the first evening. Besides our group of four, there were a few couples from the United States and one from B.C. After a gourmet dinner in the timber framed lodge dining room, showcasing locally sourced, deliciously fresh cuisine, two guests decided to jump into the waters … for an after dinner dip as the sun set. Their laughter and joy set the tone for more laughs to be had.

Each day begins with morning yoga and leads to afternoons lounging on the floating dock. Take a leisurely kayak paddle, a short hike, or head out on a four-hour Pacific Coastal Cruises & Tours eco-tour, the company which also owns and manages the Resort. The choice is yours on how you want to spend your time unwinding.

Homfray Lodge offers guests front row seats to enjoy sightings of dolphins, orcas and humpbacks whales and bears. From the massive dock, resting in an over-sized Adirondack I spotted playful seals, sea lions, eagles, and a variety of sea birds.  And it gets better as although the lodge has WIFI, the serenity of the area seems to entice you to unplug all together.

Three days went by quickly as all too soon it was time to board the ship heading back home, where admittedly it took some time to rejoin my daily work routine and recover from the undiluted joy of a holiday like this.  Relaxed and completely recharged, I really felt physically and spiritually better.

Learn more at Pacific Coastal Cruises & Tours.

Seascape Wellness at Galiano Oceanfront Inn & Spa

By Michelle Hopkins, Travel Writer

Surrounded by white-shell beaches, and miles of forest trails, Galiano Island is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise. Whether you are into hiking, mountain biking, walking, bird watching, kayaking, swimming, sailing, beachcombing, or all of the above, you’ve come to the right place.

This past winter, I was on this skinny, 19-mile-long Southern Gulf Island for a wellness weekend getaway. I was here to recharge my batteries, unplug from technology (as much as possible), and take care of my mental and physical being. I’m part of a growing trend of travelers who are not only getting out of the city for some R&R, but specifically for a wellness escape.

According to the 2018 Global Wellness Economy Monitor, released by the non-profit Global Wellness Institute (GWI), wellness is no fleeting trend. This burgeoning market is arguably a certified way of life. In fact, the GWI predicts “wellness travel” will reach $919 billion US by 2022.

Although vacations may be all about relaxing, one based on wellness has shown to lead to increased mental clarity, a slimmer waistline (and who doesn’t love that!), and returning home with more energy than when you left. For a more holistic wellness journey, travelers, like me, are increasingly looking to connect with destinations through nature and spa’ing.

Within a five-minute walk from the ferry terminal at Sturdies Bay, I was at the Galiano Oceanfront Inn and Spa. Immediately, its waterfront location induced a sense of wellbeing.

These days, most people don’t want to be separated from their iPhones, unless of course when you are wrapped in the softest bath robe heading for a massage. The resort offers a unique experience at its Madrona del Mar Spa. How you ask?

Imagine this: you are cocooned inside a cedar cottage nestled within a lush garden featuring a waterfall and pond. Then, enter a cozy retreat offering up even more reason to bliss-out with candles, aromatic scents, waterfall sounds, and flowers.

I opted for the hour-long blackberry port (from Salt Spring Island Vineyards), massage. Afterwards, I curled up in a comfy chair enjoying a glass of this smooth port.

The wonder here was relentless. The next morning, I awaken to nothing but blue skies beaming down over the cobalt-blue waters. Lacing up my hiking boots, I headed to Bodega Ridge Provincial Park. An easy 30-minute hike up and I’m on the top of Galiano, walking along a rocky ridge more than 1,000 feet above the sea.

Another great hike is to the top of Bluffs Park, at the south end of Galliano, where I had front row seats to spectacular views of Active Pass, which separates Galiano from Mayne Island.

Rounding out my adventure was a three-hour Gulf Islands Kayaking paddle. What’s more fun than navigating sheltered waters catching sight of sea lions frolicking in the waters, while seals lions appear to look at you with complete, could it be, disdain, as they sunned themselves on a rock? I can’t think of too many things…

All too soon, my weekend getaway was over. I came back home feeling refreshed, in mind and body.

A Ten-Day Journey of Mind Space Travel

By Ben Kousholt, Wellness Travel Seeker

Halfway through Day 2 of the retreat, I got up from having sat cross-legged, squirming through another hour of focusing on my breath as it passed over the small area beneath my nose and above my upper lip. My knees ached as they stretched under me, pins and needles in my lower back as I walked the few steps to the assistant teacher at the front of the meditation hall and kneeled on the cushion in front of him.

I silently cleared my throat so as not to disturb my fellow meditators and disrupt the code of silence. “I think I’d like to sit in a chair,” I whispered, glancing at the chairs along the sides and back of the room. It felt good to hear my voice again, although I noticed an uneasiness to it that felt new. My assistant teacher leaned in over me from the raised platform he was seated on, still cross-legged on a thin folded blanket. “Have you tried supporting your posture with pillows?” he replied in a slow monotone voice, “some find that helpful.” I turned to behold my fort of cushions, blankets and pillows, gradually modified to meet discomforts as new ones continuously arose.

“Yeah, I’m not sure it’s working for me.” “Well,” he answered, “It’s Day 2, it’s still early, if you can sit with it a little while longer, we’ll introduce tools for you to work with the pain on Day 4. For now…” A warmth brushed over one corner of his mouth “… try smiling at the pain.”

The warmth in his voice provoked me, as it seemed to suggest my discomfort was part of the course and that everything was going according to plan. A silent moment lingered between us as I thought, ” These tools had better be some serious ones.”

As with many older brothers, I grew up earning my parents’ attention by “being good,” and, with one older and three younger siblings, this attention was in short supply. “Ok…I can do that”, I finally answered and noticed that familiar taste of submission. Forcing a smile, I headed out the hall up the stairs to my room, where I collapsed on my mattress, ten minutes before the next sitting.

The ten-day retreat was held at Vancouver Island Vipassana Meditation Centre in Duncan on Vancouver Island. It revolved around a series of pre-recorded lessons by the late S.N. Goenka, a Burmese meditation teacher.

Vipassana meditation is one of India’s most ancient meditation techniques, drawing directly on teachings of The Buddha. Vipassana means to see things as they are, and that is what is encouraged. To not rely on belief or “told truth,” but merely “experiential truth” – what happens to or within oneself, when applying this technique.

The course is taught all over the world and offered in many prisons. Whether or not the course is successful or has a positive effect doesn’t matter as the very fact that the retreat is provided free of charge, with all efforts and donations made by volunteers, may be proof enough. It states on their website, “There are no charges for the courses – not even to cover the cost of food and accommodation. All expenses are covered by donations from people who, having completed a course and experienced the benefits of Vipassana, wish to allow others also to benefit.”

Attended in what is referenced as “noble silence,” no talking or direct communicating is allowed (for concerns or questions, assistant teachers and housing managers were available and very kind and helpful). In practice, this meant avoiding eye contact with anyone but staff, even your roommate, throughout the course. By the second day, my roommate and I established a pace and pattern of movements to maintain this.

One controversial aspect is the segregation of men and women. We lived in separate dorms and only saw each other in the meditation hall. Even then, the men were seated on one side and women on the other, only addressing the assistant teacher of their gender. The intention seemed genuine to avoid distraction. Whether or not it’s an outdated maxim, pushing heteronormative as “the norm” – or how the organization meets applicants subscribing to other gender identities, I’ll admit I chose to lose sight of this as I emerged myself in practice.

Each day started at 4 am when a bell woke us for morning meditation. At 6:30 am, breakfast was usually an oat porridge with fruit and granola, and at 8 am, the first of three mandatory “group sittings” of one hour began. After this, students were free to meditate in their rooms or the meditation hall. Lunch was at 11:30 am, which would also be the last meal of the day (first-time students were offered fruit at 5:30 pm but encouraged to eat very moderately). After lunch and a one-hour break, we meditated on our own between the two remaining group sittings at 2:30 pm and 6:30 pm. Finally, there was an hour daily discourse, followed by a thirty-minute session, after which we’d eventually stumble back to our rooms and, more often than not, fall asleep right away, at 9 pm.

The rest of Day 2 and all of Day 3 was a struggle. I would go from feeling sleepy, hungry, aching, distracted, then sleepy again. Every formal sitting would begin with a short instruction from Goenka over the speakers, more often than not, opening with the phrase; “start again.” And that is what we would do. Focus all of our attention on the breath as it brushed over a small area of our body. In this case, the small area around the nostrils, and every time thoughts or bodily sensations would distract from this; we’d start again. Again, and again.

It may sound simple – and it was until about a few seconds in, when the thoughts came rushing. The term “monkey mind” is frequently used in meditation circles for a reason.

Stepping aside, off the highway of life, most of us lead of rushing from one task to the next left me jet-lagged. My body was used to constant movement, reacting to discomfort and restlessness, and so was my mind. Sitting with what came, in the present moment only, not thinking up future red flags or recalling past ones, was difficult.

We’re creatures of habit, and if our habit patterns work well enough to keep us alive, neither the body or mind sees reasons to change them as historically, the risks of changing have been too high. When an unexpected e-mail or a disapproving look from a stranger can throw us down spirals of anxious thoughts, we’re “self-preserving” at a degree where paranoia is inherent in us and, more often than not, unnecessary. Letting thoughts and sensations come and go, by continuously bringing one’s attention back to the breath, a distinct body function, running without conscious effort, allows us to observe reality as it is and not as we’d like it – or as we fear it to be.

“Start again,” Goenka’s slow voice commanded again over the speaker. Most of the sittings started this way; I felt myself waiting for it, as people silently filled the meditation hall. This afternoon, however, a new instruction followed. The “tool” promised two days earlier was shared with us. Focusing on a single point of the body, we were instructed to “scan” the whole body, feeling the top of the head, the face, the neck, a shoulder, to an upper arm. Then repeat, while – and this was crucial – maintaining an equally non-judgemental attitude towards all the bodily sensations we’d come across. Such as not reacting stronger to lower back pain from sitting than an itch in a pinky finger.

Primarily we were practising equanimity, seeing all sensations as “equal signals” from the body, arising and passing, always changing – too short-lasting to hold on to and too persistent to wish away. We can either try to hold on and get “rope burn” when things do change, because everything does, or we can practice patience and observe changes objectively and not get carried away by habitual thinking and reactive patterns.

In practice, though, this way of non-reacting is very far from how most of us go through our lives. Changing this is a step further than “just” directing one’s attention back to the breath. Most of us have been conditioned to avoid any physical discomfort; we even have traumatic experiences from our past attached to bodily pains. Sitting through the arising and passing of these, while maintaining an observant, non-reacting role, became a physical task, not unlike a physical work out. The mindset immediately became key; changing the perception of “pains and discomforts” to “louder signals,” made all the difference.

After another day sitting, I felt where this was heading: I was aware of the signals from my body but not at their mercy. I was more of an authority, more in control, acting from what I deemed most beneficial — not reacting to discomforts or fears. When our assistant teacher asked us, one by one, if our sense of serenity was growing, I nodded, and that same night, when questions were encouraged, I thanked him for not having given me a chair, when I’d asked.

“Start again,” Goenka asked again, and as I sat there, scanning my body, again and again, different “signals” of different flavours and volume submerged, lingered and faded. Some warm and light, others sharp and tense, some stayed for longer, calling on feelings and memories, flashes of summer forests near my childhood home, that time I let down one friend, because I couldn’t say no to another. I felt shame when seeing myself bully a classmate or whining for toys I couldn’t have and waves of compassion for that little kid in me, stumbling ahead, struggling to find his feet on his path.

“Start again.” The hours and days melted together in a blur of sitting, resting and sitting again, scanning and rescanning the body as everything and nothing came floating up towards me like pockets of air from the depths of an ocean. Old childhood habits I still clung to, fears and needs. As one tension in my lower abdomen loosened, a warmth spread with realizing that deep down, I always believed I had to earn love and worth, and I’d repeatedly hurt myself and others to support this. Another knot formed with a rush of remorse for having punished myself with guilt for the sake of punishing and on and on it went until the bell finally released us and I dissolved into my foam mattress.

But I didn’t sleep, a vigorous warmth and lightness had remained. All sensations seemed like open channels lingering in my chest. I felt waves of gratitude for my body against the sheets and my thinking, skipping, jumping monkey mind and everything I got to witness in this brief little life of mine. When I finally fell asleep, it was four hours before the morning bell, yet I woke up feeling rested and in awe of what a wonder everything is.

A ten-day meditation retreat will unlikely lead to full enlightenment or the salvation of many. Yet spending ten days watching one’s sense of self and behaviours unfold, can leave one, as it did me, feeling like you have caught a glimpse behind the curtain of the centre stage of consciousness. I saw how my idea of what was “me” were stories I’d told myself, most of them having very little to do with what was real. What was – and is real, is only this moment and what’s in it, everything arising and passing away.

For more information on this enlightening experience please visit

Rejuvenation is Yours at The Cove Lakeside Resort

Editorial in partnership with Great Wellness Getaways and The Cove Lakeside Resort

These days, it seems most everyone needs a break from overly busy lives. A break where all that’s on the to-do list is simply rest and restore energy levels. A change of scenery, even for a few days, can do wonders for us mentally, emotionally and physically. By taking a regular, mini getaway not only do you have something to look forward to, once back home you feel more refreshed and focused.

Rather than spending every weekend at home dreading the work week ahead, try leaving your routine for a quick change of scenery to recharge – there are scientific reasons why vacations promote wellness! Shorter trips are also an affordable way to travel locally and discover sights and activities while on a backyard vacay. And short breaks require less packing and less travel time, which leaves more time spent actually enjoying your destination.

Above all, quick getaways offer incredible health benefits, including reduced stress, increased energy and mood levels, and improved mental and physical health.

Lakeside Setting Renews & Rejuvenates

The Cove Lakeside Resort in West Kelowna is a fabulous location for just this type of relaxing getaway. With breathtaking views of Okanagan Lake enjoyed from spacious, well-appointed one, two and three-bedroom suites, this idyllic setting offers tons of recreational opportunities.

Take a few days mid-week when possible or tag on an extra day to the weekend, and you’ll notice an immediate sense of improved well-being upon your return home. Consider a seasonal break in autumn to kick some leaves and soak up the fresh outdoors while savouring the natural beauty the Okanagan Valley has to offer. West Kelowna offers splendid day trips if you’re looking to see more of the Okanagan Valley. There are endless recreational and relaxation opportunities from the doorstep of this beautiful resort that are unique to the area. Indulge in world-class wine at local vineyards. Marvel at the stunning views of the Okanagan Lake while hiking or biking. Spend a day golfing at Two Eagles Golf Course or Shannon Lake Golf Club, both of which are located close to the resort.

Planning Frequent Getaways Improves Your Overall Wellness

Studies show people who take frequent weekend getaways tend to be happier, calmer, and more energized than those who rarely take time off. By the end of your mid-week or weekend getaway at The Cove Lakeside Resort, you will realize how just a few days away will drastically improve your energy, mood and overall health. Soothing spa treatments and fresh, clean food dining options complement the why of wellness as part of your romantic escape or girls’ weekend.

Here’s another point to consider. According to research, the best thing you can do for your health is to block off your vacation days for the entire year. It gives you something to look forward to and helps buffer future stresses.

Spoil Yourself with an Indulgent Wellness Getaway

Pampering yourself and focusing on your wellness is an ideal way to spend a weekend. The resort has several appealing packages that offer the quintessential wellness getaway, from a bed and breakfast escape to indulging in an immersive spa weekend where your cares and woes will literally melt away. Equally enjoyed with a group of your besties to your special someone, these mini wellness holidays are the perfect anecdote to burnout.

The team at Spa at The Cove, a lakeside Aveda Spa, is committed to creating a quiet refuge in a world full of stressful demands. Extending exceptional services in a peaceful, elegant and calming atmosphere is key to delivering the ultimate rejuvenating experience. And we all know, if the spirit is soothed, beauty will follow.

The Cove Lakeside Resort practices a philosophy that ensures your wellness getaway is one of the best trips imaginable. The management and staff genuinely want their guests to depart feeling rejuvenated and happy. And if you are excited to return again for a healthy dose of rest and relaxation, they know they’ve done a superb job in delivering on your expectations!

Learn more or better still, book your wellness getaway at The Cove Lakeside Resort now.