The term “wellness getaway” has multiple meanings, all centering around a location that projects a maximum dose of happiness and peace for the traveler. Whether it requires the distance of a short walk, drive or 15-hour flight, this is a place that’s rich in personalized significance and armistice. This is a getaway from which the traveler always returns refreshed and inspired, no matter how often they’ve visited the destination.
We picked the brains of Yoga for Bad People — a bi-coastal yoga company focused on leading retreats, emerging from the combined visions of Heather Lilleston and Katelin Sisson — to understand how they would define a wellness getaway.
“Wandering the streets of Havana, with its Caribbean colored walls and European style architecture, laced with cars from the 1950’s and bustling with the most ethnically diverse community of people – It is truly like no other place, and there is so much of this island yet to be explored.”
YFBP seeks out locations around the world that lend themselves to quiet time and reflection as well as a multitude of physical activities, athleticism and nightlife. When we asked what they’d consider as an upcoming wellness destination hotspot, the answer came quickly: Cuba. They explain, “We travel a lot and we do our absolute best to get to a variety of different countries – particularly countries that are less obvious destinations than others. We are YFBP after all, we like to color outside the lines and break a few of the rules – so we like to go where you aren’t supposed to go. Cuba is just that place, and has proven to be one of our favorites.”
In April of 2015, they took their first group to Cuba; they had been planning the trip since long before President Obama announced the process of beginning to open borders between Cuba and the United States, working with Cuba Educational Travel who have been hosting trips in Cuba for many years.
“You don’t really shop in Cuba the way you can in other countries. This is a communist country, so the shopping happens more directly with Cuban artists, in their homes. There are of course some ‘markets’ which sell the same array of crochet dresses, Che Gueverra hats and shirts, Havana club paraphernalia, and cigars. It’s more tourist style Cuban takeaways,” Kate divulges.
YFBP consider Cuba a wellness outpost because, like all Caribbean islands, Cuba holds a lot of history set to the backdrop of a tropical paradise. “The land, the people, the air, could all use a major dose of healing from the past number of decades of repression and ostracization. However, there is also a depth of spirit and music and creativity there that we can learn a lot from,” Heather says. “Cuba offers a powerful opportunity for this great exchange. Ritual and art have become the method of expression within the Cuban communist society, one that is highly educated and has one of the best health care systems in the world. It is a very interesting combination, one that provides an ideal situation for wellness and healing and spirit.”
Cuba embodies the spirit of YFBP in many ways. “It’s the forbidden island. It’s a little wild, stays up late, knows how to dance, appreciates music, cultivates some of the most talented artists, appreciates a good beach day, and is one of the most diverse looking countries we have been to,” Heather says. “People are well educated in Cuba since it is home to some of the best education in the world. There is also a very ritualistic and spiritual side of Cuba, that doesn’t necessarily reflect our spiritual beliefs, but is a practice nonetheless.” All of the above falls under the category of what YFBP appreciates, including how they like to live and what they have come to admire and honor as important in life. They believe in the balance between deep focus and studying hard, alongside the pleasure of late nights dancing and long afternoons under the sun.
“Experience happens in every moment of just being there. Wandering the streets of Havana and letting the city, the island show you itself, little by little. We highly recommend taking some time to wander the streets without an agenda, and to let the people and the winding streets of Havana take you on a spontaneous journey,” Kate explains. “That has always proven to be not only magical, but the moments that have made us feel like we are seeing ‘the real Cuba,’ instead of the curated Cuba for the American tourist. Needless to say: Cuba, we love you. Teach us your ways.”
YFBP are returning to Cuba from December 4 – 10, 2016. Registration is now open at yogaforbadpeople.com.
Photo Credit: Shaniqwa Jarvis