Wellness travel… a buzzword that has been floating around the internet and travel sphere this year, but what does it really mean? As I’ve struggled balancing my chronic illness with travel this year, I’ve been thinking a lot about what wellness travel means to me. So often you see wellness travel portrayed as exotic travel to fancy spas, couples massages on the beach, and other luxurious experiences that aren’t necessarily accessible to people like you and me. For me, wellness travel is less about these extravagant experiences, and more about being kind to myself.
When I was in college, one of my friends described my aesthetic as ‘just-finished-teaching-a-yoga-class-chic.’ Well, the ‘chic’ may have been debatable. But for as long as I’ve been dressing myself, I’ve focused on versatile clothes. Yes, something I can wear to teach a yoga class. But I want to also wear it to lunch afterwards, maybe a poetry reading, a flight across the country, a panel on women saving the world, and a buffet-style dinner date. Girl’s gotta eat…#notimefortightwaistbands. Does it sound like I’m describing the best travel pants ever?
As you guys know, I spent time in 2017 living in northern France and working for the Dunkirk Refugee Women’s Centre. After I left, I struggled emotionally coming to terms with this huge crisis I witnessed, and not knowing how to help refugees without actually being there in the camps. The reality, however, is that not everyone can/wants/or is able to travel to the front lines and volunteer. But refugees all around the world still need our help, as we’ve seen in the news lately with Refugee Week and the separation of parents and children in the US. Since I left the Refugee Women’s Centre, I’ve discovered how to help refugees in a practical, location-independent way.
It’s March which means Women’s History month and International Women’s Day (Thursday March 8!) – AKA girl power month. It also means I have an announcement!
On Earth Day (April 22) I will be running 13.1 miles in an all-women half marathon, in support of my beloved Refugee Women’s Center. I have run races before (only one half marathon!) but I have NEVER done a fundraiser. Why am I doing my first one now? Well, I found the charity that deserves it.
If you’ve been following my instagram, you’ll see that life lately has been cozy, pink, and full of gluten free bagels: I have Ecomama Hotel Amsterdam to thank for that! With my spike in traveling recently, and also some reflections after working in the refugee camps, I’ve decided to honestly invest in making more ethical, sustainable, and socially responsible decisions with my money when I travel. (You’ll even see that I’ve added a new category in my blog menu: Ethical Travel). Whereas I previously looked for a low price/high design ratio in travel accommodation, I’m now adding sustainability into the mix.
Twenty miles across the English channel, I went to work everyday and spoke with teenage girls who woke up with tear gas in their eyes, police boots in their ribs. On the outskirts of the grey, suburban neighborhoods of Dunkirk and Calais, police soak donated sleeping bags and tarpaulin in tear gas concoctions, rendering them useless. Children sell their bodies so they can pay for a way to meet family across the channel. The first cases of trenchfoot since World War One are running rampant. It sounds like a dystopian reality, but it’s not, and it’s here.
I could go on explaining the police intimidation and horrific conditions that make up life for refugees in Northern France right now (and this is a good post if that’s what you want to read) – but something would be missing. The actual refugees.
This post is the final installment (although I will continue to write about this topic in many forms – your feedback is welcome in the survey at the bottom of this post!) in my diary posts on volunteering in a refugee camp in Northern France with the Roland Levinsky Memorial scholarship. You can read the first three posts here: 1, 2, 3.
In Ljubljana, we spent the night behind bars, locked into the cell of a political prisoner.
As the sun sank, there was no view of the night sky, but rather just the navy-painted ceiling and my imagination. In the darkness, I could hear the distant clangs of other barred doors locking. Hours later, through one small square window chiseled in a meter of stone, the sun rose.
This is the second installment in my short series about volunteering in a refugee camp in France. You can read my first post here.