top of page

Are wellness retreats vacations? Jimmy Rox shares all the details.

Ready to become a whole new person after literally one weekend?!

You see posts on Instagram of people raving about their wellness retreats with revealing photos on a yoga mat paired with really deep captions about life. These crystal and essential oil filled vacations promise nothing short of a complete transformation: “Come as you are and leave as you’ve never been,” reads the headline on the website for one of the top wellness retreats in the world. Another one in the Catskills, New York advertises, “We seek to help attain eternal youth through mind, body and spirit rejuvenation.”

Well, if changing your life is that easy, sign me up! But what are you really getting? Among the offerings, one top rated resort’s site lists activities, such as hiking, horseback riding, archery, gardening, mediation, pickleball and even star gazing. All starting at a cool $1,200…per person.

I went on a wellness retreat and I am unwell.

Wellness retreats seem cool and all, but if you dig a little deeper, aren’t they just trying to rebrand a vacation, and for thousands of dollars? Will you have a great time? I’m sure it’ll be a blast and you’ll get those perfect shots for Instagram. Will it be healing and life-changing? Who’s to say? They’re like an expensive 21st century pyramid scheme, and I wasn’t buying in…until I got invited to one.

As the skeptic that I am, when I was invited to a wellness retreat, I was ready to play ball. The objective was to “pause, reconnect to nature” and transform my “current state into balance, harmony with a sense of feeling grounded and centered.” In non woo-woo language, this meant we did activities like mountain biking and a sound bath (a relaxation technique where you “bathe” in the sound waves produced by a soothing human voice as well as instruments like chimes, gongs, drums, etc.). See what I mean?

Before we hit the trails on our bikes, my instructor had each of us in the group state our purpose for the day. A purpose? I had no f*cking clue…it’s like asking me what the meaning of life is.

My biggest issue with mountain biking, among other recreational activities, was that I found the wellness aspect utterly forced. How is mountain biking at a wellness retreat different than when I do it at home? It’s a matter of perception and advertising, because someone can sell “wellness” into almost everything you do from simply working out at the gym to literally walking your damn dog.

WTF is a sound bath?

I’m embarrassed to admit that I had to Google “sound bath” because I really thought it had to do with water. Spoiler alert – there’s no water involved. The instructor has various instruments including gongs and bowls that make different types of sounds, each reaching various parts of your body.

In this hour-long session, the instructor had us lie on a yoga mat on our backs with a pillow, wrapped in a blanket. I wish I could tell you more about the sound bath, but as soon as she started I fell asleep – out cold. After the session, I found out my snoring began to disrupt the entire class. I didn’t even know I snore! Call it what you want, but my sound bath was an expensive nap. Someone will probably tell you that it’s totally normal to fall asleep during a sound bath, but I’m happier doing that in the comfort of my own bed alone (for free) and not on a hardwood floor in a room of strangers.

A wellness retreat is fun, but not a cure-all. Just a vacation with a purpose.

The bottom line is don’t expect a wellness retreat to fix all of your problems…it might actually do the opposite. A lot of people think their lives are suddenly going to change from one weekend trip, but that’s false advertising.

In reality, they’re more like speed dating: you get to dip your toe in all these classes you’ve never done before, and probably wouldn’t have found otherwise, and if you connect with one, you find a studio back home and continue to go (a group sound bath session can range anywhere from $30 to $65). It’s up to you to make it into something more long-term.

All that said, I didn’t feel scammed at all because the skeptic that I am didn’t expect to leave as a brand new person. I treated it more like a vacation – using PTO days, going somewhere new, and immersing myself in the local culture vs. feeling “healed” and anew. Before you go swiping your credit card, do some research and see what you can do on your own, at home. Youtube is a magical place nowadays and doesn’t break the bank.

But who knows, maybe I’ll hit up a sound bath in Brooklyn if I’m feeling bougie enough for a pricey nap.

Be good,


PS. Sign up to the best newsletter for weekly honest travel tips and shower thoughts. Also, make sure to forward it to a friend and add me to your address book so I don’t land in your spam folder.


bottom of page