Culinary Vacations Not ‘Cookie-Cutter’ With Destination Discoveries

cooking classAs we’ve continued to report at Gadling, a new generation of culinary tours is on the rise. Food-loving travelers want more than generic cooking classes that teach how to make pad thai in Thailand or risotto in Tuscany. And a few companies – such as Destination Hotels & Resorts, North America’s fourth largest hotel management company – are complying by offering tours and classes that focus more on culture, locality and experiential elements.

With the launch of Destination Discoveries, hotel guests can tour the on-site apiary at Kirkland, Washington’s, The Woodmark, before taking a honey-themed cooking class with Chef Dylan Giordan. On Maui, personalized farm tours enable participants to harvest ingredients for a private class in their accommodation, as well as visit producers and sample handcrafted foods from the island.

The adventures aren’t just limited to food. There are also art, literature and active themes that reflect a sense of place; fly-fishing lessons in Lake Tahoe; nordic pursuits in Vail; art classes in Santa Fe; or a cultural and historic tour of Walden Pond via the Bedford Glen property in Boston. Here’s to more hotel groups doing away with homogenous travel.

[Photo credit: Destination Hotels & Resorts]

Holistic Healing Practices From Around The World

licorice rootNowadays, it seems like there’s a pill or shot to cure every illness. But do we really know how safe these unnatural remedies are? Throughout my travels and by talking with locals from other cultures, I’ve learned there are many natural treatments that are also effective in promoting good health. For those who’ve ever wondered about the holistic secrets of other cultures, here are some answers.

Turkey

In Turkey, the trick to staying healthy is mesir paste. The concoction was invented in Manisa during the Ottoman Empire, when the wife of Sultan Yavuz Sultan Selim and mother of Suleyman the Magnificent became very ill. No doctor was able to find a cure, until one created a unique spice blend that seemed to bring the woman back to life. The mixture is a blend of 41 different spices that form a thick paste, and is used as a general cure-all and tonic. Some of the paste’s ingredients include black pepper, cinnamon, licorice root (shown above), coconut and orange peel. The country is so proud of their natural remedy, they celebrate a Mesir Festival in Manisa each year.lemonUkraine

One effective yet simple remedy that can be learned from Ukraine locals is eating a lemon slice – peel and all. Apparently, the zesty flavor of the peel and citrus of the fruit can help aid digestion, reduce bloat and help breathing maladies.

Singapore

According to Cecilia Soh, a Traditional Chinese Medicine Specialist at Singapore’s Eu Yang Sang, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) sees “food as medicine and medicine as food.” Since 74 percent of Singapore‘s population is Chinese, TCM is widely used. For example, many Asians will boil chrysanthemum flower tea to clear “excessive yang” from the body. This includes symptoms like sore throat, indigestion, constipation and excessive eye mucus. Peppermint is another herb used as tea that alleviates these symptoms as well as headaches and upper respiratory infections.

perilla leaf Another common remedy is Perilla leaf (shown right), which helps alleviate seafood-poisoning symptoms. It is often cooked with seafood in order to stop the problem from happening in the first place. For cough, healthy digestion and smooth peristaltic movements, Apricot seeds are used.

The most sought after of all holistic medicines, however, is ground up pearl. During ancient times, royal families and wealthy merchants were the only ones who could afford this ancient health and beauty secret. The power can either be ingested or applied to the face for clear skin and anti-inflammation, although a doctor should be consulted before consuming.

honey Australia

The indigenous ingredient used by many Aussie’s to promote health and beauty is not only natural, it’s delicious. Ligurian honey, found in South Australia‘s Kangaroo Island, is very rare and powerful. In fact, it is where you can find the only strand of pure Ligurian bees left in the world. When I visited Kangaroo Island, I actually visited the Ligurian honey farm where they sold an array of honey foods, products and treatments. For beauty, the honey contains Vitamin E to help lighten blemishes and promote clear skin. Moreover, in terms of health, pure honey – like the Ligurian variety – is naturally anti-bacterial, and can be used to treat everything from minor wounds and inflammations to ulcers and arthritis.

There are also many natural remedies discovered by the Aboriginals in Australia. Tea tree oil, which is still common today in many parts of the world, is created by crushing up tea tree leaves and either applying the paste to wounds, or drinking as tea for internal ailments. The concoction works wonders and is thought to be more effective than over-the-counter prescriptions. Moreover, washing cuts and wounds with Emu bush leaves has been found to be just as effective as antibiotics, and more natural.

lizard Aruba

In Aruba, there are two very natural remedies used to cure asthma. The first makes use of the aloe plant. Cut a piece, remove the skin, and slurp up the gel. While it may not smell or taste wonderful, it will help your respiratory system and promote good digestion. The other treatment involves boiling gecko lizards, and drinking the hot broth. According to the locals I’ve spoken to, this holistic trick cures asthma permanently.

Bolivia

Because a common problem experienced in Bolivia is altitude sickness, locals use their cash crop of coca leaves to help cure the ailment. You can either chew the leaves, or boil them for tea. Coca leaves are high in calcium and other nutrients, and can also be used to treat illnesses like malaria, asthma, headaches, wounds and even a low sex drive.

barkBelize

According to Joshua Berman, author of Moon Belize, the people of Belize still use many traditional herbs and plants to treat various illnesses, especially the Maya. Travelers can find “medicinal herb trails” throughout the country, and Maya healers are found in the Maya Centre and in some southern villages in the Toledo District.

Herbal medicine, often referred to as bush medicine, is a big part of Belize’s cultural heritage. Plants are used to treat everything from everyday headaches and coughs to more serious ailments like diabetes and infertility. One popular cure for digestive problems and upset stomach is taking allspice tree leaves and making them into a tea. Moreover, the native scoggineal plant is helpful for relieving headaches and fevers by tying it to the forehead. For the common cold or flu, contribo vine can either be made into a tea or soaked in rum. And, if you’ve got itchy or burning skin ailments, like sunburn or bug bites, relaxing in a bath prepared with gumbolimbo bark (shown right) is very helpful.

Colombia

In Colombia, natural remedies are very popular. For instance, using Rosemary by itself will help clear your lungs, while mixing the herb with ginger, half a lemon and honey is a cure for the common cold. If you want improved blood circulation, combine garlic and honey, and if you have swollen eyes you can put manzanilla (camomile) on your eyelids.

aloe veraTo help alleviate a strong cough, there are two remedies you can borrow from Colombian culture. One treatment is to ingest drops of eucalyptus. The other is placing half a potato near your pillow when you’re sleeping, which will not only help your chest, but will also put you to sleep. Furthermore, for times when digestive problems arise, Colombians will often boil an aloe vera plant (shown right), drink the water, and eat the plant with sugar or honey. Apparently, this cure is very fast acting, although not the greatest tasting.

Mexico

flowerIn Mexico, holistic healing practices are very common, as there is a lot of indigenous heritage there. Before actual medicine arrived, people used many fruits, vegetables and herbs to cure ailments. One very common natural remedy is eating seedless prickle – the fruit that comes from cacti – for diarrhea. For constipation, papaya and prunes are helpful. If you’ve got a case of conjunctivitis, many locals will make a “chicalote” infusion. This refers to a type of flower with thorny leaves, so you must be careful when picking it. Simply saturate cotton balls with the mixture and dab the eyes. In a few days, the problem will be gone.

acaiBrazil

In Brazil, there are many natural remedies used to treat ailments. First there is açai almond (the actual fruit), which provides a dark green oil commonly used as an anti-diarrheal. Found in Pará in northern Brazil, it is thought to have strong energetic properties. The juice has an exotic flavor and is high in iron – excellent for people with anemia. Guaraná powder is another ingredient that is widely used to help intestinal problems, stop bleeding, relieve headaches and improve brain function. To use it, mash up a guaraná until it turns into a thin, reddish powder. The substance is extremely high in caffeine – four times more than regular coffee. There is also sucupira seed, which contains alkaloids used to help fevers, arthritis and acne. In fact, some pharmacological studies have found the oil from the seeds to be effective against schistosomiasis.

cloveMorocco

In Morocco, where Berber Pharmacies, or herbalists, are popular, many locals seek medical help the holistic way. For example, pavor seeds are used to help soothe nasal congestion. Simply put them in a piece of cloth and knot it to form a ball. Then, place the sack under the clogged nostril while covering the other, and sniff. When having a toothache, Moroccans will put a clove on the tooth that is experiencing pain. These are the dried flower buds of the Myrtaceae family tree (shown right).

If dealing with insomnia, one popular holistic remedy is infusing red poppy flower into a tea. And, for fever or itchy eyes, locals will saturate a clean, white cloth with rose water and place it over their eyes or forehead, depending on which ailment they have.

India

In India, it is popular to use turmeric for acne. Grind it into a paste and apply it directly to the skin. You can also do this with sandalwood for the same effect. For an upset stomach, shaved ginger is often put on salads and other foods and ingested. Moreover, congee, or boiled rice with water, is eaten like porridge to promote general wellness.

Are there any natural remedies you’ve learned about along your travels?

[photos via avlxyz, dearbarbie, titanium22, Siona Karen, kthypryn, cyanocorax, Adrian Nier, Pixeltoo, borderlys, Koehler Images]

InterContinental Hotels Group launches EVEN, a wellness-focused hotel brand

even hotelsInterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) today announced the US launch of EVEN™ Hotels, its new, wellness-focused hotel brand.

What is a “wellness hotel”?
Over a span of 18 months, IHG closely analyzed emerging trends, conducted studies and talked to over 4,000 customers. The research showed a demand shift to a holistic wellness travel experience, and confirmed an unmet need among customers – staying healthy while they travel.

Keep in mind, these won’t be destination spas or luxury resorts. The operating model for EVEN Hotels will be similar to limited service hotels.


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What will guests find?
Guest rooms will be designed for in-room workouts with multi-functional room amenities (e.g. coat rack that doubles as pull-up bars); a best-in-class gym with equipment and group exercise activities; a “Wellness Wall” resource for fitness tips, walking distances, and equipment rentals; and personalized guest services offering advice on fitness options.

Rooms will feature tech amenities such as high speed Wi-Fi, multimedia ports, easy access to outlets, and ample desk space. Additionally, there will be social areas in the bar and lobby. Rooms will also feature green and allergy-friendly amenities, including: hypoallergenic linens, powerful showerheads, natural lighting, LED dimmers, and antibacterial wipes.
Nutritionally designed menus will offer a particular focus on natural, fresh, fit, and energizing meals. In an open-air café and bar, guests can enjoy complimentary coffee, mini-smoothies, and flavored, filtered water with glass bottles available to fill up and take back to their rooms.

The company is so confident in the brand that they have planned an aggressive $150 million growth plan over the next three years and expects to sign contracts for 100 EVEN Hotels within the next five years.

Look for the first locations to be announced soon and the first hotel to open in early 2013.

Wellness when traveling now more than a trip to the gym

wellness when travelingWhen we think of wellness when traveling, thoughts turn to the exercise facility at a hotel. Maybe a walk on a beach comes to mind or the extra exercise we might get naturally at a destination we visit. That’s a good place to start but hotels are taking that idea a step or two further, defining wellness as just one part of a healthier lifestyle.

“Wellness is about more than exercising and living a healthier lifestyle, it’s about a completely changed attitude toward the way most people live their daily lives – especially when they travel,” says Dan Marcec, managing editor of Hotel Interactive.

Pointing out that wellness involves a balance of mind, body and spirit that will deliver a better, richer quality of life, Kristi Bonsack, director of wellness at Longboat Key Club & Resort, notes that “the medical field is about helping to cure disease, where as wellness is about preventing it, and there’s a distinction. Being well is not about limiting life, but enhancing it.”

Hotels, resorts, cruise lines and other lodging options are doing more to encourage a healthy lifestyle. Wellness programs are easy to access for travelers and are timed to meet their needs. The focus is on encouraging and empowering guests to find a balance of fitness, nutrition, education and relaxation, far more than merely providing directions to where the on-site fitness center is located.”Wellness encompasses everything – your dining, leisure activities, sleeping habits, and even finding joyful things in your day,” says Bonsack.

Wellness when traveling is becoming more popular all the time. Now, in addition to checking room rates, directions to the hotel and availability on dates we want to travel, those planning a hotel stay are looking for wellness options. Questions like “Is there healthy food available on-site or close-by?” and “What programming is available that contributes to my wellness and will fit into my schedule?” are being asked and the answers are often hard to find. Still, there are resources available that can help.

  • Spafinder is dedicated to helping people find establishments, experiences and information that promote the well-being of body, mind and spirit and to inspire them to lead a healthy lifestyle.
  • The HealthyTravelNetwork has a mission to build a community of business travelers who are united by a common commitment to fitness and by a desire to be role models in helping America build a culture based on health and well-being.
  • Travel To Wellness is an online resource catering specifically to the growing number of wellness-minded travelers and the expanding spa and wellness travel niche.

Responding to an increasing demand, even cruise lines are focusing on wellness. Once the land of never-ending buffets and an almost guaranteed ten-pound weight gain after sailing, cruise lines are now offering more healthy lifestyle choices. Capitalizing on the all-inclusive nature of a cruise vacation, accessing healthy lifestyle choices is just as easy as bellying up to the Chocolate buffet.

In addition to the standard complement of exercise equipment found on most ships, now world-class rock-climbing walls, ice skating rinks, and full-size basketball courts are available at sea. Recently, Royal Caribbean invited guests to participate in the line’s first “Royal 5K St Maarten run”, Carnival Cruise Lines introduced SkyCourse, the cruise industry’s first-ever ropes course aboard Carnival Magic, and Princess Cruises got in the swing of things with the world’s first-ever marathon at sea. Aboard Celebrity Cruises ships, a rabidly popular Celebrity Life program features life-enhancing programs that provide a hands-on, active participation role for passengers as well as something to take back home that contributes to overall wellness.

“Wellness Travel is about traveling for the primary purpose of achieving, promoting or maintaining maximum health and a sense of well-being,” says TravelToWellness, encouraging us to be “proactive in discovering new ways to promote a healthier, less stressful lifestyle. It’s about finding balance in one’s life. It begins with intent.”



How to Eat Healthily while Travelling

Flickr photo by mark sebastian

Top five immunizations for adventure travelers

immunizationsSpending a lot of money to get poked with a needle may not be at the top of your pre-trip to-do list, but it should be. While some countries require proof of certain immunizations before they theoretically permit entry (details later in this post), there are a couple of vaccinations all travelers should get, barring any prohibitive allergies.

Getting vaccinated greatly reduces or virtually eliminates the odds of contracting certain serious illnesses or travel-related diseases, and helps prevent the spread of contagions. This is especially critical in developing countries, where there is generally little in the way of preventative or active health care, and lack of sanitation provides a fertile breeding ground for disease. As is true at home, infants, children, the elderly, and immuno-compromised are at greatest risk.

I consulted with Dr. John Szumowski, Clinical Fellow of the University of Washington Medical Center’s Division of Allergy and Infectious Disease, for expert advice before compiling the following list. As he pointed out, it’s tricky to generalize which immunizations are most important, since it depends upon where you’re going, and what you’re doing there.

That said, all of the immunizations on this list are a good idea if you travel frequently to developing nations, even if it’s for business or budget travel. They are especially important to have if you eat street food or visit rural areas.

The top five, after the jump.

[Photo credit: Flickr user johnnyalive]immunizations1. Flu
With flu epidemics making annual headlines, there’s no reason not to get a flu shot. This is especially true if you fly frequently or use other forms of public transit. Think of an airplane as a flying petri dish; why risk ruining your trip, or exposing others if you’re coming down with something? If you have an underlying health condition such as asthma, diabetes, or other lung or heart disease, it’s of particular importance to get immunized.

2. Tetanus
I grew up on a ranch, so tetanus shots have always been a part of my life. Many people don’t think about getting a tetanus vaccine, however, and as Dr. Szumowski points out, “It’s under-appreciated, and worth getting prior to travel given challenges of obtaining adequate, timely wound care.” Beats lockjaw, any day.

3. Hepatitis A
“Hepatitis A is common and can occasionally be quite serious,” cautions Dr. Szumowski. “For anyone with underlying liver disease (e.g. chronic hepatitis B or C) this is an especially important vaccination.”

4. Polio
Polio hasn’t been fully eradicated in parts of the developing world, so an inactivated poliovirus booster is important when traveling to areas where it’s still a problem, such as Nigeria and India.
immunizations
5. Typhoid
This vaccine can be taken either orally or by injection. Be aware that you must avoid mefloquine (an anti-malarial) or antibiotics within 24 hours of the vaccine doses.

Additional vaccines
Depending upon your destination, you may also require, by law, a Yellow Fever (tropical South America and sub-Saharan Africa), or Japanese Encephalitis/JE vaccination (parts of Asia and the Western Pacific). Dr. Szumowski recommends JE vaccine if you’re traveling for an extended (over one month) period in rural areas of affected countries.

Rabies vaccine isn’t usually recommended, but if you travel extensively in developing nations or have/expect frequent contact with animals, it’s a good idea. I’ve had a couple of canine-related experiences that have sold me on the idea. Dr. Szumowski notes that “excellent wound care and post-bite medical evaluation are still needed,” even if you’ve had a rabies pre-exposure vaccination.

Tips
It’s critical to allow ample time before your trip to allow the protective effects of the vaccines to establish themselves. Go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s vaccinations page for more information on what’s required and epidemic updates, if applicable. Often, your GP, internist, or local drugstore can provide some of these vaccinations; others require a specialist. For locations of a travel medicine clinic near you, click here.

Carry your immunization card with you as proof of vaccination, and email yourself a scanned copy, as well. The same goes for copies of your medical insurance cards.

Practice good hygiene and get enough rest, inasmuch as possible, while traveling, to maintain a healthy immune system. Airborne and Emergen-C are great immunoboosters to carry with you.

Consider travel insurance if you’ll be in a remote or sketchy area, or engaging in high-risk outdoor pursuits.

[Photo credits: swine flu, Flickr user ALTO CONTRASTE Edgar AVG. (away); polio, Flickr user Cambodia Trust;