A Curvy Expat's Global Spa Memories
Exploring Spa Therapy around the World
So, I don’t remember exactly when I started going to spas as part of my stress therapy from work and life. I also did not know any black women who went to the spa other than those in the movies. But my movie watching got me thinking that this was an experience worth having at least once. However, I vaguely recall when I started going to spas. It was in the early 2000s when I worked and traveled as a meeting manager. Over the year, I have tried and enjoyed various experiences during my travels or while living abroad. Stay with me for a few moments while I share some memories from my spa journey. My hope is that they will encourage you to try this form of relaxation as a part of your self-care routine.
My first memorable experience was in Hershey in 2006. I opted for a day of pampering that was blissful. I was still a novice in this world of spa, robe, tea, cookies, and reading or small talk with other guests in-between treatments. Mind you, I was the only dark-skinned woman in the room, and heads and eyes did turn when I walked in. I recall two women made me feel at ease, as they were regulars, and it was clear that I had “newbie” written on my forehead. The Spa at the Hotel Hershey was known for its chocolate treatment which did not appeal to me. I opted for the sugar treatment, which all fashioned after the owner of the property visit and experiences in Cuba.
My 2007 Icelandic trip included the northern lights, glaciers, geysers, waterfalls, and a day at the famed Blue Lagoon. Now, the geothermal spa is a popular destination. I had a fun-filled day enjoying the hot and cold spot of the natural pool of volcanic, mineral water amidst the lava field that surrounded it. Again, in the vast, light blue water with rising steam, I was the only brown woman soaking up the benefits of the natural wonder. I enjoyed the thermally heated seawater, a tempered outdoor massage in the October breeze, and a stroll by the hot waters of waterfalls. Yes, I scooped the silica (white mineral and algae mud) from the lava rocks and plastered it all over my face and hands for its natural rejuvenating properties. My spa experience was blissful much like the tranquility I found in nature all around the island.
The Tanzanian island of Zanzibar was about my experience at an eco-friendly resort. Recommended by a friend who had stayed at the property earlier in 2008, it was a respite from all hecticness of life. You meandered along the path of flowers, trees, and arrived at the Baobab Spa. It was in a natural outdoor environment amidst the native baobab trees.
The spa used locally sourced herbs, spices, oils, and flowers as part of the eco-friendly practice. The massage tables, the thatched roof, oil painting decor, and pottery bowls are all local and natural products found on the island or in Greater Tanzania. The friendly staff shared about the spa’s environment with a strong sense of pride. But etched in my memory was the experience. If I close my eyes and reflect, I still smell the cinnamon spice scrub and hear the rustle of tree leaves during my treatment. From the outdoor shower to local ingredients used to refresh and rejuvenate your body, this spa exudes serenity in all aspects.
The year 2009 belongs to Istanbul. I decided to spend a few days in the city before boarding a cruise. What a fantastic place, especially for travelers who love history, culture, and architecture. As part of exploration, my amazing guide explained and then took me to a local/public hammam (Turkish bathhouse). These bathhouses date back to the 1500s. They are either gender-separated or gender-specific, but in either case, services are segregated by gender.
Delete from your mind any ideas of your typical spa. The spaces are open, public, and a mix of guests and attendants. In the main room for women, it was a refreshing sight to see other brown women. We never spoke to each other, but it brought a smile to my face. I have a full-service ritual of cleaning my body: scrub, bath, and hair wash. I also got a proper exfoliation by the natif (the Turkish word for female attendant). Then I had a short massage to complete my hamman experience. In all of about 90 mins, my body was smooth, soft, and revitalized. I repeated the bath experience two days later at the Turkish bath in my hotel and the Sentinus Wellness Spa.
In 2012 in Kabul, on a couple of occasions, I got massages at one of the city’s secured hotels. These moments of bliss behind two-three layers of security and blast walls were a treasured delight from the daily routine. The rare moment of pampering that included haircuts, massages, manicures, and pedicures were small treats. It was a moment to uncover and mingle with other foreign women working in the country. In my case, it was higher education, but I also met a reporter/news correspondent and NGO staff. We all sighed at these few moments of tranquility. Getting pampered in a country at war, we women knew how much of a privilege these services were to us. In the end, we recovered and re-entered the city feeling a bit less tension until the next incident occurred.
Relaxing from the daily routine of life is an essential self-care practice. If you are traveling to any of these locations, minus Afghanistan, try to get a local spa experience, which may be unique based on tradition or nature or both. As you can see, you have a relaxing spa option for your business or leisure travel.
However, your spa experience does not have to be in a far-flung land; you can have one at a local day spa or even in your bathroom. Local spas offer walk-in or appointments. Try a 30-minute neck and shoulder massage or go for the 60 min full body. In the same way, you can turn your bathtub into a place to take a hot soak, then use massage rollers for releasing your tight muscles with the soothing music of your choice. Lastly, if you have a partner/companion, let them give a massage as part of your relaxing and quality time together.
Your spa experience, whether at home, a local spot, or a luxury one, should provide relaxation as a way to care for yourself mentally and physically. Discover the rejuvenating power of spa therapy!
* Spas mentioned in this story did not provide sponsorship or paid promotions.
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—Karla A. Fraser, A Curvy Expat's Global Spa Memories, Roseapple Global, LLC
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