I NEVER CONSIDERED WISCONSIN a top spa destination, and that’s certainly not why I visited the small resort town of Elkhart Lake, just below the peninsula between Green Bay and the rest of Lake Michigan, but an afternoon at Aspira Spa challenged me — and not just about this one blip of ignorance.
The Potawatomi Indians named the region for the shape of its lake (yes, the shape of an elk heart) and believed the sacred waters were imbued with healing powers. In 1885 Otto and Paulina Osthoff relocated to the area after Paulina suffered a nervous breakdown and required a change in scenery from bustling Milwaukee. Paulina recovered, and the Osthoffs later built a resort that remains today the premier accommodation of the region. The eponymous Osthoff Resort, a consistent AAA Four Diamond Award recipient, is hyper-focused on encouraging a wellness experience that proves, intentionally or not, a fitting tribute to Paulina Osthoff’s recovery more than 130 years ago. Aspira Spa sits at the heart of its holistic approach.
Aspira, meaning “infused with spirit,” combines Eastern ideals of energy and design with the healing wisdom of indigenous peoples in an organic approach to wellness, and I was transported from the moment I entered. While the resort featured plenty of long, straight hallways, my path to the spa’s lounge incorporated no corners at all. Aspira was designed as three concentric rings, following principles of feng shui that were never more evident than in the Meditation Sanctuary where I awaited my treatment. Here, in a transcendent, round room lit only by a ring of candles surrounding a central copper pool fed by a trickling rock waterfall, I began to lose any sense of time or place among the five basic Chinese elements (earth, fire, water, metal and wood), freeing mental space for focus on my own wellness.
As much as I love a traditional Swedish massage, I try to choose unique treatments whenever they’re offered. Aspira’s vast menu includes Moroccan hot oil, lomi lomi, yin yang, chakra balancing and a host of other mindful options. The spa even offers Vichy showers and North America’s only chromotherapy spa tub, combining light and sound therapy with an immersive treatment. I chose the signature Cedars Massage and took my place on a table next to a crackling fire, ready for an 80-minute treatment promising relaxation and balance through tranquil massage with the aromatherapy of Elkhart Lake’s native cedars, revered by the Potawatomi.
For about an hour, my therapist lulled me to a place of distant reverie before cocooning me with cedar under a heavy blanket. I was relieved I didn’t feel claustrophobic or even hot while wrapped so snugly, lying next to a fire, and I enjoyed the light pressure she applied to points across my face and head, completing my rebalancing. And then I felt absolutely nothing.
Tightly swaddled and unable to see or touch anything, I became keenly aware of the stillness around me. When I no longer sensed the touch of my therapist for what felt like minutes, I wondered if I had been left alone, possibly to reflect or meditate. This hadn’t been mentioned in the description or in the pre-treatment assessment, so I was slightly confused by my abandonment. Until I began to tingle.
Slowly, my arms and legs began to awaken, with a somewhat electric sensation moving clockwise around my body, limb by limb. Oddly, I still couldn’t register any physical touch, and this baffled me as I inwardly debated whether I was experiencing some sort of treatment, just going numb in an orderly fashion or completely inventing the entire situation out of sensory deprivation. When the session ended, I was so bewildered I sheepishly asked my therapist whether or not she had left me alone for the last 20 minutes, without explaining what I felt or why I was asking.
She hadn’t left. Trained in Japanese reiki, she had been passing energy through my body, one area at a time, without physically touching me. If I had known ahead of time she would be doing this, I would have had my doubts about the technique; and if I even went through with it, I would have assumed I psychologically invented the sensations. Instead, I know now what I felt was genuine and an unexpected benefit of a spa with therapists who go beyond the traditional and embrace the ancient. Reiki wasn’t part of my treatment, but my therapist sensed I could use it. I believe she was right.
After a steam in the sauna, I sauntered to Spa Café, an exclusive bistro available only to guests of the spa, with a meticulously crafted wellness menu supplied by the resort’s organic gardens. I never made it to the yoga classes in the spa’s quiet studio, but I felt so newly connected to my body through the incredible intuition of my skilled therapist and the insightful facilities throughout Aspira that I didn’t regret my decision to take the rest of my efforts outdoors, on the lake itself. There I kayaked and hydro-biked my way into a perfectly restful weekend of wellness surrounded by the tranquil beauty of Elkhart Lake.
Arriving early afternoon in Puerto Rico, we jumped in an Uber and took a short, 15-minute drive from the airport to La Concha. As it was Tuesday, the streets were not too busy and the hotel lobby was calm. During the weekend, the scene likely would have been more bustling. We were greeted by a staff member who requested proof of vaccination and government-issued ID, and were given a wristband to indicate we were fully vaccinated. All guests are required to be vaccinated and wear masks at all times while moving around the hotel. Hand sanitizer stations were placed around the lobby, in elevators and in each common area.
GBTA’s Convention 2021 will bring the business travel industry together for the first time in a long time. Once again, you’ll learn and connect with experts and each other, along with discussions with leading thinkers, entrepreneurs and change makers addressing the issues that matter most.
The Rittenhouse has long stood out as one of Philadelphia’s finest hotels, centrally located in one of the city’s poshest neighborhoods. Needless to say, I knew I was in for an afternoon of luxurious pampering when I hopped in my car and headed down I-95 from my suburban home to the heart of the City of Brotherly Love. As I drove through the seemingly endless roadwork on the highway, I realized just how long it had been since I’d driven this once-familiar route into the city as a result of the pandemic. Of course I was eager for the relaxation and bliss that was in my future, but it was also a welcome feeling to head back into Philadelphia for a moment of normalcy.
It’s time to start dreaming of your next trip. Here’s some destination inspiration for you. Take a visual journey through Nice, France, with us.
The Global Business Travel Association’s (GBTA) Convention 2021 will be unlike any other convention before it, as we come together in person for the first time since the business travel industry drastically changed and look forward to rebuilding and reshaping the future. GBTA Convention 2021 will bring all of us together to learn from experts and each other, in-person at Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida, Nov. 17–19. The safety of our attendees is our top priority. View health and safety protocols.
As a native of the Philadelphia region, I’m quite familiar with the drive in and out of the City of Brotherly Love. Even as the city’s skyline continually transforms, my favorite views of Philadelphia have always been along Boathouse Row, with the Philadelphia Museum of Art rising in the background, before looping around the museum to the flag-lined Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Home to many of Philadelphia’s incredible and world-renowned museums, the Fairmount neighborhood is fittingly aesthetically pleasing and practically synonymous with fine art.
Since its prestige for attracting the world elite grew in the 1960s, Greece remains the go-to destination for glittering holidays. Each step of the journey is enrobed in luxury, from culinary traditions with the highest standard of execution and name-brand, high-end shopping to first-rate wellness locales and elite accommodations, like 5-star hotels, private villas and yachts.
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