Travel is back in a significant way. According to a recent Forbes Advisor survey, inflation anxieties, mass layoffs, and a looming recession can’t stop travelers from seeking global experiences. Forbes surveyed 1,000 Americans who plan to travel this year, and a resounding 87% of survey respondents expect to travel at least as much as they did in the prior year, with 49% selecting that they expect to travel more, with Gen Zers and millennials leading the charge. It’s been reported that Black travelers in the United States spent $109.4 billion on domestic and international leisure travel in 2019, but there are still some unique concerns, like safety and representation. However, Paradise + Vibe, a global travel retreat company that centers play, is working to ensure that its Black women travelers can experience luxury safely and focus on their paths to wellness while also seeing themselves represented.
In 2020, the founders of Paradise + Vibe, felt it was necessary to imagine wellness in a more fun, accessible, and relatable way for people who looked like them. Too often, Black women are left out of the conversation regarding wellness and luxury travel. Paradise + Vibe focuses on curating an engaging experience where people can foster a better mind-body connection through yoga, guided meditation, and community and see themselves in the process. Tropical landscapes, bountiful culture, and adventure provide the perfect setting for rejuvenation, sparking a transformative journey that many Black women need and want to experience with a close-knit sisterhood.
With specialized programming centered around three pillars, mind, body, and spirit, founders Iana Edwards, a certified yoga and meditation instructor, and Kasondra McConnell, a serial entrepreneur, incorporate yoga, guided meditation, wellness workshops, adventure, and community, throughout the retreats. Their wellness workshop topics range from nutrition and healthy eating, tips for creating healthy routines, strategies to manage stress, workplace wellness tools, manifesting and journaling to help you create the life you want, and tips on striking a work-life balance and improving self-esteem.
For the founders, the mind, body, and spirit connection serves as an opportunity to encourage women attending the retreat to dig deeper to find their peace and synergy. “How Kasondra and I approached the mind, body, spirit connection is just helping you pull the things already in you that may be latent out of you. We live in a world where we’re constantly being told what we lack, or if we just had this theme, we would feel this way,” Edwards says to ESSENCE.
Each Paradise + Vibe retreat has a theme. For instance, their Tulum retreat, scheduled for October 2023, focuses on the neuroscience of love. It will cover sacred sexuality, embodied connection, orgasmic breathwork, and energetic love-making. It’s only fitting that Elizabeth Gilbert, international best-selling author of Eat Pray Love, will be the keynote speaker. So far, Paradise + Vibe has hosted retreats in South Africa, Morocco, Costa Rica, and Bali and has no plans of slowing down, as their Brazil retreat is slated for February 2024.
If nothing else, the pandemic taught many of us that community is essential and needed. Recently, American Express Travel surveyed 8,000 people across the world to understand travel trends for this year and found that most travelers want novelty while supporting communities, as 71% of respondents say they want to go somewhere off the beaten path, 78% say they want to go somewhere supporting local communities, and 83% say they want to shop at small businesses while on vacation.
While we know that there’s been an uptick in the popularity of wellness vacations due to the rise of self-care in part to COVID-19, 73% of respondents say they are planning vacations around improving their physical and emotional health, as 68% say they are picking travel destinations in nature to help with mental clarity, and 43% say they’ve selected a hotel based on its spa and wellness amenities. But, founders McConnell and Edwards know all too well, as Black women themselves, that to practice mindfulness and prioritize your self-care, and healing, you must be able to feel seen, celebrated, and heard.
“With us pushing connection as a central point of wellness, that’s not something you think about. Instead, most people say, ‘I need to eat healthy, I need to run, I need to meditate for hours a day.’ However, we at Paradise + Vibe don’t believe it. Instead, we think you should do those things because they bring a certain level of stillness, mindfulness, and joy. But also, let’s have some fun. We went to South Africa for New Year’s and didn’t want to sit around meditating all day, so we thought it’d be cool to be a section at a club and celebrate. That’s a big part of life, celebration. But we also get up, do yoga daily, and go hiking,” McConnell says.
The importance of prioritizing play like sports and exercise to reduce your stress hormones (e.g., cortisol and adrenaline) and trigger the release of endorphins is also crucial for the founders of Paradise + Vibe. From jet-skiing to hiking, and camel riding, Edwards and McConnell and retreat attendees know how to have fun. “Play is pivotal for our retreats. A big part of wellness is balance. Play brings people to the present moment. It allows them to connect with other people to discover new things. As a kid, when you played, you were constantly roaming the world and discovering things; as adults, it’s not something we always do—so exploring these activities that many people have never done before or are too afraid to do. They discover new things. And lastly, push beyond fear. Play allows people to recognize many of our limitations, not just at that moment for an activity we’re pushing them to do. But just in general, in our life is fear. We want to remind people that they are whole and essentially, they hold all the tools,” McConnell says.
Explore upcoming Paradise + Vibe retreats here.