An accidental wellness traveler

Before I started to study International Tourism Management, my idea about wellness tourism was somewhat narrow and one-sided. When someone said wellness, I immediately thought about nice-looking young adults showing off their healthy lifestyle on Instagram, posting photos of their bleached teeth smiles, yoga poses and superfood smoothies, or intense fitness bootcamp routines. I thought that it was just another short-lived trend that would die away within a year or two, becoming so mainstream that people would just stop caring about it.

Seeing it merely as a superficial social media trend, I felt that wellness tourism was not my cup of tea, that my interests as a traveler were something else entirely, and that I would never become a wellness tourist myself.

However, the definition of a wellness traveler is much more flexible than I had thought. Whereas the primary wellness tourist category may indeed include some hard-core and very eco-conscious practitioners of yoga and meditation, who travel solely to improve their physical and mental well-being, the secondary wellness tourist category is much more inclusive and less constraining.

Basically, any traveler who takes part into wellness activity during their trip can be categorized as a secondary wellness tourist, which means that wellness is not the reason they decided to travel, but they might be interested in going to a local gym, spa or some other wellness facility during their trip. Now that was something less absolute that I could also relate to.

Reflecting on my past as a traveler, I suddenly started to see several occasions where I had embarked on an unplanned wellness activity during my trip. As going to a spa is among the oldest and the most universal wellness activities, coming across the mention of Japanese onsens and super sentos in the Well-being from Blue Spaces course materials made me reminiscence my trip to Kyushu in 2019.

Me as wellness tourist in Japan

In the summer of 2019, I stayed in the city of Oita and visited its neighboring town Beppu by bicycle. Ironically, although Beppu is perhaps the best known onsen destination in Japan, I had no time to try any of their hot spring baths because of my tight schedule, having to return the rental bike to Oita by the same evening.

The wellness adventure begins
Admiring a hot spring in Beppu

Instead, after returning from the 40-kilometer bike tour, covered in sweat and many layers of sunscreen, I thought of skipping the idea of having a shower in my cramped business hotel bathroom and went to the local train station which housed a large department store, a cinema and a hotel with a spa. City Spa Tenku was located high above the street level, with two floors of bathing space, allowing a panoramic view of the city from the upper bath area. Going there really enhanced my experience, helping my body to recover from all the biking and walking I had done that day.

While I was sitting in a pool filled with warm, carbonated water, watching a layer of small bubbles form on my legs, I felt total relaxation after the day spent outdoors under the scorching sun. After standing up and leaving the pool, I gazed over the nightly city through large panoramic windows, completely nude and refreshed.

A well-earned compromise after the rejuvenating spa visit

Having consumed plenty of manga stories and films about organized crime in Japan, I could kind of imagine some yakuza boss to stand at that very same place, a large tattoo in his back, making plans to expand his territory even further – of course, considering the anti-tattoo policy of most spas in Japan, a scene like that would probably not take place in real life. Still, the majesty of the setting really screamed for a camera and a tripod, even though any photography was, for obvious reasons, prohibited in the bathing area.

Considering all the exercise I got during the day, I felt that one cold beer at the spa bar would be just what I needed after washing and getting dressed up.

So, after that game-changing spa experience, I would now proudly and without any doubt categorize myself as a secondary wellness traveler.

*Disclaimer: This blog post was produced without any sponsorship or financial support from City Spa Tenku*

Text and photos: Olli Riihimäki, third year International Tourism Management student

Using the sea to clear your mind

Have you ever wondered why it feels relaxing to go and have a walk on the beach or what is so spiritual about being alone in or on the sea?

From walking next to the famous canals of Amsterdam, to swimming in the sea and being on a cruise, blue spaces work really calming for me. As a person that has always lived near beautiful beaches and the sea, I have huge interest for blue spaces. I have always been attracted to coastal destinations and the mental impacts that sea has us to offer.

When I had the opportunity of studying the course Well-being from Blue spaces, I could not let this opportunity pass. To learn more about Blue Spaces would help me develop a lot and would give me possibilities for a future profession.

The presence of a person to water, especially the sea, is related with many positive impacts of physical and mental wellbeing, from higher levels of vitamin D to better social connections. Therefore, living near blue spaces, visiting them, or even enjoying the view has a positive effect on a human.

I think there should be more focus on ways to relieve mental stress in the future. With our world becoming busier with the day, mobile phones being an absolute must, people should be encouraged to let go of everything, and enjoy the beautiful nature. It will have a positive impact both physically and mentally.

Text: Sander Keulemans, exchange student from HZ University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands

I don’t need no beach vacations, as long as I have the sea!

Airplane’s tires hit the ground. I get out of the plane, and the humid warmth hits my face like a wall. It’s almost midnight, but it’s so warm. Finding the right taxi that was ordered for us is a challenge. 40 minutes’ drive after the flight feels like ages. Can’t wait to get to the marina. Smell the sea and the fresh air.

I haven’t travelled much. Just your occasional cruise to Sweden and Estonia. A few trips to Russia were pretty mind opening. A car trip to Copenhagen through Sweden was fun. I haven’t been to any beach holidays, but I might not even want to take those, after I have been sailing several times in the Mediterranean Sea.

I can’t swim properly. I’m afraid of water, but yet, I feel the connection to the sea. The power of it is so strong, you must be very humble in front of it. But then again, it’s so calming. You can look at an ocean for so long and have no idea how much time has passed. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I have lived my entire life by the sea.

If you have the possibility to go on a sailboat, I highly recommend it. And even better, if possible, to go on a yacht abroad and sail away…

I don’t recommend big cities. The large tourist traps. Sail the sea and visit the small villages. The ones with the real heart of that country. The little villages you want to visit all over again, because of the authentic people. The authentic music. The authentic nature.

There’s nothing better than drinking your morning coffee on a boat’s deck. Feel the warmth of the sun as it rises.  Or at night, when the sun has come down, sit on that deck. Listen to the little waves touch the boat and hear the happy noises from the village. Whenever I’m sad or stressed, I go back to those memories. And those memories confirm that yes, that is where I want to go again. I don’t need no beach vacations, as long as I have the sea.

I went sailing first time in 2001. My parents had gone a few times before that. I had never heard about that kind of possibility. Never even seen an advertisement on this subject. So, I’ve been thinking: How much different possibilities does traveling have? Why don’t people know about these things?

Hopefully, in my future career in tourism, I will have the chance to change that and show the people how wonderful our world really is.

Text and pictures: Heli Kulju, first year International Tourism Management student

The calming effects of water

How often do you think that the everyday life with all the work, studies, chores etc. is getting all too much for you? How often do you wish for an escape from your everyday life? I bet most of you answered that a break from the everyday life would be much needed as often as possible. So did I. So where should you go when you feel like the stress of the daily routines is getting too much for you? You should definitely find your way to the nearest body of water, whether it is a lake, a river or a sea does not matter, you should find your way to it. Even though you might think that a visit to a nearby shore does really not fit your busy schedule or it doesn’t sound like it would be any help to you, you’d be surprised how big of an effect it might have on your mental and physical health.

You might think that sitting on a shore and doing nothing would be a really boring way of spending your time, but it actually is one of the best ways of relaxing your brain. Just watching the water surface, whether it is calm or rough, can really help you to relax and find that much sought after peace of mind for the short time that you are next to water. Of course, our brains control all the senses of human body, and seeing is not the only thing that can help our brains to relax. Listening to the calming voice of the water as well as smelling the, lets say, ocean air can really make your brains just switch of for a second and you will be able to totally relax just from being near a body of water.

Of course just sitting and admiring the water might not be for everyone, but that is not the only way you can improve your mental and physical health when visiting a body of water. Water enables multiple different activities that are beneficial for both mind and body. Exercises and activities in general are very good for both mental and physical health, but adding the water aspect to the exercises can boost that positive effect even more. Swimming for example is not only a great form of exercise for the muscles of the body, but it also is beneficial for the health of your skin as well as it is beneficial for your mind. The sort of flowing feeling of freedom you get from swimming is ideal for your brains to relax.

Other water activities, such as surfing or wakeboarding for example, are also great ways of escaping the routine and switching of for a second, but all the activities do not have to be physical activities. Going for a boat ride or going fishing might not be a form of exercise, but those type of activities are an ideal way of relaxing. Think about it; you are flowing on the middle of a quiet lake on a boat, there is no one anywhere near and you can just enjoy the sound of nature. Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?

That is something that we all should seek after, make some room from our busy schedules for finding different ways of relaxing our body and mind, since without those breaks, we really can not manage.

Text: Markus Järvinen, second year International Tourism Management student
Pictures: Unsplash

Are blue spaces cure to feeling blue?

In the wellness tourism industry there is talk about so called blue spaces. What are those exactly? Well, blue spaces are referred as spaces with open water. So, trip to the coastline or riverside would be considered as visiting blue spaces. They also include ponds, springs, waterfalls and even spas.

We live in a highly modernized world with next to no connection to the nature at least in the big cities. No wonder people are stressed and unhappy all the time. Work is hectic and one can’t practise selfcare enough or do it the right way. Sure, eating or drinking your feelings is a way to manage them in a pinch but in a long run it’s only harmful to you and people around you. The last thing you should want is to be a burden to the people you love to an overly exhorted way. But stress can be hard to manage on your own, so it’s human to try to release it which ever way takes it away the fastest.

 So, why don’t we experiment

Imagine you arriving to a remote riverside in search of a way to pause your busy life. This is what you see, take a good look at the picture below.

Source: Pixabay

You can see the clear blue water gently rushing by hugging the land around it. You can hear the calming song of the water as it passes you by welcoming you to its presence, inviting you to take a deep breath. You can smell the fresh water in the air with luscious forest around you.

After taking the mandatory Instagram picture you sit down and gaze at the water and maybe get curious about how cold the water is. By touching it you find out its quite chilly but pleasant. The sight, sound and smell of the environment has called you back to where you once belonged. Taking a few more deep breaths filled with fresh air, you can feel the stress melting away.

How did that make you feel?

According to studies blue spaces have a positive effect on the human psychology and wellbeing and they are linked with health and happiness. Mental health is important especially during this pandemic time and going back to nature could be one of the solutions to increase it. Being around aquatic environments has mood increasing properties such as generally being in a better mood and reducing stress and negative moods. Visibility of blue spaces have a lowering impact on psychological distress. This fact could be used in the future when planning cities or it could be a part of one’s moving criteria. The happiest people are said to be those living near a blue space, especially near the ocean.

All in all blue spaces are worth taking a look at when trying to de-stress or pause for a bit. Mental heath is an important force for people to have the strength to keep going in a world that doesn’t sleep. Remembering to take care of yourself increases happiness and peace of mind.

Text: Kia Aroautero, Tourism student from Haaga-Helia.
Kia took part in SAMK’s online course Well-being from Blue Spaces via CampusOnline.

Inspirational sources:

Hunt, E. 2019. Blue spaces: why time spent near water is the secret of happiness. The Guardian.

Pasanen, T. Mathew P. White, Benedict W. Wheeler, Joanne K. Garrett, Lewis R. Elliott, 2019. Neighbourhood blue space, health and wellbeing: The mediating role of different types of physical activity. Science Direct.

Pawlowski, A. 2016a. Updated 2019. Blue spaces beat green spaces when it comes to mental health, study finds. Today.

Pawlowski, A. 2019b. How does nature affect mental health? Living close to park linked with happiness. Today.