Health and Wellness in Bali: A Conversation with Linden Schaffer
Tell us about yourself! What do you do when you’re not traveling the world? Where do you live? What made you decide to go to your most recent destination?
Early on in my glamorous (and painfully fast-paced) fashion career, I realized something: the way I worked was turning me from a poised, intelligent human being into a tightly wound little ball of stress and tension. For 15 New York City rat race years, I conducted business all over the US and Europe for multiple companies. I spent a huge chunk of my life at a desk, having late night client dinners, and hustling from airports to hotels to meetings and back again. During this time, work became a struggle instead of a joy. I ate whatever was in front of me and slept when I could. I was biting my nails and shopping to try to buy happiness. I had no energy to see family or friends. I came home from every conference, sales meeting and business trip feeling more and more exhausted by the pace of my life. My health started to deteriorate. I felt like crap.
This led to a huge shift toward wellness in my life and I left the corporate world to launch Pravassa, the first wellness travel company. Just after I launched the company, I won a small business award from British Airways that allowed me to travel anywhere in the world on their dime. I chose Indonesia in 2010 and have been going back (sometimes twice a year) ever since.
How long did you go for? How did you spend your time?
The first time I went to Bali was for about 2-weeks (with stops in London & Singapore as well). I spent my time doing research for my business – think temple tours, biking through rice fields, meeting medicine men – and visited over 40 hotels to meet the owners, staff, try the food and of course the spa treatments! Since that first visit I try never to go for less than 2-weeks and at one point spent 2-months. The 2-month visit was a favorite as it allowed me to leave Bali and visit other Indonesian islands such as Java, Flores, Komodo and Rincon. With over 17,000 islands, there’s still so much exploring I have to do.
What were your most memorable experiences? What were the biggest disappointments?
There are so many memorable moments to choose from. A sunrise hike up Mt. Batur tested my strength and came with a huge sense of accomplishment. Lunch cooked for me by a local family connected me to the culture. Watching the surfers at Echo Beach gave me such respect for the sport. Since I travel the world with an open view and look at everything as an experience I never seem to be disappointed. I actually think the best things happen when it’s something totally unexpected.
What do you wish you knew before you went?
Not to drink the coffee they offer at the top of Mt. Batur!
Any favorite restaurants/hotels/hostels/sites you’d like to recommend? Tell us what made them great!
There are so many it’s hard to choose. If you’re looking to splurge stay at Fivelements in Bali. This vegan wellness resort will pamper you, Balinese style. No trip to Bali is complete without stuffing your face at Clear Cafe in Ubud. If you can make it to the other islands, a sunrise visit to Borobudur in Java is a must do. And I’m still planning to take a 2-day hike in Flores to stay in a hut with a native tribe.
Is there anything that women specifically should know before they travel to your destination?
Respect the culture. Always carry a sarong with you and dress more conservatively in all the islands outside of Bali. No need to bring good jewelry or fancy clothes unless you stay exclusively 5-star. Locals will be just as curious about you as you are about them and their way of life. Use this opportunity to listen, exchange ideas and grow as a person as it’s the best way travel can change you.