I took my boyfriend to Bali for a surprise colonic

I took my boyfriend to Bali for a surprise colonic

As a wellness seeker, I’m utterly convinced a self-care retreat can evoke a mind-body    transformation, so when I asked my then    boyfriend, now husband (thankfully), to join    me at the glorious Como Shambhala Estate in  Ubud, Bali, he didn’t quite appreciate the    health goodness he’d said yes to.

First-up on    our schedule: a colonic (if you don’t know what    this is, Google it right now). While our shared wellness experience was more shock and horror than deep spiritual connection, we still giggle about it a decade later.

Back then self-care was more about crazy colonics in far-flung destinations, but today’s wellness travel offerings cater to everyone and, thanks to shifting societal attitudes around sexual wellness, holidays with a focus on building couple intimacy are booming.

In a world where we’re pushed in so many different directions, it’s too easy to disconnect – semi-present, semi-absent, as famed psychotherapist Esther Perel calls it – from your partner. Taking a trip that’s ripe for moments of reconnection will strengthen your relationship not just while you’re away, but for, well, in my case, decades later.

Wander in the wilderness

Why: Visit a dramatic, jaw-dropping location to activate the emotion of awe and you’ll unintentionally give your partnership a boost of connectivity. Research shows experiencing awe calms the nervous system and triggers the release of oxytocin, the love hormone that fosters bonding. In the wilderness, with little access to technology, your mental health will reap the benefits, too.

Think: Luxury boutique accommodation within a national park, or perched on a rugged coastline, or enveloped by rural bushland – anywhere, really, with mesmerising views of impeccable natural scenery.

Trips to try: Wander has plonked a bunch of eco-aware pod accommodation, called WanderPods, in the Scenic Rim and on Kangaroo Island. The glass-fronted pods resemble a chic self-contained apartment, with the bathtub on the deck. Rates are from $360 a night. 

Stay in the West at Injidup Spa Retreat, hidden within shrubbery along the Cape to Cape Walk Track, in the Margaret River region. The 10 villas have uninterrupted views of the Indian Ocean. Prices start at $680 a night. 

Pumphouse Point is perched on Lake St Clair, nestled in Tasmania’s gobsmacking Wilderness World Heritage Area. The 18 elegant rooms and a retreat are framed by hiking tracks and wildlife. Prices are inclusive of food and start from $560 a night.

Disconnect to reconnect

Why: Stepping away from tiresome schedules and pesky WhatsApp pings into natural surroundings for a multi-day wellness retreat allows the body’s parasympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) to click into the sympathetic one (rest and digest). Sign up with your significant other and self-care for “me” magically becomes caring for “we”.

Think: Meditation, yoga, breathwork, nutritious food, detoxing, nature walks, digital-free and, yes, plenty of ZZZs.

Trips to try: Australia has a heap of luxe health resorts – Billabong Retreat, Eden Health Retreat and Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat, to name a few – and there’s Aro Ha Wellness Retreat in New Zealand. Samadhi in Glenlyon in Victoria has been operating for 21 years and offers all the wellness trimmings within a tailored couples retreat. The Relationship Renewal Retreat includes private couples counselling, and as founders Annah and Wayne Mirananda tell us: “We facilitate a journey of inner strength, self-empowerment and recognising the consequences of behaviour within relationships”. Prices start from $4100 for three days, all-inclusive. 

If detoxing and days sans coffee feel too Eat, Pray, Love-ish, book a weekend in Adelaide during WellFest from October 6. The three-day festival has more than 40 events curated around mindfulness, sleep, nutrition, fitness and connection, including the Lover’s Masterclass and a one-day Rewarding Relationships for Couples course.

Boost sexual wellness

Why: Make your sex life not just a by-product of travel, but its focus, with some extra help between the sheets and out of the bedroom. Some of Australia’s leading relationship experts offer couples retreats in stunning locations. Unlike an hour-long therapy session, these are multi-day immersive experiences guided by a qualified expert.

Think: Expert-led sessions, science-backed workshops and role playing to crack open your inner world and expand your idea of eroticism.

Trips to try: Now in its 11th year, relationship coach and sex therapist Jacqueline Hellyer’s LoveLife couples retreats in the Blue Mountains, NSW, and Bali are “classy and sleaze-free” and empower spiritual and sexual growth. “It’s experiential in the sense that you do things, not just talk about them,” says Hellyer. The next three-day retreat starts on November 10 from $2500 (excluding accommodation).

At the six-day Making Love Retreat at Noosa Springs Spa Resort run by psychotherapist and TEDx speaker Janet McGeever, the focus is on “taking the stress out of sex and the relationship”, McGeever says. “After the retreat, a typical statement is: ‘We haven’t felt this since our wedding day’.” The retreats cater for all ages, with the next one starting on October 15 from $3690 (excluding accommodation).

Some enticing overseas offerings include the two-day Private Couples Retreat with founders of The Gottman Institute, clinical psychologists John and Julie Gottman, albeit with a hefty price tag of $US8950. Also, Intimacy Moons hosts group and private sex-positive retreats in St. Lucia, The Bahamas and Barbados. 

Try the spicy room service

Why: Intimacy travel has inspired some traditional hotel chains to ditch the decorative rose petals on the bed for more contemporary offerings (sexual chakra healing at Carillon Miami, anyone?). A fresh twist on the dirty weekend away, it’s a chance to experience the freeing feeling of being in a bedroom that’s not yours.

Think: Minibars filled with condoms, lube and vibrators, plus sex-positive hotel packages for couples and singles.

Trips to try: W Hotels offer a smorgasbord of sexual pleasure with intimacy kits in their minibars, and keep an eye out next Valentine’s Day (this year, the W Brisbane left sex toys in suites and sexologist Chantelle Otten provided free consultations).

Champagne and personalised robes in a room with an astonishing sky-high Harbour Bridge view are part of the Love Always package at Crown Towers Sydney. Closing the curtains is optional. Prices from $1379 a night. 

Ovolo Hotels hosts “social hour” at sundown, an opportunity for guests to meet and mingle. 

For couples wanting time away before a baby arrives, boutique hotel Stillwater Seven in Launceston has teamed up with Brillo Beauty and created a bespoke babymoon package with a facial, fine-dining food and a bundle of Brillo Beauty’s self-care essentials. From $1900 for two nights. 

Europe bound? The sleep-under-stars experience at Liwa Oasis, in Abu Dhabi, is made complete with late-night cuddles. In the US? Built in 1947, Palm Springs’ Villa Royale has long been a hip, dreamy getaway and celebrity hideaway. 

Book an adults-only playcation

Why: If fun in your relationship has flatlined, then booking a trip designed for maximising joy is the perfect recipe for reconnecting. By injecting vibrancy and vitality into your holiday – surrounded by adults only – you’ll experience pleasure, a key part of intimacy. Single? Choose a hedonistic holiday location to channel the The White Lotus vibe.

Think: Exotic locations, beautiful clothes, delicious food, lush cocktails and playful activities.

Trips to try: True to his gratification-seeking style, Richard Branson’s Virgin Voyages is an 18-plus cruise line with PJ parties, tasteful erotic shows, DJs on deck, a giant blow-up octopus and a Solo Sailor Meetup. Their Resilient Lady is heading to Australia and New Zealand this summer. 

For couples wanting to tap into wellness together, Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth departs Sydney on February 13, 2024, for a seven-night voyage led by two big names in wellness, Dr Joanna McMillan and Professor Luigi Fontana. There will be movement classes, breath workshops and ice bath sessions. 

Not forgetting the ultimate adult playground in Ibiza, Spain, where the Six Senses Ibiza has a plethora of after-party detox activities. Their retreats cover immunity, stress, longevity and energy healing. 

Opt for a goal-setting getaway

Why: Set a goal, motivate each other to train and then make it a holiday. We’re talking sweating your way through weekly workouts, embracing the morning cold water plunge or biking your hood each weekend before the trip. Once away, being pushed out of your comfort zone requires vulnerability, teamwork and trust, which all help deepen connection.

Think: Fitness-style trips and adventurous adrenaline-filled fun.

Trips to try: Take a mini-break to Melbourne for Nike’s Melbourne Marathon Festival on October 15 and valiantly finish by running into the MCG. 

A mountain-biking trail might not require as much sweaty prep, but you’ll still share an enriching life experience. Try a tour around the majestic Lake Taupo on New Zealand’s North Island. 

Walk, eat and drink your way around one of the most spectacular spots in the world, along a network of Cinque Terre hiking trails. Side-serving of romance guaranteed.

For the bucket-list trip, Aurora Expeditions’ Antarctica Explorer offers awe-inspiring adventures with camping on ice, kayaking and polar plunges in one of the world’s wildest places. 

Don’t forget your friends

Sure, wellness travel is perfect for couples, but intimacy should extend further than your significant other.

The world’s longest study on health and happiness – 80 years – by the folks at Harvard University, confirms the most important thing for our health and wellbeing beyond career, holidays, exercise, nutrition, face masks and vitamins… is solid relationships.

So, grab your best mates, old school friends, siblings, kids or cousins and book that trip, as sharing travel adventures and experiences can deepen all relationships.

Originally published as Every couple needs to take one of these wellness holidays