The flight to China…14 hours from New York to Seoul, Korea, a five hour lay-over and a one-and-a-half hour flight to Shanghai. I am traveling with my step son, Nicholas who is 28 years old and loves to have “experiences” rather than “things”. So thought this trip would be a good birthday gift for him – good for him – and for us. Nick came into my life after I married his dad. He was just four when I first met him, and I am happy to say we have always had a great relationship. He is a smart, health conscious, and a great golfer. The plan is that he will visit some spas with me in Shanghai and then while I am at the Turning Point Conference he will play some golf.
On our first day in Shanghai we arrived at the Pudong Shangri-La Shanghai Hotel around noon and didn’t want to nap because we wouldn’t be able to sleep that night. We decided instead to try out the new Chi spa here, where I treated Nick to his first two-and-a-half hour spa ritual – the Himalayan Hot Stone Massage ritual. He has had massages before (living in LA he goes to a place which gives very inexpensive Thai massages – well inexpensive for LA anyway).
The Chi spa has a nice vibe, and nine very memorable treatment rooms (when we compared later, we found that both of our treatment suites were the same). There is a place for two people to sit and have the foot washing ritual, and a changing area with its own steam shower, separate regular shower, vanity area, and armoire for robes and clothes. I liked the touch of a ringing, large silver bell to tell my therapist when I was ready for her to retrieve me for the first part of the treatment, a foot scrub with salt. Then to the massage table (one of two in the room) where she proceeded with a warm-up massage, which lasted almost an hour, followed by another hour of massage with hot stones. Near the massage tables was a beautiful infinity bathtub – even though it wasn’t used in this treatment, it looked nice filled with water and floating flowers, with a colored light shining from the tub. I believe this is the first time I have had a two-hour massage. There certainly is truth to how wonderful it is to “get into the zone”.
This headline on the front page of the New York Times this morning caught my attention “Online, Students Say “Reach Out to Loners” . The article, written by Virginia Heffernan is, of course, referring to the recent tragedy at Virginia Tech. Cho Seung-Hui, the killer responsible for all of the shootings, was often described by people who knew him as a loner. I thought back to the Columbine massacre, remembering that the two young men responsible had also been described as loners. Who can forget the Unibomber, living in isolation, sending deadly mail bombs from a cabin in the woods?
This concept of “aloneness” is something I have thought about often during my time in the spa industry. It has always been my observation that community is healing – and too much isolation is unhealthy. I learned this during the many years of my destination spa experiences. When guests arrived at a spa exhausted and stressed to-the-max, they invariably want (and need) some time alone to regroup and recharge. But most of the time this lasted for one or two days at the most; by day three, most guests were ready to “come out and play”, socialize, talk with others, exchange thoughts and feelings, etc. As the body/mind/spirit fell back into balance, being social was part of keeping that balance.
I heard a speaker once talk about just how painful being alone can be. He used the isolation cell in prisons as his example of the most extreme and painful punishment, feared by inmates more than any other punishment in the judicial system.
I don’t pretend to think that the simple slogan “Reach Out to Loners” on Facebook and MySpace websites is all that is needed to prevent these types of tragedies in the future, but I am moved to see the online community giving this foundational truth a voice. It is rather impressive how the slogan automatically implies action. This really is something all of us can do.
I’m learning something interesting from my own experience of “freshening up” and experimenting, through Botox® and fillers, at cosmetic med spas over the past few years: Not only is it science, but a lot of it is art.
Traditionally I think we are brought up with the idea that you have “your” doctor for various needs. Hopping around from one doctor to the next isn’t exactly the norm, but this may not be the case when it comes to cosmetic/medical spa treatments. I travel quite often, which prevents me from being able to see the same medical doctor (plus for work purposes I see many different medical spas), so a while ago I took a leap of faith and decided that I should experiment with different doctors for cosmetic med spa treatments (the results of the procedures I have had are not permanent anyway, so it was a bit easier to rationalize that this was a good idea.) Well, indeed it has been. Not only because I learn something new from each doctor, but also because I notice that each doctor’s technique is really quite different in terms of what they use, how they use it, and the result you get. I now recognize them as artists in addition to being technicians, learning that everyone truly paints a picture differently. This I find to be rather liberating actually, because it means that I too can contribute to the artwork.
My final thought on Canada…It has become even clearer to me why the only spa I have ever been to (about 4 years ago) where I felt I could stay for months at a time was in Canada. It’s the genuineness and friendliness of the people that is so nurturing and healing. This was definitely the case with the Hills Health Ranch.
The Hills Health Ranch
in Calgary, run by owners Juanita and Pat Corbett, routinely has guests who stay for months at a time. On the final evening of the Leading Spas of Canada conference in Toronto this year, I had the privilege of sitting next to Pat and Juanita at the dinner gala. I checked in with them to see if people are still staying for long periods of time at The Hills. The answer? More and more. In fact, they have one guest there right now who is booked in for six months!
And just a side note for those of you who know the Corbetts…Juanita had been very ill in the past year with a dreadful and painful gallbladder problem. But with good medical attention, a full commitment to all of the healthy habits they teach at the Ranch, lots of prayer, and Pat serving as dedicated husband and nurse, Juanita is healthy again and looking great. It is no doubt that she was close to death during this time and she is more than happy to share some of what she learned during this trial.
As she said, she now lives “not for trophies but for testimonies”. The people whose lives she influences through her work at the ranch are her greatest reward. Fittingly, she was given an award that evening from the Leading Spas of Canada for all of her dedication to the organization. It seems that her life will be filled with testimonies and trophies.
After visiting six spas in Canada on this trip and combining these experiences with what I learned from visiting a few other spas in Canada in the past, here are the things that surprised me the most about the Canadian spa scene:
1. I didn’t realize that therapists in Canada go through much more extensive training than therapists in the U.S. (My massage therapist at Ste. Anne’s went to school for three years.) I checked out some of the massage schools and found that 2200 hours of education was about average, compared to 600 hours in the U.S. In general, the treatments I experienced throughout Canada have been noticiably more professional.
2. I was surprised at how many boutique spas there were in Canada and even more so, that most were all-inclusive. More often than not, overnight accommodations, all meals (including tea), and a spa treatment were included in the nightly room rate.
3. Detox was big, weight loss not so much.
4. The Canadian spa industry is much more developed than I thought, perhaps due in part to the fact that they haven’t done much marketing or PR outside of Canada.
(added as a result of the comment posted)
5. Elmcrest College of Applied Health Sciences & Spa Management has a one year spa management program that has been around for many years. What’s special about their program is that all the students get practice in all spa positions because they actually work at a day spa, which the school runs. Another well kept secret that hopefully won’t stay a secret much longer.