Inspired by: Linden Schaffer of Pravassa
5 years ago I was bitten by the travel bug upon my first trip to Europe. Since then, travel has become an essential part of my life and one of the greatest contributors to my growth and happiness. On the contrary, after years of traveling for work, I felt I had hit a wall and travel became exhausting and a patron to ill health instead. Though the excitement and glimmer of travel never faded, I felt my mind and body deteriorating and I knew I needed to make some changes. After a year of mostly staying homebound (So Cal) to work on my health, the hunger to get back on the road kept rumbling within me, the urge was getting stronger and stronger, and the little voice within was getting louder and louder…”LET’S GET OUT THERE AGAIN.” Upon the incessant little voice pestering, I started to ponder what it takes to stay healthy on the road. After a year of intense detoxing and learning about my health, I feared traveling was going to revert my progress due to inconsistency in food, surroundings, sleep patterns, etc. I had so many questions, “how do you keep from getting sick? I always get sick from flights and jet lag.” “What’s the best way to find the healthiest and freshest foods in other countries?” “Is it possible to stick to my wellness routine and do my yoga/meditation on the road?” With questions and fears swirling in my mind, it was becoming clear that even though anxiety had kept me homebound for over a year; it was time to broaden my horizons and see the world again, despite the fears. This realization had me wanting to gain more knowledge of healthy travel habits and what it takes to maintain health while jumping between trains, planes and automobiles. When these thoughts started to surface, the Universe dropped in at just the right time- leading me to Pravassa.
Pravassa is the first wellness travel company that curates real life experiences that leave you #changedbytravel. After lightly stalking their instagram , that consists of beautiful photos of adventures in Bali, Costa Rica, Morocco, Spain (the list goes on and on), I eventually landed on their website where I was in awe of the tailor made experiences they provide.
Through forming relationships with the community and locals in each destination, Pravassa provides unique boutique hotel accommodations that lend a particular charm that no Hyatt could ever provide. Food is locally sourced and sustainable, allowing you to immerse in the destinations food culture while nourishing your body in the best way possible. Exclusive cultural excursions are available through Pravassa's connections with locals. Time for self care is built into each tour, whether that be spa days, meditations, yoga or so on; it’s their priority to allow you to recharge and experience the joy in your life. And the kicker, Pravassa provides wellness support pre, during and post journey, lending tips and wellness hacks on how to stay healthy while traveling. This sounds like the perfect vacation for me.
As I kept scrolling around the website, I was amazed upon reading the “about me,” section on Linden Schaffer, the owner and creator of Pravassa. Her story went a little something like this- thriving fashion career, constant travel, stress, exhaustion- burn out. Hmmm, sounds familiar!
I became very curious about what led her to start Pravassa after this experience, how she made the shift from a successful fashion career to starting her own travel business, how she found her health again, and how she stays healthy on the road. Continuing on, I discovered that Linden had recently launched a book, “Living Well on the Road.” Serving as a guide to identify areas of your life that need recharging, it offers a practical real-world approach to understanding and managing your wellness by offering tools and advice that help to dramatically improve your mental focus and physical wellness whether on the road, in the office or at home. I immediately ordered the book, and after devouring it’s content on my recent trip to Tulum, I found it’s content to be incredibly helpful for me; especially the tips on how to stay healthy while traveling. It’s as if the Universe dropped Pravassa and this book straight into my vortex to guide me even further down my wellness path and to provide all the tips for wellness while traveling.
Being incredibly inspired by Linden’s story, her company, her book, and still marveling at the parallels between parts of our stories, I reached out to her in hopes of snagging an interview.
I was pleasantly surprised when she responded, agreeing to answer some questions, and I was incredibly honored she was open to it despite her busy schedule of traveling the world for Pravassa, and being right in the middle of her book tour!
Read on to see how Linden came to start Pravassa, why she attributes the road as the place where she feels like her best self, where she thrives the most and experiences the most personal growth, and for tips and advice on how to feel refreshed and healthy in life to be able to truly take in all of your experiences.
1. I read that you started in the fashion industry and ventured over to health and wellness. Can you tell me a little bit about this transition and journey to starting Pravassa?
The transition into creating Pravassa was a quick one; one I never imagined would happen. Since I was young I wanted to work in fashion and only fashion. The idea for Pravassa, the first wellness travel company, came to me in April 2009 -- by November I’d left my full time job and at the end of December I lead my first wellness vacation. And while the concept manifested and coalesced quickly, the discomfort in my fashion career and the unease about not knowing what was next was a 5-year period. You can read more details about the journey I took in my new book, Living Well on the Road. By the time the idea of Pravassa emerged I was ready for it.
2. I myself have been making a transition from the fast paced world of fashion to wellness in the past year, and have found it quite hard to "slow down," even after experiencing a burn out. Did you experience this in your transition? Do you still experience it now that you work in wellness?
We live in a culture of busyness. Somewhere along the way the idea of self-care became synonymous with selfishness and slowing down came to mean laziness, both of which we manifest as guilt. I’ve practiced wellness for the last 20-years and am still learning what works for me at any given time. For the first two years of Pravassa, I would take a 2-hour nap every afternoon and still be able to sleep every night. I’ve honed my routine throughout the years and learned how to listen to my body so now my self-care is a priority as it allows me the ability to function in an optimal way.
3. Did you have moments of doubt when starting Pravassa? How did you overcome these doubts?
I’m not sure you ever overcome doubts they just change shape. In the beginning the doubt was if I could create a viable business – I’m still here. Now that doubt is are we growing in the right direction? If you’ve created something you believe in, something you can return to which gives you strength that will carry you though the doubt.
4. What does "Pravassa" mean?
It’s a Sanskrit word that means journey.
5. Where is your "home base?" Do you find it important to have this home base to maintain balance, even though you travel often?/ Is it comforting or important to you to know you have this home base?
My roots are in NYC and have been for the past 20 years. You’ll find most New Yorkers make plans to escape the city, especially in the summertime, which allows us all to deal with the never ending pace and high energy of where we live. Every time I return to NYC it has a feeling of home, but one I’m excited about as spending time away makes you appreciate it more. Having a home base that you feel comfortable in and that serves as a relaxing space is important. Coming home to my husband, dog, friends, and community is important in order to reconnect.
6. How often are you traveling?
On average I travel about 50% of the year. That time is made up of leading groups, scouting new locations, and attending conferences or speaking engagements.
7. Tell me a little bit about your new book "Living Well on the Road." What inspired you to write it?
The book is a non-fiction dive into wellness and the science behind why practices such as sleep, nutritious food, meditation, and nature can all be used to increase your wellness no matter where you are. My clients inspired this book. Whether traveling with me or calling me on the phone to discuss a trip, they always wanted to know more about wellness and how they could incorporate it into their life, not just when they were taking a Pravassa vacation.
8. How do you stay stylish while traveling? Any packing tips?
I have a travel wardrobe. I’ve collected pieces throughout the years that are comfortable and stylish while respecting the local culture. I love shopping my first time in a new country as it gives me insight to how people live. I’m super picky about what I purchase and only pack a carry-on when I travel – no matter for how long. So it’s important to choose wisely and use packing cubes.
9. Some people need routine in their lives, but on the contrary very much crave travel, dreaming of that "wanderlust life." Are there certain rituals you stick to on the road to maintain a sense of routine?
Growth and change happens when you are pushed outside your norm. So while routine can ground you, you have to be flexible and be open to what comes your way. I have a few portable routines that ground me both at home and when I travel. I meditate, write in a journal, use essential oils, and if I’m working, I always try and have a private hotel room, which allows for some down time.
10. Favorite place you've ever traveled to? Why?
I love each place I’ve been for different reasons. The place that changed my life the most was India. It held a mirror up my life and the opportunities that I’ve had/been able to create. No place made me respect my choices, my circumstances, and myself more, while at the same time respecting the same things about someone else’s life.
11. What does travel mean to you and how does it enhance your life?
We use the hashtag #changedbytravel at Pravassa as every time you step on a plane it changes you. For me, travel makes me a better version of myself. It makes me more understanding and empathetic, it breaks down barriers and sparks creativity. But in order for any of this to be true, you have to be open to letting it happen.
12. Advice for other women entrepreneurs looking to break into wellness travel?
For any entrepreneur it’s important to believe is what you’re doing and garner support. While you can be a solopreneur, you cannot do everything alone.
13. What do you wish you could tell your 25 year old self?
I’m not someone who is rooted in the past or has regrets, instead I would tell other young people out there to take time to listen and receive. We don’t know what we don’t know, so education of any kind is the best way forward.
14. Current mantra?
Show up and listen.
15. If you could offer one piece of life advice from all you've learned on your journey thus far, what would it be?
Everyone wants to be loved so show kindness, respect, and openness when you travel. Most people out there want to help you, and while you have to be smart about it, people are inherently good and we can all learn something from each other.