Being Pampered in Foreign Lands

Being Pampered in Foreign Lands

Have you ever got back from your vacation and thought, “Man, I need a vacation?” B and I like to pack as much into our travels as possible, but it’s important to remember that a key part of a vacation is relaxation. One way to make yourself relax on your vacation is to schedule in some vacation pampering. As a bonus, you will most likely be forced out of your comfort zone and experience something new while you are are being worked on. Most countries have a specialty when it comes to spa treatments.

So next time you are heading out on a vacation, check out what they offer and book a session or two. Here are some of the treatments we’ve partaken of on our adventures–all memorable in their own way.

Panama Chair Massages

I thought I’d start out tame. You’ve probably all seen the massage chairs at airports where you can get the knots worked out of your shoulders between flights, right? Well, in most Panamanian malls, you will come across these little gems whilst you are shopping til you drop. Word of advice: throw down a dollar or two and enjoy.

During one of the greatest months of my life, I chilled in Panama City and got several of these massages. The massages at our airports cost about $20 for 15 minutes. But in Panama (and most other countries with low GDPs, I’d reckon), you can get these massages for a fraction of the cost. I was serious when I said one or two dollars. At that price, frankly, there is no reason not to stop and get your shoulders rubbed.

Lesson learned: great things come in simple packages.

Panama City Skyline
A mall was right next to our high rise apartment in Panama City.

Peruvian Facial

At the end of my vacation in Peru, I waved goodbye to my friend who was traveling on to Ecuador and found myself with about six hours to kill before I had to be at the airport. What to do? Well, after learning my lesson about how inexpensive spa treatments can be (compared to U.S. prices) in Latin America, I found a swanky spa and headed on in. I can usually get by with my primitive Spanish skills, but my 200 level Spanish class I had taken five years prior to my trip didn’t really cover the vocabulary I’d need for words such as facial, microdermabrasion, body scrub and aromatherapy wrap. So, I did my best to pick a treatment, and when the Peruvian lady came up to me with a scary looking metal machine, I decided to trust that she knew what she was doing.

When I had to get up to use the restroom and saw my reflection in the mirror with all sorts of weird stuff smeared all over my face, I figured everything was going to be fine. And guess what…everything was. By the time I left the spa a few hours, later I felt like a new woman.

Lesson learned: trust in the sisterhood of women.

Iceland Geothermal Healing

When B, C and I went to Iceland for a long weekend, we visited the Blue Lagoon first thing. If you missed the post on Iceland, the Blue Lagoon is a big hot pool that is heated by geothermal activity that Iceland is oh-so known for. As part of our entrance into the Lagoon, we each got a pack of frozen algae to smear on ourselves. This was in addition to the silica mud that you can find at regular intervals as you are soaking in the pool. It doesn’t get more natural than this, people. If given the choice, B and I will both usually buy products that have the fewest six or seven syllable words in the ingredients list. It just makes sense, right?

Well, we didn’t have to worry at all about extra chemicals in our algae or mud. All of us ended up with skin as smooth as a baby’s bum (our hair, on the other hand, was a different story which I’ll save for another time).

Lesson learned: go natural when you can.

Getting a facial at the Blue Lagoon
Getting a facial at the Blue Lagoon

Morocco Hammam

B had done some excellent research prior to us heading off to Morocco and discovered a thing called a hammam. A hammam is a steam room where people soak and scrub each other down and it is very traditional to the Moroccan culture. Obviously, we felt like needed to experience this. Since Morocco is a very conservative country, we were prepared to wear sports bras. But our ladies (we each had our own lady to work on us) gesticulated and spoke in French indicating we should take our tops off. They smeared something on us, turned up the heat, dumped some water on the logs and left….for what seemed like the longest 30 minutes of my life. I have never been so overheated!

At just about the breaking point, the ladies came back and scrubbed us down with special scrub cloths. I gotta say, this felt pretty amazing. And super exfoliating, since we had just steamed all of the dead skin cells out. After a quick cold shower, we went on our way. The 110* weather of Marrakesh didn’t seem quite so unbearable after the hammam.

Lesson learned: beauty is pain.

hammam mit
Moroccan scrubbing mitt.

Bali Massage  

Prior to S, B and I visiting Bali, I hadn’t had many full body massages. Since I was a little nervous, B (who is a massage enthusiast) reassured me that you can undress as much as you feel comfortable and the massage therapists work around what you have on. Well, that might be how things happen in the U.S., but the Balinese clearly have different levels of modesty when it comes to spa treatments. We were each given a little piece of mesh, which turned out to be disposable underwear. At this point, we each had a decision to make. We could roll with whatever was about to happen or head back to the hotel and wait for the others.

We all decided to let whatever was going to happen, happen. Was it uncomfortable being sugar/salt scrubbed EVERYWHERE? Sure. Was it awkward standing in a shower and letting a lady rinse off the yogurt that she had just smeared on you? You bet. Was it strange that S and B soaked in a hot bath together (luckily I got my own bathtub)? Yes. Yes it was. But, we were in Bali, so we decided to go with it. And it is still super funny to think back on.

Lesson learned: go with the flow.

Bali massage accoutrements
Sure, lady, why wouldn’t you smear that stuff on me?


It feels awesome to be pampered. Especially when you have been traveling hard and are sunburned, wind-chapped and/or sore from all the walking. Next time you travel, squeeze in some time for a new experience and relax the way the locals have for centuries.

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