To your health! The liver detox drink I swear by, a wellness travel expert's favorite places and panaceas...and a hot tip on at-home PCR tests
Happy new year, gang! I hope you had a healthy and lovely holiday and your plans weren’t overly disrupted. I’m really excited about this new year—well, at least in regard to this newsletter! Lots of plans! I’m going to start a podcast (a very lo-fi one), because I think there are so many travel stories that are just better shared as conversations, and I’ll be bringing in more interesting people for our Travel Hotline (remember: we did a packing Q&A with Ann Mashburn in November that you can see here). I’m also going to alternate our Navigator column with a new one called Travel Well, in which we’ll hear from different health/wellness/fitness experts on their travel tips and favorite destinations. For those of you with paid subscriptions, we’re rolling out a travel planning series: In January, we’re pulling together a Wellness Black Book (this Friday) and a Workshops Black Book (later this month). Come Feb-April, we’ll roll out planners for Europe and the States. We’ll also be publishing some new city Black Books and lots of other inspiring content this spring, so stay tuned!
Okay, that’s enough about plans. Here’s the scoop for this week:
My friend Pia told me about this at-home PCR test from a company called Cue Health. It’s not cheap, but over break, as I watched the lines coiling around the block in NYC for PCR tests and we couldn’t find at-home rapid tests anywhere, I decided to check it out. I got very excited when I saw they had an option for a “proctored” test so that they’re CDC-approved for flights. I signed up for Cue Complete, and for $240 I received the reader, 10 tests, and a month-long membership. The kit came the next day (shipping was included) and we tried it out. What Matt thought was a head cold, since he kept testing negative on home rapid tests (finally found some!), was actually Covid. We used the Cue kit multiple times—to discover that I was positive as well (mild case), and when we both tested negative. We just used it for our current trip to the Bahamas, so it really paid off.
I was introduced to Dr. Linda Lancaster because I was dealing with chronic lyme, and she really helped me feel better. The first thing she put me on was a liver-cleansing program, and this detox drink is a great way to start the day. She wrote a book, Harmonic Healing, which is super helpful if you want to do your own at-home detox.
Liver Cleansing Breakfast Drink
This drink is designed to cleanse, purify, and restore the normal functioning of the liver, gall bladder and kidneys. Continue for 2-3 weeks at a time.
1 whole orange or grapefruit and 1 whole lemon (remove the peel and chop into pieces)
1-2 tbs. of cold-pressed olive oil (start with a little, and add more as you can tolerate it)
small pinch of cayenne pepper
1-2 cloves of fresh garlic (or 2-4 capsules of garlic from your health food store and swallow them with your drink)
1-2 tsp. ground flax seed
thin slice of grated ginger root (about 1 tsp)
Place the above into a blender and cover the chopped fruit with water. Liquefy and drink very slowly, thoroughly mixing the drink with your saliva before swallowing.
Erica Gragg, co-founder Escape to Shape: Adventures in Wellness
Tell us about you and your company.
I wear two hats. One as the founder of Escape to Shape: Adventures in Wellness & the other as the founder of Escape Artists: Luxury Travel Advisors. I founded Escape to Shape as a way to combine and share my passions for travel & wellness. Founded in 2009, we recognized that the only real wellness options available were either brick & mortar traditional spa experiences or yoga retreats, which were typically offered in beach locations. Escape to Shape was designed to go beyond, to reflect the way we wanted to travel: to be fully immersed in a new culture, to connect and support the local communities we are lucky enough to visit, to sleep in comfort and luxury by night while having authentic, active experiences by day, to experience the local food in as healthy of a way as possible while always eating locally and seasonally, to have a well-balanced vacation where we can keep up with our fitness routine and perhaps even return home more fit than when we arrived. But most of all, we founded Escape to Shape to facilitate connection—to another country and culture, to fellow travelers and, most importantly, to self. We take care of all the details so that our guests can be fully present to their vacation and the transformations that travel can bring.
Do you think any differently about wellness travel in light of the last couple of years?
Group wellness has been heavily impacted over the past 2 years and will be one of the last things to return back to ‘normal,’ but we’re slowly getting there. Destinations that are outdoor focused, offering mild temperatures and a low population plus require proof of vaccination are the first ones on Escape to Shape’s list to return to. And I am happy to see that people are now more aware of the importance of sustainable and responsible travel, which pairs well with wellness travel.
Do you take any supplements prior to traveling?
I take the same supplements I always take, which is not many, as I prefer to get as many of my nutrients as possible from eating well. I do bring a few ‘secret weapons’ with me when I travel, though. I always travel with 8G—this is super-green juice made convenient and easy. I never travel without it, as you just don’t know when you will be able to get your next green juice or dose of fresh vegetables when on the road. Just pop one of these fizzy tablets into water and there you have it—a healthy dose of spinach, wheatgrass, kale, blue green algae, spirulina, aloe vera, Chlorella and Barely Grass. Activated charcoal is also great to have on hand. I add it to water once a day when in countries with a higher risk of foreign bacteria and it aids in eliminating toxins. I also bring shakers of curcuma and cayenne, just in case I cannot find them locally, so that I can add to hot water with a generous squeeze of lemon each morning, along with a dash of local honey. I find that this simple, accessible ritual works wonders in keeping my digestive system working around the world. The curcuma and cayenne have anti-inflammatory benefits and the local honey is great for the immune system. I also am a fan of magnesium oil spray. The skin is the largest external organ of the body, so it is able to quickly absorb magnesium. Magnesium oil relieves muscle aches and cramps, boosts energy levels and helps promote a good night’s sleep.
Do you pack any tools for exercise on the road?
I always travel with a jump rope, yoga mat, medium and light exercise bands and a tennis ball. All of these items are small, take up little space and are very effective as they can be used for so much! I love using local items as hand weights, such as coconuts when in tropical locations or refillable water bottles filled with water.
Do you bring any foods from home for your trip?
Not often. I always try to eat locally and seasonally so that I can experience the cuisine as authentically as possible. I find food to be an important way to explore a culture and connect with the local people. Anti-inflammatory foods and spices can be found across the globe, in every country, so I try to eat well and fill my plate with unprocessed foods in every color of the rainbow whenever I can. I bring raw nuts, unsulfured dried fruit and packages of nut butter with me on plane, trains or on long road trips though, just in case!
Compression socks, or no?
Nope. Not for me. But necessary for some. I find that regular movement, plenty of water and avoiding high sodium foods has the same impact for me, but for those with circulation issues compression socks are an accessible aid that should absolutely be utilized during travel.
How do you stay warm on the plane?
I run cold, so I always wear layers on the plane and bring either a vintage Berber blanket from the markets in Marrakech or a cashmere wrap from Jaipur to add an extra layer of coziness and warmth. These cherished items also carry with them a sense of ‘home’, which is nice to have when on the road. I always wear socks as well—my favorites right now are from Unbound Merino—warm and cozy!
Thoughts on combatting in-flight anxiety?
I’ll let you in on a secret, which is not so secret to anyone who has traveled with me in the past: I am terrified of turbulence. Pre-Covid, I often flew on 15+ flights a month and while I know flying is completely safe, I still cannot shake the irrational fear I have of turbulence. I find that pranayama (breathwork) as well as meditation, sometimes in the form of prayer, helps, but not always. I do not take any anti-anxiety drugs as I like to be fully alert and awake when I exit the plane. I do spray magnesium oil onto my arms as it can naturally reduce stress and anxiety.
How do you stay hydrated?
Water, water and more water. I have a goal to drink at least 16 ounces each hour.
Alcohol on the plane?
Typically no, but if it is very turbulent, a glass of wine can help. Perhaps those around me benefit from it even more than I do as it can calm me down a bit, which is a welcome gift to those sitting nearby.
Do you do anything special for your skin?
For an overnight or long flight, I apply a thick layer of Valmont Prime Renewing Pack Mask. It is lightweight, hydrating and leaves skin feeling refreshed and glowing upon touchdown. During daytime flights I always wear sunscreen and apply Biologique Recherche Serum Grand Millesime, which is an antioxidant skincare treatment designed to smooth, regenerate and tone the skin while strengthening its natural defenses.
Stretching and/or movement advice?
I suggest moving as much as possible! I always sit in an aisle seat so that I can easily get up every hour and walk the length of the plane, do a few forward folds and side stretches. And have easy access to the restroom considering how much water I am drinking!
Any wellness routines that you do while on the road?
Always! It helps me to recover from jet lag, reset after a long flight, sleep better, stay energized and, of course, stay in shape. If scouting destinations and crunched for time, I like to start my morning with 5-9 sun salutations, then a quick circuit-training routine that often looks something like this: 1 minute of jumping rope, followed by 1 minute of holding plank, followed by 1 minute of pushups repeated 3 times. It’s a great way to work major muscle groups and get the blood flowing all in 15-20 minutes.
When I have more time, I do 40-minute interval training, HIIT or Tabata workouts wherever I can—outdoors preferred, but indoors works, too. There is a great timer app that I use called Intervals, which allows me to customize my workout length to fit my schedule. I rotate between yoga and fitness training when traveling and aim to get at least 4 solid sessions in a week.
I try to use fitness as a way to explore and/or connect with the culture by walking as often as possible, taking a local dance class, or booking a cultural walking or biking tour.
I use the tennis ball for Myofascial release. I stand on the tennis ball with one foot on the solid ground, one foot on the tennis ball and roll under my bare foot. Or I lie on the ground and place the tennis ball under my upper and middle back and roll around. It’s a great way to get to those hard-to-reach spots that often hold lots of tension, particularly post flight!
What’s your favorite moisturizer/face balm/body oil to travel with?
I never leave home without Biologique Recherche P50 1970 and rotate between Valmont Hydra3 Regenetic Cream and Augustin Bader The Rich Cream. When it comes to body oils and creams, I enjoy trying local products from the locations I am visiting, so typically purchase once I am there. And I always wear sunscreen. My personal favorite is Isdin Eryfotona Actinica, which is an all-mineral lightweight broad-spectrum sunscreen with the added benefit of repairing existing sun damage. I never leave home without it.
Any strategies for dealing with jet lag?
Over the years I have finally come up with a formula that really works for me, thankfully! If landing in the morning or earlier in the day, I set my alarm for 4 hours and take a nap. The secret for me is that this nap cannot be any longer than 4 hours. It can be less, but not more. And then I move! If it is still light outside and safe to do so, I take a power walk; if not, I do some sun salutation and jump rope in my room. I make sure to eat and sleep according to the current time zone I am in, and I stay up until at least 9 pm, if not later, so that I can try to sleep through the night and adjust to the local time zone as quickly as possible. Before crawling into bed, I often spend 3-5 minutes in a yoga pose called Vaiparita Karani, commonly referred to as Legs Up The Wall pose. This pose is great for relieving fatigue, increasing circulation and relaxation. This pose is also a good one to do before taking a nap.
Valmont has an amazing product called Eye Regenerating Mask, which are little pads drenched in collagen liquid that you stick on in the morning or after a long flight that contain “drainage-enhancing agents” to depuff the eyes – especially the upper eye lid. While it does not help with jet lag it does help with the effects of jet lag, resulting in a wide eye, rested look.
What are a few of your favorite wellness destinations?
I have so many! Any safari destination in Africa, particularly Botswana and Rwanda, as they serve as such a wonderful reminder of our place in the world and provide the rare opportunity to go completely off the grid. Patagonia, Atacama, Bhutan, The Dolomites, Ladakh, Slovenia—destinations where you can walk for hours a day, be surrounded by dramatic natural beauty and experience a culture up close in the process.
Properties such as Blackberry Mountain, San Ysidro Ranch, Sensei at Four Seasons Lanai, Palmaia: House of Aia and The Lodge at Blue Sky are beautiful, transportive properties with plenty of wellness offerings. Shou Sugi Ban House, the Miraval properties, Sha Wellness Clinic, Body Holiday, Mii Amo, LeFay Dolomites & Lake Garda, The Retreat, Rancho La Puerta, Golden Door are wonderful destinations entirely focused on wellness.
I also encourage my clients to consider that wellness is more than just being aware of what you eat, more than the fitness and yoga classes you take. It is about getting enough sleep, practicing gratitude, disconnecting from tech devices, connecting to others, spending time in nature.
Where are you dreaming of going next and why?
I am next going to Costa Rica. Oddly enough I’ve been to 87 countries, but Costa Rica is not one of them. I am excited to experience the new Auberge property, Hacienda Altagracia, which is designed for those ‘seeking total well-being and unbridled adventure,’ so it sounds right up my alley! I am also visiting Nayara Tented Camp, which is a property I have sent clients to in the past that looks dreamy and also has many wellness and adventure offerings. I hope to visit The Retreat while in Costa Rica—it is a beautiful property that offers immersive wellness programs. And the food is rumored to be fantastic! While I love exploring cities, right now I long to be immersed in nature, and Costa Rica provides that opportunity.