Travel

Best 2022 Wellness Trend? Tripping at a Psychedelic Retreat

Microdosing is all the rage this year.

Soltara
Soltara
Soltara

On weekends in college, I used to eat magic mushrooms by the handful. My friends and I would stuff the dried, psychedelic shrooms inside peanut butter filled tortillas to mask their slightly bitter, earthy taste and down enough to ensure we tripped our asses off. Sometimes it was awesome. Like the night when colors got really intense, my body felt all warm and tingly, and I was convinced I’d been teleported into the Grand Canyon.

Other times it was downright terrifying. Like when my friends’ faces would appear to be melting or the time I spent three hours (or at least it felt like three hours) trying to persuade an imaginary, scared boy to crawl out from underneath a desk.

After I graduated from college, I didn’t really think about mushrooms again until the summer of 2020, during a peak in the pandemic, when another friend introduced me to microdosing. At first I was not interested, thinking my days of tripping-good and bad-were long behind me.

But my friend swore that taking a microdose of the stuff helped her find calmness and clarity in a world full of chaos. And all the research she showed me pointed in the same direction. I already use cannabis medicinally to help with my diagnosed ADHD and an anxiety disorder. Plus, Denver (where I live) had just become the first US city to decriminalize the use and possession of psilocybin mushrooms in 2019. So I thought: why not give it a try.My first microdosing experience was pretty life changing. First of all, instead of consuming between 3.5 and 7 grams in one setting like we did in college, now I was taking about half a gram crushed into a capsule for swallowing. There were no colors or moving national parks or really anything obviously noticeable. Instead, it was a subtle shift of feelings. I didn’t feel as impulsive or restless. And for a few days afterwards, my panic attacks would subside.

I fast became a believer. Plant medicine, when used correctly, is a powerful tool in my mental health arsenal. And I found I’m not alone. Psychedelic drugs, from psilocybin mushrooms to ayahuasca, MDMA, and LSD, are fast becoming en vogue, thanks in part to a growing interest by some mental health professionals who view them as a novel natural therapy for depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and anxiety. In fact, according to a report by Data Bridge Market Research, the global psychedelic market is projected to go from a $2.8 million industry in 2020 to $7.5 million by 2028.

With this trend on the up, retreats around the world are catering to the curiosity. Psychedelic retreats are gaining popularity in countries like Mexico, Costa Rica, and Jamaica, where many of these substances are legal. Meaning yes, you can book a wellness hotel where, instead of-or in addition to-massages and nice smells, you can swallow some substances, kick back, and engage more of your senses to tap into your emotions and find that inner calm. Yep, this year we’re tripping on our trips (can’t help myself). Will magic mushrooms be the new wellness trend of 2022? Here are some places where you can go find the answers.

The Buena Vida
The Buena Vida
The Buena Vida

The Buena Vida Psilocybin Retreats in Mexico

The Buena Vida Psilocybin Retreats take place in Mexican luxury hotels. Started by Amanda Schendel in January 2019, the five- and seven-day retreats combine mushroom ceremonies with various other healing practices including breath work, yoga, somatic movement, and sound frequency healing.

“Most of the people who come to our retreats are suffering from some degree of a mental health issue. The most common issues we see are anxiety, depression, and PTSD,” says Schendel. “I receive emails and messages all the time with absolutely outstanding life changes from the retreats. The most exciting result that I hear is a new excitement towards life, a more optimistic and hopeful outlook, as well as enhanced creativity and openness in general.”Buena Vida works with guests individually to determine the correct dose. Every retreat has between two and three ceremonies. Guests usually start with around 1–1.5 grams on their first journey and then go up or down depending on experience and desired outcome. Currently Buena Vida only offers psilocybin therapy, and the medicine itself is sourced from local shamanic families in and around Mexico.

@the_buena_vida
@the_buena_vida
@the_buena_vida

“In general, we follow a ‘minimum effective dose’ protocol,” the owner continues. “However, some people may need a higher dose in order to break through, and we are well-equipped to serve them in that way. The average higher dose is three or four grams, with some guests experiencing anywhere between five and seven grams.”

The cost for the holistic, all-inclusive retreats range from $3,500 to $7,000, depending on length of time and room choice. Guests must also fill out an application and go through an interview process before participating.

“We do want to be sure that our guests are emotionally and mentally stable enough to go through the process. We have both a psychiatrist and medical doctor on our staff that are there to handle any specific medical questions,” Schendel says. “Luckily, psilocybin mushrooms are generally very safe physiologically, though we do screen for certain mental health backgrounds and diagnoses. In addition, we try to make sure that each guest is well-prepared for the emotional depth they will go to during the retreat.”

Soltara
Soltara
Soltara

Ayahuasca Retreats at Soltara Healing Center in Costa Rica

Ayahuasca is another plant-based medicine that’s growing in popularity both in the US and abroad. Because ayahuasca is illegal in the US, any guided shaman retreats in the country take place behind closed doors and are advertised through word of mouth and paid for via donation.

But in Costa Rica, where the laws are different, the Soltara Healing Center runs all-inclusive packages ranging 5–12 nights. Set on 22 acres in a cliffside rainforest location overlooking the Gulf of Nicoya, stays cost between $2,600 and $8,900, depending on length and room choice. They include between three to seven ayahuasca ceremonies led by native Shipibo healers.

In 2022, Soltara added a second retreat location at Sugar Beach, just half an hour from Liberia International Airport. The five night Sugar Beach retreats are more intimate affairs with smaller group sizes. They include three ayahuasca ceremonies over six days and cost $2,850 for a double shared suite or between $5,600 and $8,200 for a private suite with a king bed.

Soltara
Soltara
Soltara

Served as a drink, ayahuasca has a molasses-like consistency and, once consumed, induces hallucinations and often vomiting. Like psilocybin mushrooms, users say ayahuasca journeys can be profoundly mentally healing, especially when dealing with PTSD. Many also believe they gain insights into past lives and purpose in their futures. Others say participating in ayahuasca ceremonies has allowed them to come to peace with past trauma in their lives.

Because ayahuasca journeys can be emotionally and physically draining, Soltara has gone out of its way to make its amenities as comfortable as possible. Meals are well prepared, guests stay in elegant huts, and there is a gorgeous swimming pool for relaxing on the days between ceremonies.

@silowellnessinc
@silowellnessinc
@silowellnessinc

Silo Wellness in Jamaica

A publicly traded company, Silo Wellness sells functional mushrooms and runs psilocybin retreats guided by Rastafarians in Jamaica, where the mushrooms are legal. With the passage of ballot measure 109 in Oregon in November 2020 that legalized the therapeutic use of psilocybin, the company has plans to expand its magic mushroom retreats to that state in the future. The ballot measure stipulated that state officials spend two years developing industry standards, practices, and guidelines before qualifying practitioners take the therapies public.

Currently, Silo Wellness offers some group ketamine retreats in Oregon. Ketamine is not a psychedelic and, unlike psilocybin or ayahuasca, it can be legally administered by physicians and psychologists in controlled-setting clinics across the U.S. as a treatment for psychological disorders like depression.

@silowellnessinc
@silowellnessinc
@silowellnessinc

In Jamaica, the five-day, four-night sessions include two psilocybin-assisted ceremonies at a resort overlooking the Caribbean Sea in the Montego Bay area. The retreats include daily meditation, yoga, meal-planning workshops, and sometimes workout routines. They are limited to 15 participants and offer general retreats or trips specifically tailored for women, creatives, and the LGBTQ+ community. The all-inclusive retreats (airfare is not included and it is up to participants to get themselves to Jamaica) costs $4,595 for single occupancy and $3,750 per person for a double room.

Like other retreats, participants are screened before attending, and psilocybin doses are tailored to individual comfort level and what you hope to achieve on a journey. The accommodations here are relatively luxe, usually in villas on the beach with a pool and plenty of open space.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on InstagramTwitterPinterestYouTubeTikTok, and Snapchat.

Becca Blond is a contributor for Thrillist.

Travel

Take a Submarine to the Bottom of the Great Lakes

You too can sink down to the watery grave-er, depths.

Gail Shotlander/Moment/Getty Images
Gail Shotlander/Moment/Getty Images
Gail Shotlander/Moment/Getty Images

When the waves of Lake Huron closed over my head as I sank down to the bottom of the Great Lake, I admit I was a little panicky. I definitely thought about drowning. After all, I’d nearly drowned three times in my life.

Though the first two times I was too young to now recall, the third time was in Wisconsin and the sensation has stuck with me. I remember how, as a middle schooler, I got pulled deeper and deeper into a wave pool until every wave sucked me underneath just long enough to choke on a gurgly mouthful of water. Despite kicking and fighting to swim back to safety, I could feel the water overtaking me, bubbling up over my head as I sank down. The pool was choking me, I was suffocating, and the fear of death was right in my face. As you can probably guess, I was eventually saved. Someone noticed and pulled me out of the pool, and that relief was enormous.

But here I was again, as an adult, watching sediment from the bottom of the lake swirl up around me. But this time I wasn’t drowning. This time I was perfectly safe. This time I was in a submarine.

My small group and I were passengers on one of Viking Cruises’ newest itineraries, the Great Lakes Explorer. The expedition allows guests on the Viking Octantis ship to see one of the great lakes from the other side of the surface. Though guests can participate in science-research activities like microplastics research, bird-watching, and weather balloon launches, it’s also just really cool to dive in a submarine. Whether you’re overcoming your own childhood experiences or you’re just an adventurer at heart, here’s what to know about going on a submarine expedition in the Great Lakes.

Photo courtesy of Viking Cruises
Photo courtesy of Viking Cruises
Photo courtesy of Viking Cruises

Boarding a submarine

These are-of course-yellow submarines. Can you guess their names? If you picked John, Paul, George, and Ringo… you’re absolutely right.

The Beatles can go down to about 1,000 feet and stay underwater for eight hours. Each side of the submarine has three very comfortable seats for passengers, surrounded by glass domes that allow optimal viewing at the dive site. It’s a small space (you can’t stand up straight), but you can hardly tell once you’re in the water. The seat platforms swivel so you can look out over the lake floor instead of staring at the pilot and other passengers.

The submarines are equipped with lights, cameras, and some handy claws to pick up anything valuable the pilot sees on the lakebed. They’re typically used as research vessels to take information back to the Octantis’ science program, which works in collaboration with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NOAA eventually plans to tack instruments to the bottoms of the submarines to get more detailed information about the water, the lakes, and the lakebed.

If you’re like me (that is, both claustrophobic and afraid of drowning), you’ll be happy to know that the subs are awash with safety features. Onboard, you’ll find directions on what to do if the pilot goes unconscious, supplemental oxygen hoods, a big green button to push if the sub needs to surface immediately, and a program that tells the submarine to surface if it doesn’t detect any activity from the pilot. Up above you, the sub is followed by a safety boat with a team that ensures the surrounding waters stay clear and everyone is safe beneath the surface. (So even when the safety boat radioed our pilot, Peppe from Sweden, and said, “You’re a little close to the rocks, but that’s as good a dive site as any,” I decided to trust the marine scientist.)

Photo by Jennifer Billock
Photo by Jennifer Billock
Photo by Jennifer Billock

Sinking down to the depths

Here’s how the dive works. You take Viking-owned Zodiacs (military-grade rigid inflatable boats) to a predetermined dive site that the scientists onboard the ship picked out that morning. For now, the sites will always be in Canadian waters-because Viking is Norwegian, the Jones Act disallows them from deploying subs in the United States. To transfer from the Zodiac to the submarine, you have to hold onto a metal bar, climb out of the Zodiac, and sit down on the edge of the submarine hatch. You swing your legs into the hatch, then climb down a three-rung ladder into the middle of the sub to find your assigned seat.

Once everyone is in the sub, the pilot climbs in, closes the hatch, and then radios to the safety boat to make sure you’re clear to sink. With the all-clear, air is released from outside tanks on the submarine, and thrusters push the entire thing underwater.

For our dive, we went down about fifty feet to the floor of the lake. It had been raining all morning, which stirred up the sediment around us, making everything a mossy green colour that spotlights sparkled through to highlight the lakebed. I saw a few tiny fish and a ton of invasive zebra mussel shells. Depending on the weather and your dive site, you’re likely to see more. But even just exploring the floor of the Great Lakes, something almost no one in history has done before, is an amazing thing.

Sign me up!

If you want to take a submarine dive into the Great Lakes yourself, you have to be a passenger on the Viking Octantis or sister ship, Viking Polaris. As of this writing, no other companies offer passenger submarine trips down into the lakes-especially not in a military-grade exploration submarine that is worth $6 million each. The Great Lakes expedition itineraries start at about $6,500 and can be booked on the Viking website.

Cavan Images/Cavan/Getty Images
Cavan Images/Cavan/Getty Images
Cavan Images/Cavan/Getty Images

Hike, kayak, or get yourself a cinnamon roll afterwards

What you can see nearby depends on your dive site. On Octantis, the subs went down in Lake Huron and Lake Superior-my dive was in Lake Huron, surrounded by the stunning Georgian Bay UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in Canada. Here, you can kayak in the bay, hike through the surrounding landscape, and enjoy a Zodiac nature cruise.

Or if you can, try to take your submarine dive at Silver Islet in Ontario’s slice of Lake Superior. The small community is historic and completely off the grid, and the general store has some of the best cinnamon rolls you can find around the Great Lakes.

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Jennifer Billock is a freelance writer and author, usually focusing on some combination of culinary travel, culture, sex, and history. Check her out at JenniferBillock.com and follow her on Twitter.

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