Courtesy of The Raithwaite Estate Spa, N Yorks

Summer holidays …

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For many, travel is all about experiencing other cultures, understanding different traditions and learning about a country's rich historical tapestry. It's about throwing yourself out of your comfort zone, exposing your senses to new sights, smells and sounds, and really getting beneath the skin of a place.

Yes, yes that's all well and good, thank you very much, you might be thinking — but what if you just want to head to the sun and partake in some serious self-indulgence? What's so wrong with wanting to lie on a pristine white sand beach, swim in a crystal-clear ocean and head to the spa to be preened and pampered to within an inch of your life?

Nothing at all, we say. Nothing. At. All.

When I return from holiday I often find myself inspired by what I have experienced and seen. One of my most memorable experiences was visiting Six Senses Yao Noi in 2012. My biggest take away from this holiday was the concept of ‘new luxury’. We spend so much of our energy and our lives in the act of doing, chores, tasks, work and those all-consuming emails. We never have a moment of quietude with the 24-hour news cycle, social media and the extended workday due to constant accessibility. At Six Senses there is a real sense of coming back to the centre, switching off and reconnecting with family and loved ones without the distractions listed above. Enjoying the simple life, albeit in the surroundings of absolute luxury, carved out in a natural and understated setting.

What discoveries have you made when travelling? More specifically, do you, like me, find yourself drawn to the spa or wandering the backroads to discover a hidden treatment gem? I am intrigued by the new and unusual treatments which are not on offer in London.

Here, I share the recent holiday spa experiences of two friends. I wonder whether there is anything we can learn from these treatments, which we can incorporate into our current offering, that may allow our clients to feel that holiday effect?

Chiang Mai, Thailand

This is a traditional Thai house offering Thai back and leg massage.

The house has an open studio on a backstreet, offering treatments to customers who are fully clothed. The studio is beautiful, with stunning, fresh floral arrangements for customer partitioning. Beautiful Thai blankets are laid out on the floor where treatments are undertaken.

Treatment begins with a foot cleansing ritual while sitting on a bench. Feet are bathed in a fresh floral bowl of water scented with lime. As little English is spoken a treatment menu is offered. My friend chose back and leg massage. Treatment started with the feet and legs. With at least 20 minutes being spent on each leg, the effect was deeply relaxing. So much attention is given to legs and feet because we spend long periods supported by them. This treatment is an ancient art and has many similarities to reflexology and manual lymphatic drainage. Once the leg part of the treatment was over, my friend was supported into a sitting position and a no-oil back, neck and head massage was performed over clothes.

The treatment ended with traditional Thai tea and biscuits.

When I heard my friend describe the treatment, I could feel myself being transported to the Thai House. It really does sound deeply relaxing. I could easily see a spa incorporating fresh flowers into pedicure soaks — and why not offer express treatments such as a back massage (fully clothed) while the client is having a manicure?

Turkish Hammam, Istanbul

My friend is Turkish and visits home every year. It is a must when in Turkey to visit the hammam.

The history of the Turkish hammam, combined with the beauty which surrounds you, is a source of wonder: “How many feet have walked before me …?” The architecture is designed to allow the light to filter in at just the right angle to create an atmosphere of tranquillity and peace. Once you have changed into a bathing suit and been given a traditional Turkish towel known as peshtemal in which to wrap yourself, you lay yourself onto a gigantic cool marble stone slab. The atmosphere, which is hot and humid, is designed to soften the skin in preparation for the scrubbing, which will leave you and your skin feeling reborn. This is followed by a foam massage, which leaves your skin silky smooth. Finally, you retreat to a relaxing area where Turkish coffee or traditional lemon juice is offered to help revive your senses.

I don’t know about you but I need to get myself to Turkey on my next holiday! I too want skin that is reborn! What really stands out for me is the lighting and the effect it can have on your client's inner wellbeing. How can you create an atmosphere of tranquillity using filtered light? I am sure you already offer body exfoliation on your treatment menus, but have you thought about how you can prepare your clients’ skin prior to exfoliation? Could they have a warm shower first, and could you use essential oils to create an aromatherapeutic effect too?

As I write this, I am about to head off on my holiday for the summer and cannot wait to see what new treatments or techniques I will encounter. Do enjoy your holidays and exploring the wonders that travel brings us.

Written by Kirsty Mawhinney 

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Monday, 20 May 2019

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