I’ve had all the standard Las Vegas experiences: the one where you wander around the strip because you’re too young to actually do anything, the one where you’re newly 21 and discover blackjack and three-foot tall margaritas, and the one where you realize you’re definitely not 21 anymore and this is all A Lot.
Then, last winter, I flew out to Vegas with a very unpopular agenda: to recharge, reset, and relax.
For context, I’m very bad at relaxing. I have a year-old spa gift card collecting dust on my dresser. My typical self-care involves throwing on The Office after a long day as I scroll through my phone and answer emails that definitely don’t require an urgent response. Even my workouts skew on the high-intensity side. Basically, being still and chill is not one of my strong suits. At the end of last year, I was stressed out, working a ton, and had an embarrassing amount of PTO days that I never used and didn’t plan to use.
The irony is that I’m a health editor who spends the better part of every day coming up with content that will help people take better care of themselves. If I couldn’t take my own advice—with all of the privileges, resources, and knowledge I had at my disposal as a health editor—what was I doing telling other people how to be well?
So, when I got the invitation to hop on a flight to Vegas to check out their fitness and wellness scene, I said yes before I could even process what I just said yes to: Going to Vegas...to work on my health and wellness. Sounds fake, but OK.
Most people have their own opinions about Vegas, but for me the place has always felt like one big constant party that I really only want to drop in on for a few hours. You feel indulgent and uninhibited and a little ridiculous, and you just power through with the intention of recovering when you get home. But I was open to changing my perspective. I assumed that the goal was to prove that Vegas is more than just gambling and partying and hangovers. (Big, if true!)
Meanwhile, my goal was to see if I could actually let myself relax for a change. I figured if I could do that in the middle of Las Vegas I could probably learn to do it back in New York City, too.
The ridiculous thing is, it actually kind of worked, and I basically haven’t been able to shut up about it ever since.
I met my best friend at the airport with a suitcase that was 70 percent workout clothes, and we made a pact to self-care the hell out of this weekend. Then we toasted with champagne before remembering this wasn’t that kind of Vegas trip.
The first day we went straight to a spa, one of nearly 30 on the Las Vegas Strip. I had been to Vegas a handful of times before this trip and never once tried any of the spas, so this experience was already very different in that involved a lot more cucumber water and a lot less tequila.
As I walked into the Spa at Encore, I immediately forgot that I was just in a casino five seconds ago. For anyone who isn’t really into the Vegas vibe—whether you don’t drink, don’t gamble, or just don’t want to be around all that casino-floor smoke—I now wholeheartedly suggest booking a spa treatment during your trip. It will change your whole day, because you can literally get a day pass to hang out at the spa (day passes are $40 for hotel guests; $75 for non-guests). That means you can come back as many times as you want, which means you can do what we did and lounge around in robes till it’s time to shower and get dressed for dinner. It kind of felt like we were teenagers having a spa-themed slumber party as opposed to 30-year-old women hanging in Las Vegas.
That night, instead of going out to a club after dinner, we vegged in our hotel room and set our alarms for 7 a.m. to get ready for a workout class. It was not lost on us that we were probably going to bed before the night even started for most Vegas-goers, but it felt kind of great. And honestly, wandering around a Las Vegas resort while most people were still sleeping was delightful.
The next morning, we checked out a bootcamp-style class called Sweat60 at the Cosmopolitan ($15 per person), which apparently no one else was brave enough to show up for at 8 a.m., because we were the only ones there. The class was harder than I expected, with the instructor taking us through circuits that incorporated battle ropes, TRX moves, boxing, ball slams, and a lot more that I probably blocked out from my memory. (I realize that this might not be everyone’s version of “relaxing,” but it definitely fits into my version of self-care.)
At one point, my friend and I were sweating so hard you would have thought we actually went out the night before. We must have looked like we were getting tired and basically phoning it in, since the fitness instructor stopped us and reminded us that this was our class—we weren’t competing with anyone but ourselves.
“You’ll get out what you put in,” he said.
Something about that reminder jolted us back into the present moment. He was right—this was the thing on our agenda today. It wasn’t something we were squeezing in before hitting the pool or the casinos or the clubs. This was literally what we came to Vegas for: to be fully present in our self-care. I couldn’t remember the last time I actually went to a workout class while on vacation—begrudgingly hitting the hotel gym after a night of debauchery, sure, but actually enjoying fitness on my day off? Totally unprecedented for me. I was starting to realize that, when it comes to self-care (whatever that looks like for you), you'll get out what you put in.
Afterwards we rinsed off and checked out the Sahra Spa at the Cosmopolitan, which was also a literal oasis (day passes are $45 for hotel guests during the week and $65 during the weekend; $75 for non-guests during the week). At this point I was regretting every time that I went to Vegas and didn’t spend at least a few hours in a spa, because they’re maybe the best part. For anyone who feels incredibly overwhelmed by all the noise and predatory glances that typically fill the casino floors, I suggest you take whatever money you were going to gamble with and just go straight to the nearest spa when you touch down in Vegas.
The next morning, we started the day with Dolphin Yoga at The Mirage ($50 per person), which is a legit thing you can do. Why did no one tell me this was a thing you could do? I never want to do yoga without dolphins now. Have you ever opened your eyes during half moon pose and seen a literal dolphin staring at you? It’s the best thing ever. 10/10 would recommend.
Then we made our way over to our final spa of the trip, this time at the Waldorf Astoria Las Vegas (a day pass is $50 for hotel guests and $120 for non-guests). It was beautiful and serene and so not what I expect from Vegas. By this point I completely forgot about all the other reasons people come to Vegas. There was no part of me that wanted to rage. I was probably the most at peace I had been in months.
I didn’t think anything could top downward dolphin-ing, but then we got onboard the High Roller for our second yoga session of the day. It was—and I can’t stress this enough—fucking magical. It was like yoga, a ferris wheel ride, and a therapy session all rolled into one.
It takes place in a pod on an observation wheel that takes you 550 feet above the Las Vegas Strip. Most people go for the views or take advantage of the bar option, but we were there to relax, so there we were, doing yoga in this glass ball rotating very slowly above the city. I swear it was more calming than it sounds (although, maybe not if you’re afraid of heights, I guess). With the Yoga in the Sky option (price varies based on date and availability) you get a semi-private yoga lesson from a Silent Savasana instructor, which includes headsets that you wear throughout the experience to quite literally tune out everything else but your instructor’s voice and their curated playlist. Our instructor, Carly Benson, took us through a gentle but effective yoga flow with breaks perfectly timed to gaze out at the mountains (and take a few pictures).
When our little sphere reached its highest point, Benson instructed us to set an intention. A few minutes later, we were lying in Savasana as our sphere reached the bottom of the wheel again. As we gathered our things and jumped out of the (still moving, albeit very, very slowly) pod, it felt like we were waking up from some spiritual experience. I don’t know if it was the views, the movements, Benson’s wise words, or the inexplicably soothing house music playing in our headsets, but the whole thing felt restorative in a way that’s hard to put into words.
I guess what I’m saying is that it is possible to relax in Las Vegas—even if you’re vehemently not a Vegas person or a relaxation person.
Before—and even, at times, during—this trip, I was under the impression that forced relaxation and introspection was never as good as finding authentic, spontaneous moments of peace. But, frankly, it’s really hard not to eventually feel calm as hell when you have a whole entire itinerary filled with relaxation activities. Of course, this trip was specially curated so that I could experience some of the most restorative experiences available on the strip, so I’m not shocked that I left Vegas feeling more at ease than I had in months. It isn’t exactly something that I would be able to recreate on my own budget, just as I’m sure it wouldn’t be for most people. But the experience completely changed my outlook on the ways that I was currently unwinding, and what might work instead. It made the case for penciling in time to do nothing—whether I’m at home or 2,000 miles away from it. I needed to start scheduling self-care the same way I make time for work events and parties with friends.
My typical day-to-day doesn’t include spa days, dolphins, and yoga, and it isn’t realistic to think that any of us should be expected to incorporate any of that into our lives with any regularity in order to do self-care. But the experience reminded me that it’s OK to let relaxation be the goal sometimes, rather than the thing you do in between other experiences, or to recuperate from those experiences.
It also made me realize that I was often splurging (while on vacation and at home) on things that were draining me, when I could just as easily earmark that money for things that would help me de-stress. Will I hit four different spas on my next trip to Vegas? No, probably not. But will I take the money I would have spent on a night out drinking and spend it instead on a really cool workout class and day pass to a spa? Absolutely. And, for the record, Yoga in the Sky is something I want to do at least once every decade for as long as I live.
As I boarded the plane back to New York, I thought about the intention I set while in that glass pod 550 feet in the air: To find peace, in both big and small ways.
Over the last year, I’ve tried to keep that intention top of mind. I thought about it when I took a random day off work and went to my favorite workout class before finally using that damn spa gift card that thankfully didn’t expire. I think about it whenever I take a walk around my neighborhood some mornings or whenever I queue up a guided meditation on my phone. It’s not dolphin yoga by any stretch, but it’s blocking out deliberate time in my schedule to be still. When your life or your environment is inherently chaotic (as both NYC and Vegas tend to be), maybe it’s OK to schedule your self-care, whatever that looks like to you.
I’m still an inherently un-chill person, but I’m finding ways to be more chill when I can. I’m constantly reminding myself that it’s OK to do less, to sit still, to relax—all things that can be a little more challenging for some of us. It’s a practice, after all. You get out what you put in.
- The Trip That Taught Me to Be Gentler on Myself
- 18 Pre- and Post-flight Exercises Trainers Swear By
- 16 Ways to Stay Mentally Healthy When You Travel A LOT, From People Who Do It
Originally Appeared on Self