While the outdoors sometimes feels inaccessible, Olivia Christine Perez, an outdoor and travel wellness expert, is passionate about making outdoor travel adventures and wellness getaways accessible for all. Living with autoimmune Lupus, Olivia Christine shares tips for connecting with nature, as well as ways to make outdoor travel experiences more affordable. We explore soft adventure as an alternative to traditional outdoor adventure travel, things to look for when planning a wellness getaway, and ways to make outdoor travel more affordable.
If you’re interested in traveling to unplug, unwind, and restore, keep reading or listen to the podcast episode, which airs Thursday, June 1st.
In this episode, we chat about:
- [2:51] The moment Olivia realized she needed to prioritize health and wellness in her travels.
- [8:47] What is soft adventure?
- [14:18] Planning and staying organized with travel inspiration.
- [17:26] Olivia’s favorite wellness escapes.
- [23:52] Affordability in wellness getaways.
- [26:50] How to make camping more affordable.
- [31:20] Ways to explore the outdoors safely.
Swell AI Transcript: ThoughtCard(134)OliviaChristine_mixdown.mp3
00:00 Danielle Desir Corbett Hey, financially savvy travelers, welcome back to another episode of the Thought Card Podcast. I'm in the season of my life where I am yearning. When I say yearning, I am yearning for the outdoors and warm weather. Recently in episode 125, we chatted with Lauren Gay from Adventure is a Lifestyle podcast about ways we can become more outdoorsy and how to enjoy the outdoors all year round. Today, I want to continue that conversation by exploring soft adventures and wellness getaways. In episode 117, health and wellness travel was one of the hottest 2023 travel trends. So, I was curious to learn more and I wanted to talk to an expert. I'm joined by Olivia Christine Perez, an outdoor and travel wellness expert, and the creator of Oh! Christine, a platform inspiring over 65,000 women and diverse communities to travel more and get outdoors for their well-being. In this episode, we discuss soft adventures and who they are best suited for, things to look for when planning a wellness getaway, as well as ways we can make outdoor travel experiences more affordable. Living with an autoimmune disease, Olivia creates travel guides and online trainings to help people find wellness through the outdoors, soft adventures, and mindful travel experiences. At the end of the episode, Olivia shares the inspiration behind her Get Outdoors 101 course. And you can get $50 off when you use the promo code THOUGHTCARD50. Again, that is THOUGHTCARD50. Get Outdoors 101 is a self-guided online course that includes hiking and safety training, trip planning demos, and downloadable packing lists and resources that will help you simplify camping and afford the outdoors. Welcome to The Thought Card, a podcast about traveling money where planning, saving, and creativity leads to affording travel, building wealth, and paying off debt. We are the financially savvy travelers. So, Olivia, you have an amazing quote on your site where you say, travel helped me do a health 180. So when was the moment for you when you realized that you wanted to prioritize or maybe needed to prioritize health and wellness in your travels?
02:51 Olivia Christine Perez Yeah, so I have an autoimmune disease. I live with lupus nephritis, and I was having really bad flare at the time. This was around 2012, 2013, and it got to a point where I knew I needed a break. I was working in the corporate world, and I just needed a vacation, but one that was going to truly allow me to unplug. So I did take that break. I did unplug. It ended up being a prolonged vacation that I definitely needed. And when I got back to the doctor, who for lupus patients is a rheumatologist, one of the first things she said was, your labs are looking great. Whatever it is that you're doing, keep doing it. Now, that might sound really just mundane, but for a patient who has an autoimmune disease, they know that getting better from a flare is a long term thing. It is slow and steady, wins the race. There is no rapid solution for that. But for me, stress was a huge trigger in my life and with autoimmune lupus flares. So to hear her say that to me and to realize that there was something that I could unlock here was huge. And I think that really got the wheels turning in my mind of there's something here. There's something that I can further pursue. And there's something that in order for me to retain wellness and live a life well lived, I need to further look into what about this vacation helped me get to that point.
04:38 Danielle Desir Corbett So I'd love to hear what about that vacation was restorative for you health-wise and wellness-wise? And did you go back to corporate or did you decide to go off on your own and create your own platform?
04:53 Olivia Christine Perez So I ended up staying in corporate for about six months after that, and that really set things off for me. And reflecting on that trip and the trips thereafter, I realized that nature was a big one. I'm from the South Bronx. Like we don't have nature going to parks, doing things that might seem simple for others was not simple for me and was always quite an effort to achieve. And if it weren't for the opportunities that I had sprinkled throughout my life to access nature, I can't imagine what the average person from the city would do in order to access that. So reflecting on those vacations, nature was one of them. Those two vacations that I took were in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, and they were definitely in the mountains. They were at the ocean, just really basic, nothing expensive, nothing fancy, but constantly surrounding myself in spaces where you can really use all of your senses to experience nature. And the biggest thing on top of that was at the time, especially, there wasn't really connectivity. So I was physically unable to be plugged into my phone, checking emails. So that ability to unplug, that ability to soak in nature with all of your senses, and that ability to kind of create new boundaries, see what stress was doing in your life
06:32 Danielle Desir Corbett and what a reduction of that stress could do in your life, those for me were the highlights. I love that because I'm also from the Bronx, not the South Bronx, but I am from the Bronx, and I did not grow up around outdoors at all. Like the park was a cement park. Yes, exactly. But interestingly enough, also, like my family is from Haiti, and every summer I would go to Haiti, and we have an estate, there's greenery, farms, animals. So it was always a huge contrast for me, and being able to unplug and unwind as a child was so, so, so important. So in many regards, I definitely understand where you're coming from, especially growing from the Bronx. So what was your experience like when you were younger to the point where you're like, I want to go to Nicaragua, I want to go to Costa Rica to experience something that's so different. What was it about those destinations that drew you in in the first place before you even knew the benefits that it could have on your health and wellness?
07:37 Olivia Christine Perez Sure. You know, it's really funny because at the end of the day, it's about affordability for a lot of people, right? And so for me, it definitely was about affordability. I had this thing where in my mind, I had to only choose flights that were under $500. Like that was my internal rule. And so what I really did was I let flight prices lead the way, and I stopped being attached to dream destinations, so to speak, because I knew everywhere was on the list.
08:14 Danielle Desir Corbett So I would eventually get to different places, but I didn't want to get to those places at the expense of my financial wellness. You're speaking my language. Yes, that is like that is a thousand percent like for a long time. That was my financial principle when it came to travel. I definitely feel like I veered away from that. You know, our travel styles evolve, but I definitely 100 percent agree. Now, one of the interesting terms that I feel like I've been hearing quite a bit recently and a lot of it actually comes from your platform, O'Kristine, is this term called soft adventures. So can you break that down? What is it and who would be the best fit for that type of style of travel?
09:02 Olivia Christine Perez Absolutely. It is one of my favorite terms to use. Soft adventure tourism is really a less risk beginner friendly sort of adventure tourism, right? When you think of adventure tourism, everyone's mind goes straight to the rock climbers and the extreme sport. And it feels really intimidating. And when you're from the city or even if you're not from the city and you're just a beginner in general and you feel that the outdoors isn't really in your wheelhouse, soft adventures is a great way to introduce the outdoors to you. So you have different types of soft adventure. For me, as someone with, again, lupus, I suffer from symptoms of joint pain, joint inflammation. And so low impact soft adventures are really important for me. So you can see soft adventures like horseback riding, walking, hiking, a little bit more intensive hiking, but you can choose the level that you want. You have camping, snorkeling, boating. There's so many different types of soft adventures and it's a really great way for destinations as well to become part of the outdoor travel sort of movement because you don't have to be Colorado in order to be a great outdoor destination. You can really uplift the trails and the bits of nature that you have within your own destination in order to get people getting outside more.
10:33 Danielle Desir Corbett And I know that there are now segments that actually drill down soft adventure. And one of them that you talk a lot about is low impact travel. What does that look like? And do you have any favorite destinations that you feel like if you're looking for that type of travel, you should definitely go to these locales?
10:51 Olivia Christine Perez Yes. Again, you know, you have your horseback riding, your snorkeling, your walking, hiking, your camping, biking. That's another one. There are a lot of different sort of locales. I really don't like to minimize a location to specific activities because you can really do so much of this pretty much anywhere. But I would say if you wanted low impact, soft adventures, don't discount the national parks and state parks because a lot of those parks are geared toward families and retirees because those are usually the groups that have the time that they're setting aside in order to go and experience these parks. And while social media definitely glamorizes the influencer in a national park or all of those like really cool and unique shots. And when you're actually there, you just really see a whole lot of families, a whole lot of people that need a lot more accessibility. So I would say if you're looking for low impact, don't discount national parks and state parks because they are likely regulated. Most of them, if not all, are regulated to the point that they have to have certain types of trails, certain widths, certain flatness. And if they don't, they will tell you very well in advance what is and isn't for your experience level. I would also say don't discount just cities in general. So go canoeing in Grand Rapids, go horseback riding in Aspen, go kayaking in the Midwest, in the Great Lakes. There are tons of opportunity there. And internationally, if you wanted to try different outdoor activities, especially ones that are soft adventure friendly, I would say choose countries that are popular for their tourism because they're more likely to have different tours, accessible trails, and lots of clear information in both their native language and English to help you navigate that space.
13:05 Danielle Desir Corbett I love that. So instead of taking an approach where you're like, OK, these are the top destinations or the 10 destinations, it sounds like you're saying look at the activities that are available that you want to partake in. And then from there, see if that's an opportunity or that's a possibility wherever it is that you want to travel.
13:24 Olivia Christine Perez Am I getting that right? Absolutely. So that's how I choose my destinations. For me, it's really about the activity. So if I'm yearning for the desert, then I'm going to head to an area that is known for that. So you have your Death Valley, your Joshua Tree, you know, you have different areas like that. But if I want something a little bit more Alpine, I might head to Maroon Bells outside of Aspen. Or if I want more of the lakes, I might head to Sleeping Bear Dunes in Lake Michigan. So there are different areas that you can really dive into, explore and make the most out of it. But for me, when I'm choosing the best outdoor destination, I think first, what kind of activities is really going to fulfill me?
14:13 Danielle Desir Corbett I love that. How do you stay organized with all of the inspiration? Right. Because we have Pinterest, we have Instagram, Instagram, as I say.
14:22 Olivia Christine Perez How do you stay organized or keep track of all of the opportunities and soft adventures that are happening around the world? That's a really good question. I have a couple of ways. One, there's the really simple way of creating little wishlists for yourself. Right. A lot of these social media apps can have save buttons, bookmarks that you can create. So on my Instagram, for example, I will have a save collection for every destination that it is that is on my wishlist. And as I continue to see things that I come across, I might save that. And now in the saved collections, I believe you can actually, I feel like I just saw this pop up, but you can share your saved collections so that an additional person can contribute to it. So that was definitely something that I wasn't using before that I am using now. Another way that I work on these ideas is I create shared Google Maps with my partner and I. So my husband will have his version of it. We're sharing the same version. So my husband will, if he sees anything, he'll add to it. I will add to it. I also have an Excel sheet that when it gets closer to actually planning the trip, I start breaking down just so I can have a better idea of expenses. But beyond that inspiration and the actual organization of planning the trip, I try my best not to overwhelm myself too much because it's really easy to get caught up in planning, caught up in dreaming and not necessarily doing. So if you go in with the idea, with the attitude and understanding that you can do this, you will get there, then you won't get stuck in the paralysis of what I like to call organizational procrastination. So that's the way I do it. Save a few cool ideas, get a shared folder or shared map with whoever it is that you want to have join you on the adventure and just get planning.
16:40 Danielle Desir Corbett Yes, I love that. I wish I was more of a planner. I feel like I listen to a lot of podcasts and I use that for inspiration. So there's just a lot of ways to be inspired. But I think what's important is to capture it. Right. So I was recently at this conference and I was in Vegas and I asked them like, Hey, what is something to do, you know, that's not on the strip. And the person said, I went to the Valley of Fire 10 years ago and it was amazing. So I made sure to just jot that down when I got back to my hotel room. I looked it up and it was truly amazing. So just finding a way, like whether it's recommendations or you see it on social or something like just being able to capture that and revisit it at some later point, I think is very, very helpful. So I want to pivot a little bit because the first half we talked about soft adventure and I want to focus a bit more on the wellness aspect. So I know that there's some kind of blanket statements or kind of misconceptions or just general thoughts people have when you say things like wellness escape or a wellness getaway. You know, it could be like having a towel on your head and like being in the spa, right, oil down and all of that. But like for you, how do you define a wellness escape and what do you look for in those types of travel experiences?
18:06 Olivia Christine Perez I love this question because I agree there are so many misconceptions about what a wellness escape is. And the truth of the matter is a wellness is whatever you need it to be. Right. So for me, a wellness escape allows you to unplug, unwind and to actually restore. Wellness should be restorative, a wellness vacation rather, should be restorative. So the goal is to really reduce stress and tension. That is the priority for me, as I mentioned before, that is a huge trigger for a lot of autoimmune diseases. So stress and tension, that reduction helps us not only restore, but practice prevention. There are plenty of studies that show how increased cortisol, that's the stress hormone, increased cortisol and cause symptoms of increased stress. And it affects our digestive system. So when we're not feeling great, a lot of the times it's linked to stress. So a wellness escape really should aid in reducing that, letting you let go. For some people who may not be as adventurous as others, that means it's a spa hotel and the towel on the head and the bathrobe all day and being by the pool. Or in the sauna massages, that works great for them. But for someone who might want a little bit more of that, something a little bit more holistic, they might see, yes, a sauna massages are great, but I need to also have access to trails and gardens and just being in nature, hearing the birds chirp, just feeling the wind on my face. So that's a great way to help you get out of the sauna. And lastly, another wellness escape could really just be forgoing the hotel altogether and really making it an outdoor wellness experience. So that could be camping, that could be glamping, that could be taking a multi-day trek. And that, again, is helping you become more comfortable. Now I'm going to ask you a similar question to the outdoor getaways. Do you have any favorites or any places that you were like, wow, I know you've been to quite a few springs, but what are some of the places that you've been to where you've been to? And I think that's a really good question.
20:25 Danielle Desir Corbett So I'm going to ask you a similar question to the outdoor getaways. Do you have any favorites or any places that you were like, wow, I know you've been to quite a few springs, like natural springs as well. So we'd just love to hear just destinations that you felt like were really interesting and maybe some that folks aren't really on their radar.
20:49 Olivia Christine Perez It's like not as well known as well. Sure. There are. Wow. There's so many. I know you are a big fan of Iceland. And so Iceland is one of my favorites when it comes to hot springs and just really immersing yourself in bath culture. Morocco is another favorite of mine because I am obsessed with Hamam culture and just like it's the full on bath ritual experience. Costa Rica is dear to my heart. It was one of the first places that I went. It is rich in yoga retreats, and you can also find that in Nicaragua, in Bali. So those are a lot of places that are really common yoga retreats, surf retreats around every corner. And if you're thinking about more locally, I find that Colorado is a really fantastic place for visiting different types of hot springs. There are also I think California is a great state as well for the abundance and Arizona for the abundance of spa hotels that are there. But frankly, every single state has at least three great spa hotels within, whether that means it's a great hotel that is paired with nearby baths or nearby acclaimed spas for that area.
22:17 Danielle Desir Corbett I love that. I recently went on a few spa experiences. I was never in the income bracket to be able to do that, and I definitely want to talk about like affordability when it comes to these types of travels. And recently I had my first experience and it felt life changing. Like I was so calm, so relaxed, and it was the first day of that getaway. So it kind of set the stage for like the rest of the experience. And I loved it so much that in my hometown for the holidays, I gifted my mom and my mother-in-law a spa, like a one hour spa treatment because I wanted to share that experience with them as well. So yeah, I'm opening up to a lot of different ways that wellness can appear. And while you were talking something for me, like I think of wellness, a beautiful viewpoint. Like whenever I go to a destination, I'm always in search of like the beautifulest viewpoint, whether it's in a skyscraper or we have to walk to the top of the castle, or it's like snorkeling and you're like seeing the views. I'm just so grateful for the gift of sight because I feel like I could always feel relaxed when I could see a beautiful view. So just some couple thoughts that I had there just for my own personal recent experiences. But would love to talk a bit more about affordability because I also feel like there's this misconception, even I had it, that it's like it has to be break the bank once every five years type of thing. So do you have any tips for being financially savvy when it comes to these either wellness getaways or just being more outdoorsy in general?
24:01 Olivia Christine Perez I think that's such a good point. Often the popular wellness getaways come under the umbrella of being extensive wellness retreats, right? So often if you see them online or if you see an ad served to you, it's like along the range of three to seven thousand dollars. And that feels really inaccessible, especially most of the time, the people who really need the wellness are people who are being overworked and underpaid. Or we can just go down the list of how it becomes more and more wellness being a perk for the rich and not feeling as accessible for those who may not have the funds. But the truth is that there are different ways that you can achieve a wellness getaway. And for me, I think creating a DIY version of it, that means sort of putting it together yourself, really helps to cut the cost. Most of the time, these more expensive wellness getaways and expensive being quote unquote, because everyone's budget is different. But most of the times, a lot of these higher cost wellness getaways are being led, are often offering some sort of either private or private within that specific group sessions. And if you embrace a little bit more of a DIY aspect, you can really get a wellness getaway for yourself for the weekend and sometimes even longer for under a thousand dollars and really be able to have a multi day getaway, whether in your own backyard, whether it's a road trip to somewhere else. And often that comes from booking a hotel that already has those amenities, taking advantage of midweek and shoulder season or low season pricing and choosing to maybe have it be a one or two night wellness day instead of a five night wellness day. I'm a huge fan of breaking up these wellness experiences throughout the year, as opposed to stressing yourself out for an entire year and hoping it all goes away on a two week vacation.
26:20 Danielle Desir Corbett So those are like some of the immediate ways that you can do that, getting a hotel and making sure that they have the amenities there and then taking advantage of special pricing. I love all of those. And for the camping side, which I've talked about this and I'm like, I want to do this this year and it's going to happen and working on it. I know that camping is traditionally like a lower cost alternative to like lodging, accommodation, that sort of thing, traditional. So what are your thoughts on camping affordability and even those misconceptions of like having to purchase all of these camping gears that are not cheap all the time, you know? So I'd love to hear your thoughts on affordability in that regards as well.
27:03 Olivia Christine Perez Yes, I love sharing this information because I think that the outdoors sort of goes over a lot of people's heads in terms of what's affordable and what's not. And the one thing I like to really kick off with this statement is you don't need all of the cool gear that you see. You don't. And one of the things that everyone is always surprised to hear is that I have never purchased a hiking boot. And I've hiked all over the world. I have done the biggest tracks and it's been more than sufficient in a proper hiking sneaker that I can also wear in the city. And so like that's one example of you don't need to fully splurge on things just because you see it on social media. Talking about the more affordability of the outdoors and camping, especially there are often free entry days in the national parks. There are state parks. If you are a resident of a state park, you can often access those state parks for free or much reduced pricing. And for camping itself, people are often very surprised to hear that camping, especially camping in national parks, are quite inexpensive. I've camped in the Grand Canyon where I was walking distance from the canyon itself. And I've been able to get a camping site for $18 a night. And so that's often pretty surprising for a lot of people. In terms of gear, I highly recommend looking into used gear. The tent that I've had for years, I bought from an REI garage sale, which is like this annual, it might be semi-annual, but it's either annual or semi-annual. And you get on this line and they have this little garage space and it's a whole bunch of used gear. And I think I got my four-person tent for maybe less than $100 and it was valued at like $500. And I've had it for seven years now. So there's so many different ways that you can take advantage of that. One of my last favorite ways that I would say is using the Honey app. It's like an extension for I use it on my Google Chrome, but they have an app version now. And the Honey app has a drop list feature where if you have your eye on something for a trip that you want, you can have that app track what the pricing is across that store and other stores. And it can notify you when the pricing reduces. So I often have things that might be a little bit more expensive than I'm comfortable spending. I just track the prices for them so that I'm not wasting valuable time price researching and I can be notified.
30:03 Danielle Desir Corbett Ooh, that's a new one for me. So I'm going to make sure. I love those extensions because it's like you're living your life. And then all of a sudden you get a notification. Here's a savings or here's a deal or whatever cashback. So the Honey app and I will make sure in the show notes to have the link there. Now, I know, Olivia, in your Get Outdoors course, you go way more in detail, step by step, provide tons of resources, checklists, packing lists and quizzes.
30:32 Olivia Christine Perez So I would love to hear more about the course. Who is it for and what will students be able to take away from enrolling in the course? Yeah, so the Get Outdoors course is really about helping beginners learn how to plan their trips with confidence. I am passionate about just making sure that people can have memorable experiences that are safe and that actually let them unplug. There's too often, especially again with social media, too often we try to emulate what we see and we don't really understand the planning that goes behind it. And on the flip side, there are too many times where we see something really beautiful and we think because it's beautiful, it must not be attainable or accessible to us. So it's a self-guided course. It's an online course and it includes hiking and safety training, camping tips, and it also includes demos. So I full on show people how I find hikes, no matter where you are, whether you're in a national park or in your own backyard, how to find great hikes that are near you and that fit the features that you're looking for, whether that's a waterfall or you want a beautiful mountain peak. So there are some demos there. There are also demos on how to actually book campsites. And I've gotten a lot of feedback from my audience over time where I once thought that giving someone a demo on just how to book a campsite felt almost too 101. And I was afraid that it would be too simplified. And the feedback I received was that so many people were afraid to even start getting outdoors because they were embarrassed to ask, well, how do you book a campsite? And I realized, wow, you know, there's a lot of gatekeeping here and there is a lot of discomfort in someone being able to simply say, I don't know what to bring when my friends asked me to come camping with them. I don't know how to book this campsite, even though everyone says it's easy. No one's actually telling me what makes it easy and where to go. So this is really just a resource that helps simplify camping, makes outdoors getting easy.
32:58 Danielle Desir Corbett And as we were discussing, we kind of scratched the surface there, how to make it affordable and ways that you can make it happen for yourself. Even for me, when I'm talking, because I still haven't gone camping yet, the confidence, like I know what I'm talking, I just sound so shaky. So I can't wait to continue finishing the course and to come back on the podcast and let everyone know that I had my first experience and I won't be as shaky anymore. Right. Like, I remember when I was just going on my first road trip with baby Kay, I was so nervous. But now I feel like a pro. I'm like, you know, tutoring my mother-in-law. So totally, totally. I'm super excited for this course. I think it's very needed and I appreciate you coming on to just open our minds to what's possible and the benefits and beauty of not only outdoors, the outdoors, but also thinking about wellness and our travel experiences. So, Olivia, let us know where we can connect with you. And if you have anything exciting coming up, I would love to hear that as well.
34:01 Olivia Christine Perez Yes. Well, thank you for having me first and foremost. You can connect with me at ocristine.com. That's the letter O C-H-R-A-S-T-I-N-E. And if you wanted to check out the course, you can go to get outdoors101.com as well. Some really cool things that are upcoming, some the latest and the greatest. I am speaking at the Women in Travel Conference in Puerto Rico and kind of sharing the behind the scenes on how I run this business and how I keep it all organized. And this month, the Northeast version of my Wellness Getaway Guide is coming out. So anyone who is in the Northeast states of the U.S., there will be a lot of resources on spa and wellness stays near you and what those costs are and what's special about those places in addition to which ones have the view. So I'm really excited to share all of these gems with you all.
35:03 Danielle Desir Corbett And your site alone is so rich. Like I'm going to include links in the show notes to some of the blog posts where you go into detail of like the different types of low impact adventures. And so we cannot wait to have this book in our hands and the guide in our hands and have you back on the show sometime in the future. So thank you, Olivia. That's all financially savvy travelers. Thanks again for another episode and we will see you soon. Bye for now.
Get Outdoors 101 (normally $197) – Learn how to plan outdoor trips with confidence so you can have memorable experiences that let you truly unplug. This self-guided online course includes hiking and safety training, trip planning demos and downloadable packing lists, and resources that help you simplify camping and afford the outdoors. SPECIAL DISCOUNT: $50 OFF for listeners with promo code ‘ThoughtCard50.’
Wellness Through Soft Adventure Travel
Table of Contents
- Wellness Through Soft Adventure Travel
- When did you realize you needed to prioritize health and wellness in your travels?
- What about that vacation was restorative for you health-wise and wellness-wise?
- One of the concepts you talk a lot about is “soft adventure.”
- What is soft adventure tourism, and who would be the best fit for this style of travel?
- What types of destinations are ideal for soft adventures?
- How do you define a wellness escape, and what do you look for in wellness getaways?
- Any tips for being financially savvy when it comes to wellness getaways or spending more time outdoors?
- Tell us about your ‘Get Outdoors 101’ course.
- Memorable Quotes From Olivia Christine Perez
- Connect With Olivia Christine Perez:
- Other Episodes You’ll Enjoy
When did you realize you needed to prioritize health and wellness in your travels?
Olivia Christine Perez: I have an autoimmune disease. I live with Lupus Nephritis and had really bad flares at the time. This was around 2012, 2013, and it got to a point where I knew I needed a break.
I was working in the corporate world, and I just needed a vacation, but one that was going to truly allow me to unplug.
So I did take that break. I did unplug. It ended up being a prolonged vacation that I definitely needed. And when I got back to the doctor, who for Lupus patients is a Rheumatologist, one of the first things she said was, your labs are looking great. Whatever it is you’re doing, keep doing it.
Now, that might sound really mundane, but for a patient who has an autoimmune disease, they know that getting better from a flare is a long-term thing. It is slow and steady, wins the race. There is no rapid solution for that.
But for me, stress was a huge trigger for autoimmune Lupus flares. That really got the wheels turning in my mind, there’s something here. There’s something I can pursue further.
To retain wellness and live a life well-lived, I needed to look into what about that vacation helped me get to that point.
What about that vacation was restorative for you health-wise and wellness-wise?
Olivia Christine Perez: Reflecting on that trip and the trips thereafter, I realized that nature was big. I’m from the South Bronx. We don’t have nature; going to parks and doing things that might seem simple for others was not simple for me and was always quite an effort to achieve.
Those two vacations I took were in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, and they were in the mountains. They were at the ocean, just really basic, nothing expensive, nothing fancy, but constantly surrounding myself in spaces where I could really use all of my senses to experience nature.
Also, there wasn’t really connectivity. I was physically unable to be plugged into my phone, checking emails. That ability to unplug, to soak in nature, I could see what stress was doing in my life.
One of the concepts you talk a lot about is “soft adventure.”
What is soft adventure tourism, and who would be the best fit for this style of travel?
Olivia Christine Perez: Soft adventure tourism is a beginner-friendly sort of adventure tourism.
When you think of adventure tourism, everyone’s mind goes straight to rock climbers and extreme sports. And it feels really intimidating.
Soft adventure is a great introduction to the outdoors. There are different types of soft adventures – some soft adventure activities include camping, snorkeling, boating, biking, horseback riding, walking, and hiking.
As someone with Lupus, I suffer from joint pain and inflammation. Low-impact soft adventures are really important to me.
What types of destinations are ideal for soft adventures?
Olivia Christine Perez: You can do soft adventures pretty much anywhere.
But if you’re looking for low-impact outdoor adventures and soft adventure, don’t discount the national parks and state parks because a lot of those parks are geared toward families and retirees. Most of them, if not all, are regulated to the point they have to have certain types of trails, certain widths, and certain flatness.
I also don’t discount cities in general. Go canoeing in Grand Rapids, horseback riding in Aspen, and kayaking in the Midwest and the Great Lakes.
And internationally, if you want to try different outdoor activities, choose countries that are popular for their tourism because they’re more likely to have different tours, accessible trails, and lots of clear information in both their native language and English to help you navigate.
How do you define a wellness escape, and what do you look for in wellness getaways?
Olivia Christine Perez: Wellness is whatever you need it to be.
So for me, a wellness escape allows you to unplug, unwind, and to actually restore. Wellness should be restorative, a wellness vacation, rather, should be restorative. So the goal is to really reduce stress and tension. That is the priority for me.
For some people that means a spa hotel with a towel on their head and the bathrobe all day being by the pool. For someone else they might want something more holistic, like a sauna massage.
I need to have access to trails and gardens and just being in nature, hearing the birds chirp, just feeling the wind on my face.
Another wellness escape could forgo the hotel altogether, so that could be camping, that could be glamping, that could be taking a multi-day trek.
Read Next: How To Plan Your First Dry Camping Trip
For immersing yourself in bath culture, Iceland is one of my favorites. Morocco is another favorite of mine because I am obsessed with Hamam culture and the full-on bath ritual experience.
Costa Rica is dear to my heart, and it’s rich in yoga retreats, which you can also find in Nicaragua and Bali. Colorado is a fantastic place for visiting different hot springs; also, California and Arizona have many spa hotels.
But frankly, every state has at least three great spa hotels, whether that means it’s a great hotel paired with nearby baths or nearby acclaimed spas for that area.
Any tips for being financially savvy when it comes to wellness getaways or spending more time outdoors?
Olivia Christine Perez: You can achieve a wellness getaway in different ways.
Consider booking a hotel that already has the amenities you’re looking for.
Take advantage of midweek, shoulder season, or low-season pricing and choose a one or two-night wellness stay instead of a five-night wellness vacation.
I’m a huge fan of breaking up these wellness experiences throughout the year instead of stressing yourself out for an entire year and hoping for a one- or two-week vacation.
Talking about the affordability of the outdoors and camping, there are often free entry days in the national parks. If you are a resident of a state park, you can often access those state parks for free or for much-reduced pricing. And for camping itself, people are often surprised to hear that camping, especially camping in national parks, is quite inexpensive.
Read Next: Where To Go Camping For Free in the U.S.
I’ve camped in the Grand Canyon, where I was walking distance from the canyon itself. And I’ve been able to get a camping site for $18 a night. In terms of gear, I highly recommend looking into used gear. The tent that I’ve had for years, I bought from an REI garage sale.
One of my favorite ways to save money is using the Honey app: a Google Chrome extension, and they have an app version now. The Honey app has a drop list feature where if you have your eye on something for a trip you want, you can have that app track what the pricing is across that store and other stores. It can notify you when the pricing reduces. So I often have things that might be a little bit more expensive than I’m comfortable spending. I just track the prices for them so I’m not wasting valuable time price researching.
Tell us about your ‘Get Outdoors 101’ course.
Olivia Christine Perez: Get Outdoors 101 helps beginners learn how to plan their trips with confidence. I am passionate about making sure people can have memorable experiences that are safe, and that actually let’s them unplug.
In this self-guided course, we cover hiking, safety training, and camping tips, including demos. I share how to find hikes, no matter where you are, whether you’re in a national park or in your own backyard, how to find great hikes that are near you and that fit the features you’re looking for, whether that’s a waterfall or you want a beautiful mountain peak.
There are also demos on how to actually book campsites. I’ve gotten a lot of feedback that so many people were afraid to even start getting outdoors because they were embarrassed to ask, well, how do you book a campsite? And I realized, wow, you know, there’s a lot of gatekeeping here, and there is a lot of discomfort in someone being able to simply say, I don’t know what to bring when my friends asked me to come camping with them. I don’t know how to book this campsite, even though everyone says it’s easy. No one’s actually telling me what makes it easy and where to go. So this is really just a resource that helps simplify camping and makes getting outdoors easy.
Enroll in Get Outdoors 101 here. Get $50 off this course with our special promo code ‘ThoughtCard50.’
Memorable Quotes From Olivia Christine Perez
- “There’s so many different types of soft adventures, and it’s a really great way for destinations to become part of the outdoor travel movement because you don’t have to be Colorado in order to be a great outdoor destination.”
- “When I’m choosing the best outdoor destination, I think first, what kind of activities is really going to fulfill me?”
- “Wellness should be restorative, a wellness vacation rather, should be restorative.”
- “Most of the time, the people who really need the wellness are people who are being overworked and underpaid.”
Listen to this podcast episode on Spotify.
Connect With Olivia Christine Perez:
Olivia Christine Perez is an outdoor and travel wellness expert and the creator of O. Christine: a platform inspiring over 65,000 women and diverse communities to travel more and get outdoors for their well-being. Living with an autoimmune disease, Olivia creates travel guides and online training to help people find wellness through the outdoors, soft adventure, and mindful travel experiences.
Other Episodes You’ll Enjoy
- The Hottest 2023 Travel Trends – Episode 117
- Enjoy the Outdoors All Year Round With Lauren Gay – Episode 125
- How To Start a Travel Fund – Episode 2
Danielle Desir Corbett paid off $63,000 of student loan debt in 4 years, bought a house at 27, and has traveled to 27 countries, including her favorites, Iceland, China, and Bermuda. Go here to learn Danielle’s incredible story, from struggling financially and in debt to finding creative ways to earn more and live on her terms. Listen to The Thought Card Podcast, where Danielle shares how you can creatively travel more and build wealth regardless of your current financial situation. Reach out to Danielle by contacting: thethoughtcard (at) gmail (dot) com.