Last October, I returned to Jordan for a second trip around the country in an effort to get to know it even better. During my first adventure there I fell in love immediately, as many visitors do, thanks not just to amazing sights like Petra, but a combination of the whole experience – from the warm hospitality to some of the best food in the world. There was a special moment for me on my first trip though, one that I wanted to recreate during my second experience in Jordan and a place that eventually taught me a lot about how I travel.
First, How I Travel
I’ve never been a “let’s spend a week on a beach” kind of traveler. No, I need to be active, whether it’s an exploratory walk around town or something more adventurous. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy lounging around on beaches, I do, but I know myself well enough to understand that it can’t be the entirety of my travel experience. Jordan is NOT a lie on the beach kind of place, although you can certainly find many moments of rest and relaxation, namely around the Dead and Red Seas. But in general, traveling around this sandy country is about visiting the many historical treasures dotting its landscape, and getting closer to nature either at the Dana Biosphere of the UNESCO recognized Wadi Rum Desert. I found a third alternative though, and it’s one that has become a favorite travel memory for me.
Not far from the salty banks of the Dead Sea, up in the mountains is a unique place – Ma’In. Since the Roman era and before, pilgrims have trekked to these rocky cliffs for the curative powers of the thermal hot springs bubbling up from the ground. Among the scraggly bushes and mountains are a series of pools, many of which form natural thermal waterfalls. That’s right, thermal waterfalls, it seems to good to be true; throw in a unicorn and it’d be the ultimate travel experience. But there they are, still attracting locals and tourists alike to bathe in the waters.
There are public pools available but a resort hotel set up shop here years ago and it’s one of the most relaxing and serene luxury properties I have ever visited. The Evason Ma’In Hot Springs Resort and Six Senses Spa is a compact, holistic property built into the mountains and cliffs with one goal in mind – introducing guests to the thermal waters and giving them an opportunity to relax. Turns out, after a week of touring around Jordan that’s exactly what I need on both trips.
My Private Escape
On my first visit it was a quiet time of year, and I luckily had the private thermal waterfall located in the Six Senses Spa all to myself. I didn’t realize how exhausted I was, the week of early wake up times and miles of walking in the hot sun had taken their toll and as I sat there listening to the rush of the waterfall I fell asleep. Waking up, I groggily went for a dip in those famous thermal waters and frankly the rest of the night is a hazy blur. I was so relaxed and content I felt inebriated, which was far from the case. Instead I floated around the hotel, resting in large, oversized chairs and snacking on traditional Jordanian foods – amongst my favorite in the world. It was a private escape, one of the very rare times I’ve actually been able to turn off my brain and relax. It sounds silly, but it’s true, I usually have a really hard time decompressing and doing nothing, but after a day in the mountains with no one else around me and the only sounds those of hawks overhead and the rush of the water, well, I was in heaven.
I was only there for a day, and the first time was several years ago and yet it still means that much to me. It meant so much that I wanted to try to recapture that spirit, that feeling, something that’s hard to do in the travel experience.
Recapturing the Magic
Travel is so special because it is intensely personal and unique. No two people have the same travel experience, even if they’re traveling side by side. So when things go well, it’s hard to try to duplicate those moments. But we all try of course and sometimes, if we’re lucky, it works out. It was with all of this mind that I excitedly hopped out of the van as it pulled in front of the Evason Ma’In for my second immersion into this getaway. Looking around, I was relieved – nothing had changed. The décor was still Thai elegant, the rooms quiet and spacious and the faint smell of sandalwood from countless spa treatments wafted through the entire resort. In other words, I had come home again.
As with my first visit to Ma’In, my second experience was designed to be brief, scheduled at a time in my trip when I knew I would need some time to relax and mentally decompress after an intensely busy week of trekking and exploring. But I was nervous, such is the charm of my personality I guess, I was nervous that I wouldn’t find the same emotional connection with Ma’In that I had on my first. Having incredible travel moments, after all, is much more about the person’s state of mind and not what they’re actually doing. Well, I guess I was sufficiently in need of relaxation, because I found my private waterfall and once again settled into a chair and reached my inner peace. After a few hours I felt refreshed, invigorated and again a little hazy, happy from the euphoria of allowing my body to recharge.
These private escapes are important to us when we travel, and they can happen anywhere. It’s also something important for me to keep in mind. Usually when I travel I go all out, trying to do as much as I can and making use of every second. Ultimately that’s not helpful and actually leads to a form a travel burn out, not just in me but in anyone. Adding some quiet moments, be it in a park or a spa or anywhere where you can relax aren’t just nice elements of a trip, they’re essential if you want to elevate the experience from an Amazing Race style adventure to one that balances both the mind and the body.
Where are some of your special, private escapes?