The Savvy Globe Trotter, Tatyana Leonov, spends hours getting massaged in the name of research.
Nirvana, tranquillity, serenity, call it what you like, but there's a place we all go to when we are deeply relaxed. I call it a FAM, otherwise known as Frickin Amazing Moment (said like OM, but different). It's when everything else fades away, and what you're doing (or not doing in this case) is frickin amazing… clearly.
Massages can be FAM, but when I think back to truly FAM massages, they all happened while I was on holidays. Recently in Istanbul, my husband and I both got a massage at the same time in a hamam. A traditional Turkish hamam is a bathhouse where locals spend hours washing and relaxing, but we were in a tourist-friendly hamam, meaning not traditional at all, inside a hotel… After sitting in a hot room, jumping in a cold bath, and relaxing with some Turkish tea on a lounge, we both received the most divinely relaxing massage. I swear the streets of Istanbul looked even more beautiful than before when we walked back out into the real world.
While holidaying in Morocco, I persuaded my sister in to coming with me to a traditional hamam. A conventional hamam is no tourist hot spot. In Morocco locals come to a hamam to bathe because they don't have the facilities at home. We walked in and paid – but had no idea what we paid for (which was often the case when travelling with my little sister). We quickly learnt that we paid for an exceedingly large woman (wearing only a G-string by the way, not very FAM at all), to wash and massage us. And gosh she did! I was scrubbed like I've never been scrubbed before and learnt all about dead skin (apparently both of us had a lot of it). When she got to the massage bit she motioned for me to lie flat on the cold stone ground and then sat on me. Yep, she sat on me, elbowed me, placed her knuckles between my bones, her rough hands half-massaged me, half-exfoliated me. But I walked away revitalised. FAM.
So why are massages better when you're on holidays? Is it because everyday life is not so every day at all? Because you’re not rushing off somewhere? Your mobile isn't ringing?
Massages in Asia are generally much cheaper, and saving money puts a smile on almost anyone's face. I remember in Thailand I came back daily for my one-hour fix. I was bent in every kind of direction possible and still kept smiling. FAM for a whole two weeks!
In Malaysia I decided to get a cupping therapy massage. Ouch! I had to stop the masseuse half way because the pain was unbearable. But I still smiled as I thanked and paid the girl. (If I was home I can’t imagine having the same reaction). At the beach the next day people were not smiling at me in my bikini. Purple spots – apparently not in…
A massage at a day spa in Ghent, Belgium cured me of jet lag. After a long flight, train ride, and a night out celebrating my sister-in-law's hen's night, I was ready to sleep for a week, but an invigorating massage completely changed my mindset and I was able to return to Brussels and do what you do there – eat chocolate and cheese.
Even one of those massage chairs was better in Japan. I'm not sure if it was because I was on holidays, or because the chair spoke to me and asked me if the pressure was OK (I think, the chair only spoke Japanese).
About the Savvy Globe Trotter
Tatyana Leonov is a writer, editor, avid traveller and determined dreamer. She's mastered (beginners') yoga in Goa, partied with Russia's elite in a Moscow club, sampled local delicacies all around the world (including a camel burger in Morocco and guinea pig in Peru), trekked to Nepal’s Annapurna Base Camp in Havaianas and had a short-lived career as a Bollywood star.