By LISA KLEIN
Traveling to new places can do many things. It can be a learning experience about another culture, an adrenaline-rush adventure, a week of shopping and eating the best of the best or a peaceful respite.
For Emmy-award winning broadcast journalist Karen Schaler, all of these things and more make travel a form of therapy, and her television and YouTube series, Travel Therapy TV, and book, Travel Therapy: Where Do You Need to Go?, aim to help consumers use their vacations to become happier and healthier, no matter where they may need a boost at the time.
From a war correspondent in Bosnia and Afghanistan to a lifestyle host for ABC’s Travel Now, Ms. Schaler racked up plenty of miles before her idea snowballed into not only her own travel show and book, but a series of holiday novels, screenplays and a Christmas Camp trip package to match.
Here, Ms. Schaler discusses her path to Travel Therapy.
How did you first come up with the idea of travel as therapy? What was the spark that started it all?
For as long as I can remember I’ve used travel as my therapy – as a way to relax, reboot and recharge. But it wasn’t until I returned from Afghanistan in 2007, after working as a TV correspondent embedded with a combat Apache helicopter unit, that I put the two words together when I said to a friend, “I need a break. I need some travel therapy.”
Can you tell me about the Travel Therapy book and video series that stemmed from that idea?
As soon as I put travel and therapy together, the journalism wheels in my head started spinning. I knew from personal experience how powerful the concept of traveling for therapy could be. My first thought was [that] I wanted to create Travel Therapy content across multiple platforms.
This was all happening in 2007, before you had Instagram and influencers traveling around the world, embracing travel experiences and posting pretty pictures. No one was talking about travel as therapy, but I knew if I could show people how traveling to the right places could help uplift, inspire and empower their lives that this could be a new positive way that I could still be a reporter and give back.
My goal was to create a travel show, a book, a website and anything else I could do to help get the Travel Therapy message out. So, I quit my TV news career, cashed in my savings and moved to New York City to rebrand myself as a travel expert and basically start over.
So far, I’ve traveled to more than 68 countries and have done more than 200 Travel Therapy TV segments.
Now more than ever I believe we all need to pick our trips wisely – trips that will allow us to heal and reenergize and live our best lives going forward.
What is it about travel that acts as a form of therapy? Why does it work?
For me, Travel Therapy is all about picking the trips you need to take based on what you’re going through in life. My Travel Therapy book and my website help you choose the right trips and vacations to take based on what you need.
Are you stressed out at work? Going through a breakup? Need some inspiration? Want to reboot your life? I believe you can change your attitude by changing your environment and letting Travel Therapy be your passport to a healthier, happier life.
What are some tips for matching a destination to what you may need at the time?
One key point I always make is that there is no one Travel Therapy that fits all. Everyone is unique and needs different experiences for their own personal therapy.
For example, if you’re stressed out, for some people the ideal Travel Therapy escape would be to go to a top spa or a quiet beach where you can relax and unwind.
But for some people looking to de-stress, those peaceful escapes would drive them nuts. For their personality type to relax they need to get out of their head and challenge themselves with a new adventure like hiking, mountain climbing, race car driving, shark diving – you get the idea.
In my Travel Therapy book, I even have a fun quiz you can take to help you decide what trip you need to take. The key is to not just book the first trip you find on sale, but to really think about what you want from that trip so don’t come home disappointed and even more stressed out.
You have written several books and screenplays centered around the holiday season, and now have a real-life Christmas Camp. How did that come about?
The first movie I wrote, the Netflix original hit, A Christmas Prince, was inspired by some Travel Therapy TV segments I did in Wales, where I was following in the footsteps of royalty. After that, going forward every movie and novel I’ve written has also been inspired by Travel Therapy trips I’ve taken.
When I wrote my original Hallmark movie, Christmas Camp, about a woman who is sent to a charming B&B for a “holiday attitude adjustment,” I fell in love with the idea. I wanted to create a real place like my fictional Christmas Camp where people could go to immerse themselves in holiday activities representing the true meaning and magic of Christmas.
So, after I wrote the Hallmark movie, I also wrote the books, Christmas Camp and Christmas Camp Wedding, for HarperCollins so the books could come out the same time as the movie. I then trademarked and created a real-life Christmas Camp experience for resorts, destinations and hotels around the world.
Christmas Camp is now another Travel Therapy where you can pick the Christmas Camp you need. Are you looking for a snowy winter wonderland setting? Or do you want to escape the cold and have your Christmas Camp in a tropical setting?
I started out partnering with award-winning The Phoenician, a Luxury Collection Resort, in Scottsdale, Arizona, creating one-of-kind Christmas Camps experiences and resort packages over two weeks. We sold out hundreds of room nights in just a few hours.
What are some of your personal favorite travel experiences?
Asking me to pick my favorite Travel Therapy experiences is like asking me to choose a favorite child. I do so much research before I go on a trip to make sure it’s the right Travel Therapy fit to recommend to my followers that I’ve been blessed to have so many life-changing travel experiences.
I just spent several weeks on magical Harbour Island in The Bahamas working on my next novel and screenplay because this tiny hidden gem of an island always inspires me so much. From the warm and friendly people to the peaceful pink sand beaches, Harbour Island is a Travel Therapy favorite that never disappoints.
Traveling to Africa will always be at the top of my list of Travel Therapy trips if you’re looking for a trip where you can pay it forward and give back.
I spent a month in Malawi volunteering at a small orphanage that didn’t have any power or water and it changed my life in so many ways.
I also spent an amazing month in South Africa discovering unique experiences and places to recommend for Travel Therapy trips that are truly off the beaten path.
Another favorite when I want to unplug and get away from it all is to explore charming islands that most tourists don’t know about in places like Greece, Thailand, Turkey and the Caribbean.
For the best island hopping where the cruise ships don’t go, I love chartering a sailboat or catamaran where you can get some amazing deals in the off-season. Trust me, it’s a lot more affordable than you might think. One of my favorite destinations has been the British Virgin Islands.
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