Incredible Wellness Destinations: McKenzie Wisdom of Wise & Well On Why & How Traveling Can Help Us Heal

Incredible Wellness Destinations: McKenzie Wisdom of Wise & Well On Why & How Traveling Can Help Us Heal

Movement Prioritization: Whether it’s practicing yoga, participating in a strength class, walking in the woods, paddleboarding on the lake, cross-country skiing, etc., prioritizing movement not only facilitates greater physical health, but also better mental health. Movement is a staple of wellness travel; staying active is as beneficial for mental health as it is for physical health.

The pandemic has shaped the way we travel and live, with a growing trend leaning towards health, wellness, and a holistic lifestyle. More than ever, individuals are seeking not just getaways, but immersive wellness retreats that help rejuvenate the body, mind, and soul. Destinations that provide a serene environment, unique wellness offerings, and an unparalleled experience are in great demand. In this interview series, we are talking to property owners and hospitality companies who are at the helm of these wellness havens. As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing McKenzie Wisdom.

McKenzie Wisdom is the Founder and CEO of Wise & Well, a company that designs and hosts curated, luxury wellness retreat experiences that empower teams and individuals to unlock their fullest potential and live lives guided by wellness, personal growth and intention.

As a lifelong dancer, McKenzie graduated with her Bachelor of Science in Dance where she deeply studied somatics and the anatomy of the body. She fulfilled her 200-hour yoga teacher training in Bali, Indonesia, and is a trained meditation and breathwork instructor. McKenzie has traveled across nearly 40 countries soaking up wellness practices from around the world; she believes in the rejuvenating power of nature and community and is devoted to sharing her passion for wellness and personal growth through her company Wise & Well.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

Igrew up in the Chicagoland suburbs as the oldest of three girls. Starting dance at the age of two, I continued this passion through college, earning my Bachelor of Science in Dance and Communication Arts. My dance career was a significant part of my childhood, shaping who I am today and instilling the values of hard work and dedication.

I was also fortunate to start traveling early in life, and my love for travel remains paramount. Exploring the world and immersing myself in diverse cultures has been my greatest teacher; these experiences have taught me so much about myself and have fostered my independence.

Travel remains a profound passion, particularly in the realm of wellness. This has driven me to establish Wise & Well, a company dedicated to hosting curated luxury wellness retreats for high-performing individuals and teams.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

My lifelong journey as a dancer introduced me to the importance of wellness at an early age. Maintaining a balanced lifestyle — encompassing diet, exercise, and overall well-being — was always essential for my performance. With aspirations of pursuing a professional dance career post-college, my university years were dedicated to studying dance. However, in my third year, I realized that a professional dance career was not my calling. Upon graduating, I spent two years living in Australia and extensively traveling. During a four-month stay in Bali, I completed my 200-hour yoga teacher training; this transformative experience further deepened my love and passion for wellness.

Throughout my extensive travels, I had the privilege of exploring some of the world’s top wellness resorts and retreats. Through reflecting on my likes and dislikes from these various experiences, I discovered a passion for creating intimate, luxury retreat experiences that prioritize high-end service and offer individuals a unique opportunity to fully immerse in nature while focusing on holistic health and well-being.

Upon returning to the U.S. at the onset of the pandemic after my travels, I launched Wise & Well. This venture has allowed me to pursue my lifelong passion for wellness and share it with others. Since its inception, I have been fortunate to create and offer intimate retreat experiences for individuals and teams looking to prioritize their health and self-development.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

I am incredibly fortunate to have parents who consistently encourage and support my passions. They have unwaveringly believed in my potential and invested in my growth by supporting me to pursue experiences that nurture my interests. Even during moments of self-doubt, they’ve consistently seen the best in me, reminding me of my strengths and capacity to create a successful and fulfilling life.

My interest in travel and exploring diverse cultures has always been met with their wholehearted support. Whether it was participating in Semester at Sea, a unique four-month study abroad program aboard a ship, or relocating to Australia post-college, my parents fully supported these experiences as crucial for my personal growth and self-discovery. Their belief in my potential and encouragement to embrace life fully, take risks, and pursue my passions has been an invaluable gift for which I am truly grateful.

It has been said that sometimes our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or takeaway did you learn from that?

One of the greatest mistakes I’ve made on my entrepreneurial journey was adopting a lone-wolf mindset, thinking I could and should handle everything on my own. This approach proved to be extremely isolating and detrimental to myself and my business. Embracing the idea that I could benefit from the expertise of others, I’ve come to believe in the importance of outsourcing and delegating.

Learning to delegate has not only prevented burnout but has also freed up more time for me to focus on aspects that truly matter as a business owner. By surrounding myself with incredibly talented and intelligent individuals, I’ve witnessed the positive impact they’ve had on my own professional development, as well as the success of my business. This shift from trying to do everything alone to collaborating with a skilled team has been an incredibly powerful lesson.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

“Attitude is a choice. Happiness is a choice. Optimism is a choice. Kindness is a choice. Giving is a choice. Respect is a choice. Whatever choice you make makes you. Choose wisely.” (Roy T. Bennett).

In various moments of my life, I’ve allowed external situations and frustrations to dictate my emotions, attitude, and mindset. Recognizing the significance of choice in responding to challenges, I’ve learned that allowing undesirable circumstances to impact my mood surrenders my power and fosters a victim mentality.

By shifting my perspective, I’ve learned that the only aspect I control is how I choose to react and respond. This empowerment enables me to cultivate joy and positive impact even amid challenging circumstances. Embracing the belief that “life is rigged in my favor” and opting for happiness regardless of life’s challenges enhances my resilience. Ultimately, adopting this mindset has increased my overall happiness and fulfillment, irrespective of external circumstances.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

My company Wise & Well designs and hosts curated, luxury retreat experiences that empower individuals and teams to unlock their fullest potential and live lives guided by wellness, personal growth and intention. Most recently, we’ve been hosting high-performing corporate executive teams and brands for custom business, leadership, and wellness retreats. Witnessing my vision materialize through these partnerships with mission-driven organizations that prioritize optimal performance, health, and well-being has been incredibly fulfilling.

Our approach involves tailoring retreats to the specific needs of our clients, with a strong emphasis on holistic wellness. This unique blend provides teams the space to create, innovate, and collaborate while also offering moments for restoration and rejuvenation. The profound impact of these retreats is evident in the deeper connections formed among individuals and teams. Witnessing teams enhance their group dynamics and revitalize their commitment to their missions, while also focusing on their health and personal development has been truly gratifying.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview about wellness destinations. Let’s dive deeper into these together. Based on your research or personal experience, why do you think travel can lead to better wellness? Can you share a story?

Travel presents an incredible opportunity for enhancing wellness and personal growth. Escaping to a beautiful destination and disconnecting from daily distractions to concentrate solely on health and wellness is a powerful experience. It provides individuals with the time and space necessary to fully unplug and immerse themselves in the journey. While integrating wellness into daily life through consistent, healthy habits is essential for sustainability, wellness travel often serves as a catalyst, prompting individuals to adopt these positive shifts permanently.

The concept for Wise & Well originated during my stay at an exceptional wellness resort in the Maldives. Instead of indulging in typical vacation habits that might leave me feeling tired and unhealthy, I used the opportunity to prioritize my well-being. Through activities like exercise, meditation, journaling, spa experiences, and immersing myself in the natural surroundings, I dedicated my vacation to wellness. This intentional focus provided the space needed to concentrate on myself and cultivate new creative ideas. In essence, the experience not only left me happier and healthier than before, but it also served as the catalyst for developing my new business.

What are a few things which distinguish your property from thousands of wellness properties around the world?

Wise & Well retreats are hosted at Wisdom Woods, which is an immersive retreat property nestled in the Northwoods of Wisconsin; its remote, secluded location and distinct landscape built to compliment nature and wellness provide guests with an unmatched retreat experience. Guests enjoy exclusive access to 100 acres of pristine Northwoods forests, lakes, and wetlands. From majestic old-growth pines to regenerating aspen thickets, each habitat at Wisdom Woods uniquely awakens your senses.

During Wise & Well retreats, we tap into the healing power of nature in all our wellness activities. Yoga takes place on our outdoor yoga platform surrounded by towering trees, providing a tranquil view of the still lake. Guests can explore numerous wooded trails, experience forest bathing, engage in paddle boarding and kayaking on the lake, and practice meditation at our labyrinth in the woods. Fitness classes are held at our outdoor amphitheater. In winter, guests can enjoy an invigorating experience with a wood-burning sauna followed by a polar plunge in the frozen lake.

Situated in a remote area far from light pollution, Wisdom Woods offers an exceptional night sky, revealing the Milky Way and, in winter, the northern lights. Our serene Northwoods spa encompasses amenities such as our cedar-clad sauna, thermally-insulated cold plunge tank, jacuzzi, relaxation lounges, wood-burning soaking tub and outdoor relaxation terraces.

Additional features, including a wood-burning soaking tub on a platform overlooking the lake and hidden hammocks along the trails, enhance the immersion in nature. Our expansive organic garden and orchards provide seasonal produce for uniquely designed dishes, while our healing garden hosts a variety of natural plants used in our teas. It is also home to our bee apiary, allowing us to harvest our own Wisdom Woods honey.

In addition to our distinctive location, our retreats are intimate, exclusive, and private, accommodating only 8–10 individuals at a time. We take pride in our meticulous attention to detail, thoughtful personalization, and 6-star service, elevating the experience to true luxury.

What type of experience do you want your visitors to have when they visit?

My aspiration for every guest that attends a Wise & Well retreat at Wisdom Woods is that they depart feeling inspired, rejuvenated, intimately connected to nature, and embodying their healthiest, best selves. The objective is to provide a transformative reset, empowering individuals to return to their daily lives with a renewed commitment to intentional and healthier living. I envision each person gaining a deeper appreciation for mindfulness, experiencing the rejuvenating impact of time spent in nature, and understanding the importance of disconnecting from everyday pressures to dedicate undivided attention to themselves and their overall well-being.

What makes your property a beautiful escape for a body and mind recharge?

The Wise & Well experience at Wisdom Woods is built around the restorative power of nature. Wisdom Woods, a uniquely designed and secluded haven, seamlessly integrates with nature, providing a serene escape for body and mind. Guests have the opportunity to fully immerse in nature while engaging in a variety of holistic wellness practices for a relaxing and rejuvenating experience.

With each new season, guests can partake in activities that align with the unique offerings of the Northwoods. Our signature activities, led by top-tier instructors and facilitators, encompass yoga, meditation, breathwork, fitness, forest bathing, personal growth classes, workshops, health-conscious dining from our Michelin-trained resident Chef, as well as massage, energy work, and other distinctive features and services. Guests are meticulously cared for throughout their stay, allowing them to fully focus on their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health.

Consistently, our guests depart with a profound sense of having escaped the world for a few days, making it the ultimate body and mind reset and recharge.

Can you share any transformative stories or testimonials from guests that visited your property?

“The Wise & Well retreat at Wisdom Woods far exceeded my expectations. The service and cuisine were exceptional, providing a truly impactful experience for mind, body, and soul. The intimate surroundings and small group size fostered meaningful human connection. The staff’s professionalism was a crucial part of the beautiful experience, from chef-prepared meals to 24/7 concierge service and impeccable housekeeping. McKenzie has created a wonderful gem, and I can’t wait for my next retreat hosted by her!” –Brenda, Chief Financial Officer at Midwest-based flavor company.

“The meticulous attention paid to each and every detail of my retreat with Wise & Well made for a uniquely seamless and overwhelmingly positive experience. My deepest gratitude and highest accolades go to the Wise & Well team.” –Caylei, Executive Director of Chicago-based law firm

“Wise and well was a life changing AND life-giving experience. It pushed me to think and process life differently, while still allowing space to relax and recharge. If you have the opportunity to go to Wise & Well retreat, do not miss it.” –Adeline, Founder of Charlotte-based luxury wellness facility

“I’ve been on a lot of corporate retreats and off-sites, but none as special as our time with Wise & Well at Wisdom Woods. From the incredible scenery, wellness activities for all abilities, delicious & healthy food, and time to actually disconnect to reflect and plan…we left feeling more connected, rejuvenated and inspired and ready to achieve our goals. Thank you to the kind & talented staff that anticipated our every desire–you made our stay truly special.” –Katelynn, General Manager of multi-channel media and entertainment firm

Why do you think the experience you offer is so needed nowadays?

In today’s fast-paced world, stress has emerged as a significant threat, making burnout a prevalent concern in our society. Constant connection to technology and external stimuli often leave individuals disconnected from themselves and each other, contributing to a decline in overall health.

It’s crucial for individuals to carve out time to step away from the noise, distractions, and busyness of life to prioritize health and well-being. I’ve witnessed many individuals craving experiences that provide an opportunity to relax, reconnect with themselves and others, and focus on mental and physical health.

This need becomes even more critical for leaders and high performers who navigate demanding work environments and pressures. A quote that resonates with our philosophy at Wise & Well is by Ryan Holiday:

“Why do you think that great leaders and thinkers throughout history have ‘gone out into the wilderness’ and come back with inspiration, with a plan, with an experience that puts them on a course that changes the world? It’s because in doing so, they found perspective, they understood the larger picture in a way that wasn’t possible in the bustle of everyday life. Silencing the noise around them, they could finally hear the quiet voice they needed to listen to.”

Wise & Well retreats offer a unique opportunity for individuals to prioritize their health while reconnecting with nature, themselves and a like-minded community. Nestled in nature, our retreats provide a space for guests to fully relax, be present, and have their needs met by attentive staff. This easeful setting allows for reflection, stress detoxification, holistic healing, and a return to everyday life with renewed purpose, clarity, and energy.

Do you think travel enhances our mindfulness, optimism, or sense of gratitude? How? Can you please explain with an example or story?

Yes, I wholeheartedly believe in the profound impact of wellness travel to enhance mindfulness, optimism, and a deeper sense of gratitude. Travel urges us to be fully present in our experiences, fostering a positive connection to and appreciation for our surroundings. The opportunity to immerse in a beautiful location, be fully taken care of, and truly connect with nature and oneself allows us to view life through a new lens — one that is more optimistic and attuned to the present moment.

After spending four months traveling in Bali where I had the opportunity to explore nature, practice yoga and meditation, scuba dive, and eat delicious, healthy food, I returned to the U.S. with a completely transformed perspective on life. The experience instilled in me a deep sense of gratitude, offering insights into a new culture and fostering greater self-awareness about my life goals. It became a catalyst for integrating mindfulness and gratitude as cornerstones in my daily life, positively altering the trajectory of my life.

Thank you for that. Now for our main question; What are your “5 Habits You Should Develop In Order Make Travel Into An Opportunity For Wellness & Personal Growth?”

1 . Immersion in Nature: Wisdom Woods is deeply integrated with nature. At a recent retreat, I hosted a group of successful women with very demanding careers and lives. During a forest bathing experience in the woods, one of the women expressed how her experience prioritizing time in nature at the retreat was the first time in a long time she felt calm and at peace. Living in a big city, she had forgotten how much time in nature positively impacts her mental health. Time immersing in nature facilitates deep healing and is crucial for our health.

2 . Digital Detox: Wise & Well retreats enforce a digital detox, prohibiting phone use in common areas. Disconnecting from devices is vital for mental and physical well-being. Many Wise & Well guests have reported feeling more connected to themselves and less influenced by social media comparisons after a retreat; it has also resulted in improved self-control and balance upon returning to their devices.

3 . Movement Prioritization: Whether it’s practicing yoga, participating in a strength class, walking in the woods, paddleboarding on the lake, cross-country skiing, etc., prioritizing movement not only facilitates greater physical health, but also better mental health. Movement is a staple of wellness travel; staying active is as beneficial for mental health as it is for physical health.

4 . Self-Reflection: In the midst of our busy lives, it’s easy to operate on auto-pilot and disconnect from our inner world. Taking the time to reconnect with ourselves and reflect on where we’ve been and where we’re going is necessary to living a meaningful and fulfilling life. At Wise & Well, one of my favorite workshops that we offer is “Defining Your Core Values”. When we have the space and time to reflect, it provides a unique opportunity to reflect on our core values and assess if we’re living in alignment with those values. Journaling is another great way to reflect; better yet, journaling in nature enhances the reflective process.

5 . Mindfulness and Gratitude: Wise & Well values mindfulness and gratitude as being pillars of healthy well-being. Being present and expressing gratitude not only enhances the travel experience but also brings about sustainable changes in one’s daily life. Every time I disconnect from my devices and make an intentional decision to spend more time in nature while traveling, I return home feeling connected, present and more grateful for the experience.

Based on your experience, where do you see the future of wellness travel heading in the next 5–10 years?

In a culture where busyness and hyper-productivity are the norm, it can feel nearly impossible to escape the constant whirlwind of digital stimuli, leaving little room for meaningful reflection and genuine connection with ourselves and others. I believe that now more than ever, travelers will be seeking wellness destinations and experiences that offer a sanctuary and escape from the constant digital buzz through digital detox wellness retreats.

Offering an escape from the digital overload, retreats will offer an opportunity for individuals to disconnect from their devices, and instead reconnect with themselves and nature. I expect to see wellness destinations offer more curated programs that encourage mindfulness, holistic wellness, and immersion in nature. Leaving their cellphones, laptops and iPads behind, travelers in the next few years will be seeking true relaxation, authentic connection, and a return to the essentials.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them :-)

I’m very inspired by Richard Branson’s entrepreneurial journey and his transformative impact on travel. His ability to profoundly redefine and innovate the industry has left a lasting impression on me and I admire his commitment to mentoring and investing in the people around him. I strongly believe in mentorship and surrounding myself with successful, intelligent individuals who serve as sources of inspiration, so sharing a meal with Richard Branson and learning from his experiences would be a tremendous honor.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can learn more about Wise & Well retreats, as well as our private, small-group retreats here.

Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent on this. We wish you continued success.

About the Interviewer: Wanda Malhotra is a wellness entrepreneur, lifestyle journalist, and the CEO of Crunchy Mama Box, a mission-driven platform promoting conscious living. CMB empowers individuals with educational resources and vetted products to help them make informed choices. Passionate about social causes like environmental preservation and animal welfare, Wanda writes about clean beauty, wellness, nutrition, social impact and sustainability, simplifying wellness with curated resources. Join Wanda and the Crunchy Mama Box community in embracing a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle at CrunchyMamaBox.com .

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