A five-star annual spa vacation

Cindy Galvin (in burgundy) and friends (credit: Sheryl Kraft)
Cindy Galvin (in burgundy) and friends (credit: Sheryl Kraft)

Contributing health and spa writer Sheryl Kraft captures the magic of a spa vacation for women.

Four women share an annual spa vacation, a ritual that deepens the bonds of their friendship.

Cindy Galvin routinely accompanied her CEO husband to his business meetings that were held twice a year at various locations around the country.  Meeting the same women time after time, it didn’t take long for Cindy to strike up a cursory acquaintance with three other women who were attending the meetings for the same reason.

“We’re all really different, but came from similar backgrounds,” Cindy told me after I met her on my way to dinner on a recent trip to Miraval Resort & Spa in Tucson, Arizona. She looked relaxed and pensive as she sat outside on a bench overlooking a tranquil fountain. I had stopped to take a photo and she offered me some tips.

“If you stand over here, the light is better,” she said. I had the feeling she knew the place well.

“Our husbands all have jobs with a lot of responsibilities with iconic companies, but we never really talked about that,” she said.  Instead, the women would head off to lunch and not return until the sun set, bonding over shared details of their lives – their jobs, their childhoods, their children’s weddings.

And then, all in good humor, Cindy’s husband made the suggestion. “Why don’t you four go on your own trip?” The shared annual spa vacation was born, with Cindy as its designated planner and that’s when friendships deepened among the group of four.

First, it was Cal-a-Vie, a serene and intimate health spa resembling a French village located on 200 lush acres in northern San Diego county. Relaxed time together, away from everyday distractions, allowed them to truly get to know each other beyond the surface. Then, it was Miraval, where they all got hooked on the chance to recharge – and have been returning to for the past 16 years.

Although these friends see one another just once a year – they are scattered throughout the country – when they arrive at Miraval for their annual stay, which usually lasts 4-5 days, they pick up right where they left off. They arrive, hurriedly unpack then meet at the bar an hour before dinner (I spotted them, a group of women of various ages, laughing and hugging the first night I was there, their joy apparent in their expressions). During the days, which are filled with so many options, they sometimes go their separate ways, and sometimes go to activities together. But they always reconvene over meals, their biggest “visiting” time.

“We all loved it right away,” Cindy said. “Every time I go, there’s a thread of a message from the universe that is sent to me, and every year it’s different. I always pick it up by the time I’m halfway through the trip.”

Whatever her personal message, the undeniable common theme is the power of friendship, and the power of spas to facilitate and deepen those bonds. Where does that power lie? And what does it have to do with friendship?

Planting ourselves – albeit temporarily – in a new place enables us to take root, flower and grow. Growth gives way to discovery, opening us up to endless possibilities and pressing us to reach higher and higher for completeness. And in doing so, we open ourselves to the joy and wonder of discovering not only what is special and unique in us, but in others. Friendships organically bloom in this fertile, rich environment, and many times, those are the friendships we hold most dear.

A spa vacation is perfect on its own merit. I give it five stars. But sharing it with good friends, year after year?

There aren’t enough stars for that.


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