Our always-on digital life is full of “stuff”—from the constant screens in our faces to creature comforts delivered at the touch of a button. Nonstop access combined with a growing (unstoppable) awareness of the toxins in our air, food, offices and homes, and a world that is full of bad news, has birthed new wellness warriors who want to take both their bodies and minds to unexpectedly extreme places.

These extreme “mastery experiences”—a phrase coined by psychologist Albert Bandura—is one of the key pillars of his theory of “self-efficacy”: The belief in your ability to influence and control the events you experience plays a central role in how you can perform in day-to-day life. You come away feeling empowered in the extreme.

Extreme Travel Experiences:
For many wellness seekers, it’s no longer “cool” to simply kick back on the beach or by the pool having treatments or even take a simple experiential, transformative yoga retreat. Instead, they are looking for one-of-a-kind excursions and “survivor-style” challenges. Disconnection is the key—there is no smartphone for Google Maps or a “quick” peek at work emails—only complete engagement in what they’re doing.

Earning the Experience:
A prime example is “Get Lost” from UK-based luxury travel company Black Tomato, designing experiences to take travelers way out of their comfort zones. Travelers begin preparing for the $30K+ trip six months in advance, so they are ready for the mental and physical challenges that await them—even learning survival skills if necessary. They choose the terrain—polar, jungle, desert, mountain or coastal—and then get dropped in the ultimate survivor’s test (with some guidance along the way). Tom Marchant, co-founder of Black Tomato, says: “People are seeking transformative breaks that mentally and physically challenge them, releasing them from their daily grind.”

Training like a Super Athlete:
Similar mastery can be found in fitness regimes that take a page right from an elite athlete’s training manual. For example, BodyHoliday in St. Lucia runs WellFit retreats featuring different Olympians—swimmers, rowers, sprinters and even an NFL champion. Fitness clubs, such as Equinox, offer Athletic Training programs that promise elite conditioning while gyms across the globe sell memberships based on their world-class coaching techniques and elite training methods.

The appeal of Extreme Wellness is straightforward: Doing things that seem impossible make people feel alive and connected.

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