Work with a travel planner that inspires and understands you — There is so much of the world to see and incredible people to connect with. Finding an expert travel planner whose passion and values align with yours is going to start the process from a place of comfort and trust. Our focus is on local, immersive experiences, which change your world view and open your heart.

As part of my series about “How To Create A Travel Experience That Keeps People Coming Back For More”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Linden Schaffer.

Linden Schaffer is a wellness thought leader, best-selling author, and startup founder. As a pioneer of wellness tourism, she launched the first US wellness travel tour operator, Pravassa, in 2009 and has since curated award-winning transformative travel experiences for thousands of people. Linden’s work has been featured in Forbes and Fast Company as well as on the stage at Google and the New York Times Travel Show.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

In 2008 I was looking for a way to leave my successful fashion career and find something that felt more meaningful to me. I started to think about how I enjoyed spending my time: traveling, being curious about the world around me, and finding a deeper connection to myself through various well-being practices. I did not set out to become an entrepreneur, but I had this idea of offering people travel experiences rooted in the foundation of health & well-being. One day at lunch, I casually pitched the idea to some friends and was hired on the spot to create a vacation for their clients. I went into overdrive and within 3-months I had a name, website, and my first clients.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

What keeps me coming back to travel no matter what else is happening in the world is the deep connection that travel affords me with the people I meet. I’ve celebrated Diwali in India on the rooftop of a family home and NYEPI, the silent New Year in Bali, in a local village where traditional dancing and bonfires went late into the night. I’ve met teens who have taught themselves English by talking with travelers and fathers who are trying to create a more just world full of opportunities for their daughters — each story as beautiful and interesting as the one before it.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

While you aim not to take yourself too seriously, making mistakes as a CEO can be terrifying. With a company and clients depending on your decision-making skills, mistakes rarely feel funny, although sometimes you can laugh about them in the end. These days whenever Pravassa leads a group tour, we demand every client show us their passport before we depart a location for the final time. While clients laugh and refer to our request with a ‘yes mom’ attitude, they are always happy it wasn’t them who left their passport tucked into a hotel safe a 4-hour drive away from the airport. As you can imagine, this only happened once in the history of our company.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Goodness, there are so many people who have contributed to my success including employees, coaches, consultants, and mentors. But, without the emotional support and encouragement of my family, I never would have started any of my businesses in the first place. Leaving a secure, well-paying full-time job to become a first time founder with no formal business training on top of entering an industry where I was an outsider was scary as hell. Having my family believe in me allowed me to take the leap and never look back.

Thank you for that. Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. Can you share with our readers about the innovations that you are bringing to the travel and hospitality industries?

Wellness travel is now a trend, but when I started Pravassa, the word wellness wasn’t widely used in our lexicon. In fact, I had to stop using the term and revert to ‘healthy travel’ for the first few years of my business. Once I was able to return to using ‘wellness travel’ I had a responsibility to define its meaning, not only to our travelers, but to the travel industry at large. Wellness is an umbrella term that spans so much of what we do today that the word has actually become meaningless for many. At Pravassa our wellness travel experiences are a holistic approach that starts before the client departs on their trip and continues long after they arrive home. We take into account five touchpoints: breath, movement, mindfulness, nourishment, and experience, when balance for the clients specific needs travel becomes stress-free and transformational.

Which “pain point” are you trying to address by introducing this innovation and how do you envision that this might disrupt the status quo?

Prior to wellness travel, most people went on vacation to escape their daily life and stress in hopes of relaxing enough that problems or challenging issues wouldn’t seem so bad with some daylight in between. But what people started to realize is that oftentimes vacation put those problems into a box and it became harder and harder to re-open that box when you came home. The beauty of wellness travel is true reconnection. You get to have an incredible travel experience in a destination and culture that is different from your norm while learning tools and picking up new ideas along the way to help you address the challenging areas in your life. Now that space becomes more manageable and the new tools help you to begin to meet your challenges with grace.

As you know, COVID19 changed the world as we know it. Can you share a few examples of how travel and hospitality companies will be adjusting over the next five years to the new ways that consumers will prefer to travel?

The pandemic either jump started or advanced our relationship to wellness. As a society we are now talking about areas such as mental, emotional, and spiritual health and understanding that gaining the tools to help us address these areas of our life is crucial for long-term health, happiness, and growth. More and more companies are starting to offer forms of wellness in their experiences from sustainably harvested local menus and yoga classes to energy treatments in spas and plant-medicine retreats. As the remote and hybrid lifestyle becomes the norm, people will be taking longer and longer time away from the office and begin to carve out time to work on themself in a way that has immediate impact on daily life.

You are a “travel insider”. How would you describe your “perfect vacation experience”?

My perfect vacation experience is actually something that we plan at Pravassa. For me it would be a month away where I could hop around Asia experiencing multiple different cultures with a mix of solo, family, and group travel time. From meeting new people, experiencing luxury and local healing treatments, hiking mountains, swimming in the sea. And I always make sure to have my Wander Home series cued up so that no matter where I am I can open and close my day with a wellness class.

Travel is not always about escaping, but about connecting. Have you made efforts to cultivate a more wellness driven experience? We’d love to hear about it.

The beauty of being wellness travel pioneers is that our clients come to us to help them cultivate a wellness-driven experience that is unique to them. We curate customized journeys, which meet the client where they are on their path. For some people that means more time in nature breathing fresh air or seeing incredible untouched landscapes, for others it’s about spending time and working with people who have a long tradition of ancestral healing linages. No matter what activities we include, we always book local boutique accommodations and serve local food to make sure our clients’ money is supporting the well-being of the place they are visiting.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a travel experience that keeps bringing people back for more? Please share a story or an example for each.

1. Work with a travel planner that inspires and understands you — There is so much of the world to see and incredible people to connect with. Finding an expert travel planner whose passion and values align with yours is going to start the process from a place of comfort and trust. Our focus is on local, immersive experiences, which change your world view and open your heart.

2. Get Local — We pride ourselves on the local experiences we’ve developed throughout the years like street food tours with food magazine writers or traditional healing found in remote villages. Offering our travelers these unique insights into the culture they are visiting allows them to go deeper into the experience of travel and have the opportunity to enjoy an exchange of ideas with someone they may not have otherwise met.

3. Be spontaneous — Always leave unscheduled time during your travels to get lost, wander, or double back to something you’ve discovered along the way. Oftentimes the most memorable travel experiences can happen on a whim.

4. Commit to responsible travel — From sustainability to spending locally to understanding equity, it’s important to recognize we live a global lifestyle. When visiting another country and culture it’s important to respect local dress, traditions, and laws as well as find ways to uplift the local community. These mindful acts show reverence to the place you’re visiting and positively impact the experience you’ll have.

5. Get out of your comfort zone — Say yes to trying a new type of food, visiting an artist’s home or driving 5 hours to an untouched beach. These moments will bring you joy, happiness, and stay with you for years to come. In fact, recalling these positive vacation moments once home has been proven to reduce acute stress and anxiety.

Can you share with our readers how you have used your success to bring goodness to the world?

While I thrive on intentional travel and making a positive impact no matter the time of year, during the pandemic our company and clients have really gone above and beyond for our international guides. Many of the countries we visit rely heavily on tourism and do not have social safety nets in place to help their citizens weather this kind of global crisis. We’ve helped to provide food, shelter, and some peace of mind as we all move forward together.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Bringing more compassion into the world is something that will have a significant impact on everyone’s life. As humans we all need love, but various circumstances and cultural norms prevent people from giving and receiving that love freely. Start by giving more compassion and forgiveness to yourself. You’ll find that this practice opens your heart and allows you to be more compassionate toward others and their circumstances.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

@Pravassa and @LindenSchaffer on all social platforms.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


  • Savio P. Clemente

    TEDx Speaker, Media Journalist, Board Certified Wellness Coach, Best-Selling Author & Cancer Survivor

    Savio P. Clemente, TEDx speaker and Stage 3 cancer survivor, infuses transformative insights into every article. His journey battling cancer fuels a mission to empower survivors and industry leaders towards living a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle. As a Board-Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), Savio guides readers to embrace self-discovery and rewrite narratives by loving their inner stranger, as outlined in his acclaimed TEDx talk: "7 Minutes to Wellness: How to Love Your Inner Stranger." Through his best-selling book and impactful work as a media journalist — covering inspirational stories of resilience and exploring wellness trends — Savio has collaborated with notable celebrities and TV personalities, bringing his insights to diverse audiences and touching countless lives. His philosophy, "to know thyself is to heal thyself," resonates in every piece.