10 Most Bizarre Spa Treatments Around the World

That's a snake. You can actually get a "snake massage." We dare you.

As a culture, we underestimate the power of stress, either by not taking it seriously as a health risk or tallying up every trivial annoyance and dwelling on them. Stress, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. In fact, the human stress response has helped us survive as a species, alerting our minds to danger so we can remove ourselves from potentially harmful situations. It's time that we fully accept the fact that stress has very real, physical consequences on our bodies and our minds—so if you want to take a bath in coffee, wine, or green tea, you should friggin' go for it.

Healthline

In Japan, you can do just that in the Hakone Kowakien Yunessun spa, which markets itself as a "hot springs amusement park." In Greece, tiny fish have been eating the dead skin off humans' feet for 400 years. Extreme beauty treatments have existed for centuries, but when combined with the promise to relax you and provide an escape from life's stressors for just a brief moment, we get a world full of bizarre spa treatments.

Cupping (Yangzhou, China)

Metro

As an ancient form of eastern medicine, cupping is the practice of placing hot glass cups along your body, usually your back, in order to alleviate tension, reduce inflammation, soothe pain, or heighten your overall feeling of "wellness," that elusive quality that means very little but makes "lifestyle" companies like Goop so much money. As WebMD recounts, "Cupping therapy might be trendy now, but it's not new. It dates back to ancient Egyptian, Chinese, and Middle Eastern cultures. One of the oldest medical textbooks in the world, the Ebers Papyrus, describes how the ancient Egyptians used cupping therapy in 1,550 B.C. Now it's thought to actually open the blood vessels, inducing a feeling of relaxation.

Bathing in Wine

Beaujolais Season Starts At Open Air Wine Spa

Huff Post

At the "hot springs amusement park" in Japan, adults and children can bathe in (diluted) red wine. The antioxidants are thought to benefit the skin with anti-aging properties. Meanwhile, Yunessun also offers baths of coffee and tea, also purported to confer their own antioxidant-rich ambrosia to enhance relaxation and also health. But as Lonely Planet notes, "The resort's site claims that 'bathing in red wine is a rejuvenating treatment for the body' but as fun as it sounds, red wine can actually dry out your skin. So while splashing about in wine won't make you look younger, it sure as hell will make you feel younger and that's what really matters. Cheers to that."

Hammam (Morocco)

To some, it's a traditional cleansing ritual in a communal steam room, followed by a massage. To others, it's a crucible of will power and strength in which you are completely naked while a stranger bathes you aggressively in "scalding hot" water. One western visitor described the body scrub as follows: "I was led out by my hand and was laid down on a marble slab in another hot room where my body was exfoliated. When I say exfoliated, that's an understatement. It's more like having your skin peeled off with sandpaper. At one point I was sure that there was a trickle of blood pouring down my leg as she rubbed up and down my calf." But hey, some people are into (consensual) skinning, so go for it.

Swaddling (Japan)

Have you ever wanted to be suffocated by an Asian woman? Who hasn't, right? Starting in Japan, swaddling therapy is a straight-up Freudian treatment that will send your mind back to the stillness and peace of the womb by wrapping you in cloth. A Japanese midwife invented the therapy in 2015. According to Vice, "Nobuko Watanabe initially created the treatment to alleviate concerns of parents who worried that the swaddling of their infants—a practice known as Ohinamaki—might be leaving the babies feeling claustrophobic." The practice of Otonamaki (simply translated to "adult swaddling") promises the unique chance to "experience zero-gravity" and "become a different person," as well as other existential meditations on your identity, the existence of the human soul, the nature of time and space, why people were so angry when Starbucks' holiday cups turned red, and why boomers can't take a decent selfie. There's also some color therapy involved while whatever matronly Asian woman you pay to swaddle you rocks you gently from side to side.

Snail Facial (Japan)

Snail secretions (i.e. mucus) have already become a popular ingredient in Asian skincare. Snail facials just promise to be the purest and most direct hit with fresh slime. Claims that nutrients and natural antioxidants in snail mucus rejuvenate skin make this a unique experience to have, most easily found in Tokyo where it began. Prices range anywhere from $30 to $200, and while there are no known scientific studies that support its benefits, snail facials are not even a new idea. According to The Guardian, "Concoctions made from snail mucus are said to date back to ancient Greece, when the great physician Hippocrates reportedly crushed snails and sour milk as a cure for skin inflammations. In recent times, the French have turned this essence of escargot into assorted creams and lotions." If nothing else, we can only assume fresh snail mucus is cool to the touch? So embrace the power of the snail, and let Spongebob's pet crawl all over you, we guess.

Cryotherapy

US News Health

The promised benefits of exposing the body to extreme cold (via liquid nitrogen) for a limited amount of time include quick injury recovery, pain management, improved athletic performance, tissue repair, and quick weight loss. By exposing the body to temperatures as low as negative 240 degrees Fahrenheit, cryotherapy is the perfect mix of extreme and dangerous to become heavily popular. At least one woman has died in the United States while attempting to undergo cryotherapy. But the temptation is understandable: Imagine the futuristic set up, the thrill of danger, and the physical burst of energy that inevitably follows a session (that's because all the blood rushes to protect your internal organs and leaves you feeling pretty limbless, but when you step out all that blood rushing back to your arms and legs feels exhilarating-you know, because you're almost dying).

With that being said, there's no scientific evidence backing up the extreme lengths (and cost) of cryotherapy. In fact, a sports medicine expert, Dr. Jordan Metzl, told Fortune, "Icing or cooling the body is a great anti-inflammatory that helps speed recovery. That being said, to step from an ice bath to spending hundreds of dollars to get repeatedly cryogenically frozen is a big leap…without scientific backup." You're better off choosing "simply to move every single day."

Diamond Blowout (England)

Harrod's

For just $500, you can have diamond-infused shampoo and conditioner applied to your hair. As a result, your hair will be...mildly more shimmery. At Harrod's Urban Retreat Spa in London, they actually offer "diamond and meteorite dust-infused" products. But hey, at least you get a couple full-sized bottles to take home with you: Truffle by Fuente haircare promises to "leave your hair looking silken, shining with health and feeling light as air - just like our favorite red carpet starlets." By the way, do you know what "meteorite dust" looks like? Dust. It looks like dirty dust.

Fish Pedicure (Greece)

Tasty Thailand

Do you suffer from psoriasis and eczema on your lower legs and feet? Try a fish treatment: "Known colloquially as doctor fish, Garra rufa are native to Turkey and several Middle Eastern countries including Syria, Iran and Iraq. They are used almost exclusively for fish pedicures because of a survival tactic that enables them to thrive on dead scales and skin whenever their preferred food is scarce." That's right. Pay anywhere between $45 and $95, and about 100 fishies will nibble on your flaky feet.

Nightingale Facial (Japan)

Bird Poop.

The Telegraph

It's bird poop. For anti-aging and brightening miracles, you can pay over $200 to have very special bird poop smeared all over your face. Nightingale facials are said to have originated as a beauty secret of Japanese Geishas, who used the droppings of a very rare species of bird only found on the Japanese island of Kyushu to heal their skin from their heavy face make-up. You can find this treatment outside of Japan (with heftier prices due to importing the precious poop), or you could just...hydrate and wear sunscreen.

Snake Message (Phillipines)

Some people do it to conquer their fear of snakes. Some people do it because they're adrenaline junkies. Some people do it because snakes hold a place in their spiritual beliefs as divine creatures, as descendants of the serpent in the Garden of Eden and maybe because they poop really, really weird. For whatever reason, snake massages exist and lure people to be covered in boa constrictors for 30 minutes to an hour. But don't worry; the snakes are fed beforehand so they don't get hungry. As one New York Times reporter noted when she signed up for her one-on-den time, she received forms including the warning, "There are NO GUARANTEES that you will never get hurt by a snake. No one ever has in any of my work with my Snakes and clients."

Why do people do it? Simple: It feels like a really huge hug. "It was a lot calmer and peaceful than I thought it would be," said one client. As Serpentessa, the Snake Preistess of Poughkeepsie, NY informs her clients, "They tone and stimulate the vagus nerve in our body and that releases endorphins and oxytocin." Of course! An adult female boa constrictor can weigh between 20 and 30 pounds, inducing clients into a feeling of calm. "There was a point it felt like they were just hugging me around the shoulders," one of Serpentessa's clients said. "It just felt very calm – like I could fall asleep."

So really, it makes sense. Snake massages provide the comfort of a weighted blanket, except instead of a blanket...it's f*cking snakes.

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It's no secret that the restaurant scene in New York City is one of the most impressive in the world.

Whatever you could want to eat, you can find it in New York—meaning that even if you have a slightly restrictive diet, like veganism, there's plenty of options for you. Local fast-casual chains like By Chloe and Superiority Burger are making New York one of the most vegan-friendly cities in the world, but the deliciousness doesn't stop there.


Between Manhattan and Brooklyn, there's been a boom of vegan restaurants that'll satisfy any craving. Here are just a few of our favorites.

Blossom(Upper West Side + Greenwich Village)

vegan restaurant

With two locations serving both Uptown and Downtown, Blossom is a go-to for local and tourist vegans alike. They offer an elevated dining experience (and a wide-spanning takeout radius) that puts a cruelty-free spin on classic main dishes like chicken piccata, rigatoni, and grilled salmon. Complete your dinner with a fresh, fruity cocktail and tiramisu—but reservations are strongly recommended beforehand.

Jajaja (West Village + Lower East Side)

vegan Jajaja

Jajaja is the ultimate heaven for Mexican food addicts. Get your fix of south of the border staples like burritos, street tacos, and enchiladas that'll make you second guess whether or not it's actually vegan (pro tip: The nacho portion is large enough to be a meal for one person). They also have a small but mighty menu of tequila and mezcal cocktails to kick off a night of LES bar-hopping. It gets crowded here quickly, though, so try to schedule your dinner early.

Urban Vegan Kitchen(West Village)

Urban Vegan Kitchen

We get it—eating vegan can get kind of bland sometimes. But that's not an issue at Urban Vegan Kitchen, the type of restaurant that'll have you wanting to order one of everything on the menu (but we recommend the "chicken" and waffles). Co-owned by the founder of Blossom, they boast a menu that's just as edgy and exciting as their decor. Their space is large too, making it a crowd-pleasing option for a slightly larger group.

Champs Diner (Williamsburg)

Champs Diner vegan

Located near the border of hip neighborhoods Williamsburg and Bushwick, Champs is a favorite of many young Brooklynites. Their menu is full of vegan alternatives to classic diner fare like breakfast plates, cheeseburgers, and even milkshakes that taste mysteriously like the real deal, while the decor puts a quintessential Brooklyn edge on '50s digs. Who said going plant-based had to be healthy all the time, anyway?

Peacefood (Greenwich Village)

vegan Peacefood

Conveniently located just a stone's throw from Union Square—near both NYU and the New School—Peacefood is a hotspot for college students, but vegans of any age are guaranteed to enjoy their menu. They specialize in comfort food items like quiche, chicken parmesan, and chili with corn bread—all plant-based, of course. While their "chicken" tender basket is to die for, make sure to save room for dessert here, too; Peacefood's lengthy pastry menu is a dream come true.

Buddha Bodai (Chinatown)

Buddha Bodai vegan

Dim sum restaurants in Chinatown are a dime a dozen, but Buddha Bodai takes the cake for the best veggie-friendly experience in one of New York's most bustling neighborhoods. Bring your family or friends along with you to enjoy this massive menu of buns and dumplings stuffed with any type of mock meat you could want. This is also a great option for gluten-free vegans, too, as much of their menu accommodates a gluten-free diet.

Greedi Kitchen (Crown Heights)

Greedi Kitchen vegan

Crown Heights might not be the first neighborhood people think of when it comes to dining in Brooklyn, but Greedi Kitchen is making the case for delicious restaurants in the area. Inspired by its founder's many years of travel, Greedi Kitchen combines the comforting flavors of southern soul food with the added pizazz of global influences. Try one of their po'boys or the crab cake sliders. Trust us.

Screamer’s Pizzeria (Greenpoint + Crown Heights)

Screamer's Pizza vegan

We know what you're thinking: Pizza without real cheese? Call us crazy, but Screamer's does vegan pizza to perfection. If you're into classic pies like a simple margherita or pepperoni, or you want to branch out with unexpected topping combinations, Screamer's is delicious enough to impress carnivores, too (pro tip: the Greenpoint location is small and serves most pies by the slice, while the Crown Heights location is larger for sitting down).


Learning a second language is one of the coolest and most rewarding things you can do in your spare time.

However, if hopping on a one-way ticket to your country of choice isn't an option for you, it can be difficult to find an immersive experience to learn, especially past high school or college.

The next best thing is language-learning apps.

We wanted to look at the top two: DuoLingo and Rosetta Stone. Duolingo is the new kid on the block; one of the top downloaded, this free app is a favorite. Then, there's the legacy option: Rosetta Stone. For over 20 years, they've been developing their language-learning software, and their app is the most recent innovation.

They're both great options, but keep reading to figure out which one is the best for you.

Key Similarities

  • Both claim you'll expand your vocabulary
  • Both are available as an app for iOS and Android users
  • Both have a clean user interface with appealing graphics
  • Both have offline capabilities (if you pay)

Key Differences

  • DuoLingo has a popular free version along with its paid version, whereas Rosetta Stone only has a paid version
  • DuoLingo offers 35+ languages, and Rosetta Stone offers 24 languages
  • Rosetta Stone has an advanced TruAccent feature to detect and correct your accent
  • DuoLingo offers a breadth of similar vocab-recognizing features, and Rosetta Stone offers a wider variety of learning methods, like Stories

DuoLingo Overview

DuoLingo's app and its iconic owl have definitely found a place in pop culture. One of the most popular free language-learning apps, it offers 35 different languages, including Klingon, that can be learned through a series of vocabulary-matching games.

DuoLingo offers a free version and a version for $9.99 a month without ads and with offline access.

Rosetta Stone Overview

The Rosetta Stone app is a beast. There are 24 different languages to choose from, but more importantly, you get a huge variety of methods for learning. Not only are there simple games, but there are stories where you get to listen, the Seek and Speak feature, where you go on a treasure hunt to photograph images and get the translations, and the TruAccent feature, which will help you refine your accent. Whenever you speak into the app, you'll get a red/yellow/green rating on your pronunciation, so you can fine-tune it to really sound like you have a firm grasp of the language.

Rosetta Stone costs just $5.99 a month for a 24-month subscription, which gives you access to all of their 24 languages!

Final Notes

Overall, these are both excellent apps for increasing your proficiency in a new language! They both feel quite modern and have a fun experience.

When it comes to really committing words to memory and understanding them, Rosetta Stone is king.

DuoLingo definitely will help you learn new words, and the app can be addicting, but users report it as more of a game than a means to an end.

With Rosetta Stone's variety of features, you'll never get bored; there are more passive elements and more active elements to help you activate different parts of your brain, so you're learning in a more dynamic and efficient way.

The folks at Rosetta Stone are extending a special offer to our readers only: Up To 45% Off Rosetta Stone + Unlimited Languages & Free Tutoring Sessions!

Travel

So You Want to Try Workaway

Want to travel cheap, meet locals and kindred spirits, live off the land, and possibly change your life? It might be time to try Workaway.

Sitting in a house on a hill in Tuscany, Italy, watching the sun set and listening to the sound of music coming from the house in which I was staying almost rent-free, I wondered how I had gotten this lucky.

Actually, it was really all thanks to one website—Workaway.info.

Workaway Workaway


Workaway is a site that sets travelers up with hosts, who provide visitors with room and board in exchange for roughly five hours of work each weekday. The arrangement varies from host to host—some offer money, others require it—but typically, the Workaway experience is a rare bird: a largely anti-capitalist exchange.

I did four Workaways the summer I traveled in Europe, and then one at a monastery near my home in New York the summer after. Each experience, though they lasted around two weeks each, was among the most enriching times of my life—and I'd argue I learned almost as much through those experiences as I did in four years of college.

There's something extremely special about the Workaway experience, though it's certainly not for everyone.

Workaway Isn't for Everyone: What to Know Before You Go

I loved all the Workaways I went on, but the best advice I can give to anyone considering going is: Enter with an open mind. If you're someone who doesn't do well with the unexpected, if you're not willing to be flexible, if you're a picky eater or easily freaked out, then it's likely that you won't have a good experience at a Workaway.

There are exceptions to all of this. At the Workaway I stayed at in Italy, one of the travelers was suffering from stomach bloating, and the host helped cure her with a diet of miso. (I'm not saying you should go Workawaying if you're ill—this traveler's mother also came to oversee everything—but still, you never know what you'll find).

Workaway WoIsango.com

You should also probably be willing and able to actually work at your Workaway. These aren't vacations, and some hosts will be stricter and less forgiving than others regarding your work ethic. If you're someone who has no experience with difficult farm work, for example, it might not be a good idea to do a Workaway on a farm.

How to Choose a Host

The Workaway website boasts a truly overwhelming number of hosts. You can narrow your search down by location, but you can also search key terms that can help guide you in the right direction. You might search "music," for example—that's how I found the Italy location. You'll find hosts in busy cities and in the most remote mountains of India; you'll find opportunities to tutor and explore. You'll find shadiness, too, so trust your instincts.

Take time to actually read the host's entire bio before reaching out. Read all the comments, too, and if you're nervous or a first-timer, only reach out to hosts who have exclusively glowing reviews. I had the best experiences with hosts that had left extremely detailed bios—that showed me they were likely going to be dedicated hosts.

I also chose hosts whose bios gave me a good feeling, something like a spark of electricity or recognition. This instinctual method might not work for everyone, but it certainly led me in the right direction in all of my Workaway experiences. My Workaways gave me some of the best memories and deepest relationships of my life, and that was partly thanks to the fact that I chose places that were good fits for me.

For example, I chose to stay alone with a wizened academic in France. Something about his bio and descriptions resonated with me enough to trust him. (I also read some of his many thousand-page-long treatises on peace and compassion and decided that if someone could write this and be a psychopath, this wasn't a world I wanted to live in anyway). It was the right decision—and the two weeks I spent there were some of the most enlightening of my entire life.

When you reach out to a host, particularly if it's someone you really want to stay with, it's a good idea to frame your initial contact email as a cover letter of sorts—make sure you explain who you are and personalize your letter to fit each host.

Ixcanaan A Workaway painting experienceWorkaway


Travel Safely

Especially if you're traveling alone, it's always a good idea to choose a host whose page has tons of good reviews. Aside from that, a quick Google search and a scan of any social media pages related to your potential host can't hurt.

Ultimately, Workawaying requires a certain amount of trust and faith on both the host and the traveler's parts—you're either trusting someone to stay in your home or trusting a stranger to host and feed you.

But that trust, in my experience, also results in rapid and deep connections unlike anything I've experienced in the "real world." When you go and share a home with someone, you're also sharing yourself with them, and in that exchange there are the seeds of a powerful bond.

Participate Fully

Wherever you go, you'll want to open your mind and participate fully. Adjust yourself to your host's lifestyle, not the other way around, and take time to get to know your host and the others around you.

You might find that you become someone you never knew you were. As a lifelong introvert, I somehow managed to develop close relationships with many of the people I was staying with.

This might be because most people who are at Workaways are seeking something for one reason or another. In my experience, you find lots of people who are at junctures in their lives, seeking connection and meaning. With the right Workaway, you might just find it.

Workaway The Broke Backpacker - WorkawayThe Broke Backpacker