Written by D e e a b r r a m i a r a
In 1971, the psychedelic drug ayahuasca was offered as a solution to what was then referred to as a “cure to cancer.” It was described in scientific journals as an “ebb and flow type of psychedelic,” for which ayahuasca would be a healthy substitute for a more commercially accepted recreational drug, such as marijuana.
Now, ayahuasca is enjoying a rebirth as a therapy tool in some far-flung places.
An optimistic recovery from the chemical curative properties of the ayahuasca is one of the delights of exploring trips into the New World’s fantastic landscape of mystical hotspots and ancient native rain forests.
Famed shamanic guide Catherine Rebek, who has traveled across the world to visit 100 locations in 25 years of practice, recently returned from Peru. The fiery journeys she led have taken her through 16,000 miles of the Amazon, to mystical Mayan cities in Guatemala and Chile, as well as abandoned mines in New Guinea.
Now Rebek believes it is time for ayahuasca to move beyond the here and now. She wants to introduce a new generation of travellers who have never taken the drug before to the spiritual benefits — and discomfort — of ingesting it.
In the past, Rebek says that the drugs were only available as a cold-turkey drug, for even more extreme and extreme experiences.
“It is a huge process to learn something new, it is no longer easy, you have to be careful because you cannot predict what will happen,” she says.
“And if you take it for the first time, there are 20 million unknown things.”
Balancing out the ride
The Global Ayahuasca Journey is the first ever integrated tourism experience, guided by practitioner Rebek. It is a unique pairing of cultural and business experiences.
A booking through Global Ayahuasca Journey is usually made through a local guide, on a one- to three-day journey in a car, kayak or on horseback along the Galapagos archipelago.
Rooms will be at local or indigenous hostels or also at luxury spa hotels or luxury hotels with ayahuasca experience. Travelers will stay in traditional hostels, hammams, traditional wood houses, ayahuasca-themed houses or tuk tuk taxis. In-guest programs will also be offered.
A guest experiences healing from the spiritual stimulant plant at The Travel Alternative therapy in Vancouver. Joe Raedle/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
“Everyone has to be different, you don’t have to fit into the mold,” Rebek says. “You have to express your own balance.”
Ayahuasca is a spirit spirit plant, rather than a specific plant. The New World literature provides a range of possibilities. According to archaeologists, it has been found in ancient Mayan ceremonies, Teotihuacan pyramids, ancient Arawak villages, river busters, and whole forest communities.
The growth of ayahuasca tourism has recently spawned some intelligent, valuable new offerings.
In 2014, Ayahuasca Ignition opened in New York, which offers “electrochemical and pyschosomatic trip clinics.”
Bonding in the woods
T he Travel Alternative Therapy offers retreats of spiritual connection for travelers and yoga and meditation lessons on forest paths.
The company, based in Portland, Oregon, has recently expanded into a permanent wooden cabin that visitors can stay in for $60 a night.
Like The Travel Alternative Therapy’s new cabin in the woods, Sacred Woods Retreat hosts exclusively ethical hippies and soy-diners who are inspired by a world filled with brightly colored flowers and buzzing buzzes.
More generally, Sacred Woods encourages people to reflect on what they’re experiencing — and what they’re capable of — when in balance.
“Like everyone I take psilocybin when I have to, but I also work with guests to find a way to spend a few moments of non-mind-wandering reflection every day,” says Greenfield.
“Even just removing some technology from my schedule and leaving a radio off sometimes can help me reset my brain in a bit of peace and quiet.”
Greenfield says that his deep experience with ayahuasca has motivated him to develop this type of mindfulness and movement activity.
Now Ayahuasca Ignition sees new business opportunities in bud busters and hemp-based products.