A Publication of WTVP

Whether here in central Illinois or on a beach a thousand miles away, don’t forget to take time to escape.

The Zalduendos needed a vacation. MariAnn, a full-time mother of three, and Anthony, a physician at OSF Saint Francis, were looking for a getaway with balance and a vacation with a twist. “We wanted something that had a healthy combination of relaxation, fitness and exercise,” MariAnn recalls.

That’s why the couple sought out a wellness retreat, a vacation designed for relaxation and a way for the body and mind to rejuvenate. Their week-long trip to Rosewood Little Dix Bay in the British Virgin Islands offered a wellness package with a semi-private group led by a certified personal trainer and lifestyle coach. “The combination of a tropical paradise and healthy living was wonderful. We did yoga each morning, practiced meditating while walking or hiking, and still got more strenuous exercise.”

While using vacation days may seem like an automatic pass to de-stressing, the task is not so easy for some. According to Harris Interactive, Americans left an average of more than nine vacation days unused at the end of 2012, or 70 percent of their allotted time off. The reasons for delaying their departures varied from too much work to the cost of traveling to worries about an unstable job market. But taking time off has positive side effects—including better moods, higher quality of sleep and increased productivity—and you don’t have to go far… escapes can be found right here in the Peoria area.

One of the Zalduendos’ favorite local spots is Forest Park Nature Center. It’s a way for them to focus on wellness, fitness, and the feeling of getting away… while still at home. “It’s so scenic and can be as challenging as you want with hills, steps, bridges and flats,” says MariAnn. “I just enjoy the beauty of it… It’s always different with each season, and it’s a great, free place to take the family.” MariAnn is also a regular at Body, a new fitness boutique in Westlake Shopping Center, where she enjoys hot yoga and ballerina body, which uses ballet positioning to condition muscles to be long and lean.

But sometimes the perfect getaway means going a little further from home. “With so much going on, we felt like we always needed to rest after vacation,” MariAnn explains. “We wanted something between taking a tour and sitting on a beach somewhere.” The experience was not just the activities they took part in, but also where they were taking place. From yoga overlooking turquoise waters to walks through lush, beautiful flowers, the scene could only be described as “picturesque.” Even the times of rest, such as leisurely dinners on the beach at sunset, included details the couple appreciated.

“It was very peaceful, romantic and removed from everything,” notes MariAnn, who enjoyed staying in a private beach bungalow. “You felt safe and well taken care of, and the wellness aspect made you look at things differently. We were always being shown the beauty and spirituality of the moment.”

The Zalduendos aren’t letting this feeling of balance remain a secret. They are currently making plans to return to the same spot next year—this time with the entire family. “We really want to visit the other [islands] with everyone,” she says. “We might even rent a catamaran to explore! I want us all to enjoy the time away together.” a&s

Teri Cook is owner of Cook Travel and Cruise in East Peoria. For more information, visit