At Amangiri, Discovering Hygge

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It takes a full day to travel from the least relaxing place on earth to the most—New York to Phoenix on Delta, with a quick stop in Page, Arizona, via a 9-seat regional jet, and a 30 minute car ride on to the Amangiri resort in southern Utah. Well, that’s not totally fair. I’ve never thought of New York as being categorically un-relaxing… We are the proud neighbors of the Greenwich Hotel’s Shibui Spa should you find yourself in need of some unwind time. But there’s something about the sound (lack of it) and the air (dry and fresh) out in the American West that reminds you: Take a deep breath in. Now exhale. There are places that are not New York City. And those places are very, very serene.

Almost too serene. Amangiri is nestled on 600 acres of untouched canyon and desert and in your Instagram feed with 32.5K Instagram followers, including Kim Kardashian West and Rosie Huntington-Whitely. It also most certainly ranks as one of the most photogenic places you’ll ever visit. In my three days on the property, I didn’t set my phone down once. (Luckily, the Wi-Fi and cell service are surprisingly reliable in the middle of nowhere.) Ole Henriksen—the man, but also his personal team, his Sephora team, and his Kendo team—was clever enough to host his annual Glow Camp on the premises (and celebrate the launch of his new Banana Bright Eye Crème). You don’t know glow until you’ve looked into your selfie cam during magic hour in the desert. Strategic move, Ole! Glow Camp is all about recharging: the mind and body and skin—with facials, sunrise yoga, and fireside dinners—and the phone. Because, again, you’re going to want to take a lot of selfies.

Amangiri, of course, is all about wellness. The people who choose to come here know this and love to talk about it. Ole himself should be crowned the king of wellness—in fact, I’ve never seen someone so generally well. The 66-year-old Dane is impossibly limber, often getting up in the middle of conversations to show me his stretches that wake him up in the morning and get him through long-haul flights. We were chatting before dinner one evening and he casually dropped that there’s a musical about his life playing on Copenhagen’s version of Broadway. It’s called “I Love It.” Back in 2014, Danish TV aired a documentary called I Want To Become Ole where the host (also named Ole) tries to embody Mr. Henriksen through rigorous skincare and positivity rituals. The Ole I met is the most well moisturized person I’ve ever seen in the flesh. Such is the lifestyle of one of Sephora’s best-selling names.

The handful of other beauty editors on the trip are also well-versed in the ways of wellness. One sat in the Higher Dose infrared sauna every day for a month (got boring, she said). The other is a Bikram acolyte who did her best to get through the outdoor, sunrise yoga we did in 35ºF weather with a smile on her face. (January in Utah, folks!) They asked me what kind of wellness we take part in at ITG. I told them: “Sometimes we order group lunch.” A conversation thud if ever there was one, but it is its own kind of hygge, which was the theme of the trip. Hygge (pronounced HOO-guh) is a defining trait of Ole’s Scandinavian culture, a one-word way of describing a feeling of coziness and well-being, often had among friends and family. Danes are “breastfed on hygge,” Ole tells me. By the time they’re old enough to walk, they’re racing around from home to candlelit home, eager to have their hygge-time. My three days at Amangiri were terribly hygge—I spent most of my time in a Frances Austen cashmere turtleneck, Zara fashion sweatpants, and shearling lined boots. We hopped from hot tub to hot tub and gossiped around several different crackling fireplaces. Skincare abound, I spent the time mostly makeup-free.

But in midst of all this hygge, I found myself as high-strung as ever. The trickling water features leading the way back to my room ceased to be relaxing and instead turned into grim reminders of my Lower East Side shower that never fully turns off and drips on and on into the night. My steadily increasing inbox was a constant battle: No work now means more work later. Should I ignore nature’s majesty to cut back by 50 emails? True hygge might just be inbox zero, but I wouldn’t know.

This is why I’ve never really been interested in wellness as a topic of personal discovery. For all its supposed restorative glory, it’s a steep hill to climb from my current standing. Maybe acupuncture would solve all my neuroses, but getting over my fear of needles is already so much work! Going to meditate regularly is a nice idea, but then I’d have to rush through my evening reality TV binge. I’d prefer to take my time. Yes, Amangiri is gorgeous and you should 100% definitely go the next time you’ve got $1500 burning a hole in your pocket for one night’s stay, but the travel time might kill you in the process. Once you’re done recovering from the travel fatigue, you’re already on your way back. It’s worth it for all those selfies, but when you’re scrolling through your camera roll on one of your multiple flights back, you might find yourself wondering as I did: Does wellness always have to be so far away from home?

The standards for “new and exciting” in relaxation have gotten untenable. So much so, that they’re really not relaxing at all. I don’t say this to wellness-shame as much as to say: I want in—but in a manageable way. I want to will myself well without upending my life as I know it. Which is where Ole’s practices come in, conveniently enough. Never once did he say to put down my phone, give up Instagram, find better programming than Vanderpump Rules (obviously because none exists). Stretch in the morning maybe. Meditate—only for five minutes!—before going to bed at night. Spend a night with friends, at home, over cocktails and exceedingly pleasant conversation. Simple, manageable tasks and no room at Amangiri required. But if you have one, so much the better.

—Emily Ferber

Photographed by the author.

Next stop: Japan.