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Cary Collier, 65: Life in Full Color

Thriving with his passions, family and career. Having aligned his life around his purpose and values, Cary Collier has created an amazingly harmonious way of living and working with his wife.  Living with nature and designing some of the top spa destinations in the world while staying fit and healthy in the outdoors, have made him a model of how to live well.

Age allows us the opportunity to become the people we were meant to be. For Cary Collier, native Texan, CrossFit guy, outdoors enthusiast living in Montana, one would probably not jump to the assumption that he has a multi decade career designing over 400 spas in 40 countries. One would probably not guess that a guy’s guy like that had ever even been to a spa. But that would be us just making a box for him, and he is not an in-the-box kind of guy.

Cary has designed a life purposefully aligned with his values and talents, with family, a gratifying career, and a physical relationship with nature. Living life with intention as we get a bit older is often good advice, as Cary shows us in living color. 

It takes sensitivity and understanding of the specifics of the local culture, of architecture, design and deep knowledge of both ancient and cutting-edge modalities to create an experience that will be long remembered. Good spas, like the ones designed by people like Cary, offer a transformative experience. One upside to being our age is the opportunity to become a master, which is what Cary is: a master not only of creating spas, but of life.  

How old are you?
65. Native Texan raised around cattle and horses.

How long have you been married? 
33 years (my bride, Kim). 

Do you have children?
2 amazing daughters: Cierra Ayu (Bozeman, MT) and Kiara Asia (San Diego, CA). We are blessed to have a close family and we love to travel together. We have lived in Dallas, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Bali, Carmel, and now Whitefish, Montana.

How long have you been designing spas?
In 1986 in Dallas, my spa career began at the Spa at the Crescent, Crescent Hotel (the first Rosewood Hotel in the world). My planning and design consultancy started in 1989, also in Dallas. However, Kim and I lived in Asia for almost 10 years during the 1990s — Bali for 8 years. Bali changed our lives — it was a new frontier for spas. I found my purpose there: to create and experience feel-good places, create ‘sensory sanctuaries’ and a village concept wherever possible. 

Four Season Sayan, Ubud, Bali.

Living and working in Bali, we were pioneers in creating the first spas in Asia, i.e. Four Seasons Jimbaran Bay and Four Seasons Sayan Ubud, and Nusa Dua Spa at Nusa Dua Beach Hotel, Bali; Banyan Tree Phuket, Thailand. 

“Living and working in Bali, we were pioneers in creating the first spas in Asia”

Spas and spa design are often thought of as more of a woman’s focus. What is it that has held your attention for all these years?
I was enamored in the late ’80s, and certainly in Bali, with the idea that ‘spas’ had incredible potential to evolve as a haven for what ails you and for supporting ‘living a life worth living.’ In my first few jobs in my early 20s, I was always in trouble for something while working for several large corporations — I didn’t fit the culture. I believe now that I’ve been most fortunate, in my life, to work with as many or more women as men. My past and current memories are full of incredible leadership and friendship from either project directors or corporate wellness and spa directors.  

Kimpton Seafire Resort & Spa, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

What are seen as some of the current innovations in spas? 
The influence of Blue Zones; finally, in the US, bathhouse models are happening in NYC and around the country (bathing models defined: from bathing experiences around the world – Japanese Onsen, European Terme, Turkish Hammam, Nordic Spas from Canada); biohacking, recovery, and diagnostics; wonderful diversity in fitness at the gym, at the office, or at home. Nature rules; connections/community — a close second. 

What would you say is the purpose of going to a spa? 
To be in a safe and peaceful place, to learn how to take care of your body, to relax, to heal, to unwind, to be quiet and still, to breathe, enjoy a massage or skincare, to play and find your fun… to be in nature, to learn mindfulness.

“A cool environment only lasts so long; the people make the place and bolster the mood or personality”

What would a discerning person look for in a spa?
The talent of the treatment staff, the environment for your visit, what is the story, and do the facilities and services match what you’re looking for.

How do you approach destination spas vs a local spa one could go to frequently?
The numbers have to make sense, and planning for optimizing revenue for every precious square foot of space and, how is the vision and facility mix delivered with design and functionality? A cool environment only lasts so long; the people make the place and bolster the mood or personality to make it stick every day.  

  

How has spa culture evolved since you started in the business?
More awareness, variety, and the integration of wellness and spa. More outdoor spaces and experiences (nature). Vastly improved design (biophilic; healthy materials, lighting, and mechanical/plumbing/electrical systems). More science-based programming, experiences, and services for guests (nutrition, sleep, meditation, relationships, mental health, community, diagnostics, and more). More and improved equipment and product selections (treatment tables, performance-based skincare, and much more). More opportunities for vacation travel – wellness retreats for a healthy reset. 

“Since the pandemic, there has been more investment in sustainability-driven development”

Are there issues of sustainability that are coming up now and how are they addressed?
In my opinion, our country is behind others when it comes to sustainability planning.  However, since the pandemic, there has been more investment in sustainability-driven development. Six Senses is a global leader and a model for what is working for the property, the guests, and the genuine support for the local community. Many in the wellness realm are fighting the good fight to achieve more sustainability objectives as wellness-driven projects are justified to have clean eco-environments. For more market segments, this is what guests are asking for and expecting. 

How do you go about designing for different places?
A Nordic spa is very different from, say, a Japanese one. Lessons learned in Asia: embrace the culture, the location, authentic story, then create a ‘sense of place’; design planning, experiences/offerings, and staff culture to deliver a project that honors it all. 

What is your personal favorite destination?
Bali, and now Mexico. There are outstanding spas now and coming to Mexico. The places and people remind me of Bali from years ago. The culture is thriving and embraced by visitors, there is kindness and happiness, the nature is engaging and glorious from sunrise to sunset.  

Where haven’t you been that you are lusting to go to?
Portugal, Iceland, Japan.

Workout Routine

Tell us about your weekly workout routine. 

  • Gym – 3 to 4 times per week; strength, cardio, mobility, stretch; slow and heavy or fast and light strength/cardio; circuit classes.
  • CrossFit with a physical therapist/trainer – 1 day a week.
  • Walk – with my wife, around our neighborhood or nearby trails; balance included.
  • Fit breaks during the day – time on our climbing wall, bike ride, push-ups/jump rope, music/dance, balance and pontat squeezing (pontat, learned in Bali, means “butt” ).
  • Hiking, fly fishing, skiing (downhill or cross-country).

Keto regimen has been most beneficial for me – i.e. improved clarity, energy, and maintaining an ideal body weight.

What are you doing on the trampoline?
Took a break due to an ATV accident (we gave away our trampoline…very sad). We have a rebounder on the way. Thanks for asking. I have used it and will again soon for short durations of 5 – 15 minutes (with music or in the forest behind our home). It is rejuvenating and a grand dose of full-body exercise fun.  

Favorite balance exercise?
Balancing on one leg or the other on a rock with a view while on a hike or walk.

How do you recover from your workouts?
Relaxing walks. Stretch and mobility in the woods, on one of our decks. Theragun, Thumper, or Chi machine. Working on navigating my breathing/meditation. Being in a river, fly fishing, is my happy place. 

Massage and Wellness

What are some of the benefits one would get from massage?
Long list of benefits and they are all good. Relaxing what needs to be relaxed, breathing deeply (we need more correct breathing), aligning and smoothing out the rough and tight bits, mobility to joints and muscle patterns, mind-body connection, and the act of being cared for by a massage therapist is a punch bowl of joy.

What are the wellness modalities you have at home?
Lucky for me, my wife, Kim, is a massage therapist trained in many modalities, including Balinese (and learning Thai massage now). We have a studio for dance, aerobics, yoga, weights/mats/accessories for workouts, mobility, balance, and so on. Sauna, whirlpool bath, steam/shower, Blue Lagoon – outdoor deck, outdoor shower.  Two-story climbing wall on the back of our home.

What are some of the changes to your physiology that you have noticed with age and how do you compensate?
Well… baldness is still a thing. I have always been active and I’ve had numerous injuries.  However, my fitness – strength, stamina, and mobility – have immensely helped me through it all, including being a candidate for back surgery for 10 years. My flexibility, mobility, and balance are important intentions for each day now. Learning from the lifestyle patterns of Blue Zones is something I recommend to everyone (Netflix: Live to 100 – Secrets of the Blue Zones). Moving naturally, such as making things, gardening, and walking with some uphill/downhill thrown in, is simple; it is a matter of being mindful of what your body has and is doing for you. So, be grateful and know what that feels like. Then you will be smiling. 

What music are you listening to these days?
Old and new stuff: Eddie Vedder, Duran Duran, U2, Coldplay, Willie Nelson, Khruangbin, John Frusciante, Hollow Coves, Anderson .Paak.

What projects are you working on now? 
Hospitality wellness/bathing spas; resort, residential, and community wellness spa and bathing models. We’re most fortunate to be working in 8 countries in the Caribbean, Central America, Mexico, and the US. 

Has the pandemic changed how people view spas?  
Need wellness and spa more than ever for our family, our children, each other, and for you.  Thankfully, air quality is finally important for spas!

What are the 3 non-negotiables in your life?
Kindness, forward motion/intention, move and play.

Connect with Cary:
LinkedIn
Website
Blu Spas Website
Instagram
Blu Spas Instagram

See medical disclaimer below. ↓

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The ideas expressed here are solely the opinions of the author and are not researched or verified by AGEIST LLC, or anyone associated with AGEIST LLC. This material should not be construed as medical advice or recommendation, it is for informational use only. We encourage all readers to discuss with your qualified practitioners the relevance of the application of any of these ideas to your life. The recommendations contained herein are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. You should always consult your physician or other qualified health provider before starting any new treatment or stopping any treatment that has been prescribed for you by your physician or other qualified health provider. Please call your doctor or 911 immediately if you think you may have a medical or psychiatric emergency.

AUTHOR

David Stewart
David is the founder and face of AGEIST. He is an expert on, and a passionate champion of the emerging global over-50 lifestyle. A dynamic speaker, he is available for panels, keynotes and informational talks at david@agei.st.

 

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