You will not need a vacation after this getaway

Cornfields – miles and miles of them, are your first clue as to what expect when you have reached The Heartland Spa in Gilman, Ill.

The atmosphere at Heartland Spa reflects its unpretentious farmland setting

The atmosphere at Heartland Spa reflects its unpretentious farmland setting

A destination spa since the mid1980’s, Heartland really does reflect the fresh from the farm nature of its surroundings and its onetime history as a dairy.

As you leave US Highway 57 behind, you think you really didn’t have to bring that nice top to change into for dinner.

A sign at the front of Heartland’s long driveway is your second clue about what lies ahead.

Oops...should have left the pop cans and candy at home

Oops...should have left the pop cans and candy at home

Instead of a crossed out circled cigarette, you see “No Junk Food.” Hmm, maybe that candy bar and pop should have been left behind as well.

After checking in and seeing the common areas and your room you are sure of two things so far: 1. you will relax with a book in the cheery “White Room” parlor, the warm den-like Wood Room or outside by the pond because you have a narrow bedroom without a comfy chair, and 2. you didn’t need to bring any clothes because shorts, t-shirts, robe, sweat pants and sweat shirt are laid out on your bed.

A “laundry angel” picks up dirty Heartland clothes from a mat outside your door and drops off clean ones.

It takes only one night of changing for dinner to realize almost no one here wears anything but Heartland distributed clothes around the grounds, at meals or at any of the lifestyle talks.

“It’s like camp,” says a guest from Chicago.

Beverages, fruit and encouraging words are always available

Beverages, fruit and encouraging words are always available

And it takes only one day to realize you can’t make a mistake.

Guests who show up for their spa treatment wearing Heartland shorts and tees instead of robes because they thought robes would be available in the lockers are greeted with a smile and told not to worry.

They could change in their treatment rooms down to whatever makes them comfortable.

The only exception to Heartland’s whatever-works-for-you attitude is getting to treatments and lunch and dinner sit-down service on time. Breakfast is a buffet.

But no one minds getting to the dining room on time when lunch is Italian roasted chicken breast on top of roasted vegetables, all topped with golden melted mozzarella.  And not to be missed, dinner is tomato lentil soup, grilled chili salmon with sweet pepper salsa, garlic mashed potatoes, delicate asparagus and a three berry crepe for desert.

The dining room setup encourages meeting and conversation with other guests

The dining room setup encourages meeting and conversation with other guests

Calories and fat content are listed on the side of the day’s menu.

Guests who can’t or won’t eat fish or chicken are offered an alternative entree.

You learn quickly that except for meals, guests are free to take a class such as yoga, sign up for a spa or salon service, sit in on a discussion such as “Lean Mass vs Fat Mass,” bike or hike. Or they can just do nothing.

“When you see faces of people coming in stressed and then see the smiles and relaxed expressions of the same people when they leave, you know you are doing something good,” said Interim Fitness Manager Raelene Honeycutt.

“I feel unplugged,” said California business marketer Mindy Lake.

Aps guests like to relax and read by the pond

Spa guests like to relax and read by the pond

Indeed, guests who come for just a day or two to see if they like the spa often say they wish they had allowed themselves more getaway time.

When asked what she hoped guests would understand by the time they leave, Executive Director Sherry Gossett said, “That it’s OK to take care of yourself and take time for yourself.”

The Heartland Spa is at 1237 E. 1600 North Road, Gilman IL 60938, 800-545-4853

Photos by Jodie Jacobs

 

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