A few months ago, through the power of Groupon, I purchased a 24-hour pass and foot massage to Spa World. This is probably the most unexpected purchase I could have bought for myself. I hate spas because they make me so uncomfortable and anxious; I fear that I’m not doing the right thing and people are staring at me, so I do my best to avoid them. But I had a voucher that needed to be used, so the entire adventure cost about $15. At the time of purchase I wanted to use the Groupon as a reward for getting the house in order and the deadline for use was early October. Seemed like a good idea at the time. Turns out 8,820 other people bought passes, too, so I’m not that crazy, right?
Saturday morning of my visit I was all over the place at home. Nervous and anxious and stalling. I had a 3:00 or 3:30 massage appointment (I couldn’t really remember what time it was for) which forced me to go. Yes, I was forcing myself to go to a spa…something about pushing my boundaries and trying new things. That Saturday morning, it felt like the dumbest thing I could have done to myself. I was dropping things, pacing around the house and generally fretting a trip to the spa. Who am I?
Spa World isn’t like most other spas. First, it’s located in Centerville, about an hour outside the city (I used a visit to Chic-fil-a as another form of motivation, but alas my phone GPS kept giving me the wrong directions so I settled on Dairy Queen. That ain’t bad either.) Second, it is a Korean spa, one of only a few like it in the country. From the outside it looks like a big box store in a strip mall, probably because it once was. Seriously, what was I doing here?
Their system used technology throughout the whole experience and that was pretty neat. I told the lady that I had a foot massage scheduled around 3:30, but she couldn’t find it on the schedule. She made a phone call, speaking in Korean the whole time then hung up. Okay, I’m in.
Once I checked in I was given a locker number (2258 was mine), a nifty electronic key thing attached to a bracelet and told to put my shoes in the locker. That’s the last time you see any type of shoe for the rest of your time there, but the floors are very clean. They also give you some lounging clothes – orange for women and yellow for men. Think comfy elastic waistbands and oversized shirts. I could get used to that since that’s mostly what I wear around the house. Things are looking up.
Okay, so I read about the spa before I went. I had to. Having lots of details and asking questions before I go is a known way for me to lessen my anxiety. However, you cannot be prepared for this spa. Naked women everywhere in the women’s locker room. They do not allow bathing suits in the pools. I go to my locker, put my stuff up, then do as the Koreans do. There is this entire pool room, the Bade Spa, that uses water in the most extraordinary ways. Different pools ranged in temperature, there were different spouts that shot water in different ways to massage different parts of the body, a few hot and dry saunas and some cleaning stations. I never figured out the cleaning stations…you just have to go to understand it.
A note about naked. People are either from a naked household or a non naked household. Whatever you grow up in is your normal. My normal was a naked household, which feels weird to type because I wouldn’t consider myself a flaunter of nakedness (however, this summer at the Corn Palace it was mostly so freakin’ hot that I refused to put on my robe so I got pretty used to walking from the downstairs bath to my room in just a towel.) Here’s the best test: when your parents and siblings shared a hotel room growing up, did you get dressed in the bathroom or did you come out in a towel? And now you know.
To see all these naked women was probably the weirdest thing about the whole experience. You look but you don’t. Then you don’t know where to look because you’ll just see more naked women. I’m not a judger by any means, but there are just certain things you see and you start to wonder what is normal. Thoughts like “aren’t you supposed to shave that?” and “wow, I hope I never get one of those” cross your mind. I tried to relax and be normal. God help me.
It was getting to be about 3:00 and I realized I had not confirmed what time my foot massage was. Crap. So I put on my pretty orange suit (it’s faded orange so it doesn’t seem like a prison suit) and start asking for directions. One lady told me upstairs. I went up some stairs and found an arcade and a men’s only room. No dice. Then the worst fear – they called my number over the loudspeaker. The numbers were in English but the rest of the message was in Korean. My worst fear of being called out just happened. And you know what? I dealt with it. Yeah, it helped it was a number and not my name, but I still blushed. Then I found someone to ask and they gave me directions for the proper stairwell. I was only about 10 minutes late for my 3:00 appointment.
The foot massage was excellent. It sort of hurt because the guy was getting some knots out of my feet, even from the tips of my toes. I believe in the power of the foot to heal our body ailments. Let me tell you, my entire body was getting worked during those 30 minutes. It was nice. Even nicer was the large flat screen TV right in front of me playing Serie A soccer. I was finally getting relaxed. Note: my feet were blue for the next day or two from bruising, but it didn’t hurt like a bruise, so that’s curious. Makes me wonder.
I spent the rest of the afternoon in the main room with a café area, mats for lounging and a few more hot rooms that were interesting in a good way. For a few hours I watched football and soccer, read some magazines and just escaped. That part was my favorite. Since I had a 24 hour pass, I could have come back the next day. They even advertise that people coming from Dulles and staying overnight could sleep on the mats because the facility is open 24 hours. I think that would be cool to try…just a suggestion for the next time you get stranded at Dulles.
That neat little system traps your shoes until you pay. You give them the key which has all your in-house purchases of massages and food and whatnots and they total you up. Mine was $4.50…I only bought a water but I really hope there was some service charge or something because that is an expensive water.
All told, it was a great experience. I would go back. I liked the diversity of the crowd and that everything was in Korean. If I’m driving an hour to get somewhere, I want to feel like I’m somewhere and Korean signage does it for me. Who would have thought that a spa that has little English and amenities unlike my own culture is more relaxing than a “regular” spa? And that’s why I do these adventures.