We here in North America are grappling with the possibility of decriminalizing psychedelics. In the process, we’re creating a fair bit of noise about their recreational and therapeutic use. It’s important to remember that our market is not the world. There are places where these practices are both legal, and relatively unremarkable. The Netherlands is one such place. While psilocybin mushrooms are illegal, magic truffles in their raw form are not, and their consumption is common practice. What’s more, vice tourism is giving way to wellness tourism. Psychedelic users are making their way to the Netherlands, where a series of psychedelic retreats have quietly popped up over recent years.
Rather than evoking the raucous Red-Light District of Amsterdam and it’s smart-shops, this new wave of psychedelic vacationers is more likely to consist of goal-oriented and wellness-seeking professionals. It’s rising popularity is closely tied to that of microdosing culture. While psychedelic retreats are hardly unique to the Netherlands, they do have the advantage of an existing cultural association with psilocybin, beautiful rural settings, and frequent discount flights from North American airports.
The New Psychedelic Tourism Model
For a relatively new market, there are many players. We’ll be exploring some in greater detail later, and hope to provide a comprehensive guide once we’re able to back it up with proper research and interviews. For now, we’ll offer a general overview. All of the Netherlands-based retreats will necessarily have some similarities. It will be more in the differences that we’ll define them.
The most common ground between them is the proximity to Amsterdam. Convenience is their selling point, and quick, easy travel times are always a plus for a weekend getaway whether or not it involves psilocybin. Idyllic rural settings seem to be the other shared factor for most, although some are based within Amsterdam itself. Others appear simply to be tour services that pivot around individual or group wants with no set location or facility. This may be a deliberate effort at concealment, as psychedelics are still the object of some stigma, even in the Netherlands. Those operations that are based out of a single facility tend towards the rustic, bringing psychedelic users to quaint and quirky country homes in pastoral settings.
The Retreats and Clientele
Here is where we start to see the divergence in programs. The culture of psychedelics and of psilocybin use has evolved and diversified, no longer skewed toward the vice tourist. Most of the retreat modules seem focused around self-improvement in some form or another, with either full or microdosing experiences.
Some psychedelic retreats offer a more corporate experience, catering to those who seek to bond with their teams and maximize workplace potential. Others are journeys of personal discovery and healing. More are just about relaxing, connecting with nature. In one instance a primal Celtic experience draws from traditional psilocybin use in Ireland. One seems geared particularly toward bachelorette events. Individual companies frequently offer multiple retreats with differing aims, and all of this points to a general broadening of psychedelic horizons. The properties of psilocybin, in this case, magic truffles, are becoming better known. Retreat organizers and attendees seem to be willing to experiment in applying them to the bettering of their lives in myriad ways.
Psychedelics, when used properly and responsibly, can be something of an emotional panacea in that they enable focus and self-realization. When administered improperly by those for who they are medically inadvisable, or in unsupervised high doses by first-time users, they can be emotionally devastating and, particularly through unfortunate accidents, physically harmful. With so much interest and so many new users, particularly with microdosing culture. As such, it’s undeniably helpful to have guides willing to help facilitate a safe experience. There already seems to be a great deal of variety in terms of what shape that experience can take. There is only likely to be more in the future, if conditions permit.
At the time of writing, many of these young psychedelic enterprises are preparing for the easing of border closures. The tourism sector at large throughout the EU has been hit hard by COVID-19. Social distancing protocols are likely to be a part of those retreats still able to function for the foreseeable future. Many are unlikely to survive. Equally important is the Dutch themselves. The Netherlands generally have more liberal drug laws, regarding their use as an individual choice. They are also very aware of the consequences. The tourist trade in illicit substances brings both cash influx and problems along with it. Paradoxically, the Netherlands is a permissive but conservative and religious society, and it remains to be seen how this changing landscape of psychedelic use will impact their views as the go-to destination for legal consumption.