Have you heard of Forest Bathing? Forest bathing isn’t a bathtub in the forest, or a jump in the lake, or even running nude through the forest – it’s simply a forest walk.
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What is Forest Bathing
Mindful forest walks, called Shinrin Yoku, started in Japan (not sure that walking in the forest really has a starting point?) seem to be making its way to our vocabulary and are considered part of wellness travel.
I doubled over in laughter when I recently received this press release in my inbox; it reminded me of just how crazy marketing is. Marketing has a brilliant and equally annoying way of making something out of nothing.
“ Another growing trend, forest bathing, is brilliant in its simplicity: walking through a forest and reaping the benefits of the phytoncides the trees and plants give off. “Phyton” means “plant” in Latin, and “cide” refers to the natural substance that a plant gives off to kill microorganisms. Research in Taiwan has shown that limonene phytoncide promotes sleep, helps fight anxiety, and eases pain. In Japan, a forest bathing experience, called Shinrinyoku, is regarded as being similar to natural aromatherapy. It has now become a recognized relaxation and/or stress management activity.”
Wellness Travel is Complicated
It’s no wonder that in our world of constant reach-ability, where ‘being busy’ is like a Girl Scout badge that most people are brainwashed into wearing proudly, that the idea of Wellness Tourism has popped into our vocabulary.
Wellness tourism is travel for the purpose of promoting health and well-being through physical, psychological, or spiritual activities. Think yoga retreats (like the one I did in Panama), fasts, spa vacations, and probably anything organic. And of course forest bathing.
Most of this type of travel is all about Zen, and it’s also all about money. Spas are not cheap – and neither are yoga retreats. Somehow we have made something that is supposed to be about simplicity – very difficult to attain and afford.
But for me the answers to wellness are pretty simple – they lead back to nature. And I don’t think nature should be expensive.
How to Keep Wellness Travel Simple and Affordable
This is one of my favorite quotes on the simplicity of wellness:
“Wouldn’t it be worthwhile to put aside a little time each day – even just fifteen or thirty minutes – to forget your work and observe closely that flowers are blooming, and the wind is blowing, …After all, this isn’t the kind of place you can come to any time, and it would be a shame to let this experience go by unnoticed.” –Mishio Hoshino talking about Alaska
A wellness vacation doesn’t have to break the bank. On my recent Northern California Road Trip I realized that one doesn’t need to drop a bunch of bucks to do wellness travel at all. In fact, my favorite way to recharge doesn’t require a reservation or a credit card at all. It just requires some walking shoes and a hat.
Tree Travel in California
I’ve walked through many woods and on many hiking trails, but for me, there was something special about the Coastal Redwoods in Northern California. I’m not sure if it was just the sheer size of them that made me feel small or insignificant or if it was the lack of sunlight that made it through the tall giants.
Walking through trails in the Redwoods National Park and along Avenue of the Giants was completely calming. I could only hear the babbling streams and the occasional creaking of a tree in the wind. I just wanted to be still and listen…and that’s what I did. A cool dewy temperature, a little fog, the soft spongy trail carpeted with branches, leaves, and ferns – why spend money at a wellness spa when you can simply come and take a walk in the woods?
As I stood in the middle of the redwoods at dusk and just listened for a while, I thought about how these sounds reminded me of the music they put on at spas when you have a treatment – the calming sounds of a forest. And here I was at the ‘root’ of it all. I didn’t need to pay money to hear pre-recorded sounds while I sat in a sterile environment indoors, I could simply drive here myself to walk and just listen.
Take a Walk in California’s Redwoods…It’s Free Forest Bathing!
Forest Bathing Books
If you want to do more than just walk in the woods and listen to the sounds around you as I did, then maybe you want to look further into meditation and the Japanese version of Forest Bathing. Here are a few books that can help you stay focused and get the most out of your walk in the woods.
4 Other Forest Bathing Destinations Around the World
Most of my travel is focused on nature; apparently, I’ve been forest bathing all around the world. Trees hold a special place in my heart, in fact, I’ve even planned trips to see specific trees – I call it tree travel. So where else besides the California Redwoods can you go for tree travel?
Great Bear Rainforest
I’ve been lucky enough to visit the Great Bear Rainforest in BC Canada twice, and both times it had a profound impact on me. It spoke to me in ways that surprised me, and I often spoke back to it. It is said that people go to the Great Bear Rainforest to have a conversation with nature; it’s the gateway into Mother Nature’s soul. I highly recommend going to visit the giant 1000-year-old ‘Mother Tree’ affectionately named The Big Cedar near Bella Coola. It might just be the gateway to your happiness.
Hawaii’s Rainforest and Surprising Pine Trees
You might be surprised to hear that you’ll see much more than palm trees on the Hawaiian Islands. Some of my most memorable forest walks have been on the islands of Hawaii – specifically Lana’i where you’ll find big Norfolk Pine trees that feel completely out of place in Hawaii!
Lana’i has some of the largest pine forests in Hawaii – yes, pine forests in tropical paradise! There’s no better way to see them than on foot – where you can slowly take in their majestic beauty, aroma, and texture. While on the Koloiki Trail I loved simply stopping, standing completely still, looking up at the towering pines, and listening.
The Tiny Trees of the Arctic Tundra
I looked ahead at the forest in front of me astonished. We were going to have to slash our way through the ‘forest’ of Willow trees in order to make it to the viewpoint. I followed along in our guide’s boot steps through the tundra and the willow trees admiring their fall leaves. But at times they were so dense that I was barely able to find my way out of the forest. Never mind that the willow trees were only 3 inches tall!
Everything lives close to the ground on the high arctic tundra of Wrangel Island in order to protect themselves from the wind and cold temperatures. And the higher in the Arctic you go, the shorter plants/trees get.
Go to where Forest Bathing Began and Hike Through Japan’s Kumano Kodo
Trees, Trees, Trees. I hiked the multi-day Kumano Kodo trail underneath the shade of these giant Japanese cedar trees. It was a spectacular challenge as well as an exercise in tranquility, and nature. If you just hike the Kumano Kodo trail you are going to miss out. You have to take the time to stop, sit, and listen to the stillness. You’ll hear the birds, the leaves blowing in the breeze, and the bugs – it will sound like nature’s symphony.
I love trees so much that I have a Pinterest Board solely dedicated to tree travel!
Whether you call it Forest Bathing, Tree Travel, a walk in the woods, or Wellness Travel – it’s all the same. Just get out into nature, slow down, and enjoy the peacefulness around you.