Have you head 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. Mindful forest walks, called Shinrin Yoku, started in Japan (not sure that walking in the forest really has a starting point?) seems to be making it’s way to our vocabulary and is 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.”
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, 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. We seem to make everything so complicated and unattainable…even our happiness. But the answers are normally pretty simple and for me they lead back to nature.
“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, the wind is blowing, …After all, this isn’t the kind of place you can come to anytime, and it would be a shame to let this experience go by unnoticed.” –Mishio Hoshino talking about Alaska
Keep Wellness Simple
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.
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 makes 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 get 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.