Rosa is from Catalonia, studied Journalism and has been in Chile for six years, and Alfredo studied Ecotourism in the country’s capital, Santiago. They were trekking guides in none other than the monumental Torres del Paine. Something frustrated them about guiding in wonderful landscapes with the goal of getting there and taking the picture. Their strong connection to the forest and the mountains called for another approach.
They trained together in FTHub to start the practice in the outskirts of paradisiacal Pucon and founded Bosque Armonia (Harmony Forest). They installed a meticulous network of collaborators and diffusion to offer Forest Bathing among the most requested and innovative wellness attractions in the region.
Alfredo: “We are offering Forest Bathing with everything we learned in the training. We are located on the outskirts of Pucon. We found this little forest on the banks of the Trancura River, a very beautiful forest with myrtle and coihue trees. We offer them for tourism in agencies, lodges, hotels, because it is something new in this destination. Here there is a lot of adventure tourism like rafting, trekking, climbing the volcano (Villarrica), but well-being tourism in addition to thermal baths, is incipient and we wanted to innovate in this area.
“We created Bosque Armonia shortly after finishing the training at FTHub. Then we also took the In-person training in Valdivia.”
Rosa: “We focused on working together with travel agencies to be able to bring forest bathing to everyone who visits Pucon and is looking for something that is not trekking but more of a connection with the place and the wellness that comes from it.”
Alfredo: “We met in Puerto Natales (South Chilean Patagonia), where I was a trekking guide, so I have a lot of experience guiding groups in English. We both wanted to generate a deeper connection with nature”.
“People usually want more activity, or they go to a viewpoint, and you walk around without time to stop and enjoy the forest and its details. So when we learned about the practice of Forest Bathing we knew it was what we wanted to do, because it generates a deeper connection.”
Rosa: “I have many strong places and moments in nature. I feel that my story has gone from one place to another, but everything has ended in the place from which I initially started: I grew up in nature, I am from a very small village in the mountains (Arbúcies, with 6000 inhabitants, in Girona, Spain) and for me the forest has always been there. It was where I went to study. I opened the door and there was the forest. And now too, I live in a beautiful place.
“In a way that connection was always there, and now, having learned about Forest Bathing, I see that I always felt that containment in the forest. Then I studied Journalism because I love writing, and then I came to Chile.
“I traveled around Latin America for a year and there nature caught me again, because it has such incredible landscapes. Then I said ‘I want to dedicate myself to being a guide, I want to go to nature with people, I want to live this with people’. I trained as a trekking guide and I was guiding in Torres del Paine, but my love for nature was always more important, because it’s very different guiding a trek, which was taking people, and they didn’t even notice the forest. I would tell them ‘but look at this beautiful place’, and it frustrated me a little”.
“It was Alfredo who first told me about Forest Bathing. And that’s when it all came together. It’s what I like, to be there to relax, to feel the emotions and facilitate that connection. Yeah, this is it. This is what I want to do. Not having to go out into nature to take the pictures, to get to some lookout point, or anything.”
The trail and the process
Rosa: “It was wonderful to discover the feeling of the forest in a way that not even the (trekking or tourism) guides do, who are the ones who are in nature all the time. We continue guiding and going to the mountains, but now it is a different experience. Forest Bathing is another matter, and when I do my walks here near the river where we live, it’s something else”.
Alfredo: “As a kid I was always amazed by the Andes, the mountains. As a child I used to go to the hills when there was snow. I felt that the mountain called me more than my classmates. I would say to them ‘but look how beautiful the mountains are with the snow'”.
As a child I also went to my grandparents’ summer house and they had vegetables, a garden, animals. I spent a lot of time there and also on vacation in southern Chile. I also had a 10-year relationship with a little dog that greeted me every day during all that time, I was attracted by that relationship, that connection with another living being that was not human. I also adored the desert, when I went to see it. I felt that nature provoked something stronger in me than in others”.
“Then I studied Ecotourism because I wanted that more people can feel what I feel. Then I dedicated to trekking, learning more about nature. Then there was no turning back. These places make you feel a connection back with the landscape, with the land where we are from.
“Also, with the environmental crisis in the world, we need to realize that we need to live in a better relationship with the world. And so Forest Bathing is a very effective tool to make that click, for people to interpret, to get a reflection out of their relationship with the natural world.”
The forest bathing walks
“I very much remember a lady in her 50s looking to the sides, kind of fidgeting, I thought she didn’t connect with the experience. But then when we shared how she felt, she got emotional and started to cry. She had had a kind of deja vu, she said that she had already lived or dreamed that moment and she could not believe it: she was corroborating her memory with her eyes. Besides, a change of life was coming to her, being there at that moment made all sense to her”.
“The other day a guy from the city said, when we finished, ‘I don’t know what time it is, I don’t know where I am geographically, I haven’t looked at my cell phone in a while and I’m very happy’. It’s very powerful to just not connect to your phone for 3 hours and be in a quiet place without knowing anything about the outside world. Another recurring experience is that they feel like children again.
“So we have undertaken a plan to offer Forest Bathing walks and also as part of a Well-being Plan to travel agencies, hotels, Tourism offices so that people know that the activity is offered here.”
Photos: Courtesy of Bosque Armonía