Juan Aubert

Forest Bathing and Wellness Tourism: a pioneering path in Patagonia

Juan Aubert is the founder of Anfitriones Turísticos (« touristic host »), a tourism company in Villa La Angostura, one of the most beautiful landscapes in the world and most exclusive destinations located in the Argentine Patagonia. He offers Forest Bathing in the framework of Experiential and Well-being Tourism, working also with travel agencies and public tourism offices. In a recent meeting with the Argentine Association of Lifestyle Medicine, he laid the groundwork for green prescription in the near future.

Juan was a teacher, bank manager, painter and businessman. Raised in the countryside in a « very wild » way, since he was a child he knows how to « read » the weather according to the movements of animals and, although adult life took him away from nature, he managed to return.

« Something exploded« : a solitary walk in a Patagonian forest was the flame that led him to travel to Spain, where he trained as a Forest Bathing Guide with Forest Therapy Hub. He has since become the first Guide of its kind in Argentina and has positioned himself in a region recognized worldwide for exclusive wellness tourism. « Many health professionals came to the walks and all were delighted with the practice and have begun to spread the word. »

« We were waiting for you »

« Forest Bathing was a call of life. I connected to it thanks to a businessman who had an estate, he asked me what could be done there, and when I walked that small forest in solitude, a flame was awakened in me. I started researching and a Forest Bathing institute in Japan connected me with Forest Therapy Hub, and by the next summer I was in Urkiola.

« The training exceeded my expectations, because of all the information you get and what you can see in yourself. What blocks you, what unblocks you. It was a moving experience. What became clear to me in that beech forest is that we are insignificant compared to the very life of the Planet. One more seed in the forest.

« When I arrive at the places where we do the walks I feel there is a connection, like it tells me ‘hello, you arrived, we were waiting for you‘.

« I was born on a farm in Ramón Santamarina, Buenos Aires, in the middle of the countryside and delivered by a midwife. That life shaped me. That connection, feeling nature, what the animals were telling me, when there was going to be wind or rain. Observing them and their movement, perceiving the sensations they transmit. If they put their haunches towards one or the other of the cardinal points. I grew up in a very wild way.

« In adulthood, my studies and work took me away, but not from the sea, where I used to go barefoot whenever I could, whatever the weather ».

The grandfather tree and destiny in the forest

« My professional life was spent away from nature, until I arrived at Villa La Angostura. It was like an explosion. There, long before getting to know Forest Bathing, I wrote about a 350-year-old tree, ‘the grandfather coihue‘. I climbed it with my son, and from that height I could see the world. That marked me.

« We were a family of limited resources and to study I painted houses, cleaned land, worked in a bank, was a manager and at the age of 33 I decided to change: I resigned, I was a merchant for a decade, I went bankrupt. I was a councilman, I participated in public and private institutions in executive positions, I was a teacher of Economic Sciences for another decade, and it kept me very motivated to be close to the youth -you are always 20 years old-. One day I realized that education was in decline and I retired. »

« Then I started researching experiential tourism, so people can experience something different, become aware. I said to myself ‘when I retire, I’m not going to stay cutting the grass around my house’ and I started to develop the Anfitriones Turísticos (Tourist Hosts) project. I did the Nordic walking training and then the Forest Bathing training. When I retired, I founded this company, which will soon have a national future ».

« The experience I have gave me the intuition to lead the way. Just by watching, I detect what is going on around me or the movements of others. That’s how I got to the tourism office and they always supported me to promote, just like the provincial Ministry of Tourism. »

« A few days ago I had a meeting with the Argentine Association of Lifestyle Medicine and we will continue to meet to shape in the future the green prescription in our country, I hope so. »

Wellness Tourism

« The entrepreneur has every day a giant rock at the door, and you have to always find a way. In Argentina, entrepreneurs do not have enough support, so it was all effort, love and dedication. That push was forming my company and making it known, inserting it in the community, going to travel agencies with which I have agreements.

« Forest Bathing occupies a new but fundamental place in Argentina as part of nature tourism, wellness tourism. In El Bolsón, which will surely become the capital of wellness tourism in Argentina, I offered Forest Bathing in what was the first week of Wellness Tourism in the country ».

« In the 2022 season many health professionals came to the Forest Bathing walks and all were happy with the experience. I remember a group of young people – one sometimes categorizes youth in a different way – with a depth that fills me with joy. There is a process of change in the new generations. I am touched by the feedback, what is created within the walks is gratifying. It’s this message of loving life.

« It is clear that humanity is in a dilemma between choosing a digitally super-controlled world, discarding the depth of human existence in a technocratic system, or overcoming that barrier and re-humanize ourselves, generating a deeper world full of spirituality, with people connected at their core and with the Planet. »

 

Ph: Courtesy Juan Aubert

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