Vacation usually provokes thoughts of untethering from our daily routine and unplugging to relax or explore. However, though most of us have the desire to relax, we don’t plan to spend any time away from our phones. Yet, there are studies revealing just how healthy disconnecting from devices and taking the time to reconnect with nature truly is.
According to expert and author on the subject, Dr. Qing Li, forest bathing, or shinrin-yoku, is a Japanese practice of spending time among nature and trees, ideally, with zero distractions in order to truly rejuvenate and reconnect through all of your senses. Locals and travelers alike looking to get away and take in natural beauty can find their secluded retreat with Homes and Experiences on Airbnb, including Urban Forest Walkabout in San Francisco with host Julia Plevin, who is writing her own book on the health benefits of forest bathing.
I’ve always loved nature but it wasn’t until I was living in NYC getting my MFA in design that I realized how big an impact the lack of nature had on my mental health. I was stressed and anxious – my hair was falling out, anything I ate made me feel sick, I was short-tempered with people I loved.
Julia Plevin, Airbnb Experience host
Countless hours of research and a graduate thesis on the effects of lack of nature exposure later, Julia was inspired to move to San Francisco and share her findings with others. Starting with a Forest Bathing Club, Julia sought to expose people to nature’s medicine and the benefits of reconnecting with the outdoors.
“Since the 1980s in Japan, scientists have been doing all sorts of research on the benefits of being in nature – it lowers your heart rate, your cortisol levels, and your stress,” says Julia. “Science has proven what we’ve intrinsically known all along – being in nature makes us feel better. Now there are over 60 official forest bathing trails around Japan. It’s more recently spread to other corners of the globe.”
As most of us spend more and more time in front of screens (according to Julia’s research, up to 11 hours every day), the importance of engaging our senses has never been more imperative, and it requires no learned behavior; this is something we inherently know how to do. Julia tells us the practice of forest bathing is more about remembering than learning: to be present.
“One easy way to forest bathe is to find a spot and just sit there for 20 minutes a day doing nothing but noticing and being. Another way is to just be aware of all the nature around you — the plants in your house, the air you breathe, the water you drink. We don’t have to go out into nature because we are nature.”
After all of her research and education efforts, a publisher recently reached out to Julia asking her to write her own book on the subject, setting her out on a global trip to examine the forest bathing tradition in societies around the world.
Beginning in New Zealand, Julia visited the largest living kauri trees with a Maori guide and then traveled to Japan to spend time with Shugendo Buddhist monks who taught her both the practice of connecting to the sun every morning, and the lesson that if you want to find truth, you have to go out to nature to discover it. She then ventured to Costa Rica to train with the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy and then to Guatemala to spend time with Mayan elders. Ultimately back in the US, she met with a modern day mystic and spiritual ecologist in Washington’s Hoh Rainforest to visit sacred spots and learn how to give offerings to the earth.
Julia is now preparing to release her book next spring with Ten Speed Press; she can’t give away much, but says its structure mimics the forest bathing journey.
Julia’s Experience is one of many ways you can begin your own forest bathing journey on the platform. Here is a sampling of Homes and Experiences that can kickstart your own practice:
Active Meditation at the Retiro Park – Madrid, Spain
Forest Retreat: Shinrin-Yoku – Vancouver, Canada
Shinrin-Yoku Nature Forest Therapy – Sydney, Australia
Experience Zhineng Qi Gong in Nature – Cape Town, South Africa
The Forever Young Project – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Forest Therapy – Los Angeles, CA
Short Mountain Hike and Yoga – Hadano, Japan
Forest Therapy Walk – Lisbon, Portugal
Urban Forest Walkabout – San Francisco, CA
Feel the Ryuku Spirit – Okinawa, Japan
The Airbnb Newsroom is aimed at journalists. All Homes and Experiences referenced on the Airbnb Newsroom are intended purely to inspire and illustrate. Airbnb does not recommend or endorse specific Home listings or any other Homes or Experiences on the Airbnb platform.