Stressed In The City? It’s Time To Rewild Yourself
Namibia, Africa. Photograph courtesy of Woodsmoke
The retreats to get you closer to nature.
For all the wonders of 21st-cuntury life – zippy internet, a taxi at the drop of an app, the ability to turn on the heating without being home – sometimes we wish for a simpler existence. One where we trade in tower blocks for towering trees, power showers for lake swimming and evening takeaways for morning foraging. Right?
PayPal founder and all-round Silicon Valley icon Mr Peter Thiel knows what we mean. He may have bought swathes of isolated land in New Zealand for the impending AI apocalypse (no, really), but in the meantime, he’s enjoying an idyllic, back-to-basics escape from the noise of the real world.
The desire to shun modernity and connect with nature isn’t only a billionaire’s fantasy. Human rewilding, as it’s known, is a real movement. An offshoot of the rewilding conservation projects aimed at restoring land to its natural state, human rewilders take themselves off to remote places to immerse themselves in nature and learn how to survive and thrive in the great outdoors. These are not places for chest-beating alpha males – human rewilding is thoughtful, welcoming and spiritual, often combining skills such as knifemanship and medicinal foraging with meditation and mindfulness.
If that sounds appealing and you long to be free of the screen you are reading this from, you can dip a toe in at one of these retreats, where you will be introduced to the concept, learn new skills and recharge your batteries. And if the still of the wild sends you to a dark place, you can always get an Uber back to the bright lights…
“Start thriving, not just surviving.” That’s Mr Tony Riddle’s mantra. For nearly 20 years, the super-fit, barefoot-running lifestyle coach has been on a mission to teach the restorative powers of rewilding to stressed city slickers. During his five-night retreat at Somerset’s peaceful 42 Acres, you will learn to disconnect from negative modern-day behaviours (read: phones and laptops) and encouraged to connect with your spiritual and emotional side through natural movement and primal play, barefoot walking, fire-making, cold-water immersion and the Japanese therapy of forest bathing, which involves walking slowly and mindfully through nature. This is not for the uptight: every morning starts with a round of hugs from your fellow rewilders and the day is spent rolling about in the woods and attempting to take stock of your life and emotions. The payoff? Deeper sleep, a clearer mind and a sense of empowerment for you to, hopefully, carry home.
Rewild & Thrive retreat, 19-24 October 2018
Cumbrian bushcraft school Woodsmoke has a simple message: “We should all return to our human roots every once in a while”. You won’t find much meditation here; instead, the emphasis is on mindfulness, new skills and making connections with people and nature. This summer, Woodsmoke hosts its second arboreal locomotion retreat led by London movement coach Mr Ben Medder. During the five-night course, you will learn the art of tree running and swinging, climbing and vaulting; for four nights, your accommodation will be in a tent suspended from the trees. The Woodsmoke team and founder/wilderness expert Mr Ben McNutt also offer bespoke retreats for dedicated rewilders: tailor-made retreats could cover everything from axe skills and plant lore to fire making and shelter building. And for its leadership development programmes, locations vary from rugged, windswept English moorland to the blistering heat of Namibia.
Wild Woods retreat, 30 June-6 July
The Sharpham Trust
Snuggled in a valley of patchwork fields near Totnes in Devon, The Sharpham Trust is a charity that helps people connect with nature. At the heart of the estate is a large Georgian villa, but for its Woodland Retreats you’ll be camping in the woodland bell tents that form the basis of its nature retreats that run throughout the year. Rewilders should look to its three-night Nature Connection retreats. Designed to quieten the mind, there are daily guided meditations and periods of silence from 9.00pm until 9.00am, with an extended period of silence on the final day. This, combined with barefoot walking and foraging, aims to create “feelings of gratitude, wonder, calm, self-insight and positive emotions”. Don’t worry if the thought of mass-silence makes you feel uncomfortable – you are welcome to natter, as long as you keep it by the campfire.
Nature Connection retreats, until 27 September