“comfort and clarity in the company of woods” – the Still North Retreat Co.

If you know me, you also know how much I love the city, and how I could never live without the hustle and bustle of downtown Montreal. By the same token, I cannot deprive myself of nature, and when my brain has had enough, that is where I seek refuge. So when Michelle Tucker approached me to write about Still North Retreat Co. I was very curious to know more….and jumped on the idea.

The first step was obviously to take a look at  the Still North Retreat Co. webiste, and what I saw made my heart leap!

What a concept! What a solution to the “busy brain”: nature retreats aimed at healing the brain from the daily over-stimulation we are subjected to.  Who are they? They are not just a  brand new start-up offering retreats in surreal locations across Western Canada……

flowers&sea“We are a community that has grown up in the wilderness of Northern Canada. From small communities in the Prairies, through the Mountains to the Coast, we were taught to slow down and take pleasure in the simple things in life. This is what we want to share with you. Our ideal guest is anyone who wants to slow down, reconnect with nature and discover something new with a curious mind, and open heart…”

The objective of the retreats is about helping individuals to heal, and empowering them to live with intention.

What drives Michelle?  “…connecting people to nature, to their own intuition, and encouraging bonding with others in a small group...” with the ultimate goal of , “helping people live with more intention and simply feel better, encouraging them to be kinder to themselves, to those around them and to the earth…” workshopPI.jpg

When I asked Michelle why she started this adventure, it was clear that her roots have much to do with it. 

“This has been something that has always been with me. I grew up in the prairies spending so much time outside, learning from my parents how to fish, garden, identify plants and birds, and appreciate nature, no matter what the landscape or the weather was. I guess, for years, I received the benefits of being immersed in nature without even thinking about it, it was just our way of life.”

Let it be clear, although Michelle’s passion is deep rooted in where she was brought up, her experience is not limited to Canada, nor are her interests only nature-based. She recently studied a Digital Media Creative program in Stockholm, where she was able to confront herself with leaders and colleagues in various tech and design businesses. She loved the experience but also realized how overworked everyone seemed to be, “with a culture of working way past the point of feeling unwell-physically, mentally and spiritually…There was something missing for me. A sense of living with intention, connecting to intuition, and in particular, I missed nature most of all. I knew how much experiences like this could benefit people of all ages: those that are working so hard to stay innovative and creative in their jobs and personal life, people who, studies show, have ever increasing anxiety, depression and loneliness, and people who really need to take some time to listen to themselves.” Happiness-wp-2

For Michelle, the objective of Still North Retreat Co. is “To create a space for humans to slow down and take time to reflect on their thoughts, the stories they have written about their own life, look deeper and find meaning in what they are telling themselves…to share that with others and create small communities where people can learn to understand each other and empathize.”

RetreatDinner3.jpgMichelle goes on to explain, “…and to create this experience, in a natural environment that is so conducive to healing, and encourage a deeper appreciation for nature.

A space for people to ultimately make into their own experience and feel what it’s like to make the time and space to listen to themselves, discover something new, and trust that voice that is always there…”

Let’s be clear, the retreats are not limited to sitting around a campfire, nor just to walking through the beautiful forests of Western Canada. The program also aims at teaching participants to learn something new…and work with their hands, a different way of connecting with nature.

“Different retreats will offer different opportunities, such as gardening, fermenting, pottery, or weaving. New tactile experiences not only help us to stay creative in our work and personal lives, but creating with our hands also helps us to heal, so basically to stay sane in a sometimes chaotic world.” SunsetKootenayLake

Looking ahead, Michelle’s looks to encourage individuals to be kinder to themselves and live with intention. “To deepen appreciation and understanding of the natural world and how we need to live more harmoniously with (it). To build community, to take time to understand and learn from each other, and inspire each other to live better. Ultimately I aim to encourage kindness to ourselves, to each other and to Mother Earth… With incorporating experiences like this, I hope to keep people connected to our planet and the natural resources we need to live, and to reconnect with each other…”

But why is getting back to nature so important for people and their health?

“We came from nature, it is such a big part of who we are. We need it, and it needs us – to improve the way we are living.  

There have been several scientific studies published on how spending time in nature changes us physically, mentally and spiritually. The studies prove nature has countless health benefits such as, reducing stress, anxiety and depression, increasing creativity, restoring mental energy, improving concentration, and having anti-cancer effects, to name a few.”

As I have, I am sure many of you have experienced the healing power of nature first hand.  We don’t need science to tell us how good we feel when we spend time in a natural setting. Just a walk around the park or sitting by the lake in my beloved neighbourhood instantly lifts my mood. The founder of Still North Retreat Co. says it well, “It’s hard to describe with words, but your body, mind, and spirit just feel it. You don’t need to explain it.” Nature

As parent of a preteen girl and a teenage boy, I asked Michelle what can we do to involve our children in what nature provides to us to selflessly? What can we do to have them choose the forest over the screen?

“I think it can be difficult to get teens out into nature, especially if they didn’t have much of an opportunity to as a child. I think the best way is to support them in things they are interested in, and try to incorporate nature into that in some ways. If they enjoy being active, take them out for a short hike, canoe, or even support them in snowboarding, or surfing. Sports that have a large interaction with nature definitely increase the involvement and appreciation for it. Or take them to read, draw, craft, or cook by a lake or in a park, any little bit of immersion helps, and will hopefully increase over time.”

Michelle believes that experiences can be different for everyone, and listening to and  understanding the people around us is how we can truly connect. “As humans we are so often projecting our opinions and interests onto others before really trying to understand where they are coming from. We all do it, it can be difficult not to, especially to children (…but it is not exclusive to children…) who are still figuring things out. If they feel heard and somewhat understood it might be easier to find ways to spend time with them…”

So where can we start this adventure? Where do the retreats take place?

WingCreekCabinThe retreats are hosted at beautiful lodges and cabins, surrounded by forest, and near water. They take place in different locations across Western Canada, but Still North Retreats Co. is also in the process  of planning international locations. Workshops and retreats have so far taken place in the Northern Boreal forest of Saskatchewan, and the next retreat coming up takes place this September in the Kootenay Mountains of British Columbia. Future plans include, the Gulf Islands of B.C., Scotland, Sweden, Norway, and Spain.

I will keep in touch with Michelle and update you on new locations as they become available….OR…

How can you sign-up?

The best way to sign up is to email Michelle directly at  michelle@stillnorthretreatco.com . You can read more about the details and locations on the Still North Company Retreat Co. site, or follow them on social media @stillnorthretreatco and facebook.com/stillnorthretreatco/

If you are looking for a special experience, the company also designs custom retreats of various lengths for personal groups and corporate teams.

Last words of wisdom from Michelle…

daisyskyIt has been proven, “if more and more people use nature as a healing method, the appreciation for it will increase and they will pass that on to their family and friends. As this deep appreciation is passed on, so will the awareness around committing to taking small steps in caring for what is so important to us- nature and each other. Love her and she will definitely love you back :)”

Barbara C.

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