One thing leads to another and finally the words have turned into actions. I bought an Inter-rail ticket for two months in May 2022, with no plans in my mind. Then a few months later my company was accepted as a partner in the European network project called Forestwell, managed by VSGT, Vocational College of Hospitality and Tourism in Maribor, Slovenia.
The kick-off meeting was organized in November 2022 in Finland, hosted by my company and when the next meeting was decided to be held at the turn of May-June 2023 in Slovenia, I said out loud that I would travel to the place by train. When you say something out loud, it's already in a way a promise you keep, and so it was now, even though there were also doubting voices.
I started my journey on the 24th of May and arrived back home on the 9th of June. The route from Finland via Sweden, Denmark, Germany and Austria to Slovenia and back from Slovenia via Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Denmark and Sweden back to Finland was as following:
1st day: Hyvinkää - Turku - Stockholm ( 1st night on board)
2nd day: Stockholm -Copenhagen - Hamburg
3.-4th day: Hamburg- Vienna (2 nights´ stay in Vienna)
5.-10th day: Vienna - Maribor, Slovenia ( Forestwell meeting, 5 nights)
10th day: Maribor- Venice- Milan - Zurich
10. -13th day: Zurich- Interlaken - Grindelwald (hiking in Jungfrau area, 3 nights )
14th day: Interlaken - Basel - Hamburg
15th day: Hamburg- Malmö
16th day: Malmö- Stockholm -Turku
17th day: Turku- Hyvinkää.
The journey was all together about 6100 km long return, including the ferry transfers and domestic transports.
The main destination: Maribor, Slovenia
The actual destination of the trip was Maribor in Slovenia as my company is involved in the Forestwell project financed by Erasmus+ and we had a second meeting with this team. The goal of the project is to produce an online training package for tourism, experience and wellness companies and educational institutions. The content is the utilization of the welfare effects of the forest and, on the other hand, on the other hand, ensuring the welfare of the forest.
The project is managed by the Slovenian VSG educational institution and the other partners are educational institutions and marketing and digitalization companies from Iceland, Ireland and Denmark. Mood of Finland company is the Finnish partner. You can find more information about our project and partners here: Forestwell
We stayed four days in the mountainous area of Kope, where Alex Gesse from Forest Therapy Hub gave us a forest bathing short course. On the way from Maribor to Kope, we visited the wonderful nature site of Rogla.
About 60% of Slovenia's area is forested and it is the third most forested country in the EU after Finland and Sweden. The scenery in Slovenia is amazing! Rugged mountains and a diverse forest with big trees. There were no lakes in our area, but there are plenty of them in the country. I think I will return to Slovenia at some point for a longer hiking trip. There are plenty of hiking trails, for example in the northern part a 600 km long route with reservation cabins along it.
We visited several rural tourism companies and wineries. They were very well and stylishly maintained, the wine was good and the food tasty. In some places, the offer was very meat-oriented, and as a vegetarian I could settle for a slightly more modest meal. This is not a problem for me, but especially vegans should ask in advance if there is suitable food in these places.
Is traveling on land a climate act ?
This was a great trip and I will continue to make business and leisure trips by train. I have been combining work and leisure trips for years, and the last time I flew was in the spring of 2019. Of course, sometimes schedules are limited and you have to use flights, but this was such a good experience that the threshold for flying is even higher now.
I find interesting to measure the greenhouse emissions, leaving no information up to guesswork. If I had flown between Helsinki - Maribor - Helsinki, the emissions would have been from 620 kg (Myclimate) to 930 kg CO2 (Atmosfair) depending on the calculator. The compensation fee would have been 17-22€. According to Finnair's calculator, a round-trip flight from Helsinki to Ljubljana produces around 270 kg of greenhouse emissions and compensation fee is 14€.
I have estimated my journey´s emissions ( CO2 kg) as following:
The total emissions of my journey would be apr. 284 -422 kg CO2.***
* None of the hotels published the emissions so I use the number used as an average 30kg CO2 kg which is quite high
** Unfortunately it is almost impossible to calculate the emissions caused by train. I use here the figures from the carbon independent website, which are probably high for the real emissions of European rail traffic. I think all the trains I used were electrified, but I can't find exact information about the sources of electricity production (renewable / fossil) by country. I don't remember traveling on a diesel train at all and from this I conclude that the actual emissions could be around 120 kg. There is also an other page to visit for those interested in calculating emissions: EcoPassenger
*** I am used to calculating emissions with coefficients that take into account all greenhouse emissions and the number is reported as carbon dioxide equivalent, but the coefficients I found now only took carbon dioxide emissions into account.
It is also worth noting in the figures that on the way back I did not take the most direct route back, but took a detour through Switzerland.
In summary, it can be stated that unbiased and easy-to-use counters are needed to support a truly comparable emissions calculation. Based on the results obtained now, one can get the impression that the consumer can find a calculator with which one can present the results sha/he likes. Perhaps more important is raising awareness and changing attitudes.
Slovenia is very well connected to many European cities, by plain and by train. Others of our group flew to the meeting; one to Venice, a couple to Ljubljana, one to Zagreb, one to Vienna. All those cities are a couple of hours away by car or by train.
I hope this article gave you some useful tips and I hope I managed to attract you to visit beautiful Slovenia and to a journey where really moving from one place to another is an important and beautiful part of the whole.
Anu, Mood of Finland
Forest bathing, also known as shinrin-yoku in Japan, is a practice that involves immersing oneself in the atmosphere of a forest or natural environment. It is a mindful and intentional way of connecting with nature to promote physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Forest bathing is not about hiking or exercising in the traditional sense but rather about slowing down, opening your senses, and engaging with the natural world around you.
The concept of forest bathing originated in Japan in the 1980s as a response to the rapid urbanization and technological advancements that were causing high levels of stress and disconnection from nature. It was developed as a recognized therapeutic practice and has gained popularity worldwide as a means of promoting wellness and reconnecting with the healing power of forests.
Forest bathing involves a leisurely walk or visit to a forested area, allowing individuals to fully immerse themselves in the natural environment. The focus is on being present in the moment and engaging all the senses to deeply experience the sights, sounds, smells, textures, and even tastes of the forest. It encourages a state of mindfulness, where individuals let go of distractions and allow themselves to be fully present in the present moment.
During a forest bathing session, participants may engage in various activities such as walking slowly along forest trails, observing the intricate details of plants and trees, sitting quietly by a stream, or simply breathing in the fresh air. The goal is to relax, unwind, and let nature's healing energy wash over them, fostering a sense of peace, relaxation, and rejuvenation.
Scientific research has shown that forest bathing offers numerous benefits for both physical and mental well-being. Spending time in nature has been found to reduce stress levels, lower blood pressure, boost the immune system, improve mood, enhance creativity and focus, and increase feelings of well-being. The forest's unique combination of clean air, phytoncides (natural chemicals released by trees), and the overall ambiance of nature creates a conducive environment for relaxation and healing.
In essence, forest bathing is a practice that invites us to slow down, reconnect with nature, and reap the benefits of our natural surroundings. It serves as a reminder of our inherent connection with the natural world and offers a much-needed respite from the demands of modern life. By embracing forest bathing, we can find solace, restore balance, and nurture our overall well-being.
Momentum (MMS) has worked in developing progressive learning programmes and platforms for education with a special focus on tourism innovations that have a transformational impact on businesses, local communities, and rural economies. MMS combines an intimate knowledge of the Irish tourism landscape with their VET specialisms of blended learning and professional development training in entrepreneurship, digitisation as a tool in rural economic regeneration, and community stimulus training incorporating new approaches to enabling a greener and smarter recovery post-Covid-19.
Laura Magan represents Momentum, Ireland
Laura Magan has a Master’s in International Tourism from Limerick University and a Degree in Business & Tourism. She brings a wealth of International Tourism expertise to the project garnered from her work on multiple tourism and wellbeing ERASMUS projects. She has valuable industry experience gained in Australia over 10 years with Tourism Events Queensland, Southern Great Barrier Reef and Darwin International Airport. Laura is a valued educator in tourism and destination marketing and is particularly skilled at stakeholder engagement, the development of multi-sector partnerships and event management. She is a guest Lecturer at Atlantic Technological University (ATU) and previously at the Australian College of Applied Education (ACAE) Perth.
The European E-learning Institute (EUEI) is committed to providing high-quality learning experiences and innovative educational programmes which engage learners from a range of sectors and socio-economic backgrounds. EUEI is committed to promoting inclusive approaches to learning, sustainability and innovative teaching across Europe, making them a perfect fit for the FORESTWELL project!
Our experienced team of trainers, researchers and technical experts are uniquely placed to guide educators from VET, HEI, Adult and Youth sectors to harness the opportunities that innovative and collaborative e-learning and digital tools offer for learners.
We specialise in the delivering of high quality, responsive and innovative projects to educators and learners in the topics of pedagogic approaches, entrepreneurial competences, digital skills, inclusion, and sustainability.
Meet our team working on the FORESTWELL project
Canice Hamill- Managing Director
Canice has worked in the field of lifelong education for over 20 years and is recognised as an expert in instructional design and the development of e-learning solutions for education and training. A former trainer and lecturer, Canice utilises a holistic approach to creating innovative, interactive learning environments and works closely with tutors, trainers, and development teams, emphasising the importance of empathy and user experience in every learning solution.
Our Logician -Innovative Inventors with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge
Catherine Neill- European Project Manager
An experienced EU project manager, Catherine is an integral member of our team. She is an effective communicator and has a strong background in areas of Inclusion. The oldest of 5 children Catherine quickly learned how to lead the pack, utilising organisational skills alongside her passion for helping others, she is committed to making the world a more accessible, sustainable, and friendly place.
Our Protagonist -Charismatic and inspiring leaders, able to mesmerise their listeners.
Aine Hamill- European Project Officer
Aine plays an important role in the learning design and subsequently in evaluating the effectiveness of our eLearning products on completion. Aine is always keen to engage with her creative side and implement the newest digital tools, pedagogies, and trends into our e-learning solutions. She is passionate about finding effective and relevant ways to engage learners from all walks of life.
Our Defender-dedicated and warm protectors, able to implement ideas and “create order from chaos”.
Including our key role in the initiation of the FORESTWELL project we will also work tirelessly alongside our project partners to deliver the highest quality project results as possible. Within the project EUEI will develop the project website and be responsible for the technical realisation of the materials.
Learn more about EUEI here:www.euei.dk
In today's fast-paced and technology-driven world, finding balance and tranquility has become increasingly challenging. However, amidst the chaos, there is a remarkable remedy readily available to us: the enchanting embrace of the forest. Forest wellness, also known as forest bathing or shinrin-yoku, is a practice that invites individuals to immerse themselves in the therapeutic atmosphere of nature, benefiting both their physical and mental well-being. In this blog post, we will explore the remarkable effects of forest wellness and why it has become a popular avenue for rejuvenation and self-care.
The Essence of Forest Wellness:
At its core, forest wellness is about mindfully connecting with nature, engaging all our senses, and embracing the healing power of the forest environment. It encourages us to slow down, be present, and appreciate the serenity and beauty that nature offers. Whether it's a dense woodland, a tranquil meadow, or a majestic mountain range, spending time in nature can have profound effects on our overall well-being.
Engaging in forest wellness activities can have a range of physical health benefits. Breathing in the clean, fresh air of the forest can improve lung capacity and enhance oxygen intake, promoting a healthier cardiovascular system. Research suggests that spending time in nature can also lower blood pressure, reduce stress hormone levels, and boost our immune system. Walking along forest trails or engaging in gentle exercises amidst the greenery can improve fitness levels and contribute to weight management.
Mental and Emotional Well-being:
Forest wellness offers a powerful antidote to the stress and mental fatigue that many of us experience in our daily lives. The peaceful ambiance of the forest has a calming effect on our minds, helping to reduce anxiety, alleviate depression symptoms, and improve overall mental well-being. Studies have shown that spending time in nature can enhance our mood, increase creativity and focus, and even improve cognitive function. Forest bathing is an excellent practice for practicing mindfulness, as it encourages us to be fully present, observe our surroundings, and let go of our worries.
Immersion in Nature's Healing Energy:
The forest is a symphony of healing energies that can benefit us holistically. The scent of pine or the earthy aroma of wet leaves can awaken our senses and evoke feelings of relaxation and rejuvenation. The gentle rustling of leaves, the chirping of birds, and the babbling of streams create a soothing soundscape that washes away mental clutter. The vivid colors, textures, and patterns found in the forest stimulate our visual senses and nurture our connection with the natural world. Touching the rough bark of trees or walking barefoot on soft moss can ground us and establish a profound connection with the earth.
Incorporating Forest Wellness into Your Life:
Bringing forest wellness into your life doesn't require elaborate planning or exotic travel. Seek out local parks, nature reserves, or even your backyard, where you can immerse yourself in the beauty of nature. Leave behind distractions such as smartphones and fully engage with your surroundings. Take slow, deliberate walks, practice deep breathing exercises, meditate, or simply sit in stillness, allowing nature to wash away the stresses of daily life.
In a world dominated by screens and constant connectivity, forest wellness provides a much-needed respite. It reminds us of our intrinsic connection to nature and the therapeutic power it holds. By embracing forest wellness, we can restore balance to our lives, rejuvenate our minds and bodies, and find solace in the tranquility of the natural world. So, let's embark on this journey of self-care and allow the healing embrace of the forest to guide us towards wellness and harmony.