Planning a Forest Bathing trip is fun and a well-planned itinerary ensures a safe and unforgettable experience for both you and your clients. If you are a trained Forest Bathing or Shinrin Yoku guide, you probably have all the Forest Bathing basics covered. The basics that I am talking about are written on our previous blog post, 5 Easy Tips on How to Forest Bathe. This is the framework that you could use when trip actually happens.
In this blog, I am sharing the secrets to a successful trip. This is exactly the 6 things I considered when I planned our very first Forest Bathing trip in Kyoto.
Let’s have a look at what you need to think about when planning a Forest Bathing trip!
Firstly, taking the time to determine who clients will be or which demographics you would like to attract will facilitate the rest of the planning. As we teach our students to be client-centric, knowing who they are and what they need will be the focal point of your success.
If you are attracting international visitors, adding a cultural touch or insider tips to the experience is always appreciated. On the other hand, if your clients are predominantly local and know the area well, your Forest Bathing experience will have to be unique and authentic to be unforgettable. Therefore, this is the time for you to shine and bring out your expertise that your clients would never experience otherwise.
Are you welcoming children to join your trip? Contrary to what most people think, children are great Forest Bathers! Their innate ability to notice the small little things around them usually allows them to use their senses better, when properly guided in the natural environment.
Alternatively, if you are offering the experience as part of the corporate wellness program with executives whose minds are occupied with ideas and to do’s, it may be somewhat challenging to suddenly get them to relax and meditate. In that case “3 Fun Tips on How to Meditate While on a Hike and Cultivate Mindfulness in the Forest” may give you some ideas.
At The Mindful Tourist, our Shinrin Yoku guides-in-training come from various backgrounds and have a variety of expertise. Each one of us has different techniques to help their clients reach that relaxed meditative state. For those whose backgrounds are not in meditation and massage therapy, they will benefit from our TMT Breath® and TMT Touch®.
Forest Bathing is simple and for the most part it can be practiced on your own on a regular basis. However when you are guiding someone professionally, you probably would not want to give them the same experience they could have done themselves. This is especially true if you are offering your services for someone with specific emotional or mental concerns. This could range from something as common as work-related stress to something that requires more attention such as PTSD or traumas.
You could use similar techniques for your adult clients, too. Be creative in getting their mind focused on ONE thing to mitigate boredom, enhance relaxation and cultivate mindful breathing, preferably without excessive talking, if at all.
If you are a male Forest Bathing guide, think of ways to make your female clients feel safe and comfortable. For example, does your experience involve a hands-on treatment and can that be altered while giving similar experience?
Next, interests, religious and cultural backgrounds of your clients also play an important role in designing your experience. If you are welcoming researchers and scientists, the spiritual elements of the experience may be subject to question.
Likewise, the way nature is perceived and appreciated maybe slightly different in some cultures and religious beliefs. For example, Shinto, the indigenous faith of the modernized Japan, holds that nature has a sense of power beyond human control or understanding. A tree, a mountain or a river – i.e. nature itself – embodies this spiritual power. Hence, Shinto regards these very natural entities as sacred.
My advice is to keep your experience as inclusive as possible.
Secondly, we will look at WHERE your Forest Bathing trip will take place. This element of the trip is probably the most fun to plan. Choosing the right place for your trip means half of the planning of your Forest Bathing trip is done.
Needless to say, Forest Bathing does not always have to be appreciated in the forest. If you live in an urbanized area, choosing a secret corner in public park near you where you and your clients can relax without much noise disturbance will be ideal.
If you could do this in a forest, even better! When I was in Kyoto, a forest is easily accessible from residential and even downtown area. I was able to bring international visitors through a forest path that connects Kiyomizu-dera and Yasaka Shrine, two of the most famous tourist attractions in Kyoto.That is how wonderful Japan is and this is Shinrin Yoku at its best, connecting people to nature in such a way that it can be done so conveniently.
This step involves the legwork. Even though you think you know the route quite well, it is always a good idea to complete the route again before you actual meet your client. Walk as slowly as you would during a session and time the whole journey, with all the activities included. Do make a mental note on where the restroom is, in case your clients need it. Find a backup plan for when it rains unexpectedly. Remember to add insider tips.
The third thing we will be looking at is the duration of your Forest Bathing trip. An ideal 1-day trip should be at least 2-3 hours to reap the benefits of spending time in nature. I would suggest making your trip suitable for all levels of fitness. A Forest Bathing trip should not feel strenuous. If the trip involves a hike through the forest, do make sure the distance, the elevation and the difficulty of the hike allow the experience to still be enjoyable. No one should feel they have to push themselves physically or mentally.
Keep it small is the only suggestion I will make. Forest Bathing is a mindfulness experience, and it is not exactly a hike in the woods. The experience should be calm, relaxing and intimate. If the group is too large the magic will disappear. For my Forest Bathing trip in Kyoto, I only book 2 clients per session. This allowed me to truly personalize the experience and spend time with each individual.
Prior to the trip, make it a point to inquire about your client’s level of fitness, allergies and health conditions. Check if any of the activities you include in your program are contraindicated for those conditions.
Once I had a Singaporean client who was 12 weeks into her pregnancy, and I only realized that at the beginning of the session which started with a hike. Fortunately, the hike was an easy one. However, the the massage, which was included in the experience, is contraindicated to pregnancy. As a result, I recommended her to change from massage to reiki, and this turned out to be an equally meditative experience.
From then on, I generally ask all my clients to fill out a simple health questionnaire. Being informed in advance allows me to make necessary changes to the itinerary for a safe and wonderful experience for the client.
In addition to your client’s health, you should also have a procedure an emergency plan. Being in wilderness poses some risks from poisonous plants, insects or snakes. Learn to identify poisonous plants from an edible ones and non-venomous snakes to the deadly ones in your area will be helpful.
Even mosquitoes and ants, which are common to tropical climate can adversely affect the entire experience. If you lead Forest Bathing groups in these areas, consider bringing natural mosquito/insect repellent. A thin sheet of fabric to cover up the body or even a hammock with mosquito net may make the experience a more pleasant one.
Now, it is time to mix all the ingredients together and create a wonderful Forest Bathing experience for your clients. For new Forest Bathing guides, your first few trips could be with your friends or family members. Their valuable feedback may help you to fine-tune or improve your planning of a Forest Bathing trip.
Know that you do not always have to talk. Some Forest Bathing guides feel the need to entertain or break the silence by talking too much. While filling dead air maybe desirable in some industries, silence is in fact valued during a Forest Bathing session. Of course, if you do not talk at all, your client may wonder what is going on or they may end up not receiving adequate explanation on the experience. Therefore, striking the right balance is necessary and it takes practice. By planning your Forest Bathing experience well and knowing your sequence ahead, you will subsequently have a smoother experience.
Lastly and most importantly, no matter what happens, make sure that YOU relax and enjoy the experience too!
In conclusion, in planning a Forest Bathing trip requires that you have a client-centric approach. Knowing what they want and their conditions in advance makes your preparation a lot easier. When possible, personalize the experience for them by choosing the right location and activities that suit their needs and ability. Safety and comfort are of utmost importance. No matter what, make sure you enjoy the sight, the sound, the smell, the taste and connect to nature, too!
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