It’s no secret that spending time outdoors and in nature is immensely beneficial for our health and wellbeing
The outdoors has been a lifeline for many of us during lockdown – helping to keep us grounded and in-the-moment when everything else has been so restricted and uncertain.
Now, meet the mindful mum who has made it her life’s mission to help other women realise that all-important nature connection and grab its benefits with both hands.
Anna Neubert Wood is the adventure-driven, nature-loving founder of WanderWomen, organising bespoke, outdoor experiences for women of all ages – from short bursts of fresh air and mindfulness all year round to half-day escapes, full-day adventures and overnight retreats in the Summer.
Adventure and mindfulness are at the heart of Anna’s rustic experiences, which combine elements of meditation, fire-making, sea swimming, nature-based arts and crafts, yoga play, and nature connection.
Anna’s passion – inspired by her childhood – is making outdoor adventure more accessible to women, to help them slow down, live more and connect with self, nature and others who are like-minded.
“I grew up in suppressed East Germany,” she says. “Nature always meant freedom.
“As a result, I’ve grown into someone who always questions systems, rules and the status quo.
“My children didn’t go to school on Mondays for the first five years of their schooling. I didn’t want them to start school at such a young age so Mondays were our time for un-schooling, freedom, outdoor learning, boredom and, as a result, creativity.
“My own children reminded me how everything is easier outdoors – conversation, conflict, life. They also taught me a lot about mindfulness and being in the moment.
“Those were the most precious times with my children and I wanted to keep sharing the sense of freedom, mindfulness and outdoor adventure with humans other than my family. Working in an office just made me crave being outside more.”
WanderWomen was borne out of a vision board in 2018 and the rest, as they say, is history.
“Nature already holds the answers, whether we feel lost, upset or stressed,” says Anna. “When I’m outdoors I feel myself surrounded by lessons to lead me back to inner balance.
“The waves of the sea remind me of my breath and the clouds remind me of the thoughts in my mind which come and go.
“The tides of the sea and the seasons remind me of the cycles we go through ourselves as women and in life. None of us can be ‘up’ all the time. There has to be lows and there has to be a cold and painful winter in order to bloom again, be energetic and feel on top of your game.
“Trees teach me to ground myself and wild creatures show me how to be in the moment. It all encompasses growth.
“If only we chose to listen, read the signs and slow down as part of the process. There are always lessons, answers and solutions out there!”
Anna has, of course, had to postpone her experiences during lockdown but has enjoyed having the time to reflect and work on her business behind the scenes.
“On a personal level, I have really enjoyed the slowing down, reflection and rest,” she says.
“It felt like such a gift to have my boys all to myself again. They aren’t far off fledging the nest, becoming more independent and turning to their peers rather than their family.
“Throughout lockdown, we have lived our best lives as a family. This time has taught me to take rest when it’s needed, accept the lows when they appear, enjoy life as it happens and, most of all, to be patient.
“But I do worry about the impact all this will have on society, the economy and us as people. Unhappiness, anger, impatience and fear are apparent.
“I hope people will remember to keep slowing down and seek refuge in nature, as well as continue to protect this precious planet of ours while we move forward.
“We have to remember that we are nature and looking after the planet is looking after ourselves – and after future generations!”
Anna is looking forward to resuming her WanderWomen experiences in the coming months and is confident that not too much will have to change.
“Social distancing outdoors and in wild places is easy,” she says. “Everyone can take as much time and space as they want and need.
“Groups are small so that makes things easier to manage. Sharing food might not be possible for a while, but I look forward to sharing home-made food and drink again. I love integrating wild foods into my cooking and baking.”
In the meantime, Anna has been busying herself making mandalas – a skill she learned during the flexi-schooling years – as part of the 100 Day Project, a free art project that takes place online globally every year.
“A mandala represents the universe – wholeness, completeness. Creating a mandala from natural materials like petals, blossoms, grasses, sticks, shells and stones, is a calming and happiness-inducing process.
“It makes you aware of how perfect nature is already, with amazing designs in place, colours, synchronicity and symmetry.
“Creating mandalas is meditation, yoga off the mat, mindfulness, and so much more to me. Establishing a daily practice mandala making is what keeps me sane and in touch with nature. I integrate mandala making on most of the WanderWomen experiences.
“For the second year running, I got involved in the 100 Day Project with my mandalas and, in 2020, this turned into a community project. Women from all over the world contributed their mandalas to the gallery over at the WanderWomen Instagram page. It’s been the perfect lockdown project to bond the WanderWomen community together!”
Anna has lots of new projects in the pipeline, such as collaborations with other amazing women, online offerings and local markets. In the meantime, she has this advice:
“Keep connected: to each other and to nature. Keep hold of the calm and keep inviting the peaceful feelings (that we have all experienced at one point or other during lockdown) into your life again. And don’t lose sight of the bigger picture.
“Look after the sea and our planet – and remember that this is looking after yourself!”
WanderWomen is a finalist in the Best Outdoor Wellbeing Initiative category of the Good Health (formerly Holistic Scotland) Magazine Wellbeing Awards 2020.
Find out more on the website or connect on Instagram and Twitter, using the handles @wanderwomenscotland and @wanderwomen9 respectively.