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Former teacher finds new calling by embracing love of the outdoors

'I passionately believe that trees can heal people and trees can heal the planet,' says Beth Foster on the benefits of forest bathing

A walk in the woods at lunchtime was Beth Foster’s way of de-stressing and recharging in the middle of a busy workday.

After she retired from teaching, it led to a new career and a growing, successful business. She had no idea at the time that it would grow to the extent it has.

“I’ve always known being outside was hugely important to me,” she says. “If I didn’t do it, I would have a headache. One day, someone said 'you’re forest bathing'.”

As it turned out, forest bathing is a recognized practice with well-known health benefits. It originated in Japan in the early 1980s and has since spread around the globe.

The practice resonated with Foster, so much so that she signed up for her first course. An intensive eight days followed along with a six-month practicum before she became certified as an Association of Nature and Forest Therapy (ANFT) nature and forest therapy guide.

Her first guided walks were part of her practicum and in 2018 she began offering them to the public. She set up a website and started marketing forest bathing walks. With virtually no business experience, it was her biggest learning curve.

Since then her walks have grown to once a week, in Sunnidale Park or Springwater Park. They run for two hours and the registration cost is $30.

Many of them have themes and run in conjunction with the summer or winter solstice, or a full moon or the new year. One of her January walks marked Arbour Day. The first one slated for February is the lunar new year.

Foster’s forest bathing walks have extended well beyond Barrie. In 2019, she applied to be listed as an Airbnb experience, where tourists visiting Canada can sign up and participate in a variety of activities located near their accommodations.

“Most of the international guests from different countries were here on holiday and just wanted to give it a try,” she says, adding you don’t have to be staying at a bed-and-breakfast to do an "experience."

As the pandemic took hold, travel became more restrictive and tourists visiting Canada dropped off. However, with everyone being cooped up from lockdowns, forest bathing escapes became popular, particularly with people from the Toronto area.

It was  and still is  a way to escape the confines of the city, connect with nature, spend some time outdoors breathing fresh air, participate in a built-in activity, and experience all the therapeutic benefits that go with it.

With all the COVID-19 protocols in place, it’s a no-stress journey with a guide who knows the woods.

“I passionately believe that trees can heal people and trees can heal the planet, and that is the driving force that makes me delight in guiding people on forest bathing walks,” says Foster.

During the pandemic, Foster began offering guided walks remotely through Zoom. Businesses and organizations have caught on to it as a way to help their employees. In one instance, Foster was hired by the Simcoe Muskoka Palliative North Health Network to lead some virtual walks for their staff.

It was a natural extension to become trail consultant and she added that certification from the ANFT. In 2019, Foster was hired to design a forest bathing trail at Scandinave Spa Blue Mountain. The free self-guided trail is open to both the public and guests of the spa. Foster also does a workshop there each year for spa guests and staff.

More recently, Foster married her teaching credentials and forestry certification, and experience to lectures at Brock University. The five lectures are part of a nature, place, and restoration credit course for students heading into parks and recreation programs, programs for seniors, and early childhood education.

Here in Barrie, guided forest bathing walks have become part of the city’s annual Culture Days events, which included a unique pairing with a medicine walk. Free guided walks will also be part of the city’s upcoming Hello Winter event, which will be held this year in place of Winterfest. The walks will take place at Sunnidale Park between Feb. 5 and March 20. Some will be offered virtually, too. For more details and to register, click here.

For more information or to register for one of Foster’s upcoming walks, visit where there are also links to related topics of interest. Foster can also accommodate separate private individual and/or group walks. Her contact information is on her website.