Do you ever feel like your mind is about to explode with all the information you take on board on a daily basis? Do you feel overloaded with your obligations and never-ending To-Do lists or like you’re being pulled in a million different directions with all the roles you are juggling in life? How often do you feel like you are giving and giving but rarely take a moment to yourself to stop, breathe, reflect and restore YOUR energy? If you are nodding your head, perhaps you could benefit from some time out in nature!
I live in London and have done (on and off) for 20 years. On a busy Saturday there are more people in central London than in Australia. Take a moment to let that one settle! I mean, that’s completely crazy! Six years ago I left my London city job to create a new story and a life that felt true to me. One where I can pursue passion and purpose, combine travel and work, and do something with my life that made a difference. This was my dream and many people told me “You’re crazy, that’s the dream so many people have but it’s impossible to make it work.” I decided I was going to give it my best shot!
Today my job is taking me to the Austrian Alps; Visit Austria Tourism Board have noticed that folk with busy lives need a respite and they invited me to Saalfelden, Leogang to report on the power of nature to relax, restore and rejuvenate our souls.
The Power of Pressing Pause
With our increasingly frantic lives, it’s never been more important to take time out to decompress, reflect, think, relax, dream and do the things that ignite your fire and make you feel alive. There’s no place like the mountains, forests, rivers and lakes to do this, and Austria has them in abundance as well as vistas that will make your heart sing.
My mission was to learn downhill mountain biking at the Epic Bike Park! Under the expert guidance from Elements Outdoor Sports and their welcoming and passionate instructors Alex and Adrian, I learnt how to ride downhill MTB. We spent some time getting to know our bikes and practising braking, corners and bunny hops in the car park before taking the gondola up the mountain and tackling our first trail.
What an experience!! I am usually one for cycling up mountains, but wow, cycling down through the forest, negotiating jumps, tree roots and tight corners was insane! My mind was saying “Absolutely no way is it possible to cycle DOWN that, don’t do it, you might die!” But my heart (and my coach) were saying, “Trust, let go and go for it!” The bikes are designed to handle this terrain and they do it so well. You just have to make sure you hold on enough to stay on the bike, but relax enough to let the bike do it’s thing. If that makes sense!
Learning Downhill Mountain Biking
When I’m on my road bike, I feel in control, but this is a very different feeling. Mountain biking is about managing fear, risk and the ultimate reward: complete and utter immersion in something that makes you forget about everything else and feel a sense of exhilaration that makes you feel more alive than you thought possible.
We meet at the bottom of the run and fist pump. Alex is worried as he heard me scream a few times, I tell him not to worry, that was just me feeling air under my wheels for the first time! I cannot get over how incredible that felt and what I managed to ride down. I think I might be hooked!
After a day filled with adrenalin, there’s nothing better than relaxing, refuelling and restoring energy. Hotel Forsthofalm was like something out of a hip hotels magazine. Over a schnapps with the owner, Markus Widauer, whose family have run hotels in the area for 50 years, he tells me about his vision to create a sense of freedom that combines the best parts of nature with modern living. Each time I enter my room I am immersed in a beautiful smell of sweet wood. There’s no incense or room diffusers, no, this is the smell from the wood my room is made of. I wonder how I could make my room in London smell this good.
The food, and in particular, the salad bar (I am a big fan of salads!) is spectacular. Dinner is cooked on the grill with choices from salmon to steak. There’s afternoon tea available from 3pm each day and a huge breakfast spread with lots of vegan and GF options. The service is impeccable and all the guests are friendly, saying hi to one another, but mindful of each other’s space. There’s a sense that everyone is here for their own purpose; a few days away from it all to do whatever makes you feel great.
I head to the spa, which is the pièce de résistance of Forsthofalm. Taking up the entire top (third) floor of the hotel, it feels like a different world. With 360 degree views of the mountains, a heated outdoor pool and a chill out room with glass walls looking straight into the trees and beds for you to lounge on. Following that there’s two saunas at varying temperatures, steam room, gym, spa where you can have any treatment under the sun and a daily Mountain Life Program including yoga, stretching, HIIT and core workouts. Honestly, get this place on your bucket list!
80% of the food is organic and all of the cosmetic products in the hotel like shower gels, massage oils, hand wash etc are made from herbs grown and picked in the hotel garden by the family who run it.
If you are looking for an idyllic mountain town with adventure, cycling, hiking, lakes and nature. Or mindfulness, relaxation and rejuvenation at your finger-tips, I hope you’ll check out Saalfelden Leogang. I’ve put a bunch of links and resources below to help you plan your trip! This blog is sponsored by Visit Austria.
Help with Planning your trip:
Visit Austria tourist board - https://www.austria.info/uk/things-to-do/lakes-and-nature/a-time-out-in-nature
Saalfelden Leogang Region - https://www.saalfelden-leogang.com/en
Hotel Forsthofalm – https://www.forsthofalm.com/en
The Epic Bikepark Leogang – https://bikepark.saalfelden-leogang.com/en
Elements Bikeschool – https://elements-outdoorsports.at/en/home
Mountain Guide + Alpine Adventures – https://alpinskischule.at