Today we’d like to introduce you to Katie Venechuk.
Hi Katie, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
If you had told me five years ago that I’d one day resign from my career as an environmental engineer to volunteer abroad and spend time in the wilderness, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. If you’d told me I would return to Michigan (on purpose) and start a wellness business to help people reconnect with nature, I definitely wouldn’t have believed you. First of all, I didn’t know what forest therapy was, and I had never been on a guided wellness experience in nature. Second, I hated winter. January to March was a yearly struggle that involved a lot of Vitamin D supplements and many depressed evenings on my couch. And third, I was stressed out. Time in nature was simply what I did to feel better, and I didn’t put in too much inquiry beyond that.
After 8 years as an environmental engineer, I felt I needed to make a change, but I didn’t know what was next. By this time, I had become a passionate backpacker, an avid world traveler, a yoga teacher, and an amateur blogger. I put on steel-toed boots by day, and wandered in my bare feet at night, teaching yoga and learning about our human connection to nature. Two separate paths, two separate lives.
When we are unsure of what to do, I feel like the best thing to do is to step out of our own story and be of service to others in new ways. So, I resigned from my position, and my husband and I traveled to Zambia to volunteer at a small school and childcare center. It was a massive (and scary) change, but my time in Africa taught me many, many things. It opened my eyes to the things that are truly important in this life, the meaning of community, the gifts from the lands we call home, and how much our relationship with technology matters. After Africa, we headed to Patagonia for six weeks, where we mostly lived in a tent in the wilderness, hiking and exploring a simpler way of being. This was a time of deep personal transformation for me, and it is when my ideas for In Your Element Wellness began to form.
I didn’t think I would be excited to return to Michigan, but I felt a mission bubble up from somewhere deep inside me. I wanted to approach environmental protection in a new way, helping people remember our innate connection to the natural environment from a variety of perspectives. I believe that what we love and feel connected to, we protect.
How can we stop living life at such an accelerated pace? How can time in nature open up our eyes and help us reconnect? How can going outside remind us of the abundance that surrounds us, versus the perspective of lack that we tend to focus on? What data exists to support time in nature as a wellness practice? How can learning about the research encourage us to embrace forests as a place of relief for our stressed-out bodies and minds?
I launched In Your Element Wellness in March 2020, with these questions at the core of my mission.
I am a certified forest therapy guide with the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy, an RYT-200, an environmental engineer and specialist, and an outdoor educator. Combining all of this experience with the life lessons that I’ve learned in my time abroad; this work feels like my calling.
It’s been a journey and I’m grateful for every step that’s brought me here!
Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Starting a business from the ground up is never an easy thing. Add to that introducing a fairly new idea here in west Michigan, and I’d be lying if I said there hasn’t been any challenges. One of the biggest struggles has been clearing up the understanding about what guided forest therapy IS. We can always go out to the forest on our own, but there are techniques and approaches to this practice that a guide can share with you. Also, I’ve been trying to breakdown the idea that this is a new age “fad.” Forest therapy is a wellness practice rooted in decades of research and data, alongside our intuitive understanding that time in nature is good for our health. If you want to hug a tree then that’s cool, but it’s not a requirement. Forest therapy is all about your own journey into remembering your place of belonging in this web of life, and on the way, reducing your stress hormones and reconnecting with other people in a simple, tech-free way.
We’ve been impressed with In Your Element Wellness, but for folks who might not be as familiar, what can you share with them about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
I started In Your Element Wellness to help people rediscover a sense of belonging in wild natural settings, to reduce tech-induced fatigue, and to remember our human connection to nature and to each other. I teach about how time in nature impacts the human body, and I guide forest therapy walks, foraging and wild tending classes, yoga in the forest, and wellness workshops in the great outdoors. At the core of all that I do is the simple message: nature is bountiful, it is beautiful, it is always there, and we are connected to it. Every single one of us.
If you had to, what characteristic of yours would you give the most credit to?
This wellness practice has changed my life and I believe in it. My winter depression has lifted. I have a new appreciation for the land that I call home. My relationships feel more meaningful, and I can calm my mind by simply stepping outside. When you believe in something so deeply, it spurs you forward. I think that is what will make In Your Element successful. A deep belief that this will improve people’s lives. I’m committed to sharing it.
- Foraging and Wild Tending Walks: $12-$15
- Forest Therapy Walks: $30-$35
- Wellness Workshops: $30-$35
- Yoga and Guided Forest Bathing Classes: $12-$15
- Workplace Wellness Packages: variable
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website: https://www.iyewellness.com/
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/iyewellness/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/iyewellness
Association of Nature & Forest Therapy