The Coronavirus crisis has profoundly changed our world and we are just at the beginning of understanding its full impact on our values, relationships and lifestyles. In these times of profound uncertainty, some of us have tried to reconnect with nature to find a new balance. 

In France, when the lockdown started in March 2020, about a million people left the Paris region to spend the lockdown in the countryside. And the Parisians were not the only ones…, urbans from other big cities around the world did the same lead by the intrinsic belief that nature must be good for our health and happiness. This belief has been proven in large-scale studies that demonstrate how important feeling part of nature is to our physical and mental health. Read more for example here.

UrbanMeisters has talked about re-connecting to nature with a typical urban: Madeleine (from Germany) and her charming dog Yuji (from Martinique) live in Paris and did not decide to move to the countryside, but found their very own way to re-connect with nature. Madeleine started with her family the project @Naturferien, a very particular type of house in the middle of nature that she rents out.

We share our interview with her as inspiration for a a path to a more sustainable and happy lifestyle:

1. Hi Madeleine, you are a typical Parisian. Please tell us more about you.

Hello Urbanmeisters! I would rather describe myself as a young European living in a big city, mastering urban life. I grew up in the palatinate forest close to the French border and left for Paris 12 years ago right after I finished university. City life was magical to me with all its offers and attractions: the Louvre, the opera and my discovery of a bar called Experimental Cocktail Club.

I came as a correspondent journalist and started working in fashion as life got more expensive. Right now I’m head of events for an international hospitality group, the same group that opened that bar back then where I met some of my closest friends.

Traveling was one of my favorite things for years and I wasn’t afraid of taking a flight on a Thursday night to NYC or Tokyo and being back in the office Monday morning. I enjoyed adventures at Titicaca Lake, the Galapagos Islands, Rajasthan, Belize, the Grand Canyon and Jordan and made some of my dreams come true.

Back in Paris I love decorating my apartment with souvenirs from  all over the world and I do home improvement projects if my work schedule allows it. The only things I’m missing in my daily life in Paris are green spaces, fresh air and water. The very basics turned into luxury products.

2. In your opinion, is it easy to live sustainably in a big city like Paris? Can you share your tips on how to live and consume in more eco-friendly manner?

It is very complicated in Paris because compared to people in other big cities, Parisians don’t think green. Sorry dear Frenchies!

Freiburg is an amazing example of how things should work, a model case of urban sustainability! The mayor there is from my hometown and we are proud to watch what he has been doing, for example, attracting many research institutions focused on alternative energy, putting in place strict sustainability policies, using solar energy in the football stadium, and requiring citizens to separate their garbage carefully!

What can each of us do? Save water, save electricity, save paper. It’s an everyday challenge to fight bad habits and it takes effort, but it’s our duty.

3. How do you connect with nature? What are your tips that you can share with our community?

The key to mastering urban life is to connect with nature. It’s not about getting a massage or seeing a therapist, you simply have to hug a tree!

Each one of us has an individual story with nature. Mine started 37 years ago when I grew up in the Palatinate Forest, the biggest connected forest in Germany. Amazing fresh air and water and pure nature. Those basic elements seem today like luxury products to me. I moved to Paris 12 years ago and the big city life quality is not the same.

The first thing that really changed my big city life was to get a dog with my best friend. We went to a shelter and adopted a rescue from Martinique. She keeps me on the go and makes me want to spend time in parks and green spaces.

The second thing was to realize a dream I had with my mom: To reconnect with nature we started a family project and renovated a small cottage in the middle of the forest back home. It’s a three hour train ride from Paris and once there you can immediately disconnect from stress and chaos. Surrounded by trees, you can feel their energy, observe the seasons, the stars. Life slows down and you finally connect to what is most important – nature and yourself.

4. How did this family project started?

We got lucky this March and got a chance to buy the cottage together. It turned into a family project where we did all the renovations ourselves. The best part was decorating. Green is my mom’s and my favorite color so we used it throughout and call it « Naturferien », holidays in nature.

5. What is a “dachhaus”?

It’s a small cottage, a holiday house where you only see the roof, in the middle of the forest with a living space downstairs and a sleeping area upstairs for up to 4 people. Everything you need. You can enjoy an amazing forest view from the terrace and garden and even shower outside in summer. There are a few houses like this in a village called Leinsweiler, directly connected to the hiking trails and nearby villages with small markets, bakeries and restaurants.

6. For members of our community visiting your dachhaus and the Palatine region, what are the must see’s and visits for a truly green experience?

Well, it’s in the middle of 177,100 hectares of pure nature. The biggest connected forest in Germany. Go get lost out there, breathe the air, taste the water, hug a tree! Each time I do it, I feel recharged. It’s absolutely calm! It’s what I really miss in the city. Go hiking on famous trails where there are ancient castles. Drive through the valley vineyards along the wine route and have a riesling with the locals at a wine or food festival.

For more information you should call my mom. She is definitely the person you need to know when you go there. She’s the ambassador of the region and has the best insider tips and if you are lucky you will get to meet my sister too, a former chestnut princess.

If you want to experience all this, contact us ! Our cottage is nicely decorated and has all you need. If you would like to experience all this, you can book a stay: www.naturferien-pfalz.de  If you include the code URBANMEISTER20, you will get a nature lover discount!

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