Daydreaming upon a bed of cushions, I open my eyes. Rain is falling on the glass ceiling and walls as I watch as a group or goats wander over the neighbouring hill, oblivious to the late October chill. It is there, warm and content in a post yoga-and-sauna daze, that I release just how glorious Austria is – regardless of the season. Whether you venture to the mountains beyond Salzburg to ski, cycle (this hotel is found by one of Europe’s biggest mountain bike trails) or hike, you’ll surely be swept up in the Forsthofalm magic (and the setting of course). 

While it may be found near the town of Leogang, Forsthofalm feels very much like it’s in the middle of nowhere; beyond these walls there is nothing but forest and mountains that make the idea of returning for a winter jaunt remarkably tempting – ski-in ski-out doesn’t get much more convenient/scenic than this. With only 54 rooms spread across seven floors, this in a sports hotel (there is no need to leave the premises for anything other than an adrenaline hit) with a difference. It is family run, offers the finest and heartiest fare and has an eco-friendly heart.

I’d journeyed here to try my hand at the Forsthofalm Mountain Life Programme – a series of indoor and outdoor exercise sessions ranging from early morning yoga (the ideal way to wake up) to rather intense pilates classes (good intense, don’t worry), hikes, weights-based workouts and evening saunas (to name just a few of their offerings). Even as one without a particularly effective core or a sizeable amount of motivation I found myself hooked; the combination of endorphins, expert teaching and sense of fun making the entire experience all the more enticing. And of course, when you work out you become totally deserving of a spa treatment – and on this front Forsthofalm once again delivers. After winding down in a series of scented saunas, it’s time for a massage, which is catered to one of the five moods you may find yourself in. The oils and scents used are created on site from wild herbs collected in the garden and forest for a little added bliss. 

Should you be able to pick your suite I’d recommend asking for the ‘Secret Forest’, which comes complete with suspended wooden bed, fireplace, private sauna and panoramic view of the mountains. That said, each sizeable, beautifully designed room, boasts plenty of charm. The hotel is built almost entirely from wood. The walls are spruce, as are the nails, the sculpture-like furniture is larch and bed is made from pine. Situated as it is in the middle of nature, it made sense to construct the building from natural materials – an added incentive for those in awe of the wild to travel up the mountain. These rooms are also designed to grow more more beautiful with age – the patina of time adding to Forsthofalm‘s warmth.

Here it really is all about seasonality. In summer you’ll find a rooftop bar by the outdoor pool serving a mix of cocktails and ice cream (the ideal post-sauna/work out cool down) and during October I sipped autumnal cocktails by the roaring fire of the bar. The restaurant menu also shifts throughout the year. Food is at the heart of hotel – indeed, it began as a place for skiers to enjoy winter lunches back in 1972. Enhancing their hearty meals (the menu changes every night and the ingredients used are largely organic and sourced from local farmers) is a collection of 300 wines – 50 of which are natural, a relatively new trend in Austria.

After dinner there are a string of events on offer, from live music to cocktail tastings, all designed to bring people together and help foster the sense of community the hotel prides itself on. That said, don’t underestimate the deliciousness of returning to your cloud-like bread and drifting off with a good book, no doubt dreaming of your return journey – which, let’s face it, is inevitable.   

You can learn more about the hotel and make a booking here.

Island Life

Words and Photographs by Emma Lavelle

Earlier this year, my feet began to itch and I found myself desperate to explore somewhere a little off the beaten track. My previous summer’s adventures in Iceland were still fresh in my memory and I craved empty roads, isolated hot springs and dramatic landscapes. With the budget tight I spent days searching for European destinations that offered everything I needed – and then I saw a friend’s Instagram photo and knew instantly where I was heading: the Azores.

If you haven’t come across this island chain before, I’m not surprised. Situated smack bang in the middle of the Atlantic, over two hours by plane from Portugal, they’re pretty isolated. As hopping between individual islands isn’t exactly cheap (or easy) I concentrated on the largest isle, São MiguelThe perfect juxtaposition of the geothermal landscapes of Iceland and a tropical, Lost World paradise, São Miguel appears like a mirage in the grey Atlantic. Filled with cloud-covered peaks, hot springs, dense greenery and waterfalls, it’s like nowhere else in Europe.

Hiring a car, my boyfriend and I based ourselves in the capital, Ponta Delgada, and split the island into easily digestible chunks to be explored over four days. Our adventures began in the island’s west, driving up steep roads in search of the elusive views of the Sete Cidades Lakes. Elusive because of the relentless mist, not for the lack of places to pull over and admire the scene. The twin lakes lie in a gigantic volcanic crater and local legend says that they were formed from the tears of a blue-eyed princess and her green-eyed lover, shed when her father would not allow them to marry. On a clear day, the lakes do indeed appear to be different colours, despite actually being one body of water divided by a road. Also worth admiring is Vista do Rei, where the ruins of a brutalist concrete hotel greets you through the mist. Then there’s the utterly sublime Boca do Inferno viewpoint, where the view of the crater, lakes and coastline in the distance is nothing short of spectacular.

A short journey from the lakes takes you to one of the island’s most alluring hot springs, Ponta da Ferraria, which is the only São Miguel hot spring found in the sea. A pink path leads first to a modernist changing hut, then down to a black volcanic beach where a ladder descends into a rock pool. As waves crash into the pool, visitors can hold a rope to steady themselves, enjoying the change in temperature as cold water rushes in to meet the warm.

Looking for the perfect end to a day exploring the west of the island? Visit the small coastal town of Mosteiro to feast on the seafood that São Miguel is famed for. My top tip: always order the octopus.

We also make a stop at Furnas, a geothermal town situated inside a volcanic crater. There are two areas boasting hot springs here – Poça da Dona Beija offers a series of small, relaxing natural jacuzzis, but it’s Parque Terra Nostra that shouldn’t be missed. Situated inside these majestic tropical gardens is a huge yellow-hued geothermal lake perfect for swimming. Furnas also offers a collection of smouldering caldeiras and anyone interested in local cuisine should head to the lake to see how traditional stew is made by burying pots underground for several hours. The earth steams here and the smell of sulphur seems to rise up into the thick mist enveloping the mountains above.

The final hot springs of São Miguel are found at the protected Caldeira Velha, where you must venture along a harrowing road and wander through thick tropical forest to reach the pools. Climb the hill to find a couple of small wooden changing huts before plunging, admiring a small waterfall trickling down from the cliff above. 

Across the island lie a network of hiking trails; those that snake along the numerous crater lakes are perhaps the most dramatic but don’t underestimate how strenuous these routes can be. If you prefer to admire the scenery from the comfort of a car, the drive along the coastal road that winds along the east coast is unmissable. Perhaps the most perilous and slowest road to navigate on São Miguel, the views of the ocean and towering cliffs are as dramatic as they get.

How to end a trip to São Miguel? Whale watching was at the top of our agenda but, alas, high winds thwarted our plans. If you visit during calmer weather conditions don’t miss a chance to take to the sea as these Atlantic islands are one of the best places in the world to spot a wide array of cetacean species including sperm whales, blue whales and dolphins. Other highlights for landlubbers include visiting the tea and pineapple and plantations, the latter featuring on almost all of the island’s restaurant menus.

São Miguel is like nowhere else in Europe. Hot springs, luscious  forests, towering cliffs, crater lakes, tea plantations and cascading waterfalls all collide to create an otherworldly landscape. My advice? Take a punt on an island not yet on the tourist trail – for there’s something rather magical about having a hot spring in the forest all to yourself. 

Be sure to check out more of Emma’s work here

Meteora Wandering

Words and photographs by Angela Terrell. 

Travel reveals many wonders; it may be an unexpected destination, a spectacular meal, curious wildlife or scenery that far surpasses any postcard (from any era). But it can also reveal something far deeper – a sense of our place in time. 

Greece, renowned for the relics of its ancient civilisations, is the perfect place to really grasp the tiny role we play in the narrative of human history. Either walking over hillsides of olive groves that have seen the toil and sweat of countless generations or through the remains of amphitheatres and temples, you can’t help but be moved by the thought you’re walking in the footsteps of those who’ve come before you, who like us, were both an integral part of the big picture, and fleeting snapshots in time.

So many destinations here have withstood the eons, but it’s Meteora in central Greece where the whispers of history hold special significance, and spending time here you feel lucky to be part of its rich and varied story. Here, massive pillars of conglomerate rock rise almost vertically from the valley floor, their shapes alluring from a distance and magically morphing into elephants, monkeys and even old men with furrowed brows as you draw closer. Searching for solitude, hermits once lived in the hollows of the cliff-faces, but it was monks, centuries later, in their desire to further connect with the Divine, who built an estimated 24 Eastern Orthodox monasteries atop these spectacular rock formations. Marvels of ancient engineering, they’re the perfect unity of nature, culture and history, their stalwart walls merging seamlessly with the cliff faces that plummet to the valley below. Even today the tranquil isolation the monks once sought is still palpable and, despite the tourists, you can envision the sense of protection these towers offered all those centuries ago.

There are roads to the six monasteries that remain, but walking up to them from the valley is not only an exercise in stamina but the chance to really feel the peace the area affords. From Kastraki and Kalambaka, the nearest towns, we trekked to Megalo Meteoro, Varlaam and Agia Triada, and soon after leaving the villages with their hotchpotch of colour and delightful gardens we were climbing through a combination of cool forest and sparse, rocky vegetation baked by the sun. Constantly dwarfed by the soaring monoliths, their monasteries haloed by the sun’s rays, we felt part of history as we walked, our steps further polishing the stone path already smooth from the footsteps of the monks, pilgrims and travellers who had been here before. Once at the top and seeing todays inhabitants tend the sanctuaries and their gardens, we took comfort in the thought that with such care Meteora’s story should become history’s future narrative.

It was later in the evening, watching the sunset from the rocks above Roussanou monastery and admiring the magnificence of the silhouetted shapes against the coloured sky, that we sought words for how we felt. Awed, humbled, amazed? Maybe they all suited. One thing for sure though, in the future there will be many more sitting in the same place watching the sky turn crimson who will in turn be playing their own small part in its epic story.



Rambling in the Lake District

Words and photographs by Athena Mellor

“I wandered lonely as a cloud”, proclaimed Wordsworth on rambling in the Lake District. Yet how often do you see just one single cloud? While a lone cloud may grace the skies on a clear day, more often than not clouds wander lonely yet together, drifting steadily east or west, north or south. Normally I am that sole, brave cloud drifting along – alone yet never lonely. But this time I was joined by another on my ramble. Two stoic clouds running up hillsides in one of my favourite English locations, the Lake District, on a bitterly cold January morning.

The Lake District is a hill-walkers dream. I am quite certain that it would take more than a lifetime to ramble every trail it has to offer, to explore those that are yet to be discovered, and to admire every view. But I will try anyway. Indeed, there are certain places that, no matter how often I visit, never become boring. The very nature of nature is that no two days spent outside are the same – the changing winds and seasons, the different cloud formations and sunbeams. And then there is seeing somewhere you have seen multiple times through new eyes – the eyes of someone who is experiencing it all for the very first time. This happened when I took my younger sister to the Lake District and we spent two winter days in jumpers and walking boots, hiking to hilltops and running down mountains.


Winding roads of Cumbrian gold; fluffy white clouds dazzling the sky and fluffy white sheep gracing the fields. We were en-route to Blea Tarn; I was in the driver’s seat squealing every time a slightly more confident driver squeezed between us and the drystone wall on the other side – with less that an inch between both. We laced up our boots on arrival, added a couple of layers, swung cameras over our shoulders, and wandered down to the waterfront. Blea Tarn is a small body of water nestled beneath high peaks. If you’re lucky, you may see a clear reflection of the Langdale Pikes in the tarn. But on this particular day, the wind was sending ripples through the water and the reflection was non-existent – but the scene remained beautiful nonetheless. This place always seems peaceful – there is no phone service, few other walkers and nature is allowed to flourish. Protected by the National Trust, Blea Tarn will always be the place I tell people to go when they first visit the Lakes and the place I will constantly return to, until I’m 90 I hope – with tea and biscuits, a picnic blanket and a good book.


The next day, I had something more adventurous planned. From the village of Ambleside, we headed up and up and up through thick yellow grass and alongside crumbling drystone walls, past Low Pike then High Pike where the wind viciously whipped the bare skin on our cheeks and tugged exasperatedly at our hair tucked beneath woollen hats. We were walking and talking incessantly like only sisters can do, until I realised that we might possibly be quite lost… By this point the wind was relentless, and trying to manoeuvre a map to a readable position was impossibly difficult as the sky seemed determined to steal it away. Our hands were like icicles and with difficulty speaking I had to admit to my little sister, who had trusted me wholeheartedly with route-planning, “I have absolutely no idea where we are.” So together we traced the line we were supposed to walk and realised we had taken a completely different but parallel path. We made a plan to descend away from the wind as quickly as possible, and then hurtled down the hillside as the icicles in our hands defrosted and our spirits rose once again; greedily consuming the beauty of the surrounding landscapes before it was time to head south once more.

There is something I find so alluring about the Lake District. Perhaps it is in the combination of homely, welcoming landscapes that become unforgiving in a single gust of wind. Or it may be the way the air whispers soft tales of times gone by, or thoughts of the writers and poets who have sat on these banks and taken inspiration from these hills. When I am here, I want to close my eyes and absorb all that beauty and hope and the fragility of nature – but these landscapes cannot be taken away. And so all I can do is come back again and again until I am 90 – to sit on these grassy hilltops with tea and biscuits, a picnic blanket and a good book.

You can see more of Athena’s work here @athenamellor and here








Back To The California Coast

Below is an extract from our new book with New Heroes & Pioneers, to be released just in time for Christmas. You can learn more about the project and order a copy by clicking here.

Enamoured with foreign landscapes and the promise of escape, it is difficult to resist the romance of distant shores. Some of these yearnings may remain idle, little more than wanderlust-infused daydreams, while others are enough to see us journey into the unknown. Yet, as glorious as the new and undiscovered may be, once we have explored a destination (living like a local and venturing beyond the tourist trail), it’s not uncommon to find that there are certain spots we can’t help but return to. While first encounters are marvellous, following a pathway back to the familiar can be just as inspiring.

Photographer Virginia Woods-Jack has visited the Californian coast on many occasions, enthralled by its natural wonders and soulful inhabitants. Seeing her depictions of Venice Beach, with its laid-back surfing vibes, and the mellow scenes of the Encinitas area, it’s not difficult to imagine why.

From her first visit to these glowing shores, Virginia felt like she was coming home; somewhere she hadn’t been for a while that was familiar nonetheless. With the beauty of the scenes and the calm of the people observed remaining constant, each visit was a reminder of that first encounter – a chance to once again capture smiles, soft light and rolling waves. However, Virginia’s lens was also drawn to the subtle changes in the landscape, the shifts in mood and colour that arose with the turning seasons. Over time these changes helped bring the setting to life, elevating it from mere ‘holiday destination’ into something alive and ever-evolving. And so, with each return Virginia asked herself the same question – what would life be like if this was truly home?

It is by revisiting certain destinations that we are able to reflect on the pathways we have chosen: where we find ourselves, where we have been and who we wish to be. From here, far from the constraints of the everyday, we can do more than recall fond memories or sate our inner vagabond. We can instead focus on the minute, appreciate the altering patterns and perfection of nature and plot future journeys surrounded by a setting that remains strangely familiar. We know the scenes before us will transform before we return, and we might too – the sense of possibility forever promising.

Words by Yvette Edwards and photographs by Virginia Woods-Jack.




Aro Hā

Translating to ‘in the presence of divine breath’, Aro Hā is a health and wellness retreat sure to inspire, invigorate and surprise.

Something has gone awry in our modern world. At a time when so much exists to make things easier, how is it that everyone seems so terribly busy? Somewhere along the way we’ve lost the art of taking a break, of disconnecting, of being in the moment. So when I discovered Aro Hā, a wellness retreat nestled in the sun-kissed mountains south of Glenorchy, I began to wonder – could this be the antidote to our increasingly frenetic lives?

Despite Aro Hā’s promise of quietude, I found myself hesitant to go. You see, I was a bit of a wellness sceptic. Perhaps most of us are, an unfortunate side effect of that aforementioned busyness. But, as with most things in life, if you give the unfamiliar a chance, it will repeatedly surprise you.

As it turns out, such nervousness was unwarranted for it’s remarkably easy to embrace the Aro Hā routine. Each morning I woke for yoga to the sound of a Tibetan singing bowl, while stars still filled the late-autumn sky. The view from the studio’s window – through which you can spy pre-dawn clouds hanging over Lake Wakatipu – may make poses wobbly but such faux pas are understandable. Readjusting for a better view of the sunrise is sure to complicate the downward dog of even the most experienced yogi.

Then I’d hike – uphill more often than not but wondrous nonetheless – before restoring my aching limbs in the Aro Hā spa. While this space may come with Nordic overtones when it comes to design, watching a trio of cows graze on a nearby hill while soaking in the outdoor plunge pool, you can’t doubt where in the world you are. Afternoons are filled with pilates, meditation, dynamic playground sessions (where you break a sweat moving to mighty fine tunes) and, the pièce de résistance, a daily massage. There are also classes in the kitchen, an open space where culinary questions are encouraged, flavours delight and edible flowers are grown in abundance.

Which brings me to the meals; colourful, nutrient-rich creations that demonstrate just how artful raw, vegan cuisine can be. Capable of keeping my penchant for cheese, caffeine and alcohol at bay, everything here tastes a little bolder and looks a little brighter with as many ingredients as possible grown on site.

Such repose and splendour wouldn’t be possible without a remarkable team. The friendly, knowledgeable staff – their skin aglow and their energy limitless – are a testament to the Aro Hā lifestyle; and the most glowing of all is Co-Founder Damian Chaparro, for whom Aro Hā is more than just a labour of love. He’s built a hideaway that showcases the environment (this luxury, eco-friendly complex simply couldn’t exist anywhere else) and remains on site to guide guests through their experience. He cares, smiles and informs, and acts as if every personal discovery is the first he’s been privy to.

Encouraged to abandon technology and lose track of time, I experienced periods of euphoria, followed by moments of exhaustion, somehow arriving at the end of my six day escape at a restful, more accepting place. For you see, odd things happen on retreats. You’ll probably cry and you might not know why. And if you do, the cause will seem far more conquerable come morning. And while the experience may lead to a physical change, what’s fascinating is how open you become, how much you’re willing to share. At Aro Hā you scale mountains, cross lakes, hike along icons (the Routeburn Track is as stunning as everyone says), dance blindfolded and embrace your inner child, leaving with a sense of calm you may have never thought possible. Scepticism be damned.

This piece appeared in the New Zealand issue of Lodestars Anthology – you can order a copy here.

The Collective

As fans of travel, collaboration and fellow creatives we’re thrilled to be taking part in The Collective Europe – a tech-free conference in Barcelona where editor Liz will discuss the joys and challenges that come with growing a business organically. We had a chat with event organiser Anique Coffee (who is clearly in possession of the best name in the business) about what inspired her to get The Collective off the ground and what guests can expect from October’s inaugural event. If you’d like to get involved a few tickets are still available here – and the code LODESTAR20 will get you 20% off.

What can people expect from the event?

The Collective is a four day, retreat-style conference where creatives, entrepreneurs freelancers and innovative professionals of all kinds come to learn how to take their brand or company to the next level. 

The Collective is the first of its kind in Europe, unique and unlike any other professional conference or community you’ve been part of before. We engage and empower professionals in an interactive environment through collaborative and hands-on sessions, where knowledge is shared and inspiration is abundant. We aim to help attendees find their path and navigate their professional journey through unique seminars from experts in their field, hands-on creative workshops from artists and makers, and with innovative tools to bring professionals to the top of their game. Our members believe in community over competition, and lean on each other to get better and grow their businesses.

What inspired you to create The Collective? 

The Collective originated from the need for support and mentorship for the thriving and growing community of entrepreneurs, innovators, freelancers, creatives and startup lovers in Europe and around the world. Many times, these people work on small teams at small businesses or startups, or have no team at all and consider themselves solo entrepreneurs. So they are just that – solo, alone. Yet, they crave a community of like-minded professionals who provide support, mentorship and tools to help grow their businesses or provide inspiration. This same theme is the reason we see so many co-working and co-living events and businesses springing up all over the world: they are remote communities where people can go work amongst others and glean support and inspiration. We saw the need for this type of community for this audience, and also determined that there weren’t many options for in Europe, if any. 

Also, we wanted to provide an inspirational, professionally challenging, and semi-remote event for people to enjoy a tech-detox for the weekend. Upon arriving at The Collective, attendees will take their last selfie and turn in their phones to enjoy a weekend without technology, allowing them to disconnect in order to reconnect with themselves, each other, and nature. All this in an environment where community rules over competition and inspiration is abundant.
Can you tell us a bit about your own creative background?
I was born in the Marshall Islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, but grew up in the United States in Florida. During college, I worked for the NFL Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their Creative Services Department as a project manager, graphic designer and photographer. After college in Florida, I started a small corporate identity and branding firm, which is what ultimately took me to San Francisco in 2012. That company was sold and then for the past five plus years, I was living in San Francisco, pursuing a career in Marketing and Entrepreneurial Ventures with tech startups in Silicon Valley. After the iconic startup burnout, I looked for a new adventure, outside of the crazy commute and startup cubicle life. Now, I’m in Barcelona, solely focused on The Collective.
Why have you chosen to hold the even in Barcelona?
During my old life as a tech marketer, I traveled to Barcelona for the three consecutive years in October for a huge tech trade show called VMworld. I LOVED the city and always enjoyed my time here. Last October, I traveled to Europe on my first ever solo trip and stopped by Barcelona to visit some friends. This visit was different. I was at the height of my professional burn out and was extremely attracted to the slow paced lifestyle. Who doesn’t want delicious coffee around every corner, Spanish wine, and siestas? But more than that, when you just scratch the surface, an entire world of creatives, entrepreneurs, and small businesses is exposed. The startup culture is still young here, and the entrepreneur mindset is still being fostered, but Barcelona is the perfect place for it. The weather is amazing and it attracts an incredible international community of people. What’s not to like?
What makes The Collective different?
The Collective Europe offers small, interactive workshops where the workshop leaders are down on the same level as the attendees – there is no hierarchy in this way. Leaders are there to break down the attendees needs, share knowledge with immediate feedback, provide guidance and act as a mentor for attendees. The leaders are present during the entire conference and enjoying the conference as an attendee themselves when they are not teaching.
More to that point, a strong bond is created between everyone at the event. The main goal is to create a community that lasts far beyond the event. The semi-communal living, shared meals, shared experiences and remote aspect of the event creates a strong connection between each attendee, along with a sense of healthy vulnerability through this unique experience.
Have you been surprised by the level of support you’ve received? 
Yes and no. Yes, because this is a brand new concept in Europe. There is no other company doing this yet here, so its incredible to see the feedback from folks who are visiting our sites and buying tickets. In addition, this is a brand new company, logo, everything! So the brand awareness was non-existent when we started. Now, things are growing so quickly and its been surprising to see the interest and support we’ve received.  No, because we started this company to solve a problem, to serve a need, within this community. People were asking for an experience like this, different than any other professional conference, and craving a community of like-minded creatives and professionals. You asked, we listened.
Can you talk us through some of the workshops and events? 

We have speakers from all different backgrounds, industries and professions who share our ethos of community over competition and want to share their knowledge with others. They were all strategically chosen to provide our attendees with a well-rounded roster of speakers. 

The idea is that attendees can get a bit of everything; from Kendall Beveridge of Facebook, Product Marketing Extraordinaire with a deep knowledge of advertising due to her agency education and experience; to Matthew Manos, Founder of a socially-conscious, design agency, verynice, who can not only share stories about the startup life, but also share his model on how to give away half of your work for free to support nonprofits and more. 

We also have speakers who are sharing tips and tricks on how to implement a fruitful social media strategy (Teressa Foglia), how to document travel and turn your passion into a full time gig (Liz Schaffer of Lodestars Anthology), how to publicly speak about your brand with confidence (Jessica Leijgraaff) and charisma, how to create a brand that people love and feel connected to their experiences (not products) by Chupi, and more! 

Then, we have hands-on creative workshops from amazing artists and makers, including Earl of East London, brilliant candle makers with an interior home line, woodworking with Lindsey, and screen printing with Gillian Henderson of OhMyDays from Dublin. When your brain needs a break from the learning, you can opt for a hands-on workshop instead. During these sessions you’ll get your hands dirty – you’ll MAKE something tangible, but you’ll also get to rub elbows with some amazing entrepreneurs and hear their start up stories. 

We are also offering morning yoga and meditation from an amazing Irish yoga instructor Liz Costigan and many, many more! You can check out all of our confirmed speakers on our Speaker page