A local nonprofit helps professionals get out of the cubicle and into nature with the goal of facilitating self-discovery.

Photos courtesy of Rewild Soul.

Friday night meditations and a kindred passion for the great outdoors brought Brielle Elise and Amber Larkin together to create a nonprofit designed to help professionals reconnect with their wild side.

Called Rewild Soul, the pair drew inspiration for the name from the word “rewilding,” which is an ecological term that means “to return to an original undomesticated way of being.” So to rewild one’s soul, according to Elise, is to see past the trials of city life and return to a state that’s in harmony with the natural world, as well as the inner spirit.

To that end, Elise and Larkin organize trips that bring people to a specific nature destination, such as the Foothills Trail in South Carolina, and help them connect with themselves. The trips, three and a half days long, involve a mixture of backpacking through the wilderness and self-discovery activities.

“We want to make self-discovery fun,” Elise said. “We want to remind people that it doesn’t have to be heavy and scary.”

Elise is Rewild Soul’s “transformative” coach who guides campers on their journey to self-discovery. She also has her own private life-coaching practice in Gainesville. She said she discovered what she was capable of and how empowering nature can be when she hiked through the Appalachian Trail in 2013. She hiked about 550 miles in six weeks, covering up to 22 miles in one day.

“It was very empowering to spend all day hiking up a mountain to finally get to the top and be completely away from car sounds and civilization,” Elise said. “It was freeing being in the woods, and I realized that the patterns that entrapped me were in my mind.”

A Rewild Soul camper bathes under a waterfall.

Meanwhile, in the frozen wilds of Minnesota, Larkin, the wilderness program director, had her first eye-opening experience at the age of 16 on an Outward Bound trip. She recalled being out of her comfort zone, sleeping under tarps and dog sledding as her main form of transportation.

Larkin also co-runs an outdoor program called TRiP at the University of Florida. Overall, she has nine years of wilderness guidance experience.

“Some of the biggest value I get from wilderness experience is learning to become more comfortable with discomfort,” Larkin said. “I had to dig deep in my first experience, and I proved a lot of my self-limiting beliefs wrong.”

Each Rewild Soul trip has a theme, and the theme for the past two trips—which both involved backpacking through the Foothills Trail in South Carolina—was “Elation.” For Rewild Soul, “Elation” means celebrating one’s unique spark and identifying what that is.

“It was very empowering to spend all day hiking up a mountain to finally get to the top and be completely away from car sounds and civilization,” Elise said. “It was freeing being in the woods, and I realized that the patterns that entrapped me were in my mind.”

On the “Elation” trip, heavy gear and clothing was not the only weight Kristen Bramlet, UF grad student, was carrying on her back. She said she felt like she had been carrying an emotional burden with her for a long time, until this trip finally relieved it.

“Rewild Soul allowed me to connect with the person I truly am, instead of who I think I should be,” Bramlet said. “I was able to eliminate some of the fears and negative thoughts I discovered that were not serving me.”

The next trip is to Providence Canyon in Georgia from Nov. 9 to 12. The theme of this trip is “Rewild your Voice.”

“Nature is the best coach,” Elise said. “It really brings me to this space of deep self-love and acceptance. These feelings and moments are what we endeavor to provide to people since we have had such life-changing experiences in that way.” •


You can find out more information about Rewild Soul on their website