As a resident of Toronto for the past 15 years or so, I’ve come to loathe winter. Waiting endlessly for delayed streetcars in the dark, windy streets; sloshing through dirty snow on a crowded sidewalk that hasn’t been shovelled; not to mention the lousy outlook that comes with. Winter has become a season to get through, to escape, to completely block out.
That all changed in 2016 when Danish author and researcher Meik Wiking published his best selling book, The Little Book of Hygge. Despite being dark, and cold, and dreary, Denmark is often said to be the happiest country in the world. Wiking attributes this happiness to the country’s famous “hygge” mindset, a concept loosely translated as “cosyness together” or “the art of creating intimacy.” And it turns out, Canadians are naturally very good at this, something I got to experience first hand at an incredibly Canadian destination. (For more travel inspiration, check out these off-the-beaten path Canadian ski destinations.)
Earlier this month, my partner Richie and I escaped the city and travelled to Haliburton, Ont. for an overnight stay at the Woods Parka Lodge. This unique getaway property is Canada’s first parka-insulated winter yurt, made of the same materials that Woods uses in its iconic parkas. Inspired by the brand’s Alverstone Expedition Parka, a classic style that riffs on the original Woods Arctic Parka developed in 1903, the lodge was designed for the modern explorer with an eye for style. It’s also available to rent on Airbnb.
In The Little Book of Hygge, Wiking writes that “hominess” is the Canadian translation for hygge. “It describes how property can be homey if it’s authentic and ‘real’ and how a situation can be homey if it somehow brings to mind the state or feeling of seeking shelter and shutting out the outside world.” And that’s exactly how the Woods Parka Lodge felt. Surrounded by trees, the yurt’s humble, icicle-covered façade belied its luxe interior, which was at once spacious and intimate. When we arrived, we were greeted by a roaring fire in the living room, a sweet kitchenette filled with teas and snacks and a pillow-covered king size bed by Endy, a Canadian-made mattress-in-a-box brand, set up beneath a skylight for indoor stargazing. A pair of Woods parkas were hanging by the door and, knowing that we only had a couple of hours of sunlight left to enjoy, we immediately put them on and went for a walk in the snow. With the winter rays dancing in the treetops as tiny birds flitted above and snow crunched underfoot, the effect was pure northern magic.
A key component of hygge is spending time with others, the benefits of which Wiking describes as “like a hug without touching.” Indeed, several studies have proven the correlation between social relationships and happiness, including an 80-year study at Harvard that found that, more than money or fame, close relationships are what keep people happy throughout their lives. Stripping away most of the distractions of modern urban life (we couldn’t get any reception at the yurt, but it did have great WiFi), Richie and I shut out the outside world and got back to basics, laughing the evening away while we played Jenga by candlelight. (Suffering from anxiety? A jigsaw puzzle might be just what you need.) It was a mindful moment to savour the charms of winter together — what could be more Canadian than that?
Next, read up on the health secrets of Scandinavia – the happiest region in the world.