Caretakers of Sustainability: Journey Inn

If life’s a journey, Journey Inn — an eco-inn and retreat that’s designed with nature completely in mind, spirit and body – serves as a guide.

Located in Maiden Rock, Wisconsin, about an hour from St. Paul-Minneapolis, this Travel Green Wisconsin and Green Routes certified enterprise launched by John Huffaker and Charlene Torchia in 2006 artistically crafts a peaceful refuge to enhance our experiences with nature and allow our inner beings to breathe. Journey Inn is part restoration enterprise and part center for recreating our human soul in more meaningful ways.

I had the opportunity to stay at Journey Inn for a couple days this past September with my family, since we prefer ecotravel-oriented accommodation options. We hiked some of the abundant hiking trails on their sixty-six acre property that includes a spectacularly restored prairie and garden labyrinth. We sipped tea while relaxing in their gardens. We even shared a few of our cucumbers and tomatoes from Inn Serendipity with a couple celebrating their honeymoon there.

Connecting People to Nature and their Inner Self

“People want to connect with something bigger than themselves,” says Huffaker, also a licensed psychologist in Minnesota and a life coach in Wisconsin when he’s not checking folks in the four room Inn or conducting workshops also held on site. Journey Inn’s workshops include creativity with guided exercises, couples massage, and living naturally with the seasons. “I hope that my clients find nature to be a nurturing backdrop to whatever they seek to accomplish here, whether it be emotional healing, unblocking creativity or exploring their life purpose.”

“In creating Journey Inn, we wanted it to be a place where people could be away from the chaotic life,” explains Torchia, who has spent the better part of the last 25 years offering soothing massage to over-stretched or stressed out clients. “It’s a sanctuary here. Besides the workshops, we also offer message.” In fact, Journey Inn could be called a learning center, retreat facility, bed & breakfast, and natural spa woven together with natural threads of nature.

From passive solar design of the Inn to the in-floor hydronic space and solar hot water heating systems, from earthen plasters in the rooms to organic linens and towels, Journey Inn thrives on the sustainability story that Torchia and Huffaker have nurtured. What’s most striking is that they transformed a former junkyard of smashed Demolition Derby cars littering the property into a paradise of prairie, a refuge for wildlife and sanctuary for those seeking tranquility and transformation – or just a quiet place to get away, savor an organic and local breakfast and go for a hike or bike.

“We like creating the whole environment at Journey Inn, the food, the sense of place, and even our mindful selection of the décor and furnishings reflect who we are and what we value,” admits Huffaker. “We created Journey Inn to care for people and the land.”

Huffaker is quick to downplay all their hard work, or what Wendell Berry might call “good work.” He adds with a smile, “I’m connected and happy to be here doing the work I love.” It’s a recurring theme I found among all ecopreneurs who live and work their passions.

If only we all could refocus our lives on those things that matter most.

Journey Inn, if nothing else, can help those who may pass through their doors in the necessary transformation process as a culture, society and nation on our journey toward sustainability. We need to look within and to nature for inspiration.

Photography: John D. Ivanko/www.ecopreneuring.biz