An Isle for Women | Escape to SuperShe Island
An Isle for Women appeared in ROSE & IVY Journal No.10
After landing in Helsinki and driving over an hour and a half through winding Finnish country roads bordered by narrow rows of birch trees and bucolic farmland, I reached the coast and boarded the boat that would take me to my final destination. As we sped over the inky blue water, the late August sun shining overhead, I felt a sense of elation. Finally, it was happening: I was on my way to SuperShe Island, an exclusive women’s retreat located in Finland’s pine-covered archipelago. It had just opened for its inaugural season, and I was thrilled to find myself one of the very first visitors to this private island in a country I had never traveled to before, an undreamed of privilege, as spaces here were in such high demand.
SuperShe was conceived and brought to life by Kristina Roth, an entrepreneur who had already built a successful business back in the States. She came to New York from Germany in 2006 and began her career as a consultant, but after a while, she realized she needed a change. “I wanted to quit, but I was waiting on my Green Card. It makes things difficult because you get paid what you get paid, you cannot change jobs, you’re essentially caged in. I was waiting on a sign from the universe. Then one day, out of the blue, I got it and that same day I quit my job. When I did, I only had one month of rent and nothing else.” Her leap of faith paid off and then some—her list of accomplishments includes starting her own management consulting firm, landing on Forbes list of the top ten fastest-growing women-owned businesses and bringing in $65 million in revenue. She learned a lot about herself and the business world along the way, “I feel that sometimes women start small because they want to ease themselves into something. The energy you put into selling to small companies is the same as the larger Fortune 100 companies. The only difference is that they have a huge budget and the others don’t. The lesson I learned is to just go for it and to go big or go home.”
Moments of synchronicity often happen when you least expect them, and that was certainly the case for Kristina. Shortly after she made the decision to sell her consulting business, she did some traveling and began to sketch out the plans for what would eventually the SuperShe brand could be. While on a tour of Scandinavia, which included a stay in Finland for 48 hours, she met a man named Benny. The two hit it off immediately, and because of him, she kept extending her trip. “I changed my flight five days in a row. I don’t know how much money I spent doing that—every day I said I was staying another day,” she laughs. Eventually she had to head home but returned soon after for another 10-day visit and wound up staying on the small private island owned by his parents. “Every year, his parents let their sons have it to themselves for one week. We had so much fun—I loved it, but not the fact that he only got it to himself for one week each year. I thought how I would love to spend more time there. So when this island across from them came up for sale, I looked at it and bought it knowing that my plans had officially changed.” The two are now engaged and plan to get married next year.
Kristina’s big idea for this impulsive purchase was to bring together a group of women from around the world who are looking to rejuvenate the mind, body and spirit. “I wanted to expand my network and to get to know new women and forge new friendships. That was the initial idea for SuperShe. But now it has morphed into a movement. I receive e-mails from women from all over the world who might not even be able to afford to come. They write to us to let us know that just the idea of the island gives them hope and makes them feel good, which makes me really happy.”
She knew that in order to achieve her vision for the island, it would require a complete overhaul, including installing basic necessities for modern living like electricity and running water. She decided to keep the four existing structures, but all would need extensive renovation to bring her idea to life. Trees would need to be cleared to make room for a beach, and paths would have to be laid out to make getting around easier. She began plotting and designing, then officially kicked off the project in November of last year before the harsh Finnish winter set in. She got the word out to a few media outlets and the story instantly went viral—the demand was there before work had even finished. She was inundated with over 8,000 applications from women all over the world who were eager to visit. She ended up conducting 150 video interviews, and many of these applicants were in the first wave of visitors this summer. “I wasn’t expecting it. I thought there was going to be a couple of features and that was it. We finished construction at the end of June, a week before we opened.”
When I arrived in late August, I found myself in what I can only describe as an oasis. The island encompasses eight acres of scenic forest-covered land. The ground is carpeted in a thick layer of emerald green moss and lichen woven between the tall pine trees and rugged rock formations. Lush ferns, juniper and blueberry bushes grow wild on the forest floor. Everywhere I turned, I saw the sparkling sea in the distance, an element that was vital to Kristina. The only sound I heard was the crunching of leaves beneath my feet, which was almost intrusive in the stillness.
“As the last light of day dropped below the horizon, the water, tinted by the sun’s rays, began to fade from magenta to blue to black, creating a mesmerizing prismatic effect. A family of swans idled nearby before embarking on their nightly swim; the mother dipped her long neck gracefully into the water and her eight offspring followed suit. Crickets chirped; fish broke the surface of the water as they came up for air, causing a rippling movement on the otherwise still Baltic Sea. Among these soft echoes, the quiet was utter bliss.”
After I settled in, I headed to the main cabin for dinner. My first meal on SuperShe was the juiciest piece of salmon I have ever tasted, paired with perfectly cooked new potatoes and a green salad garnished with marigold petals from the garden. All of the ingredients used to prepare meals for the guests are sourced within a 100-mile radius of the island and are “paleovedic” in nature—they combine the elements of a paleo diet with Ayurvedic principles. SuperShe’s resident chef, Camilla, designs the menu around superfoods found in the surrounding region, including lingonberry, sea buckthorn and juniper berries.
When the workshops end, the night is yours. For me, watching the sunset was a sublime way to wind down my first evening in this Finnish paradise. From my own private dock, I sat in complete silence to fully experience the splendor of nature. Living in New York, all too often I feel like I’m lost without the trees and the quiet—two things that, as I get older, have become much more a need than just a want. As the last light of day dropped below the horizon, the water, tinted by the sun’s rays, began to fade from magenta to blue to black, creating a mesmerizing prismatic effect. A family of swans idled nearby before embarking on their nightly swim; the mother dipped her long neck gracefully into the water and her eight offspring followed suit. Crickets chirped; fish broke the surface of the water as they came up for air, causing a rippling movement on the otherwise still Baltic Sea. Among these soft echoes, the quiet was utter bliss.
When posed with the question of what she would like her guests to take away from their experience here, Kristina replies, “I know it might sound ‘hippy,’ but I hope that women take away whatever they need. SuperShe is a very visually pleasing place that hopefully creates a space in your mind to think and to just be. One woman told me as she left that she came not knowing what she wanted to do with her life, but left feeling like she had the energy to search for what was next. It really inspires me how something like this can change a mindset.” For me, my short visit was so surreal it left me wondering if I had simply dreamed the whole thing. Before I came here, I was feeling starved for nature and quiet. Living in this day and age, I feel like we are bombarded with too much noise, both literally and figuratively. The thoughts pulsing through my mind needed to be silenced long enough to allow a sense of peace to sink in. The sensation of being enveloped by nature, kindness and the company of strong, interesting women is something that will remain with me for many days to come, but when the clatter of city life begins to creep back in, I will simply close my eyes and recall the serenity that I experienced at sunset that first evening on the dock, and I will be there.