In 2010 Raymond led a civilized existence. 1.5 child, a home with mortgage in a fancy Haarlem neighbourhood and a Toyota parked out in front. At the time, he was following two studies and worked a full-time job as a general practitioner. With a newborn child, a second child on the way and an ongoing refurbishment of their home, Family Landgraaf was missing more than just a good night sleep.
Raymond saw clearly, while working with his stress-laden, burnt-out, restless and sleepless patients, that he was not the only one that didn’t know how to pull the breaks. Each day, he would council people on the improvement of their physical and mental health. ‘Why don’t you spend some more time in nature, ride your bike a little more often or get some work done in your garden?’ He’d often also give some more abstract advises such as ‘follow your heart, turn your passions into work’. It wasn’t long until he realized that he actually wasn't ‘practicing what he was preaching’ but rather going for ‘Do as I say but don’t do as I do’. Was he really following his dreams and passions? When was the last time he went for a walk in the woods? Or even read a book? There was no time for any of that, he was spinning far too many plates. He then realized: “I don’t want to live like this”. He decided to turn it all around, pack the car with only the necessary and take a trip to Italy with his family. To go on adventure in La Bella Italia!
It’s been six years since then.
The first few years, Family Landgraaf lived in the a scenic mountain town named Alagna Valsesia. It was truly love at first sight. A remote place they felt they wanted to share with others. Raymond’s loving wife and passionate relationship therapist, Blanca van den Brand, began inviting her clients to Italy to participate in intensive Love & Cheat Retreats. This proved to be an enormous success. For Raymond too, things immediately fell into place. Pretty much upon arrival he continued his work as a doctor in the village and joined the mountain rescue team. Furthermore, the scenery provided the ultimate setting for his standing desire to organize back-to-basics expeditions. This dream had been with him since his time spent in the United States as a student. In the Rocky Mountains. [ Read more here in an article in a Dutch Magazine ].
His own ‘School of Wilderness’, called Otro Elements, became reality.
Since 2013, Otro Elements has been organizing back-to-nature expeditions at the roughest edges of the Italian Alps. Whoever wants to escape the daily rat-race and experience nature’s curative powers is invited to join. One might call this ‘a-hobby that got out of hand’. So far, Otro Elements has offered mixed gender expeditions, expeditions for trainers, youth, next to their original ‘men only’ expeditions. Also, next to our spring and summer programs, we run a ‘Winter White Edition’, for those who like their adventures frosty. Finally, OTRO Elements Care offers a yearly accredited courses for medical professionals. These zoom in on lifestyle interventions with a scientific foundation.
All expeditions have in common:
5 days ‘back-to-basics’
Digital detox: No TV, PC, tablet or phone
Wood-chopping, fire-making, bathe in mountain rivers, sleep under a starry-night sky
Time for reflection and connection, with yourself, others and nature
Get rough & get rest
No expectations, no obligations
Play guitar, sing and talk around the fire
Be guided by the 5 elements: Water, fire, earth, air and space
Now, after 6 wonderful years of running over 30 expeditions in our beloved Val d’Otro and seeing hundreds of people rediscover themselves, it happened. We encountered an ‘up for sale’ mountain with three small mountain lodges and over 22 hectares of property, large plots of woodlands, grassy meadows and a private water-source. Believe it or not, we managed to purchase this mountain, right behind Otro, overlooking the Monte Rosa. Alpe Selvaccia, our own back-to-basics Retreat Center on "the healing mountain".
‘Casa mia é casa tua”. You are all very welcome here. Come build with us, get some rest, join an expedition or bring a group and create an customised experience of your own. Check out our present and future [ possibilities ].