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Few in Finland warm to exclusive women-only island retreat

More than 8,000 women have applied to be selected for a 4,000-euro week-long stay on SuperShe Island, an exclusive getaway for eight guests and two staff.

Aurinkoterassi meren rannalla.
Image: Lena Nelskylä / Yle

More than 8,500 women around the world have applied to participate in a week-long retreat in Finland this summer at SuperShe Island, organised by German-American entrepreneur Kristina Roth. However, not many applications for the pricey female-only respite came from Finland.

Located on an island off the coast of the southern municipality of Raseborg, the retreat promises activities like "yoga, meditation, farm-to-table dining, cooking classes, fitness classes [and] nature activities," for the hefty price tag of 4,000 euros per week.

The 8.4-acre island has four cabins and can accommodate eight women at a time plus two staff members. Just a fraction of applicants -- some 120 women -- were chosen, which means that thousands won't be taking part this year.

Roth says she personally interviews applicants via Skype, saying that she has to get "good vibes" from them before she approves of their participation.

A controversial concept

The exclusive island made headlines in Finland and abroad, well before the first retreats began in June.

Roth says she has received as good deal of accusations of discrimination.

Finland's Ombudsman for Equality investigated Roth's business idea after receiving a request for an inquiry, eventually finding that her women-only concept did not violate gender equality laws.

"I don't understand how a few females on an island present a threat to the lives of any males. Everyone needs to grow up," Roth says.

She says that men have had their own cigar clubs and golf resorts for decades; places where they could talk among themselves about things that affect them. In the same way, Roth says, there are some subjects that women find it easier to talk about only in each other's company.

"What do you think? Would conversations on subjects such as cancer, miscarriages or sex be the same if there were men in the room?" she asks.

She says she is tired of having to explain why the island was created for women's use only.

"I would hope that we could be a little more civilised and realise that it is the year 2018 and we can do whatever we want to."

An exotic change of pace

Kicka Wendell, a Finn who lives in San Francisco, decided to spend a week on the island resort. She agrees with Roth's statement about women-only conversations, saying they are more likely to reach a deeper level.

"I think it changes the dynamic if men are along. Now women's energy is allowed to flow freely," she says.

She says the island retreat has also been a nice change of pace from the focus on outward appearance that prevails in California.

"There, it's all about doing up your hair, but here we run straight from our beds to do yoga in our comfy clothes," she laughs.

After having lived extensively abroad, Wendell says that she believes that the Finnish archipelago has much to offer in terms of quality, back-to-nature travel experiences.

"This is without a doubt luxurious and exotic to people from other places. And there are many things that they probably would have never expected. In a place like this, even a rain shower is an experience to remember for a foreigner," she says.

Few applicants from Finland

Roth wonders why so few Finns have applied to be part of the SuperShe Island retreat. Most of the applicants were from the US, she says. As a resident of the US herself, she says that people there are accustomed to travelling long distances for wellness services.

"Maybe the Finns aren't used to this kind of alternative to their tradition of holidays at the cottage with family," she says.

Another factor that could be holding more Finns back is the 4,000-euro cost, although a day trip costs less than 200 euros.

"I am fed up with all this griping about the expensive prices. People spend the same or more on trips abroad. It's always about choice and what you consider important," says Roth.

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