Proust Nature Questionnaire – Arita Baaijens

ARITA BAAIJENS is an explorer, biologist, photographer and writer. She is forever curious about the world and explores both physical landscapes and Mindscapes, those last remaining white spots on the world map that Google Earth is not able to find. Fellow Explorers Club, Royal Geographical Society and WINGS Worldquest, who selected her for the Wings Humanities Award 2014. She has completed over 25 desert expeditions on camel throughout Egypt and Sudan. She is the first woman to have crossed the Western Desert of Egypt solo on camel and the first Western woman to travel the Forty Days Road on camel twice. In Mauritania she photographed the last surviving female caravaneers. Currently Arita Baaijens travels and works in Siberia and Papua New Guinea, to research traditional cultures and sacred landscapes at risk. In 2013 she was the first to circumambulate the Altai Golden Mountains in the heart of Eurasia: 4 countries, 101 days, 1500 km on horseback. In March 2015 the Spanisch Geographical Society honored Arita Baaijens as Traveler of the year. She proudly carried the WINGS flag twice.

Baaijens is a pioneer, innovator and connector. She uses deep mapping and story telling to open people’s minds to different possibilities of explaining the world.

Arita Baaijens has produced radio documentaries, a virtual reality film (2016) and video dispatches about her travels. She has published numerous features about her journeys (see attachments) and to date has published seven books, including the award-winning Desert Songs: A Woman Explorer in Egypt and Sudan (AUC Press 2008). She is one of 50 explorers portrayed in “Modern Explorers” (2013, Thames and Hudson). Her book Looking for Paradise (Atlas Contact, 2016) was short listed for the prestigious Dutch Jan Wolkers Award. Baaijens’ photographic work has been exhibited in museums and gallery’s in England, Sudan, Egypt and the Netherlands. Her 2016 exhibit Search for Paradise in the Ketelfactory Gallery, Netherlands, drew many visitors and caught the attention of the media. It included photography, film, soundscape, a deep map and public lectures. Baaijens is in demand as a speaker both in the Netherlands and abroad, and has presented two TEDxtalks. She is a regular speaker on television and radio. 100+ interviews in magazines and newspapers.

3 words to describe Nature? 

Miraculous, Resilient, Omnipresent

3 things Nature taught you? 

Joy. The meaning of the word Sublime. Also: We need nature, but nature doesn’t need us.

3 most treasured Nature spots? 

Treasured spots are always Nature spots! The first spot that comes to mind is a lonely and incredibly beautiful and also terrifying spot in the Western Desert of Egypt. It’s an ‘eagles nest’, an outcrop on the edge of a steep and endless limestone cliff. At this spot the surface falls away on all sides but one, the view is incredible. Behind me empty desert, chalk hills, loneliness. And far below sanddunes wherever the eye turns. Incredible, the sand stretches further than the horizon, all the way into Libya. Spectacular, the spot is a strange and horrifying beauty. I have always felt that this is what our planet must have looked like in the days that man was not yet born. Untouched. Scary also, because my water was almost finished when I reached this sport and if I could not find a safe way down the steep cliff that would have been the end of me and my camels .

Second place that comes to mind is the Ukok plateau in south-west Siberia, the Altai Mountains. A very lonely and remote spot, an iconic and sacred glacier valley surrounded by high mountain peaks covered with ice and snow. It is right on the border with Mongolia, China and Kazakhstan. Rivers are being born there! Rivers that carry water for 7000 km north to the Arctic Sea. 9 months of the year it is impossible to be there, too cold, too windy, too dangerous. In the summer months the top layer of the frozen soil melts, which creates small streams and dangerous swamps. Many beautiful lakes. View of mountains, tundra and clouds is majestic. Genesis all over!

the Third spot is my garden and tiny hobbit house in the country side. I couldn’t live in Amsterdam if it weren’t for this tiny refuge in the country side. It is a strange place, a green oasis tucked away between a high way and the biggest petrochemical industry area in the Netherlands.  And yet, the green oasis which is part of very old agricultral land has survived and I feel extremely grateful whenever I go there.

When you look at the ocean, it makes you feel…? 

To be honest, Oceans don’t attract me very much. I do like to scuba dive in the Red Sea, it always reminds me of my time in the mother womb. Safe, warm, nourishing, beautiful. If I meet the ocean standing on the beach then something funny happens.  ‘I’ stop to exist, ‘it’ expands, I am the waves and all it contains. I guess the oceans are the alpha & omega of all that is. I wished scientitsts and researchers would leave the depths of the ocean alone. Allow the ocean to keep its secrets, give it privacy! As an explorer I much prefer to stay on land.

When you see a forest, it makes you feel…? 

The forest, strangely enough, is also not my favorite environment. Claustrofobic, I need empty spaces, views in 360 degrees. Which doesn’t mean that I don’t love forests, I do! Trees are my friends. They supply oxygen, literraly and figuratively speaking.

When you see a volcano, it makes you feel…? 

Wow!! Here are forces at work that we humans don’t control. Volcanos keep us in check and remind us of our hubris

When you see a sunrise or sunset, it makes you feel…? 

Since I became a desert explorer I learned about the power and the magic of a sunrise and a sunset. And I completely understood why the ancient Egyptians worshipped Ra, the sun god.  In the desert I would wake up 2 hours before sun rise, feed the camels, eat breakfast, load the camels and go. That first hour of walking with the camels, pure bliss. As soon as the sun announced its arrival and the first sliver appeared above the horizon I knew that within two hours she would make me suffer. But I always welcomed her with a song (it was no conscious decision to sing, it just happened): ‘Here comes the sun,’ na na na, etc The sun creates the day and brings life. Then, after a long and hard day walking in the heat, I again enjoyed the last hours of day light and would watch, with relief, shadows appear. Those wonderful shadows recreated the 3D world that had disappeared between 9 am till 3 pm. I never ever would miss the spectacle of the sun saying good bye, I would watch in silence how the world I knew would come to an end. After the last sliver of red had fallen of off the earth (that’s how it felt) the sun would set the clouds on fire before it finally disappeared. She left me the moon, the stars and sometimes complete darkness. Nighttime. 10 hours of blissful sleep!

When you hear thunder, it makes you feel…? 

Alive and in awe, the gods are speaking!

When you hear the wind howling, it makes you feel…? 

Hard to describe, it is a mix of awe, joy, feeling extremely alive and alert, and yet infinitely small,  just the way I like to feel.

Are you an Ocean, Mountain, Forest, or Desert person? 

Empty spaces: desert, steppe, tundra, you name it. As long as it is untouched and vast and dangerous for humans

On a scale of 1 to 10, how important is Nature to your well-being? 

10

Share with us a childhood nature memory? 

I grew up near a huge forest. We would go there on Sundays, my parents on their bicycles, my brother and I on the back seat. We would bring snacks, lemonade, sweets. I would disappear in the forest. Trees were pillars of my castle. Moss was the softest carpet imaginable. Dew drops were jewels. It was so quiet! Of course the birds sang and the insects buzzed. But the play of light and shadow, those high trees… created a solemn atmosphere. I would choose a big stone that was covered with soft moss and grass: my throne. And I of course was Alice in Wonderland.

photo credit: Barbara Hanlo

Proust Nature Questionnaire – Katie Losey

A lifelong wildlife enthusiast, KATIE LOSEY loves to explore the world’s most far-flung corners and hopes to inspire others to live out their wildest adventures through her words and images. At the heart of what guides most of her decisions is learning from the natural world, a strong thread throughout her life. Out of college, she began working at nonprofit Puppies Behind Bars, and too many times found herself reading National Geographic articles about the plight of African and Asian elephants. A year later, she was at an elephant sanctuary in Thailand. Her experiences connecting with these brilliant creatures continues to shape her world.

After returning to NYC from Southeast Asia, Katie found a home at an experiential travel company that plans private, custom journeys. Her trips have put her beneath orangutang swinging across Borneo’s canopy, gliding alongside sharks in Cuba, dancing on a 10,000 year-old glacier in British Columbia, and tracking gorillas in Uganda. Katie’s passion to link travel with conservation spearheaded Absolute Awareness, which connects travelers with the world’s wild places, creatures, and traditions to help champion and protect them.

In 2015 she became a member of The Explorers Club, whose mission is to advance field research, scientific exploration, resource conservation, and the ideal that it is vital to preserve the instinct to explore. In 2017 she co-chaired the 113th Explorers Club Annual Dinner, helping conceptualize and execute the longest standing philanthropic event in NYC history and a gathering of > 1200 world-class explorers in New York City.

3 words to describe Nature? 

Genius, wise, interconnected

3 things Nature taught you? 

Be patient

Seek symbiotic relationships

Find your own rhythm.

3 most treasured Nature spots? 

Malaysian Borneo Rainforest

Underwater world

The stream behind my house growing up in NY suburbs.

When you look at the ocean, it makes you feel…? 

Calm

When you see a forest, it makes you feel…? 

At ease

When you see a volcano, it makes you feel…? 

Inspired

When you see a sunrise or sunset, it makes you feel…? 

Calm.

When you hear thunder, it makes you feel…?

Excited!

When you hear the wind howling, it makes you feel…? 

Serene

Are you an Ocean, Mountain, Forest, or Desert person? 

Forest

On a scale of 1 to 10, how important is Nature to your well-being? 

8

Share with us a childhood nature memory? 

Everyday after school I would go down to the stream behind my house and hang over a log that had fallen across the stream and watch the minnows, crayfish, and would just be so happy. I would bring my friends down there and I would know every rock, every fish hiding spot, the sunny spots, the bugs ones…loved it down there!

Proust Nature Questionnaire – Richard Titus

RICHARD TITUS was named one of the Wired 100 in 2010. Serial entrepreneur and executive, Richard  has a passion for technology & innovation. His startups include Razorfish, Schematic & Videoplaza. Titus’s most recent startup, Prompt.ly, was co-founded in 2013 and sold in 2016 to Breezeworks.

More recently, until February 2017, Richard led customer experience for Samsung Electronics Visual display division globally. While there he led User experience & design globally, and portions of its product planning & new product development functions for Consumer Electronics & Digital Appliance divisions. Richard has been an active blockchain investor & advisor for 5+ years, his most recent ICO’s include Hive and 2030.

Richard previously he held senior leadership roles at the British Broadcasting Corporation (Future Media Controller) where he launched iPlayer and the BBC mobile service and subsequently served as CEO of Associated Northcliffe Digital, the digital holding company of DMGT’s (Daily Mail) digital holding company. He is based in San Francisco, California.

3 words to describe Nature?

Warm (even when cold), Calm, Home

3 things Nature taught you?

Respect for my limitations

Humility around our role on earth

Awe of the complexity, grandeur and ingenuity

3 most treasured Nature spots?

Iceland –  the whole damn thing

Atacama desert, Chile

Yosemite Valley, California – which is magical even now after 10+ visits

When you look at the ocean, it makes you feel…?

Mediative effect of the waves

Longing to escape wherever I am (swim away).

Eagerness to jump on a wave.

When you see a forest, it makes you feel…?

I love the forest for the organic.

The surprise that the bed of pine needles could be so rough, prickly and yet simultaneously soft and welcoming.

When you see a volcano, it makes you feel…?

It’s funny I just saw one in Nicaragua this week. A melding of fear, awe and fascination with the danger & power + warmth of what lies beneath the surface.

When you see a sunrise or sunset, it makes you feel…?

My house is in the hills and faces east. I watch the sunrise every day its part of my meditation routine. I feel a sense of rebirth, beginning, but also quiet contemplation. Happiness. No sunrise has ever made me feel sad.

Sunset, I always feel a mix of sadness about those things left incomplete and relief from the same burden.

When my daughters were younger, I used to wake them up to watch the sunrise. We pretended we could conduct it! “ok over there lets get a little more opacity on the water now. People work with me there’s too much bloody purple.. ” that kind of thing. They loved it. They still describe those memories as some of their favorites.

When you hear thunder, it makes you feel…?

Tumultuous Excitement

Expectation

Occasional dread

When my daughters were young, and somewhat afraid of thunder & lightning, I used to lay in their room (high on a hill where we felt on par with the storm) and I would pretend I could “speak storm” – translating the sounds into funny conversation.

When you hear the wind howling, it makes you feel…?

Anxiety. Its the only storm sound I don’t like. Years of danger rock climbing and camping. Wind was something that could cause significant distress.

Are you an Ocean, Mountain, Forest, or Desert person?

Mountain for sure. though ocean gets a strong 2nd mention.

On a scale of 1 to 10, how important is Nature to your well-being?

Nature is where I go to recharge – even nature photos help me center myself.

Share with us a childhood nature memory?

As a child we drove from Orange County CA to  Washington DC across the country. Twice.  I remember being astounded at the diversity of landscape, the way it evolved and iterated. I found the land and nature would reflect themselves in the people. The Stoicism of the montana’ians. The Friendliness of the midwest farmers…

Proust Nature Questionnaire – Alison Davis

Alison Davis is co-founder of Fifth Era. She is a global strategist, finance professional, public company board director and active investor in growth companies. She is currently a director of Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), Fiserv (FISV), Unisys (UIS) and Ooma (OOMA), and is chair of the advisory board for BlockChain Capital. She is a former director of, City National Bank (CYC), Diamond Foods (DMND), First Data Corporation (FDC), Xoom (XOOM), and many private companies and was the Chairman of LECG (XPRT) until its sale in 2011. She has chaired audit, compensation, and governance committees and is a frequent speaker on corporate governance. Alison was previously the managing partner of Belvedere Capital, a private equity firm focused on investing in US banks and financial services firms. Prior to this, Alison was the Chief Financial Officer of Barclays Global Investors (now BlackRock), the world’s largest institutional investment firm with more than $1.5 trillion of assets under management. Earlier in her career, Alison spent 14 years as a strategy consultant and advisor to Fortune 500 CEOs, boards and executive teams with McKinsey & Company,and as a practice leader with A.T. Kearney where she built and led the global Financial Services Practice.

Alison is also the co-author of the best selling books Build Your Fortune in the Fifth Era: How to Prosper in an Age of Unprecedented Innovation & Corporate Innovation in the Fifth Era: Lessons from Alphabet/Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft

Alison is active in the community supporting non-profits and social enterprises as a board director, fundraiser and volunteer. She has been frequently named a “Most Influential Women in Business” by the San Francisco Business Times. She received a B.A. Honors and a Master’s in Economics from Cambridge University in England, and an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business after completing the first-year at Harvard. She was born in Sheffield, UK, is now a dual US/UK citizen and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband, Matthew C. Le Merle, and their five children.

3 words to describe Nature?

Vast, magical, glorious

3 things Nature taught you?

To breathe

To be delighted

To be in awe

3 most treasured Nature spots?

Any grassy spot where I can sit or lie in the sun and let the earth hold me

A secret bench on Ring Mountain Tiburon from which to view the Bay and coastline and Marin townships

From a canoe in the middle of Lake Tahoe

When you look at the ocean, it makes you feel…?

Calm

When you see a forest, it makes you feel…?

Alive

When you see a volcano, it makes you feel…?

Curious

When you see a sunrise or sunset, it makes you feel…?

Blessed, happy

When you hear thunder, it makes you feel…?

Exhilarated and powerful

When you hear the wind howling, it makes you feel…?

Energized, bold

Are you an Ocean, Mountain, Forest, or Desert person?

Ocean or Mountain

On a scale of 1 to 10, how important is Nature to your well-being?

7

Share with us a childhood nature memory?

Rambling in the Yorkshire Moors and Derbyshire Dales with my grandfather and often getting delightfully lost

Proust Nature Questionnaire – Rick Roberts

RICK ROBERTS is the Director, Hospitality Operations for Summit Powder Mountain in beautiful Eden, Utah. Summit Powder Mountain is a year-round destination for an ongoing program of events and activities – a home to the emergent culture of creativity and collaboration exemplified by the Summit community. Summit Powder Mountain is the largest skiable resort in North America and is preserving its magical skiing experience for generations to come and to save it from overdevelopment. Summit is now focused on building a new urban village at 8600 feet, showing that by developing a portion of the mountain responsibility, the entirety can be saved from overdevelopment.

Prior to joining the Summit family, Rick served 21 years in the Air Force as a dedicated and experienced thought leader and innovator with a history of delivering measurable results while leading teams of 500 in dynamic, combat and non-combat environments. He is a highly decorated veteran that possess a comprehensive background of managing large scale hospitality operations, fitness and recreation programs, human resources, and capital planning.

Additionally, he volunteers for Healthy Body Healthy Life, a non-profit educating individuals, changing families and growing communities. He is extremely passionate about outdoor recreation and the therapeutic effects it can have for veterans challenged with post-traumatic stress.

3 words to describe Nature? 

Inspiring, calming, pure

3 things Nature taught you? 

Humility, courage, determination

3 most treasured Nature spots? 

Havasu Falls, Interlocken, Switzerland, Cliffs of Moher

When you look at the ocean, it makes you feel…? 

Vulnerable…it’s another world

When you see a forest, it makes you feel…? 

Curious

When you see a volcano, it makes you feel…? 

Powerful

When you see a sunrise or sunset, it makes you feel…? 

Thankful

When you hear thunder, it makes you feel…? 

Anxious

When you hear the wind howling, it makes you feel…? 

Attentive

Are you an Ocean, Mountain, Forest, or Desert person? 

Mountain

On a scale of 1 to 10, how important is Nature to your well-being? 

10

Share with us a childhood nature memory? 

I was always fond of being out on a lake fishing with my Dad. After serving in WWII, Korea and Vietnam, fishing brought him peace and joy. I appreciate those special moments with him.