Proust Nature Questionnaire – Christiana Moss

CHRISTIANA MOSS is managing principal and a founding partner of Studio Ma, the current AIA Arizona Firm of the Year and a recent Architectural Record Design Vanguard Firm. Her interests in advanced environmental design and the relationship between natural and cultural systems inform her design philosophy. She is one of five Studio Ma principals and practices collaboratively with Christopher Alt, Dan Hoffman, Jason Boyer and Tim Keil. The hallmark of studio is a commitment to sustainability and research, seen most recently in Princeton University’s net-zero ready 715-bed Lakeside Graduate Student Community.

As part of the firm’s mission of advancing the practice of sustainable design, Studio Ma has recently developed a “triple net-zero” concept for higher education research buildings and practices using an integrated design process, for its campus, cultural and urban infill projects. Their work on university campuses focuses on student residential life, academic and research projects. Other notable recent projects include Scottsdale’s Museum of the West, a Smithsonian affiliate, Arizona State University’s Manzanita Hall, Northern Arizona University’s Native American Cultural Center, the Cranbrook Institute of Science addition, master planning and cabin prototypes for Summit Powder Mountain, PRD845 and artHAUS, an urban infill development. Studio Ma has received significant recognition for their work, including AIA Arizona Honor awards, the Chicago Athenaeum and SCUP/AIA National Honor for Building Design. Their buildings have been featured in Metropolis, Architectural Record and The New York Times.

Christiana received her Bachelor of Architecture from Cornell University’s College of Architecture, Art and Planning.

3 words to describe Nature? 

Essential

Integral

Threatened

3 things Nature taught you? 

Humility

Awe

Self-reflection

3 most treasured Nature spots? 

Fire Island

Oak Creek Canyon, AZ

My back yard

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

When I’m looking out to the ocean I feel small and infinite at the same time.

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

When I’m in a forest I feel sheltered, embraced and connected to the earth.

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

I haven’t seen a volcano yet.

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

Thankful for its rising and anxious for its return when it sets.

When you hear thunder, it makes you feel…? 

Hearing thunder makes me want to seek shelter.

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

I enjoy feeling the wind on my face and prefer to be in it instead of hearing it from the indoors.

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

This is a difficult question. I love them all and they are all connected, perhaps some at different times. I began as an ocean person. The desert was once an ocean and I now enjoy the expanse of sky of both, the silhouette of mountains and the unique life water’s absence creates in the desert. The forest is a place I go to be immersed in the smells and sounds of the earth and I long for this too, perhaps I will become a forest person.

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

1 (being most important)

Share with us a childhood nature memory? 

I lived as a child on Fire Island without cars, free to run and swim in the ocean, walking in sand barefoot all summer long, picking blueberries and chasing rabbits. I lost this when I moved to New York when I was 12 and I’ve been longing to return to life without a city ever since.

Proust Nature Questionnaire – Brian MacKay-Lyons

BRIAN MACKAY-LYONS received his Bachelor of Architecture from the Technical University of Nova Scotia in 1978 where he was awarded the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada Medal. He received his Master of Architecture and Urban Design at U.C.L.A., and was awarded the Dean’s Award for Design. In 1985, he founded the firm Brian MacKay-Lyons Architecture Urban Design in Halifax. Twenty years later, Brian partnered with Talbot Sweetapple to form MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects Limited.

The firm has built an international reputation for design excellence confirmed by over 125+ awards, including the Royal Institute of British Architects International Fellowship in 2016, the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada Gold Medal in 2015 and Firm Award in 2014, six Governor General Medals, two American Institute of Architects National Honor Awards for Architecture, thirteen Lieutenant Governor’s Medals of Excellence, eight Canadian Architect Awards, four Architectural Record Houses Awards, eight North American Wood Design Awards and in 2017 the firm received the Global Award for Sustainable Architecture. Also in 2017, the firm has been shortlisted for the prestigious Moriyama Award (result pending). A fellow of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (FRAIC), and the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts (RCA), Brian was named Honorary Fellow of the American Institute of Architects (Hon FAIA) in 2001 and International Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects (Int. FRIBA) in 2016.

He is a Professor of Architecture at Dalhousie University where he has taught for over thirty years and has held seventeen endowed academic chairs and given 200+ lectures internationally. In 2004 he was visiting professor for the Ruth and Norman Moore Professorship at Washington University in St. Louis.

Ghost (1994-2011) was a series of international Architectural Research Laboratories that took place on the MacKay-Lyons farm. Ghost was founded by Brian as a meeting place for an international ‘school’ of architects who shared a commitment to: landscape, making, and community. The final installment of Ghost took the form of a three-day historic gathering where the twenty-five invited guests and speakers commiserated over these shared values and their ‘resistance’ to the globalization of Architecture.

The work of the firm has been recognized in 330+ publications including six monographs: Seven Stories from a Village Architect (1996); Brian MacKay-Lyons: Selected Works 1986-1997 (1998); Plain Modern: The Architecture of Brian MacKay-Lyons by Malcolm Quantrill (2005); Ghost: Building an Architectural Vision (2008); Local Architecture: Building Place, Craft, and Community (2014); and Economy as Ethic: The Work of MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects, authored by Historian Robert McCarter, published April 2017. In addition to these monographs, the work of the firm has been featured in 100+ exhibitions internationally.

3 words to describe Nature?

As a fellow Canadian, Nature is IMMENSE. But, as a Nova Scotian, all Nature is a mixture of both CULTURAL and natural landscapes. As an architect, Nature is the ultimate design MODEL.

3 things Nature taught you?

NATURE WINS. Any attempt to beat nature loses.

ELEGANCE = economy of means.

RYTHM of the seasons.

We learn our manners at home, then take them out into the world. As a child, I have been imprinted by the landscape where my ancestors have dwelled for thousands of years.

3 most treasured Nature spots?

EDGE, where the land meets the sea.

ACADIE, the local Micmac word for the ecologically rich tidal estuaries around the Bay of Fundy, where I hunted and fished as a youth.

DRUMLIN, a hill that points in the direction of the retreating glaciers in the last ice age.

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

I feel connected to the INFINITE. (Prospect)

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

I am ALONE. (Refuge)

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

I see a PORTAL to the center of the earth.

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

A sunrise or sunset is a seasonal CLOCK.

When you hear thunder, it makes you feel…?

Thunder, universally inspires TERROR.

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

The wind is the weather FORECAST.

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

Clearly an OCEAN person.

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

Nature connection is essential to my/our well-being, or GROUNDING, so it is a 10.

Share with us a childhood nature memory?

Dip netting spawning gaspereaux at dusk on spring evenings with friends, in the rapids, where the fresh water from the forest drops into the salt tidal estuary water. This is only one of the seasonal RITUALS that marked my PLACE in the world.

Proust Nature Questionnaire – Jennine Cohen

JENNINE COHEN is a the Managing Director of the Americas for GeoEx. A trusted adventure, luxury and travel expert, Jennine also supports travel conservation efforts. She is a member of the Board of Directors for the International Galápagos Tour Operators Association (IGTOA) and has been featured in Travel & Leisure, Afar, Conde Nast Traveler, Vogue, YahooTravel, Fortune, Forbes, ABC, CBS, Travel Weekly, TravelAge West, Recommend Magazine, SmartMeetings, Travel Alliance Media and beyond.  Besides sending people traveling around the world, Cohen advises, coaches and helps small businesses, women entrepreneurs, healers, and business leaders to uncover their everyday magic.

3 words to describe Nature?

Peace, Pachamama, Purity

3 things Nature taught you?

Like nature, I am a force;

Hitting the reset button in nature = clarity;

No regrets for going bigger

3 most treasured Nature spots?

The South Yuba River, Nevada City,

Wrangell Saint Elias National Park – Alaska,

Dead Horse State Park – Utah

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

I want to be out there, in the waves instead of sitting on the shore

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

Like everything is right in the world

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

Mother Earth is amazing

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

Like the days are precious – and we should appreciate and have gratitude for each uniquely beautiful day.

When you hear thunder, it makes you feel…?

At home

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

Intrigued

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

Mountain – but love them all deeply

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

10

Share with us a childhood nature memory?

I didn’t have much exposure to the wilderness as a child, and my first real introduction was in college through UCLA’s Outdoor Leadership Program. My first backpacking trip with UCLA was through Sequoia National Forest – it was how I fell in love with the West.

I was surrounded on that trip by much more experienced peers who had spent their childhoods enjoying frequent family camping trips. I on the other hand, didn’t even know how to set up a tent – let alone use topo maps and a compass. Despite this, as we hiked through the mountains and under some of the largest trees on the planet, I felt a deep sense of satisfaction, calm, sense of purpose. Though I was an absolute beginner, but my unbounded excitement for my new found passion over time led to my competence in and eventual addiction to the outdoors. My life was forever changed after that trip, and my career in the adventure travel industry born.

Coincidentally, that same trip happened to fall over 9/11. We had been in the wilderness and seemed to be the last ones on the planet to find out about the terrorist attacks to the World Trade Center – emerging from the woods a full week after the tragic event. Not being surrounded by news all week likely shielded us from the high levels of stress and anxiety that the rest of the country was suffering from.

It is a good reminder about the importance of disconnecting from the noise of today’s anxiety inciting media – in order to intuitively return to the abundance of calm and clarity.

Proust Nature Questionnaire – Bruce Poon Tip

Entrepreneur, leader and philanthropist BRUCE POON TIP is the founder of adventure travel company and social enterprise G Adventures, the world’s largest small-group adventure travel company, with 23 offices worldwide offering more than 650 tours on all seven continents and serving 150,000 travellers a year.

Bruce is also the founder of the nonprofit foundation Planeterra in 2003, which harnesses the power of the tourism industry to direct travel dollars into vulnerable and underserved communities around the world. His work with organizations such as the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF), like-minded companies and indigenous people has supported more than 40 unique community development and relief projects around the world, with another 50 in development.

In 2012, Bruce was inducted into the Social Venture Network Hall of Fame, joining celebrated entrepreneurs such as Richard Branson (Virgin Airlines), Anita Roddick (The Body Shop), and Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield (Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream). He was also awarded a Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee Medal, recognizing significant contributions to society, and was named Entrepreneur of the Year in 2016, 2006 and 2002.

Bruce’s first book, Looptail: How One Company Changed the World by Reinventing Business, a New York Times bestseller, was the first business book to be endorsed by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who penned the book’s foreword. In 2015 Bruce released his second book, Do Big Small Things, a gorgeously designed journal about life and travel that takes readers on a journey and invites them to share their own inspiration and creativity.

G Adventures has been named one of the 50 Best Managed Companies for over 10 years and is repeatedly recognized as a “best place to work” in Canada, the US, the UK and Australia.

3 words to describe Nature?

Happiness

Peaceful

Beauty

3 things Nature taught you?

Being humble,

Importance of stillness

Awareness that we’re surrounded by beautiful things

3 most treasured Nature spots?

Serengeti, Galapagos and the Geelong Bird Sanctuary

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

Free

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

Small

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

Curious

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

Invincible

When you hear thunder, it makes you feel…?

Excited

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

Light

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

All of the above

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

9

Share with us a childhood nature memory?

Growing up in Calgary I spent a lot of my spare time in ponds after school, knee-deep in mud. I lost track of time catching frogs and observing tadpoles in transition. I was fascinated by natural biology.

Proust Nature Questionnaire – Gary Turk

GARY TURK is an award-winning filmmaker and spoken word artist best known for his viral film ‘Look Up’, attracting over 500 million views worldwide. Through poetry and film, Gary explains how overuse of smartphones and social media can disengage us from real relationships, human interactions and living in the real world.

Look Up’ is currently the most viewed Spoken Word film on YouTube, and went on to win Best Viral Film at Cannes. Scroll down to watch his latest video – IN OUR NATURE

Gary’s work, which has explored our relationships with money, politics and nature has gone on to inspire masses across the globe and gained worldwide coverage including BBC News, Fox News and TIME.

Gary has appeared on The Today Show, Good Morning Britain, BBC Breakfast, Sunrise (Australia), among many others.

Gary continues to make short independent films, as well as performing live around the world. He can also be found giving talks, workshops & performances at schools, universities, and corporate events.

3 words to describe Nature?

Boundless

Magnificent

Inspiring

3 things Nature taught you?

 To travel

To take my time

To appreciate the little things

3 most treasured Nature spots?

Looking Glass Rock, Appalachian Mountains, NC.

Cuckmere Haven, South Downs National Park, England.

Beneath the Redwoods, Mendocino CA.

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

Calm

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

Protected

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

Inconsequential

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

Like everyone and everything is connected

When you hear thunder, it makes you feel…?

Like looking for lightning

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

Like there’s no point standing still

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

Mountain person – I love being able to take in my surroundings from up high (especially if I can see Oceans, Forests or Deserts from there).

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

An easy 10 – If I ever don’t feel 100%, I know that being in Nature will always make things better, put things into perspective, and provide the answers I need.

Share with us a childhood nature memory?

After a long day of trail hiking with my cub-scout, we went to sleep under the stars in our sleeping bags on the forest floor. What I did not realise as we went to sleep was that I still had a cereal bar in the pocket of my shorts. When I woke up I noticed there were lots of tiny pieces of foil wrapper in my sleeping bag. I climbed out to find that my shorts now had a large hole in them leading to my pocket, which had clearly been chewed, and inside my pocket was the remaining foil wrapper and the crumbs of a cereal bar that I had not eaten.

I became immediately certain that I had been attacked by a bear in my sleep, and that I must have somehow slept through the encounter.

Our group leader then reassured me that considering the size of the hole in my shorts, and the fact my sleeping bag and limbs remained intact, it was most likely a mouse that attacked me during the night.

I often remember this moment in nature as a child, as part of me still likes to believe it could have been a bear.

Proust Nature Questionnaire – Scott Sampson


SCOTT SAMPSON was born and raised in Vancouver, BC. He is a dinosaur paleontologist, science communicator, and passionate advocate for reimagining cities as places where people and nature thrive. He serves as the President and CEO of Science World British Columbia.

Scott’s scientific research has focused on the ecology and evolution of Late Cretaceous dinosaurs, and he has conducted fieldwork in many countries, including Kenya, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Madagascar, Mexico, the United States, and Canada. He has published numerous scientific and popular articles, and regularly speaks to audiences of all ages on topics ranging from dinosaurs and education to sustainability and connecting kids with nature.

Sampson has appeared in many television documentaries and served as a science advisor for a variety of media projects, most recently the BBC movie, Walking With Dinosaurs. He has authored multiple books, including Dinosaur Odyssey: Fossil Threads in the Web of Life, and How to Raise a Wild Child: The Art and Science of Falling in Love with Nature. However, he is perhaps best known as “Dr. Scott,” host and science advisor of the Emmy-nominated PBS KIDS television series Dinosaur Train, produced by the Jim Henson Company.

3 words to describe Nature?

Interwoven, Nested, Evolving

3 things Nature taught you?

Wonder, Deep Connection, Humility

3 most treasured Nature spots?

While I have had the pleasure of traveling to a number of countries around the world, my most treasured nature spots have been those that I have been able to return to again and again. They are the ones I know the best, and that resonate with me most deeply.

Long Beach (Tofino area), Vancouver Island

Marin Headlands, California

Red Rock Country, southern Utah

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

Awe (in its vastness)

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

Wonder (in its deep, mostly unseen interconnections)

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

Humbled (by the sheer power it represents from within the Earth)

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

Tiny, and a little off balance (sitting, as I am, on the side of a giant, rolling sphere)

When you hear thunder, it makes you feel…?

Resonance (it is as if I feel the thunder more from the inside out, than the outside in)

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

A deep appreciation for shelter

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

Growing up in Vancouver, BC, I was raised at the intersection of ocean, mountain, and forest, so for me they are interwoven. But if I had to pick one only, it would be the ocean.

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

10

Share with us a childhood nature memory?

While still a child, camping with my family in the interior of British Columbia, I went off on my own (as usual) in search for interesting rocks and (hopefully) fossils. I spent a joyous hour or two on the side of a steep, boulder-strewn slope, turning over rocks and hunting for whatever wonders might be revealed. (I may have rolled a few rocks down the hillside as well.) Eventually I stopped and sat for a long while on a flat rock with a view of the valley below. When I finally headed back to our campsite, I wanted to show my parents where I had been. Late in the day, we walked back to the spot, to find a rattlesnake lounging on the very same flat rock I had sat on just hours earlier. I presume that it was soaking in the last rays of sun before a night of hunting. Although my first reaction was a twinge of fear, my lasting sense was one of interconnection—with the snake, the rock, and that place.

Proust Nature Questionnaire – Anique Coffee

ANIQUE COFFEE grew up in the US where she studied Marketing + Entrepreneurial Ventures. After a four-year stint working with Creative Services at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Anique started her own agency, providing a range of services to companies, with a focus on corporate identity and branding. After selling the agency, Anique moved to California and joined the Silicon Valley life in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she helped launch and grow various startups. Anique is driven by relationships and results, and loves connecting with others through shared ideas and celebration of unique differences. Stemming from a love for travel and new cultures, Anique recently relocated to Barcelona, Spain and runs The Collective remotely, embracing the digital nomad lifestyle, enabling her to connect with people and brands all over the globe.

3 words to describe Nature?

Vast. Organic. Expansive.

3 things Nature taught you?

To breathe. To wander. To be open to the things nature shows you when you wander.

3 most treasured Nature spots?

The Chuckawalla trail inside Red Cliffs Desert Reserve, near St George Utah

Dipsea Steep Ravine Loop Trail near Stinson Beach, just over the Golden Gate Bridge, north of San Francisco

Monterosso al Mare along the Cinque Terre trail in Italy

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

Calm. I had my energy read a few times and every single reader immediately said that water was my element – the natural element that I use when I’m seeking calming. It’s true.

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

Grateful. Trees are so amazing. They are living, breathing network of organisms that provide oxygen for us to breathe and work WITH each other to survive. I highly recommend this radio lab podcast to understand how amazing forests and trees really are: http://www.radiolab.org/story/from-tree-to-shining-tree/

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

Cautiously optimistic.

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

Renewed.

When you hear thunder, it makes you feel…?

Homesick. I grew up in Central Florida where thunder and lightning storms are almost a daily occurrence. I used to love sitting on the front porch watching the storms, and when a hurricane was on the way, it would be fun to watch some of the natural debris like Spanish moss whipping around in the huge oak trees in our yard.

When you hear the wind howling, it makes you Feel?

Nostalgic for Florida. I have many memories of stormy days and hurricanes there.

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

Can I be all of them? I love the ocean, but frequently crave the quiet mountain life. I love the lush bright green varieties you can find in the forest. I also lived in the desert in St George Utah for a bit and while I won’t live there again, I really miss the red rocks and gorgeous succulents.

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

11. Given our current tech-obsessed culture (which I am often guilty of as a business owner), I find myself craving a hike or a quiet sit on beach weekly. I try to give in to these cravings as much as possible to hit the reset button on myself.

Share with us a childhood nature memory?

Camping as a family was a big part of my childhood. We’d often pack up the car and caravan with some other friends to a campsite. I specifically remember one evening at dusk – my favorite time of the day – where I found myself in a field, surrounded by fireflies. I had seen and caught them before, but this time was different. Its one of those moments in my life that’s frozen in my memory and was also some kind of out-of-body experience. I can almost see myself swirling around the field, delicately touching the fireflies one by one. Magical bugs. I love them!

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 – Praveen Varshney

PRAVEEN VARSHNEY has been a principal of Varshney Capital Corp., a Vancouver based merchant banking, venture capital and corporate advisory services firm, since 1991. He is a director or officer of various publicly traded companies including Mogo (Co-Founder) and BetterU Education Corp. He is a Co-Founder of G-PAK and former CFO of Carmanah Technologies Corp. which became Canada’s largest solar company. He was Co-Founder of a predecessor of Mountain Province Diamonds who’s Gahcho Kué in September 2016 became the world’s largest new diamond mine since 2003 & De Beers’ second-largest producer behind its Jwaneng mine in Botswana.

Mr. Varshney is a Toniic member and a long-time member of both EO Entrepreneurs Organization & TiE (Founding Director). He’s on a number of non-profit boards such as The Varshney Family Charitable Foundation, OneProsper.org and a Founding Member of instrumentbeyondborders.org. Mr. Varshney is a SVP Vancouver Partner, a Vancouver Police Foundation Trustee, and on the Advisory boards of Room to Read – Vancouver and The Thomas Edison Innovation Foundation in New Jersey, USA.

Mr. Varshney is a past recipient of Business in Vancouver’s 40 Under 40 Awards.

3 words to describe Nature? 

Amazing, beautiful, wonderful.

3 things Nature taught you? 

To be grateful for the things in life that are free & can provide so much happiness – grass, flowers, trees.

Can also be a force to be reckoned with so to be respectful of that & situations that can arise.

There has to be a God, who else & how else could all this have been created!

3 most treasured Nature spots? 

Any beach on the planet, especially in Pt.Roberts, WA, USA where we have a small cabin by the ocean.

Walking through Pacific Spirit Regional Park near our home in Vancouver with our labradoodle dog, Ozzy.

Anywhere in Hawaii like on the Big Island where we have a home.

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

Wonderful!

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

Alive!

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

In awe!

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

Thankful to be alive & happy.

When you hear thunder, it makes you feel…? 

A bit scared & a bit in awe.

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

A bit scared & a bit in awe.

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

Wow tough choice, I’m going to go with Ocean.

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

10 but 12 if you’ll let me go with it.

Share with us a childhood nature memory? 

Growing up during the younger years, because our parents didn’t have much money, we did a lot of picnics so I have vivid amazing memories of all the various parks in the city & neighboring areas we’d visit, my siblings & I would toss a baseball around & even play hockey on the grass with street hockey sticks!

Proust Nature Questionnaire – Julie Pointer Adams

JULIE POINTER ADAMS is an artist, floral designer, and most recently, author and photographer of a book on hospitality called Wabi-Sabi Welcome: Learning to embrace the imperfect and entertain with thoughtfulness and ease. She lived in Portland, Oregon for a number of years where she developed and directed the international community events for Kinfolk magazine alongside Editor Nathan Williams. Julie currently resides in Santa Barbara, California with her husband, Ryan.

3 words to describe Nature?

Healing, calming, worshipful

3 things Nature taught you?

To let go of worry; to be still and listening; to find beauty in unsuspecting places.

3 most treasured Nature spots?

Sauvie Island, Oregon; St. John River, New Brunswick, Canada; beaches along the Santa Barbara, California coastline

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

Powerless and grateful

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

Quiet

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

Small and temporal

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

Happy-sad and hopeful

When you hear thunder, it makes you feel…?

Grounded

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

Alive and reflective, as if a change is coming.

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

Ocean

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

10!

Share with us a childhood nature memory?

Most summers as a child were spent visiting my mother’s extended family in New Brunswick, Canada along the St. John River. I remember long days spent outside swimming, canoeing and exploring, but I particularly recall one day sitting hidden in the midst of tall grasses on a sloping hillside, shaded by birch trees. I felt in that moment that nature would always be a safe hiding place—a place to retreat to and be cradled by.

Proust Nature Questionnaire – Kengo Kuma

KENGO KUMA was born in 1954. He completed his master’s degree at the University of Tokyo in 1979. After studying at Columbia University as Visiting Scholar, he established Kengo Kuma & Associates 1990. In 2009, he was installed as Professor at the Graduate School of Architecture, University of Tokyo.

Among Kuma’s major works are Kirosan Observatory (1995), Water/Glass (1995, received AIA Benedictus Award), Noh Stage in the Forest (received 1997 Architectural Institute of Japan Annual Award), Bato-machi Hiroshige Museum (received The Murano Prize). His recent works include Yusuhara Wooden Bridge Museum (2010), Asakusa Culture and Tourism Center (2012), Nagaoka City Hall Aore (2012) and Ginza Kabukiza (2013). Outside Japan, Besancon Arts and Culture Center, FRAC Marseilles and Aix-en-Provence Conservatoire of Music were completed in 2013. Currently, about 100 projects are going on in Japan, Europe, USA, China and many other Asian countries. Kengo Kuma & Associates are also engaged in the designing of the new national stadium in Japan.

Kuma is also a prolific writer, including Anti-Object, translated into English. Most of his latest titles have been published in English, Chinese and Korean and have won wide readership from around the world.

3 words to describe Nature?

Integration, interaction, softness

3 things Nature taught you?

Kindness, warmth, calmness

3 most treasured Nature spots?

Kanda River near my house, cemetery near my workplace, & the blue sky

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

Why could it appear so different every day?

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

Calm down and relax

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

The axis, the verticality that connects the earth and the sky.

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

Peaceful

When you hear thunder, it makes you feel…?

Memory of summer holiday in childhood

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

Sound of the glass trembling in my old house I lived as a child.

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?

10

Share with us a childhood nature memory?

There was a bamboo bush behind our house. I often changed into rain boots to explore the nature there.

Photo credit: The Courier

Proust Nature Questionnaire – Maita Barrenechea

MAITA BARRENECHEA is a pioneering and leading luxury and experiential Travel Specialist, based in Argentina. She is the founder of MAI 10, one of the world’s most prestigious Luxury and Experiential Travel companies. Travel+Leisure has awarded her, for several years now, as one of the World’s Top Ten Power-Brokers, Most Informed, Well-connected and Influential persons in the travel industry. Town & Country magazine named her “The Travel Goddess”. She is a Case Study at Wharton University as the most successful women entrepreneurs in South America and is featured as one of the main characters in the book “Women Entrepreneurs – Inspiring Stories“. The leading luxury travel association Virtuoso, which gathers the top travel and hospitality companies in the world, awarded her with the Best of the Best Travel Award, Best Event Planner, & Best Voyager Club Event. Her clients include U2, Jimmy Buffett, Caroline Kennedy, Jane Fonda, Mick Jagger, Michael Keaton, and many others.

3 words to describe Nature?

Marvel

Life

Glory

… oh and Creation

3 things Nature taught you

Humbleness

Wonder

Gratitude

(but then also Respect, Care, Patience, Appreciation, Imagination, Silence)

3 most treasured Nature spots

A mountain stream

A glacial lake

A coral reef

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

Freedom, Rapture, Musical, Harmony, Melancholy, Respect

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

Secluded, Happy , Solace , Accompanied, Moody

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

Awe, Restlessness, Uncertainty

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

Love, Romance, Emotion

When you hear thunder, it makes you feel…?

Respect

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

Courageous, Desolate

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

Mountain with forests (or the green valley between mountains)

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

10

Share with us a childhood nature memory?

The memories of camping and listening to the silence of the night and the sounds of nature are very dear to me. I remember the breeze at the top of the trees, the calling of birds when they start to serenade the day, the break of dawn and the glory of the morning, all of it brings magical memories to me.

The first time I looked underwater a coral reef, I was marvelled by the magic of life found under the sea.

I fly-fish and feel there is a profound connection with nature. When I am at the river, I can sit by the bank for hours, listening to rushing water and the breeze in the trees. I love to peruse at rocks and driftwood, and walk downstream watching the bird life around and the insect hatches.

I enjoy the theory that surrounds the art of fly-fishing, learning to read the river to guess where the trouts are lying, understanding the cycle of nature, the food sources we try to imitate, more so if you tie your own flies. You learn to look out for surface activity which will become the target of your fly presentation so as to draw the attention of the fish, you search the ripples to anticipate the direction of their moves, you sight birds collecting insects in the air or off the water, and watch the rolling rise of a trout. The purpose of fishing may be to outsmart a fish, but soon you learn how selective they can be.

There is also the innate beauty in a fly cast. The rhythm and graceful curves of the line in the air and the constant aim of the perfect loop. Fly casting has a poetic nature of its own. But what I enjoy the most about fishing is being immersed in nature, feeling the sounds and the silence, the murmur of the river, and discovering the surrounding wilderness. I’ve learnt to bird-watch and am infinitely intrigued by the behaviour of birds, I enjoy studying the wildflowers and identifying animal tracks.

When you fish you interact with nature. You feel the water, the wind, the strength of the current. I can still feel the thrill of a trout taking the fly and relentlessly fighting to get away. It is quite magical to cast a dry-fly and let it drift along the surface, and alas, see the actual bite and feel the adrenaline that follows. But there is so much peace when you are enveloped by nature that I many times find myself wishing a fish will not bite, so as not to disturb its life nor the tranquility of the spectacle.

Proust Nature Questionnaire – Davis Smith

DAVIS SMITH is the founder and CEO of Cotopaxi, an outdoor gear brand with a humanitarian mission. He is also a member of the eight-person United Nations Foundation’s Global Entrepreneurs Council. Davis is a serial entrepreneur who previously started Baby.com.br, Brazil’s Startup of the Year in 2012. Davis holds an MBA from the Wharton School, an MA from the University of Pennsylvania, and a BA from BYU. Davis is an adventurer who has visited 70 countries. He has floated down the Amazon on a self-made raft, camped in the Sahara Desert, kayaked from Cuba to Florida, and explored North Korea.

3 words to describe Nature?

Raw, Fragile, Inspiring

3 things Nature taught you?

I began spending time in the outdoors before I can remember, but some of my first lessons learned while adventuring with my father are that:

1. Nature needs to be respected because while infinitely beautiful, it will eat you alive.

2. In my lowest moments, nature has lifted me up and inspired me.

3. I’ve always felt that nature has shown me that there is something bigger than myself. Spending time in the outdoors connects me with things that are truly important.

3 most treasured Nature spots?

1. The red rock canyons of Southern Bolivia, where I lived for a number of years as a young adult.

2. Cotopaxi national park in Ecuador, where I spent some of my childhood and early teen years.

3. The Wasatch Mountains that tower above Salt Lake City, where I currently live.

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

Small and vulnerable.

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

Safe, overwhelmed with beautiful sounds, smells and sights.

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

Humbled and melancholy (I grew up in the Andes surrounded by amazing volcanos which I often summited with my father).

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

Overwhelming joy. Is there anything that can fill a heart or bring a smile faster?

When you hear thunder, it makes you feel…?

An urge to run and duck for cover!

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

Somewhat intimidated, but I love the sound when I’m in a tent.

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

I’ve spent eight years living in the Caribbean, so I’m obsessed with the ocean. I love kayak touring, diving, snorkeling, spearfishing and camping on the beach. That said, I’ve lived in Utah for a number of years now and have really grown to love the mountains.

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

8. I love the outdoors, but I own an outdoor gear brand and have a small family, both which keep me indoors quite often. I’ve found that surrounded by people I love, I can also get immense joy even when not outdoors.

Share with us a childhood nature memory?

Some of my fondest memories as a child were spending time adventuring with my dad. We once built our own raft and floated down the Amazon river fishing for piranha. We also survived on uninhabited islands in the Caribbean, spearing fish with home-made spears. My brother and I spent hours every day exploring and building forts in the jungle behind our home when we lived in Puerto Rico. My childhood is full of memories in nature. Most incredibly pleasant, but some memories are of times that were terrifying and scary. It was those moments, however, that gave me such a deep respect for nature and taught me to respect it and always be prepared for the worst.

Proust Nature Questionnaire – Hiroko Demichelis

HIROKO I. DEMICHELIS  holds a Master of Science in Clinical Psychology and one in an Applied Positive Psychology (University of East London, Uk). She is a Registered Clinical Counsellor, she is certified in neurofeedback and in EMDR. She is trained in Mindfulness (Bangor University) and she is an advocate for modern meditation. She is the owner of the Vancouver Brain Lab, a clinical practice dedicated to support individuals to heal, flourish and reach their potential. Also, She is the co-founder of Moment Meditation, a project based on science based meditation. She is the proud mom of Blanca, she loves good Italian fashion, design and gelato.

3 words to describe Nature? 

Pristine, astonishing, restorative.

3 things Nature taught you?

You cannot stop the wind with your hands, everything shifts and nothing stays the same. When in the quicksand, stop fighting and try to float

3 most treasured Nature spots?

Third Beach. Whyteclyff park (the little island you can only reach w low tide), a secret little fall on the way to Whistler

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

The sound of the waves calms whatever storm is happening in my brain. I swim in the ocean all year long. I go and I scream out loud (it is soo cold so to distract myself I scream: “it’s tropical!!!” ). It feels like a hug!

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

Forests feels like a crowd of friends!

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

Volcano! I have only seen Mount Etna in Sicily from afar. It made me feel like I should always be humble!

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

A wonderful holiday in the BVI. Romantic. 😉

When you hear thunder, it makes you feel…?

Childhood in Venice, where everything shakes!

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

Safe if I am cosy at home.

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

Ocean, big time.

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

9. A lot.

Share with us a childhood nature memory?

My childhood was spent in Venice, Italy. We have a very special type of nature is Venice as it is surrounded by a lagoon. One of my best memories is being on my dad’s rowing boat, in the lagoon, my mom and dad chatting, playing guitar, drinking wine with friends, and us children watching the stars.

Proust Nature Questionnaire – Ru Mahoney

RU MAHONEY is a freelance Science Impact Producer based in Seattle, WA. She works at the nexus of conservation, education, and storytelling to catalyze interdisciplinary approaches to increasing science literacy and engaging public audiences. Her research on science communication has been supported by the National Science Foundation, and she has been a contributor to Jackson Hole WILD, Science Media Awards and Summit in the HUB, Utah Public Radio, TEDxHunstville, and the National Children’s Forest program. Ru is currently a research and impact production consultant on two feature-length documentaries.

3 words to describe Nature?

Primal. Nostalgic. Restorative.

3 things Nature taught you?

That change is inevitable, that those who adapt thrive, and that if you make Nature your home you can be at home anywhere.

3 most treasured Nature spots?

Lake Superior is powerful. I spent a lot of summers in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. If I could buy a lake cottage tomorrow, it would be somewhere along the coast of Superior.

The west coast of Scotland is stunning. My father’s family emigrated from there, so I’m a little biased. But there’s a reason the drive from Glencoe to the Isle of Skye is world-famous. I’ll keep going back as long as I’m living. It’s all my favorite colors and landscapes in a beautiful day’s drive. Even if it’s cold and rainy, which is often.

Pololu Valley on The Big Island in Hawai`i is worth getting up before dawn for. It’s wild north shore waves, stacked mountain cliffs, and moss covered trees all in one. Plus the trail down gives a perfect vantage for watching the sunrise so the sea cliffs slide through gradients of pink and gray light. It’s really special.

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

Dangerously prone to immediate wanderlust.

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

Present. This is my happy place and where I go if I need clarity and peace.

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

Insignificant. I recently had the chance to be very close to gushing lava and my reaction was surprisingly visceral. I often feel a sense of belonging to nature. Like it knows me, and if I’m respectful I will be safeguarded. (That’s not really true of course, but that feeling makes me careful but brave.) With the lava I felt a strong sense of not belonging. It was an interesting first for me.

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

Really conscious of time passing, and a determination to make the most of it.

When you hear thunder, it makes you feel…?

Calm. Happy calm. That might sound counter-intuitive, but I grew up in Florida where thunder was frequent. I think it triggers a sense of nostalgia and well-being for me. It’s definitely the best soundtrack to sleep to.

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

Introspective. Like change might be coming, either outside or inside myself.

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

Mostly forest for sure, but forest near the ocean. The smell of salt in the air is one of those simple things that make me feel grounded and deeply satisfied. I recently moved to the Pacific Northwest and I can’t get enough of being near beautiful forests that smell like salt and earth. It’s definitely where I feel most like myself.

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

10! It’s an enormous part of my identity and the catalyst for most of my self-knowledge.

Share with us a childhood nature memory?

My family spent quite a lot of time outdoors. My parents where both school teachers and we lived out of a van in the summers, usually heading north to the Boundary Waters, into Canada, sometimes taking trains further north when there weren’t any roads to take. I didn’t know the term “dirtbagger” then, but we were living that lifestyle to the max every summer of my life. It fundamentally shaped who I am.

One summer we were camping near Au Train, MI and there were northern lights. I was pretty young – maybe six or seven? – but I remember my parents waking me up and giving me a big blanket to wrap up in. Then my dad put me up on top of our van and I remember sitting up on the roof watching the aurora and thinking the world was full of magic.

Proust Nature Questionnaire – My mother

screen-shot-2017-01-17-at-10-03-36-am

Families are complicated. After 15 years of tumultuous and often absent communication, my mother and I have mended our differences and picked up where we left off, back to a time when our relationship was what one of a mother-son should be. A lot of who I am today is because of her, even my love of nature.  As a young boy, she always made sure that we spent as much time exploring the shores of the St-Lawrence river or roaming the local woods. I am really grateful for the values and skills she taught me. Thank you mother.

3 words to describe Nature?

Beauty, Respect and Strength

3 things Nature taught you?

That beauty doesn’t cost a thing. That it is the best place for your mind to wander and meditate. That we need to respect it because, simply, we are part of it.

3 most treasured Nature spots?

Close to water so that I can hear the sound of waves or the sound of a running creek. Leaning against a tree so that I can feel its energy. Walking under the rain, even better when it is warm.

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

In peace, meditative, and small.

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

If alone, I am a bit worried. If I am with others, I feel in harmony, I feel the energy.

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

In awe… from far away. But also insecure.

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

Happy, calm, mesmerized by the perfect beauty. I am fascinated by how it changes, how it evolves – the colors, shades and forms.

When you hear thunder, it makes you feel…?

I simply love hearing thunder! It is so delightful! It is exciting! I want to run outside and watch the storm… from sitting on a chair on a veranda though!

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

I love falling asleep to the sound of the wind whistling. That said, I wouldn’t want to be in a hurricane or tornado – terrifying!

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

Water!! Whether the ocean, a river, or a creek.

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

10. But at the same time, I am not dependant on it to be happy.

Share with us a childhood nature memory?

One memory I have is at my grand parents’ chalet, there was a vast field nearby where we gathered wild berries. Another one is by the St-Lawrence River where I spent countless hours playing in tide pools looking for little fish and shells. I also remember loving relaxing in a hammock, looking up to the sky and the top of trees, just letting my imagination run free.

scan-10

Proust Nature Questionnaire – Meredith Shirk

screen-shot-2017-01-17-at-10-03-36-am

MEREDITH SHIRK is the founder of Svelte, a multifaceted approach to attaining one’s optimal lifestyle. Shirk is  passionate about achieving peak performance and has consulted for major fitness brands. She is currently developing a line of health food products. She holds a NASM Personal trainer and Fitness Nutrition Specialist Certifications and is a former 3x All – America collegiate water polo player.

3 words to describe Nature?

Powerful. Unmoving. Serene

3 things Nature taught you?

Sufficiency. Patience. To Be humble

3 most treasured Nature spots?

7 Sisters, Baja Mexico. Open Ocean near West palm beach Florida. Under the ocean

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

Calm. Reflective. Grateful

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

Small. Appreciative. Awe struck

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

Vulnerable. Curious. Amazed

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

Happy. Peaceful. Like time has stopped

When you hear thunder, it makes you feel…?

Excited. A bit scared. Intrigued

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

Nostalgic. Restless. Like I need to nestle in

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

OCEAN 😉

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

12

Share with us a childhood nature memory?

I used to dive the reefs of west palm beach with my father and sisters.  No matter what mood i was in every time i was submerged in the ocean water, everything was calm. One afternoon my dad took me to dive the “Breakers Reef” and I remember diving down to the bottom (maybe 10 feet), and just sitting there.  I was just 13 or 14 years old, but I vividly remember seeing a large group of jacks swimming in front of me. They were HUGE fish, but just so graceful in the water… That moment has stuck with me as I just remember the feeling of being so small in something so vast and beautiful…

meredith

Proust Nature Questionnaire – Cody Shirk

screen-shot-2017-01-17-at-10-03-36-am

CODY SHIRK is an international investor who sources his deals by one simple method: exploring.

3 words to describe Nature?

Pure, vast, mystery

3 things Nature taught you?

Humility, joy, fear

3 most treasured Nature spots?

Channel Islands (off of California), Baja desert, Central America jungle

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

Humbled

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

Curious

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

Fearful

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

Lucky

When you hear thunder, it makes you feel…?

Alive

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

Aware

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

Ocean

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

9

Share with us a childhood nature memory?

I grew up in a rural area of Malibu, CA. I didn’t have any friends that lived close by, so I’d spend most of my days hiking or surfing by myself. On the weekends, I’d often pack a small backpack with water and food. I’d just start walking into the hills, bushwhacking the coastal chaparral and avoiding cactus. I always wanted to know what was around the next corner, because I knew there was a good chance no one had ever walked the ground that I was on. I’ve always like that feeling. The feeling of mystery. Of curiosity. Of knowing that the next corner could be hiding an incredible secret. On one of these hikes, I had probably walked several miles into the hills. It had taken me hours of climbing over rocks, avoiding yucca bushes, and picking ticks off my arms. I was probably 12 years old at the time, so although I was adventurous, I still had that childhood fear of the unknown inside of me. I ended up hiking into a dried up creek bed with sheer stone walls on either side. After walking up the creek bed for a little while I came to a huge rock that was a waterfall during the rainy season. At the base of the waterfall was a small amount of water. I couldn’t hike up the waterfall face and either side was impassible. It was a box canyon. What I didn’t notice was that there was an enormous coyote drinking water from the tiny amount of left over water. It’s grey coat perfectly blended in with the stone background. Frozen in fear, I just looked at the animal. I realized that I had completely blocked it’s exit, and I knew that I was in an extremely vulnerable position. I though the coyote was going to eat me. I just stood there. The coyote finally walked towards me and passed by me within an arms length. It didn’t run and it didn’t avoid me. It just casually walked by while making perfect eye contact. Maybe some kind of mutual understanding.

cody1

Proust Nature Questionnaire – Michele Benoy-Westmorland

screen-shot-2017-01-17-at-10-03-36-am

MICHELE BENOY-WESTMORLAND is a freelance photographer represented by Getty, Corbis, and other major agencies. She is a Fellow with the International League of Conservation Photographers and The Explorers Club. In 2001 she was inducted into the Women Divers Hall of Fame. In 2015, she received the NANPA Fellows Award. She has won several awards, including the Environmental Photography Invitational, Photo District News, and the PNG Underwater Photo Competition. Her work has appeared in Outside Magazine, National Geographic Traveler, Outdoor Photographer, Scuba Diving, and many other conservation, outdoor, and underwater magazines. She is currently directing her first documentary “Headhunt Revisited”, the story of Caroline Mytinger, an American portrait painter best known for her paintings of indigenous people in the South Seas during the late 1920s.

3 words to describe Nature?

Awakening, spiritual, renewing

3 things Nature taught you?

Humbleness, respect, patience

3 most treasured Nature spots?

Kimbe Bay, Papua New Guinea; Cape Nelson, Papua New Guinea; the mountains & forests of the Pacific Northwest

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

You now are asking the right person!  Peaceful, joyful and sometimes sadness in respect to the condition of our ocean environment

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

I feel much the same about the forests as I do the oceans.

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

Awe, amazement, admiration

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

Joyful, thankful, restful

When you hear thunder, it makes you feel…?

Amazement, wonderment, sometime surprised with a touch of fear

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

Since I lived in Miami during Hurricane Andrew, howling winds always make me feel a little stressed and careful about being outdoors.

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

Ocean

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

9

Share with us a childhood nature memory?

Spending time camping in beautiful forests with my family

michele-westmorland

Proust Nature Questionnaire – Flemming Bo Jensen

screen-shot-2017-01-17-at-10-03-36-am

FLEMMING BO JENSEN is a Fujifilm ambassador, official Red Bull photographer and renowned music photographer. Music, especially electronic music, is a big part of what makes his heart beat. For him, being able to combine music and photography is a dream come true. Since November 2009 he has lived as a nomad. He was the former Head of IT in a Danish Government agency, but wanted to see new horizons and left Copenhagen and his job in 2009. He has been on the road for more than 7 years now, and is still wandering the world, although can usually be found in Copenhagen during the summer months, enjoying the music festivals. He is the author of the ebook GET IN THE LOOP – How To Make Great Music Images.

3 words to describe Nature?

Awe-inspiring. Heals. Home.

3 things Nature taught you?

I was born and brought up on a dairy farm, so here goes: Respect and love for our planet, nature and animals. Where I truly belong. And a cow standing on your 8 year old foot will not move and not care how much it hurts.

– oh as I started traveling, I learned a 4: Nothing more dangerous than a wounded mosquito!

3 most treasured Nature spots?

Arches National Park, Utah, USA. Rottnest Island, Western Australia. My home country and landscapes of Himmerland, Denmark.

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

I was born on a farm, not near water so it used to make me feel great fear and a little bit drawn to it at the same time. Now that I learned how to swim and free-dive it still makes me feel fear – but now I want to go in it and explore!

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

Peaceful, in a fairy tale, carrying mosquito repellent, afraid we will someday have no more forests.

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

I will let you know when I see one!

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

I am not a morning person so sunrises are rare, unless they happen at 10am in the Scandinavian winter and I can have a coffee with it! Sunset makes me feel like bliss, like we are given a few minutes glimpse into a possible state of the world if we tried harder to protect nature, a few minutes where everything is alright.

When you hear thunder, it makes you feel…?

Time to get the cows inside 🙂

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

Cold. The wind is always cold in the Nordics.

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

Desert. I love wide open spaces.

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

10. My body couldn’t breathe without it. My soul couldn’t live without it.

Share with us a childhood nature memory?

I used to take our dogs for long walks down the fields, just to be out there alone (featuring cows), in a wide open space feeling that everything is possible.

flemming

Proust Nature Questionnaire – Kedyn Sierra

screen-shot-2017-01-17-at-10-03-36-amKEDYN SIERRA is W.I.L.D.‘s 1st scholarship recipient. He is an Adventure & Commercial Photographer and Filmmaker, a proud brand ambassador for Guayaki Yerba Mate and sponsored photographer for SOG Knives, Kokatat, Klean Kanteen, Confluence among others. His work has been featured by DPR Construction, NOLS, Voltaic Systems, The Leader, National Geographic Student Expeditions, Environmental Traveling Companions, Klean Kanteen, Sierra Designs, and The Wild Image Project.

3 things Nature taught you?

Humbleness, responsibility, self-worth

3 most treasured Nature spots?

I met a weasel by a small creek in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness, I feel absolutely upset that I can’t pinpoint it. The second spot is Raymond Lake on the PCT Trail. I’ve never felt utter pain and exhaustion from a hike so for that it takes second. The last place that comes to mind is Avalas Beach, a small patch where people can kayak into while on Tomales Bay. Avalas shows you the meeting point of the bay and the great pacific ocean.

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

I feel calmness from the tranquility of the water. I realize I am simply a piece to a greater magnificent piece of life.

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

The forests make me feel immersed.

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

When I saw a Volcano (sleeping volcano) I felt on top of the world. 360 view of the landscape definitely feels phenomenal.

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

I feel short on time. The minute the sun sets, the day has ended or begun depending on what’s happening. Sunrises make me appreciate everything because I rarely get to see those.

When you hear thunder, it makes you feel…?

Thunder makes me feel refreshed.

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

When the wind howls it focuses me.

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

A Forest person – conditions tend to be unfavorable in the Forest though it’s the only place you can truly feel the way everything is connected to one another.

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

I would put a 10 to Nature for my well-being. Without it, I can’t seem to understand anything.

Share with us a childhood nature memory?

My family was born into a minimalist lifestyle in the middle of the Yucatan peninsula. I was raised around animals, cows, turkeys, chickens, ducks, cats, dogs amongst others. It wasn’t in a farm environment but rather heavy forest. The memory of the endless roaming with the imagination of a bliss kid was absolutely phenomenal and short lived.

kedyn

Proust Nature Questionnaire – Ayelet Baron

screen-shot-2017-01-17-at-10-03-36-am

AYELET BARON is the visionary author behind Our Journey to Corporate Sanity: Transformational Stories from the Frontiers of 21st Century. Prior to being a speaker, coach, workshop facilitator, and committed to making a transformational impact on business, Baron was an Innovator-in-Residence in Roche/Genentech’s Strategic Innovation Product Development organization, and a Chief Strategy Officer for Cisco Canada.

3 words to describe Nature?

Humans. Grounding. Reality. We are nature; nature is grounding; nature ground us in reality.

3 things Nature taught you?  

To appreciate beauty as is. To recognize the life force in animals, plants and humans. To remember to follow nature in business – a time to plant, a time to water, a time to nurture and a time to harvest.

3 most treasured Nature spots? 

Diving in Fiji – the most spectacular underwater park; white sands of Turks and Caicos, and the deep blue Mediterranean Sea.

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

At peace. The whole experience of the beauty and infinity of the ocean from looking to listening to breathing it in is exhilarating.

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

In awe imagining what the trees have witnessed while we simply pass by in a flash. The conversations they must be having must be incredible as they show us what a connected network truly is.

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

The fire within each of us that can tip over at any moment and that emotions are natural if we allow them to be expressed

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

The cycle of life and death, with the depth of colors and opportunities

When you hear thunder, it makes you feel…? 

The power of nature to make a statement and bring clarity

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

Alive and attune with reality

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

Ocean first but I love them all … what could be better than an ocean with a mountain, forest and/or desert? I have had the pleasure of experiencing many breathtaking combinations

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

10

Share with us a childhood nature memory? 

I will always remember the first time I walked through an orange orchard in Israel when I was 6 years old and got to pick oranges from the tree. That smell of the orange buds has stayed with me forever. Then, my grandfather retired and bought an almond orchard and as a kid, I spent hours peeling the two cases of almonds and organizing them in neat piles. It helped me appreciate the source of our nutrients and also sparked a love of creation with cooking naturally. I always need to know where the food we consume comes from in nature.

ayelet

Proust Nature Questionnaire- Connor Beaton

screen-shot-2017-01-17-at-10-03-36-am

CONNOR BEATON is the founder of ManTalks, an international organization focused on mens health, wellness, success and fulfillment. Connor is an international speaker, podcast host, Business Coach and lifestyle entrepreneur. Before founding ManTalks, Connor worked with Apple leading high performance sales and operations teams. Since founding ManTalks, Connor has spoken on stage at TEDx, taken ManTalks to over a dozen cities internationally and has been featured on platforms like HeForShe, The Good Men Project, UN Women, CBC, CNN, the National Post and more.

3 words to describe Nature?

Breathtaking, God, understanding.

3 things Nature taught you?

Resiliency, humility and the ability to be in the present.

3 most treasured Nature spots?

The cliffs and beaches on the Amalfi coast in Italy, Camping at lake Garibaldi in BC & Secret Beach in Kauai, Hawaii

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

Connected to myself, calm and at peace.

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

Strength and comfort simultaneously.

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

Powerful and in awe

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

Humbled by life existence.

When you hear thunder, it makes you feel…?

Somehow always surprised and reminded of how small we are.

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

Connected to everything

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

Forest & ocean. I can’t choose just one. My favourite place to be is facing the forest with the ocean sounds at my back.

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

9

unadjustednonraw_thumb_25d8-1

Proust Nature Questionnaire- Erick Tseng

screen-shot-2017-01-17-at-10-03-36-am

ERICK TSENG is a Product Director at Facebook where he oversees product management for the company’s global advertising growth and solutions. Erick joined Facebook in May 2010 as the Head of Mobile Products.

3 words to describe Nature?

Magical, beautiful, essential

3 things Nature taught you?

To take risks, how much beauty there is in the world, how fragile our existence is on this earth

3 most treasured Nature spots?

Yosemite, Galapagos, Himalayas

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

Small

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

Fresh

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

Empowered

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…?

Cold

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

Ocean

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

10

Share with us a childhood nature memory?

Traveling to a beach near Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and going tide-pooling amongst the rocks. I loved looking for little fish, crabs, and mussels tucked away in the shallow waters. I’d also collect fresh seaweed, and my mother would clean it up, and cook seaweed pork soup that night. Delicious!

10900082_10101496629214853_5622399379325240328_o

Erick and his wife, Rachel, in Antarctica. In 2015

Proust Nature Questionnaire – Chip Conley

screen-shot-2017-01-17-at-10-03-36-am

At the end of the nineteenth century, a teenage Marcel Proust answered a series of questions in a confession album that belong to his friend Antoinette, daughter of future French President Félix Faure. The original manuscript of his answers, titled “by Marcel Proust himself” was discovered in 1924 and auctioned for €102,000 on May 27, 2003.

The format of the questionnaire has since became a popular reference when wanting to find out more about the personality of an interviewee. The questions have been used by French television host Bernard Pivot, James Lipton from the Actor’s Studio and the magazine Vanity Fair.

I decided to adapt the questions with the goal of finding out what Nature means to people.

Starting today, and for every Friday forward, I will be publishing the PROUST NATURE QUESTIONNAIRE.

To begin this new project, here is hospitality entrepreneur, bestselling author and TED Featured Speaker, Chip Conley.

Honored with the 2012 Pioneer Award – hospitality’s highest accolade – The San Francisco Business Times named Chip the Most Innovative CEO. He received his BA and MBA from Stanford University and holds an Honorary Doctorate in Psychology from Saybrook University. Chip served on the Glide Memorial Board for nearly a decade and received its Cecil Williams Legacy Award in 2015. He is now on the boards of the Burning Man Project and the Esalen Institute, where the Conley Bookstore opened in 2016.

3 words to describe Nature?

Spiritual, cleansing, awe-provoking

3 things Nature taught you? 

Animism: everything has spirit; there are forces way bigger than me; “discover the pace of nature”

3 most treasured Nature spots? 

A deserted beach in Baja, the Ventana wilderness in Big Sur, a quiet rice paddy field in Baja

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

The vastness: there’s so much above and below the surface to explore, I wish I had many lifetimes to do this

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

Trees breathing with me and the phenomenally complex and beautiful eco-system

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

Metaphor for powerful human emotions

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

The end is also the beginning

When you hear thunder, it makes you feel…? 

There is nowhere to hide

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

I’m reminded of the stunning scene in American Beauty when the two teenagers are staring at the video of the plastic bag in the wind…wind creates life

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

I can’t say I’m only one of these but if I had to choose one, it would be Ocean.

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

9

Share with us a childhood nature memory? 

I remember staring at a live starfish on the beach I’d found and realized how much life was under the sea.

dsc9808-1

Stripped

It happens every time, and independently if I want it or not, I find myself pulled into it. Parked at the Big Sur Station, I am getting my equipment ready. The plan is to hike to Syke Camp, spend a couple of nights there then one night on the beach and finally hike a 3,000 feet peak nearby. I should be excited, thrilled and relaxed, but instead I am anxious and worried. I try to focus on making sure that I don’t forget anything – I would really hate finding out that I have forgotten a lens or battery for the camera after a 5-hour hike and having to return. Despite all my previous stories written, despite all the photos that I have taken, despite the fact that deep down I know that it always works out, I can’t stop but stress about the uncertainty on if I will be able to find something to write about or find a nice landscape to photograph. Will I be inspired? If so, about what? Will the light be good? Will I see animals? Will the weather cooperate? And what if I don’t have anything to show by the end of the week? My last story, TIME, was written many months ago in Hawaii. I have since been twice in Alaska, kayaking and hiking a glacier, and even though both were incredible expeditions, I failed to come back with new words. Knowing the reasons why the page has remained blank doesn’t help either.

_MG_7986

Pine Ridge Trail

The creative process is one of the hardest things to find. And even more challenging is to protect that process as the world around you changes. Inspiration is complicated and some are more famous for their bizarre rituals then for their own art.

I love being on expedition – having a set target, a destination to reach, a goal, but it is not what I live and work for. The content that I produce during these adventures is more descriptive – narrating the days, the progression, the ups and downs, the struggles encountered and the magical moments witnessed. It is premeditated. Inspiration is not really the most important aspect, but rather your ability to deliver the story, to capture the local flavors.

What I long for as an artist is much different. It is when I have the feeling, the sensation that the inspiration has come to me rather than me seeking it. It is that sense of being connected to something else, something bigger. As alone as one can be when creating, knowing that you are only a channel through which your environment expresses itself brings a total different perspective – the loneliness disappears and a deep fulfilling connectedness lives – bringing along a sense of purpose.

I am 2 hours into the hike and my mind is still stuck in that parking lot. I am walking the trail much like I would walk the sidewalks of New York – focused on the destination and shutting myself to everything else in between – a self defense mechanism we have had to developed to protect ourselves from the constant and relentless assault on our senses from our modern lifestyle. Instead of enjoying the moment, I feel heavy and distracted. Layers of anxiety rooting from our civilized, moral and intellectual culture weighing on me. My ears are open but don’t hear anything. My eyes are open but can’t see anything. My body is tensed, preoccupied with every uphill steps I have to make. The Ventana Wilderness is full of wonders with majestic Redwoods and beautiful Pacific Madrones, yet, my head looks down – I am a man walking his purgatory! After 5 hours, I arrive at the destination tired but wired. Where are the hot springs, where to camp? Quick lets get to work – what can I photograph? I can’t rest. This is work and I must produce!

_MG_8748

Syke Camp

It is 6pm – the tent is up, the backpack emptied, the hot springs have been located and already “enjoyed”. The kettle is on the stove. I am camping on this tiny “island” in the middle of the Big Sur River, a magical set up, yet I am totally oblivious to my surroundings. I am pacing frantically. The steam shoots out from the kettle and I am slow to realize the water is ready. So much for someone who is supposed to be “one” with nature – pathetic!

I take my cup of mate tea and sit on a log that rests slightly above the river, bridging my campsite to the north shore. My feet hang with my toes dipping in the frigid running water. I take a sip. Then I take a deep breath. Another sip – another breath. Finally, the moment I have been unconsciously waiting for is starting to manifest itself.

Like the afternoon wind pushing away the morning fog, with every new sip and every new breath, my comatose state starts fading. Free of their societal constraints, my senses awaken from their lethargy. My back arches up. My chest opens up. My ears start tingling to the sound of water swirling around the rocks. My eyes start seeing for the first time an American Dipper just a few feet away, diving for a few second then reappearing with a nymph in its beak. My lungs are beginning to feel lighter. My mind is clear. My heartbeat has slowed down, yet I remain extremely sharp. By the time my tea is finished, everything feels new and fresh – alive. In reality though, it is me who has changed, it is me who is alive now. I was closed and sequestered, now I am freed and attuned. I have finally found the state of mind I came here for. And with it came my inspiration. Thought by thought, sentence by sentence, words have come back. Stripped from the confinement of technology and cultural expectations, I was finally at peace with simply one thing – being.

“Nature is pleased with simplicity.” — Isaac Newton

“Life is not complex. We are complex. Life is simple, and the simple thing is the right thing.” — Oscar Wilde

_MG_9292

Sunset from 3,000ft

As much as we want to categorize, compartmentalize, judge, humanize, and beautify nature, for me the “wild” is only one thing – real. Everything is what it is. There are no right or wrong, no bad or good, no judgement. Nothing is pretty, nothing is ugly. A dead tree has as much value as a living one. A fire will benefit some while it will kill others. The prey does everything it can to survive, as does the predator. There are no winners, no losers. No one is more important, yet everyone is connected and interdependent. Nothing is perfect – evolution is this endless chaotic yet harmonious dance where each adjust to the other, over long long long periods of time. Species adapt or disappear. Continents break while others sink. Still, every morning, the sun rises and brings with it life. And even if this sun stops to shine, another one, somewhere else in this huge universe will illuminate another world.

Independently if we believe and speak about it as a separate entity, in reality we are no different than nature. Quite the opposite, we are nature, and we are intricately part of it. We are nothing more than a footnote in the grand scheme of evolution. Yet we have come to believe that everything revolves around us – that everything is about US. Our view of the world is no different then when we thought that the earth was the center of the galaxy. Instead now we see ourselves as the center of Life, of the Universe.

In our quest to conquer – not only territorially, but intellectually and morally, we have lost our connection to the world around us, to the planet and to life. We also have lost our ability to look at our environment (the surroundings or conditions in which a person, animal, or plant lives or operates) and learn from it. We no longer look at nature and use it to understand life – instead we see nature and life as flawed systems that need to be corrected and reengineered under our own perception of what it should be. We see ourselves as great saviors with god powers!

Our myopia and shortsightedness have made us inefficient and incapable of looking at the bigger picture. We focus on details, obsessing about single events, while loosing perspective of everything else around. Our expertise at extracting data from pretty much anything – important or not, trivial or useless, has transformed our world into an intellectual dump. Buried under so much information and incapable of managing it, we look at technology as our only hope. Completely lost and feeling powerless, we blindly put our salvation into machines and their ability to “process” – because the only way we can make sense of anything is through numbers, equations, statistics and graphs. Common sense is no longer valued unless it can be measured and quantified.

Sitting on that log, with my empty cup of tea, nothing feels out of place. I don’t feel out of place. The humility brought by the simplicity I find myself surrounded by is relaxing, refreshing and gives me hope. Real and honest is what nature is to me. It is a constant reminder of the true essence of what life is about. It is my source of inspiration, my elixir for meditation and my most profound teacher.

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” Marcel Proust

Sunset from the beach

Sunset from the beach

Verwegen

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”

Marcel Proust

Looking out the window, sipping on a warm cup of green and mate tea, with a dash of local honey, this rainy afternoon in the country, just outside of Munich, is perfect to ponder on these past events of 2012, and wonder on the ones awaiting ahead. These last three weeks have been filled with happiness, joy, sadness, anger, good and bad news. I have laughed, cried, meditated, danced, and walked for hours in the forest. I have eaten, drank and enjoyed the pleasures of the German table without an ounce of guilt. I have met new incredible people and had to say goodbye to others dear to me. As the holidays are coming to an end, that the 13th baktun has passed, marking the end of the “Great Cycle” of the “Long Count” in the Mayan calendar and consequently the beginning of a new cycle, I want to take the time to write down my wish for this new year.

As it is with most of my writing, inspiration comes to me spontaneously – while out and about, lying in the bed, in the shower, on a hike or paddling the river. It happens when my mind is at ease, when the clutter of life is filtered out and I am left alone with my thoughts. It happens when I welcome the silence and let the power of creativity works its magic. A word or a thought will find root and slowly start to attract others. Patterns will emerge, connections will appear and finally an idea, an opinion, a statement is formed and I suddenly find myself with the desire to write and share it.

This time, it was the combination of a fascinating talk over the beauty and complexity of the German language and a series of emails between one of my E.PI.C. advisors, Earl de Blonville and myself, about exploration and current expeditions.

Back in 2005, I started an online video project called ibrido. The word means hybrid in Italian. I chose that name to highlight what I thought was the path to our future. To successfully adapt and assure our survival, we, as a society, would have to find an equilibrium between wisdom and technology, between the freedom of the individual and the responsibilities of the community, between seeking personal gain and aiming for the common good of the society. In other words, to survive, our species would have to hybrid itself, applying strong values and principles from the past to opportunities technology would create in the future. It didn’t mean that we would have to deny technology and go back to live like caveman, but rather embracing the future with a wisdom acquired over time. It meant creating a new and wiser future.

In the world of exploration, not to undermine and discredit the work, dedication, and courage of every explorer out there, it seems though that the only thing we have been able to do is to look at the past and either seek to complete unfinished expeditions or simply to recreate them. Our idea of finding back the essence of exploration has been to stripped ourselves of support and technology and isolate our quest. While I agree on most of the topic, I find that we are missing something really important, something called VERWEGEN!

The German language has many words to sometime define slight variations of the same word. In this case, on Google Translate, the word BOLD can be translated into fett, kühn, mutig, fettgedruckt, dreist, verwegen, kräftig, wagemutig, tapfer, unerschrocken, plakativ, vermessen, unverfroren, grob, or tolldreist, depending of the meaning intended.  Verwegen comes from the german word “bewegen” – to move, to take action, to move quickly. As I have been told by a friend: “Verwegen has a certain naiveté, a certain charm to it. It is a state of mind, to hold the head up high with open eyes, facing whatever comes your way with a little smile, ready to take action with a dance.” In English the word “bold” can either be positive or negative, but verwegen has solely a positive connotation. It is not about ignoring the dangers, but to welcome them with an optimistic attitude. It is about believing in our capacity to handle the unexpected and to “boldly go where no one has gone before”!

Polar PodSo for my wish, I would like for us in 2013 to become “Verwegen Ibrido” (bold hybrid)! I want to see bold ideas that use technology but that are managed and structured around older values and principles. Confused? Let me give you a concrete example – Polar Pod, by Jean Louis Etienne. Drift the Furious Fifties on a 100m/330f, 720 tons platform. This project is modern yet captures the essence of exploration. It is grand and bold, yet simple. It celebrates time, drifting, moving with the elements, yet under the power of technology. I want us to become creative and use our imagination to rediscover our world. We don’t need to recreate the past to find the essence. We can inspire ourselves from the past to create the future.

Another example for me that illustrates the wide range of possibilities offered to us is the Whale Hunt by Jonathan Harris. A fascinating photographic project that combines technology, human spirit and extreme environments.

The E.P.I.C. expedition is also rooted in this spirit – navigating and exploring the seas, powered by the elements, yet maximising the current and upcoming technologies to educate and inform the public.

Yes there is a need and value to embrace the “primitive” way of exploration, the journey of man in nature, but let it not be at the detriment of our capacity to create new ways of discovering and sharing our experiences. Lets be bold, lets be creative, lets imagine the impossible, lets be optimistic, lets be VERWEGEN!

“For we are known for being at once most adventurous in action and yet most reflective beforehand; other men are bold in their ignorance whilst reflection would stop their onset. But the bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what lies before them, danger and glory alike, and yet notwithstanding go out to meet it. For the whole Earth is a sepulchre of famous men and their story is not only graven in stone over their native land, but lives on far away, without visible symbol, woven into the stuff of other men’s lives.”

Thucydides, From Pericles’ funeral oration, History of the Peloponnesian War

The Last Explorers

“That is the exploration that awaits you! Not mapping stars and studying nebula, but charting the unknown possibilities of existence.”  Leonard “Spock” Nimoy

A new show on BBC has left me with a sour feeling. It is not really that the show is bad, or that the host is annoying. It is not that the topic is stupid nor that the episodes are not interesting. It is rather the title that is raising a red flag in my unconscious explorer mind. Neil Oliver’s new show “The Last Explorers” tags itself as “a series on the golden age of exploration, charting the routes of contact that drew together the farthest reaches of the world”. They could have called the show “The First Explorers”, “The Great Explorers”, or simply “The Golden Age of Exploration”. Instead they chose to epitomize these men as the last of their kind, placing them in the same category as any other extinct species. Unfortunately, and sadly, that knot in my stomach, that needle in my brain, is there because I sadly agree with this statement.

A little bit more than a year ago, I attended the Royal Geographical Society’s Explore weekend and was enchanted by the speech of Arita Baaijens. As she described her journey through the desert with its violent sand storms, she concluded with one of the most sincere and refreshing types of advice I had heard in a very long time:

“…there’s a tendency to cover up expeditions and journeys with noble aims. Either to attract sponsors or to give the expedition a sexy or good feel. But most first timers GO without knowing why they want to follow the Amazon River or reach the North Pole, or cross the biggest desert. It’s an inner drive, and it’s quite a normal thing to do – that is why there are so many legends, myths, fairy tales about the Journey of the Hero (Joseph Campbell). Young people want to test their strength, find out who they are, and what their place in he world is. Those journeys are directed towards your inner world, about WHO am I and WHAT is my place in the world, see Tomson’s words. And when you have learned more about yourself, your motives, your prejudices and opinions, your place in the world, you are better equipped for another type of expedition, journeys of discovery directed towards the outside world, characterized by WHY & HOW. “

I think what “The Last Explorers” means is that the “spirit of exploration” has changed tremendously in the last decades, and for some, including myself, it is more of a loss than a gain. And nothing could be more evident to support this fact, than what is happening at the Explorers Club in New York at this moment.

During my first visit to this historical club – with legendary members such as Roald Amundsen, Sir Edmund Hillary, and Neil Armstrong, I was struck with disbelief when at the entrance to the main saloon, I saw a scale model of the ultra luxurious cruise ship “The World”. Was I at the right place? In the right building? Or had I mistakenly entered an Upper East Side travel agency for wealthy retirees? The latest events that have unfolded in the media seem to be zeroing in precisely on this existential issue. What is exploration? On one side are the “New School Explorers”, to whom exploration is a blend of commercial adventures surrounded by rich people that can pay their way. R.L. (his name is obviously not revealed) precisely embodies this new genre. He is a hedge fund manager from London who made good money and now can afford to “collect“ exploration badges, making him an “explorer”.  The man, who is more at home in Michelin star restaurants then in a bivouac, pays ridiculous sums to be taken into the wilderness by experts, then claiming the credit for himself. His latest adventure was in Antarctica, where he dished out close to £100,000 to get up and supposedly baptized an unnamed peak (needless to say, with a lot of help). His brashness goes so far, that he now gives talks to children on how to be an explorer! For this type of person, the Club is doing really well, befitting these “modern” times. The Club’s supporters defend their position by illustrating how the revenues have increased by adding new members like him – money much needed to renovate the crumbling building, suitably located between Madison and Park streets, on the chic Upper East Side, rather than funding new, real adventures.

On the other side are the “Old School Explorers”, who care more about the “Spirit of Exploration” – It is not what you do, but how and why you do it. The debate is surprisingly similar to what went on in the wine industry – old world wines which were generally subtle and complex, versus the new world wines, usually described as bold, sweet, simple, and with great emphasis on the packaging. At the end of the line, the core of the issue, whether it is exploration or food, is quite the same: Quality versus Quantity. Local or Global? Small or Big? Does exploration have a “Spirit” or is it an industry? And if it is an industry, then how can we commercialize it, make it grow and become more profitable? Herein lies the core of the question: Is bigger really better? – Which brings me back to Arita‘s statement.

Present day exploration could be divided into three categories:

  • A rich pastime
  • A personal ego-trip – the desire to break a record or make an environmental statement
  • A vague, virtual idea of discovering the planet from behind ones’ computer (see Nature is not in your computer).

It is no longer about wanting to disconnect from overbearing city-life to experience the unknown. It is no more about wanting to escape the crazy modern world to seek true, pristine wilderness. It is no more about a journey to discovering your inner self. What it is today, is a business! The magic of new discoveries has given place to self-centered claims of saving the planet.

I explore because for me, the world makes more sense out there, than here. I explore because nature humbles me. I explore because it reminds me that there is something bigger in life, something sacred and mysterious. I explore because it makes me a better person. And, I really wish we would hear the same narrative from other explorers more often. I just hope I am not part of a dying species!

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”  Marcel Proust