In 2015 one of my job titles was 'tribebuilder' at Tribewanted. We co-created a tiny eco-tourism community with the local clan of Gonubalabala in Papua New Guinea. It was a project which involved all of my favourite things in the world: travel, adventure, coaching, sustainability and community life.
It’s surprising how quickly you can get used to a completely new environment, a totally different and unconventional lifestyle. We had no electricity, no running water, limited zoom (gasoline), and therefore limited transport, no Wifi (although we occasionally we had a signal from the mast on a neighbouring island). So it was more or less a digital detox. A lifestyle I am personally a huge advocate of. What better place to disconnect from our busy lives at home and live and breathe every moment than surrounded by nature and everything she has to offer.
Nature's lessons for a healthy & sustainable lifestyle
While on the island I learned so much from the local clan. When reflecting on what I observed and learned from them I realised how their daily chores and decisions were based on the rhythm of nature, natures cycles, natures gifts and natures signs. I'd never come across a community that live so in tune with the natural elements.
Life is not linear - it runs in cycles
A typical day in tropical paradise started by rising with the sun and going to sleep when the sun went to bed. The sun provided the bookends of the day, observing the beauty of the sunset and saying good-bye to a day, and the new sunrise the following morning, a brand new start to a brand new days. Endings and beginnings. The circle of life. The daily cycle can be expanded to monthly moon cycles and the seasons. Autumn representing shedding, winter representing hibernation, spring representing rebirth, and summer representing blossom, the glow of life. The natural flow of yin energy in autumn and winter, and the rising yang energy in spring, peaking in summer. It’s a natural process and as important — not just for the outside spirit of nature to survive — but also our inner spirit of nature.
In our conventional western lives we grow up thinking life is linear. But it's not. Life is about new beginnings and ending throughout the different seasons of our lives. Just like nature. And understanding this is so supportive in accepting and embracing the natural flow of life.
Nature nurtures and heals
I cannot even count how many hours I spent staring out at the sea, watching the waves roll in and out, my breath rolling in sync in meditative rhythm, feeling totally present, calm and connected. Nature enables a mindful state in which the brain is relaxed and focused at the same time.
Have you noticed that when planning holidays they are mainly to the beach or to the mountains? - places where we are surrounded by the natural elements. That is no coincidence. We know intuitively it's healthy to be in nature, by the ocean, in the forest, in the mountains. Water, such as the ocean, rivers and streams are nature's tranquillisers. Places we find the calm, healing and recharging energy so urgently required in our busy lives.
Observe and listen
During our time on the island our lives were really stripped back to the basics. We learned to understand the rules and signs of nature, to plant gardens and know how, when and where to fish for your dinner. For example to catch dinner we learned to watch out and listen for the birds. By following them and seeing which part of the sea they were circling would lead us to the fish. So it was time to paddle out and catch dinner.
So pay attention, pay attention to what people around you are doing or saying. How they are saying it and why. When life gets hectic, it feels as if nobody actually takes time time to listen and observe. People are just waiting for the next gap in a conversation so that they can share what they themselves know and feel and have. But if everybody’s talking – who is left to listen?
Find your own natural rhythm
Nature grows in silence. Just as different plants and trees come in all shapes and sizes, bloom at different times and in varying environments, it's the same for us as individuals. We tend to look at others, try to conform and fit in, try to work in the prescribed 9-5 timeframe. But imagine nature did that? Imagine a daisy tried to looked at a rose and tried to bloom at the same time, in the same place, even tried to look the same.
Following nature's example, creating space to observe and listen and finding our own natural rhythm is key to our own individual physical, emotional, social, spiritual and intellectual health and well-being.
Power of community
I remember being proud in the past of always managing everything alone, being independent, not needing anything or anyone. In time it got pretty lonely and was a real struggle at times. It wasn't sustainable.
When observing nature we see how everything is interconnected. Every part of the eco-system has its role to place, each and every element of it supports and has an effect on the other. If you haven't seen 'My Passion for Trees' a documentary by Dame Judi Dench I thoroughly recommend it. It reveals how nature communicates and supports itself within.
This also reminds me of the African proverb that shifted so much for me personally If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together
Reach out, offer your support and be supported by others.
Enjoy the little things in life
What I loved most about island life, living on island time was the simplicity of it all. Finding joy and gratitude in the little things: enjoying the juiciness of a mango, watching a butterfly dance, a soulful conversation around the campfire, feeling the breeze on my skin, watching nature's artwork in beautiful cloud formations.
Back at home it's hearing an owl, seeing the sun sparkle on the stream, taking a deep breath of fresh air, spending quality time (with phones switched off) with a friend.
The good things in life really are free.
Nature is not a luxury, it is a necessity
I truly believe nature has a healing energy, and teaches us how nature and life are not linear but run in cycles. Connecting with nature and finding our own natural rhythm is key to our physical, emotional, social, spiritual and intellectual health and well-being. Getting outside and connecting with the natural source will nurture the areas of life that most require it.
So, whenever in doubt, get outside and be nurtured by nature.
You didn’t come into this world. You came out of it, like a wave from the ocean. You are not a stranger here. Alan Watts
Do you feel trapped by the circumstances of your life and feel the need to break free?
Adventure doesn't need to be a big trip to the other end of the planet. I love going on micro-adventures, and a micro-adventure can ben anything from a walk in the park in the city to camping out in a field.
We'll be camping under the stars,
SUP and kayaking along the gorgeous coastline (no experience required),
enjoying soulful conversations around the campfire.