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As a Park Ranger, Master Naturalist, and certified Nat Geo Educator, nature is my job, lifestyle, and happiness elixir.
I have plenty of fancy titles and words, to summarize my passion for all things green and growing.
But, I wasn’t always like this.
As a kid, my family moved to various parts of the country but always to places that had more concrete than jungle. There were parks, ponds, and other green spaces to play but, I became addicted to nature when I experienced a four-year withdrawal.
After many months of self-reflection, I craved nature more than high wages. I continue this green obsession today. I may have an average net worth, but I’m like Oprah when it comes to insight into how to nurture your naturalist.
Step 1: Be Curious
Follow the mystery.
Whatever steals your breath, mutes the streaming inner dialogue, or makes you forget to eat your sandwich, is a good starting point. It’s easy to find energy, shoes, and snacks for an epic outdoor adventure when you already have the motivation.
Going for a hike is what gets my tail wagging faster than someone asking if I want a treat.
Why ask if I want a treat when the answer is always, YES!
Hiking is a sweaty combination of all my favorite activities. I get to exercise with my favorite human and there are snacks. Hiking is a big surprise that could contain a meadow bursting with color and pollinators or a dazzling rocky lake studded with colorful stones. The sweat equity and splendor force my mind to dump its contents and focus on unfiltered nature.
And snacks, did I mention snacks?
Step 2: Keep It Fresh
Just like strawberries, spinach, and spam, it’s best to keep it fresh.
When someone shares an epic day trip with a dainty waterfall, massive cedars, and spiraling peaks, and there is an instant flash of envy – that is an indication of interest.
Envy is an emotional tool.
An instant reaction is a good indicator that something needs to be inspected. When it comes to envy, this is an interest indicator.
At least in regards to how to nurture your naturalist, not all things shiny and speedy.
I work at a site that frequents tourists where people from all over the country visit a small town museum. They want to see the site and share their exploits.
One experience people frequently share is the Gates of the Mountains. This watery ride seemed to turn normal tourists into blatant braggers. For over a year, I heard and envied their stories. I relieved the burn by doing the thing and going on the boat ride.
It. Was. Delightful.
For an hour, I was a passenger of the Sacagawea where the captain managed to drive the boat and display masterful storytelling. I cruised the Mighty Mo and drank in towering spires, was amused by the layered geology with its cataclysmic history, and was lulled into sadness as listened with bated breath to the devastating events of the Mann Gulch fire.
If I wasn’t consumed by a green fire, I would have smiled politely at their stories while mentally thinking about butter production in Bangladesh.
Step 3: Sharing is Caring
Nurturing your naturalist is best when shared, like an ice cream birthday cake with extra sprinkles.
From joining a ranger led hike to kayaking with a friend, nature is best when shared. Humans are social animals; we eat together, learn together, and hurtle in a tin can through thin atmosphere at 500 MPH, together.
But, I’m highly biased.
I have a permanent nature companion, Mr. BuLL. Being a ranger means ever-evolving days off, which looks like sometimes going hiking with Mr. BuLL and sometimes going solo because it’s Tuesday and no one but me and the retired are hiking on a Tuesday.
I prefer to have a companion, more for the slips, trips, and spills than concern over being mugged by bears but going hiking Hans Solo style means an increase in planning by letting someone know the expected departure and arrival time.
Solo trips require extra planning but life is too short to wait for perfection.
Step 4: Do the Thing
You decide how fast or far you want to go.The Woke Salaryman
It’s easy to nurture your naturalist: Find what makes you happy and do that. A lot.
Sometimes the more will be big like taking a trip to the Grand Canyon. Sometimes the more will be small like taking a Gates of the Mountains boat tour.
Either way, there is no wrong way to enjoy nature, but the trick is only you can nurture your naturalist. So grab your boots, sunscreen, and snacks, and go find something beautiful.