Connecting with nature during this period has not been forthcoming. However, learning to handle our mental health without having to escape to nature or through travel has been profound.
Hiking, camping, birding, and travelling, in general, are all ways to get away from the city for some. For others it’s work. For many, it’s an escape from life even just for a moment. To get away from a stressful long week. To run away from addressing life’s challenges.
Before the world came to a standstill, travelling seemed like an escape. An escape from many life situations. To seek answers in nature about yourself and life hoping you will get them. Sometimes you do get the answers. Other times you don’t.
Now, with less travelling due to the limited freedom of movement, we have been forced to deal with our situations as they are. For some who are lucky to leave outside the capital city, Nairobi, there are opportunities to explore your neighbourhood. Although recently, we have the chance to still explore green spaces within Nairobi for Nairobians and the immediate outskirts keeping to the set regulations.
With less travelling and exploration you begin to realise you don’t need to connect with nature to deal with your mental health. Don’t get me wrong. Studies have shown that connecting to nature and the presence of green spaces especially in cities can improve our mental and physical health. But, what if we went out to connect with nature not to run away from our life challenges but to have the courage to face them even more? To go to nature just as a child would. To learn, to explore, to appreciate, to recognize the diversity of how we are all connected and to know that we can come back to this space again whenever we want to.
Knowing that you don’t have to rush to connect with nature because these green spaces will always be here when we protect these spaces will give a different perspective. In this case, we can go to green spaces, national parks, forests with the intention of making sure that future generations get to experience this. To be the voice of a space that will only speak (metaphorically through climate change, disease, flooding, etc) when it is destroyed. It is time we protect the green spaces we love to visit – whether known such as Nairobi National Park or hidden such as Nachu Caves. These spaces would not be here if no one cared about them.
This should be the main goal when travelling. Whenever our journey is about to end and we have to go on with life (unless travelling is part of your life), it should be about living in the moment. When it ends, because it will, we should not be upset just because we are going back to a congested city or our homes. Going back home should always be filled with stories. Stories to be shared especially with those who don’t understand the importance of green spaces or travelling in general. These spaces, whether you live in an urban area or the rural setting are not just for travelling or even relaxation but most importantly they are a repository for biodiversity in some cases such as historical sites, they are filled with culture.
Always remember you are a visitor in these spaces and owe the utmost respect to its inhabitants. Let’s stop littering our parks and green spaces. Leave with what you came with. Also, remember the single-use plastic ban in protected areas. Let’s be mindful of each other then we will be mindful of where we visit.