Held every year on the third Thursday in October, World Values Day was created on the premise that when you take time to identify and reflect upon your values, you overwhelmingly act in ways that benefit your wellbeing and make the world a better place. Deepening our understanding of our personal values and how they help us (re)connect with our sense of self, with others, and with the world we live in – that’s what the 2021 theme of Reconnecting was all about.
One of the initiatives under the Reconnecting umbrella was Reconnect with Nature. To celebrate our reconnecting with nature on World Values Day 2021, we asked vloggers, bloggers, influencers and ordinary folk to submit a nature photo (with or without them in it) and share their thoughts on how the photo represents the value(s) most important to them. Here are the results – in alphabetical order of the value.
Paul RYKEN used to run as a competitive athlete decades ago. He still runs – to stay healthy, both physically and mentally. One of his core values is wellbeing, but this photo represents another value that is important to him: achievement.
It’s the photo of one of the many stiles in Cornwall Park, a 670 acres park right in the heart of Auckland, New Zealand. Put in place to allow park users to move between paddocks on this city-based working farm, it takes a bit of effort to climb over these stiles, especially on a run.
After months of injury in 2020, Paul had built up his strength and fitness levels to tackle this rugged 6km cross country loop. Skirting the lambs, dodging the cows (and a considerable amount of poo), it was tackling these stiles that represented the ultimate achievement. Reconnecting with Nature on this particular run, he regained new confidence. He knew he was back, fully recovered and ready to step off the easy flat roads to proceed to more challenging terrain.
This photo represents everything that caused Gerdi VERWOERT to move to the mountains.
The climb to get to this location was hard, long and along the way, Gerdi questioned why she was on it in the first place. Surely there were things she could do that was less challenging, less hard. The hardship was forgotten the instant her head popped above the crest and she was able to take in the view. It took her breath away.
It is in moments like these that Gerdi feels deeply connected with nature, the mountains especially. She feels alive and at home. The journey to get there is not without challenges or dangers. Though Gerdi may study the map, she never really knows what she will find on her trails. Every hike or trek through the mountains is an adventure, taking place in an incredible environment. Mother Nature at her best.
The photo was taken on a training hike. Both she and her dog were getting ready for multi-day hikes, which explains why she was not the only one carrying a pack. Her dog would carry some of the light gear and Gerdi would take the heavy stuff (including his food). Those hikes too were an adventure.
Confidence has been a guiding principle in Paul DRECKSLER‘s life. It has allowed him to explore opportunities, take risks, and carve his own path. Without confidence, he’d be a boat without a sail, moving in whichever direction the current takes him.
Confidence is the silent oil that greases the wheels of accomplishment.
Everything starts with an idea, but without the confidence to execute, ideas are just stars to wish upon. Confidence put a roof over his head and food in his belly. It built a business he is proud of. It developed relationships he cherishes, led to countless adventures, and created memories to last a lifetime.
This is a photo of Paul at the summit of Volcán Pichincha in Quito, Ecuador, at an altitude of 4,784 meters (15,696 feet). Had he ever climbed a mountain that high before? Nope! Did he think he could? Of course! This photo is an excellent reminder of just how far confidence can get you in nature and in life.
This photo was taken above Quilotoa, a beautiful crater lake south of Quito in Ecuador.
Sandra ROSENAU is scared of heights, and the hike along the Quilotoa crater rim would become her ultimate symbol of courage. Often less than a meter wide, steep and heavily eroded in places, and with sheer drops hundreds of meters to either side, the rim trail was the most difficult hike she’d ever done. Her knees shaking and using all fours in the most challenging parts, she overcame her fear of heights and managed to finish the 10km loop hike.
Sandra has done many other challenging hikes since. Her fear of heights is always with her, but whenever her knees start to shake these days, she tells herself: You completed Quilotoa. You can do this too. And she’d manage to find the courage to continue.
This photo reminds Ketti WILHELM of one of her most important values and one of the major reasons why she started travelling: curiosity. It’s a candid (non-posed) shot her uncle took of her at the end of a short hike, which culminated in this gorgeous view overlooking Alaska’s Matanuska Glacier.
As is tradition on many peaks, there was a small, weather-proof box near the summit marker that contained a log – one of her favourite forms of travel diary! – along with spare sunscreen and a few other tokens of generosity toward forgetful hikers. In the log, everyone who made it to the top can sign their name or leave a message for future hikers to read. A concept that represents the values she most loves about travel, rendered in their most literal form: kindness and curiosity. To be able to read the diary of a place and see the world through others’ eyes. To take a moment to consider a place and its people, and to reflect.
Last summer, Lynsey CLAYTON visited Brighton, England shortly after lockdown restrictions eased, and spent some quiet time on the beach.
This photo of two seagulls sharing a discarded pineapple provided her with lots of entertainment. And as she was quiet and still, they stayed very close to her, without being worried. To Lynsey, this photo represents one of her core values: environmental awareness and the joy you can get from sitting quietly with nature – simply observing. In her words: ‘If humans were more like this, we’d be much less stressed, and less likely to destroy and pollute the environment these animals need to survive.
Also on the beach that day were many pieces of plastic. These gulls could have easily been harmed if they’d tried to eat those instead. It highlights the need, for us as human beings, to clean up our act and respect the nature around us.
Shot inside the Walthamstow Wetlands in England, Bakasura noticed this charming bird family move orderly in a single line, following the visitors’ official route and acting like a bunch of tourists! Often they stretched their sexy necks just to glance around, admire the views and looked inquisitively at the humans, who could not help but stare back at them. Hilarious, she thought. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone could run their families like that?
It also made her realize how important it is to be surrounded by family during challenging times, when everything else is outside your control, and a killer virus can place your life at risk.
Experience the freedom to be yourself when you go on an adventure. When you escape to the wilderness you are free from the busyness of the world. Free from emails, phone calls, to-do lists, demands, expectations and the daily grind. Free from your daily dose of news and social media.
Being in the wilderness also necessitates a focus on your basic survival needs. You can be the real raw you rather than hiding behind the layers that you might otherwise project to the world. No need for job titles, egos, work clothes or makeup, no chance to have the perfect hairstyle. No point hiding your real thoughts and feelings if they’re going to help you survive. Just being in nature (and especially in the mountains) frees your spirit.
This photo was taken on Emma HUFFAM’s trek to Kanchenjunga North Base Camp in Nepal. It captures the feeling of freedom in the mountains. At 8586 meters, Kanchenjunga is the third highest mountain in the world. It is part of Emma’s and partner Trevor’s project to trek to the base camps of the world’s 14 highest mountains over 8000 meters. Just being in the Himalayas invokes much self-reflection. And the mountains always have something to teach you.
This is an image from the Salt Route, a 300km gravel and off-road bike route along the Adriatic coast of Italy, from Cervia to Venice.
Travelling on her bike especially in new places makes Coreen MAZZOCCHI’s soul come alive. She feels deep gratitude for being able to explore new places and have quiet time alone in nature, and for the ability to travel under her own pedal power with low impact.
Time in nature is invaluable to Yatishna RAJ’s mental health. She learnt the importance of inner peace, having faced tough life challenges in recent years. Whenever she is in nature (especially in isolated, unspoilt places), she feels deeply at peace. It calms her mind and helps her connect to her higher self – her intuition.
The picture was taken in Queenstown, New Zealand. During sunset, she sat admiring the beautiful mountains and being still, appreciating this surreal experience.
It is important to Kiko to be a reminder for others to love and show kindness to themselves, as it is difficult to be truly kind to others and/or nature without doing the job for yourself. Kiko created the light video for anyone who is going through a challenging time, to remind them that they’re not alone, that the light they might be looking for is always within them.
You are worthy. You are loved.
Guiding a group on a mountain trek, as Gerdi VERWOERT does, is about so much more than just leading them from A to B. Guiding a mountain trek is about:
- choosing manageable trails (and as safe as possible ones)
- making sure people are safe, even when that means taking alternate routes and possibly retracing your steps
- teaching them about and how to move through nature and challenging terrain
- helping them find their pace
- helping people discover what they are capable of
- making sure they have a great time
- sharing her love and passion for nature and mountains.
As a guide, Gerdi, does her best to share her knowledge and passion with those joining her treks. But in the end, it’s down to each individual to learn to move in nature and among mountains. Isn’t that what leadership is about? Be the example, make difficult decisions, take care of the people you lead and raise them to a level where they can go and do what you taught or showed them on their own.
This photograph represents freedom and a new beginning for her.
Aysima had left her successful business life in Turkey to settle in Oxford, England, which was a big risk. Having lived in one of the most crowded cities in Turkey, being in nature has a therapeutic effect on her. She couldn’t remember the last time she was away from the crowds and was able to breathe again. Watching the squirrels running around and feeding the birds have become one of her favourite experiences. Plus they don’t run away from us. In her opinion, we (co)exist with nature: Nature offers us everything we want.
This anonymous contributor likes to harness drive her 11hh Welsh part-bred pony, slowly in the outdoors, and whenever she chooses.
Being outdoors means she can not only see all manner of things happening in the natural world around her, but she gets to smell and hear them as well. For example, driving in a citrus orchard is glorious when the citrus blossoms. And the trees look wonderful with new growth and clusters of white flowers. Plus you can hear thousands of bees. If she feels competitive, she joins other harness drivers and enjoys her sport with other like-minded people for whom horses are an integral part of their life.
At 75, she knows that keeping two ponies and being outdoors as much as possible helps her stay fit and active. And the wonderful pony poo is very beneficial for her garden and for the gardens of her neighbors. It’s a win-win.
On this day in 2018, Ben RICHARDSON walked for three hours from Friston Forest to Litlington Village, England with a friend. This would soon become a tradition. They would discuss life, pain, joy, inspiration, the future, the past and what we brought to this world.
Ben was a few months into a new job as a Forest School Teacher at the time. A new chapter in his life that has brought him so much joy, priceless memories and a wonderful network of people. The forest brings with it a peacefulness, which he discovered was missing in his life for so long. It is a place he goes to exhale his worries, inhale his dreams and nurture his creativity.
Every nature reserve he visits, he takes photos, really looking at what surrounds him: the shapes, colours and textures of plants and animals. He wonders what happened in these green spaces in times past, and what is to become of them? He feels an urge to protect them, preserve them and educate people about how to respect them. All these feelings centre him in a way that he doesn’t feel anywhere else. Sometimes, he feels like becoming a Forest School Teacher was meant to happen!
Looking at this image in 2021, it represents resilience and perseverance. It depicts a journey with an untold future but a clear destination. His life has been very challenging to navigate, but seeing this image gives him the confidence and reassurance that everything will be fine. His journey has never been more exciting, more prosperous, and more hopeful than it is right now. This image is a testament to his personal growth, and he couldn’t be prouder.
It’s far too easy to spend our days chipping away at our to-do lists and rushing to try to finish our work tasks.
When Brooke and Buddy BAUM feel overly busy – like they just don’t have time to take a break – that’s when they know they really need to make it a priority to press pause and spend some quality time together, away from the distractions.
Luckily, they moved to Hawaii in March 2021, so date nights in nature are cheap and easy. They simply grab the hammock and something yummy to drink, then head to the beach. They usually leave their phones at home and just spend their time talking and enjoying the views.
Buying a wind-swept sun-drenched hillside rural 2-acre property in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand without a single tree or bush on it was always going to be a challenge. Paul RYKEN and his wife Sandra researched what plants would suit the environment given the summer heat and minimal rainfall. These native plants are tough and resilient – two values that are important to surviving in these harsh environmental conditions.
Planting 200 native plants, bushes and budding trees across steep terrain and clay flats was hard work. But moving around the property, digging holes, getting his hands dirty and reconnecting with nature also gave him immense satisfaction. And all the hard work will be worth it when over the next few years, the barren land turns into a colourful oasis that birds and insects will enjoy.
This photo was taken in Daocheng, China, at over 4,500 metres above sea level. In Selene LIU, this image invokes Serenity. Grateful that these kinds of places are kept well away from human activity, it was the first time Selene really felt the power of nature.
This image reminds Sandra ROSENAU of a very spiritual experience.
One of many volcanoes in the Ecuadorian Andes, Chimborazo is the highest mountain in the world (measured from the centre of our planet). In March 2017, as part of a small group of hikers and mountain-bikers, Sandra had the privilege to hike up to and then mountain-bike down from over 5000 meters. With the weather in the Andes notoriously unpredictable, Sandra did something she doesn’t often do: she prayed. She connected with the mountain, just as a local guide had recommend. To ask for permission to visit. To ask for good weather and for their safe return.
From the moment she first saw Chimborazo to the last glimpse across the fields near San Juan, she felt the presence of the mountain and a strong connection with it. Initially shrouded in clouds, the mist lifted just as her group neared the Refugio Carrel mountain hut. Chimborazo had heard her prayers. The weather was perfect, and the volcano visible in all its magic for the entire day.
As she rode down the mountain, she passed Vicuñas (wild Alpacas). Every now and then she’d stop. There was not a sound. Just absolute stillness. She couldn’t believe how lucky she was to be in this place. Full of gratitude, she thanked the mountain for an experience that would stay with her for the rest of her life.
Trees are an important part of the earth’s natural resources, even though we don’t always look after them as well as we should! For Darryl HOWES, trees represent permanence, steadfastness and legacy. He always found it amazing that trees planted by people from many generations ago are available for all of us to enjoy today. It’s also a way of reconnecting with bygone values.
But there’s another aspect that relates to photographing trees. For him at least, they always seem even more interesting in the winter when the natural shapes formed by the trunk and branches are easier to identify and really display their beauty.
So here’s an image by Darryl taken a few years ago in beautiful North Dorset, England where his wife and he now lives. It’s a typical winter scene on a beautiful high atmospheric pressure day of blue skies.
In January 2022, it will be eight years since Christian AGANZE started guiding tours in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Some travelers consider it an impenetrable country due to security concerns or poor infrastructure. But this is not always true.
This image represents an important value for Christian (both personally and professionally): the uniqueness and status of the Congo river. Without it, there would be no life in the region. 4,700 kilometres long, crossing the country from south to north and from east to west, the Congo river serves as the main (and a very unique) means of transportation. It’s also the main source for household water and provides the daily meal to the riparian people: fish.
While the river connects communities, the irregularity of the rudimentary boat service still isolates millions of residents from the rest of the country, and indeed the world. A catalyst for community transformation, Christian’s tours – including a Congo River Expedition planned for April 2022 – support hundreds of Congolese communities and aid child education.
I want to thank those who submitted their photos and shared their values. It was an amazing and humbling experience. This exercise was a great reminder of how we all interpret our values differently and how valuable nature’s positive impact is in our lives.
Feature image by Trent Haaland on Unsplash