Sunshine Coast is described as ‘a 180 km stretch of paradise that’s tucked into the southwest corner of mainland British Columbia.’ This is where South African-born web developer and project manager Nic Smith lives.
Nic’s expertise supports a variety of start-up brands, but none is closer to his heart than WIRTH Hats, a social venture founded to honour the life and dream of Jakob Wirth, and to pay tribute to other much-loved friends whose difficulties with mental health have led to untimely deaths. All the profits are put back into mental health initiatives and having lost a dear friend to suicide, Nic’s involvement is intensely personal.
Living on the Sunshine Coast, which features rugged coastal lowland that gradually rises to mountains, Nic is surrounded by a vast and extraordinary beauty. We asked him to tell us more about his connection to nature.
What’s your favourite thing to do in nature?
I honestly can't say I have a favourite thing to do in nature. I'm very privileged to live in a temperate rainforest along the west coast of Canada so there's just so much to do and explore. But downhill biking, surfing, paddle boarding, and hiking all bring me great enjoyment and peace. Especially the activities where I can bring my pup Ayo along.
Describe your connection to nature: what positives does it bring to your life.
I'm surrounded by some of the biggest and oldest trees in the world on a daily basis, so it's hard not to be constantly aware of their grounding presence. To me, nature has an infinite number of reminders and metaphors for living a fulfilling life, so I'd like to believe that my connection to nature is a very visceral and integrated one.
I think we also tend to forget that we are nature. It's not that people are disconnected from nature: we just forget that we are fundamentally a part of it. We come from the same stuff as the animals and the trees. We just have to pause to remember that we are all deeply connected with each other and with the natural world.
What are your fondest memories of spending time in nature?
Growing up in South Africa we would sometimes take road trips, and camp in nature reserves with hyenas and other African wildlife within arms’ reach on the other side of the camp fence. We'd dig holes under the fence and fill them with water so the animals would come for a drink and we could observe them up close. I feel very lucky to have had some epic wildlife experiences growing up there. I also have fond memories of visiting the Drakensberg Mountain ranges. The towering monoliths and grassy slopes provided an unbridled and endless exploration.
Many of us are time-poor and might not get out into nature as much as we’d like. Any suggestions for a quick nature-based pick-me up? Something sensory, experiential…?
Everyone should have a daily, non-negotiable set amount of time in nature. Even taking 10 minutes away from all devices, and hearing, feeling, and touching nature can do so much in the way of grounding us, and putting ourselves back in our bodies.
I think being intentionally present when we do find ourselves in nature is also important. It's so easy to be distracted by our phones when we're out for a walk. Feel the breeze, smell the trees, hear the bees.