The July theme for Sonderers Travel Magazine is Celebrating life. Coincidentally, National Geographic is celebrating the World’s National Parks throughout 2016, coinciding with the centenary celebration of the USA National Parks Service. As for the United States and many other countries (Belgium, Argentina, Maldives, etc.), July is also when Independence Day is celebrated.
What do these elements have in common? Heritage.
National Geographic gathered their articles celebrating the National Parks under the title How National Parks Tell Our Story. They’re more than scenic places. They’re a nation’s common ground. No title could be more appropriate.
I have spent many years hiking trails on the North-Eastern Alps. The Dolomites are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and they hold a National Park among many regional ones. My experiences there helped create some of my fondest family memories. These will forever be linked to this specific place.
For a few years, we camped in a tent. We then bought a roulotte (or caravan). We would spend every other weekend camping for the summer. My father taught my brother and I about the mountain animals. He mentioned animals still present, animals gone, and animals making a tentative comeback, such as wolves, eagles, and a species of bear.
My parents taught us to always respect the environment in any possible way, from not snapping the branches of bushes, to maintaining a respectful distance from any animal we might encounter. The mountains and the forest turned into the best and biggest playgrounds we could have ever wished for.
As one of Sonderers Travel Magazine editors, Rachel Rueckert, quoted from Tolstoy in this month’s Editor’s Note, “Where there is life, there is happiness.” Life is what comes to my mind when I think of a National Park.
My first backpacking trip was in Alaska, just outside the boundaries of the Kenai Fjords National Park. I saw eagles, otters, porpoises, and signs of bears, all within a few miles. There was abundant life, and there was happiness in me.
Life and heritage go hand in hand. They thrive together, and they are in danger when, and if, one is suffering. One sad observation is that in an area ravaged by war, the first and some of the worst effects can be seen on wildlife. The opposite is also true. When an area is stable, wildlife might bounce back, or at least stay stable.
Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” Nations will always have ups and downs, but the way they safeguard their natural heritage in the long-term will reflect their consideration of culture, traditions, heritage, and life.
National Parks are unique. The exact same parameters, conditions, and features cannot be found anywhere else. As a nation’s flag is unique and symbolizes identity, so do National Parks. A country can showcase them with pride and respect. It gives a region personality.
But the beauty of having, knowing, recognizing, and loving our own heritage and nature, is that we become close to similar-minded people who love, respect, preserve, and defend life and nature.
Yellowstone is widely held to be the first national park in the world, established March 1, 1872.
But there are countless national parks all over the world, intertwined with the lives and heritage of the people. Nature is heritage. Both are a celebration of life.
Richard was born in the US, grew up in Italy, recently moved to the UK after few years in Oregon. Architect by day, but also athlete and photographer, he alternates sports to reading and writing. Find his work in The Dreams' Chest.