I’ve never really characterized myself as a “nature girl.” I don’t like sleeping on the ground, insects gross me out, and I really appreciate access to a nice, hot shower. Yet, just because I’m not an avid backpacker or a regular shopper at REI, doesn’t mean that nature can’t play an integral part of my happiness and well-being.
I’m originally from Missoula, a beautiful town nestled in the breathtaking mountains of western Montana. Its inhabitants are outdoorsy, beer-loving, and spend much of their free time hiking, skiing, snowshoeing, backpacking, camping, kayaking, rock-climbing, and paragliding around “Big Sky Country’s” abundant natural scenery. Of course, since I grew up with this, I couldn’t have cared less about it as a budding young adult, itching to get out and see the world.
Fast-forward eight years, and I was a new resident of the Shoreditch neighborhood of London, UK, smack dab in one of the largest cities in the world. Having lived in Portland, Oregon for seven years, I fancied myself a city girl. I had visited London numerous times before my big move, each time besotted with what I saw, and therefore didn’t have a shred of doubt that I had found my new home. Nature? Please; who needs trees, mountains, and fresh air when you live in one of the trendiest areas of such a vibrant cultural and historical hub?
As it turns out, I did need it. After nearly four months, the miles upon miles of exciting city life around me began to feel dull and drab, more like a concrete prison. The smell of exhaust suffocated me daily, and the trash-littered patches of scratchy grass that the locals considered parks didn’t impress me. Although I took advantage of what the city offered (the culture, museums, events), it always took what I considered to be a ridiculous amount of effort — at least an hour by car just to leave London, or a number of expensive, crowded trains.
Honestly, I had never appreciated Portland’s lushness and greenness, or how easily I could leave the city behind and escape to the magical, mossy world of the Pacific Northwest. I craved the picturesque mountains of my childhood home in Missoula, and the mere ten minutes it took to drive to any trail head.
Thus, I returned to Montana after a year in London, with a newfound revelation about myself — I need access to nature to feel fulfilled and happy in life. This surprised me; I thought, after seven years in Portland, after exploring cities all over the world, after becoming a self-proclaimed “city girl,” that I would never feel this way. I was wrong. Being deprived of nature made me realize just how much I really missed it, and how vital it is to my happiness.
Of course, I don’t need to live in a secluded cabin or go camping every weekend. But there is something calming, grounding, and yet invigorating about the natural beauty of our planet. There is something about reaching the top of a mountain, throwing your hands in the air, and beholding the miracle of our world. There is something about fresh, wholesome air that sends my entire body tingling, wrestling awake parts of me that typically lay dormant.
As a native to the Pacific Northwest, I’m undoubtedly biased to say that there’s no place quite like that small corner of the Earth — the massive, snow-capped mountains, the forests cloaked in a myriad of greens, the enormous rocks, and the critter-filled tide pools that pepper the upper West Coast. It is easy to take it for granted, and ghastly to think that, one day, humans could exist in a world without it.
Yes, I still love London. Yes, I still adore traveling and exploring new cities. But am I still a “city girl?” Well, I wouldn’t go that far…
Photography by Author
After living in Portland, OR for 7 years, Rachel left her job in 2014 to embark on a backpacking adventure through Southeast Asia and Europe, and has been self-diagnosed with a chronic case of the "travel-bug" ever since! She recently completed a Creative Writing and Publishing MA in London, UK.