Strangers + Nature = Friends

I consider Nature to be many things, but matchmaker isn’t normally one of them. That is, until I signed up for my first experiential trip three years ago.

The trip itself was good. Nature did not disappoint (though she seldom does), as she wowed me with a nighttime lightning storm that I still think about — with unmatched awe — to this day, and gave me my first glimpse of a grizzly bear that was not a rug (meaning very alive and well). But, like most trips, there were ups — and downs. Like… I won’t forget the showers that required me to pull on a chain with either my teeth or a sort-of-not-really free hand in order to access the warm-ish water… the guided hike which was more like a guided-for-the-first-five-minutes-and-the-rest-is-up-to-you-even-though-the-bear-mace-seems-to-be-missing hike… or the vegan food that was served in a room being monitored by taxidermied animal heads? That was fun!

But it was soon obvious that my fellow trip-goers were willing to tolerate pretty much anything for the mere chance to connect — with self or one another — or overcome. And maybe that was the whole point.

I did not need this trip to “connect,” so I didn’t push myself to begin those difficult conversations. But, what I see in hindsight is — once at the mercy of Nature, our band of individuals quickly began to take shape. It started small — someone brushed by me to get a better look at the flower blossoming up out of the path ahead and then stopped to talk about its unusual color. Someone else remarked simply that we couldn’t have asked for a better day to be outside. People wandered from the pack to take photos, to observe, to do cartwheels even! Silent smiles — acknowledging the vulnerability of this moment — gave way to opening questions about whether one had even been here before…from where did they come…had they ever been on a group excursion such as this? I remember asking a few people if they’d ever encountered bears while being in this part of the country. That seemed to be my main point of concern, so much so that during a group meditation halfway through our hike, I refused to close my eyes for fear that the bears would seize this opportunity to do something drastic.

As the weekend wrapped up, our group huddled around a fire and jotted down notes of intention which we wished upon and threw into the blaze, to be devoured and considered by whatever would pay them mind. A few truly brave women shared their intentions with the group. With time, the memory of what those statements were is foggy at best. But the emotion and love that flourished in the safety of that night sticks to the walls of my heart like it was just spackled there. We parted ways — a handful of us with new phone numbers and IG handles added to our phones. But in the same context, we all left together, arkoudaphobia and all.

Nature possesses a power that quite certainly puts things — and us — in perspective. It stirs up something in our DNA, that reconnects us to this world, the REAL world, possibly to remind us that in the grand scheme of things we are actually quite small. And full of things to give and share.



Looking to connect, reconnect, or simply give back? Free People will be hosting more events in 2020, in tandem with our Care FP initiative. Stay tuned, and make time to immerse yourself in nature. You never know who or what you might meet.


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This is such a beautiful post! It’s true that nature changes us in many (positive) ways!

Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog