Nature nourishes my soul. When I am out in the wilderness, I am at peace. My breaths are deeper, my steps are slower. Surrounded by beauty, I take my time. Out there, I am reminded that I am not alone. That I am connected to a greater world. A world that quietly and humbly soldiers on, always growing, moving, regardless of us. I am just a tiny part of its existence.
As a photographer, my biggest fear is burning out creatively. To burn out is to turn my first love into an enemy. I never want to lose that spark, that excitement. A year after I took an entrepreneurial leap to start my own business, I was happy with my success and yet felt drained and stressed out due to my self-imposed workaholic lifestyle. I knew there had to be a better way to balance my life. Around this same time, my husband and I decided to take a vacation and road trip up California's Highway 395. As we drove, the vast Eastern Sierra mountains and stunning expansive deserts stirred something inside me. I decided to adopt the intention "slow down & go outside" and I wrote it down on a piece of paper as a daily reminder. I made a promise to myself to save at least one day a week to unplug, take a hike and explore the San Francisco Bay Area.
Through my hikes, I began challenging myself to become a better photographer and ignited a passion for the great outdoors. Having an activity that forces me to be outside and disconnect from urban life, reconnects me with myself. Nothing is more grounding than spending time in nature. When day-to-day pressures of work deadlines and social media chatter overwhelms me, my world begins to feel very small. But the moment I step outside, I’m reminded that there’s so much more to life than the virtual four walls of email correspondence and blog feeds. In nature, I can remove my blinders, open to the world and find myself filled with overwhelming gratitude for living. The act of slowing down and going outside has become an essential practice and an important part of my daily routine. There is freedom in being open, in being vulnerable, in accepting our place in this grand world.
My practice has taken me from the redwood forests of the Oakland Hills to the otherworldly deserts of Death Valley to the lush magical landscapes of Iceland. And I don't want the adventure to end. This is the start of a new chapter of my creative life. I feel a strong sense of purpose. To share beauty. To inspire and encourage others to find peace by slowing down and going outside. I hope you will join me in this journey. ♡
— Vivian Peiwen Chen