IN ORDER TO LOVE SOMETHING YOU MUST KNOW IT
GET TO KNOW NATURE INSPIRED BY EVA HELBÆK TRAM
We talk about the importance of living closer to nature. We talk about how we can incorporate sustainability and longevity in our professional lives. We talk about slowing down. We talk about being aware. We talk about ourselves being a part of something instead of a consumer of something. But what does it look like when all the talking comes down to real action? And do we dare to share and discuss the practicalities, challenges, and insights that flourish from it? Eva Helbæk Tram moved her work, family, and home from Copenhagen to the Swedish forest where she and her husband now run their business Homemade Agency. This article is an attempt to start the conversation about what actually follows when you start acting.
Eva - what has inspired you in the past week?
Currently, I am in Florida, USA, because we got some work here, and we have also had time to travel around a bit. I don’t know if you can call it “inspired”, but I have been really surprised at the throw-away mentality that rules here. Even pretty good restaurants serve food on throw-away plates to be eaten with plastic cutlery, and water in a paper cup with a straw and a lid. Breakfasts at motels consist of individually wrapped food items with a very long ingredient list. Maybe you can get an orange or a banana, but that’s it if you want to eat whole food. The fact that this is the norm makes me a bit scared on behalf of our species. I think it indicates that we have moved further away from nature than what is good for us - and nature.
Why do you enjoy living and working in the Swedish nature?
I grew up with nature but lived in cities for 20 years of my life before finally returning a couple of years ago. It was not until I had been living in the woodlands for a while that I realized the degree to which I had missed it. I really belong here. I think we all have environments where we belong - some people thrive in cities, some by the sea, some in the mountains, others in the woods. I am definitely the latter. What I like most about the woodlands is the peace and calm and the space that is automatically freed up in your mind when you spend time in nature.
What role does nature play in your everyday life?
If at all possible, I spend time in nature every day. Once you get used to it, it becomes like an addiction. Nature’s power to heal a beginning cold or a cluttered mind is quite amazing. I run and meditate in nature daily, and do most of my photography work outside. I love to work with natural light. I forage as much as I have time for, sometimes alone, and often with my kids. I swim in the lakes 7-8 months of the year.
How do you and your family feel connected to nature?
We live in the middle of the woods, so we just have to open our door to be in nature. That is quite amazing, also for our kids. When living so close to nature you have the opportunity to follow the seasons much more closely than in the city. Food plays a very big role in almost everything we do in our family, so to us, it is extremely extravagant to have nature’s many delicious, edible products right outside the door. It makes me happy to know that my children will grow up learning about nature’s produce and its seasons.
Can you take me to a special moment, where you explored or met nature in a way that was new to you?
One summer morning not so long after we moved out in the woods, I cycled out very early to watch the sunrise over a lake close to where we live. There was a thick fog over the lake, and when the sun rose, the sky was completely golden. It was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. I felt so wealthy just sitting there watching it all by myself in complete silence. The only sounds were the chirping of birds and the beating of wings when an odd flock of geese was flying by. In the city, if something is beautiful, you will always have to share it with a lot of other people. Here, I had so much beauty all to myself, just five minutes from my home. That made me feel very privileged.
Do you and your family have any practices that you unfold in nature? – If so, what kind?
About once a week we go out and make a fire somewhere in nature. We usually pick a beautiful spot with great climbing trees or rocks, bring some food to cook, and just sit there and hang out, cook, talk and play for a couple of hours.
What unexpected or expected realities have you met after changing your lifestyle?
Looking back, I am surprised at how simple it actually is to make a U-turn when you focus on the dream and don’t let the fear of the unknown hold you back. The main thing is to define the dream, believe in it, make the decision to go for it, take the first small step, and then the rest will have to follow (and you may even get some surprising help from the universe, believe it or not). Not that we haven’t had any challenges or economic stress – I wouldn’t know where to start – but once they arise the only option is to take the necessary steps to deal with them. Changing your lifestyle is basically quite similar to opening a shop. You know beforehand that there will be a lot of unknown tasks you will need to deal with. But exactly which, you can only find out along the way.
In your perspective, what challenges do we humans have to face when we are moved closer to nature than we are "used to"?
Nature is unpredictable, and you have to embrace that as a part of the charm. You have to accept that it is less comfortable and does provide some real dangers.
Your children may actually meet a wolf or a wild boar when playing out in the woods. The ice on the lake may be too thin to walk on. You have to teach them about poisonous snakes, flowers and berries, things that were once common knowledge but which we have to re-learn. During the warmer months, on a weekly basis, at least one member of our family gets bitten by a tick, and they can actually carry very serious diseases. But then, we have just made it a habit to check ourselves and each other every evening and remove the tick if we find one. Now it is just a habit, like brushing your teeth.
What dreams do you have for your everyday life as well as for your professional life with nature?
Personally, I am dreaming of spending even more time in nature, and micro-adventures is something I would like to do more often. I would also like to experience nature in other countries like right now I am in Florida where I have been swimming in the Atlantic Ocean and sailing in mangrove swamps surrounded by alligators and turtles. Professionally, I am getting more and more convinced that it would be of benefit to both nature and humans to re-establish the connection between us that has been lost somewhere along the way. For us humans, because nature does us so much good. For nature because, as Jacques Cousteau said, you can only protect what you love - and in order to love something, you must know it. I would like to contribute to inspiring more people to rediscover nature’s multifaceted awesomeness through my work in the future.
How do you see the relationship between nature and humans in a future world defined by technology, globalization, and high tempo?
I think that now is a time when we need to connect to nature more than ever. Just look at the stress rates, I think they should be a signal that something is not quite right. Nature forces us to slow down the pace. When we are in nature, we don’t have the same array of practical solutions as we have in the city, where we are seeking easy solutions and comfort to such a degree that we end up completely sedated. Nature forces us to be creative and work with what we have at hand.
As for technology, with the internet, it has never been easier to change paths and make better choices for the future. It opens up endless opportunities to seek out and create exactly the life and experiences you want, meet like-minded people, work with what fulfills you, and to connect more with nature if you feel the urge.
.. and where do you see your place in this future?
It would be very difficult to live in the woods and work the way that I do without the internet. I can literally work from anywhere, which provides a great degree of freedom. The internet provides a lot of challenges, but even more opportunities, and it is up to each of us to use it wisely. I have, for example, used it to teach myself how to photograph, which has led me to a change of career path from writer to the photographer. That would not have been quite as easy without the internet, especially not when living in the countryside. Right now we are getting fiber internet installed, which means in the future we will be able to e.g. make live open fire cooking classes directly from Sweden to people around the world. I have always been fascinated by technology, and I think it brings very exciting opportunities for the future.
Do you have hope for the relationship between nature and humans that you want to bring forward?
We, humans, have somehow come to believe that we can live our lives completely separated from nature. I think we need to remind ourselves of what our ancestors knew; that we are all connected; humans, plants, seas, planet earth. So, if we harm our planet, we harm ourselves.
Interview and text by Ida Marie Andersen, writer in Rewild Studio.
Photos by Eva Tram, Homemade Agency