You have to live to learn. What does this look like? For me, it means playing outside. I love hiking/walking and appreciating the natural landscape. Varied landscapes, too. Whether it's in the woods or walking along a canal, the simple act of being outside has a way of connecting you with the natural world. This appreciation is a whole-body experience (uses all five senses to the best of their capabilities). The smell of pine in the woods and the salt of the ocean always put me at peace.
Recently, my husband and I were walking along the coast in Northern Ireland. There's nothing quite like the salty scent that wafts over to the walking path from the ocean. The seals might have been my favorite part of this walk. We don't get to see them often, no matter how frequently they are listed as possible wildlife on signs. At first (we were still pretty far away), we thought they might be large nesting birds. That's how unexpected seals were. We started discounting the signs saying possible wildlife sightings specifying seals because it had never happened before. So, we were extra excited when we realized our mistake.
Lesson 1: Mistakes or happy accidents can be the best learning experiences.
Observe the diversity everywhere you go. By traveling widely, you can discover what sets people (wildlife, etc.) apart and what can be a binding force. We all share the planet and need to take better care of it. I love noting how people act in different environments. When you pass somebody on a walking path along the water or in the woods, pretty much everybody says hello. This doesn't hold up in cities. People in the suburbs consider rabbits and deer pests because they eat everything growing in the garden. The same people might think they're cute somewhere else.
Lesson 2: The more places you go, the more empathy you can gain.
A common sight that irks me to no end is litter, especially when you see it in natural areas (specifically sites trying to conserve wildlife). If you're trying to appreciate nature, why ruin it with litter? I've never understood it. There's a reason for 'leave no trace' reminders. Maybe the delivery of this message needs improvement; I think it might be worth exploring.
Lesson 3: Leave no trace messaging might need an update for better results.
Tying into the leave no trace policy in natural areas, litter anywhere is common and frustrating. What is so hard about holding onto something until you find a rubbish bin or appropriate recycling container? Some rubbish on the ground might be accidental, especially when the litter is close to a container. I've even seen some cheeky crows take things out of bins to see if they can eat something on them. The container is then left on the ground after the scavenging attempt.
Lesson 4: Litter is my biggest pet peeve because it harms the planet.
I get excited whenever I see animals, even when it's a daily experience. Some of my favorite wildlife sightings have been more unique moments. My first time seeing a kingfisher was unforgettable. There are signs in almost every natural area saying that kingfishers are there. It took a long time for me to find one, though. We still haven't seen otters in areas they sometimes can be found.
When it comes to plants, I don't know nearly enough. I frequently see some plants and ask myself what they are. I never have the answer (and neither does my husband). Some of my photography is intended to look it up later - I'm yet to find that 'later' in most cases.
Lesson 5: It's exciting to see diverse wildlife (plants and animals), no matter how commonly it occurs.
I hope to hear more about how some of you have learned from your experiences out in the wild.