The Nature Nurse™, PLLC is honored and grateful to share nurse Megan Culbertson's brave story about how she shifted her life to help serve during the early part of the Pandemic in order to help others, and how nature helped her.
Covid halted life for all of us as we knew it. With the Pandemic surging in various areas around the United States, I opted to quit my steady hospital job and dive into traveling nursing. My husband, who could work remotely, agreed. In four short weeks, we downsized from an 800-square-foot apartment to a 35-foot Recreation Vehicle (RV), which would now be our new home on wheels.
I took my first travel nurse contract in Washington, D.C. We fell in love with the RV life during our six months there. We were spending more time outside- exploring new parks and hiking trails, camping, and sitting by the campfire every night. For two people who love nature, this was our dream!
Nature-based self-care has been associated with lower levels of depression, anxiety, and stress. Working in Covid Units, I was experiencing high levels of stress and trauma every shift. Living in the RV, with nature right out the front door, became the antidote for my work life. Living in an RV naturally lent itself to spending more time outside, allowing nature to ease the stress, and heal my mind, body, and soul.
More Time Outdoors
When you are living in a tiny space- around 200 square feet to be exact, your outside area becomes an extension of your home. Once we started living tiny, I found myself outside even more. Coffee on the porch in the morning, time around the fire every night, cooking out regularly. Our outdoor space is an extension of our home, and we love it.
Camping & Hiking
One of the great things about living in an RV is the ability to take you home wherever you want to visit. We have been able to visit many national parks, state parks, and campgrounds. If you feel you need to be even closer to nature, it’s easy to lock up the camper and take your tent out for a few days. Research has shown connecting with nature by camping, has even greater healing benefits, including helping us sleep better.
Time Near the Water
Personally, being near water is one of my favorite forms of self-care. No matter what type of water- I find instant serenity. The RV life has allowed us to park near various rivers, creeks, and even the ocean. Kayaking has become a regular form of exercise and stress relief for my husband and me. We learned our dog, Declan also loves the beach. Our little family enjoys regular evening walks on the beach at sunset. Exercise, nature, and the sound of the ocean- a trifecta to reduce the stress of even the worst days.
Easier Traveling with Pets
While owning pets can be one of the best parts of life, it can create a barrier to travel. Travel nursing requires staying in a place for 8 weeks-3 months, longer if you extend your contract. Short-term housing is limited and expensive- adding in finding housing for pets and it becomes even more difficult. The RV allows us to easily travel with our pets, allowing us to travel and get outside more. Even if you are just looking for weekends away, an RV allows you to take a pet-friendly place to stay with you. This can enable you to visit family, parks, and new places easier (and many times for less money!)
While living in an RV is not for everyone, I think so many people could benefit from owning, or renting, a small RV to travel in on weekends and time off. The benefits you receive from more time closer to nature are endless!
Megan Culbertson, BSN, RN is the author of the Peace Love Nursing blog. Visit her blog to learn more about RV living, self-care, nursing, travel nursing, and mental health.
Globally, a growing number of nurses are intentionally partnering with Mother Nature, incorporating her natural elements into their practice as awareness grows of the essential role our natural world plays in our health and well-being. Connecting with our natural environment is now recognized as important to living a healthy lifestyle as getting rest, eating well, exercising and managing stress. In fact, nature significantly impacts all of these pillars of health.
Atiya Wells is one such nurse. She has founded Backyard Basecamp and now dedicates her full practice to this. I am pleased to share information about this site, which I paid a visit to recently; which is sure to be the envy of many cities.
Under the watchful eye of a wild, resident red fox, the sun gently rising behind him/her, I gave myself a self-guided tour of Backyard Basecamp, something I have been wanting to experience for quite a long time. For those who may not know about this 10-acre natural space in urban Baltimore, allow me to introduce you to this magical location. Part camp, part park, part farm, part playground, classroom, community center, health retreat, sacred space, and wildlife sanctuary, this communal area fills several needs in the local community.
I have been virtually admiring Atiya’s work for years. A few years ago, she caught my attention on social media with her first bold crowdfunding campaign to raise six figures for her vision to transform this unkempt lot into a welcoming natural space in order to (Re)connect Black, Indigenous and people of color to land and nature in the city of Baltimore. Atiya’s tenacity, can-do spirit, and connection to the land reminded me of another Black leader I admire, Rev. Richard Joyner, past recipient of the CNN heroes award. Both of these vivacious leaders seemed to have no fear and no limits, only big audacious dreams. They have a fierce passion to help their neighbors live healthier lives. I love these kinds of people!
With the help of a growing team, Atiya, and friends have created pocket gardens that allow local residents to engage with, and connect with nature.
At the entrance of the property is a little library filled with books. Just a few steps behind it, a fully-fenced garden filled with healthy greens and flowers. The bushy kale was glistening with an early season frost. They have generously donated thousands of pounds of freshly grown produce to their neighbors!
Walking down the trail, just a bit, I found a hoop house, and evidence that this crew is not afraid of hard, manual labor. This crew means business. They have big machinery on site, and future machine operators practicing with Tonka Trucks in a play space dedicated to children.
No farm is complete without animals. Chickens clucked away in their coop area, while goats bleated and gathered closer to the fence, perhaps in hopes that I brought food. The lambs behind them lounged on the grass. They looked very content to be here.
Doing their part to enhance our planet, they have planted trees, many which will bear fruit. Honey bees have a home here, as well, and plenty of pollinator plants to feast on.
Sauntering further along the main trail and I took a short diversion circling a small pond where one can sit and meditate, contemplate or pray. A perfect place to cultivate the practice of Blue Mind: a mildly meditative state characterized by calm, peace, unity and a sense of general happiness and satisfaction with life in the moment that comes being on, in, near or under water.
The trail goes further into a 7-acre wooded space where people can also gather. A wide-open field makes me wonder what this group will come up with next.
All of this hard work has not gone unnoticed. In fact, Greg Cantori, the former owner of the lot adjacent to Backyard Basecamp, gave his lot, including a rundown house, to Atiya calling it an act of reparations. The farmhouse is being restored now and will provide some indoor space for the camp.
Atiya, and crew, have been featured on the Kelly Clarkson Show, numerous articles, news programs, and have won several awards including the first WW Wellness Impact Award.
In an era plagued with disease, strife, stress, friction, and inequity, Atiya Wells and all of the people supporting, and engaging, in Backyard Basecamp are a beaming light of hope, change and positivity. Be sure to follow them on social media: Twitter @Backyard_Base , Instagram @Backyard_Basecamp, Facebook @BackyardBasecamp. See for yourself all they do in this magical space! Their website: www.BackyardBasecamp.org .
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