One of the greatest gifts I received from my parents was the opportunity to travel the world from an early age. This travel allowed me to develop a talent for interpretation. I used my senses to decode what I was hearing and seeing from all over the world in order to make sense of my own world growing up. Every time I explored a new place, I just had to know more, so I was too an avid reader and lover of science.
My home growing up was adjacent to a creek and forest. My brothers and I shared a collective experience looking back. We splashed around in the same creek and encountered the same crustaceans, fish and plants as we “creek stomped.” We could each tell you what moss covered bark smelled like. We also knew how to describe the thickness (or thinness) of the ice based on the texture, sound and how the water beneath behaved when we placed pressure (carefully and sometimes not-so-carefully) upon the ice. We could each tell you what it felt like to suddenly find ourselves waste deep in icy water, only to change our wet clothing to go back out into the forest again. Each type of tree had a particular texture and smell. Even the leaves had a different smell for each stage of decomposition. We knew what was under each log before looking, based on how long it had been there and how moist the ground under it was. We played on the ruins of tree houses and forts, built by children years ago and could identify each change per season and if the ruins had been even slightly disturbed throughout the seasons.
I think each of us had a sinking feeling of disappointment each time we returned to our beloved woods, only to find housing starts pushing the deer and children out. We made our woods our own sort of protected monument. It was very small. Google Earth makes what seemed a huge wilderness area into a small space between the houses in a cluster of now disjointed stands of trees. The most important gift of the woods was the gift of self-guided discovery. It was diet nature. We could take things from the forest with us without facing hefty fines. We could determine tensile strength of branches and carve our own walking sticks. We could explore with a suburban safety net surrounding us in all directions. This was just the start.
International Travel opened my eyes to both the similarities and differences humans faced in a diversity of environments. Some cultures were more isolated than others and some were indistinguishable from my own until a word was spoken or a sign was read. I even fell in love, only to have my heart broken several times without knowing a single word of the native tongue.
As a youth, I had the opportunity to “choose my own adventure” when it came to Summer planning. I had been to Space Camp twice, a few Scout camps here and there, Orchestra Camps and my very favorite; Survival Camp.
In the Summer of 1991, I attended Skinner Brothers Survival Camp when I was a boy of 14 years old. It was the same camp my oldest brother attended. It was one of the most transformative experiences of my life. These were the days before social media and handheld electronics. All that survives are images of the letters shared between my family and I. I recycled the original letters to reduce my footprint and kept the electronic copies on file. The camp was outside of Pinedale, Wyoming in the rugged Wind River Mountain Range. The combination of skills I learned from the original “Cowboys on Everest” and my own exploration as a young boy planted the seed and made nature an inseparable part of who I am today.
It wasn’t until I had the opportunity to work at Tanque Verde Ranch that I realized that I did not have to separate my passion for the natural world and work. Instead, I found both not only can be combined, but should be everywhere we go. Even the smallest patches of green in the Urban Jungle is part of our legacy as hoteliers. What used to be exclusively aesthetic has now become a demand of our customers. Vertical Gardens race up concrete walls and living roofs offer a view of the world once inaccessible to inner city youth. The disjointed stands of trees that was once our vast wilderness in Carmel that once disappointed me is now uplifting to me. I have learned that while we protect our national monuments, parks and green spaces, we can continue to plant the seeds of nature just about anywhere. And we should. Because all children need to know how fun it is to pull apart a rotten log with your bare hands or climb a tree for the only reason being that it is there. It is in our DNA.
Below is a list of articles showcasing the wonderful balance of luxury lodging and nature. I am proud to be a steward of our natural spaces and humble hotelier.