Interview by Gale Straub
As much as the conversation around where and how we experience nature is shifting thanks to changemakers like Kwesia, creator of City Girl in Nature, there’s still a pervasive idea that certain places and experiences “count” in the outdoors, where others don’t.
Back in 2017, I had a lovely conversation for the She Explores podcast with a plantlover and park enthusiast named Simone Martin-Newberry. While she enjoyed traveling to the beautiful National Parks that the United States boasts, she made a point to find nature in the “in-between” spaces: marveling at the flowering trees that line Chicago’s streets, the lush parks available to lounge away an afternoon in New Orleans, the grass pushing up through the cracks in the sidewalk. While I didn’t grow up in a city, Simone’s penchant for appreciating these glimmers of green resonated deeply with me. Rather than nature and the city having a “either/or” relationship, she showed that they can be a “both/and.”
Kwesia, creator of City Girl in Nature – a video series and production company, is someone who is living out this kind of relationship with nature and showing others that they can do it too. Her video series explores her contemporaries’ relationships with the outdoors, takes us urban foraging and wildflower ID’ing, and shares Kwesia’s passion and knowledge for nature wherever it can be found.
Kwesia grew up in Deptford, an inner-city area of South-East London. She shared with me that along with many of her friends, neighbors, and peers, she experienced a great deal of the challenges that came with living in an area, and with people, that have often been neglected, excluded, and marginalized. Struggling to make sense of the senseless violence and trauma she’d faced, she found herself homeless, moving from sofa to sofa, and having a hard time with her mental health and wellbeing.
It was then that she received an opportunity to be a part of the British Exploring Society’s expedition to the Peruvian Amazon Rainforest. This life-changing experience was a catalyst for Kwesia to want to share the joy she’s found in the outdoors with her community. Enter City Girl in Nature.
About the City Girl in Nature Online Video Series
Kwesia’s passion stems back a couple of years ago after a 3 week trip to the Peruvian Amazon hosted by the British Explorers Society where a spark started to grow. Since then Kwesia has taken part in various activities, all done through sharing her experiences whilst being an example for young people from her community. Never one to shy away from a challenge, in the last year Kwesia started her own YouTube channel where the idea for the name ‘City Girl in Nature’ came about. A discussion with a friend/filmmaker led to the idea of Kwesia starting her own film production company, that’s where ‘City Girl in Nature’ the online series was born. You can view this series @citygirlinnature.
Kwesia’s making a difference in the United Kingdom that’s having ripple effects. In this spotlight, Kwesia talks about the origin stories behind City Girl in Nature, collaborating with a team that helps her shine, the books on her nightstand that inspire her, and more.
An opportunity to be part of a British Exploring Society’s expedition to the Peruvian Amazon Rain-forest. I spent 3 weeks in a remote part of the jungle, with no phone or contact with the outside world, with a group of people that I barely knew.
This, in many ways, was a life-changing experience for me. I experienced the beauty of nature, where there was no judgement, just life teaming up with energy and opportunity.
This led to the start of City Girl in Nature, as a way to give back to my community. To share my love and passion for the outdoors, and the belief that everybody should have the chance to be healed, to be nourished, and to live with abundance.
The core reason is it’s difficult to connect with young people without showing them how fun and relatable something is.
As Nature is sight, sound, smell, taste & touch. Nature is visual, you see colours and wildlife. Nature is audio, the sounds of trees and birds. Nature has smells, things like lavender. Nature creates taste, through food we consume, from herbs to vegetables. You feel nature every day, through breathing.
How I hope the information-sharing I do will impact others is to enable people to try to have the experience I’ve had, so they can see the benefits of being outdoors. I feel that most people from my background don’t necessarily see how they fit in with nature. Nature is for everyone and it’s within and all around us. Being on this quest is my pleasure as I seek to change the narrative.
To help me prepare, I have a small team that helps, I have the lived experience and they have experience with media.
Research about the people I’m interviewing is important, it builds more context around questions I ask them. Which allows them to share their own experiences.
I feel it is important to capture real and raw footage as it’s relatable. I think of the interview’s more of a chat rather than something formal.
The advice I’d give to someone who is starting their outdoor journey is to not be afraid of coming out of your comfort zone as many gems can be found there.
Find a friend or person you trust to help you feel motivated and safe whilst being outdoors. If you’re more an independent person I’d say try to find some books and guides that can offer support with whatever tickles your fancy within the outdoors whether that’s foraging, bushcraft, camping, climbing, or just simply going on short walks and being mindful.
You can even go online and watch some videos on different outdoor topics to feel inspired.
There’s many ways to explore the outdoors so give it a try!
I’d say there are three core things I’ve learned about myself since starting City Girl in Nature.
The first being I found out that my love for nature is real. Having an experience as big as the Peruvian Amazon is inevitable that you’ll be in awe, but returning back home and engaging with Nature here allowed me to understand this connection is deep.
I found out my weaknesses about myself, as just starting off my own intuition, I was faced with challenges. I had to come to an understanding that even if people don’t believe in you, you just have to carry on doing what you believe in. Having a core focus is very important and sticking to the focus is imperative.
I found out my strengths about myself, doing things as a solo person can be difficult, but I took from my Amazon experience that going there by myself to be with strangers is something that I could transfer into my day-to-day life.
Yes I love books! On my current reading list I have ‘Adventure Revolution’ By Belinda Kirk which I actually feature in under my previous name ‘Amina Smith-Gul’, ‘The Hidden Life of Trees – The Illustrated Edition’ By Peter Wohleben, ‘Street Food – Urban foraging and world food’ By Ceridwen Buckmaster and ‘Britain’s Orchids’ By Sean Cole and Mike Waller.
Each book is different; ‘Adventure Revolution’ gives an insight into how Adventure impacts our lives, ‘The Hidden Life of Trees’ explores the science behind trees aka the ‘Wood, Wide, Web’, ‘Street Food – Urban foraging and world food’ is a book that provides recipes that you can make in correlation to the month and what can be foraged at that time, and ‘Britain’s Orchids’ is a field guide to the orchids of Great Britain and Ireland which helps with ID of Orchids.
Looking for more nature reads? Check out our diverse nature reading list ->
I’m truly humbled and grateful for all the support I’ve been receiving and would like to give thanks for this.
I’m especially thankful to Mysterex and Peeks Bookee who are my amazing team. Most importantly, I give thanks to the Most High.
Learn more about Kwesia and City Girl in Nature at CityGirlinNature.com and follow along on Instagram at @CityGirlinNature and Twitter @CityGirlNature. And of course, make sure you subscribe to the City Girl in Nature YouTube channel!
Gale’s the host and creator of She Explores. If she’s not editing, reading, listening to podcasts or hiking, she’s probably making homemade ice cream or playing cribbage with her partner.
Note: This interview contains Amazon Affiliate links, which help support She Explores.