Working close to nature

A lot of people choose to work away from a fast-paced city life, of concrete facades, technical labyrinths and such. They work close to nature, near forests, near oceans, also in wildlife reserves and other natural habitats. Three such avant-garde individuals briefly share their reasons, for choosing a life away from the city and their experiences in such locations.


Paul Keleher, an avid mountaineer, has been climbing mountains since early 2011. He always wanted to climb the Mount Everest. “I set myself a challenge, to plan and prepare for an attempt on this iconic mountain in a year. This dream became a reality when I summited Mt Everest on 25th May, 2012. Since then I have been captured by this sport, and it has become an obsession!”

Describing a day in the mountains, he says, “You cannot generalize a day in the mountains. Some days you are on the hill for two-three hours and at other times, four-six days. We eat, drink and sleep, but there’s no set routine for these.”

What keeps Paul so close to the mountains?

In the beauty of the ever-changing scenery, no day is ever the same. You feel free in this magical world.

Comparing working near the mountains to the city, he says, “In the mountains, your target is to summit and get down safely; there are no deadlines to meet. If you don’t succeed, it’s not a failure, the mountains are always there. You’re not judged and you’re not judging others. You’re not hassled, only you know how far you want to push for success.”

Paul would never change mountaineering for anything, “I feel at home in the mountains.”

Telling us about the risks involved, he says, “There are risks, like in any job or walk of life. We just manage them and take precautions. And you never switch off to any dangers in the mountains.”

On qualities needed to work close to the mountains, he says, “You need to be able to cope with loneliness, suffering and you need to be patient and understanding, as the mountain will not always behave how you might wish, e.g. weather conditions. You also need to put up with extremes.”

Wildlife and Conservation Filmmaker

Shekar Dattatri has been a professional wildlife and conservation filmmaker for nearly 30 years. He says, “It all began with watching small creatures in my neighborhood as a child, reading about nature, experiencing it first hand and working at the Madras Snake Park.”

On his reasons for choosing this profession, he says, “I’ve been fascinated with nature since I was ten years old and wanted to become a wildlife biologist when I grew up. However, in 1983 I discovered the field of filmmaking when I worked on a documentary on snakebite with a couple of American documentary filmmakers.”

Shekar describes his general day at work, “When I’m filming, I’m out in the wild from the crack of dawn to sunset. When I’m not filming, I’m usually editing my films in my studio, giving talks or writing or editing articles for the web portal”

One aspect which keeps him close to nature is, “The thought that, in some small way, I’m helping to make a positive difference by bringing reliable information and insights about wildlife and conservation, packaged in an attractive and stimulating manner, to the attention of the general public and decision makers.”

Comparing his work to work in the city, he says, “There is no comparison. First of all, what I do doesn’t feel like work. Secondly, you just have to take a lungful of fresh air in a forest to know that being close to nature isn’t like anything else.”

He clarifies risks involved, “There’s a normal amount of risk in everything we do and wildlife and conservation filmmaking is no exception.”

Sharing qualities required for this field, he says, “It is possible to carve a niche for yourself in this field professionally if you are willing to work hard over a long period of time without big financial expectations.”

Marine Biologist

Samantha Craven, a marine biologist, loves ocean life. She shares her story, which began on a marine biology field trip with her school, at the age of 11, “We went snorkeling and were taught about coral reefs in the water; we visited a mangrove forest and learnt about it. It was a rich experience, and the whole class came back from the trip pledging to be marine biologists. I never strayed from that goal.”

What keeps her close to the ocean?

I firmly believe that if you are passionate about your work, you will excel.

“I get excited by sharks, nudibranchs and beautiful corals.”

Her day at work is varied, as she works for a marine conservation internship company called Zoox.

Marine life draws her in, “I find marine life magical. I have learnt how these species and ecosystems benefit us, and I feel an obligation to protect them. That is my biggest inspiration.”

Samantha subtly differentiates between her work and city-work, “I don’t mind city living, but when I’m in the field, I feel much more connected to the world. I enjoy the stars and I can clear my head by going for a snorkel or a dive.”

Explaining risks in her nature of work, she says, “The risks to marine biologists vary depending on what they are studying! Fieldwork inherently has risks, like slipping on a rock or getting stung by a stonefish etc.”

For her, qualities needed for ocean-life work are many, “If you really want to work closely with nature, appreciate the lifestyle that goes along with it, but being a marine biologist doesn’t mean you have to be a beach bum living in a wooden shack! You need to be flexible. You need to be prepared if it rains on your experiment, or if you don’t find any fish on a fish survey!”

Interspersed with the above-mentioned careers are a few other aspects of their professional lives, which are also associated with nature and can be explored further. For those who wish to stay close to nature and work alongside; these three incredible journeys could serve as apt green signals and inspirations to follow and to finally work where their heart is.

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Picture Credit: Paul Keleher (Mount Everest)

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