Testimonial by Jenny Phan

In Vietnamese culture, there is a myth explaining the creation of the Vietnamese people. This myth claims that the first Vietnamese people were the children of a dragon lord, whose home was the sea, and a fairy goddess, whose home was in the mountains. Their love gave birth to the first 100 Vietnamese people. As the descendant of these two great forces of nature, I like to think that I always had a natural affinity for nature (despite my lack of interest in physical activities in it).


As a child growing up in California, I was fortunate enough to be near both the mountains and the sea – I was no stranger to the occasional day trip to the beach or late night bonfire or morning hike. Now, I am not the most physically inclined person out there. Despite my heritage, I am definitely not built for the outdoors. I burn easily in the sun, get bitten by mosquitoes and bugs the moment I step outdoors, and grew up in the suburbs with parents who weren’t exactly the outdoorsy type themselves. While I don’t exactly indulge in nature as much as others, I still find a sense of peace and beauty in nature. In some instances, it will feel so comfortable just being present and there.


In the city, I always feel as if there is somewhere to be or something to do or something that needs to be done. My mind is racing a mile a minute and I can get overwhelmed. In nature, I find that I am more present and everything seems more calm and controlled. I can let go of my problems and just live in the moment and enjoy the nature around me. This has been such a lifesaver for my mental health and, let’s be honest, my physical health as well. Through the labored breathing, beating sun, and dripping sweat, there are the shaded groves, the beautiful views, the camaraderie and the picture perfect memories and moments as well.


Picture perfect moments. That is one way I find myself immersing deeper into and enjoying the nature provided to me in California, specifically my home of Southern California. While I may begrudgingly agree to a hike in the scorching heat and under the beaming sun, if I can bring my camera along and I am with those I love, I will never say no. Nature has allowed me to spend more quality time with those I love and to capture the beauty of life and my life in a way that will be preserved forever. Just like the memories and feelings in my photos, nature should also be preserved in the same way. It can offer so much to those who need that escape from their busy lives and minds.