TikTok’s Latest Trend: Weird Outdoor Adventures

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TikTokers brings nature to a display near you.

Screenshots by CNET

Ben Kielesinski is in a tree. He drinks tea from a blue and white ceramic mug, watching the clouds part over the BC wilderness. Suddenly, he has a prime view: a nearby body of water, just past the treetops.

To reach his picturesque perch, he wandered through snowy woods, stopping to pat the trunk of one tree and comment on the shape of another, while speaking to an audience on TikTok as if following him on his adventure. .

In a sense, they are. The video, originally posted in January, has racked up more than 14 million views. Kielesinski has been making TikToks like this since August 2020. It usually starts by asking the viewer, “Do you want to go on an adventure with me?” And then give the answer: “Too bad, you’re coming. Eventually, he ends up in a place of painful beauty, inside an otherworldly ice cave or swimming with vibrant purple starfish.

@benkielesinski

Life is weird, sometimes you have to climb a tree to get a better view. # treetok # vancouver

Pieces (Piano Solo Version) – Danilo Stankovic

“I wanted… to show people what I’ve been through,” the 28-year-old Vancouver resident tells me on Zoom, “and not necessarily in a“ anyone can do this ”way but“ I know the others can’t, so at least let me be your virtual chaperone. ‘”

Technology and nature may seem at odds – the willingness to always be connected versus being present in nature – but Kielesinski is one of many TikTokers to show that it doesn’t have to be. While watching a hike doesn’t replace a hike, it can be a moment of peace, a window to a different world, an educational tool, and even a gateway to the proverbial great outdoors.

There is certainly an appetite for being in nature. In 2019, national parks in the United States recorded more than 327 million visits. Fifty-three percent of Americans aged six and older have participated in an outdoor activity at least once in 2020, according to a trends report from the Outdoor Industry Association. However, not everyone has easy access to the outdoors. The Brookings Institute found that among those in America’s 100 largest cities, a third lived more than a 10-minute walk from a park.

During the pandemic, depending on where you live, you may have been subject to a stay-at-home order, or local parks may have been closed.

Keith Paluso, who goes by Ranger Keith on TikTok, is a park ranger in the Memphis area. He also happens to be the current lead singer of Blood, Sweat and Tears, a 1967 rock band known for songs like Spinning Wheel. After an interrupted tour due to the pandemic, he decided to test the waters on his TikTok account and talk about another of his big passions outside of music: bird watching.

“I instantly got more feedback about it than I ever did while playing music,” he says. One of the first videos he posted, where he reported different bird calls, was viewed 10,000 times the night he posted it, a significant jump from his usual several hundred.

@thisisrangerkeith

everyone sleeps late after the rain

original sound – keithpaluso

Paluso publishes Birding Breaks, among other types of videos. In a hushed voice, he’ll say something like, “I thought you could probably take a minute to just be around.” We’re going to let the world be what it is.

Above the sound of the wind and insects, you can hear the chirping of birds, and Paluso will tell you what you’re listening to, whether it’s an Acadian flycatcher or a yellow-billed cuckoo clock. For Paluso, birding is a mindfulness practice that he can share with others.

“The world is an amazing place if you can stop thinking about what’s coming next,” he says.

Mushrooms, sharks and poison ivy

Communicating with nature doesn’t have to be about birdsong and filling your ears. It can also be about filling your stomach.

Alexis Nikole Nelson makes videos about all the edible plants, nuts, roots and fungi she finds, often just in her neighborhood. She can turn acorns into vegan bacon or maitake mushrooms into steak and soups.

@alexisnikole

GLAND BACON 🥓 🐿 ## foraging ## acornbacon

original sound – Alexis Nikole

She also uses her videos to talk about how foraging was part of Black and Native life, and to reconnect with the practice.

Nelson told NPR in September: “If you can’t hunt and feed on public property, and you don’t have private property in your name yet, boom, this is a part of your life that you no longer participate. And it doesn’t take many generations for this knowledge to completely collapse. “

Education is also important for other nature-based TikTokers. Kayleigh Grant, 34, founded Kaimana Ocean Safari with her husband in Kona, Hawaii. She posts videos not only of her shark dives and encounters with various sea creatures, but also on topics such as reef-safe litter and sunscreen, and she hopes to provide some knowledge of the reef. ocean and its inhabitants, even to those who can reach it. Hawaii only through their screens.

“If you don’t feel connected to something, you might not be focusing on it in your day-to-day life,” she says. “I hope that my audience is mainly made up of the younger generations, because I know that it is their future that is at stake. The younger generations can instill this sense of concern for the ocean, and they will be the future lawmakers, scientists. , environmentalists, environmentalists who will help protect the planet. “

Angie Hong, 42, coordinates a partnership with the local government on water education in the Twin Cities area of ​​Minnesota. Normally she does public awareness, including educational programs, but the pandemic put an end to that. Instead, she turned to TikTok to document some of her activities, like hiking, paddleboarding, and running in the woods. During the first year, his account didn’t attract much attention. But a video she made on a project 10 years earlier that had revitalized a neighborhood with sidewalks, rain gardens and trees, took off. It has over 90,000 views.

@mnnature_awesomeness

Inspired by @bryanalbrandt infomercials with a cameo appearance of My Neighbor’s Barking Dogs ## leaves ## hellofall

original sound – Angie Hong

Hong made videos on how to use a compass, eat a puffball mushroom (she found hers in her neighborhood), and recognize poison ivy, to name a few. While she hopes her videos get people going out and snooping around, she also hopes viewers give her tips on how to respect and care for their surroundings.

“At the end of the day, the end goal is for people to do the right things to protect the environment,” she says.

Nature nearby

A common thread with the TikTokers I spoke to is the idea that getting out into the wilderness doesn’t have to be a monumental excursion.

“You might be used to thinking that amazing beautiful things only exist in the places David Attenborough talks about,” says Paluso. But this is not the case.

Back in Vancouver, Kielesinski says most places he goes for videos are around 20 minutes away. Plus, he says it’s not just about reaching a specific destination, like the top of a mountain.

“I’m more excited to enjoy the trip, as cliché as it sounds,” he said, “I want to show that you can just enjoy every step of the way.… The whole point of the nature video is be in nature. ”


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