From screen to sky

09.11.2016 | Photo Ryan Koopmans

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Swedish web developer Alice Livijn Wexell finds inspiration and creative revitalisation on a journey through the stunning natural landscape of British Columbia, Canada, in a Mercedes-Benz SL 500.

We follow Swedish web developer and creator, Alice Livijn Wexell, as she road trips through the diverse natural landscape of British Columbia. The West Coast of BC is one of the brightest gems in the crown of Canada’s wilderness and although familiar with many other beautiful countries, Wexell found British Columbia to be one of the most inspiring places that she’s ever visited.

In a stunning photo series, Wexell shared with us some of her favourite destinations along the way, from Mystic Beach and Tofino on Vancouver Island, the temperate rainforests rich in ancient cedar trees and wildlife of Meares Island, to the soaring peaks of Whistler Mountain and raging canyons of Vancouver’s North Shore. Our conversation with her explores the feeling of unplugging from digital life and sheds a light on how today’s digital professionals could benefit from the occasional getaway.

What does your job as a software developer entail?

My work mostly entails writing code. A lot of the time people don’t think of a developer as a creative job, but those in the industry know that it’s all about problem solving and finding the best solutions. For me it is important to use imagination and to visualise a concept in my head in order to better understand what it is that I am creating, or to solve the problem I am working on. There are many ways to solve a problem, and you need to think in all kinds of new ways to troubleshoot and find solutions.

Do you find that escaping to nature is an essential part of a digital-based work life?

I generally enjoy technology and communication and find it to be a positive experience in my life. It’s nice when you have the opportunity to get away, but I wouldn’t necessarily choose to be disconnected just for the sake of being disconnected. I think people find it essential now because of the means in which we use technology today--holding up a screen between you and the landscape you’re trying to capture might distract you from the moment, for example. I believe that in the future technology will be built into our bodies and that the user experience will be enhanced. Therefore, we might experience a simultaneous feeling of being connected digitally and present within nature at the same time. In some ways technology is used to enhance our perception and/or the representation of nature (Instagram filters, for example) and I think it will be interesting to see how this enhancement develops in the future. There will probably be lenses that one can wear which help to deliver information, locate and identify certain animal species in a forest, for instance.

Technology just has to be used in the right way, one that does more than simply commodify and consume nature.

Alice Livijn Wexell

Would you consider being in nature the direct opposite to working on software, or did you notice any similarities?

To some people they could be seen as direct opposites and in some ways they are but I actually find a lot of similarities between the two.

Both bring me happiness, a feeling of being in the present moment and a sense of peacefulness. Their similarities are more important to me than their opposites.

Why is British Columbia the ideal place for this kind of unplugged adventure?

BC’s natural environment offers a huge diversity, and the region is considerably large so there’s always something interesting to see. Everybody is very friendly and helpful and willing to show you local spots, the food is good and the air is fresh. You can quickly go from city to nature and back, so it’s convenient and within a short amount of time you can change your surroundings drastically.

endangered Douglas fir trees from Cathedral Grove.

An ancient ecosystem of endangered Douglas fir trees glimmers in the sunlight at Cathedral Grove.

Was there anything about your digital routine you missed while travelling?

I like being able to contact people, so the inability to speak to family and friends was impossible at times, especially in areas out of mobile phone range. When you’re on an adventure and experiencing something so impressive, you want to share it with the people you love, but ultimately I think I am quite good at enjoying the situations I am placed in and I don’t really miss things when it’s only for a few weeks.

What advice would you give others in digital-based work who are craving a connection to the outside world?

Reconnecting with nature is good for finding inspiration that you can use in your work routine. Our industry often allows for the freedom to work remotely. Times are changing and people are less confined to their offices. Maximise and connect your sources. Your co-workers don’t necessarily have to be located in the same geographic location or city. Today, developing the best team isn’t dependent upon ones fixed location. People should travel, get inspired and network with peers around the world if the work allows them to do that. Travelling to understand each other’s cultures and experiences will give you knowledge that will likely reflect positively on the work you create.

Thank you for sharing this experience with us!

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