Root or fruit: a meaningful approach to living

Michele Bigley
5 min readDec 26, 2022

A year after the Glass Fire torched Bothe Napa Valley State Park, I returned. Though patches of green had already reappeared; little yellow flowers poked through tangles of branches, I had to actively focus on the regrowth rather than the scarred trees. Now two years since that devastating fire, I came back. While the fire’s impact cannot be ignored — the burn scars on Douglas firs, bark stripped off madrone and oaks, some trees completely incinerated — now the green was more prominent than the scars.

Even though many claimed 2022 was a mellow wildfire year in the American West, 2022 has still burned many of us.

Covid, death, illness, transitions, rejection, loss of rights, environmental destruction, wars, and an intense White Lotus season fried our nervous systems. Not sure about you, I was still trying to decompress from the collective traumas of 2020 and 2021 when 2022 made me its bitch.

In addition to trying to figure out how to live in what’s increasingly feeling like the apocalypse, I’ve been in a deep state of reckoning with the role of travel in my life. Travel has been my identity since I was a teenager. When I needed to heal, escape, grow, I simply got on a plane and wandered toward inspiration.

As a professional travel journalist, it’s also my job.

But I have been unsure of how to (or if I can) continue foreign travel knowing all I do about the negative impact of tourism on the Earth. During the pandemic, I rekindled my affection for walking in my community. I waxed poetic about finding wonder in the nearby by planting gardens at home and spending time in nature. Yet I continued to grapple with how to find the true sense of awe brought on by being a foreigner in another land.

As I debated the extent of my personal responsibility to the planet this summer, while also complaining nonstop about not being able to get on a plane, the universe sent a metaphorical wildfire ripping through my life, a fire that grounded every flight I might have taken.

When everything’s on fire and there’s nowhere to flee, what do you do? Some animals root underground; others run. They don’t try to protect their homes or property like we might. many forest animals lead their families from harm, and when the…

Michele Bigley

Award-winning writer specializing in regenerative travel, environmental solutions and parenting. Michele’s writing a book about mothering in the Anthropocene.