Jasper Bertels – Abruzzo, Italy

“When darkness fell, the forest came alive. My senses were on high alert. A shiver went through my body as the howling of wolves echoed through the valley. I relied on my hearing, intuition, and the tips from our Italian guide.”

Jasper Bertels is a financial specialist at Commonland. This foundation is dedicated to making landscapes healthy and prosperous by promoting large-scale natural restoration worldwide. Within Commonland, Jasper is responsible for attracting public and private funding for landscape restoration.

Jasper is married and has two sons. He has earned his stripes in the financial sector. But after a trip around the world with his family, he decided to change course.

“As a little boy, I already had a fondness for nature and I especially liked to be by the sea.”

“I can often be found there, in nature. And, I noticed that immersing myself in that nature brought me closer to myself and I was therefore able to connect more naturally with the people around me,” says Jasper.

“Being alone in nature clarifies what is truly important to me. And, what is valuable to me became even clearer during that trip around the world with my family.

When I got home, I made the switch; from a bank to Commonland.”

Through a former colleague, I was inspired by wilderness trails from the Foundation for Natural Leadership. In short, the FNL.

One of the people who founded Commonland is also one of the initiators of the FNL. The ‘basis’ of the FNL, the Theory U of Otto Scharmer, is also the method that Commonland uses to align local parties for landscape restoration.

For me, personal leadership is closely intertwined with knowing yourself. The ‘journey inward’ is important in this regard. My belief is that you can only effectively lead others if you know yourself and truly be yourself.

I also think that nature experiences like wilderness trails can create a ‘mindshift’ in people, where they start to act more from their personal values.

This can ensure that leaders within politics, government, and business start to accelerate a shift towards a new balance in society with sustainable ways of producing and consuming.

The initiators of FNL are visionaries. They saw that the challenges of our time require a new type of leadership: natural and authentic leadership. This is now more necessary than ever.

The current system is stuck, worldwide. The Netherlands has come to a complete standstill with all the crises: climate and biodiversity, resources and energy, agriculture and food production, etc. A profound system change is needed, a new ‘narrative’, because the old one no longer works. And a new type of leadership is needed to shape this transition.

People are currently not being properly prepared for the current challenges in our current school system, universities, and business schools. They are being prepared for an outdated system. I think teaching people to know themselves and to be an authentic, natural leader is one of the crucial elements missing in current education.

At the end of October 2021, I went on a trail with the FNL to Abruzzo, Italy. I chose Abruzzo because of the beautiful nature and the presence of brown bears and wolves in the area.

I went on a journey to experience a deeper connection with nature, my surroundings, and myself. I felt that, in order to connect even better with myself and the people around me, in order to act even more from calm, trust, and intuition, I had to get even closer to myself. Spending time in the wilderness would surely help me, I thought.

If you spend enough time in nature, you naturally slow down and let go of control. You are more in the present, your senses are activated, you are more open and you come into contact with your subconscious. Many things that you subconsciously know then suddenly become clear. In nature, letting go and opening up comes automatically, which suddenly allows you to see the future that wants to unfold.

When we got out of the van, in Pescasseroli, I saw the mountains in the distance. The weather was beautiful and the view with the autumn colors of the forest was magical: Indian Summer! Two hours later, I was walking through the vast forests with the group, uphill, on our way to our camp for the night. In a gray flash, a pack of wolves shot past in the forest as we climbed the mountainside. This was a different ball game, wilderness, people were not in charge here. I completely trusted the guide and my fellow trail companions those days. I got more and more out of my head and into my body and relied more and more on my senses. I knew it would work out. ‘Let go’ and ‘let come’. That week I experienced the power of this.

I still remember very well that during the trail I spent 24 hours alone in the wilderness. I built my own hut from a tarp, branches, and stones. I listened to the howling of the wolves. This was a real highlight for me and an experience that will always stay with me.

If you ask me now what that week with the FNL has brought me above all, it is the confidence to trust my intuition. Even in stressful situations a year after the trail, I can easily go back to the peak experience in my self-made tent in the mountains. I can then re-experience this and trust my intuition again. This gives a lot of confidence and peace.

Something else I take away from the trail is that I felt the power of spending time alone in nature. This has led to me regularly incorporating small nature experiences into my life; like sleeping outdoors, swimming in open water, and surfing in the sea. In addition, I feel that it is good for me to occasionally have longer nature experiences as well, such as walking a trail.

In short, I wish everyone this experience. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

“If you ask me now what that week with the FNL has brought me above all, it is the confidence to trust my intuition.”

Jasper about the Wilderness Trail in Abruzzo, Italy
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