Nature’s Code: Seeing The Forest Through The Trees

Thomas Backlund

Thomas Backlund left behind his Stockholm apartment and job as a software developer to move into a forest and code his startup company full-time in nature. We caught up with Thomas to find out what made him choose such a drastic lifestyle change and how mind, body and stomach have become one with nature.

Interview conducted by the Conservancy’s Andrew Benson

Conservancy Talk: Where are you right now in terms of geographic location?

Thomas Backlund: A landscape called Södermanland, south of Stockholm. On a trail called Sörmlandsleden.

Conservancy Talk: In one of the posts on your blog, you said “Well, rational and right do not always align.” Could you tell us why the right thing to do was to code from the forest?

Backlund: I had worked a lot for other companies and my stomach was telling me it was wrong to spend my time doing that, I should focus on my own startup [bringing software development to the masses]. So I needed to cut costs to get the time to do that. I also needed to get out in the forest for some time. My body craved it. All these things pointed in the same direction. Quit job, quit apartment, and move to forest and code. My stomach is really happy with me now. We are friends.

Conservancy Talk: What is your biggest challenge while working from the forest?

Backlund: The biggest problem is if there is rain for two or more days. Then I can’t use the solar panels and I run out of battery. Glare is a problem, but you learn how to handle it with different color schemes and shading. Connectivity is sometimes a problem. Sitting comfortably could have been a big problem if it wasn’t for my wonderful portable chair I use all the time.

Thomas Blacklund

Conservancy Talk: Could you describe the adjustment from living in the city with all modern conveniences all around you, to living in a tent?

Backlund: Making tea water in the wild is a project in comparison to just flipping a switch in a kitchen. You need to have good order of your stuff all the time. I kind of like that. Just a few things that I really depend on instead of a whole apartment full with stuff collecting dust.

Conservancy Talk: The Nature Conservancy has helped preserve forests all around the world. You could isolate yourself other ways, like being on the water, why the forest? And do you think “isolation” is a fair term for your endeavor?

Backlund: For me the forest is more accessible. I would not mind being in a boat for some time. I do not feel isolated; I still have Internet and those kinds of interactions. I did feel lonely at nights the first weeks but that has gone now.

Conservancy Talk: Many people comment on your blog saying you inspire them. Would you recommend others follow in your footsteps?

Backlund: I would recommend people to think about what is their own adventure. It could be the forest or anything, just as a Swedish adventurer Annelie Pompe’s grandmother says: “It’s an adventure putting on my socks in the morning.” Find the size and form of your adventure. If you do not know, it’s probably that thing you think of sometimes and almost laugh at because its so silly — “Quit my job and apartment and move out to the forest to code? Haha, like that’s gonna happen!”

Conservancy Talk: How has the forest helped you move your startup in the right direction? 

Backlund: I have peace of mind here. I can focus. And maybe the forest I’m in reflects the forest I’m in with my startup. It engages the whole body and mind to make it.

Conservancy Talk: What things do you now do that you will take back with you once you leave the forest? Or will you never leave?

Backlund: I will leave some day. But I think that being in the forest for a few days every now and then will always be a natural and very important part of my life.

Could YOU leave the city-life and live in nature? What would you miss the most? Let us know in the comments section below.

[Images courtesy of Thomas Backlund]

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  1. Eggs and bacon? No environmental conscience there. I hope he learns how to make granola.

  2. I actually spent five months in a tent in Yosemite national Park and the only thing I miss the little bit was TV. Of course back then there wasn’t e-mail or instant messaging.

    That is absolutely where I fell in love with nature. Everybody thought I was crazy, given that I had spent my years growing up in London and Brussels and was basically a big city person. I was just trying to get residency to go to school in California, and I thought working in a national park would be a cheap and good way to do it… little did I know it would change my whole life and perspective with nature and living in tempo with nature instead of crazy city life. I now live happily in the Florida Keys, and the happiest in the midst of nature.

  3. Good for you Thomas, for taking to the woods! I have always wanted to see Sweden and the backwoods sounds even more appealing with your story. I wish you much success in your business. Maine offers a very diverse landscape that may be appealing to your wild heart. I wish I could see your corner of the world and feel the joy you show in this picture! Hats off to you for living the dream!

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