The Scoop: Quiet Parks International (QPI) is on a mission to quietly take over the world. The nonprofit preserves quiet environments in urban and outdoor spaces, thereby pushing back against the noise that characterizes modern living. QPI highlights serene natural destinations, which also happen to make great intimate date spots. A couple can browse QPI’s listings to find urban and natural locations that have been certified as quiet.
Many couples enjoy going to the great outdoors to create special memories on a date. It’s a chance to reconnect with nature while connecting with each other.
But sometimes an outdoor destination is less than serene. National parks can be crowded with loud tourists and heavy traffic. The sounds of footsteps, voices, and vehicles can soon become a steady drone. It can be difficult to have a romantic chat when talking over a horde of people and cars.
Quiet Parks International (QPI) has set out to promote stillness and peace in a bustling world. The nonprofit recognizes the importance of keeping noise from overtaking public spaces. Its dedicated team takes inspiration from a statement made by Robert Koch, a bacteriologist, in 1905: “The day will come when man will have to fight noise as inexorably as cholera and the plague.”
Noise pollution can harm people’s enjoyment of wild places as well as the health of the ecosystem.
Singles and couples can use QPI’s website to peruse both wilderness and urban parks that have met stringent quiet standards. QPI recognized the Zabalo River in Ecuador’s Amazon rainforest with an award designating it as the group’s first Quiet Park.
“Natural quiet has become an endangered species without people knowing it. Science has made it abundantly clear that noise pollution is not just an annoyance, it causes health loss and dramatically impacts wildlife’s ability to survive. By awarding the Zabalo River as the world’s first Quiet Park we are paving the way for many more Quiet Parks around the globe,” said Gordon Hempton, QPI’s co-founder.
In addition to parks, QPI certifies quiet trails, marine parks, residences and communities, and even quiet hotels and resorts. The team has ambitiously set out to measure quiet levels at destinations all over the world. Not even a pandemic can puncture their quiet resolve.
“We are getting ready to certify sites all over the world. We’re three years old, and half of that time has been in the pandemic,” said Matt Mikkelsen, Executive Director of the Wilderness Quiet Parks Program.
The Importance of Quiet in Daily Life
QPI has set high standards for quiet. A location must be utterly still and devoid of noise from highways or aviation to be certified as quiet. Quiet — as defined by QPI — is a scarce commodity in the United States. About 97% of the population is subjected to man-made noise, and 90% of children will never experience quiet in their lifetimes.
People today are assailed with noise, often without realizing it. What’s the matter with noise? Studies show it’s bad for human health.
“Noise pollution causes cardiovascular disease, hypertension, sleep disturbance, annoyance, cognitive impairment, hearing impairment and tinnitus, and reduces quality of life, well-being and mental health,” QPI experts explain.
In contrast, quiet improves happiness, concentration, and reasoning. It bolsters behavior that is positive, helpful, and intended to promote social acceptance and friendship. Quied can also create a sense of appreciation and contentment.
Clinical health psychologist Amy Sullivan explains that silence can improve relationships by promoting self-reflection and empathy.
“Learning to sit in stillness and self-reflect is one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves and our kids. When we look internally and delve deeper into our value system and wants and needs, we can communicate at a deeper level. We have to foster that ability,” she said.
Silence also improves mindfulness, or a person’s ability to live in the moment.
Matt told us that experiencing quiet on the outside can effectively quiet people on the inside. Their thoughts slow down, and their stress melts away. They become less agitated and anxious. Couples may find themselves settling into that feeling of oneness and creating a strong bond in comfortable silence.
Many people don’t recognize the value of quiet until they travel to a quiet place and experience it with someone else.
“Being able to communicate clearly and listen more than you talk happens more easily in a quiet place. Quiet makes me feel better about my life and relationships,” Matt told us.
Seeking Out Quiet Experiences Around the World
QPI was built on the principles of acoustic ecologist Gordon Hemdon. His goal is to find and preserve places that are free from noise pollution. That way, quiet seekers always know where to go to get away from it all.
A place can be designated a quiet park in a few ways. First, the QPI team studies air traffic patterns to determine if planes flying overhead cause undue noise. Next, they study roadmapping and noise mapping information from federal agencies, most notably the National Park Service.
It is easier for wilderness sites to be designated Quiet Parks, but some urban parks can also be certified quiet if they meet the necessary requirements.
“We have people who live in these cities go to different parks to do some listening. Do they have quiet experiences? When they find a place that feels quiet, we ask them for the decibels and noise pollution, but most importantly, we want to know, is this place enjoyable to spend time in?” Matt said.
The first QPI-designated urban quiet park was Yangmingshan National Park in Taipei. Its certification was awarded in June 2020. QPI is currently at work designating quiet urban parks in Seattle, London, and Stockholm. The team is scouting wilderness parks in Minnesota, Washington, Colorado, Montana, and Arizona as well.
“To be able to access quiet, we want to identify places that are exceptionally quiet or free from noise pollution. The idea is we should be able to find quiet when we want it,” Matt told us.
Many singles and couples refer to the QPI website when planning a vacation or date activity. The site is particularly popular in Scandinavian countries, Taiwan, and the United States.
Certifying Quiet Parks and Places Around the World
Matt and the QPI team have big plans for the nonprofit after the coronavirus pandemic. Lovers of quiet have been nominating parks all over the world, and Matt will travel to the most promising parks to certify them. In October 2021, he will travel to five candidate wilderness parks with the goal of making up for time lost in the pandemic.
“We try to keep up on social media, so people can follow along and stay tuned,” he said.
QPI will also be promoting its free and paid series of Quiet Experiences, which offer an exploration in stillness. These in-person and virtual events can make for a memorable date activity or a peaceful moment of self-care.
For instance, a couple can choose the Songs of Sand and Surf experience, which involves virtual nature bathing broadcast live from the Great Barrier Island, New Zealand. Participants are encouraged to sit in silence and experience this quiet place in real time through their screens.
“We are working on getting more in-person events happening, but virtual events are accessible to people. People’s mental health has been suffering, so the better able we are to bring people to quiet places that improve their meditative states,” Matt said.
QPI is currently partnering with travel agencies that intentionally house and nurture quietness. In the coming year, the team will start certifying quiet indoor places, including hotels, bed and breakfasts, and resorts, that offer a silent safe haven. Already, QPI has noticed several quiet hotels in Italy.
“We essentially send a member of our team to stay at a hotel or inn to certify it as a quiet place. We should be able to post those experiences to our website soon,” Matt told us.
As singles and couples around the world lose access to true quiet, the QPI team aims to preserve as many contemplative indoor and outdoor spaces as possible.
“I have the pleasure of bringing people to quiet places.The reaction is always amazing. Breathe and be who you are. Bringing that experience to others drives all of our work,” said Matt.