There’s nothing quite like getting out in the wild. Certainly, there’s something liberating about the snow or leaves or sticks crunching under your feet, something purifying in the seasonal scents; the wood smoke, the fresh flowers. Out there, surrounded by trees, or cresting a hill, or walking from your backyard down that lonely country road, everything is fresh, calm, relaxing. It's the perfect emotional recharge!
This pleasure, alas, is not readily available to all of us. For those living in the city, the lonely vistas and deep woods can seem like a distant dream. We get caught in the bustle of the day, find ourselves in bars or at home on the weekends, convinced once more that we owe ourselves a vacation from the rest of humanity. For some reason, many of us keep putting off that much-owed outdoor retreat.
Of course, when you finally make it out — out of the city, out of doors, outside — you realize everything you’ve been missing.
For those of you who haven’t given yourself this chance, or who come up with excuses to avoid or postpone your outings, you don’t know what you’re missing!
1. Mental Reset
Getting outside for an extended period will blow your mind. Or, rather, it will calm you down and let you mentally reset in a way you can't at home.
For once you've allowed yourself to escape all the small responsibilities of keeping up the house: when you’re outdoors — particularly when you’re camping or staying in a cabin — the requirements are less. There’s no laundry to run, no dishwasher to load and unload, no groceries to pick up — assuming you’ve already packed them.
In other words, your life becomes simpler. Go on a long hike, and your responsibilities shrink to you putting one foot in front of the other and enjoying the beautiful views. In the place of all the things you normally worry about there is… nothing. At first, you'll feel strange and actively seek out things to worry about: do we have enough food and water? Are the boots waterproof? Did we bring sunblock? With time, this will give way to a simple sort of contentment.
Nature has the mysterious power to recharge your mind. The whole process starts with you forgetting the things that are worrying you at home.
2. Going Within
Without all the external junk clogging your mind, you’ll find yourself turning inwards. This doesn’t imply that every trip in the countryside will cause life-affirming revelations. But anybody can attest that taking some time to yourself, or simply away from the everyday routines, can help you remember what you want from life. Even a hiking day trip with your family will help you keep perspective and build those relationships that are important to you.
Again, there’s a sort of void that forms when you finally escape the normal stresses of your life, and in its place, you start to think about yourself and those directly around you. Instead of the random bursts of existential crisis you experience as the shut-in, you have the wonderful opportunity to calmly reflect on the best parts of your life in a relaxing and simplistic locale. The whole things can feel downright therapeutic.
It’s important not to miss the forest for the trees. When you’re out in nature, it’s usually a great time. You can go swimming, rock climbing, snowshoeing, ziplining or any other number of activities, all of which energize you and make you look forward to your next trip before the present one is done. After your initial outing, a few days might not be enough for you and your family. Don’t worry: plenty of places have you covered for extended stay.
Make sure you leave time for fun through all your ruminating. This usually isn't an issue: you can have tons of fun outdoors without much planning at all. Indeed, this can further reinforce your go-with-the-flow mental state. If you book a trip without anything in mind, take an adventure your first day or two and find a couple of local attractions or activities.
4. On Return
You might be dragging your feet on the way back to civilization, but you’re sure to notice the difference the first day you’re back. Others will too, asking why you look so calm and relaxed while everyone else — most of whom never really get out and allow their stress to build up week after week — seems drained and frustrated. Go ahead and spill your secret: they’ll thank you for it.
Take a Moment Right Now & Be With Nature…
- Be Present & Still With Nature
- Stressed Out? 7 Steps to Take Control
- Signs of Burnout & 3 Steps to Getting Back on Track
Emily is a sustainability blogger, and an avid traveler and outdoor adventurer.
You can read more of her work on her blog, Conservation Folks, or follow her on Twitter.