Why I love the outdoors
First Memory in the Outdoors
Not long ago, my brothers and my dad and I were sitting around reminiscing. Our family has always enjoyed outdoor adventures and has spent a fair amount of time camping and hiking and canoeing. During that stroll down memory lane, my dad recalled a father’s and son’s campout we attended with a group from church. According to him, I was about three and we camped at Franklin Canyon, set back in the Santa Monica mountains beyond Beverly Hills. I don’t remember much, but I do remember that I enjoyed following my older brothers as we went exploring. I also liked sleeping under the stars hearing the wind in the trees.
When I was five, my parents bought a motorhome and continued the tradition of spending time in the “wilderness” whenever possible. This was my dad’s way of making it easy for my mom to agree to go camping with him and for the whole family to get involved. We spent time camping near beaches from Carlsbad to Pismo and in the mountains from Soledad to Idyllwild to Anza Borrego. We camped in the deserts and the foothills; in oak groves and pine forests; near lakes and alongside rivers, streams, and brooks. In each place, my older brothers and my younger sister would find things to catch: lizards, frogs, tadpoles, salamanders, butterflies, and ladybugs. Some of my fondest memories stem from those overnight trips where we got to explore and climb and enjoy new places. Most of those excursions included bike rides where we explored far and wide.
My favorite trips had to be the semi-regular stays in Yosemite with family friends. Talk about awesome! Swimming in the Merced River, hiking to Glacier Point, Nevada Falls, Yosemite Falls, and riding our bikes to the base of El Capitan. As a kid of seven or ten or whatever I was at the time, I remember how awe-inspiring those places were. Those memories still bring a sense of wonder and peace and happiness.
We often slept under the stars on those Yosemite campouts. My dad loves to tell of the time a bear came and licked my face as I slept in my sleeping bag next to him and my brothers. He says I swatted the bear on the nose as it sniffed around my ears. I was asleep at the time, so I don’t remember a thing, but I guess I’m lucky to be alive.
Before I became a Boy Scout at age 12 and started camping in earnest on Scout trips, I had collected somewhere near 100 nights of camping, if you’re generous enough to count motorhome camping. By graduation from high school, I had accumulated another 80 nights.
Starting out young probably helped fuel my love of the outdoors, but there’s more to it now that I’m older.
Our modern world with all its technology, comfort, and luxury has sure left a growing number of people feeling tied down, cooped up, and unfulfilled. While we are blessed with conveniences and access to information like never before, why do so many people, myself included, long to be away from it all?
Maybe it’s because these technological wonders and time-saving devices have actually increased the expectations, and therefore, the burdens put on each of us. Our bosses, our customers, and others we do business with demand more of us thanks to the gadgetry we possess. Our skills are ever-developing, ever improving. And while that happens, so do the mandates to perform at an ever-higher level.
Sometimes all that pressure builds to a point where we need a release. Advertisements abound for ways to relieve the stresses we all feel. Maybe it’s a premium vacation in a luxury resort they’re promoting. Maybe it’s a relaxing day at the spa. Some ads lead you to believe that owning a luxury car or drinking a particular drink or eating a fine meal out will bring relief from all this pressure. That may be true, but, for me, nothing works better than getting outdoors.
The point is, you can spend your time and your money on myriad “solutions” – all aimed at reducing the ailments that attend living in a high-stress, hyper-competitive, hyper-technological world.
I enjoy a good vacation at a nice destination as much as anyone. But I also enjoy being “away from it all.” Getting back to nature. Being “out there.” The farther out there, the better.
Some would argue that humans weren’t made to be shut inside confinements of their own creation for long hours. After all, early humans spent most of their waking hours outside hunting and gathering their food, then eventually tilling the soil and raising livestock. That seems to be part of our DNA, our internal programming. When we spend a majority of our time hunched over a desk, typing on a computer, staring at a handheld device, or crawling through traffic in an air-conditioned vehicle, our natural longing to be outside begins to bang on the walls. At least for me it does.
Continuing a Tradition of Appreciation
Ever since our oldest daughter was born, my wife and I have done things similar to our parents when it comes to teaching our kids to respect and love the natural world. We’ve continued a tradition that, by coincidence, both of our families had as we were growing up: camping on Memorial Day weekend. Beyond that, from the time they were young, we’ve taken them hiking and backpacking. Our oldest daughter was less than a month old the first time we put her in a baby backpack and hauled her up the backside of Mt. Timpanogos. Our three oldest sons have backpacked with me somewhere between 300 and 450 miles each. My younger daughter and I have also spent considerable time backpacking and hiking together. I’m proud to say that our children have learned to appreciate the beauty and grandeur of the outdoors and have experienced some of the same uplifting emotions I have felt out there.
The Need for Adventure
There are all kinds of adventures. Adventures take help us extend ourselves through experiencing something new or different from the ordinary. When our senses come alive again, we know the experience is an adventure. Whether it’s something we touch, hear, see, taste, smell, or otherwise feel, there’s something about an adventure that wakes up those dormant senses. Many people I’ve met on hikes and camping trips have expressed to me how being in the outdoors relaxes them and helps them put life back in perspective. I think that’s because so many senses are refreshed in the outdoors. There are new sights to see, new scents to breathe, new sounds to hear, and, in most cases, no phones or Internet or other distractions vying for attention.
As humans, we were given the ability to truly appreciate new experiences. There is a time and a place for each type of adventure. Just be sure to spend some time in the great outdoors now and then. Chances are, when you’re in nature with so many of your senses taking in things out of the normal scope of everyday life, you may experience the same uplift to your spirits as so many outdoor enthusiasts do. Maybe you, too, will feel that relief from the burdens of modern living and the accompanying stresses when you’re out there. And that, hopefully, will keep you coming back out to enjoy the wonders of creation. While you’re at it, you can teach your children to love it as well.
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