I get out into nature a fair bit. I am not however, one of those “crazy-eyes” who need a regular jolt of adrenalin to make life worth living. I don’t need to jump off a canyon with a small parachute, ski wildly off a vertical side of a mountain, disappear for days down a canyon or even kayak down a waterfall to get my jollys outdoors.But judging by the comments I get, you would think I was doing that kind of thing.
My husband and I go off into the ‘big green room’ as we call it to go walking and camping and yes, we carry everything in. We do our homework, carry enough water and food, have good gear, know how to read a compass and we do self-guided walks that normally last between 3-5 days on average. Sometimes the environment is challenging (yes, sometimes it snows out there) but we are prepared. Nothing scary.
Yet, when we tell people where we are going the most common reaction is: “I could never do that. Aren’t you scared?”
Well, um, no.
I began to ask them why they thought I should be scared. The answers could be divided into three categories. Firstly – the “something might get you”.(Snakes, spiders, a rock falling, nasty person) Secondly- the “you could get lost” (And run out of food/and fall of cliff/ and never found). And finally, the “you’ll get stinky and dirty”. (No showers, no GHD, no dishwasher, so many germs).
So, let us look at these one by one.
I am from Australia. Yes it’s true we have more things that will kill you than almost anywhere else, but thankfully most of them aren’t available to get you all on the one day and in the one place. You are more likely to be struck by a car than by a snake in this country. To reduce this fear, understand where you are going and find out what hazards if any are likely or possible. This is normally a very easy thing to find out. Check online or with a ranger before you go. Obey any signs you see- if it says “Don’t stop, avalanche risk”- dont stop and take a photo. If it says “Don’t swim here, saltwater crocodiles” well, unless you do want that big adrenalin hit, take your need to beach ball elsewhere.
Secondly the ‘you could get lost” issue. When a bushwalker or skier does get lost it’s a big deal. We hear all about it and there is a big search and sometimes, the news isnt good.We notice. But the stats tell us that the overwhelming majority of folks that use wilderness areas do so without incident. This is a real fear, but with some thought and preparation it need not happen to you.So again, prepare ahead of time and be safe.
Thirdly- the “stinky dirty issue”. Walking for days or going into deep nature doesn’t necessarily mean you wont have a chance to bathe. You can swim in the sea, rivers, waterholes or get a collapsible bucket and have a shower. I have rolled in the snow (hilarious and painful at the same time) and the old pit wash with baby wipes isn’t so bad at altitude.The longest time I spent with no shower was 14 days in Nepal in the Everest Region and by the time I got to those oxygen leached heights I wasnt thinking about my dirty hair let me tell you. Instead I was thinking about how thankful I was that my body had made it and how lucky I was to be on the roof of the world and looking out. I guess what I am trying to say here is getting a bit dirty is such a non-issue when you can experience so much more by simply getting out there.And besides, that hot steamy shower or bath when you get back to ‘civilisation’ always feels incredibly good!
Bottomline though, I think most people get scared of going out there because it means that they have to take a lot of personal responsibility for themselves. Nature asks for a piece of you. To connect with it, to really get something from it,you need to extend yourself just that little bit- and to do that takes your full attention and a “little risk” on your part. It might be uncomfortable climbing that hill, and you may have slipped a little, but wow, what a view. To paddle for hours on a kayak and have hair stiff with salt might be kind of unglamorous, but that it’s just you, your loved one and the biggest moon you ever saw floating above you as make your dinner, is unbearably romantic. Whilst it might mean a few mossie bites or a leech or two to reach the campsite, to hear nothing but the language of the forest as you lie there snug in your sleeping bagmakes it all worth it.
So even if you are in the least bit curious about what it’s like to get loved on my mother nature again, my advice is start out with simple day walks in national parks. Stick to the trail and tell someone where you will be before you leave. Go with some buddies. Bring a pack with plenty of water, some nice food for lunch, a camera, your mobile phone(but understand the emergency settings),sunblock, something warm/waterproof to wear. The other alternative is to book yourself on a fully guided walk- let an expert show you how it’s done. This is a great way to build your confidence.
Remember, nature loves you. Give her a little sugar back and go visit.