Some character-building is best accomplished in nature. The wilder, the better. Here are six lessons you learn in the great outdoors.
While exploring the backcountry, metaphors like “going the extra mile” or “climbing to the top” aren’t just theoretical; sometimes they’re literally what you’ll have to do if you want to make it back to civilization. The obstacles could be small like blisters on the heel—or great like a succession of tricky rapids to navigate in your kayak. You’ll put in the work to achieve your goal. And you’ll feel amazing when you succeed.
Progress is earned in the wilderness. You learn to perform fundamental tasks from start to finish using only your own wits and strength. Each new adventure brings experience and skills you can apply to the next outing.
Trust and Communication
When you venture off the beaten path, you’re putting faith in the people you’re with. Whether it’s trusting that the buddy you’re belaying with knows the ropes, or depending on a member of the group to do first aid when you twist your ankle, you’ll have to work as a unit. And if disagreements crop up, you can’t just walk away. You’ll have to work through your differences and arrive at compromises for the benefit of the team.
Wilderness is special. But until you’ve worked hard to get somewhere truly remote, it’s hard to appreciate just how valuable our preserved spaces are. Getting beyond the reach of conveniences and modern distractions puts it in perspective. And human impact shows so glaringly in pristine places, your awareness of your behaviors is increased exponentially.
Brain running a mile a minute? Smartphone always dividing your attention? Even a small amount of outdoor time increases mental acuity. Being outdoors can recalibrate your senses. When you trade the pinging of text messages for the music of bird calls, you get a serious brain boost. To enjoy the benefits, simply hit the trail. Nature will take it from there.
Humility and Awe
Words and photos never quite do justice to the beauty of nature. We can’t capture it or domesticate it. What’s more, is nature is always at least a bit of a risk; the unanticipated storm will remind you that weather apps aren’t gods. The thin air at the top of the mountain will give you a lesson in lung capacity.
About the most an adventurer can do is come before it with an attitude of respect and gratitude. John Muir described his beloved Yosemite as a cathedral, profoundly expressing the awe that being in wild places instills. You’re not the master of the universe, and this is a good thing.
The lessons learned in the wilderness, from outdoor skills to group teamwork, add up to confidence in daily life. You’ve braved the elements. You’ve tasted the challenge and thrill of survival, humbling yourself in the process.
Pat yourself on the back. You’re ready for anything.