Every time I travel, especially without my family, I get anxiety. This is even more true if I’m going off into the woods and I will have no way to know if something happens back home. Sure, there are people who are constantly looking for cell service in the mountains, but I typically shut off my phone when I go in and save the battery for an emergency.
The first day, I’m a nervous wreck thinking about all the things that couldgo wrong in my absence. This is partly me and my own anxieties and it’s also partly the world that has taught me to be attached to my damn phone. As a salesman, my phone is rarely out of reach, and even though that is out of necessity, rather than desire, it has become the new norm and it’s difficult to separate myself from it sometimes. However, by Day Two, I’m a new man.
Beginning at Day Two, I don’t even remember I have a phone. Of course, I think about my wife and daughter often, but I know they’re okay and I know my wife can handle any situation that might come up in my absence. The truth is, there’s too much going on in my immediate situation to think about the trivial things that go on in the world. Sure, there are serious things going on in the world, poverty, war, etc. but that’s not what most of us are inundated with on a day to day basis; we ignore those things mostly because they’re difficult to think about. As I write this, outdoors people are arguing over whether or not to buy Yeti products. I don’t see anything wrong with either the NRA or Yeti, they’re both organizations made up of people with good intentions who sometimes make mistakes. Take a side or don’t, but is something of that sort really worth getting upset about? I don’t think so.
While we obsess about such nonsense on a day to day basis, when you’re hiking, hunting, fishing, etc., you have real concerns to occupy your brain; the weather, predators, finding game or fish, and perhaps just navigation and not rolling your ankle in a scree field. Focusing on these immediate issues allows our brains to put the bullshit of civilization away for a while. No longer are we concerned about pleasing our boss or what our neighbors think of us – they cannot see what we’re up to. The media, social media, the political conversations at the water cooler are all distant memories for a few days.
At the very least wilderness is escapism, no different than a comedic movie or a concert or any other form of entertainment. The wilderness, if you pay attention, is endlessly entertaining. However, I think it’s so much more than that. Unplugging from the world gives you the time to think about the important stuff in your life uninterrupted. Maybe you’re struggling in some area (most of us are struggling with something at any given time, no matter how “together” we may have it) and getting away from the noise allows you to meditate or pray on your marriage, your career, your parenting or some other issue. In the world there is always someone telling you what you should do, but in the wilderness, you get to figure out what is best for you. That can be daunting, many people prefer to let others make their decisions for them, therefore they have no responsibility or blame if things fail, but that is not a way to live life if you ask me. Sure, it’s good to seek advice, you’ll already have that in your head when you’re out there and that’s part of the evidence you can examine when making a decision. However, there’s a greater sense of accomplishment if you solve your own problems.
If you’re prepared, the wilderness provides all that you need to push the reset button, no matter who you are and what kinds of things you need to do it. Need action? Go hunting, fishing, climbing, etc. Need peace and quiet? Sit beside a river under a tree. Need comfort? Boil up some tea and sit beside the campfire. Humans have been going to the wilderness for solace and answers ever since we became civilized enough to separate wilderness from civilization. Wilderness is a part of who we are and I believe if we accept that, it will make us better people and therefore better to each other.