We published an article recently that really hit home for me, enough that it made me want to express my own feeling about it in a similar way.  ”Raising a Wild Child”  talked about the lessons we can learn when we are subject to the wild places of the outdoors, and how those places allow for a different kind of learning (if you hate learning, just substitute ‘experience’, ‘enjoyment’ or ‘gain’ where necessary).

The whole thought is that we, as a society are learning (experiencing) more and more while being set inside square, straight little boxes of safety. The rules we have and continue to make are to keep us safe in general, and that has probably always been the case for as long as societies have had rules, but over time, the rules have grown more and more specific, leading to an ever-narrowing box in which to function. To most of you this might seem over-analytic, philosophical, and perhaps as though it has nothing to do with hiking or backpacking, right? But wait. This is one of the core reasons that I go out into the wilderness. And I don’t mean in a campground with a fire ring and a ranger. I mean the backcountry, do-it-yourself kind of living, where you truly have so few rules that you could, without much effort, get damaged, frozen (or fried), or starve to death, simply because no one is enforcing any rules and I mean “grab the guard rail, fasten your seat belt, no running” type rules. I go out there to see how well I can learn to function without the protection of our society’s boxes, to see how fit I am as an individual out in the wilds; to see if I can fend for myself, keep myself warm and fed and sheltered in a space where there are almost no rules. And do it gracefully (no tree-felling or bear hunting necessary, thank you).

Some of you didn’t come along with me on that thought, I know. And that’s okay. But what I mean is, we learn very valuable things when we are removed from the rules and laws of our everyday life. The backcountry is where I find the space to do that. Spending time in a place where your core survival instincts can kick-in and teach you things about yourself (and others) is a glorious gift. Being free of “what others think is good for you” so you can determine it for yourself is an increasingly rare phenomenon in our world today. The backcountry repeatedly shows me how to think for myself, rather than follow the small-box rules. For example, I can be a more self sufficient person in my every day life, when I am successfully able to do it out in the woods.

Out of Little Boxes
I-90 through the snow – Photo by Erika Klimecky

These things aren’t rocket science, but they are the things that we are, as a collective, becoming less and less familiar with. I think about this every time I watch children play. They do it differently than 2 generations ago, and in my opinion, it’s mostly because the boxes in which they are taught have become smaller. And the size isn’t the important thing, the experiences that we gain are. Narrowing experiences leads to a smaller view and smaller view leads to more separation rather than understanding.

And I just think it’s really neat that each time I go out in the backcountry to escape all the crazy hoards of people in the city, it serves to actually bring me closer to them in the larger sense. And having succeeded at that, the lessons I bring back are priceless. And that’s one of the big reasons I go and keep going out there where there are fewer rules.

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