After years of canoeing and camping as a boy, I found myself in New York City after college about to begin my career. The opportunities to visit museums, attend concerts, see live comedy, and so on were endless. In pursuit of all those endeavors, however, I realized one day that I had disconnected from nature. We’ve all been in similar situations; times where career goals, family life, technology, impede us from stepping back, slowing down, and getting outside. Pushing all those responsibilities and distractions aside in order to opt outside can be difficult.
For many of us, reconvening with nature is not simply about having fun, staying active, and spending time with friends; it is about finding and fulfilling a deeper meaning within ourselves. We revitalize our spirit by overcoming obstacles and witnessing beauty in the backcountry. Recognizing those moments of satisfaction and personal triumph make the journey worthwhile. It's not that meaningful experiences do not exist in city life (because they certainly do), but the simplicity, empty landscapes, and solitude are difficult to replicate amongst skyscrapers, subways, and claustrophobic apartments.
I imagine this is something many outdoorsy individuals struggle with. The challenge of having experienced wilderness, having it become part of your mindset and identity, but then finding yourself spending the majority of your time in urban areas. How can you reconcile these two identities?
What can you do to rekindle the feeling of being in nature, the feeling of stepping back, slowing down, and getting outside?
Here are some thoughts:
Go for a early morning run.
Ride your bike to work.
Go for a walk during lunch.
Visit a state park for the weekend.
Pitch a hammock in park.
Plan longer trips.
Explore a part of the city you have never been to before.
Check your phone at the door.
Sit on the roof and look up.
Watch some Planet Earth.
Cook a meal over your camp stove.
Have a bonfire.
Keep a journal.
Start a dream diary.
Go to bed before you're tired. Stay up and think.
Even though some of these options are not the most “remote” or “rugged,” these ideas will help you to seek intentional time for exploration, solitude, and physical activity. Hopefully they will help you to start stepping back, slowing down, and getting outside.
Written by: Michael McMenamin