Yes, I know I work in the outdoors and it’s my profession but I see everyday the benefits of spending time outside of the confines of four walls, particularly looking at a screen (which yes, I have to do like most people too).
More importantly, I recent went through a traumatic experience and the event that got my head back into a good space was a day in the outdoors with some colleagues. We drove, we walked, we talked, we walked some more, chatted with locals, explored, had a lovely toasted cheese and tomato sandwich and latte for lunch and picked some pine cones from under a large tree. It was the best tonic anyone could have prescribed. Time in the outdoors.
Yes – it’s not for everyone.
Yes – it can push you outside your comfort zone.
Yes – you may feel a little uncomfortable.
No – you won’t die.
Yes – you’ll find and discover things you never knew about.
Yes – you’ll be stretched and find within yourself something you didn’t know you had.
If every day was within your comfort zone then – what’s the point!?!?
The fears that young people (and these days some older people) have is that they’ll have to ‘put up’ with insects, bugs, sleeping on the ground, eating ‘camp food’, carrying a heavy pack, setting up their tent (sometimes every night) and so much more. Yet it’s these very things that make people who they are.
Whether it’s base camping in one place or a journey program travelling to a different location each night either walking, rafting, canoeing, cycling – it’s all an adventure and the change can be the very thing that breaks the cycle of same-old-same-old.
Those that rise to the top are often those who have faced adversity, who’ve struggled, done it tough, experienced the hard stuff and can take from that ‘if I can get through that I can get through anything’.
When you add kids into the picture – it’s a whole new ball game but believe me, it’s important that young people spend time outdoors. Why not just stay at home? Why not sleep in your own comfy bed? Think of the shower and toilet that’s easily accessible. Why would you bother going outside to explore?
Here are some statistics that are scary:
19% of young people climb trees
80% of young people are scared of bugs and insects
Young people spend 50% less time outdoors than in 1996
Today 8 – 18 yo spend an average of 53 hours on entertainment media
The prevalence of obesity among children aged 6 to 11 more than doubled in the past 20 years, to 17 percent of children in this age group. The rate of clinically obese adolescents (aged 12-19) more than tripled, to 17.6 percent. The Centers for Disease Control concludes that a major missing ingredient is an hour per day of moderate physical activity.
The use of anti-depressants in children grew between 1998 and 2002 from 1.6% to 2.4%, an adjusted annual increase of 9.2%. The growth in antidepressant use was greater among girls (a 68% increase) than among boys (a 34% increase.)
In the past 30 years, childhood obesity has more than tripled. The prevalence of obesity among children aged 6 to 11 years increased from 6.5% in 1980 to 19.6% in 2008. During the same time period, the prevalence of obesity among adolescents aged 12 to 19 years increased from 5.0% to 18.1%.
In several studies reported in the journal Optometry and Vision Science, researchers found that kids who spent more time outside during the day tended to have better distance vision than those who favored indoor activities.
British children are losing their sense of adventure Ben Fogle says, as a quarter spend less than 30 minutes a week playing outside.
The weather, computer games and concerns for safety have been blamed for children spending less time doing outdoor activities.
Around 80 per cent of parents admitted they have never taken their children star gazing or fishing – despite the majority saying they are concerned their offspring do not get outside enough.
Around half of parents said they do not let their children play outside because of concerns about their safety, while 60 per cent said there is now more for them to do indoors – such as watch television and play computer games.
Well here are a few reasons why.
How can you love and enjoy something you don’t experience. Spending time in high-rise buildings or in front of a tv doesn’t give you the same connection as feeling the dew come at night or the warmth of a setting sun. The more time that young people spend outdoors, the more it sits within their ‘being’ that it’s okay. It becomes comfortable. Safe. Normal. Who would want their children to fear the outdoors, scared of a night owl, a possum crawling up a tree, the smell of a campfire. Instead they will develop a respect for it and guess what – even enjoy it.
Bonus: The more remote, the better the experience, but take baby steps forward. Don’t overdo it.
Camping teaches kids to appreciate the small things
Whether your camping overnight or for several weeks, you often take the same amount of things with you. But you still need to be prudent about what to take. Therefore, those decadent items from home aren’t practical or useful such as seven stuffed toys, ten changes of clothes and so on. But those simple things like a campfire cooking marshmallows or crawling into your tent and snuggling into your sleeping bag become the comforts that take you by surprise. Even a flushing toilet and shower can become a luxury yet young people learn quickly that life does go on without these every day home items. Instead, young people come to terms with these often quicker than their parents.
Camping builds on their skills
It’s not always easy to start camping if it’s not familiar with you but it does come quickly to young people and with that – they shine. It will take guidance from adults, often role modelling, guiding and reinforcing good camping habits, but in time they will ‘get it’ quicker than you think. These skills will stay with them long into the future and show them how frugality, flexibility, responsibility and thinking on your feet will serve them well into their adult lives. Don’t forget that simple things such as how to prepare a campfire, light a campfire, manage a campfire, behave around a campfire, put out a campfire – these are actually skills that we need to learn properly.
See your own back door on a tight budget
The initial setup for camping can be costly but start out by borrowing what you need – tent, stove, sleeping bags and mats. An overnight trip will give you an idea of what you need. Once you’ve tried it you’ll know what else you need and can source items on Buy/Swap/Sell sites, Ebay and other secondhand pages. Remember, you are camping, not going to a resort – you don’t need much.. If you decide you like camping, then remember it’s a good investment and will last you for many years. I’ve owned three sleeping bags in my life. One lasted 15 years until I washed it myself (down bag), but the other two have lasted over 25 years. Worthwhile investment.
Teach your kids about the goodness of other humans
There is something about camping that fosters a rare sense of camaraderie among travellers. It’s easy to strike up impromptu friendships with people in a campground that, under normal circumstances, you might never speak to. It shows kids that most strangers are interesting people with unique backgrounds and fascinating stories that only seem to come out around a campfire.
It’s easy to get stuck in a rut, but there’s nothing quite like a family camping trip to shake things up, trigger new conversations, and create wonderful lifelong memories. It adds an element of adventure to life, and kids thrive on that, as do adults (even though we often forget it).
No screen time
Depending on where your camping, depends on whether you’ll get any network. But that doesn’t mean kids can’t use their small devices like Nintendo or iPods for music or even have solar charges for tablets etc. Take the chance of disconnecting with technology and reconnecting with yourself and the outdoors.
Time to be creative
Imagination is endless and I have fond memories of my own children playing in an abandoned ashy fire pit in the Flinders Ranges for about an hour. They became grotty and dusty but heck, they had a fine time. Making daisy chains, building cubbies, climbing trees and so much more. As a creative person, this is one of my passions for kids being outdoors – open the mind to endless possibilities.
How do you know how well you’re doing if you don’t go back to basics. It’s not until we have less that we know we have more. Every time I return from a trip, having lived out of a backpack for days or weeks – I come home and feel the abundance in my life. That wardrobe full of clothes and shoes, the furniture, the trinkets. I ponder on those with so little and realise I’m one of the fortunate 2% of the world that can live the life I do.
Bring the family together
There are always opportunities to be enjoyed when travelling together as a family or a group. It’s these stories and anecdotes that will be remember in time to come. Exploring as a young person, having adventures and creating memories are timeless. Those hours of all climbing into one big tent and having the fart jokes, the snoring jokes the scary stories are all pat of the journey. Sharing close quarters together has its highs and lows but the highs often out weight the lows.Let the real world fade away and start your own memories.
What can I say? Breathe in fresh air, clean air. Eat food cooked and prepared by the family. Exercise outdoors – walking, climbing, wandering. Daydream. Plus a good healthy dose of Vitamin D. Research shows that young people who are outdoors are happier, healthier and help with cognitive development. Research in the UK shows that school aged children know more about Pokemon than they did about wildlife – now that is sad that children know more about pretend Japanese anime than real life creatures.
I could continue on about the benefits for mind, body and spirit but I think for now, this is enough to digest. Take time to digest the info and ponder ‘why don’t I go outdoors more often?’