I used to be a very unhappy person.
After graduating from University with a degree in International Development, I felt completely lost. I had just spent 4 years studying some of the biggest challenges the world faces. From Climate Change to desertification, to the mass extinction currently sweeping through the natural world.
So I left University with £50, 000 of student debt, crippling anxiety about the state of the earth, and absolutely no idea how to feel hopeful about the future. (I also left University with some irreplaceable memories and lifelong connections to people I love, don’t get me wrong.)
But after looking into the fabric of society with a magnifying glass, it became rather less shocking that 25% of young people in the UK are anxious or depressed. (Action Mental Health) Between environmental destruction, a failing economy, and a society that puts cheap clothes before clean air and water, it suddenly seemed rather reasonable not to be okay about the status quo.
But what was I supposed to do with all this information?
Overwhelmed with my powerlessness in the face of a broken world, I felt a deep sense of despair. To be honest, I thought about taking my own life on more than one occasion, but somehow it didn’t seem fair to my loved ones.
Instead of taking my life, I packed a tent in my backpack and headed into the Scottish highlands with a two-man tent and a man that I had only known for a few days. We spent 3 straight months hitchhiking, walking, and wild camping throughout the Highlands, the West Coast, and the Outer Hebrides.
Sticking to a budget of £3 pounds a day, we wandered aimlessly along the path of otters and eagles. We foraged for seaweed and sorrel under a stormy sky, and watched dolphins leap in the ocean. The experience transformed my life, and completely shifted my priorities.
Two years later, I am married to that stranger who whisked me off to Scotland. I stopped taking flights, started eating locally produced food, and stopped buying cheap clothes or chemical cleaning products. But instead of feeling sad or anxious, I finally felt peaceful about it all. All that time in nature had given me a chance to reassess what really matters, and make peace with doing my bit to make the world a slightly better place.
Because it is all very well sitting at home and reading about the natural world on our computer screens or televisions, but it takes time and quiet in the last remaining scraps of wild places to rekindle that vital relationship with the natural earth. A relationship which, when severed, allows us to create that very society which puts the pursuit of wealth and resources before clean air, pure water, and healthy soil.
It is impossible to explain the healing power of nature in words because it is something that can only be felt. I wish I could take the 100 richest people into the highlands for a month, and then release them back on the world with a little reverence for mother earth. I’m sure the world would soon be unrecognizable.
Wild Camping has had terrible press recently, due to a large number of people pitching up tents at the roadside and leaving human waste, rubbish, and condoms behind them. Some people even got caught hacking branches off of ancient trees to start illegal campfires, having no idea that what they were doing was damaging the ecosystem.
Whilst this is not at all representative of the Wild Camping community, there is no denying that a shocking number of people feel it’s acceptable to trash the British Countryside for the sake of a free night’s holiday and a selfie by a bonfire.
But, here’s the thing: Wild Camping is the cure to this ignorance, not the cause.
The vast majority of people today have lost their connection with the earth. We live in high rise flats or semis in the city, and the closest thing many of us has to nature are the weeds growing out of our paving slabs. It is no wonder that people would damage the countryside if they have no connection to it, and no idea how to take care of it.
I believe that Wild Camping could be part of the solution for both the mental health crisis and the crisis faced by the earth. Because by giving ourselves this opportunity to reconnect with nature, we can improve our mental health, and we can start healing that damaged connection between people and the natural world.
To be frank, Wild Camping saved my life. If given half a chance, it might just save British nature too.
I hope you enjoyed this blog post! Do you have any other ideas about how we can help people to reconnect with nature? Please leave a comment if you have a suggestion, I’d love to hear what you think.
- A Complete Beginner’s Guide to Wild Camping
- A Note On Climate Grief
- The Inseparable Health Of People And The Earth
You also might like to read the Highly Sensitive Nomad Book, you can find out more about it here.
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