Does anyone besides me remember when kids played outside and had to actually engage in some form of human interaction? For years now, whenever I talk to kids (I work in a high school) and ask them what they did over the course of a weekend or during summer break, I always get the same answer and it never involves being outside.
Most of the responses I get involve the couch, sleeping and video games. Very rarely do I have kids tell me about the time they spent actually being outside and just playing. Forget about hiking. I talk about the hikes that I do and they look at me as if I am from another planet. As a matter of fact, the look they give me is the same one that I see when I tell them when I was their age we only had channels 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11 and 13 to choose from on the television. And to make matters worse, Channel 13 was Public Broadcasting!!!
Children of my generation just didn’t play outside, we explored. There was a sense of excitement as we ran through the woods and built forts and just spent hours upon hours of wandering. The great thing about it was that it never got old. No matter how many times you walked through the same woods, on the same path, it didn’t matter whether it was a beautiful day or raining, it seemed as if there was always something new to experience. The only limits to do what we could do depended on how much our imagination held us back. Remembering that time, there were no limits.
As you know, I look forward to being outside hiking as a way to balance myself and to get rid of the mental garbage that accumulates on a daily basis. I find it refreshing to be able to breathe in the air and feel the soft swell of the earth under my feet as I hike towards an awesome view point or from trail to trail. I have found that it is not the end that counts, it’s the journey.
REI, the sporting goods company, is giving all of their employees the day after Thanksgiving off so that they can “opt outside.” Why? They are encouraging all of their employees to take the day and hit the trails. Shouldn’t we all be doing this? Shouldn’t we be encouraging our kids to get outside and do something? We have an entire generation of kids who spend seven hours a day in school and then the rest of the evening inside watching tv or playing video games.
In looking at the big picture, can I automatically assume that everyone will experience the same benefit that I do from spending time outside? Can I assume that if someone takes the time to get out and just walk around, that they would feel better, both physically and psychologically? I think that the proof of this can not be denied.
We all lament about the “good old days” and how things used to be so much simpler than they are today. The time where we didn’t mind being outside, even in the rain and the snow. I really wonder what it will take to get back to that time? Can we? Should we? Sure, it is really great to be able to get out into the woods when I can, but I’m not going to lie, it isn’t enough and I wish it was more. Do you remember when you were young?