A Life Lived Outdoors: The Next Generation

By Nick Italiano

Today like so many other days, I spent most of the day outdoors. For the first half of the day it was just me and my son, Logan. He is six years old, smart as a whip, and just a sponge for information. I watch as he eagerly heads towards his favorite spots, says hello to other hikers, and points out the rather extensive set of plants he is familiar with. He is always very inquisitive asking me to help him identify plants that he doesn’t already know, asking me about the various animals we encounter, and remarking on various landscape features. These are key traits for a young adventurer, or any one with an adventurous spirit, the desire to learn and understand the world around us. That information is then translated into two things skills and appreciation.

Skills, in this case outdoor skills, are a necessity. While any can take a leisurely walk in a local park, to truly involve yourself in the great outdoors you need skills. Skills allow us to understand the landscape, predict the behavior of wild animals, find food, build shelter, handle injuries, and build fires to name just a few. This leads not only to a feeling of self reliance, but also connection to the land. We rely on our skills to survive and thrive, but we rely on the land itself to provide the resources we need. For a child this is vital; as children grow they desire to become more reliant on themselves and less dependent on their parents, learning these wilderness skills is a healthy and positive way to help them achieve a greater sense of independence and self reliance.

With the the understanding and the skills to survive and thrive in the wilderness comes appreciation of the wild places and all the living and non living things that make up these places. While any person can look at a Day Lily and remark on its beauty, a skilled outdoors person appreciates its beauty and the fact that the whole plant is edible. Many people may not enjoy the smell of a stinkhorn mushroom, but the skilled outdoors person appreciates that it is a vital food sources for other organisms in the ecosystem and helps to break down dead materials that will ultimately enrich the soil. To those with the knowledge and skills the wilderness is not a great unknown, it is the greatest playground there is! Children need to develop this appreciation at a young age, because they are constantly being pulled into a more sedentary life style, filled with empty accomplishments, and force fed mass consumerism. The love of the great outdoors, is the love of the real world. The world as it should be with out the flashing LED screens, unrealistic expectations of success, and exposure to human greed.

It brings me a sense of joy and accomplishment to know that I can share the things I have learned over my lifetime with the one of the members of the next generation of outdoors people. That these lessons can carry not just to the enjoyment of the great outdoors, but a philosophy for living well simply. Nature provides many resources for us, there is food all around, things to heal our bodies, an endless supply of recreational opportunities…and the best part it’s all available for free. If you have kids, get them outdoors, teach them to love and appreciate the world around them, teach them to live a more fulfilling simple life!

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