The reason why I love the outdoors so much is because it makes me feel alive. Nothing beats the feeling of open grasslands, mountains, rivers, caves and forests all around you- constantly changing but also remaining the same. Ancient cultures including many of our own Kenyan traditions believed that nature, the environment and everything around us had a purpose and a deeper meaning. A never ending circle of life. All the stories I was told as a child were about creation, nature, forests, animals and how they interacted with their environment – how they lived…
Several studies on ‘The impact of outdoor adventure activities’ show that outdoor education programmes can and do impact positively on young people’s attitudes, beliefs and self-perceptions (Rickinson, 2004). These young individuals become more independent, confident, and have greater self-esteem. They are also found to be better at coping strategies and interpersonal and social skills such as communication, group cohesion and teamwork. We see it first hand every day working with young people from all over the world. Below are some of my own personal observations:
Heightened senses: firstly, as human beings we have the ability to interpret and even adapt to environments and circumstances. However, when we are in the same environment for too long, we begin rely too much on our immediate surroundings and the material objects we think we depend on. Our perception of what we need and what makes us happy is often slightly removed from our greater surroundings. For example, when you are in the city do you notice the stars at night? Can you hear the wind in the trees? How about finding your way around the kitchen when there is a power-cut? These are simple scenarios where you might find a slightly heightened level of perception with a simple change in the environment. Without the bright glaring halogen lamps in the city, the stars seem to sag loosely in the night sky and burn brighter and brighter. The trees seem to whisper secrets to each other, and even your sense of sight and touch seems to be all the more precise as you navigate in your own living room or kitchen!
Appreciating the finer details: Being in a new environment challenges us to think more, and be critical with our minds. When we are exposed to new environments, not only do we begin to find new solutions, but a learning process begins. We learn about the environment and what is around us. We begin to observe and appreciate intricate details of our surroundings. We begin to see beyond the wow factor of our camera lens, and begin to appreciate the finer details. We begin to understand the intracacy of everything being interlinked and the cause and effect of our actions on the environment.
Discover our potential: The exposure and processes that come from being in a new environment cause us to learn. Not only do we learn about the things around us, but we learn about ourselves. We learn how far we can push ourselves when we are climbing on a rock surface and about to give up! We learn how to challenge and overcome our fears when we’re jumping off a rugged 30ft cliff into the “unknown”! Or even how to set goals and how to reach them by waking up, mapping a route and navigating to get there. As long as we are eager students, ready to learn and willing to explore, there is no telling how far we can go on the journey to discover our own potential.
We learn new skills: Another reason why the outdoor experience is of such value is the fact that we get to learn a new skillset. Without being in an environment that causes you to think of how to build a shelter for example, you may never discover that you have good, practical ideas and hand skills to achieve such a task. Until you’re on a drop-off or at the base of an obstacle, you might not discover that you have the skills to not only ride a bike but perform exceptional maneuvers, or even the courage to do it.
The outdoors teaches us to not only become better versions of ourselves, but we begin to see the importance of other people and living creatures around us; their value and our part in the bigger picture. As long as we are willing to learn and explore, there will always be a learning experience, a new skill or a greater passion that drives us simply by being in the outdoors.
Field Guide, Site Coordinator
Rift Valley Adventures