At age four I was the intrepid explorer tramping through the mountain undergrowth with my family. At 10 I was constantly seeking out outdoor experiences of all kinds, begging my parents to fish or hike. Now at 17 my relationship with Mother Nature has grown stronger, strong enough to push me to educate my friends suffering from Nature Deficit Disorder. Here are my top five ways to give someone a love for the outdoors.
1. Take Them Fishing
The best way to show someone why you love the outdoors is take them out to do what you know best. Whether fishing, hunting, hiking, or camping it will be easier for you to seem knowledgeable and answer questions if you really know the subject. My greatest love lies in fishing and getting someone hooked (pun intended) is a two step process. Step one is to show them what it’s all about. Take them to a small pond or lake for a few hours one evening and be sure they are able to catch a few fish. It doesn’t matter size or type as long as they come consistently enough to keep your fiend occupied. The trick is making them feel like they have succeeded in learning something. Step two will get them deeper into it. Take them to a mountain lake with plentiful rainbow trout populations and a fair away out of the beaten path. As one of the most beautiful and well known fish, the rainbow trout is a type that every beginning fisherman should have a chance to experience. The beauty of the mountains is also something that will help serve to take someone’s breath away. Combine the majesty of the mountains with the silver luster of a healthy trout and it makes a combination not soon forgotten. You’ll see this is true when your friend stands on the shore staring out across the lake, drinking it all in.
2. Bring Them on a Morning Hike
Any good photographer knows that the morning and evening are among the best times to take pictures because you don’t have the harsh light of the midday sun. Rather, the light filtering down is soft and diffused and gives pictures inspirational qualities. With this in mind, it makes sense to walk the wild at this time of day. The birds are just waking up and the sound of so many kinds celebrating the morning becomes a beautiful symphony of bird calls. If you go early enough, you won’t see a soul for the majority of your walk and your friend can take their time soaking in all the grandeur of the outdoors. If they’re the type who couldn’t possibly leave their phone in the car, going in the morning reduces the amount of possible distractions. Everyone else on their contact list is still asleep or just beginning their morning. Your friend can be relatively uninterrupted from his wild induced high.
3. Camping with Amenities
Camping has become fairly synonymous with outdoor love and it’s for a good reason. While camping, a person has access to all things outdoors and is relatively free from ordinary hassles. I recommend starting slow and going camping where there are showers and adequate bathroom utilities for only a night or two. Nothing will turn off a person to camping more than gritty, oily skin and squatting in the woods so ease them into it. The first experience determines how a person will expect future trips so the first impression better be a good one. Don’t make them too comfortable however, teach them that camping is dirty, uncomfortable, and all around amazing. For the love of nature, do not forget the s’mores. Roasting marshmallows over an open fire is the best childlike fun a person can have on these trips and chocolate is proven to release feel good chemicals into the body that leave them looking forward to more.
4. Regale your friend with stories
Good stories are the staple of any outdoor discipline and it’s practically required for you to tell a few while sitting around a fire. Let your friend vicariously live out your adventures by telling tales of your experience, both good and bad. Provide insightful anecdotes, make them laugh, make them gasp, make them look at you funny (ever wipe your butt with poison ivy?). Above all show that you are excited to tell them and reiterate just how much fun the great outdoors can be. Because their own experience in the outdoors may be limited, set them up to make them feel like they were there with you.
5. Bring more friends
Personally, as many would agree, there is no problem with exploring the wilds alone. Drinking in the silence of solitude and finding joy in sinking into one’s own thoughts is part of what makes nature so alluring to those of us that enjoy it. Contrary to this philosophy is the fact that I find bringing more than one or two friends greatly increases the joy that they will get from it. For some, jumping into the silence is too little stimulation too fast. By bringing along more friends it increases the feeling of shared experience and it amplifies the good and muffles the bad. They also will feel like they have stories and memories of each other and that will make friendships last longer. Bonding can happen in the most extraordinary of ways while outside in mother nature.
Hopefully by the end of any trip, a person is struck by the memories and feelings of having had a deeper connection with the outdoors. As the next generation of outdoorsman and nature lovers, it is our responsibility to educate our fellow people on the majesty of Mother Nature. With schools removing programs such as outdoor education under the guise that they are unnecessary expense, it is extremely pertinent that we all do our very best to spread the passion. To show that, in the words of Edward Abbey, “Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit.” (Desert Solitaire)