There are mornings when I wake up and for a ﬂeeting moment I feel a sense of panic and stress. I am in my bed at home in the city and nothing feels quite like it should but as I start to wake and my eyes catch the early rays of the morning sunlight, my mind is instantly at peace as I realize that I am still in my tent in the middle of nowhere. These are the moments I cherish most. The ones where I slowly get out of my cozy sleeping bag, unzip the tent door and am instantly struck by the natural beauty that surrounds me. The brisk morning air ﬁlls my lungs and as I exhale the sound of a river ﬂowing gently by ﬁlls my ears and my heart with complete joy. This is how I wish to wake up every morning, realizing that I am in a place that makes me truly happy and ready for the adventures that are to follow.
The wilderness seems to bring me a certain feeling of happiness and I ﬁnd myself wondering what it is that makes these experiences so special. Why is it that I can not seem to ﬁnd this same feeling that I do when I am in the wild? I have always considered myself to be a city person just as much as I am a wilderness one. The ability to be around friends and loved ones was such a comfort to me, but even when I am surrounded by crowds of people I am still capable of feeling completely alone. In the wild I am rarely around others and yet I seem to never feel alone. The absence of the never ending background noise and lights allows for me to ﬁnally connect with my immediate surroundings. The lack of societies constant distractions make the people next to me seem physically more real and I am more inclined to engage in real conversation with them. These are the people I eat with, travel with, sleep next to and in turn, intrust my life to. In no other environment do I willingly let others see everything that makes me, me and in return, they do the same.
There are always moments of joy, moments of sadness, moments of hardship and even moments of complete fear, but these experiences are what make us feel truly alive. There is something humbling and oddly peaceful about feeling so small when you are surrounded by an environment that is so powerful and unpredictable. When you are out on a river and you can feel the power of the water below you, or in your tent and you realize how vulnerable you are to the skies that lie above you. These are the moments where you learn to let your worries and stresses go and learn to live with the environment and not just simply in it. To ﬁnd real joy we need to experience real stars, real cold, real warmth, real air and real water. These realities teach us to appreciate things in all their beauty even when we are caught in torrential down pours because we learn to accept our small place in this world and know that we will get through its challenges. I believe it is through these experiences where we are challenged to our maximum potentials both physically and mentally that nourish true happiness. The reality we are faced with in the wilderness contrasts with that of typical society to help us ﬁnd out who we truly are as individuals and what we are capable of and that is what makes these experiences so special.
Throughout all of my experiences there is one lesson that I will never lose sight of. The next time I wake up in my tent, curled up in my sleeping bag next to a river, I will make sure to take my time in that moment and soak in everything it has to offer because it will be another twenty four hours before I get to experience that feeling again.
Author: Wilderness Guide and Educator, Sean Peeters