I spent 2015 in and out of the woods, relishing in my quiet time with nature. There was a lot of rain, more laughs, a few scrapes and bruises, some precarious situations and more than enough adventure for a year. I made a promise to myself in 2014 to not waste any days, and that meant cutting back on other things in my life that don’t lend to movement. Life is moving at the speed of light and I don’t intend on being left behind! These are some of my favorite traveling lessons from 2015.
Take Too Many Photos
There’s no time to be embarrassed about carrying around cameras, GoPros, a smartphone with an attachable lens and fourteen memory cards. With all the beauty in the world, why not always be prepared to have the chance for a stellar shot or six? That being said, there’s also a time when you should sit back and enjoy your surroundings without peering through a lens.
Pack Extra Socks
Always, always pack extra socks. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve accidentally stepped into mud, slipped on a rock into a river or stepped in a pile of angry red ants. Feet are among the most nerve-rich parts of your body (other than your hands) and socks are their safety blanket—don’t take away Lionel’s blanket!
Find a Buddy
Find people in your life ready to drop everything and come on your asinine adventures. Who wont ask too many questions about planning, but who will always come along for the ride, ready to take on whatever comes our way. Lucky for me, I’ve got a few of these fearless warriors in my life and I’m grateful every day for their patient and adventurous spirits.
An inexplicable stillness comes over you in nature, whether you’re with a group of fifteen people or solitarily sitting in a tree. Listen to the whisper of the trees rustling in the wind and the melodies of water trickling down a stream. It’s hard to feel alone in nature because, if you really listen, you can hear an entire ecosystem hustling and bustling around you—and you realize you are both part of it and so far removed at the same time. Go big to feel small!
Start a Fire
No, don’t set your annoying neighbor’s house ablaze. Making a fire (where permitted) on your camping trip is an oddly gratifying feeling. Gathering firewood, setting up kindling, blowing to fan the flame—it all culminates into a centerpiece for your very own solar system. Everything happens around the campfire and it gives back more than just a way to find your campsite in the dark—it’s warmth, heat for cooking and a place to keep your greatest stories.
Ask for Directions
I’m a big proponent of the “let’s figure it out ourselves” method, but sometimes that gets you nowhere but a dingy alleyway in the middle of a seedy part of town in a place you’ve never been. It makes it all the more terrifying when the language barrier comes into play. Don’t be afraid to ask locals for directions and if language is a factor, never dismiss the power of charades.
Follow the Cairns
Those little stacks of rocks aren’t just a natural architectural marvel—they serve a larger purpose. Hikers and backpackers set these indicators along trails to signal other wanderers that they’re heading in the right direction. Sometimes trail signs can become weathered or even blow over on a trail. In those cases, Cairns are your best friends.
Get in Touch with Your Barefoot Sole
To travelers, the feet are an instrument of transportation. And for all humans, the soles of your feet are the sole part of your body in touch with the environment at all times. Have you ever experienced sensory overload when you unlace your sneakers and feel the earth, sand or water beneath your feet? The hundreds of thousands of exteroceptors in your feet are actually gathering information about the outside world. When traveling, find places where you can ditch the shoes and allow your feet to experience this feeling.
Take Care of Your Body
Traveling is a battleground for sickness. Airborne germs seem to breed like randy hamsters in planes, buses, trains, boats, etc. It’s important to take care of your body and know when you need sleep, vitamins, water and other important nutrients. Don’t push it with the partying and remember to breathe deeply and take in the fresh air whenever possible.
In traveling and in life, I’ve learned to go further and push harder to end up in the most extraordinary places. It’s more gratifying to end up in a paradise after a long hike, trek, swim or route pinned with mishaps. These struggles along the way remind us that it’s not just the endpoint we’re ambling toward—it’s all the little quirks along the way and the unbeaten paths that truly make an excursion to remember.
Sit Under the Stars
As I sat below the stars in Moab, Utah, staring out at the thin strip of irradiated horizon along level mesas, a large green ball of light soared from the sky and disappeared below the horizon. I had to blink feverishly to account for what I’d just seen. According to astronomers, it was nothing more than “space junk” falling from the heavens, but to me it was one of the most ethereal moments I will ever experience. And even if you don’t see some flying space junk, a jet-black sky pinpricked with incalculable dots of light is enough to convince anyone of a higher power.
Ditch the Phone
I love camping trips because of the fact that deep in the forest, my phone usually receives no signal. This disconnected freedom is important in our day and age to silence the clutter around us. It’s amazing the things you see and hear when you’re not searching for entertainment through a four-inch screen.
Never Turn Down Free Food
Take advantage of the free breakfast at your hotel, hostel, bed and breakfast or enjoy offerings from locals who just want to feed you (this happens). Never turn down a free meal from anyone willing to cook for you. I was once eating at a restaurant in Thailand when an old woman who lived next door came over and brought her cooking to our table—at the restaurant! I thought the owner would be livid, but instead he smiled in an “everyone gets fed way”…and brought us soda pop to go with our meal.
Spend Time with Locals
Whenever traveling, find time to sit down with some locals. Some of my best memories abroad were riding the local bus through Laos, drinking whiskey with some old (and wise) Thai men outside a pharmacy and smoking a giant wrapped cigarette with a 100-year old woman in Cambodia. These memories stick with me because they weren’t the run-of-the-mill tourist experience.
Take a Moment
It’s always important to take a moment to remember who you are, we’re you’re going and where you’ve been. Be thankful for every day and the people who fill these days with love. And never, ever stop searching for the things that make you tick.
Cheers to an adventurous 2016!