I think one thing that all the lockdowns and disruption Covid-19 has brought is a greater appreciation among people of the benefits of getting outside – in particular, the space and freedom, and the sense of peace and wellbeing we can find from a night in a hut or a walk through the bush.
So I’m not surprised that since we published our story ‘Subscribe to outside’, in which my colleague Matt recounted his efforts to introduce his wider social circle to tramping, we’ve had several letters from readers saying they have been inspired to try similar activities or to share their own successes in introducing people to the outdoors.
It’s good to know that there are many people out there sharing their love of tramping – and in the process demonstrating how in these unusual and unprecedented times, getting outdoors can be a salve, a natural remedy, that eases our worries and stresses.
We’ve got several stories this month that give credence to that thought. First up is Michelle Green who writes in her story ‘Through fear and towards freedom on the Te Araroa Trail’ about how the outdoors has helped her overcome anxiety. Green says before she started her TA adventure, she suffered from at times crippling anxiety, but the process of immersing herself in nature and confronting such a daunting physical task was the proof she needed that she was actually much more capable – physically and mentally – than she gave herself credit for.
In ‘The tramping prescription’, we hear from three hikers with illnesses so serious that if not carefully managed they can cause extreme discomfort and even death. But that hasn’t prevented them from getting outside where they find camaraderie and experiences that help them cope.
Finally, in the story ‘The joys and tribulation of outdoor trips’, we discover the impact of spending more than 10 days in remote outdoor settings has on the psyche. The conclusion I get from reading it, is if you need to make an important, life-changing decision then you should go bush for a few days and really immerse yourself in nature and the stripped-down day-to-day ritual of walking, eating and sleeping. It clears the mind and allows a focussing on the core issue without the easy distractions in our regular home and work settings.
With New Zealand’s borders still closed, the consensus is the outdoors this summer will be less crowded than it has been in a long time. But I’m beginning to think it won’t be quite as quiet as people expect. As more Kiwis are introduced to hiking and DOC huts and the health benefits that a few days away from everything can bring, there’ll still be plenty of people on the trail.