A Natural Progression

From Stranger to Guest to Family Member

When many people first head out into the wilderness, they feel like a stranger in a strange land. Out of their comfort zone. Odd sounds, weird smells, too hot, too cold, too wet, too much. The first time may prove to be the last.

For those that persevere, and in so doing learn to accept the natural world on its own terms, a transformation can take place. Slowly but surely one becomes accustomed to the conditions that hitherto had been the catalyst of fear and anxiety. As experiences accumulate, worries begin to fade. And with this heightened sense of connection comes a magnified feeling of responsibility. An unwritten ‘duty of care’ with Mother Nature. Spending time out in the woods becomes a fundamental part of your life. The stranger evolves into a welcome guest.

In the third and final stage of this “natural progression”, the guest becomes a family member. Irrespective of season or environment, a sense of belonging permeates your experiences. From a tangible perspective, wildlife seems less skittish in your presence and navigating obstacles such as river fords, desert crossings and snowbound terrain becomes a matter of course. No drama, no need to second guess; you know what needs to be done and you do it. That doesn’t signify that you never make mistakes, but it does mean that when errors invariably happen, you look at them as learning experiences, rather than negatives or potential reasons not to return.

From an intangible perspective, feelings of separation have disappeared, replaced instead by a sense of union with your surroundings. You have come home, and in so doing realised that your spirit never really left. Our connection with the natural world is innate, so while it may seem like Mother Nature is teaching, I’ve long suspected she is simply reminding. She is giving us the key to unlock a part of us that has always been there. And I can’t think of too many gifts that are greater than that.

Sunset at Evans Creek | Southwest Tasmania Traverse, 2016.