12 lessons we learned from Wild
By Di Westaway and Lisa Marshall
In 1995, Cheryl Strayed began a journey along the Pacific Crest Trail, in an effort to escape a life that seemed to be crumbling around her. Following the tragic death of her mother, the end of her relationship and a quick descent into self-destructive behaviour, she made the decision to put her life in a backpack and trek through the mountains from California to Canada.
It is a journey film and a chick flick. It makes you laugh and it makes you cry. It is sentimental and courageous, frustrating and uplifting.
And, it’s full of wisdom.
In a nutshell… if you want to enjoy walking in the wilderness, do the opposite of everything Cheryl does.
Di Westaway and Lisa Marshall give us 12 lessons we can learn from Wild.
- It’s all about the journey. Wanderlusters like us love setting adventure goals that can be harder than we ever imagined because of what we learn about ourselves. Adventures that take us through moments when we want to quit, and that although we may want to quit, often, it’s what comes after and what we discover about ourselves during the struggle within that really makes the journey worth it.
- Failing to plan is planning to suffer. Like any big challenge, the more planning and preparation you put into it, the more fun you’ll have on the journey. We can choose to make an adventure extra torturous by rocking up unprepared, like Strayed did, or we can do a bit of prep: try stuffing that backpack before we head off, take a few training walks in the woods around home and wear those leather boots around before we hit the trail.
- Practice with your pack: Train with your pack, increase the pack weight incrementally over time and get your body conditioned to carrying load. And no books, please!
- Expect the unexpected because you can’t control the wilderness. Most of us lead pretty comfortable, predictable safe lives in the city so the wilderness takes us way out of our comfort zone. No matter what the brochure says, sh** happens when you go hiking in the bush and it teaches us mental and emotional 'tuffness' when we manage it. This builds resilience which is brilliant.
- Water keeps us alive. Take a really good, reliable water filter. Always know where water sources are along the way and speak to others on the trail regarding local conditions.
- Blisters don’t need to be part of the journey. Truth is, blisters are excruciating and they can actually be prevented. With a few simple tips, you can dispense with this aspect of your suffering. Try wearing your leather boots under water and then walking them dry (before you start your trek!), opting for Gortex boots because they dry quicker, going for a half size bigger (yes – simple but true), spending a bit more on a few pairs of technical socks, using paw paw ointment to reduce friction or pre taping known hot spots. You’ll have a much better time.
- Never never never give up. By sticking with the challenge, you’ll either succeed or fail. Either way, you’ll learn valuable lessons about yourself, your mind, body and spirit.
- Adventures are good for you. Taking on an extreme challenge is not self-indulgent selfishness. In fact, extreme challenges in nature bring significant health benefits which are only recently being confirmed by science. Not only does the body release happy hormones when you immerse yourself in nature, but the body gets stronger, fitter, more mobile and more powerful as you hike.
- Community and nature make us happy. Deprivation and suffering through a trek forces you to evaluate your values. Watching Strayed on this journey highlights how little we need in terms of possessions for happiness, and how important our community and nature are for our mental health.
- Mental 'tuffness' can get you through anything. When you put your mind to a goal and you have an end point you are aiming for, you can achieve things you never thought possible! But you will need mental 'tuffness' to get through the hard times: you can build up mental 'tuffness' by taking on smaller challenges that require you stepping out of your comfort zone. You can practice long days of walking, climbing multiple peaks, by training on stairs and hills and doing intervals and repeat climbs, just when you don’t feel like climbing any more. Getting used to pushing beyond your comfort zone will help you prepare the physical and mental 'tuffness' to endure long days of trekking in the wilderness.
- Be in the moment. Instead of spending time in your head worrying about what gear you don't have, the weather and how hungry you are, start to immerse yourself in nature. Take in the sounds, smells and fresh air off the mountains and really try to be in the moment. Let go of the things you can’t change and you will come away with beautiful memories and a fresh perspective on life. Open yourself up to the power of immersing yourself in the wilderness. It helps you to realise what's important in life and puts things in perspective.
- The small stuff doesn’t matter. Being in the wilderness requires you to switch to survival mode. Instead of worrying about where you will get your latte today, and what shoes you're going to wear to that dinner date, you are now focused on where to find water and how you will stay dry when a massive rain storm hits you. This is such a rejuvenating way to live. Let go of the small stuff and get focused on surviving and making the most out of being in the wild.