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 experience accumulates, worries and doubts 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 goes from being an occasional footnote to a fundamental part of your life. The stranger has evolved into a regular guest.

In the third and final stage of this natural progression, the guest becomes a family member. Regardless of season or environment, a sense of belonging permeates your outdoor excursions. From a tangible perspective, wildlife seems less skittish in your presence (or you in theirs) 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’s not to say 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 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 have realized 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 sending us reminders – providing the key so that we can unlock a part of ourselves that has always been there.

Sunset at Evans Creek | Southwest Tasmania Traverse, 2016.

20 Replies to “A Natural Progression”

  1. Wow! You are good. This is poetry. Put it in a paper for more people to read.
    I lift my hat and bow.
    Best regards


  2. Eloquent and from the heart, you connect to those of us kindred in spirit and relate a common cause of our wanderlust, resonating peace with oneself found in the outdoors.

  3. Thanks for encapsulating what is so hard to explain to others. I retire in 7 days and look forward to returning to my wilderness family.

  4. “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.”

    And when you make mistakes, YOU DON’T PANIC” Laurence Gonzales’ “Deep Survival” goes into great depth into the mindsets that lead to tragedy or not. The ability to remain level-headed and hence safe when you make mistakes for most people is a matter of time spent experiencing the wilderness on its terms.

    1. That’s actually the subject of an upcoming post. I think far too often in the hiking world people tend to over-emphasise speed, distance and gear (tangible barometers), and under-emphasise the importance of cool and objective decision making, which in no small part is born of experience in different environments.

  5. Cam…I can so relate…once i realized I wasn’t ever alone out there..once i realized i was surrounded by so much life and acceptance…the gifts were immense..thank you for sharing

  6. Brilliant. I always enjoy your posts.
    I second what everybody else has said.
    I’m still a newbie (although an old-ish one), and have only a few, rather sedate wilderness experiences, but already I feel adrift and in the wrong place when having to be back in the city, living in a house, surrounded by people who have yet to experience the wilderness magic.

  7. Wow Cam you really struck a chord with this post – it’s so true that there is a deeply spiritual aspect to the quiet and isolation from everyday distractions when walking. Thanks for great article.
    Incidentally, following your review of Hyperlite 2400 and purchased same – used it on a 5 day walk on Bibbulman recently and it performed just great!
    Mike Ainley

  8. You have captured one of the most magical elements of hiking here Cam. Beautifully written. I need to go for another long hike. As you remind us to so eloquently, this is where we find our family.

  9. Cam, this is one of the most poignant pieces of outdoors writing that I’ve ever read, thank you! I so needed this after a taxing week. My wife and I are packing now for a long weekend hike and hammock camping on our local Mountains-to-Sea Trail in lovely NC. Best wishes to you brother.

  10. Cam, you have so eloquently captured in words the state of being and sense of belonging that I feel when I am in the wilderness. Thank you for this!

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