There is a great book that has become a “go to” teaching tool for conservationists around the country. It is Last Child in the Woods, Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder, written by Richard Louv.
“Last Child…is the first book to bring together a new and growing body of research indicating that direct exposure to nature is essential for healthy childhood development and for the physical and emotional health of children and adults…” – author website. (Ed. note: Roadtreking fans can get a free audio version of Last Child in the Woods by signing up for a free 30-day trial of Audible.com by clicking on www.audibletrial.com/roadtreking. Or go to http://amzn.to/1mFKY2c for a direct link to Amazon for a print copy.)
Of course, Louv isn’t the first person to figure this out, but he compellingly relates the urgent need for getting our children (and ourselves) out from in front of the phone, computer and the television.
Physically– even when I don’t have my dog (who demands plenty of long walks) with me, I'm active when I travel. I spend most of my time poking around, looking at things whether in a nature center, park or wherever I happen to be. I hike, swim, kayak and breathe fresh air. RVers climb, run, snowshoe, golf, cycle, and participate in all sorts of other active endeavors. Studies show how a good dose of nature can be a helpful form of therapy for illnesses like Anxiety, Depression and ADD. Sunlight helps us absorb vitamin D. Every day we hear the message about the benefits of exercise.
We use all five senses when we're out. Did you eat dirt as a kid or try a wild blackberry? Listen to birds sing or an elk bugle? Touch rough bark or sift sand or watch a spider spin a web? Smell the wonderful richness of an old pine forest?
Spiritually– Several studies show that spending time outdoors can feed our souls – simply from being surrounded by the beauty and mysteries of the natural world. I have a visceral reaction that calms my mind and gives me a feeling of serenity. Often, outside, I experience oneness with the world – a feeling of connectedness that is impossible to feel in front of the computer, in a shopping mall, or at work.
Throughout my divorce, I would often go up to the woods. Simply sitting in the forest and getting quiet would always, without exception, make me feel better. And when I was getting chemo, I decided not to cancel my vacation in Belize. Might as well be sick in a nice place. Even though I couldn’t be in the sun or scuba dive, it was comforting to sit in the shade and listen to the waves. It's easier to for me to accept life on life’s terms while in a pretty environment.
Studies also show how students learn and test better when they are outdoors. We have better focus and awareness.
As to the future, time in the natural world promotes a sense of personal ownership of the environment. Kids who play in a creek in a nearby park, feel it’s “their” creek. Everyone knows about recycling and pollution; it’s taught in schools, but to deeply care for a place and have a gut reaction to possible destruction is key to future environmental stewardship. It's hard to cut down a tree when you've put that baby bird back in the nest.
RVing is good for us in so many ways. We make new friends. We study and learn to care. We seek, we grow and we experience great joy along with a sense of wonder. Yes, we might have mechanical issues or have to swat black flies- but that is all part of the adventure!
If you are already out there, don't worry about being wifi'd up every day. It's good to get off the grid, turn off the equipment, close that laptop. You can even put down the camera and take a “mental” snap shot.
I am revitalized when I get back from a trip, and it isn’t long before I feel the need to take “the cure” again.