Several years ago, I was on a paddling trip with a group of friends, one of whom was totally new to remote wilderness. Let’s call this friend Macy. Our group was dropped off by floatplane, and then we began our five-day paddle back to our takeout point.
Within the first few hours of the trip, we were hit by a brutal pop-up lightning storm while making our way down a marshy river. There was no dry ground where we could pull off and seek shelter, so we just kept going while lightning flashed around us. The thunder was so loud that we could feel it. I won’t try to sound like a tough guy here; I was scared.
But the next morning, the sun was shining, the pike were biting, and all was right with the world—except all was not right with Macy. She was agitated and anxious to get going. She confiscated the map and GPS and then coerced her boat partner into paddling as quickly as possible to the next campsite. This went on for a few days, Macy worriedly pushing ahead at a blistering pace, until we got closer to civilization and started bumping into other groups. By the last night, we were just a few miles from our takeout spot, and Macy was back to her normal self, now enjoying the trip instead of racing to finish it.
With all the national discourse around mental health—in which the outdoors and wilderness so often get offered up as antidotes—I often think back to this trip with Macy. Because yes, everyone can benefit from spending time outside, but not everyone is ready for the wilderness.
As survival instructor Jessie Krebs (“Soul Survivor”) says, “For some, the lack of judgment in the wilderness is healing. But other people can’t handle it, because they bring their traumas with them and end up freaking out.”
So for this issue, we’ve gathered stories about the mindset it takes to -survive—and thrive—in the wild. I hope you enjoy these perspectives, and then paddle easy.
How to Read About the Survivor’s Mindset
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