Finding your wild might sound a bit dramatic, but before you go chopping down trees or looking for bearskin, remember that the wild is different for everyone. You can find it in your own home (which is handy right now) as much as on a mountaintop. What we’re really talking about is a connection to nature that nourishes and relaxes you. Here are eight simple tips that can help you make 2021 a really wild year, even if you don't get far past your front door.
A pyjermit (pyjama hermit) is someone who gets to Thursday and realises they haven’t been properly dressed all week. With more and more of us working from home, pyjermitism is on the rise and it’s about as far from finding your wild as you can get, until you come right through the other side and end up with small birds nesting in your hair. If you are working from home, try faking a commute with a little walk round the block before you settle in at the laptop. Not having a fixed destination means being able to wander to a nice green spot and pack some nature time in before you start the day. If you’re still heading into an office, then vary your route as much as possible and leave as early as you can to maximise time outdoors and your own personal calm.
Connection to nature doesn’t have to mean living off berries in the woods for a week. Wherever you settle for the day, surround yourself with as much greenery as possible. It’s no substitute for a good bit of forest bathing, but a few plants around your desk constitutes at least a quick shrubbery shower. NASA research has proven that plants are natural air purifiers, with palms and ferns particularly effective at eliminating toxins and supplying oxygen. They also provide what’s known as “soft fascination”, by being a gentler, less demanding and irritating thing for our attention to rest on than our screens. So fill up your home, workspace or lunar module with greenery and keep a bit of the wild with you all day.
Holidaying in the UK is going to be pretty popular when it starts up again, which means it might be hard to find places to book and if you do get away, your favourite spots could be a little less relaxing than you’d like. If you can, make a little pocket of time just for yourself. Avoid the big holidays, even take a couple of days midweek if you have some leave carried over from lockdown. Travelling out of the normal peak times can be a real eye opener, giving you a fresh perspective, with flowers blooming on normally snowy slopes, or a pale drama to a landscape usually seen in summer colours. You’ll have a bit more space and find it easier to immerse yourself in nature.
One of the best ways to ensure that you make and maintain a real connection to the outdoors is to learn a skill that creates a lasting bond and keeps you going back. Paddle boarding, for example, you can pick up in an afternoon if you have good balance and then, with inflatable boards reasonably priced, always have in the boot as an option when you’re away. Photography is an art that’s accessible to get into, but wonderfully layered and nuanced, leading to years of really capturing the landscapes you visit. You could learn green woodworking and make your own souvenirs, or simple survival skills like fire building and bivvying that just give you a bit more confidence to get out there. All of those can be practiced and studied at home, even the paddle boarding. Don't believe us? All you need is an ironing board, a couple of thick books and a broom.
We often find ourselves stamping through woods, or gazing down from hilltops and wishing we knew more about the flora, fauna or geology we were looking at. Guided walks are great for familiarising yourself with a landscape but there are tonnes of great books and courses that can help you too. You’ll find that once you can tell your warblers from your wagtails, sort your worts or know a sheet of dolerite rock when you’re looking at a castle from it, you get much more out of being outside. There’s a risk that you’ll turn into a total rock/tree/bird nerd, but don’t worry, there are plenty out there and you’ll have a whole new group of friends as well as more reasons to head off into the wild.
We’re usually fairly anti tech, but there are some great apps out there that take all the stress out of planning your outdoor time. Yes, purist map readers would argue they take the joy of the challenge out of it as well, but if you just want to unwind and wander, then the OS and Komoot apps are your friends. They help you plot timings of hikes from a couple of hours to multi-day epics, find good spots for stops and prevent you from circling the same tree a hundred times as you search for heffalumps. Download them now and you might be able to find some new routes for your limited outdoor time.
We all know one of those people who goes that little bit further - who’s wild camping on Dartmoor while you’re umming and ahhing over the weather forecast, or who plans a week-long hike along the coastal path and doesn’t abandon it at the first pub. Well, defeat your inner gooseberry and start working on them to take you along some time. Part of many people’s hesitation about getting out into nature is not having all the kit or even knowing where to start, so having someone to guide you a little goes a long way. You might feel like you’d slow them down, but they’ll get you back by making you cook or carry everything, so it works out in the end and it could be the start of a whole new set of adventures.
While we’re talking digital, social media can be great for helping you find your wild. The right people can lead you to wild swimming spots and superb hidden locations, inspire you to push your limits or just tide you over with lovely photos while you wait to get back out there. We’re big fans of The Girl Outdoors, who never stops adventuring, Jack Boothby, who loves a laid back cabin weekend, and Mya Rose-Craig, aka Birdgirl, a fanatical birdwatcher and incredible campaigner for equal access to the countryside.
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