Eating sea lice and banana slugs for food.
Running into bears. Lions circling my tent. More often than not, people think I’m a little crazy when they hear I experienced these things and actually enjoyed it.
I get it!
Those journeys into the wilderness are not your typical dream vacations like relaxing on the beach or exploring a quaint European village. Instead, they’re gritty, uncomfortable, and challenging. But there’s a very good reason why I do what I do.
To be clear, I’m not a fan of sea lice or how they taste. Banana slugs are chewy and slimy, which is certainly not the most appealing combination. I truly don’t relish suffering just for the sake of suffering. It’s a known fact that venturing into the wilderness without gear or food will involve hunger and the uncertainty of where I will find my next meal. There’s also a good chance I’ll cross paths with an animal that might think I’m dinner. You never know what’s around the bend.
And yet this unpredictability and discomfort is part of the joy.
Let me explain. Some things in life are pleasurable in the moment, like a delicious dessert. It’s off the charts wonderful right up until the last bite. But then there are other areas of life that, frankly, can only be savored in hindsight.
Survival in the wilderness is one example.
When you experience discomfort in the wild like hunger, fear or severe weather, it’s not as if you are having “fun” during these trials. But six months later, while in the comfort of your home and thinking back on the hardship, there’s an indescribable joy that washes over you. It’s actually quite beautiful. I’m willing to contend with great discomfort to feel the joy in knowing that I was able to survive (and thrive) in raw, untamed wilderness.
Honestly, most of us avoid discomfort when we can. We see this in our exceedingly comfortable Western lifestyles. We’re insulated from the elements and wild beasts by our climate-controlled homes, cars, and places of work and business. We don’t need to retrieve water from a stream, river or lake. A simple twist of the tap is all that’s required of us. We wrap ourselves in high-tech Gore-tex so we don’t have to feel the reality of rain, wind or the clamminess from our own body heat. The list continues on.
But I’m here to tell you some of the best things in my life have come from discomfort and sometimes even pain. Like when I survived solo in the wilderness for 57 days straight without much beyond the shirt on my back in the History Channel’s TV show, “Alone”. Or during the new TV mini-series Surviving The Stone Age – Adventure In the Wild, which was filmed in the Rhodope Mountains of Southern Bulgaria, where we survived as our ancestors did in ancient Europe during the Stone Age.
With these life experiences, I always come out the other side mentally, spiritually, and physically stronger than before. It’s incredibly rewarding to be able to walk into the woods with absolutely nothing and know how to survive. It gives me a deep sense of security and accomplishment.
I want you to feel that kind of joyful triumph too.
My book, A Reference Guide to Surviving Nature: Outdoor Preparation and Remedies can help. It’s a must-have for any wilderness adventure. My sincere wish is that it will inspire and support you on your own journey into the wild.