In the Netherlands most of us don’t really grow up with the outdoors like for example Norwegians or Swedes do. We are not taught how to use a compass, hike for long stretches, we don’t learn basic survival skills etc. I’m generalising of course, because there are ways to spend time outdoors. For example, there are scouting groups and if your family is so inclined, you go on outdoor adventures with them. I didn’t grow up with that. Sure, I was always outside if I could. Playing with kids in the street, playing outside in the garden, taking my inflatable row boat out on the nearby creek or spending summer days by the lake with kids from the neighbourhood. My family simply wasn’t the outdoorsy kind. Generally speaking, I think there is some fear enstilled in Dutch people when we grow up: don’t go to the forest by yourself because you might get hurt, don’t go to the park by yourself, don’t go to a remote area where noone can reach you. Concerns like these are understandable and valid, because unfortunately bad things happen and it’s sickening and gut wrenching that it’s so. It’s just sad that the natural environment gets associated with bad things making us not wanting to enjoy it otherwise.
This post is not a lament about some (non-)existing gap in my upbringing or a stab at my generally non-outdoorsy country, though. I’ve had a great childhood and despite life’s hick-ups (everyone deals with those), I lead a good life. The Netherlands are a good country to live in, much better than a lot of countries that are in shreds and where the people are suffering. This post is more of an ode to discovering my love for the outdoors. And the realisation that the older I get the more I need and want to immerse myself in all that beauty. Nature provides a way to get to know myself and to love myself.
When did I realise I loved the outdoors? Why do I love the outdoors so much? Perhaps it was my first travels through Australia that introduced me to the foreign (to me) concept of natural space. You could drive for hours and not see a soul. You could see for miles without seeing a man-made structure. You could see billions of stars in the nightsky due to the complete absence of light pollution. In the beginning I was both in awe and afraid of it. Afraid because I didn’t know what to do with myself. I didn’t know how to hold myself in this concept of space. Now I’m just in awe, because of all that beauty, all that room to breathe and rest your mind. It feels like endless possibilities when you have yourself and nature to back you up. Norway and Sweden, but mostly New Zealand, have deepened my love for the outdoors. I prefer to spend holidays in nature over a city trip any day. That’s just me.
Being outdoors makes me feel alive. It makes me feel. I’ve seen things I never imagined I would. I’ve felt a calmth of mind that I never knew I was capable of and that I only find when I am out in nature. Is it weird to want to feel that way again? Or to want to hold onto that wonderful feeling, preferably forever? In the outdoors, anything seems possible and there are so many ways to enjoy yourself: hiking, sailing, kayaking, snorkelling, horse riding, just to name some activities. Preferably set to a stunning backdrop, the kind I love and have to seek out over the borders of my home country.
In the outdoors, you can slow everything down and focus on what matters most to you. The outdoors brings everything back to the core: you. And that’s the best ally you can possibly have for this thing called life.