Gentlemen, we have a problem.
No, not the kind that requires a meeting in a parking lot later this afternoon and ends with at least one bloody nose.
This is a problem far more serious.
We are losing touch with the outside world. Our one and only world.
Now before I continue, I must confess that I consider myself a nerd of epic proportions. I have spent more hours than I care to admit in front of computer screens coding websites and configuring hardware, stringing servers and streaming movies. I have worked for some of the largest, most innovative tech companies in the world and so I hope what I’m about to say carries some weight.
Over the past decade, I have noticed an alarming shift in how we, as young men, choose to spend our free time. Whether it be a long winter weekend or a month of summer vacation, more often than not we have opted for the latest version of Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty, or Halo over camping with friends, road tripping to the nearest bit of nature or even getting lost amongst the sounds in our own backyard for a day.
There was once a time when young men craved the outdoors; when a piece of our hearts and minds begged for an adventure beyond the plasma screen mere inches from our faces. Most alarming, however, is while we’ve been distracted, the incredible sights which our fathers and grandfathers once enjoyed are disappearing. Without great protectors, whose love of grand forests and crystal clear waters was instilled in their youths, song-filled trees are growing silent; rivers no longer flow with the force and life of years past. Nature needs its great protectors back.
But this disconnect isn’t just about how much the wildlife needs us. It is also about how much we need the wild.
Instead of an evening swapping stories under the stars we have elected for headset shouting matches between strangers thousands of miles away about who claims which kills and how many grenades we can use in the next mission. It has become apparent that we have become socially deaf, dumb, and blind. We are forgetting how to treat one another or carry a conversation past television premieres and the weather.
As I wrote in a post over two years ago, traveling to new places opens doors to new cultures and people, but it also opens up a part of ourselves.
Lying beneath the stars listening to wolves howl or canopy bird songs echo through the trees has a humbling effect on you. It allows you to see and understand the grand design, the complex machine that we call our world. And while this great wide world may be vast, every action, every choice, can make a difference. Nothing can empower and inspire like Mother Nature.
Now, this isn’t to say that there isn’t a single male presence out in the great wide world that hasn’t embraced opportunities to explore the outdoors, nor do I suggest that every owner of an XBOX is incapable of making friends or carrying an enthralling conversation, however what I will say is this.
In the past decade, I have traveled over 150,000 miles, to over 40 new communities, and those journeys, shared with peers, colleagues, friends and family, have defined not only who I am, but provided guidance for who I hope to become. When I leave the confines of the digital world, I become more in tune with the rest of what the world has to offer. Rolling waves on the shore, the way the sun peaked over the ridgeline, the sound rain’s patter would make against the tent roof. And oh, the stars!
I hope some of you will consider taking a trip, getting outside, and sharing those incredible moments of discovery with one another soon.
Michael is an avid traveler, having spent time in Ecuador, Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama and the Caribbean. He is currently a sophomore Resident Adviser at Tulane University studying Public Health and Neuroscience. Michael has worked extensively with technology companies, including Apple Inc. Despite his love of computers, his interests in the outdoors are even more important to him. 2013 was Michael’s third summer with RLT, having traveled on Aloha ‘Aina and Service Leadership as a participant and Call of the Wild and El Sendero as a trip leader. Michael can’t wait to spend his summers with RLT, filled with new adventures, service and discovery!