Get out! (And go camping!)

There is something intrinsically therapeutic about getting the hell out of civilization and losing oneself in the wild for a while.

Perhaps I’m preaching to the choir here (Portlanders being the nature-loving bunch that they are) but this week’s column is devoted to one simple opinion: the outdoors are amazin.

I recently spent several days chaperoning a Cub Scout campout. Hauling gear into the woods and setting up camp for 65 people, then spending a long weekend eating cold canned ravioli and listening to kids tell fart jokes may not seem like the most relaxing thing in the world. But after spending nine months sitting in class, doing homework, and writing a nauseatingly high number or papers and essays, a weekend in the woods was perfect. I brought along a family member’s Yamaha Grizzly 660 quad and did my best to force it places that man and machine were not meant to go (I succeeded on several occasions—but that creek was deeper than I thought). I stayed up late reading a mindless novel by lantern-light marveling in the fact that, for the first weekend in a long time, I wasn’t bogged down with work.

This isn’t to say I’m busy: I’m still taking online classes this summer; I still have my work here for the Vanguard to keep me busy; and I’m working on a research project for my own amusement. But getting out of the house, getting into the woods or to the beach or even a new city is an almost vital part of who we are. That need had been building up and ever-expanding, and finally I couldn’t take it anymore. Thus, my choice to spend three days sitting in the woods, enjoying being away from civilization. I strapped my laptop and a can of Pepsi to the back of the quad, found an abandoned and nearly impassable dirt road, and rode several switchbacking miles to the top of some nameless mountain for several hours of writing under a stunted Douglas Fir. Redneck meets geek.

I know several people whose idea of roughing it is the short walk from the car to the restaurant, or perhaps waiting in the rain at the MAX station. I have a hard time understanding this concept, this idea that the world begins and ends with glass and concrete and electricity. For me, the opposite is true; the world is a huge place, full of wonder and majesty and magic just waiting be explored and experienced. Cities are a part of this—Portland isn’t my hometown and I sure had fun exploring it when I first came to PSU—but they are a small part of it.

PSU does a lot to encourage students to get out and get more active, even if getting out is simply getting to the Rec Center and swimming some laps or spending time in the gym. While I applaud these efforts (and should succumb to their message more often), I would opine that students need a lot more than the Rec Center to detox their brain. School is hard, school is tiring, and above all, school is massively time-consuming. Getting out of the house, getting away from the normal routines of the day, and breathing some fresh air can go a long way in alleviating the stresses of school—and life.