Do you struggle trying to explain your love of the outdoors to friends and family? Do you feel them slipping away while answering questions regarding mileage, showers, and the always ominous “how do you poop in the woods?” At this moment, with a creepy look in your eye, whisper, “how do you poop on a toilet?” Come on people; it’s not like deviant bears are waiting for you to drop trou!
When Lauren and I got married, she’d never slept in a tent, paddled a kayak, hiked, rode a bike off-road, or read a map. We started slow. Gradually, “glamping” turned to camping and camping to backpacking. With each experience, she saw nature differently and eventually she fell in love. These days, she can set up camp and crochet a beanie before the average “hipster guy” can put tent-pole A into slot B. Now a proficient hiker and paddler, our next trip was an introduction to caving.
Deep within the cool interior of Longhorn Caverns, headlamps illuminated our path in an otherwise dark environment. I watched in awe as Lauren gracefully lifted her small frame, sliding through tight muddy tracks I couldn’t fit through. Never had I seen someone take to caving with such beauty. I’ve had the privilege of exploring Mammoth Cave, Carlsbad, Blanchard Springs, and Vantului Cave, to name a few. Longhorn Caverns, although beautiful, doesn’t require rope work or advanced technique. Thus, the perfect starter cave. Of course, I wanted to repel or stove-pipe climb, but this trip was for Lauren.
With each chamber I watched as her smile widened. She had taken to caving like Oprah to a box of donuts. Tiny bats hung from the ceiling of our next crag. I assumed she would be afraid, instead she posed for pictures with what she dubbed “cute little furry chicken nuggets.” Hours later, emerging to the bright Texas sun, she had fallen in love with another aspect of our beautiful planet.
So, how do you convince your friends and family to experience nature in a way that could change their lives? Without using a Bill Cosby Martini and a wheel barrow, it’s best to be honest. Hygiene suffers in the back country. Being an “outdoors nut” doesn’t imply you look like an REI commercial filled with fitness models dawning the latest and greatest attire and equipment. Not having electricity and showers sucks! But, it’s the price we pay to experience nature in an authentic “WOW” way.
At first, lower your expectations: less miles, less risk, a bit more comfort. You may not reach that campsite you dreamed of. But if you love someone, you meet them where they are and encourage them. In the same way, we sacrifice comfort to embrace nature. So we must sacrifice some of our goals to introduce the ones we love to nature.
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