My daughter grew up in the woods and subsequently in the desert, running free on the trails or dancing around poison ivy and even venomous snakes. She lay on a pier with fingers dabbling in the shallow water puzzling how water striders skated freely on a surface that to her hands felt not the least bit solid. Yes, sometimes she got a little wet and often times got dirty but she learned to be herself out there and soon grew to be a lovely lady.
Will my grandsons ever know this world? City dwellers both, they roam their tiny yard in search of butterflies and spiders. But if they sit upon the deck in the dark of the moon to search the heavenly skies, they find that all the stars have been washed away by an artificial urban glow. Their playground is a well-mowed plot with a tree or two scattered there at the edges of a "jungle gym."
We’ve seen this coming for some time now, those of us connected to the great outdoors. Nature clubs and sanctuaries have tried to fill the void but all the while the woods were felled and replaced with soccer fields. A new term has been coined, "nature deficit disorder" and with this label finally awareness grows.
How can we counter this defect in our children’s world? Travel is the answer. Escape on a family expedition whether it be to the fine designated trails of the Galapagos Islands or to the wild, wide-open tundra of Arctic Norway. The Amazon is a true jungle, far different than that "jungle-gym" and Southeast Alaska is dark and mysterious, waiting for you. In all of these places nature rules. We humans are the visitors. We can stop, breath deeply, and reconnect with each other and the world around.
The trails of the Galapagos are groomed, that’s true but like it takes little imagination to see the wildlife two feet from your shoe. It's intriguing to sit and watch just exactly what they will do. "Patience is a virtue," the saying goes but it might be the hardest to learn in this day of instant gratification. In days gone by, mankind sat and waited, quietly, for fish or game to pass their way. We, and our children need to rediscover those skills of observation and restraint. A touch of the wild found on a family expedition can start the process anew.
Stand on the deck of a ship, cruise the planet’s oceans and search the seas for signs of life. We wait and we watch tirelessly, alert for any movement out of place or the puff of a blow from a whale. The rewards are immense, the exhilaration indescribable. And what about those bears, the purest sign of wilderness? With perseverance they can be discovered too, white ones in Arctic Norway, black or brown on Alaska’s shores.
Exploring the wild as a family might just be the means to cure this epidemic of "nature deficit disorder." So, get up and plan your Alaska tour, Glapagos travel, or whatever suits you!
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