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Opinion: Surviving in the wild can benefit every part of your life

We have become somewhat soft in recent years, becoming increasingly dependent on technology and comfort – we need to get into the wild again.

WHEN I TALK to most people and mention my love for the great outdoors – the freedom to ramble through the Irish countryside, the thrill of being close to nature and enjoying spectacular views after a bracing hill climb – 99% of them nod in agreement. They express their mutual approval of such endeavours. But when I invite them to come and join me they sometimes change their tune to one of reluctance.

I can understand why; while the rewards for a hill climb or a trek can be enjoyed by everyone, people may think that the travelling to get there in the first place would be too much for them. However, that’s where the fun lies for me; challenging terrain, using your wits to reach your destination, exploring new areas that not many people know about and relying on your resources to see just how self-sufficient you can be. The all important exercise and confidence-building are added bonuses!

In my work with Extreme Ireland, I have seen characters grow over our tours where we challenge the participants to use their own survival skills to get through challenging situations. We run tours with Irish Army Special Forces operatives who teach participants self sufficiency skills and show them just how tough a person they can really be. We’ve had companies attend our trips in the name of team building and have seen confidence and resourcefulness flow through them by the end of the tour. There are plenty of laughs along the way, too.

Increasingly dependent on technology

We have become somewhat soft in recent years, becoming increasingly dependent on technology and comfort. In some ways it’s unnatural for us as our instincts are to eat off the land and use problem-solving skills to keep ourselves alive. The great outdoors with challenging hikes and exploration can put us back in touch with those instincts again. When you dig deep and challenge yourself, the skills you are reminded of can help you in everyday situations – including your social and work life – and give you an edge over others. It’s what got me hooked on adventure holidays.

Many people out there enjoy going away from the tourist trails when they go on holiday, discovering the real country they’re in by going off the beaten track. This is a centre point of adventure holidays as you discover new areas you previously thought were inaccessible. They might have remained inaccessible had you not learned how to zip line or abseil along the way. And, when you reach your destination, you will be able to enjoy surrounds few others have seen.

You and your environment

With exploration and adventure comes great responsibility, particularly for our environment. The Irish countryside is there to be enjoyed by us all, but it also needs to be protected and cared for. ‘No Trace’ hiking is important to conserve the natural beauty of the countryside and to protect the environment.

Similarly, while I encourage everyone to go forth and discover what our great country has to offer, I would implore you to learn basic skills from somebody that knows what they’re doing – do not put yourself in danger. Once you have learned the basics then you are free to go where you want, when you want and there’s no greater freedom for human beings than that.

Keith McDonnell is CEO with Extreme Ireland Adventures. Extreme Ireland Adventures offers a variety of walking tours – soft adventure tours – day tours, adventure courses and international adventures.  For more information on Extreme Ireland tours including the top secret mission with Irish Army Special Forces at a classified island location please click here.

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