By: Gabe Thornton
We learned on NOLS that a critical component of group survival is self leadership. This is the ability to lead your own mind and body so to speak. In the wild this is a clear and obtainable objective. To start, one should eat enough food and drink enough water in order to live. After those basic needs are met, the next step involves staying physically healthy which is conducive to mental health. Stretch after walking, do some push-ups, read a book or write in your journal. All these activities are your responsibility as an individual to create your best self for the benefit of the group. In a situation like NOLS this responsibility is a clear necessity and much easier to address.
However in the front country, especially a front country that is not native to you it is more easy than one would think to forget these basic necessities and how important they are to function normally. In a place where even basic communication requires a multitude of focus and effort it’s easy to overlook that afternoon snack or that bottle of water you should be drinking, or even that jog you told yourself you’d do in the morning. Priorities shift in a new and stressful environment but we can’t forget those building blocks we set for ourselves in our time in the wilderness. There are many distractions, obstacles, challenges, and frustrations in the world we live in, but how can any of us expect to work together to survive in this concrete jungle if we don’t take care of ourselves first. It worries me that this was forgotten when we stepped off the bus from the wild and back into the “real” world. Sometimes however it seems this is the wilderness and NOLS was just practice.