The 5 Switches of Manliness: Nature

by Brett on June 26, 2011 · 73 comments

in A Man's Life, On Manhood

In this Switches of Manliness series, we’ve been talking about those unique parts of a man’s psyche that have fallen into disuse in the modern world and need to be reactivated. But there’s likely some overlap between the needs of men and the needs of women; for example, primitive women used to be quite physical too, and I think modern women need to have an element of physicality in their lives as well. But with this switch, there’s definitely more than a little overlap. The Switch of Nature is for everyone. Men. Women. Children. Squirrels. Well, I think squirrels have it down pretty well. But it’s for everyone and their mom. Literally—your mom needs it too.

Man’s Separation from Nature: The Third “Frontier”

With the rest of the switches, there was a good amount of theorizing going on as we looked back in time and tried to uncover the life and perspective of primitive man. But with this switch, we don’t have to speculate—we can say this with 100% certitude: primitive man spent a lot more time outside in nature than modern man does. Primitive people were surrounded by nature all day, every day. Their lives revolved around it: they supped from it; they created with it; they protected themselves from it; they even worshiped it.

A life that centered on a deep, vital connection to nature was the norm for humans for tens of thousands of years. This connection would only fall apart when the rise of settled agriculture and then the Industrial Revolution made it possible for more and more people to make a living in a way that did not involve the land.

In the Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv breaks American history into what he sees as the country’s three “frontiers.” The first frontier ended in 1890, when the US Census bureau announced that the line of rugged frontier which had ever been advancing westward had disappeared. The second frontier symbolically ended a hundred years later, when the US government ceased their annual survey of farm residents because that segment of the population had so dramatically constricted, falling from 40% of US households in 1900 to just 1.9% in 1990. Thus Louv argues that the Baby Boomer generation, those born between 1946 and 1964, “may constitute the last generation of Americans to share an intimate, familial attachment to land and water.” Even if Baby Boomers didn’t grow up on a ranch or a farm themselves, they often had a grandparent who had a piece of land, a place that could go visit and get a taste of the wild.

Growing up, my grandpa had a ranch outside of Albuquerqu , and my boyhood visits there are some of my most cherished memories. He’d take my cousins and I on horse rides and let us help him with this chores. I’m pretty sure we slowed him down, but I think he liked having us around.

My grandpa sold his ranch over ten years ago. Now nobody I know personally has a ranch or a farm. And I live in an apartment in the burbs. An area Louv calls the “third frontier.” For the first time in history, the majority of the world’s people live in cities. The third frontier is not a frontier in the traditional sense, but a mishmash of asphalt and grass, a place where people experience what Louv calls, “nature-deficit disorder,” and men walk around with this switch of manliness firmly in the off position.

Nature and a Man’s Health

Every organism has an ideal habitat; take it out of its habitat and it could die, or at least suffer ill-effects. Take a freshwater fish and stick it in a saltwater tank, and soon the fish will be floating belly up.

At the Tulsa Zoo, there is a polar bear exhibit. I was there once on a typical hot, muggy day in the summer, with the temperature soaring past 100 degrees. The polar bear was lying on a concrete slab, his white fur green with algae, his eyes despondent and utterly resigned. I don’t know if zoos have suicide watch, but if so, he would certainly have been under surveillance. It was a sad sight to behold.

I often think about that polar bear when I ponder the state of modern men.  For tens of thousands of years our habitat was the wild, and then, in a mere moment in the grand sweep of history, we find ourselves sealed inside climate-controlled pods for nearly 24 hours a day. Sure, we’ve adapted as organisms do, but the more time we spend in our natural habitat, the healthier our minds and bodies become. And studies bear this out.

Time spent outdoors is linked with lower levels of obesity. When I visit Vermont, I am amazed at how fit and lean much of the population is compared to many Oklahomans. Vermonters spend a lot of time outside; we spend a lot of time at Chili’s. If you look at a national map, it’s easy to see a connection between the states that offer the most opportunities for outdoor recreation, and the states with the lowest levels of obesity. Of course there are many more factors involved here, but the proximity and accessibility of nature cannot be discounted.

Nature keeps you mentally sharp. Cities, with their constant noise, crowds of people, and lack of natural surroundings, can tax the human brain. In fact, studies have shown a link between being brought up in the city and the chance of a person developing schizophrenia and other psychotic illnesses. But even if urban dwelling doesn’t give you full on psychosis, it can still tucker out your brain.

Your attention-span functions in two different ways: there is involuntary attention where arresting stimuli grab your attention without you consciously thinking about it, and directed attention, which is purposefully controlled by your cognitive powers. It’s the difference between an animated billboard drawing your gaze, and seeing a motorcyclist ahead of you and deciding to keep an eye on him. Directed attention allows you to shut out other stimuli in order to focus on what’s important. It’s a crucial factor in effective thinking, emotional functioning, short-term memory, and general academic success.

In an urban environment, not only is our involuntary attention kept in overdrive as a myriad of stimuli assault the senses, but our directed attention is greatly taxed as well, as it must constantly work to shut out those grabs for our involuntary attention to focus on what’s important. “Look at that flashing sign…that taxi is coming towards me!”

Thus researchers have found that a walk in nature, where stimuli makes a much less dramatic play for our involuntary attention, allows our directed attention to have a rest, leaving it primed and ready to tackle difficult cognitive tasks once more.

Nature promotes calmness and fights depression. In a study done in Japan, researchers found that after a 20 minute walk in the forest, particpants had “lower concentrations of cortisol, lower pulse rate, lower blood pressure, greater parasympathetic nerve activity, and lower sympathetic nerve activity” than those who spent time in the city instead. In layman’s terms? Walking in the woods mellows you out. In a follow-up study, time spent in nature increased feelings of vigor and decreased feelings of anger, anxiety, and depression.

Those with children, especially boys, should know that studies have also shown that spending time in nature can alleviate the symptoms of ADHD.

Nature boosts your testosterone. Healthy levels of testosterone are vital for feeling like a virile man. Vitamin D has been shown to boost men’s T levels. Sure, you can take Vitamin D supplements….or you can get your vitamin D for free by actually getting outside and exposing your Boo Radley-esque skin to the sun.

Nature fights cancer. In another study done in Japan, researchers had participants spend 3 days and 2 nights in the woods; the participants took long walks in the forest during the day and stayed at a hotel near the forest at night. The participants showed a 50% increase in “natural killer cells” (a component of the body’s immune system that fights cancerous growths), as well as an increase in other anti-cancer proteins. This boost in NK activity lasted for a month after the experience, showing that even if you can only tear out into the woods once in awhile, it is certainly worth it.

Pretty convincing–and convicting–evidence, no? Anecdotally, I find it interesting that nine times out of ten, if Gus is crying and fussing, I can step outside and the fresh air immediately calms him.

What is it about nature that creates these powerful benefits? The lack of over-stimulation is likely one factor. The Japanese researchers believe that it has to do with the wood oils in the trees–that natural aromatherapy is at work. There have even been studies that show that dirt itself contains natural antidepressants.

But other studies have shown that simply looking out a window at nature or even at a video or a picture of nature lessens anxiety and depression, improves mood, boosts immunity, and hastens healing. So perhaps there’s simply something to be said for “biophilia,” the theory proposed by Pulitzer-prize winning author Edward Wilson, who argues that humans have an “urge to affiliate with other forms of life.” Deny that urge, and your mental and physical health suffers.

Nature and a Man’s Soul

There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream
The earth, and every common sight,
To me did seem
Apparelled in celestial light,
The glory and freshness of a dream

-William Wadsworth Longfellow, “Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood”

Longfellow was one of the eminent poets of the Romantic period. Romantics, who came of age as the Industrial Revolution was changing the lay of the land and the way men lived, grew concerned that men were losing their connection to nature and that this separation was having deleterious effects on their spirit. Effects that could not be proven with logic or science, but could intuitively be sensed in a man’s soul.

I suppose I’ve got a bit of the Romantic in me myself, because I have sensed these effects and truly believe they are real. I can personally say that spending time in nature has made me a better man. And I think it can make you a better man too in several ways.

Nature increases your humility. Some studies have shown that narcissism is on the rise among young people. Parents coddle their kids and build up their self-esteem to the point they feel invincible. And technology caters to our every whim, molding itself to our personal interests and preferences.

Nature is pretty and soothing….but it can also literally kill you. It’s not just lovely sunsets and breathtaking canyon views. It’s also grizzly bears and perfect storms. Out in nature you get a renewed sense of your vulnerability. At the foot of a mountain, you sense your true smallness in the world. And nature quickly shatters any notion that the universe revolves around you; it doesn’t stop raining just because you picked that day to go camping.

Nature heightens your senses. We talk through phones and computers. We are entertained through our televisions. We get our food through the grocery store. All of our experiences are mediated through middlemen. When was the last time you had a direct, primary experience? Nature lets you take in all the elements in their most primitive forms, before they’ve been packaged for your consumption.

Nature heightens your creativity. Studies that observed children at play found that they engaged in more imaginative, explorative, and creative play when they played in open, green spaces than when they played on asphalt and in structured spaces. Free of the structure of our daily lives, the lines and rules that rein us in, the minds of adults too, are free to wander. Nature allows both your body and mind to explore, which can lead you to fresh insights about life.

Nature heightens your spirituality. If you’re a religious guy, perhaps the best way to feel close to the Creator is to wander among His creations. The experiences I’ve had where I’ve felt closest to God have not happened in a church pew, but out in the woods.

Nature centers you. It’s an ineffable feeling that I’ve found nowhere else. The jangled pieces of my life that have been rattling around inside my head just fall into place. And I feel a stillness and a peace.

The most important effect nature can have on a man’s spirit, deserves its own section:

Nature as the Cure for Cynicism?

“Man’s heart away from nature becomes hard; [The Lakota] knew that lack of respect for growing, living things soon led to a lack of respect for humans too.” –Standing Bear

Cynicism. I personally believe it is one of the biggest, if not the biggest threat to manliness today. It is the cancer of manhood, eating away at our virility. Why do I think it’s such a threat? Because in answer to the call to live a life of character, honor, and excellence, it says, “Why bother?”

I’ve wanted to write about cynicism since I started the blog, but I haven’t yet….because it is one of my biggest personal struggles, and I simply don’t know what the answer to it is yet. But I do know what one of the things that has helped my cynicism the most is—unplugging and spending time in nature.

Cynicism makes a man jaded and saps his ability to experience wonder and amazement; nature restores it. Nature gives a man back a bit of the heart of a boy, a heart that can acknowledge some mystery in the world. Ralph Waldo Emerson said:

“Crossing a bare common, in snow puddles, at twilight, under a clouded sky, without having in my thoughts any occurrence of special good fortune, I have enjoyed a perfect exhilaration. I am glad to the brink of fear. In the woods too, a man casts off his years, as the snake his slough, and at what period soever of life, is always a child. In the woods, is perpetual youth.”

Another symptom of cynicism is the know-it-all attitude, the belief that there is nothing really interesting or undiscovered out there anymore, nothing that could possibly elicit a response greater than, “Meh.” Nature shows us that the world is full of many more layers than we notice in our day to day lives, that there are always new things to explore. DH Lawrence said:

“Superficially, the world has become small and known. Poor little globe of earth, the tourists trot round you as easily as they trot round the Bois or round Central Park. There is no mystery left, we’ve been there, we’ve seen it, we know all about it. We’ve done the globe and the globe in done.

This is quite true, superficially. On the superficies, horizontally, we’ve been everywhere and done everything, we know all about it. Yet the more we know, superficially, the less we penetrate, vertically. It’s all very well skimming across the surface of the ocean and saying you know all about the sea…

We are mistaken. The know-it-all state of mind is just the result of being outside the mucous-paper wrapping of civilization, Underneath is everything we don’t know and are afraid of knowing.”

Lawrence found his way through the mucous-paper of cynicism when he experienced the wild beauty of New Mexico. He advised others to seek the same “treatment.” “Break through the shiny sterilized wrapping and actually touch the country, and you will never be the same again,” he promised. The fuller quote from Lawrence is quite tremendous, and I have posted it in conjunction with this article as a Manvotional.

How to Turn the Switch of Nature

Of all the Switches of Manliness, the Switch of Nature is perhaps easiest to turn. There are so many small things you can do to get a bit more of the outdoors inside of yourself. Remember, even looking through a window at nature helps people (so for goodness sake, stop putting those tv’s in the back of your car for the kids!).

You may live in the country, have a job that keeps you outside all day, or be lucky enough to know someone with a farm or ranch where you can go hang out whenever you’d like. But I know there are some men out there whose only time outside is when they’re walking to and from their car during the day. For these guys, make it a goal to spend at least an hour outside every day. It doesn’t seem like much, but it can make a big difference—remember, small and simple changes add up and can turn the switch to the on position. Here are a few suggestions to get started:

  • Do your workout outside. A study found that “compared with exercising indoors, exercising in natural environments was associated with greater feelings of revitalization and positive engagement, decreases in tension, confusion, anger, and depression, and increased energy.”
  • Go to a park to eat your lunch. If there’s no park near your workplace, at least eat in the car with the windows down.
  • Go for a nightly after dinner walk.
  • Do chores like mowing the lawn and raking leaves yourself instead of hiring someone to do it for you.
  • Read, surf, or work on the patio or apartment balcony.
  • On nice days, open your windows at home and in the car. On a cloudless 70 degree day most of the windows in our apartment complex are closed and everyone is driving around with the windows up in their cars. It makes me wonder sometimes if the whole world has gone mad.
  • Go on a picnic date.
  • Walk to your errands.
  • Ride your bike to work.
  • Find a hobby or sport that requires you to be outside. There are dozens to choose from: Skiing, skateboarding, surfing, running, gardening, geocaching, hunting, fishing, and so on and so forth.
  • Go camping. Talk about a no brainer. But you need to stop thinking about camping like it has to be a long, elaborately planned trip. Even one night helps.  I know you’ll feel inertia—you’ll feel like getting everything together and driving to the campsite won’t be worth it. Even one night is worth it. It will refresh you.

What are some other ways to spend more time in nature? How has spending time in nature made you a better man?

Source:

Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficiet Disorder by Richard Louv

Switches of Manliness Series:
The Cure for the Modern Male Malaise
Switch #1: Physicality
Switch #2: Challenge
Switch #3: Legacy
Switch #4: Provide
Switch #5: Nature

{ 73 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Mtn Jim Fisher June 26, 2011 at 6:42 pm

I’ve been contemplating moving my laptop work location out to the front porch.

Thanks for the nudge…:-)

Mtn Jim

2 Mr Writing III June 26, 2011 at 7:20 pm

This article is why I love this website so much. If people (not just men) followed the points you listed prescriptions would be less, happiness higher, and people a little stressed over stupid stuff.

Great article!

3 Andrew June 26, 2011 at 7:21 pm

As a 23 yo male who is currently having problems finding happiness in “friends” and going out to bars/clubs etc, this seems like a good remedy. Who says we constantly need the acceptance of others to have a good time? I’ve grown up with computers, video games, and too damn much air conditioning. I was never encouraged to be outside, or go camping, etc. No boy scouts, no lake trips, nothing.

I remember my father hunted/fished but I didn’t enjoy the occasional experiences because of his perpetual cynicism and foul moods. Time to grow a pair and get out, and STAY out for a while.

Thank you, more men need this.

4 Iceman June 26, 2011 at 7:21 pm

I love the idea of being an outdoorsman. 5 Years ago I lived in a city, then I began university and my parents moved out into the country to the old family homestead. Ever since I’ve been enthralled by the prospects of spending my summers farming with my neighbor, going for a walk/bike in the woods, camping, canoeing, and just being at peace with the world. Nature has brought out the humility, good will and enjoyment of life for me. This is a fantastic article Brett.

5 Ilana June 26, 2011 at 8:29 pm

I completely agree with the sentiment of this post, and it’s making me regret how long it has been since my last backpacking or rafting trip. I’d better plan one soon!

That said, mentioning the Romantics’ appreciation of nature in this post inevitably made me think of Werther. On that note, a reminder: don’t flip the switch too far. Extreme Romantic sentimentalism for nature seems to come with high neuroticism and suicidal tendencies.

6 B. Nagel June 26, 2011 at 8:29 pm

One quick quibble: “Intimations” is by William Wordsworth, not William Wadsworth Longfellow. The link mentions Wordsworth, so I’m sure this is just another example of autocorrect gone bad.

As for the rest: Amen and amen. I write pretty well when everyone else is asleep and I can turn off everything all other distractions. I am much more productive and creative when I take the time to retreat to the wildlife refuge to write than if I try to pound the keyboard in front of the television. The backyard works well too.

7 Waistcoat June 26, 2011 at 8:33 pm

Another great article Brett, I must say I’ve enjoyed your mini series on switches of manliness thoroughly enjoyable and insightful.

8 Austin June 26, 2011 at 9:15 pm

Thanks for the insight. Often, I live a life of quiet desperation inside of my apartment. Sometimes, I pretend like it’s difficult to find nature in a city of 9 million people and justify my lack of experiencing nature that way. Nonetheless, when I actually go searching for it, I almost always find it. Nature has always been a place where I can connect with the Creator. I think He intended that. I mean, the first visual stimuli of Adam was the beauty of the garden, so a longing to be in nature seems like a natural part of our humanity.

9 Chad Tyson June 26, 2011 at 10:41 pm

My top editor is a consummate outdoorsman (he almost made it on the first year of Survivor but he was denied right before filming because the producers felt he would be more interested in surfing and fishing than playing their game), and one of the most centered individuals I know. Thanks for some insight as to why. And now I’m off to the porch.

10 Cody June 26, 2011 at 11:32 pm

Nature is definitely an important part of any person’s life.

I love visiting a nearby shooting range that’s about 5 miles into mountainous forest. Invigorating for sure.

11 Lance June 26, 2011 at 11:46 pm

I’m lucky to live in a small enough town to allow drives out in the country. Going for a drive down gravel back roads that weave in and out, go up and down hill, and wrap around rivers, trees, and lots of forestation does tons for relaxation and calming of the mind.

Whenever I get a lunch break at work, I go to the park to eat lunch. No matter how stressed I am before I leave for my break, after just a few minutes in the park, it’s all gone away.

I also have a friend who lives on a farm. He actually lives just down the road from his father, who also has a farm. When I go down there to visit, we usually end up walking in the timber or sitting out on the back porch listening to nature.

12 Carlita June 27, 2011 at 12:51 am

I love this. My father often bemoans the fact that so many people in our town have 1-acre lots and never develop them or even seem to know they exist, because they never go outside (even to get in the car – it’s in the garage). It would be great if more people started noticing and appreciating nature, and not just in a trendy “put a bird on it” way.

13 Philip G. June 27, 2011 at 2:16 am

A one day hike and camping trip into a remote location with a friend serves as a good workout, a time for deep discussion, and allows for time to work on a few manly skills. It’s called spending time in the bush. I highly recommend it.

14 Bill June 27, 2011 at 3:09 am

I suddenly missed my previous job at Los Banos, Philippines, the location was very near to the mountains and a lot of the nature stuff that revives the spirit. I wish I have taken more time to go out and enjoyed the opportunity to be with nature.

15 Brandon June 27, 2011 at 4:31 am

Wow what a great artical! I always knew nature helped me (I have ADHD) & a doc has told me they’ve shown that it increases dopamine levels. Which are the WD-40 of the brain (help the neurons fire). This is great stuff! Now I don’t feel so crazy for wanting to move to Puerto Rico.

What are you sources? I would love to read more about this.

16 Tim June 27, 2011 at 5:45 am

Hey Gentlemen,

do any of you know where those pictures were taken?
Especially the arch and the rainy forest?

Cheers,

Tim

17 Mato Tope June 27, 2011 at 6:24 am

Another great excerpt of D. H. Lawrence, this time from Apocalypse;
“What man most passionately wants is his living wholeness and his living unison, not his own isolate salvation of his “soul”. Man wants his physical fulfilment first and foremost, since now, once and once only, he is in the flesh and potent. For man, the vast marvel is to be alive. For man, as for flower and beast and bird, the supreme triumph is to be most vividly, most perfectly alive.
Whatever the unborn and the dead may know, they cannot know the beauty, the marvel of being alive in the flesh. The dead may look after the afterwards. But the magnificent here and now of life in the flesh is ours, and ours alone, and ours only for a time. We ought to dance with rapture that we should be alive and in the flesh, and part of the living incarnate cosmos.”

18 James June 27, 2011 at 6:56 am

I am fortunate to live in Central PA, where there are still a lot of forested areas. I am originally from Eastern PA and I can safely say that being so close to the woods and actually using them is healthier for my spirit than the hustle back east.

Great article.

19 David Y June 27, 2011 at 7:58 am

Sometimes we can find nature in unexpected places. About a ten minute walk from my door is a small wooded area (maybe a 100 acres or so) that is a city park. Just a couple of dirt trails into the woods. When you go in a little ways you can forget there are houses, roads, etc just a short distance away. I would guess most people don’t even know it is there. It’s where I go for a quick fix of nature.

As for all the benefits you gave, I just know that I feel good and happy during and after a hike or a bike ride on country roads.

Thanks for another great article.

20 Ted June 27, 2011 at 8:58 am

About once a month (or more often if my wife decides I need to decompress) I throw my backpack into the car on Friday and after work head directly to a National Forest in the area. They have a backcountry area with a limited number of campsites that you have to hike to, there is no direct vehicle access.

It’s just an overnighter, but it totally recharges me.

21 Mitch June 27, 2011 at 9:02 am

Spot-on piece. Years ago, I was going through a bit of a depressed period in my life. Crammed in an apartment, no friends around, just broken up with a girl. My weekend activities (drinking, TV, movies, etc) to cure my boredom and fill the gap in my soul were failing miserably, so I did what I hadn’t done in years. Went fishing. I found a state park 45 minutes away and every Saturday packed up for the day to be alone with my thoughts in nature. Best remedy I could have found.

22 Benjamin Quinn June 27, 2011 at 9:11 am

Great post. Keep up the good work.

23 Jordan June 27, 2011 at 9:25 am

I couldn’t agree more! Staying active and being outdoors is extremely important! Check out http://www.urbanadventurer.com for the best gear to get you out into nature!

24 Corey June 27, 2011 at 9:35 am

Another simple thing to do that I think gets me in touch with nature some is grilling. You can cook inside, which is good, but if you grill some meat outside, you do some manly cooking in a natural environment. It’s awesome, and one of my favorite things to do.

25 The Rob June 27, 2011 at 9:54 am

I was sitting out on my balcony yesterday afternoon enjoying the cool breeze and reading on my tablet, when a bee the size of a Predator drone decided to pay a visit. After strafing me several times with loud buzzing, I was forced (due to insect venom allergies) to retreat inside after only a few minutes on the balcony. The BFH* then sat in my chair and drank my diet soda while laughing at me through the window. I know without a doubt that it could have forced its way inside at any time, but after it finished my drink it flew away, probably to engage in some sort of covert op in the middle east.

*Bee From Hell

26 bMac June 27, 2011 at 10:12 am

I have been fortunate to inherit a cottage in the Upper Ottawa Valley where my father grew up. I can spend several weeks in the summer canoeing on the river, walking in the woods on the various islands, or just plain sitting on the deck listening to the wind in the pines above me. It has been my saviour at times, and my refuge from the city life of Toronto. And I told my son as he was growing up that when city life gets too tough for him (gangs, bullying, other pressures) he always has the cottage to retreat to. I just got back from a weekend there, and am looking forward to my vacation in July.

27 Corey June 27, 2011 at 10:19 am

Insightful angle on the correlation of nature deficit and an increase in narcissism and cynicism. I feel it really brought this piece together.

Recently I read George W. Sears’ book Woodcraft. Written over a hundred years ago, it could have easily been written today. It discusses the reasons man is compelled into the woods. I recommend every man read it if they’re at all interested in taking to the wilderness. Right now it’s free on Amazon’s Kindle store.

“We do not go to the green woods and crystal waters to rough it, we go to smooth it. We get it rough enough at home; in towns and cities; in shops, offices, stores, banks anywhere that we may be placed–with necessity always present of being on time and up to our work; of providing for dependent ones; of keeping up, catching up, or getting left.” – Nessmuk

28 Greg June 27, 2011 at 11:03 am

Great article. Nature is definitely a powerful and inspiring force. It gets inside you. I’m 32 and still long for my 15 year old days at scout camp, hiking, swimming, canoeing and just NEVER BEING INSIDE. And nature will humble you, no doubt. I still recall a bout of poison ivy so bad I could barely see; the lightning strike that nearly hit our campsite; the list goes on and on.

29 Thomas June 27, 2011 at 11:19 am

I hate to be Donnie Downer, but there is such a thing as loving nature to death.

Visit the wild. Spend a little time there once in a while. But if you really love it, don’t try to live out there. There are too many people in the world today, and our colonization of nature can destroy it for generations. That house out in the country, the one you want to move to so you can get away from it all? It has no purpose; you will never get away from it all, you will only bring it all with you.
We are softer than we were. We need the things of modern life because we don’t know how to live without them–roads, power lines, etc. For these things to exist in an area, the area must be cleared of that which would impede it–nature. We are too far removed now; barring an apocalypse there’s no going back, and if nature is to survive we must only be visitors to it.

30 Kobe Beef June 27, 2011 at 12:14 pm

1 word: Rockclimbing.

31 Jeremiah P June 27, 2011 at 1:04 pm

I believe this entirely. One day I was at work, and it was a very, very hectic day. I work at a supermarket, and it was beyond busy. (H.E.B. Plus for those in Texas).
Well, during my lunc break, I bought a clif bar, and instead of sitting in the break room like everyone else, I untucked my shirt, took off my name tag, and just sat on the curb looking at the trees and admiring the cool breeze and beautiful sky. The sun was just setting. it was the most wonderful moment of that entire day, perhaps week. I try to do that every chance I get now.
So instead of sitting in a break room watching TV (You can do that at home all day long) go outside and eat your lunch. (As posted in the article).

32 Craig June 27, 2011 at 2:34 pm

Another great post!!! This one really speaks to me. Really need to get out more. If anyone is close to Springfield, MO, message here and maybe we can put together a hike or camping trip.

33 mattoomba June 27, 2011 at 3:35 pm

This has been a great series, except for the part where it makes me feel that I’ve been remiss in the parenting of my children. Hopefully it’s not too late to save my kids from my own limitations. I’ve got work to do and it starts this summer!

34 Tuck June 27, 2011 at 3:36 pm

You know, great writing should always make the reader eager to take action, and that’s what I consistently find on AOM. And it’s always positive action, choices that improve my life and make me a better man. Thanks Brett…

Also, you barely scratched the surface of cynicism, and I think you’re really onto something with that. More more more!

35 Chris M. June 27, 2011 at 4:30 pm

My college buddies and I used to call each other up on random weekends to go camping, and whatever we had in our vehicles at the time was what we would survive on. Didn’t matter what the weather was. We faced quite a few challenges, but we always felt reinvigorated and restored after each trip. We all knew it was because we had to be away from the hustle and bustle of city life. We would wind up on top of mountains or down in valleys. Those are still my favorite memories. Even with how much time the military demands from me, I still make time to get out for a night or two and just camp out. I used to have anxiety issues, but ever since I’ve been making the effort to get outside regularly and camp, I haven’t had any issues. This article hits the nail on the head.

36 JB June 27, 2011 at 4:58 pm

Couldn’t agree more. My wife and I are in the process of purchasing a 19 acre piece of property about 30 miles outside of town. It’s a bit of a drive but to me it is worth it. I, possibly more than most, really feel something is missing when I’m away from nature and I’m not even an outdoor nut. Fact is in TN you only get about 5 or 6 months a year where you can be outside. Our summers are so hot that it is actually dangerous to be out.

37 Brian June 27, 2011 at 6:15 pm

I’m 23 and grew up an active member of Boy Scouts. Since graduating high school, I rarely get to go camping anymore. I think it is one of the biggest things I miss from my childhood. That and the family trips to national parks and such. I think a camping trip is definitely in store this summer.

38 Will June 27, 2011 at 6:45 pm

Beautiful article. And like another poster said, this seems like the perfect remedy, when you’ve become completely bored with the whole bar thing. Wish I had more parks around me though. Great article.

39 Jason June 27, 2011 at 6:48 pm

One of my fondest memories is going fishing in my family’s pond. My family owns about a hundred acres of farmland with a fish pond and it has been in the family for…4 generations now? I loved going there with my dad and catching blue gills and catfish to fry up for dinner. I loved fishing with my dad anywhere actually. He owns a lake lot on the Truman reservoir in Missouri. I spent many a summer crappie fishing with him and my little brother. I’m looking forward to doing that with my kids someday.

40 Matt G June 27, 2011 at 8:18 pm

Last Child in the Woods is a really great book. I’d recommend it to parents and those interested in nature and sociology. It was formative in my deciding where I want to live and raise children.

41 J.T. June 27, 2011 at 8:32 pm

Until the system of land ownership changes, people will be estranged from the natural settings that they evolved from. Native tribes in precolumbian times had cultures that were damn-near a direct result of their specific ecosystem. Now America has a monoculture where a new city street or neighborhood is crafted almost exactly the same in Tucson as it is in Boston. That’s the great tragedy of suburban sprawl. We need to return to viewing ourselves as end-products of the bioregions we were raised in, no longer as super-mobile cosmopolitans or anchorless knowledge workers.

I miss the open spaces (especially for free!) of the intermountain Southwest. I left South Texas because access to public land was so difficult. My home biome, the coastal woodlands of Southeast VA, feel closed off from me because of the scarcity of public land.

Keep it Wild and Free and you might feel a bit of the same!

42 T_razz63 June 27, 2011 at 9:32 pm

I liked the Boo-Radley allusion

43 Josh Knowles June 27, 2011 at 10:13 pm

Grow a garden :)

44 T_razz63 June 28, 2011 at 12:23 am

Disc Golf. A great way to enjoy nature while physically relieving stress

45 Ridhwaan Syed June 28, 2011 at 1:06 am

Recently i have been feeling trapped and crave going somewhere that’s not industrialized.. I live in a place where there’s no river or forests nearby and it drives me crazy. There’s something in my blood (and I hope everyone else) that needs to go out and explore. You can’t climb a random house without getting the cops called on you. The feeling you get exploring a new place, climbing a mountain, swimming in a lake actually doing something cannot be described. In my opinion nature and the outdoors is a basic NEED. One of my siblings went camping with their troop, and she said hey look what I got from the gift shop. Really? A gift shop at a campsite. You should be bringing back deer antlers or something.

46 Steve June 28, 2011 at 1:17 am

Agree 100% I live 15 minutes from the ocean and haven’t been in years. This morning I went body surfing on a lark, and felt happier and more centered that I had in ages.

47 Daniel Starr June 28, 2011 at 5:06 am

Great piece Brett, I couldn’t agree with you more. Thank You for this entire segment, it has been truly inspiring and uplifting.

I just had a couple of comments to make:
1. Whatever your views of Creation and Life’s Origin, remember: We too are animals who have need for the same basic necessities as other life on this planet. This is our connection to life.
2. All of mans work came from the earth, and now rests on what we call nature. There is a world of wild beasts, engaged in an epic battle of life and death within 1-square foot of your back yard- or park, or at the base of a tree, or anywhere else you can find dirt. 15 minutes staring into this square foot abyss will do wonders for the soul. Peek inside a bush and see a world you never knew existed.
3. Thomas- I appreciate your comment on the spread of man into the wilderness more than you know, but I also encourage you not to give way to cynicism. If every man longing to be in the wilderness could find a way to resurrect it where he stands the world would not need the apocalypse you spoke of. Yes we do need to learn to cut the umbilical cords which tie us back to the world of man we’ve created, but I believe it is possible for man and nature to live in a symbiotic state, where we can benefit each other. So long as we live with respect for the land, why not be with her?
4. If we really want to do our part to find nature we can make choices everyday to bring it closer. For example:
*Participate in a clean-up day or volunteer to clean-up an area ravaged by man.
*Make conscience choices about consumption; think about things like packaging and travel time, growing your own vegetables and fruits- even an herb garden in a small box outside your window or a potted garden. STOP USING DISPOSABLE BAGS! At the very least find more than a single use for them. In reality there really is no excuse not to take a sturdy bag to the store. Drive less, Bike more.
*Encourage your local government to start or improve recycling programs and public transit.

I don’t want to spend a long time being too preachy, I’m only trying to suggest that nature is closer than we may think. We can all do our part to bring it closer to where we are. Instead of filling up more and more land space with garbage, why not use less and do our part to clean up the legacy left to us by the industrial revolution?

Nature is truly right below our feet.

48 Max June 28, 2011 at 5:36 am

I have had the same feeling, nature triggers that something in us, especially in men, at least for me, it is a return to a home that was once abandoned. It seems I’m not the only one with this idea, though.

I believe there will be, or, already is, a drive to return to nature.

Sometimes my mind conjures images of a forest, does anyone get these too? It’s usually when I think about my homeland; nature, the forest are the most powerful images in my mind, and there is a real drive in me, to return to this.

A very interesting, inspiring read, the Manvotionals is an epic series, cannot wait to get the book!

49 Tennessee Budd June 28, 2011 at 8:09 am

Hunt, fish, camp. Raise livestock. Grow food.

50 DH June 28, 2011 at 8:43 am

Hi Brett, an excellent post and an excellent series. You are spot-on with almost everything you say here, but I’m going to have to disagree completely with your views of cynicism (apparently, the only one here to do so!). I think in some cases you may be right, it leads to a jaded and negative world view and this can lead to apathy. However, a healthy level of cynicism results in a grounded, realistic scepticism that I think all men should aspire to, as it leads to a questioning nature and a refusal to take things at face value. This line of thought has lead to some of the greatest thinkers in history, questioning the moral and social standards of the time (Jefferson, Wilberforce) and all of the greatest inventors and engineers. Perhaps you are talking about cynicism more in the sense of pessimism rather than the opposite of naivety? Anyhow, for nature: grow your own vegetables. Not only will they taste better, you will have no excuse not to eat them!

51 Johann June 28, 2011 at 10:12 am

If there is any doubt, I am a testiment. Though I live in town; I am and have always been an outdoorman. To this day, I have to have to build an sit round a campfire at least once a month if possible. I train outside in the early morning, I swim in lakes and rivers. I long to hunt and fish and I Love camping. I chop wood, and split logs as a supplamental to My training regimen. (This may seem a touch eccentric) I also enjoy Storms. I will often walk in the rain. Don’t knock it til you’ve tried it. It is Invigorating! I am 28 years old and have more energy than most 18-21 years olds I know. I feel young, Strong and vital. I never feel more at peace than after being in Man’s Natural element. A Man could never hope to feel so alive in front of a cumputer in an air conditioned apartment.

Sincerely, Johann.

52 Johann June 28, 2011 at 10:15 am

Gramatical corrections: *I have to build and sit round *computer

53 Graeme June 28, 2011 at 11:00 am

Dunno if it was mentioned in the comments already, but that poem quotation is not Longfellow but Wordsworth.

54 JG June 28, 2011 at 1:34 pm

“On nice days, open your windows at home and in the car. On a cloudless 70 degree day most of the windows in our apartment complex are closed and everyone is driving around with the windows up in their cars. It makes me wonder sometimes if the whole world has gone mad.”

I’m glad to see that I am not the only one who thinks people who keep windows closed and blinds drawn all of the time are insane. My blinds are only down when I sleep and only in the bedroom. And the windows are only closed if it is less than 50 degrees outside or if there is a terrible storm going on that causes water to come in. I don’t think I have ever used the air conditioner in my car. Hell, I just installed a screen door on my apartment so that I can keep the door open all of the time without letting every fly in the neighborhood in.

55 CB June 28, 2011 at 2:44 pm

@DH (#50),
I agree that a healthy level of skepticism is, if not a necessary, certainly a somewhat desirable character trait to develop. And it is that trait which is the opposite of naivety. Cynacism on the other hand is rarely healthy. John Maxwell briefly describes the difference in “Failing Forward” (which is a good book to read regardless of where you are in life in my opinion). I’ll attempt to paraphrase, poorly, as I do not have the book in front of me at the moment. Quoting someone else he says a person who is cut down by life and gets back up becomes a realist. A person who is cut down by life and stays down becomes a cynic. Again, I apologize for the poor paraphrase, but the point is clear: The trait of being skeptical is learned and often necessary in order to move forward without making the same mistakes. But this is different and separate from becoming cyincal.
I would classify myself as a recovering cynic. As a youth, I was optimistic and carefree. In college, I let situations and circumstances beat down on me until I caved and became cynical. Now, I’ve realized that what I would have originally classified as skepticism about the world and people, was really pessimistic cynacism that was gnawing away at me and turning me into someone unrecognizable to my 18 year old self. Now, ten years later, I hope that I’ve turned around and begun really living again.

56 Earl June 28, 2011 at 8:09 pm

Oh, brother, is this what I needed – and didn’t need, as well. So many memories I recall, and most, if not all, are great memories of being OUTSIDE. From the crystalline white view of a snow-covered lake my cousins and I trudged across when we were younger, off to “rescue” my Dad when the borrowed snowmobile he’d been riding broke down, to the soft, cool feel of the air during a night time firewatch outside the old Reception barracks at Ft. Knox in the spring, to the smell of the exhaust of four massive radial engines as a B17 taxiied toward the runway. So many incredible memories that just wouldn’t have been possible to have were they constrained to the indoors. The best skating I feel I ever did was on a frozen creek, playing ice hockey with friends; perhaps second to that was outdoor ice rinks. After a fifteen year absence from the ice, my first skate was an outdoor rink. A boat trip during the remnants of a hurricane, cliff-scaling in the ice and snow, hiking a mountain in Maine or the battlefield at Gettysburg, the night sky in north PA over fields covered with deer the night before deer season opens. Amazing, when you plug in to outdoor memories, how easy it becomes to remember.

Men, if you’ve not found yourselves, get outside and start doing something.

Thank you for this GREAT piece.

57 Mark June 29, 2011 at 12:12 am

Great post as always.Just came home from the Dominican Republic where I kayaked in the ocean and went off-road atv’ing over muddy dirt roads. Bluest water I’ve ever laid eyes on btw ( not like the Hudson here in NY) and I highly recommend if you have the funds. For those that can’t shell out the dinero for the trip you can check out the U.S. Warrior Dash closest to you. My training for the WD took me outside during that torrential downpour last week into an river that flooded its banks and left us running through waist deep (water moccasin infested lol) water.

58 Ben June 29, 2011 at 11:43 pm

“For after years of living in a cage, a lion no longer even believes it is a lion…and a man no longer believes he is a man.”

A great book to read on this subject and on Manliness all together is “Wild at Heart” by John Eldridge. Brett I know you’d like it.

59 Danny June 30, 2011 at 2:37 am

I never get tired of AoM being the call to action I need. My friends and I have been talking about going hiking this summer before we all go back to college but we have a bad habit of losing track of time. This is just the sort of thing I needed for me to make those hikes a real priority and to get my friends to do something

60 Andrej June 30, 2011 at 2:41 am

Great series and great article about the last switch. :)

Just a word about cynicism. I think you have to be positive cynicist in life. Negative cynicist is someone who sees child killed in a car accident and says; “eh, natural selection.” This is bad, this is wrong. But positive cynicism can be very helpful in life. It is the ability when everything goes wrong, you say, it’s ok, we’ll go on. If your company goes down you say, well I learnd something, lets go on with something else. Positive cynicism is about being optimistic about the future and looking at the past in a positive way with the sense of humor. But I totally agree it’s not right to be negative cynicist in the way “why bother.”

61 Mark June 30, 2011 at 10:31 am

There’s a great chapter in the book ‘The Denial Of Death’ by Ernst Becker that covers the idea that man’s continuing separation from nature is one of the reason’s for the growth of our unhappiness, the deterioration of our health, the loss of perspective of our place in the universe and our notions of immortality.

Superb article especially in light of my return from holiday where i found myself floating in the med looking at the sky and a thinking ‘Who are you kidding?’

Great writing as always.

62 Shelton June 30, 2011 at 12:36 pm

Like most women my wife grew up spending almost no time outdoors. She has always been fascinated and jealous of the stories of my childhood outdoors (boy scouts, camping trips, hunting, and woodcraft). She has been so supportive, encouraging even, in me exposing our son to the outdoors even though she has little experience with it. She even makes an effort herself to do outdoors things.

Husbands, if you have a wife like mine remember to thank her. And if you don’t maybe let her read this article as gentle reminder about how important woodland playtime is for little boys.

Great article.

63 Abram July 1, 2011 at 2:24 am

Great article… I am 29, and have had the privilege of living almost all of my life on a farm. I also have the privilege of raising my children in the fields and woods that I grew up running around in. My oldest son just turned 10 years old. And what a difference between the two of us… When I was 10, my dad got me a ruger 10-22, and I would spend my days running around out in the woods with my rifle alone… Experiencing the raw beauty and awe of trees, moss, bugs and nature. The profound respect for the power of of Gods creation, like discovering a 100 year old oak tree that has been shattered by a bolt of lightning. Learning self reliance… Taking a spill down a rocky hill tearing the stuffing out of your jeans and knees, sucking it up and limping the half a mile back home with blood running down to your socks. Knowing which snake to pick up and play with… And which ones NOT to touch. Splitting wood for hours (or at least it seemed like hours! I swear time actualy stood still!)… I will never forget the summer when I turned 14, my older brother got to get a ‘real’ job (meaning he got paid!) and my job was to get up and go out with my grandpa and learn how to use all the farm equipment… tractors, mowers, brush hogs, hay rake, and baler. I wasn’t very happy at the time, but wouldn’t trade my time out in the fields with grandpa for anything. The sun and dirt can wear you out, beat you down and even burn you out. But thank you for this article to remind me to make it a priority to make time to create to experiences for my own children (still on the fence about them running around in the woods alone with guns! I’ll have to work on mommy with that one… Maybe in a couple more years). But it is those times that I had out discovering for myself the secrets of nature that have taught me more about life and death than anything else I have ever experienced. God willing- I can pass those things on to my children. Not just to enrich their hearts and lives, but rather that they would desire to pass them on to their own children. Nothing makes me prouder than watching my 8 and 10 year old stacking firewood. Not because I enjoy making them do chores, but because I know that that’s the kind of things that will engrain them with a real work ethic. It will teach them how to take pride in what they can accomplish with their own two hands. I will never forget the summer my dad taught me how to use the chainsaw… Since that summer I have done all the cutting and trimming. All winter I cut firewood for his house and mine- in that order. I look forward to when my sons are ready for that ‘passing of the torch’ not so I don’t have to work… But so I can experience the pride of knowing my sons are now men. So thanks again for the reminder of the importance of nature.

64 Nataraj Hauser July 2, 2011 at 1:08 pm

Ha! I read this post as I was preparing to head out to the local nude beach for the day. I spent last week camping at a clothing optional gathering. Yep, I guess I’m savoring the great outdoors!

65 Tom July 4, 2011 at 12:52 am

Perfect timing! I read the first half of this with breakfast before taking off on a camping trip, then finished it up afterward. I’m definitely an outdoorsy guy; camping, mountain biking, kayaking, off-roading, etc.

A word of advice for fathers (I’m not a father… yet, but I have one!) – DON’T BE INTIMIDATED!!! My first camping trip was on the floor of our old van in the parking lot of our apartment complex when I was about 5 years old. It was a start. Later it was over night trips when we’d drive the Mustang up to the local campgrounds.

A 1990 Mustang is not at the top of anyone’s “Adventure Ready Vehicle” list, but we still had a great time. More importantly, it got me outside and I’ve been doing it ever since.

This latest camping trip I just got back from has become a sort of camping/mountain biking/star gazing pilgrimage. This year however, my dad rode his motorcycle down to meet me. We spent quality time mountain biking, laughing, trading stories, and that night he gave me marriage advice around the campfire (My fiancee and I are planning a November wedding). It all has to start somewhere- for me it was an overnight camping trip where my mom waved good night from our living room window.

66 Matt July 6, 2011 at 4:40 pm

It’s taken me a week and three tries to read your post. Not because it sucks; quite the opposite. All my life I wanted nothing more than to be an outdoor instructor. When I was 19 that dream came true. When I was 25, I gave up that dream, purposely, to get married. I don’t regret that decision, and I don’t regret the decision to have kids. However, I have struggled, since i left my $48/day job as a mountaineering instructor, to fill the void that was left when I left the woods for an office.

It took me a week and three tries to read this post because the pull of nature on my soul is so strong that the first time I tried to read your post, I began to cry. The second time, I got a bit further, but again I began to cry–can’t cry at work. Can’t read blogs there either, but what folks don’t know won’t hurt them, right? ;)

The third time, I swallowed my feelings and suppressed my tears like a real man [sic], and read all the way through.

I love this series, and I think you’re right on. Thanks.

Best,
Matt

67 Matt July 7, 2011 at 5:17 pm

@Tim

The picture with the arch is from Arches National Park.

68 Dallas Gaytheist July 11, 2011 at 2:47 pm

“Cynicism makes a man jaded and saps his ability to experience wonder and amazement…”

I’m going to have to disagree with this, because I think you’ve got the order wrong. Cynical men do not become jaded. Jaded men become bitter. And bitter men become cynical (though not ALL cynical men are bitter, I think). Men become jaded for many reasons, but probably the top two are being hurt by other people (loss of trust) and disappointment in life when it fails to meet our expectations.

If we’re discussing little-c cynicism here, then it is nothing more than a refusal to be duped by a belief that people are anything less than inherently selfish. And in many ways we are. Political, religious, and social values/beliefs are typically little more than mythologies we embrace to elevate and sooth our egos. (This does not negate human altruism though, but that’s another topic.)

A cynic realizes that.

Cynicism is not the CAUSE, but rather the EFFECT. Children cannot be cynical because they are too innocent and inexperienced. Life’s experiences teach us the value of cynicism. If you rob me of my cynicism, then you rob me of the fruit of my experiences. This is not to say that ALL experiences lead to cynicism, because they obviously do not. Rather it is that you cannot acquire cynicism without experience first.

But more to your point, cynicism has everything to do with MAN, and nothing at all to do with NATURE. I think I am a pretty cynical person, but I don’t cease to feel amazement, wonder, and awe with the natural world. In fact, I think some deeply cynical people are MORE drawn to nature because of that cynicism. It is there they find solace.

I think what you’re hinting at in this blog post could be more accurately described as bitterness in some cases, or perhaps more appropriately as ennui.

However, I do think we are too detached from the natural world and its processes, but that could be attributed more to industrialization and capitalism than to a “cynical” attitude.

69 Theresa McMurray July 12, 2011 at 10:44 am

Mike, I read this article and as an OOOOLD woman, I loved it. I live right across the street from TableRock Lake in Cape Fair, Mo. now, been here just a little over a year. I walk our road to Hwy 76, yes the same one in Branson, we are about 17 miles from Silver Dollar City. But what I want to convey is, I had a wonderful family, my daddy and brothers were involved in scouting and went to Camp Sunnen, every summer of my childhood we went to Alley Springs for 2 weeks of living in a tent and cooking all we ate, we kids lived in the water from the time we woke till bed time. I learned early on the value of the outdoors, as a child I attended the Salvation Army Camp Mihaska in Bourbon, MO, we stayed in cabins but was mostly only there at bedtime. I love walking my road and observing God’s handiwork in the 1.3 miles it takes me from my home to Hwy 76. Sometimes it moves me to tears just realizing how much God loves insignifcant Me to give me all the beauty around me. Once in a while I am blessed with seeing a fox or a deer, or another little one of God’s critters and I feel renewed every time. I know that I will never tire of this feeling, after 62 years I still feel so moved and blessed. I think as parents it is our duty to raise our children to love the outdoors, I know I raised mine the same way my folks raised me, every summer we went camping for 2 weeks, didn’t have electric back then, but we had a popup camper, the boys as they aged put up a tent so they didn’t have to be by the old folks, but they too loved the life, they were both in scouting, my youngest made Eagle and my oldest just loved being outside, he didn’t care if he earned any badge. As a parent I feel I left my boys with a legacy that is so precious, to this day my oldest loves to walk the woods looking for arrowheads and just loving the outdoors. When he was a Scout he could get a fire going even when an adult could not, what a blessing it is for me to know I gave them something to fullfill them the rest of their life. Isn’t our God AWESOME for giving us this beautiful world!!!

70 Yousuf Mehmood July 13, 2011 at 5:11 am

Brilliant piece, I feel like jumping out in to the woods already

71 Elias March 2, 2013 at 8:29 am

Ah, John Muir would be proud! A worthy read this be.

72 Shane April 3, 2013 at 9:39 am

Wow. This article is so in touch with my feelings on nature, I wish I had written it myself :) Thank you.

73 Jack D February 28, 2014 at 1:58 pm

This post hits home for me. I have spent more than 1000 nights under the stars, completed 5 hikes of more than 2000 miles each, and done 3 bike tours ranging from 1400-4000 miles. For me, it is the only way to be.

These experiences were tremendously transformative. This essay expresses some hard-to-pin-down realities really well. Along with the heightened senses and vigor it brings, my favorite part of long expeditions is the no-excuses, no-timeouts responsibility to live by just your wits and minimal gear. These sustained experiences forced me to become extremely resilient, tenacious, flexible, and resourceful, traits that have served me well every day since.

Those long trips are literally the only things in my life that have continuously demanded 100.00% of my potential, and that is just an amazing state in which to function for extended periods.

For me, doing pointless work in offices just doesn’t compare. Taking so much of my life to do these trips had a professional opportunity cost, for sure, though these experiences helped me to (interview well and) obtain a dream job overseas that capitalizes on this unique set of skills, doing service that I believe is important. Also, buildings feel like prisons now. However, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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