“We’re going to get you down this mountain, I promise,” Chris said grasping my hands tightly. “I am going to get you down.”
I thought of Rugby teams forced into cannibalism in the Andes and tales of extreme survival on Oprah that inevitably ended with toes being lopped off due to frostbite. I thought of being trapped in a canyon, 127 Hours style, and having to saw off a limb to survive. I decided that I could spare my left arm, in a pinch.
“I’m scared,” I said tears streaming down my face, freezing in little droplets to my eyelashes.
“Don’t be. You’re going to be okay,” my beginning ski instructor assured me.
I’d made the horrible mistake of venturing to the top of a mountain for “an adventure.” Now, I was going to die. Snuffed out at only 22. And with so much life left to live! I’d never even tried taking mushrooms in the desert!
To my left, a four year old girl zoomed around me on her skis.
“’Scuse me,” the very small child, who’d only recently learned to speak in complete sentences, chirped as she disappeared through the trees. I shivered in the spray of her snowy wake. I was on the very easiest trail at Steamboat Springs and I was definitely doomed.
The point of this preamble is to say: I love nature, I do. But I’m not particularly “good” at it. I’m clumsy and I hate being cold and my arm strength is what an elementary teacher during a physical fitness assessment might call “really f*cking bad.” When I went on a week-long backpacking camping trip at 18, my friends and family said, “You?” in the same voice Michael Bluth would say, “Her?” every time George Michael brought up his relationship with Egg on Arrested Development.
So I certainly was not a good candidate to try skiing my senior year in college. And yet, I got in a car with three other friends, and drove all night from Chicago to be in Colorado by morning for a weekend escape. And it was amazing. Even if a virtual stranger had to ski backwards while holding my hands so that I didn’t die on a beginner’s trail, I’m glad I did it. Leaving your comfort zone to spend time in the outdoors is, in my experience, always worth it.
Being in the city all the time just isn’t good for you. It’s why over the past few weeks we’ve been talking about microadventures. Taking a break from city life, even for 24 hours, is genuinely restorative. Even if you’re bad at skiing (or surfing or hiking), even if you can only get away for a day or a couple of hours, go anyway. There’s an intrinsic benefit to giving it a shot.
My mid-mountain panic aside, nature affects your mental and physical health positively and there’s a ton of scientific research to back that up. Being around trees, lakes, and mountains is more critical (and should be more of a priority) than many of us realize. Here’s why: