Between the inspiring leaders, fantastic students, beautiful places, and new cultures, there are many ingredients that go into creating the trip of a lifetime. However, there’s one ingredient that rarely gets the credit she deserves (no, it’s not the nug jug). It’s mother nature! In today’s world of Snapchat, Netflix, and Tik Tok, the average American child spends only four to seven minutes of unstructured time outdoors and over seven hours in front of a screen. On a Moondance trip, the average student spends twelve to 24 hours of unstructured time outdoors and zero to zero minutes in front of a screen.
Moondance alumni know the feeling. It’s your first outing of the trip and the group gets dropped off at the trailhead, campsite, or beach. You look around and see towering mountains in the distance, feel the sun on your skin, the breeze in your hair. You reach your arms to the sky for a stretch and deeply inhale. You can almost smell the freshness of the wilderness. As you exhale, all the anxious energy and stress melt away with an internal “aaahhhhh.” There’s no doubt that being in nature feels good, but between technology and mass urbanization mother nature becomes harder to find.
Modern science now proves that time in nature offers more than just good feelings. Recent studies are finding that time in nature increases happiness levels, creativity, and kindness while reducing stress and fatigue. Nature makes us feel more alive. When sitting in front of a panoramic view of snow capped mountains, or surrounded by enormous, moss-covered trees, suddenly all the drama, test scores, and social media likes become less important. We are overtaken by a wave of mystery, wonder, and awe.
As we spend more time in nature, we start to see that nature is not only giving us good vibes and relief from stress. She’s giving us everything! From the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat, her offerings go far beyond the final airport day of a Moondance trip. Everywhere we go we are depending on the natural resources that the Earth provides, and after 2 weeks outside it becomes much easier to appreciate that.
But we cannot be the only ones to reap the benefits from mother nature, she needs us too! Between pollution, deforestation, and climate change, our Earth needs some allies. When we return “home” as John Muir puts it, we mend our relationship with mother nature, and begin to live in harmony with her. After three weeks of watching sunsets and counting stars on a Moondance trip, it’s hard not to start thinking of simple ways to help nature stay natural.
After the final Moonup of my first Moondance summer, I found myself daydreaming about the long hikes, early mornings, and cold dips in Yosemite’s alpine lakes as I stood in line to board the plane. When I got back to the daily routine of school, stuck within four walls and a roof, I would go back to that place in my imagination, at the top of Mt. Shasta. I could feel the burn of frozen wind sliding over my skin, see the shadow of the mountain spread across the distant land as the sun rose behind me. Even the memory gave some relief from the thoughts racing through my head. Back in the city, I found myself craving nature. I continue to seek her out every chance I get. She really is like a mother to me; she just gets me.
Nugs to you mother nature!
– Will Wynne, 3rd Year Moondance Leader