Is Technology ruining the wilderness experience

Doug Williams
 

The very word ‘wilderness’ evokes in most of us thoughts of loneliness, an uninhabited region, somewhere one goes to be far away from the busy crowds and the overpopulated cities in which most of us choose or have to live in today.

The wilderness is a place where we’re able to relax, to commune with nature, to have time to look at the fauna and flora.  It lets nature take over from the streamlined ease of takeaways and traffic, computers, and telephones, motor vehicles and most of all – the incessant noise of people!

One of the guys here in the Outdoor Revival office spent some time in Japan recently and he was amazed at how noisy it was back here when he returned, he said everyone is respectful there, they talk quietly to each other and they’re always polite, there’s little noise even in the big city.

 

When he got back here, he just wanted to get into the wilderness to recapture that feeling of peace.

 

 

At one time, a venture into the wilderness necessitated poring over maps while planning a trip.  It was a time of listening to the stories and advice of others who had already been there.  It was a time of assembling the smallest, most suitable and most convenient items to take along.

Meanwhile, thoughts of open skies and open places, possible animal sightings and the fun of an adventure would run through one’s mind.  If one could share the excursion with like-minded family members or a few friends, it would be even better.

 

 

How wonderful it would be to be able to walk, hike or even cycle along a selected route while having the time and the inclination to take in the beauty of the surroundings. What has happened to us today?  Why is this sort of excursion into the wilderness no longer so satisfying? Why are fewer and fewer people taking the time to acquaint themselves with the beauty nature has given us?  Have we lost something precious? I think so!

It may well be that we – like sheep, thoughtlessly following one another – have succumbed to the persuasiveness of commercial marketing.

 

Backpacking, relatively speaking, needs very little expensive gear. But most of the extreme adventure athletes require very expensive equipment, as well as suitable training and fairly often, the use of professional guides.

 

 

Furthermore, there are so many seemingly necessary and/or desirable technical devices that can help to guide us, keep us safe, prevent us getting lost, monitor our progress and even rescue us!

All of this, of course, results in the removal of ourselves from the essence of the wilderness and thereby insulating ourselves from the real world. Simultaneously, we are moving towards the “We want BIG, we want EXCITING, and we want it NOW” syndrome, so that our wilderness adventures must be completed and then disseminated so that the evenings are spent relaxing in comfort while watching a re-run of the event!

 

 

It seems that we have morphed into a generation of adrenaline geeks whose sole purpose in approaching the wilderness is one of exhibitionism. We seem to have become incapable of venturing anywhere without a plethora of technological instruments, items, and apps. It seems that the main idea of this excess ‘baggage’ is that our physical attainments and achievements may be documented in detail and broadcast to all via YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and the like.

What has happened to our spirit of adventure, unsupported by technology, into the great unknown?

 

 

Granted, technology can be very helpful, as well helping create exciting possibilities when undertaking an excursion into the backcountry.

However, more concerned with pushing their bodies (and technology) to the limits – on the track/trail /rock-face/snowbank/wherever – athletes, accompanied by various  gadgets and gizmos for the recording of every possible detail, undoubtedly miss so many marvelous wilderness experiences in the frenzy of keeping up the performance averages!

 

 

The cell phone is used for taking selfies and ensuring that they are instantly sent via Instagram, posted on Facebook or uploaded to YouTube, so as to alert all friends to exactly where one is and what one is achieving. The GoPro is utilized to visibly record the whole wilderness experience  – no need, therefore, to stop and stare, or look, or enjoy, for fear that delay would compromise the data gathering and recording of the Strava device.  Strava ensures that speed, altitude, averages attained, bodily exertion and plenty of other such data are recorded and even transmitted for all to access.

Further, one could use the cell phone GPS to verify one’s position, or to call up Google Earth for pinpointing one’s exact position and establishing that one is still on track. However, should there be no signal – fear not – there are many PLB’s  (Personal Locator Beacons) and similar satellite services to chose from if one needs help. (we’re not saying these are bad things!)

 

 

To sportspersons who participate in extreme sports, which usually take place in wilderness spaces, why is it so vital to ensure the rest of the world knows what they are doing? The runners, rock climbers, wingsuit flyers, snowboarders, and other adventure seekers – go ahead – do it!

Get out your maps and gear and survival kit and even your techno aids – but please, please, stop feeding your athletic feats to a world of sheep who unthinkingly gawk at and wallow in the virtual experiences of the jump, flight, climb, ride, etc, while sitting back comfortably in their chairs and reaching for another pizza!

 

 

Perhaps the sheep – as well as the sportspersons – are unaware how they have managed to overcrowd previously pristine wilderness areas with people, equipment, and technical pollution, while simultaneously encouraging more people to lose touch with the real experiences of the wilderness.

 

 

There are a huge number of sportsmen and women who take part in and seriously train for their particular extreme sport, relishing the challenges and the excitement of reaching their goal.  I salute them and do not begrudge their use of any technology available to them which helps to reach that goal.

However, I would request that they refrain from broadcasting the details of their heart rate speed, averages et al.  In spite of the steeply increasing popularity of the various extreme sport video clips shown on sites such as YouTube, a few good photos would be fine for me thank you!

 

 

So, back to the non-techno world. Here am I in the wilderness, sitting back on my light-weight picnic rug, eating some tasty, easy, picnic food which has survived the two-day hike into nowhere. I am alone, the water of the nearby river sparkles in the sun, the salmon I caught (the lightweight, collapsible rod worked well) and have just finished cooking over a little fire, is delicious.

 

 

The sense of achievement is most satisfying. The trees are whispering in the slight breeze, the clouds are lazily waltzing across the blue skies, the sounds of silence are soporific. Here I can relax and think of nothing and simply enjoy the freedom of the wilderness.

 

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We live in a beautiful world, get out there and enjoy it.

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