The future starts today, not tomorrow” – Pope John Paul II

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It doesn’t start with the Coronavirus, though, or does it?

Some time ago, I was watching BBC’s mini-series ‘Secrets of Silicon Valley’ when it first hit me: outdoor survival skills might prove vital in the not too distant future.

Now, you are probably thinking ‘Silicone valley, Coronavirus and outdoor skills, what the…?’

So let me rewind that for you.

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REWIND

Other than giving into the temptation of experiencing life by travelling, adventuring and getting myself often into trouble, I am concerned with two major subjects that affect us nowadays.

One is the rise of the AI, and the other — the climate crisis and all the solutions, revolving a sustainable and circular economy.

I am certain we’ll witness a new world order in the years to follow. My curiosity, however, has been pondering over whether those major changes would be caused by the artificial intellect or the natural disasters. It seems to me, those two are on a race, without knowing of it.

***

THE SILICONE VALLEY

In the series, Jamie Bartlett uncovers the dark reality behind Silicon Valley’s glittering promise to build a better world. Basically, he is trying to prove how artificial intelligence is going to lead to an anti-utopian future. This may not be the case, but it is a potential scenario. One that former Facebook product manager Antonio Garcia Martinez is embracing.

The man has an off-road jeep with ‘CHAOS’ written on his registration plate. He is armed and has bought a piece of land deep in the woods, a lake across the border with Canada.

You know, just in case!

At first, you may think the guy is preparing to battle robots, but you are wrong.

According to him, and many others, the rise of AI will increase the economic gap between the few rich, empowered by data, and the many poor, in such ways that it would provoke riots, rebellions…and war.

As I was looking at Mr. Martinez, who ditched his top-notch managerial position at one of the most valued enterprises today to retreat in the woods…it hit me – outdoor skills are an asset.

And soon after, something else hit us…

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THE CURRENT AFFAIR OF CORONAVIRUS

These are troubled days. Yet, we cannot measure the troubles in MB or GB.

The problem is a virus. But rather than computers, it shuts down people, companies, cities and countries.  

The economy is going down a spiral. And while I am in no position to discuss how this plum will impact our society, a pessimist might go like this:

People get sacked. Businesses stop operating. Boarders close. No one pays their loans and taxes. Stagnation. Cash flow is disrupted. Banks are bankrupt. People become anti-social. People become scared. People starve. Get angry. Riots. More anger. Fire. War… It is all f*cked up.

Well, in such a scenario, it seems natural causes might have outrun the artificial ones.

For what is a virus (unless it’s a man-made conspiracy), but a matter of nature? 

***

LESSONS FROM THE OUTDOORS IN TIMES OF CORONA AND BEYOND

Every time I go camping or climbing, I know a bunch of people who think I am crazy. That is not the cool crazy, but the I don’t understand that at all crazy.

You lived in a tent for a month, really? – they would ask me. – What’s wrong with you?

Spending time outdoors makes you appreciate life more. Practicing extreme sports makes you think about death differently. Living for a while as your great-great- ancestors did, teaches you invaluable lessons.

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Isolation

Isolate yourselves, they say.

With the outburst of the Coronavirus, isolation has become the nightmare and punishment of all the extroverts out there.  I don’t support the panic, but I stand by the notion of responsibility.

If isolation is in order, so be it.

We are social animals, and we thrive on contact with other people. In fact, there are studies that prove how socialising has a positive effect on our health. No wonder we punish people by isolating them in a prison cell.

But isolation doesn’t have to feel like an imprisonment at all. Spending time outdoors has taught me how to embrace solitude positively; in a way that helps you grow.

Hiking is the easiest way to give yourself the space and peace to look within. It is incredible what you will find. It is also paramount to face yourself, especially standing naked in front of your fears. This is how we grow our personalities. And not while we play roles and put masks to fit the social norm.

Being part of an expedition teaches you many things, among which are patience and devouring time with your own thoughts. The days spent waiting for a weather window, stuck in a sleeping bag, allows you to assess life and tames your spirits in a good way.

Sometimes you may feel like this:

But that’s just sometimes.

This spring’s expeditions in Nepal and China are all cancelled. Which may not be so bad, considering the traffic jam that has been trying to conquer the mountains with ego and with no respect.

Nature deserves a break.

Yet, if you have to isolate yourself and conditions allow it, why not pack that sleeping bag and go outdoors to get some fresh air in the lungs, instead of intoxicating yourself with drama and virus panic?

Or just…

***

Keep Calm and Enjoy the Lockdown

Many people freelance or work distantly. True, a lot of jobs require people being physically somewhere. But for those who can still work remotely, things haven’t changed as much. And for those who can’t, maybe now is the time to learn a new skill, to read a new book, to declutter and re-evaluate your life.

Funny enough, in Chinese the word ‘crisis’ consists of the signs ‘danger’ and ‘opportunity’.

Chinese word for crisis

Don’t panic and waste that time writing angry posts, or blaming everyone around you about the situation. This is easy and worthless.

Better make it worth it!

***

Run for cover

Pharmacies are out of masks.

You can make a mask out of toilet paper, they said.

Now, supermarkets are out of toilet paper.

As I walk the streets, the sight of people wearing masks, feeds my anti-utopian vision of the future. It then makes me nauseous.

Here is what global health expert Alanna Shaikh says about masks:

Don’t wear a mask.

Face masks are for sick people and healthcare providers.

If you are sick, your face mask holds in all your coughing and sneezing and protects the people around you.

And if you are a health care provider, your face mask is one tool in a set of tools called personal protective equipment that you are trained to use so that you can give patient care and not get sick yourself.

If you are a regular healthy person, wearing a mask, it is just making your face sweaty.

Leave the face masks in store for all the doctors, and nurses, and sick people.”

Just get a buff!

Buff on the mountain

It is one of the most versatile and practical accessories an outdoorsy person has. It is also a solution for those who are healthy, as it drains away the post-apocalyptic vibe. Plus, it comes in different patterns and colours to fit the most pretentious of taste.

***

Managing resources

People are going mad, piling up groceries for potential dark times.

I am going mad, looking at the excessive consumerism and filled up plastic bags which everyone is holding on to.

One of the first things the outdoors teaches you is minimalism. Pack a ton of unnecessary sh*t with you once and carry it uphill. We shall see if you do that again.

Knowing how to pack is essential. You should have everything you need and nothing more. In time you realise you don’t need much. You learn how to eat to live, rather than live to eat.

When you are equipped with basic amenities, you learn how to make do with them. And when the food is depleted, or eaten by animals, you’ll still know how to survive.

Donkey eating crackers

Just turn your back on consumerism. It only feeds on your fears.

With cities and businesses being on a lockdown now, knowing how to manage your resources wisely, without freaking out you might run out of chips for those days to come on the couch, is а skill to embrace.

Plus, if money devaluates due to lack of products, you will know what it feels like to have some cash in your pocked up a mountain and no food.

***

Handyman skills

Making something out of nothing is yet another thing you learn while spending time in the outdoors. You will be amazed how creative one can get when something breaks or rips off.

Because, hey, you can’t buy a new one to replace it! Can’t order it, either, since you are deep into the wild, out of the scope of the delivery guy.

Now, when you need to fix something at home and you cannot call a specialist because of the lockdown, all those tools and creative solutions come in handy.

***

Situational analysis

The outdoors requires meticulous preparation not only on a physical level but also on a managerial one. From how you pack to when and where you go.

Evaluating risks and considering safe routes is vital. And since conditions can change dramatically, critical thinking of knowing when to advance, stay put or retreat is a must. Problem-solving and creative thinking, especially with urgent back up plans, are also on the menu.

Rather than risk takers, people who practice extreme sports outdoors are risk managers.

So yes, the great outdoors gives you the full set of managerial skills! Too bad, most of the outdoorsy people don’t aspire to go corporate. But you can put those skills into practice, as times are changing, to adapt to the new opportunities that present themselves.

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Basic medical skills

We’ve all had to take a crash course before we got our driving licenses. But what do you recall from that?

Truth is that outdoorsy people have spent enough time in extreme conditions, getting through injuries and incidents at the outskirts of civilisation, to know a thing or two about the practical side of first aid skills.

Injured hands

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Fit, Adaptable and Healthy

There is no doubt, people who are active are healthier and less prone to getting sick. Whether you go high up in the mountains, or way below sea level, you train your body to adapt easily to extreme conditions.

The outdoors teaches you how to care about your health and conditioning, as much as how to care about your environment.

Some years ago, Wim Hoff took part in an experiment by being injected with bacteria to prove that he can influence his autonomic nervous system and immune response through concentration and meditation.

Can’t we all? It won’t hurt if we try!

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The Post-Apocalypse

Whether we look at Mr. Martinez and his preparation to survive in the near future, or consider a worst case scenario of the Coronavirus epidemic, outdoor skills might really prove to be essential.

You know, in case cities become a battlefield for survival and you have to go on the run, you might need to get acquainted with stuff like how to find clean water, build a safe shelter, start fire without a lighter, and navigate.

But mostly, how not to shit your pants in the wilderness!

Now, let’s not get that grim!

If it is a utopian future that we welcome, one where we preserve our natural inhabitant, then you’ll need those skills not so much to survive, but to ENJOY AND THRIVE!

In the meantime, consider what can you do to contribute to a better future, not only for yourself and family, but for our species in general!

Explore! Exhale! Enjoy!

And work on those anti-virus bodies by keeping a healthy regimen.

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