Escape to the Woods


Our lives are filled with a colorful variety of helmet-fires that occur almost daily. We are continually reacting to one pop-up target after another. 

The news broadcasts sensational topics riddled with inaccuracies. Social media feeds the anxiety and work demands more and more of our time and attention. The weight of this noise is crushing…

It’s time to escape to the woods.

The Japanese call it ‘shinrinyoku’ or ‘forest bath’. Psychologists call it outdoor therapy. Norwegians call it ‘friluftsliv’ or ‘open-air living’. Regardless of what you call it, the necessity is obvious and the benefits are clear. Even Jesus regularly escaped to the wild places:

But the news about Him was spreading farther, and large crowds kept gathering to hear Him and to be healed of their illnesses. But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray [in seclusion].

Luke 5:15-17 AMP

It’s noteworthy here that Jesus took the time to peel off from the group, not just once, but often. Moreover, sick people that needed healing would have to wait! He knew that his escape would refresh him and he could come back in a greater capacity.

So with that in mind, try telling me that you’re too busy or have too many pressing concerns to find the time to get out in the woods for a little while. 

I’ve been a practitioner of this since I was a kid. I didn’t grasp the significance then, but I knew something outside had a certain healing quality about it. 

As a former Survival Instructor, I’ve walked hundreds of students into the woods and have repeatedly seen the transformative power that it has on people.

This power was the primary influence on why I chose to live in the mountains. I’m more present out here. I know it’s where I belong.

I can hear and experience God in high definition when I’m in the wilderness. Much more than I ever have in even the most dynamic church services. That’s nothing against church either, it’s just easier for me to understand the enormity and creativity of God by becoming small surrounded by the detail and magnitude of his creation.

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

Psalm 19:1

Plan it

A few things I think are essential when escaping:

1- Place your phone in airplane mode. I have so many ideas that come up during these times that I need to take notes to capture them otherwise I’d leave the phone at home. If you can leave your phone behind, do it. If not, make sure you can’t receive texts, calls, or notifications, otherwise, you’re just reinviting the noise you are trying to escape.

2- Walking should be a solid portion of this time away. We were made to walk and much of our lives have eradicated this essential form of locomotion. Walking has its own healing properties and this movement opens the space for:

  • Problem-solving
  • Analytic thinking
  • Slowing our sense of time
  • Situational awareness (observation of the environment)
  • Noise cancellation

3- Bring a hammock. All that walking can wear you out and frankly, hammocks are just plain awesome. Plus, it gives you a good place to have a seat for lunch. I use the ENO Singlenest.

4- Bring food and water. You need to take your time, so plan on having a meal out there. Then there’s no need to rush back because your stomach thinks your throat’s been cut. Food tastes better outside, so why not incorporate it?

Do it

I know I’m not the only one who’s seen this fairly overt conspiracy thrusting our society indoors. Between streaming video, big-screen TVs, gaming, high-speed internet, and DVRs, we’re losing the battle. We used to be wanderers. Nomads that made a living on their feet, constantly exposed to the natural environment. We’ve traded physical and mental fitness for technology and convenience. It’s stressing us out and destroying our health and resilience. It’s time to turn it around one piece at a time.

The woods aren’t the only place to make this happen. Just some form of nature as quiet as you can get it. Daily exercise can dial down the noise and I can’t begin to emphasize how important that is, but a trip to the wild places can really give you the hard reboot you need. 

So what are you doing this Saturday? Plan it out right now. The juice is worth the squeeze.