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Six Lessons From The Wilderness

We recently returned from our annual trip to the Boundary Waters.

This year’s trip consisted of fighting grueling headwinds on a sixteen mile, nine portage journey to the Walleye Oasis where we caught no walleyes but still had the time of our lives.

I was extremely proud of all the kids. My four oldest came with - Isaiah, Nathan, Rebekah, and Jeremiah along with two friends and their daughters. We were able to one-trip every portage and battle the twenty-five mph headwinds and still make it to camp in six and a half hours. It was a great crew and many friendships were further developed.

There are six key lessons that I was able to take from this trip that can apply to how we spend our time away at the cabin.

  1. Unplugging is not only a gift to those around you but also to yourself. When you are in the wilderness and unable to get reception you are able to focus on the most important aspects of life and through it your soul is renewed. Our lives are typically so busy responding to the urgent (or what we think is urgent), that we don’t take time to think about and process our decisions well. As a result our souls become disrupted because we aren’t focusing on what we truly need to take care of or issues we need to resolve. When the technology is removed we are forced to slow down and that is a good thing.
  2. Focusing on your basic needs (food, shelter, water, etc.) encourages you to simplify. So much of what we get caught up in and the stuff we have to maintain does not add to but detracts from our lives. When we are in the wilderness we realize that truly being alive does not encompass a constant game of striving. Instead we are able to see that all we need to live is right around us - fish and berries for eating, friends and family to form meaningful relationships, and the beauty that surrounds us for our enjoyment.
  3. Meaningful conversation with our kids occurs in the quiet moments when we are able to be more fully aware and notice subtle hints. Children find it hard to open up to us completely when we appear to be too busy - actually, anyone does. When we want to communicate deeply personal matters of the heart we don’t want them to be dealt with haphazardly. We need to be able to trust that the other person will fully hear us and be able to understand where we are coming from to give us the grace we need. It is impossible to do this in an environment that is not free from distractions.
  4. Focusing on God’s beautiful creation renews our creative minds. Since the beginning of creation man has longed to create. This plays out in different forms. For some they build a house, others build a business, while others practice some form of art (music, painting, pottery, etc.). No matter what one chooses to do do there mind must go through periods of renewal to get their creative juices flowing. Time spent in nature allows our minds to be inspired and have time for prayer. 
  5. Friendships are forged through battling the adversity that the wilderness can bring. When you hear best friends talk you notice that they often recall times of great fun or great struggles. It is through struggles that people’s characters are tested and when trustworthy traits are revealed we are able to trust those people more. It may not always be pretty and reactions may not always be pleasant but the key is whether or not the person makes it through with you to the other side. When you are in the wilderness things will inevitably come against you - your food pack might get stolen by a bear, the canoe might get tipped, winds may be an ever present danger - the list is endless. When these things come up you need people you can count on and people you can count on are true friends. 
  6. You can still have fun even when things don’t go as planned. 

We went sixteen miles in expecting to slay the walleyes yet we caught nary a one. We switched gears and caught many large northerns and bass. We also saw moose, played games when it rained, and watched sunsets. With so much beauty surrounding us it really would have been silly to focus on the walleyes we weren’t catching.

With these six points in mind it is easy to see how this applies to your vacation property. When heading to the cabin or camper we may want to consider leaving the gadgetry behind, focusing on each other, and spending more time on the water or playing games.

Neil Johnson