The SNEWS® view on the world outdoors
We’re in a bit of a panic state of late. The faces in our industry are showing more creases and taking on a weathered hue while the younger cherubs appear to be opting for Game Boys and the easy thrill over the earned pleasures of outdoor adventure.
We elder statesmen and women of the outdoor industry now spend as much time pontificating and blustering about what should be done, or is not being done as we do heading outdoors ourselves. At every trade show and board meeting, we search and scratch for answers to the question: Why aren’t younger folk as enamored with the outdoor world as we’d like or we were?
Is the younger generation uninterested? It seems so, but the reasons may have more to do with us than them:
Think back to when you were younger and scrambling to head out on some epic quest. Do you even remember what pack you wore, the model of boots, the type of stove, the brand of underwear or, for goodness’ sake, the percent of which fibers anything was made of? We doubt it. One of our editors remembers his first trek: A sixty-mile hike in 3 days while 10 years old and in summer camp. It was a grand adventure full of wading rivers, eating cold food because the matches got wet, sleeping under a poncho tent in a damp sleeping bag while rain pounded down, and the echoes of a good ghost story swirled with the wind. It was standing on a peak where the horizon stretched forever, watching a mother deer nurse her fawn, eating giant jawbreakers purchased at a country store where the floor was still dirt and where - if you listened really closely - you could hear what would become the theme song to Deliverance in the background…. And, no, he does not remember anything about the gear.
Think about your first road trip in a car, either as a young teen or in your early 20’s. Do you remember the car? Possibly, but did that really matter? It had wheels. Good enough. What did matter were the friends you were with, the places you saw, the laughter you shared, and the tears you probably spilled. What really mattered was life laid bare to the world and lived to its fullest.
Perhaps we all need to spend a little more time dreaming of adventures past, present, and future, and a little less time quibbling over gear and all its virtues or lack thereof. We need to encourage adults to share in the outdoor experience with their children. We need to inspire children to dream of wild places and even wilder spaces.
Dreaming of the road trip, that grand adventure, is what many of us connected with when we were teens, and it is the same spark that can light the flames of imagination and adventurous pursuits in our current youthful generation. Will it pull all of them away from the Game Boy or Nintendo? Probably not. But perhaps it will inspire some of them to discover another thrill – one that will last a lifetime and doesn’t run on batteries – one that we knew because, you see, it’s really not about the gear, it’s about the adventure.