Text and Photography By Mona Alzubair
Outdoor activities like camping or hiking present an invaluable chance to immerse oneself in an environment unlike our own. So as you pack and get ready for your next local adventure, leave your assumptions behind, live up to the experience, and own it. Here are five points that will certainly enrich your upcoming local outdoor travel.
1- Expand your horizon.
There are no limits to the amount of knowledge you can gain from an adventure. So push your boundaries, explore new surroundings, and ask as many questions as you can. What kind of terrain is it? How isolated is it from surrounding inhabitants? What kind of human impact is there? How did this location come to being from an ecological, geological, or other standpoint? As you continue to explore, you’ll thank yourself for going beyond the surface.
2- “Let the bird sing.”
Rest assured that the moment your city-life self interacts with nature, it retracts and somewhat limits your experience. It is a coded natural protection mechanism that living things guard and close on themselves when danger approaches, and yes, you can represent danger to a tree, a bird, or a wildflower!
Think of it this way: nature becomes itself when it is undisturbed and progressing on its own pace, not yours.
The delicate interaction between all the elements of nature will not be revealed or fully expressed to you or to others around you when you are loud, hurried, and abrasive.
So go about your adventure with the awareness that you are a visitor, bringing with you only respect and appreciation. Ponder on the fact that it took mountains and valleys hundreds of millions of years to form, and the surrounding younger and transformative elements are in sync with this ecosystem, moving all in harmony and in accordance to a grand wisdom. Respect it.
3- Be clear on objectives, everyone.
Be conscious of why you are taking this trip. Is it a mini getaway from daily pressures? Do you want to see this specific location you’ve heard about? Do you constantly imagine yourself standing on a hill overlooking a magnificent sunrise? It could be anything, but you need to figure out what it is! As you do so, you should also inquire and align with the objectives of the group you are traveling with. The company you go with is what will make or break your trip, and if you are not aligned at least on the major objectives, expect that compromises will be made. This could range from the food you will eat if you are sharing resources, the timing of specific hikes and activities, and general rules of the group, etc. You are all in this together, so verbalize your needs.
4- Become a master planner.
Packing for a camping trip is a skill acquired through experience. Every time you do it, you become better at it, realizing that certainly you don’t need four t-shirts or your big bottle of body lotion for a 2-day trip when space is limited and every gram counts (especially if it is a backpacking trip where you will be carrying all your needs for a considerable length of time!). If you are traveling with a guide, ask questions – a good guide will let you know what the essentials are beforehand. It’s important to not let others “carry you” throughout the trip; don’t expect them to carry an extra headlight or camp chair for you, for instance. Train yourself to give up some comforts and embrace the hardships your upgraded self is now experiencing.
5- Aim for the stars (and/or the moon)!
As someone who practices night photography, I am fascinated by the night’s enormous potential for dream-like photographs. Among other things, the timing of your trip as well as how far you are from city lights will determine the outcome; each scenario has its own unique gifts to offer.
First thing I usually do is figure out where the moon falls in its lunar cycle. You will get a nightscape with the dominance of either the moon or the stars, not both. I once camped in a 1% moon phase in Al Ula, the starriest night I have ever witnessed – heaven was truly a place on earth that night. If you’re not into night photography, don’t discount the night time experience outdoors. Allow yourself to adjust to the darkness with as little light pollution as possible, and you will be surprised by what and how much you can see.
The Principles of Leave No Trace
Leave No Trace (LNT) is a set of international standards for outdoors decision-making.
The five points we mentioned are inspired by the spirit of LNT which informs on much more than how to minimize impact outdoors to a practical and ethical code of conduct.
These are golden rules; if you learn and practice them, you will have contributed to the preservation of the wilderness, and to spreading the love of nature.