A Guide to Connecting to the Inner Child in All of Us

Robert L. Watkins is the social media manager at the National Wildlife Federation.

I remember being barefoot in the dirt, mud in hands, and breathing in the freshest air. When I was a kid being outdoors felt natural and life seemed to move much slower. Growing up on a farm, I always felt like there was not much to do as a kid, so I would adventure into the woods until sunset. I later learned those moments were much more than some adventure, the outdoors provided me with an escape.

As I have gotten older and my world has begun to move faster and faster, I have found taking a break and being outdoors not only calms me down, but it helps me be that very kid again. It alleviates stress, helps my mental health, forces me to live in the moment, and most importantly it helps me transcend time as if it never existed and, in some way, I am able to reconnect to my younger self all at once. Some would call it crazy, but to me, it means the world.

I have done a lot of backpacking, camping, and traveling on public lands throughout the United States as I have gotten older, but one recent trip was especially memorable: exploring Olympic National Park in Washington state.

After a cold windy ferry ride to the island, you arrive in an area that seems so beautiful, you question if it is real. The trees are so big they make you feel like an ant, which inevitably makes your problems smaller too. You walk through luscious greenery, so bright and vibrant you begin to realize the beauty of untouched ecosystems. You hear waterfalls smashing off the rocks as the sunlight creates a natural kaleidoscope within it. As you camp under the brightest stars you’ve ever seen, you begin to realize how beautiful silence truly can be. Then when you pack your bags and head home, you wonder if the experience was all a dream and hope to one day fall asleep and be right back there.

My advice is to anyone who enjoys the outdoors or needs a mental escape: pack your bags! It doesn’t matter whether your explore public lands on the other side of town — or the other side of the country. If you’re looking for an adventure, head out onto public lands.

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Would you like to write about public lands that you cherish? Please email Mary Jo Brooks at brooksm@nwf.org for guidelines. You’ll get this sticker as a thank you.

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National Wildlife Federation — Our Public Lands

National Wildlife Federation — Our Public Lands

The National Wildlife Federation public lands program advocates for our public lands and waters, wildlife and the right of every American to enjoy them.