Lessons we learn in the wild
Issued: 19 Aug 2020

‘The Wilderness holds answers to more questions than we have yet learned to ask.’ Nancy Newhall

Photo credit: Greg Cartwright © Queensland Government


‘The Wilderness holds answers to more questions than we have yet learned to ask.’ Nancy Newhall

Our innate connection with nature, and the exhilaration we feel when we take on an adventure in the wilderness—no matter how big or small—give us opportunities to grow and learn about ourselves. Away from the distractions of mobile devices, cleaning the house and rushing to work, when walking in nature we gain brief glimpses of peace and contentment.

With hundreds of inspiring places and landscapes to explore, Queensland’s natural environment provides plenty of opportunities to find moments of joy and harmony, grow in nature, and dig deeper to learn more about ourselves.

Now’s the time to embrace nature and explore Queensland’s parks and forests—you never know what you might find!

Make space for resilience to grow

A hiker in a blue rain jacket with the hood drawn up is looking up at falling rain around her.
Step out of your comfort zone | Greg Cartwright © Queensland Government

Like any lessons we learn in life, there’s often some discomfort involved! In fact, the more we step out of our comfort zone, the more we stand to gain. Hiking in the pouring rain, feeling a bit miserable at the time, but knowing we just have to put our heads down and keep going, means we start to build resilience.

Our bodies and minds nudge the boundaries of our beliefs and perceptions about our abilities. Each time we push these boundaries, we make space for resilience to grow. We create a new ‘set point’ in our minds about what we are capable of, physically and mentally. Each time we push ourselves, we remember how we pushed through the discomfort last time, and it gets easier to dig deep and find the grit to keep going.

Change gears and shift towards ‘emotional agility’

A hiker wearing a rain jacket is standing in front of a waterfall with her arms spread wide.
Find freedom and growth in nature | Greg Cartwright © Queensland Government

Adventures in nature give us opportunities to learn and grow, because nature can be unpredictable. In a world that’s increasingly changing, challenging, even sometimes overwhelming, our ability to adapt to situations is vital for our survival, in both home and work life.

Psychologist Susan David has a term for shifting our mindset to experience positive emotions around a changing situation—‘emotional agility’. By ‘expecting the unexpected’ when we hike, and choosing to respond in a positive, calm manner, we can turn potentially uncomfortable situations into opportunities to grow and practise our new-found agility.

Viktor E. Frankl, a noted psychiatrist, captures the moments, both in nature and everyday situations, where we can choose to be emotionally agile in how we respond, with this profound statement:

‘Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.’

Selflessness and team work

A hiker is assisting another hiker over an obstacle on the track.
Work together to achieve your goal | Greg Cartwright © Queensland Government

Hiking in nature with a group of people, whether family or friends, comes with baggage—group dynamics, interactions and potential conflict.

Believe it or not, when outside their comfort zone, some people can become grumpy or defensive!

Walking pace can be a major issue, as can differing abilities on natural terrain. When walkers vary in their pace and abilities, we have to work to keep the team together. This is an opportunity for each person to put aside their frustrations and work together to create a positive experience for all.

It helps to mix up the order of the group —swap the front person with the back person, so everyone takes turns in different positions in the group. Allow time for rest breaks, especially if anyone is struggling.

A family of four in active wear and hats is walking on a sandy path fringed by coastal vegetation.
Enjoy your time together | Greg Cartwright © Queensland Government

The group is only as fast as the slowest person, so enjoy the time out in nature, rather than feeling frustrated at the time it is taking to reach the end of the trail!

Learning to get along with people and find a common way forward is a lesson we can apply in many aspects of our lives. Teamwork is an acquired skill that needs practice—it can get lost in the modern world, where we are increasingly isolated from each other.

Take on the trails

Next time you lace up your hiking boots and head out on the trails in Queensland’s diverse national parks, remember that you stand to grow and learn and be exhilarated!

Treat the natural environment as you would your home: Keep it clean, tidy up when you depart, and leave everything as you found it. We are privileged to ‘visit’ Queensland’s incredible natural environments, and we should do just that—visit and leave no trace. Tread lightly.

Find your next trail adventure in a park near you.