Contribute your adventures to the Hipcamp Journal on Health and the Outdoors by filling out this form: Share Your Story. We look forward to reading, and sharing your stories!
I’ve always loved the start of a new year. It’s akin to the happiness I feel from cracking open a new notebook or sitting down to a clean desk. A fresh start, an opportunity to reset and refocus on what really matters. I love resolutions, intentions, themes, focuses — anything that uses the new year as a chance to reflect, improve and grow.
I also love New Year’s eve because Hipcamp was born from a 2013 New Year’s camping trip. I decided to skip a fancy party and go camping by the ocean instead, so that I could spend the first morning of the year writing in my journal while watching the waves. I spent many frustrating hours trying to find a spot, combing through the websites of various county parks, state parks, national parks and private campgrounds to understand my options. Finally I found Andrew Molera State Park in Big Sur—it was perfect. I read the entire state park website, packed up my car, and headed south. But when I got there I realized that despite all my hard work, I had missed the most relevant information about Andrew Molera – it was home to a gorgeous point break wave, and I hadn’t brought my surfboard.
2016: Surf selfie of Victor and I. Photo by Victor Mathieux
Fast forward three years later to New Year’s 2016. I returned to Andrew Molera for a wonderful camping night under the stars, and yes, this time I brought my board. Spending the first morning of the year surfing the waves with my good friend Victor, whose company ZenSpace offers live meditation classes via the internet with the ethos of “slowdown to speed up,” was the perfect way to set the tone for a year where my focus is learning to take care of myself.
As a founder, I’ve spent the last 2.5 years of life putting Hipcamp above myself. To some extent it’s worked—I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished in such a short time—but on the other hand, I’ve spent too much of that time feeling tired, depleted, and defocused. I know that taking care of myself and always being in peak performance will create an even better company and a better self. Thus, my intention for the year is to take better care of myself.
Where the Big Sur River meets the Pacific Ocean at Andrew Molera, photo by Victor Mathieux
One of my favorite ways to do this, that I already know well, is to spend time in nature. And beautifully enough, that is also Hipcamp’s theme to kick off 2016: Health and the Outdoors.
I believe the research emerging in this area holds the potential to truly transform our world. Imagine a culture where it’s commonly known that getting outside can improve everything from creativity(1) to depression(2), ADD(3) to stress(4), PTSD(5), even your ability to fight cancer and viruses(6). There are recent studies that demonstrate all of these impacts. This cultural shift is going to happen.
In Japan, the practice of shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing, is considered standard preventive medicine. Forest bathing is basically wandering in the woods and letting nature enter your body through all five senses. Japan’s Forestry Agency has invested over $4M in research that demonstrates the incredible health benefits this unlocks. Finland is funding similar research, and South Korea has invested over $140M in a new National Forest Therapy Center.
The United States, the original pioneer in protecting land for the public good, has fallen behind on understanding the true benefits of open land. Hipcamp will be working this year to help accelerate this progress.
With an average of over 11 hours a day looking at a screen, we have become what John Muir once described as “tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people.” And now we are remembering that “going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity.” We have just reached a tipping point in human civilization; for the first time in human history more people live inside of cities than outside them. This makes access to wilderness even more critical.
To kick off the new year, I’d love to hear your stories about how being outside in nature has helped your health and well being. I’ve written before about how a kayak camping trip was the key in recharging after a few stressful months and overcoming fears I had about starting Hipcamp. Since writing this, I’ve heard that this story has inspired others to get outside when they’re feeling confused, depleted, and unsure of what to do next.
I know many of you been have had these experiences—let’s share them together and help move our culture towards one that understands the full benefits of nature.
Words by Alyssa Ravasio
Alyssa is the founder and CEO of Hipcamp. She has a degree from UCLA in Digital Democracy and her deepest passion is helping shape how the internet impacts our humanity and our planet.
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