A few years ago, Alpkiteer Katie Tunn spent a year living off-grid in a Scottish woodland. Upon her return, she got to see herself in a full mirror for the first time in 12 months. She told us about how being in nature helps her escape.
Being a woman is a complex and varied thing. We are shaped and weathered by the places, cultures and societies we exist in.
I am lucky, my experiences of womanhood are incomparable to many across the globe. Yet, even in our relatively tolerant society here in the UK, women still face harassment, discriminations and violence, especially women with disabilities and those from ethnic minorities. Equality still has a long way to go and, even in the most subtle of ways, women carry the weight of societal expectations.
But there’s one place where it doesn’t matter what gender you are… the natural world.
Being in nature is the one place where we can be ourselves without judgement, somewhere where all those societal expectations cease to exist. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a mother, if you’re married, where you’ve come from, if you’ve got a good career or tidy house. It doesn’t matter what you look like, how you dress, or what the nosey couple next door thinks of you!
It's a powerful way to escape those pressures and reconnect with our true selves. When I head into the woods, I shrug off my given labels and become just another animal beneath the trees.
When we are surrounded by the beauty and vastness of the natural world, it reminds us of our own insignificance in the grand scheme of things. I’m humbled by the dramatic crags of the Scottish hills, the seemingly-endless expanse of the sea, and the intricate ecosystems that can be found in even the most unassuming natural space.
In this context, those modern cultural and social expectations become unimportant, and it’s easier to focus on what truly matters - our connection to the Earth and to each other. It’s something that traditional indigenous cultures valued but has become sadly lost to most of us.
When I spend time off-grid I aim to merge into my environment as much as possible, to try to become part of the ecosystem alongside the birds and the critters. These are the precious moments for me, when being a human means being just one animal in a web of many. It helps to put my boring old struggles into perspective.
Reconnecting with your body in this way feels like a kind of mindfulness or meditation, putting focus on the sensory experiences of the moment rather than all those external factors we usually have to deal with. I find that it helps manage my mental health and stress levels immensely.
There’s so much to be gained from time spent outdoors; from reconnecting to our physical bodies to helping us cultivate a greater sense of acceptance and appreciation for ourselves and others.
It can also help us build bonds with friends, explore our spirituality and even be used as a tool for healing mental trauma.
A solo camping trip in the hills isn’t going to do much to eliminate inequality but it might just be the breather you need to come back strong and fight for change.