Lessons of the Hermit

I often try to explain to my friends the benefits of a motorcycle trip, especially one that involves camping. What’s the appeal, what’s the benefit of downsizing life to fit into what you can carry on the back of a bike? What do you get in exchange for showers, ready meals, and all the magic electricity provides?

Turns out, quite a bit. I recently came across this article that discusses a famous hermit who lived alone in the woods for 27 years. One of my favorite quotes is this one:

Knight entered the forest because there was no place for him in modern society.

To be clear, I’m not describing myself that way. Not exactly. I definitely need a lot more solo-time than most people could understand, but I am still glad for human interaction when it comes. A lot of bikers might feel like no one gets them, they’re only understood by other bikers. At the same time, the fact that life on two wheels gets you outside may be a bigger part of the puzzle than we currently realize.

The Hermit’s is an interesting story, but the real paydirt are the books and studies referred to in the article. People are doing the science to prove what many of us already know: Being outside, seeing green and brown makes us happier and more creative. Being by large bodies of water makes us happy and content. Not only are they proving these things with stress physiology and chemical tests, but they are quantifying it: you need to look at a tree for at least one minute to feel more generous, 5 to 30 minutes in the park improves health measurably.

The science matters because it makes the positive effects of being outside a hard fact and not just hippy tree-hugger shit. That makes it easier to make the case for others to get outside, and harder for the government to do things that would put our national parks and the roads that get us to them in jeopardy.

Who knows, I’ll be there’s a study about the positive effects of wind in your face. Let me know if you need a test subject.

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