While I’m no psychologist, this is some food for thought.
While I’m not 100% sure why we embrace this pain, I believe that it’s associated with modern society. We are constantly living in a state of comfort, we have a tool or instrument for just about everything. Quite often our phones take the steering wheel and direct us through life. This tedious way of life can’t possibly get us out of our comfort zone.
When we escape this comfort, we feel out of depth and become more aware of our situation. Bike packing, unlike hiking or bush walking allows us to quickly escape reality. Sometimes travelling 200km+ in a day. When you’re out of the city and having to support yourself, you enter a somewhat primitive state focusing on survival. What will I eat tonight? Where’s a safe place to sleep? Where’s the next township? These questions we ask ourselves when out riding are often forgot about in normal life. We don’t have to worry about survival.
Being alone & self supported forces us to use the primitive part of our brain, our survival instincts. It teaches us to be aware of our surroundings and helps bring perspective to our lives, clearing your mind and fostering your creativity. When we experience this state of mind, we tend to de-stress and understand our problems better. We realise that all the issues that we thought we dire, may not be as bad as we thought, we learn that usually our stress is self inflicted. We learn to open our mind and think outside the box.
Why do we feel less stressed when submerged in nature?
I believe that’s purely revolved around our minds focusing on a different objective. When we are in reality, we focus on our work, jobs, training & commitments. That’s pretty standard. When we are in nature, camping alone or otherwise out of our comfort zone, our minds tend to switch objectives and focus on different things. Instead of thinking, “how should I respond to this email”, we might be thinking “how will I start this fire!”, “where will I be sleeping tonight?”. Our mind and body uses most of its energy focusing on survival, forgetting the once ‘important’ tasks that you had playing on your mind.
When your mind switches into this state, its almost like you realise that your problems aren’t as stressful as they once seemed. Your mind has changed focus for once and you’re now able to think clearly and come up with new ideas.
I do understand that people have different levels of comfort. Some people would love to go on a solo 2 week expedition through the middle of Australia, others would feel the same levels of discomfort in and around the local NP. It’s all subjective to each individual. I think this applies to anyone who is in nature and out of their comfort zone.