Over the last weekend I have been delivering a Bushcraft Course for a group of expedition leaders, and it has led me to reflect on a few things.
Bushcraft has become a contentious subject over the last few years, with every man and his dog having a say on what they believe it is about! A quick google search found 16,800,000 sites on the subject??
One of the subjects that came up regularly this weekend has been about where the participants can find more information about the subject, so i sign posted them to a few classics and a few of my favorites, but I am reflecting on the main thrust of my thoughts on bush craft, which is that is is about your journey and your interests and I wonder if books are useful, or if experience of traveling the world and finding your own path is better?
There is an old Chinese proverb that states that ” travelling a thousand miles, is better than reading a thousand books”, initially as a bibliophile (an incessant reader, buyer and collector of books, much to my long suffering wife’s chagrin) I read this and thought no way! I’ve learnt more knowledge from books than travel! or have I?
As a youngster and into my adult life I have consumed knowledge from books, my earliest memories are of encyclopedias, atlases and maps, sitting for hours soaking up images and text on things that caught my attention or imagination. Maps drew me in to their patterns and to try and wonder what mountains in the Himalayas looked like, so then I read climbing books, reading about jungle animals led me to learn about jungle survival or about the lives and plight of indigenous people. For my chaotic brain it made sense to bounce around like this, to acquire knowledge from many sources and devour inspirational words and language.
For me this was how I have and still do acquire my knowledge I’ll always have at least 3-4 books on the go at a time, one fiction, one biography, one technical, one personal development, etc.
And so in my life these words created dreams in my mind, dreams of far off places, animals and people, so when I travel I feel real privilege in seeing these places and living those dreams.
But does this prove that travel is better than reading?
My travelling has inspired me further, sometimes to read new books!!!
But generally it has helped me learn about different people, just talking-to and sharing stories with people from all over the world, including those indigenous peoples I read about, I’ve learnt first-hand about cultures- mine and others.
I’ve seen global issues first hand, poverty, civil unrest, the aftermath of conflict, as well as the pressures of globalization. This has directed my political thinking and outlook, that has led to changes in my actions and behaviors.
I have felt the snow of the high mountains and struggled to feel oxygen getting into my lungs, I have slept under stars in deserts, and the canopy of jungles, and shivered away nights in arctic storms, just as I imagined after reading about Captain Oates and Scott.
All the time recognizing elements I have read about or imagined from reading, seeing and feeling first hand.
Travel and reading has formed me as a whole person, they have fed each other, and in reflection on the proverb I don’t think either could have done this on their own.
Reading provides imagination, knowledge and creates dreams from language, travel allows it to become real, to experience the world in all its beauty and horror, to meet people, share ideas and shape personality, but the two together, feeding off each other, wow, is that powerful, I know, I’ve felt it, the fact I can write this article is testament to that, not only has reading allowed me to deal with issues in my life- personal issues, divorce, separation from my children, failures, successes, travel has allowed me a voice, a way of expressing my dreams and keeping me moving towards my goals.
So even if I read another thousand books, I’ll still need to travel another 1000 miles!