Using his personal anecdotes, observations and stories, our Finance Manager Gautam Singh talks about why it is important for kids to experience the outdoorsy manager.
I have noticed a worrying trend in our country, and you must have noticed it too. It is not something new. Growing up, I have been a guilty participant of it myself – digital/online games. Children today have access to many more gadgets, than ever before. I have seen parents handing smartphones and tablets to children just as they learn to use their hands. Sometimes even at parks and playgrounds too.
But I am not making a stray observation. Recently, I came across a study that said just this. I can’t say I was shocked, but I was worried.
It said that in 2013 about 29% of children used tech gadgets as toddlers and 70% mastered them completely by the time they began primary school. I am sure that these numbers have doubled as I write this article today. Gadgets have replaced the outdoors and have become the most preferred toys of the younger generation.
I find this extremely painful to hear. Especially as I was a child who grew up completely in love with video games too. I grew up in the 90’s. The digital world was still in its inception, and I was already hooked.
At a small stream crossing on the trek. Picture by Saurabh Sawant.
Digital World Vs The Real Outdoors
I have always loved being outdoors – mountains, seas, trees, they all excite me. But being lost in the digital world full of computer games is something else. It took me by surprise. Hit me hard, and influenced me heavily. To the point where it removed all possibilities of me venturing out.
And as a result, I grew up obese.
Later in my life, I realized that this lack of physical activity was not only unhealthy, and harmful physically, but it also affected me mentally. I stopped being happy and excited about the things I used to like. My physical activities which would produce “happy hormones”, all seemed to have disappeared now.
Later on, I learnt that any form of exercise releases endorphins. And that they also regulate the body’s serotonin levels which reduce feelings of stress, depression and anxiety. I would spend all my time playing these computer games. As a result, my body was inactive for long periods of time. This generated cortisol, the stress hormone.
There are tonnes of studies that prove the popular saying for a healthy mind, you need a healthy body! I was becoming increasingly disassociated from my body, and the beautiful outdoors, things that I loved. Feelings of anxiety and stress were becoming prominent. Further, I did not even notice until many many years later, that the ecosystem of the digital world makes you extremely anti-social. I was very under-confident as a child.
But my story is not all downhill. Something changed my life, and that is what I am here to tell you about.
Gautam overlooks students’ putting on their eco-bags at the beginning of the trek. Picture by Saurabh Sawant.
How trekking helps your child’s overall development.
My life changed forever when I went on a trek to Kodachadri. It is a beautiful mountain peak amid the dense forests of the Western Ghats. On this trek, I began to notice how everything changed and seemed new all of a sudden. The air I was breathing, the trees around me, the light drizzle on my skin, the scent of petrichor, all of this uplifted my spirit. I felt an indescribable feeling.
As I began trekking through the jungle, I felt an immense sense of joy and gratitude for being born on this beautiful planet. I started to notice a variety of plants and trees which I hadn’t seen before. I noticed the birds chirping around, tracks and traces of wild elephants, butterflies fluttering after. From the peak, I could see the Arabian Sea stretching to the horizon. I was experiencing them for the first time. I was reborn at 22.
By the time I came back from the trek, I felt much more confident, filled with joy and a deep sense of gratitude to the creator of this wonderful planet, all this in just one trek. I wanted more of this.
So I started looking for other treks to do. I frequently went on small hikes around my hometown, Ramanagaram and Bengaluru. The Ramadevara Betta, Handi Gundi Betta, Revana Siddeshwara Betta, Savana Durga, and Skandagiri to name a few. Each hike was a different experience and each of them was an eye-opener. I started coming out of the cocoon and I mourned the loss of childhood spent amid gadgets.
You are outdoors, in the lap of nature – sunshine, rain, cool breeze, thorns, gravel paths, uphill and downhills, falls and bruises, it is all one big bag of positivity and learning. To put it simply, I think trekking is an uplifting activity.
Upon further reading, I learnt that the outdoors lower feelings of anxiety, depression and stress. Further, it is also a way to foster social skills with your peers. I really wish that the children of today fall in love with the outdoors.
I want them to be curious again. And this is probably why I am sharing my thoughts with you today. My goal is to try and ensure that as many children as possible get a chance to explore the outdoors.
A popular ELP trek for students – Skandagiri
A small realization of this goal came true when I went as part of the Indiahikes team on an Experiential Learning Programme (ELP) Trek to Ballalarayana Durga. I listened to the teachers talk about sides to children they had never seen before. They were responsible for their teams, they had leaders among them, and they all helped each other reach the summit.
Such is the beauty of trekking, it allows children to be more attentive and responsive to changes around them. It brings in a sense of responsibility towards themselves and the society. They engage with Green Trails activities, work as a team, and boost each others morale. They are simply excited and happy. This increases their mental confidence. Each person, child or adult, undergoes a change, and experiences a trek in their own unique way.
I think I have a responsibility towards the children of today. And so do you. 🙂
Students on a reflection session at the summit of Skandagiri.
If you are part of a school and want to trek with us, write to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or head over to our Experiential Learning Programme page to know more.