Is there more to spending time outside than exercise and fresh air?


54% of humans live in urban environments, a number that is set to continue and steadily increase. There are a lot of benefits to living in the city and arguments both for and against it from an environmental stand point. Whatever your beliefs in this area one key problem that arises from city living is the lack of the natural world. Everything in the city is man made. Concrete roads and pavements, plastered walls and ceilings, cars and buses, the list is endless. Even the areas that appear natural often aren’t, mowed grass, weeded flower beds, and neatly lined up trees. If Mother Nature had her way there would be some serious renovations. Every living thing on this planet has evolved to be at the point it is right now. Plants, insects, mammals whatever the species they have all slowly morphed and changed to survive to their specific circumstances.  Humans are no different. We are the direct outcome of our own surroundings. We have been evolving for approximately 200,000 years to fit our surroundings which for the majority or our existence was the natural world. Foraging, hunting, exploring, finding shelter, working with nature rather than against it, that is what we have come from. It is only in the last small portion of our existence that we have started moving away from that lifestyle to live in our man made cities.

On the surface it seems to be working , we are surviving, the population is increasing, cities are growing. But what impact is our disconnection from nature having on our evolution? It is too early to say for certain how this is affecting us but we have been able to see how the modern, changing world has affected other species with shorter life spans. The Peppered Moth, for example, pre industrial revolution, was made up of two variations, 98% of the species was white and black and 2% was fully black. Since the industrial revolution this changed dramatically and the black moths thrived to represent as much as 95% of the species. The theory behind this was that at the peak of the industrial revolution we were burning a lot of coal, which in turn polluted the landscape making everything darker from the soot. The lighter coloured moths lost their advantage from camouflage and the black moths gained an advantage.

Olaf Leillinger_Moth_1
Olaf Leillinger_Moth_2

The two variations of Peppered Moths shows the way the species adapted to their changing landscape. Credits: Images by Olaf Leillinger

How does this tie in with us having the odd adventure? Because when we are out in wild places, looking up at the stars, cooking on a fire, pushing our bodies physically and mentally we are connecting to our evolutionary past. If you have spent time in the mountains then you have experienced that connection to nature on a much deeper level than is possible in the city. Your senses and intuition are magnified.

“Is that cloud on the horizon a potential storm?”

“Is this snow stable?”

“How much daylight do I have left?

Every decision you make is about reading the environment and adapting. The more time we spend in these places the more we allow those traits to surface and survive. This is what we have evolved from and that is why it feels so right to be doing it. We aren’t designed to be sat indoors 8 hours a day at our desks, working on computers….at least not yet, so lets keep it that way!

This article was first written as a guest post for Project Cordillera a social enterprise that aims to transform adventure travel and contribute to meaningful, positive tourism by building connections between adventurers and the places they go. Find out more at

A journey off the grid


I can't get use to the stars. Those moments when you look up and see the stars, not the city stars when you maybe see three, I mean properly see them,  still catch me by surprise. I've spent a reasonable amount of time camping and sleeping outside, measured against some it might seem an excessive amount, against others I'd be a rookie.  Either way, every time I find myself outside on a clear, dark night and look up I am shocked to realise that this is the view we have blocked from ourselves. Our modern lives of electricity and lighting have meant that for the majority of us that unbelievable panorama is a rare sight. Some people will have lived their entire lives having never even experienced it. Yet without our intervention this view would always be there. The latest star gazing wasn't far away from the city geographically but it was a long way away in nearly every other comparison. It was a public holiday over in Vancouver this weekend and that means one thing, get out of the city. This time around Rachel and I decided to continue exploring the nearby islands by bicycle with a trip to Lasqueti Island.

Leaving the on grid world on the ferry to Lasqueti

Lasqueti, from afar, looks like any other island in the Salish Sea that sits between Vancouver Island and the  mainland. The main and quite significant difference with Lasqueti is that it is a fully off the grid island. No electricity, no mains water, no gas. I have always dreamed of living off the grid, it is something I plan to try to some extent in the future but living in the city doesn't make it possible for the time being. I love the idea of living in sync with nature, being forced to live a simpler life and leaving as little footprint as possible. So it was with some excitement that we set off to see what is created when approximately 380 people choose to live off the grid on an island.

There is no camping on the island so we stayed in a tiny cabin which was little more than a shed. No facilities, just a bed and a composting toilet, we had to bring our own water and food, and take any trash we made home with us. It might sound like hell to some but for us it was all we needed. We cooked food on our camping stove, listened to the wildlife around us and were, of course, surprised by how bright the stars were.

Our off the grid cabin for the weekend.


The kitchen for the weekend in the cabin

When I first spoke to people about Lasqueti it seemed to have some mixed reviews from both previous visitors and those who have never even stepped foot on the island. As with anything that goes against the grain it attracts criticism from those comfortable getting in line. I find it strange that as a society we are so fearful of people doing things differently. The stereotypical tag of "hippies" is so often thrown around whenever the words off the grid, nature or even organic is used. It makes no sense to me that the people selflessly trying to look after the planet are the odd ones. I wasn't there long, but long enough to see enough. What I did see was lots of smiles amongst the odd disapproving look, a tight community mixed with some fierce independence,  the health conscious, hemp wearers and the beer drinking, chain smokers, some unbelievable levels of self sufficiency as well as a reliance on diesel powered generators and food brought in from outside. The people were really no different to anywhere else except for one thing. Everyone there had made a conscious decision to live on this off the grid island. Everywhere I looked I saw someone who was taking a big step to being the change they wanted to see in the world and it was inspiring.

Great atmosphere of diverse people at the Lasqueti Farmers Market (plus some of the best doughnuts I've ever had)

We left the island and headed inland on our bikes to spend some time camping and to digest a bit of what we had just experienced. Sat round the campfire, with our few belongings we managed to bring on our bikes, making a meal out of the very last of our food, listening to the wildlife, I was again surprised by the stars. I may not be able to live off the grid in the city but I realised if I am in pursuit of living in sync with nature, being forced to live a simpler life and leaving as little footprint as possible then sleeping outside in this way will do for the time being.

Our way of living off the grid for the time being