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How The Outdoors Can Soothe the Turbulence of a Chaotic Cross-Cultural Lifestyle

Photo by Samantha Nordstrom.

Life can be stressful for a person who consistently straddles multiple cultures and environments, regardless of how or why, because it is always changing.

Third Culture Kids (TCKs) or Cross-Cultural Kids (CCKs) may struggle to find stability within the chaos of their cross-cultural lifestyles.

Luckily, there is a solution: By spending time outside, a surprisingly constant environment compared to the turmoil of modern life.

Front view of African american woman outdoors with surfboard sitting on bicycle at beach in the sunshine

One can always step outside and expect to feel the sun warming their skin or feel the wind blowing. One can see a glimpse of the moon, peaking out into the night sky, surrounded by glimmering stars, or listen to the gentle sound of rain or snow pattering the ground. Even the clouds, soft and serene, float across the sky in a constant motion.

Whether one is rock-climbing on a mountain or simply taking a walk in the local park, spending time outside has numerous physical and psychological benefits. And the best part about it is that regardless of a person’s identity, physique, financial situation or geographic location, anyone can access the outdoors.

THE OUTDOORS OFFERS SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE

Peggy McAllister, an outdoor leader at Colorado State University’s outdoor program, says the outdoors offers something for everyone.

“I think there is a culture that says it’s not and that you have to be really strong or really abled or really normative to be in the outdoors,” she said. “I think people, no matter how normative or able-bodied they are, can all get something from it.”

McAllister grew up in Iowa, U.S.A., before moving to Colorado, U.S.A. After attending a summer camp in midwest Wisconsin, U.S.A, she became very interested in the outdoors, even though she grew up in a state where outdoor activities weren’t as prevalent.

McAllister’s job as an outdoor leader is to instruct people on how to do various outdoor activities, including hiking, backpacking, skiing, rock climbing and more.

Cross country skiing (langlaufen) outdoors in Austria: winter sports in a winter landscape.

“I love being able to see what [people] take out of it because everyone takes something out of the outdoors,” McAllister said. “I’ve had so many impactful leaders, especially women, that showed me that the outdoors could be super empowering and strong, and all these things that I felt as a kid. If I could be that person for someone else, I love being able to be that person.”

Whether a person is consistently on the move, settling in an unfamiliar place or living in the same place they were born, the outdoors is usually steps away. And although the environment can vary, one can easily find ways to enjoy and appreciate being outside regardless of what the terrain may look like.

COMMON OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES

The most common outdoor activities include outdoor sports and games. Still, the types of sports and games vary depending on the environment. An online blog aimed at educating world citizens highlights outdoor activities in different countries.

According to the blog, in colder regions, such as Canada and some states in the U.S., winter sports, including skiing, ice-skating and tobogganing, are common. In mountainous areas, people often enjoy hiking, climbing and cycling. If equipment is scarce, it is just as enjoyable to spend a day outside enjoying the snow and cooler weather.

Outdoors
Tabernash, Colorado, U.S.A. Photo by Samantha Nordstrom.

Those residing in warmer regions such as Sri Lanka and Australia enjoy activities in and out of the water, according to the blog. Those on the coast often spend their time on the beaches, swimming in the ocean or collecting seashells. Other popular activities in large bodies of water include swimming, surfing, fishing and kayaking.

If water activities aren’t an option, there are plenty of dry-land activities, including outdoor sports such as soccer, tennis, and cricket and other pastimes like biking, scootering and spending time at local parks or wildlife reserves. Even taking the time to simply sit outside and enjoy the weather is perfectly enjoyable.

Marathon, Fla., U.S.A. (Photo by Samantha Nordstrom)
Marathon, Florida, U.S.A. Photo by Samantha Nordstrom.

In areas where access to equipment is limited, such as the Philippines and Cambodia, there are plenty of ways to spend time outside. In fact, according to a website about traditional Filipino games, Filipino children created at least 30 creative outdoor games using materials they find in their environment. One of the most common outdoor activities in Cambodia is simply eating outside. It doesn’t matter how a person chooses to spend time outside, as long as they enjoy themselves.

Whatever part of the outdoors you are drawn to is awesome because it’s what you’re drawn to, and you shouldn’t compare yourself to others.

-Peggy McAllister

THE BENEFITS OF BEING OUTSIDE

The outdoors represents a pocket of peace within a cross-cultural lifestyle because of its numerous health benefits. According to an infographic promoting the benefits of the outdoors, being outside exposes people to vitamin D, a hormone triggered by sunlight that helps prevent multiple diseases, disorders, and cancers. It also reduces inflammation, lowers blood pressure, protects eyesight, boosts immune systems and promotes a healthy sleep schedule.

Additionally, being outside reduces stress and mental fatigue, releases endorphins that elevate moods, helps fight mental disorders, and increases productivity. 

Ultimately, the outdoors is where a TCK, a CCK or anybody experiencing a cross-cultural lifestyle can find peace and stability.

Regardless of where a person is in their life, being outside is an accessible and versatile pastime that can offer something for everyone.

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3 comments

  1. What a great article, and there is so much truth behind it! Anytime I am in nature I feel physically and mentally stronger, which is why I also spend a lot of time hiking and camping. It is so true that nature t=can be a “pocket of peace” in a time when the whole globe is stressed by climate change, conflicts, and disease. Overall, this article was super refreshing and makes me want to pack up my things and go camping!

  2. This is so well written, seriously! From the description of the outdoors at the beginning to the organization through out the piece, outstanding. I am guilty of not taking advantage of the outdoors enough and I want to be better about embracing its benefits. It is a very clear message: No matter who you are or where you are from, the outdoors is an exception to no one. It can remain a constant, which is very special. In my writing, I hope to incorporate descriptions as such that spark the imagination of the audience. This piece is very to the point, but highlights the key points that made the whole article appealing to continue reading. Thank you for sharing!

  3. I loved the inclusivity mentioned in this article. It’s easy for people to say to just get outside without regarding if there are barriers, whether normative or able bodied. To see someone acknowledge this and still encourage people to find whatever part of the outdoors best fits them and excites them, it is very refreshing. There are so many benefits to the outdoors and to acknowledge that from this perspective was very good to see.

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