Have you heard of Wild Night Out?
Wild Night Out is the UK’s national night – and day – of adventure. Now in its third year, the campaign is championed by Ordnance Survey and encourages everyone to stick 30th June in their calendar for guaranteed outdoor fun and adventure. You might have seen me posting about Wild Night Out on social media last week in the run-up to the big night.
I love this campaign because it acknowledges that getting outside, and especially sleeping outside, is outside a lot of people’s comfort zones. A community to rally around can make all the difference. Even if you like doing it, you may not think you have the time to fit it in as much as you’d like. The Wild Night Out website quotes the worrying statistic that one in nine children in England haven’t been to a natural environment in the last 12 months. The grown-ups don’t fare any better: we can spend up to eight sedentary hours a day in front of screens, and then use our phones until bedtime.
You might notice that, at the time of posting, the 30th June 2018 is in the past. Why would I bother to tell you about an event when you’ve just missed it? The thing is, there is now a wealth of inspirational content available to find via #WildNightOut2018. National campaigns are a great reason to plan an adventure, but the outdoors isn’t just for 30th June each year. If you start to see your schedule and obligations differently, you might just manage to get in an extra microadventure or two and feel a lot better for it. That’s why I’m posting a blog about Wild Night Out after the event. I want to share the story of how I managed to fit a wild night in last weekend, on a weekend when it would have been easy to say, “Not tonight. Maybe next week.” Sometimes all you need is a mindset change to lead to a more adventurous life.
Last weekend, I was due to be away staffing a training course at Scout HQ. I had to take the train to Essex after work on Friday for a staff briefing, and then run two full days of workshops followed by staff feedback sessions on Saturday and Sunday. I would have just about enough time to unpack my bag when I got home before heading to bed, ready to get up for work at 5am again on Monday. In other words, I was busy. The likelihood of also then fitting in a wild night, in a busy activity centre in London’s zone 5 with no down time to spare, was low. My problem with that plan was that it was a bit boring. Being persuaded out of an excuse to be outside isn’t really my style. So, earlier in the week, I got my bag ready with some spare clothes and the course materials…and I also threw in my sleeping bag and a bivvy bag.
Saturday night rolled around: Wild Night Out. I was tired. It had been a hot day and we’d been on the go since the first participants arrived at 8:30 that morning. When we all started to turn in after dinner, the temptation to collapse on the bed in my room was strong. I opened the window. The air was warm and the sky was clear; it’s not often we get nights like that in the UK. I pulled myself together, grabbed my bag, and slipped outside. On the edge of the activity centre, I knew there was a sloping hill with views out over a reservoir and the River Lea. I picked my way through the campsite in the dark. At almost eleven o’clock, the hill was deserted. I spread my sleeping gear out on the flattest bit I could find, right in the middle of the grass. For a while, I lay with my hands under my head, watching the stars. A breeze cooled the air and I started to fall asleep.
And that was it. That was my wild night out. Was it earth-shatteringly epic? No. Was it relaxing, enjoyable, different, interesting, and a little bit bonkers? Absolutely! That’s the beauty of #WildNightOut. That’s the beauty of any wild night out. Even in small doses, being outside is good for you. Sleeping in the breeze, with no walls and no ceiling, feels free. Being woken up by an alarm on your phone is rubbish; being woken up by the sun rising over the landscape is breathtaking. Next time you have a busy weekend and no time to yourself, give it a go. Sleep out in your garden or slip off to a hill where you can see the sunrise. You might not get a full eight hours, but you’ll get something better: you’ll get a microadventure.
Find out more about Wild Night Out