Discover Solace in the Outdoors After Months Isolating Indoors

Stephen Mullaney

October 26, 2021

You sit. The clock is ticking. You hear only the clock. And all the stress and anxiety vanish.


Laughing with friends around a backyard campfire on a Friday night. Distant traffic and an occasional train whistle provide the soundtrack. The weight of the week disappears.


Sitting quietly on a rock on Day 20 of a 30-day solo backpacking trip. Hearing birds overhead and seeing every pine needle with clarity.

Solace and solitude.

Solace and solitude, however, do not mean the same thing.

Photo Credit: © Kalen Emsley — sourced from Unsplash

Solace is the finding of comfort in times of distress. Solitude is being alone.

For the past year and a half, most of us have tackled a mountain of experiences and emotions related to the global health pandemic. We know solitude. Head in hands, confused, feeling pain, sorrow or anxiety, we have all been bombarded by the thought that something has got to change.

Want to know my take on this universally felt emotion? Find yourself some solace. Sure, maybe solitude seekers have an easier go of it. That’s because avoidance and denial are always the easy way out. What I know is that it has been a long time and a hard time for many of us. And many of us are now seeking solace.

In reaching for stone, wood, water, and feather, I found my own edges softening, scars fading.

Heather Durham

Getting outdoors — either alone or with close friends — has always been a way for me to find solace. Here at The National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education (NCOAE), we design a variety of outdoor programs that can provide that which you seek. We work with all types of schools, groups, and organizations to provide many radically different outcomes.

And one thing that is common to all of our courses is what we call the “Summit.” Ask any NCOAE instructor or participant what they think was the most powerful experience that shaped the group, provided introspection, and helped keep them moving in a positive direction when they returned home. Most will immediately say, “Summit.”

What is Summit and How Can it Help you Find Solace?

Summit gatherings at NCOAE are guided conversations that bring focus to groups. During the Summit experience your sole concentration is on listening to others. At some point, you also share your response to the prompt provided.

How does this help you find solace?

Practicing silence, pausing and really listening and appreciating each other’s stories calms the mind, opens the heart, and brings course and expedition participants together through a simple act of becoming mindful.

Picture if you will sitting in a circle under a tarp, eyes closed, pleasantly tired from the day’s exertions, and listening to the voice of a course mate sharing a beautiful story. And while you’re sitting in a group with several or many others, no one is making a sound. Everybody is listening. There is a sense of solitude, you feel like you are the only one hearing the story.

The calmness of the setting, the cadence of the storyteller’s voice and the knowledge that the person speaking feels appreciated, enables the feeling of solace to take hold and take effect.

When it comes time for you to be the storyteller, perhaps you’ve felt the energy of the listeners and gained the confidence to share, knowing that you are appreciated, and your story is important.

There Is No Magic Bullet to Discovering Solace

We know from conversations with our expedition and custom programming participants here at NCOAE, that many of them have found solace during our outdoor courses, and especially while participating in our “Summit” experience.

If you would like more information, connect with us using the Contact page on our website

Meanwhile, below are some other ideas for finding peace and solace in your everyday life:

  • Focus on what you can control and let go of what is out of your control
  • Eat healthy
  • Make exercise a habit
  • Spend time outside (anywhere)
  • Spend time in the woods, on mountains and in water
  • Turn off all devices, be with friends, enjoy the company

Turn off the noise, and that includes the local and national news, social media, and even people who might be stuck in negativity.

About the Author: Stephen Mullaney is the Director of School Partnerships at The National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education (NCOAE). He has worked domestically and internationally with schools, organizations, and wilderness programs. His classrooms have ranged from dilapidated trailers at overcrowded, underfunded schools to the Himalayan mountains and everything imaginable in between. His past students include gang members/prisoners, education majors, college and university professors, and pioneers in the field out outdoor and adventure-based experiential education. Stephen’s philosophy is to focus on the development of positive working and learning environments. He brings more than a quarter of a century of education experience and understanding of human nature to any organization, whether it is an education institution or a private company. His writing has appeared in adventure sports/education journals, magazines and on the web. Stephen prefers to arrive by bicycle and sit in the dirt.

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.



Have any further questions about our courses, what you’ll learn, or what else to expect? Contact us, we’re here to help!