We are very aware that many people in our community write some awesome blogs on the outdoors and adventure activities – we’d like to help you get more exposure, more readers and be better known. So, we have started this Outdoor Blog page – a place for your blogs and your stories with links back to your website or your own blog.
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Photographer: Miranda Fittock
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The Health Benefits of Outdoor Activities
The physical and mental benefits of exercise are immense, but did you know that you can leverage these benefits more by exercising outside rather than indoors? Well, experts unanimously agree that outdoor activities exponentially boost your mental health, which makes your physical exercise even more fruitful. And because outdoor or green exercise is in most cases offered to you free by Mother Nature, you are able to save a lot compared to working out in the gym. Saving money is among the life accomplishments that enhance your mood and alleviates stress. With that in mind, let’s focus on 9 of the most notable health benefits of taking outdoor activities.
1. Improves your mental wellbeing
As we mentioned, your mental wellbeing greatly improves when you exercise outdoors. One of the reasons for this is the awareness that your mind has throughout the exercise, particularly in regard to the changing terrain and weather. Unlike in the gym where the floors are flat and benches evenly positioned, the terrain outdoor includes winding paths, hills, woods, and valleys. You are forced to be focused and alert at all times and that alone benefits your mental health.
2. Best way to get Vitamin D
Your bones and blood cells need a lot of calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D for them to be healthy. Working out under the sunlight helps your body to absorb these minerals seamlessly. Also, getting 5-15 minutes of sun at least once in every two days gives your body all the Vitamin D it needs.
3. Boosts self-esteem
Your self-esteem increases exponentially when you spend time with friends doing different outdoor activities. This effect is particularly strong when you spend time near water, green areas, and within sounds of nature such as waterfalls. Walking along nature trails, fishing, and gardening, among other moderate-intensity physical activities, are important for your esteem as well. Playing paintball is another worthy activity as it gives you a renewed sense of accomplishment, which is a major confidence boost.
4. Promotes memory
Nature walks have shown a significant relevance in memory retention among humans. Walking around trees, for example, promotes your memory by more than 20%.
5. Stress-reduction effects
Cortisol – The hormone that indicates the level of stress in humans- reduces greatly when you spend time in the forest, say, watching birds and taking part in low-intensity outdoor activities. Camping in the woods, for example, is a far much better activity than spending time in the city, especially for people who suffer from anxiety. It has also been scientifically proven that people who spend more time in the wild have a better heart rate than those who spend hours sitting in front of screens or in city traffic.
6. Reduces anxiety
As we have mentioned above, something about outside calming down an anxious mind. You will attest to this fact even if you aren’t fond of going out- you definitely have experienced the calming nature of Mother Nature even if it is through a house plant or pictures of nature. Many offices nowadays have nature wall arts hanging on office walls as a way of calming down angry, stressed, and anxious employees. If that works, then you can imagine the significance of being in the presence of that waterfall or mountain you see in office wall art. Nevertheless, if you continue having anxieties and the episodes don’t stop, you can hire the services of a life coach who can provide assistance and help you find calmness.
7. Improves the quality of your sleep
Your sleep cycle is dependent on the accurateness of your internal clock. If the clock isn’t working right, then you will have a hard time regulating your night sleep. The clock works right when the cells in your eyes get enough sunlight during the day, particularly before mid-day. That is why you need to be out as many minutes as possible in the morning hours. This requirement becomes more important as you get older.
8. Boosts your immunity
We mentioned that morning sunlight boosts your Vitamin D levels. The more the Vitamin D your body gets, the stronger its immune system becomes. On top of that, being within outdoor plants helps you leverage the health benefits of the phytoncides and other organic compounds that plants produce. These compounds boost immune function in humans.
9. Helps burn some unwanted fat
When you play outside- say, with paintball guns, you burn tons of calories and unwanted fats. And because being outdoor during the day helps you to sleep better, coupled with the fact that better sleep facilitates faster weight loss, the role of outdoor time in your physical fitness can never be overemphasized.
If you are a working citizen, you probably spend hours indoors in front of a computer and under artificial lights. And because you are overwhelmed by work in the office, you don’t have enough time to catch up on news and social trends, so you spend your evening basking in the glory of social media and TV. It is to your best interest if you could end this harmful behavior. Get off the couch and take a walk of nature for a healthier lifestyle.
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Hiking is an interesting and active hobby to start at any time in your life. There are many different types of hiking for every sort of terrain and skill level. Depending on where you live and what experience you have hiking you could have a really fun hobby with plenty of new trails to try.
Hiking for beginners is not the same boring process that beginning other hobbies can be. Starting hiking just means you shouldn’t try the hardest trails yet and you shouldn’t hike alone. It never means that you need to start on boring, flat trails with no interesting sights.
As more people get active and go outside, hiking grows in popularity. That is because hiking is fun and never the same. Here are a few tips for people who are just starting their hiking journey.
<h4>Know Your Limits</h4>
The longer more complicated trails might seem like a more fun place to start. They will not be fun at all if they are above your skill and fitness level. Pick your first trail carefully with what your body is ready to do in mind.
You do not need to pick a super boring trail, but you should take your own fitness and knowledge of hiking in mind. It is hard to find a boring place to hike and there are trails for every level of fitness and experience. Find one you know you can complete to start with.
<h4>Wear Good Gear</h4>
Do not go hiking in flip flops and cotton pants. It is a good idea to buy specific hiking shoes for the type of trails you intend to go on. You should also buy some sweat-wicking fabric that will keep you cool while you hike.
Hiking in or with the wrong gear could easily ruin a hike. Wear a good pair of boots or hiking sandals from viakix to keep your feet comfortable for your whole hike. You do not want to end up freezing, covered in sweat, or with blisters.
<h4>Check The Weather</h4>
This might seem obvious but you would be surprised how many hikes are ruined because no one thought to check if it would rain. Knowing what weather you are hiking in is an important part of preparing for your hike. It lets you know what you are getting into.
Checking the weather also prepares you for what to wear. If you are planning on a hike that will go a few hours and the weather is going to get hotter then you should have a light jacket to start and something cool under it. Knowing what gear you need for the weather will help your hike stay fun.
<h4>Pack The Essentials</h4>
There is a list that every hiker should know that gives an idea of what they need to pack before a hike. A few of the basic items might change depending on the weather but the list itself remains solid. Packing those things will ensure a safe, successful hike.
It might seem like a lot to carry on a hike but it really isn’t. Get the lightweight and travel size version of all the items and carry a lightweight backpack with you on all your hikes. Having a designated hiking backpack with all the essentials in it will help you always feel secure on a hike.
<h4>Phone A Friend</h4>
If you are hiking alone or even with a small group you should always tell someone who is not hiking with you exactly where you will be. Informing a friend the exact place you will be and when you should be back will help them know if they need to call for help and give you peace of mind.
You will want to write down the name of the place you will be and which trail. Tell them when you get there and what time you should be done so they know if you are late or missing. Make sure you tell them when you are done and safe to prevent a lot of worry on their part and an awkward police visit on yours.
Water is probably the most important thing you can take with you when you hike. Dehydration is not fun and can be deadly if you aren’t careful. Packing about two pints of water for every four miles is a good way to make sure you have the right amount of water for the hike you have planned.
Bringing a few cheese crackers or granola bars is also a good idea. Depending on how long you take on your hike you might be outside long enough to get hungry. Also, a snack is just a good idea anytime you leave the house in case you feel sick or get a little lost.
<h4>Know Your Trail</h4>
Do not go hiking blind. That is a good way to end up on a trail that is too difficult or that you don’t know where it ends. It is important to look up a map of the trail you are going to hike before you go.
You should have a map in your backpack but you don’t want to be learning where you are for the first time when you get there. You need to know where the trail leads, how difficult it is, and how long it will take a beginner.
Going in blind is a good way to get lost or hurt. Make sure you do your research before you go so that you don’t end up on a very stressful hike. Knowing your trail is a good way to keep a hike fun instead of scary and too hard.
<h4>Leave No Trace</h4>
This is a tip you will find on just about every hiking website you go to. It is one of the most important rules of hiking and outdoor sports in general. You are out there to enjoy nature not to leave a mark on it.
It is important you leave the trail exactly as you found it or cleaner. If you find garbage pick it up and never leave anything you brought on the trail. Leaving the trail as you found it with no trace of your presence is one of the most important rules is hiking.
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Hiking is a great, active hobby to pick up. The difficulty level can be found for you no matter your fitness level or what difficulty you are willing to try. There is a trail for everyone.
Being prepared for your hiking trip is important. Making sure you are dressed for your hike, have a pack ready, and have plenty of water is the best way to make sure your hike is fun. Make sure you know what weather you will encounter and what sort of trail you are hiking.
Hiking can be so much fun and a life long hobby. Taking care of the trails is the best way to keep hiking beautiful for every person who goes on the trail. Leave no trace and stay safe on your hiking adventure.
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Packing for an Emergency Evacuation
What to prepare, what to do and what to pack …
Recently, like many other Australians across the country, I had a knock on the front door from a policeman telling me it was time to go! I had to evacuate the house as soon as possible. This was a first for me and not really something I had ever seriously considered a possibility.
I blundered around for a while, grabbed a few things, stopped and tried to make a rough list, wondered what my partner would need (she was away for the afternoon), stuffed a bag or two, picked up my laptop, locked the door and was gone.
It wasn’t until several hours later that I started remembering all the things I should have taken and should have done before I left the house. I was one of the lucky ones as I could stay with friends who lived nearby and passed a very pleasant night in a comfortable bed so did not feel the loss of the items I should have taken – many of my neighbours were not so blessed.
A day or so later after we were allowed home, I decided to create a checklist – maybe even the ultimate emergency Go Bag checklist. I did a little Internet research and soon discovered I wasn’t the only one with this bright idea. The list below is a compilation of my ideas and the thoughts of many others.
I have broken it down into sections – and with each section have posed a few questions you might want to consider when deciding what to take.
Things to do so you are ready in case you need to evacuate.
- Scan all your important paperwork and store online and on a USB stick – insurance, passports, bank details, drivers’ licence, personal contacts, birth certificate, will, irreplaceable photos (ie deceased parents) and so on.
- Take photos of the rooms in your house – they may be useful if you need to replace all that is lost. (Store online as well)
- Identify what is important to you – the personal things you don’t want to leave behind. (If an emergency evacuation is likely consider moving those items to a safer location beforehand or, if possible, bag them up ready to go)
- Get cash from the bank – you may not be able to access an ATM or use your cards during the emergency.
- Get a battery pack for your phone – you may not be able to charge it during an emergency. (Consider spare batteries for other necessary devices like hearing aids)
- Each person should have a suitable bag(s), ID, water bottle, snack food, suitable change of clothes …
- Create your ‘evacuation kit list’ (I keep mine on my phone)
- Create an ‘evacuation to do list’ – turn of the utilities, locking up the house, turn off the BBQ gas tank and move away from house …
Other things to consider before you need to evacuate
- You may have to travel some distance to safely evacuate and you may not be able to return to home for several days. (Fill up the car while you still can)
- You may have to stay in a communal shelter or evacuation centre (Do you have friends you could visit instead?)
- Alerting your friends and family about what is happening – they will have seen the news and will be concerned. Status updates on Facebook or your favourite social media platform work well.
- Keys (and a spare set)
- Wallet (licence, cards and cash)
- Water bottle
- Duffle bag / grip / backpack / wheelie
- Briefcase (for the technology?)
- Phone & charger
- Laptop & charger
- Kindle & charger
- USB Stick (scanned documents, contacts …)
Heath & Hygiene
- Toilet bag
- Ear plugs
- Face mask (or suitable bandanna)
- Insect repellent
- First aid kit
- Glasses (and a spare)
- Pocket Knife / multitool
- Notepad & pen
- Books, playing cards – toys for the children
- Pets & supplies (food, leash, carry cage …)
- Sufficient for time away – 2-3 changes
- Think warm, water proof, light weight and sturdy.
- Takeaway food container (reusable)
- Keep Cup
- Knife, fork & spoon
- Can opener
- Will you be fed at the shelter?
- Non- perishable food
- Esky and freezer blocks (only useful for a short time)
- Sleeping bag / sheet / pillowcase
- Sleeping mat
- Rubbish bag
- Gaffer tape
- Folding chair
- Cooker & fuel
And there will be other things that I have yet to remember and things that you know you can’t do without – pack them too! I do hope you never have to go through an evacuation but if you do, maybe this article will help.
References / Online Resources
- Survival Kit (ABC Emergency)
- Emergency Kit (QLD Government)
- How to Pack a ‘Go Bag’ For Emergency Evacuations (Lifehacker)
- How to build your own Emergency Kit (EVAQ8 UK)
- Wake Up, Stuffs Happening! (Bug Out Bag Builder)
- All the Things You Should Consider Taking with You in An Emergency Evacuation (Everplans)
How to Be Safe During Outdoor Swimming in Queensland
Swimming in a pool is awesome. But once your swimming lessons are over and your confidence is through the roof, you may want something different. A Mythical Swimmer needs a good challenge, right?
Swimming pools are good starting points for most learners and granted they do provide that much-needed relief you need in the heat of summer. Besides, pools offer an easily accessible way to bust stress and burn calories without a need for extensive travel.
With time, however, you will find that your brain needs more motivation to help you perform what is at times a solitary and repetitive sport. If you are stuck in a rut and finding it more challenging to invoke solo discipline, it could be a good sign that you need to take your love for swimming to the outdoors.
What is outdoor swimming?
Outdoor swimming can be wild, done in open water or less risky natural swimming holes and warm shallow lakes. Safer outdoor swimming sites are very much like outdoor swimming pools but are scenic, invigorating and beautiful.
Here, you will not have face random aggressive swimmers who want to cut lanes and spoil your good mood. Riskier outdoor swimming activities such as deep-water swims, jumping, diving or river swimming can give you that adrenaline high, but you need to be aware and prepared for their risks.
Why would you want to swim outdoors in Queensland?
While social swimming in pools and clubs amongst friends can challenge you to swim harder and faster, you will be missing loads of fun if you do not try outdoor swimming. This is especially true for you if you are a swimmer in Queensland.
This beautiful corner of heaven has some of the most beautiful natural swimming holes in the world.
They might be harder to get to than your local club’s pool or the beach, but a dip inside them is very rewarding. Natural swimming holes are surrounded by extreme beauty and create the perfect photo ops.
Visit the Currumbin Rockpools for instance and slide smoothly into the cool mountain freshwater pools. You can later sunbake and have a picnic on the grass near the water.
Take a trip to Springbrook National park and dive into the Twin Falls’s three rock pools, the perfect summertime dip. You can also join various open water swimming activities in Queensland and set your personal best amongst Queensland’s best swimmers.
Queensland beaches are pristine, and the territory’s perfect swim sites enjoy over 283 days of warm sunshine annually.
How to stay safe while swimming outdoors in Queensland?
Swimmers in Queensland will find beautiful idyllic beaches, whose sand is so white that all they want to do is to toss away their sandals and head for the water.
As hard as it can be to ignore the water’s call, you simply cannot throw away your heavy clothes and jump into the shallows in Far North Queensland. The rightful inhabitants of these waters would not allow you to do this in certain seasons of the year.
If you, for instance, visit any of the beaches in an arc running from Exmouth to Gladstone in Queensland between October and May, you will find them infested with the Irukandji jellyfish.
This period is known as the stinging creature’s high season, so you need stinger suits on your if you want to indulge. You might also need to read the signs and swim in stinger enclosures for safety.
The stinger enclosures cannot protect you from the Irukandji jellyfish which are small enough to pass through the net’s holes. These jellyfish only cause mild pain on stinging, but the sting can induce the Irukandji syndrome afterward, and that can be fatal.
These waters are also home to the Box jellyfish that gives dreadfully painful stings, which can be fatal if severe.
There is, nonetheless, more to worry about in the water than jellyfish. In the northern territory, you will find crocodiles in the Adelaide River. You could also encounter these ancient creatures if you walk alongside the beach at night at Palm Cove.
Beyond these dangers, you also have to be on the watch out for other dangers such as string currents from recent rains. Below are tips that will help you stay safe when taking an outdoor swim in Queensland.
Tips on how to stay safe when swimming outdoors
If you are going to take an outdoor swim, you need to do so within your limits. This limit is greatly determined by your ability to acclimatize, water conditions, skill, endurance and your understanding of the water body that you are in.
Your prowess in indoor pool swimming, therefore, does qualify you as a strong outdoor swimmer.
Always swim when you are sober
Imbibing before a swim can impair your judgment, as well as your body’s ability to regulate its temperature.
Start with outdoor locations that have lifeguard support
A well-guarded site will help you to beef up your swimming stroke in safety and test your endurance level. If you are going to start in a remote location, check for any boat traffic and hazards such as tides and currents first.
Take to cold water gently and gradually. If you are not used to the cold, limit your swim time. Wear a wet suit for warmth and buoyancy.
Understand the conditions of the water
Do not deep dive into an unknown water body. Ask for the assistance of local guides if you are unsure. They know the best swimming spots as well as areas that have quicksand or rip tides.
Look for local hazard signs too and take some time to understand where people swim the most. It is best to swim when there are other people in the water.
Check the weather
If for instance there has been rain, the water may be dangerous due to changes in flow and flooding. Winds too can adversely affect the behaviour of open water.
Swim inside stinger enclosures and wear protective clothing for sting safety. Stay away from predators such as crocodiles and swim between safety flags when in waters patrolled by lifeguards. Do not swim at night.
The natural beauty of North Queensland is unrivaled in many aspects, and its tropical warmth makes every day a holiday. To get the best out of your outdoor swimming excursions, follow the simple precautions above.
Nereids Aquatic Coaching
Nikos has a passion and love for aquatic activities which is combined with his care for helping others.
It was realising a long-standing dream – paddling the Whitsundays. Ever since my colleague Tim Trehearn wrote this book ‘gone for shore’ I wanted to paddle the Whitsundays. It turned out to be one of the most wonderful outdoors trips I have made.
Tim and I discussed roughly where we would go and he told me to contact Neil and Hayley from Salty Dog to rent a Kayak and Sandy from Scamper to arrange a food and water drop and to get a lift either in or out of Shute Harbour.
My partner Ken and I took the Scamper out to Hook Island, starting the ‘big loop’, described in Tim’s book, in reverse as the wind came from the north east, which is the opposite from the prevailing wind direction in the area.
We landed in Proserpine and took the shuttle bus to Cannonvale, staying overnight at the Sea Breeze to do our last-minute shopping nearby for our week long trip ahead.
The next day we caught the bus down to Shute Harbour to meet Neil from Salty Dog at 6:30am to be kitted out for a 7:30 departure with the Scamper. As it turned out Scamper and Salty Dog share the same old harbour office, and together make a very efficient outfit. Salty dog and Scamper will rent you all you need to camp in the Whitsundays. So, while some German travellers hired all their camping gear from Scamper, we got our stinger suits, snorkels, gas bottle and kayak from Salty’s, along with water bladders, first aid kit, an emergency transponder, sponge, dry bags and (tide) charts. We left our fresh food drop with Scamper and Salty and we received the essential safety instructions from Neil, including the request to let him know each evening where we were, using the transponder and what to do in an emergency. Neil also talked us through what to look out for in terms of winds, tides, currents, snorkelling spots, where to see turtles etc.
We missed out on the whale spotting season (June – Sept), but as it turned out there was plenty to see in terms of wildlife.
We loaded our kayak, gear and ourselves onto the Scamper and off we went! Our destination was Crayfish Beach on Hook Island. There we have the campground all to ourselves and get organised for a short paddle around the corner to do some snorkeling and ease into the kayaking – neither Ken or I had been kayaking for a while. The snorkeling was not that great, but the campsite made up for it. QPWS does a great job with these sites, a picnic table, some clear flat sites and a compost toilet with or without a roof. All is well maintained and no rubbish.
Our evening meals for the week consisted of a range of Back Country Cuisine. On the first night we don’t stir the pack very well, so we have a treat having some crunchy bits at the bottom. When the night sets in the sounds of nature change – some animals go to sleep, some wake up; you hear all sorts of night birds including the Powerful Owl and many birds I have never heard before.
With darkness falling around 6:30pm, there is a great opportunity to catch up on some sleep and recharge the batteries drained through our busy lives. During this week we are in bed by 8pm and wake up around 5:30am. In the mornings we get the jetboil going to make coffee and we share a banana in our muesli for breakfast made with powder milk and water.
Leaving Crayfish Beach means the moment of truth to see if all fits into the kayak. Because remember, we arrived by Scamper, with our kayak and gear separate (you’re not going to carry a loaded kayak!). It’s a great relief that all fits and I wear my stinger suit for the day – and, as it turns out, for the rest of the week, because it is the best kayaking outfit, covering you from head to toe and it does not flap or shift. Other essentials of course are a life vest, lots of sunscreen, zinc, sunnies, boat shoes and a floppy hat.
The next stop at Cairn Beach is even more beautiful. Strange to think that exactly two weeks after our visit two British tourists were attacked by a shark in the area – they were very unlucky. We enjoy the green sea turtles swimming off the beach and the walk to the top of the Cairn, which marks the top end of Whitsunday Island. The views from up there are stunning overlooking Border Island and we see some eagles leisurely gliding the skies, looking for food and then gliding away again.
Opposite our campsite, is the old Hook Island resort. It’s abandoned and the pier is in tatters. I think it closed before Cyclone Debbie and it is sad to see. It would have been a great hideaway in its day.
The devastation of cyclonic weather is very apparent with the jagged tree line and on the walk to the Cairn it is obvious that Parks has done a lot of cleaning up of fallen trees.
The next day we decide to paddle around Border Island down to Whitehaven Beach and see where this trip takes us in terms of stops along the way. It’s a bit choppy across the northern end of Border Island, so we continue around. The geology of the islands is magnificent. Not that I know much about it, but it is nice to see the different sediments and volcanic formations from the kayak.
Halfway south along Border Island we see a green object on one of the beaches. Being true to the curious nature of our species, we go and have a look and find half of what once was the pride and joy of someone – half of a wrecked pleasure boat turned upside down, with what looks like the signature of Cyclone Debbie.
The other remarkable thing is that we encountered a school of flying fish – one of them jumps over the kayak and hits me in the hand – it is not every day that you get hit by a fish.
From Border Island it is a fair way to the south end of Whitehaven Beach where we will camp for the night. Initially, we cannot see the beach, because it is just beyond the horizon, but slowly its bright white silica sand emerges, with boats moored offshore. It seems a long time before we get close and are surprised to see so many people on the beach. They are dropped off by day tour operators to enjoy the beach, the walk and the bright white sands – some tourists actually look a bit lost.
After setting up camp and a bit of a rest, we find that all the day trippers have left and we are just among a group of about 5 other couples / families camping overnight. The walk to the recently built lookout is nice and the view is beautiful.
The following morning, we go snorkelling at Haslewood Island – very beautiful – and on our return we meet the Scamper with a fresh supply of water and fresh food. We pack our kayak and head off around the bottom of Whitsunday Island. I was not prepared for the view of the ugly buildings on Hamilton Island, but we paddle on to our next overnight camp where we are eaten alive by the sand flies that come through the mesh of our tent. We also see a scorpion, but not in our tent!
The next day we head to Joe’s Beach on the Western side of Whitsunday Island and visit Henning Island along the way. There are a few day trippers at Henning Island in little tuff-tuff boats, which I assume you can hire somewhere…. They are a nice, unobtrusive way for a small group or family to go out on an active adventure.
Joe’s Beach is wonderful, no sand flies, no tourists, beautiful nature, but there are warnings to not go swimming as there had been three shark attacks last year – so no snorkelling! However, we don’t mind this and just really enjoy the nice views and atmosphere at the campsite. The resident goannas don’t show but we see their prints in the sand. This part of the Whitsundays has less damage from Cyclone Debbie – the forests are fuller and no jagged tree lines.
The next day, on our way to South Mole Island, we encounter some dolphins! They are so nice to watch, but did not find us interesting enough, because they just appeared and were gone again. We stopped at Denman Island for some morning tea and then paddled north to the Planton Island. Rounding the top of South Mole Island was against tide and wind, which took a while. Once around the top you see the old resort, nicely blended into the environment. As we find out on our walk in the afternoon, it is completely destroyed, waiting to be rebuild by its new Chinese owners. Anyhow, as the tide was receding, we decided to head north around Mid Mole Island and have lunch at Cockatoo Beach on the southern tip of North Mole Island.
We share the campsite at Paddle Bay on South Mole Island with another couple and a pair of Curlews and their young. You would hardly notice the Curlews if it was not for their hissing when walking past them on the way to the toilets.
Curlews are among my favourite birds – they behave slightly odd, have nice calls and look great!
The next morning is time to get back to Shute Harbour. It’s nice to see Neil and Haley from Salty Dog again and share some of our stories. We take the bus back to Airlie Beach and mingle among the visitors from the large cruise ship that is anchored offshore. As for me – I rather cruise with my kayak – it is a more active way of unwinding and being immersed into the environment. Being hit by a fish, watching dolphins and sea turtles swim alongside the kayak, being able to spot the nice snorkelling spots by paddling over them and camping on pristine beaches, is my way of living life outdoors …
Yes, I will be back next year and if you are interested in doing some paddling between the Whitsundays up to Cairns and beyond, buy Tim’s book from the QORF shop and plan out your holiday!
How were we to know?
How were we to know that we were taking for granted that the neighbourhood would always be there and accessible for children? Or how important the neighbourhood is for children? A critical resource in supporting children’s overall development, shaping positive identities in children, as community members, caring, empathetic, doers, active, connectors, friends, social beings, adventurers, connected to the natural world. How were we to know that in one generation this no longer be part of childhood?
What we do know now, from our Neighbourhood Play Project study, is that most children are banned from exploring their neighbourhood and the opportunities for physical activity, for social activity, for freedom, fun, friends, challenge and mastery, within childhood, in-real-life, for the most part have not been replaced, they have been reduced. They have largely dissipated. Especially the opportunities for children to do child-stuff locally on their own terms.
The 12 month exploration of the recent ‘Neighbourhood Play Project’ unpacked what is and is not happening in neighbourhoods for modern children and families.
Neighbourhood Play Makes Children Happy
What we do know now is that securing neighbourhoods for children to connect and play will increase children’s physical and social activity and improve their trajectory and overall quality of life. Furthermore, for all who live in the local area, increasing neighbourhood play will enhance social cohesion and reduce the risks associated with social isolation.
However, our explorations found that a significant number of Queensland children are completely impeded or highly challenged in their ability to connect and play with local friends. Therefore, a significant number of Queensland children’s physical and social activity is reduced, increasing their risk of being or becoming physically and/or mentally unhealthy.
Neighbourhood Play Builds Independence
The current neighbourhood story points towards a complete erosion of many children’s independent mobility in and around their neighbourhoods. Upon reflection, for the children in this study, neighbourhood play has seemingly disapeared from childhood. In other words, children don’t even want to go out into their community and have no interest in the immediate world outside their door, no desire to connect with local children for play, and no internal value for the neighbourhood as a play resource.
This lack of intrinsic motivation for neighbourhood play could negatively impact on children’s long-term intrinsic motivation for outdoor play and activities in general, along with their overall interest in physical activity and the world beyond their front door.
Perhaps this has come about due to modern children not having seen neighbourhood play in action, with no other children out playing, children no longer have other kids to look up to and to aspire to be.
Neighbourhood Play Builds Physical Literacy and Good Health
Children in this study never brought up physical activity as a motivator for neighbourhood play however while playing out in the neighbourhood, the children were constantly moving and engaged in highly physical forms of activity, such as running, jumping, climbing, chasing etc. The children were predominantly at the edge of their skills and abilities or seeking out the next opportunity for this type of engagement within their physically active play. Climbing higher, riding faster, setting more challenges for themselves, pushing each other, and exploring and mastering new skills. This suggests that if children are given the space for outdoor play, and able to connect with other children, they will be significantly more physically active.
Interestingly, if local neighbourhood play opportunities are not created, children will not seek them out.
Neighbourhood Play Builds Good Friends
Our explorations found that parental concerns for their children’s wellbeing and health, surrounding neighbourhood play, mostly related to their child’s opportunity for socio-emotional development and securing good mental health. Parents were most excited about their children having local friends for play.
Parental concerns were centered largely around their child’s loneliness and social isolation. Concern for children’s physical health was noted however the immediate lack, as expressed by parents, was more focused on children’s ability to just be happy and smiley. When probed parents attributed this happiness would come from their children’s social skill development, their child’s capacity to make and sustain friends, as well as create opportunities for their children to practice, test and master relationship skills. Parents viewed neighbourhood play as a regular and accessible avenue for their child’s social skill development.
Correlating with this parental motivation was the high degree of parental concern that their children do not have neighbourhoods, or neighbourhood friends, and therefore are lacking in opportunities to practice and master social skills.
Neighbourhood Play Grows Out of Backyard Play
Parental concern for the growing trend of backyards shrinking was noted. Parents expressed concern that backyards were lacking the capacity to cater for their child’s social outdoor play (not enough space for multiple children to play in for extended periods of time) or satisfy the desired level of developmentally appropriate challenge and mastery levels of middle to older children. In this vein, the neighbourhood becomes increasingly important as a resource to sustain a child’s level of challenge, social engagement, motivation and interest in outdoor play and physical activity.
Neighbourhoods for Play Needs to be Prioritised
The difficulty of having ‘time’ for neighbourhood play was regularly mentioned by parents who felt that there are multiple activities competing for attention in family life. Parents also mentioned that neighbourhood play needed to become a priority, and a local collaboration of parents could schedule in unscheduled time for their children to connect and play.
Fear and Distrust Erode Neighbourhoods for Play
Overall our community investigation discovered most children are banned from the neighbourhood by fearful and distrusting parents who just want to keep their children safe. Parents are fearful that their child will be abducted or hurt if permitted to play out in the neighbourhood. Parents perceived all people who they don’t know are potential threats to their children.
Other adults are not viewed as friends, valuable community members, supervisors of neighbourhood children, or protectors of all local children.
This parental fear was noted as widely adopted across the community and the deciding factor for banning children from the neighbourhood.
This parental fear is also projected onto children who don’t seem to perceive a reduction of their lives. Across this project no child was noted as unsatisfied or protesting their parent’s decision to reduce their space for play and opportunity to connect with local friends. Nor were children noted as asking for or demanding neighbourhood play. Children seemed to accept that locally they are not permitted beyond their home unless supervised by adults. Children seemingly accept this permanent grounding as their parents keeping them safe and secure.
A comment consistently repeated over the project was “you just don’t know who is out there”. Several children interviewed indicated they were fearful and distrusting of the outside world and were prepared with extreme strategies to ward off predators, ready to be implemented at any time. Children are seemingly being raised with the message that they are in constant danger all the time, and that everyone they don’t know is a threat to their safety.
This suggests a prevalence of children who live with the fear of constant danger and are scared of their neighbourhoods. This builds a negative narrative inside the child and acts as a strong internal barrier to neighbourhood play.
This fear that is obvious in children’s minds suggests that grown-ups’ need to be careful in how children are educated about their community. Taking children out into their neighbourhoods, talking with them about constructive strategies for staying safe and being mindful of dangers, but also reinforcing the realities of these anomalies occurring to ensure our children have an accurate perception of the world. Perhaps this will protect children’s developing worldview and paint a positive picture for children of the community they will want to grow with, be part of and contribute to.
Nature Play QLD BLOG
Recently, I was reading a fascinating book about airplane crashes and how poor decision making ultimately led to disaster. What was striking was the similarity to many coronial inquests for outdoor education incidents. Like many fatalities on outdoor expeditions, each of the airplane disasters could’ve been avoided. However, fatigue and poor decision making ultimately led to disaster.
So why are we so impaired by fatigue? When we’re fatigued, a number of things happen which reduce our ability to make clear, informed and reasonable decisions. The harder we try, the less effective this becomes. Our focus narrows further and further into a tunnel vision that cripples our ability to make sound, reasoned judgment. This was evident in the cockpit recordings. Instead of clear, thoughtful and decisive action, mistake after mistake was made, culminating in the inevitable plane crash. Experienced pilots forgot their training and simple corrective actions weren’t taken.
The same is true of many fatalities in outdoor education. Fatigue adversely impacts the ability of a teacher to make reasoned, informed decisions. Research has shown that multiple shifts of work and not sleeping for 24 hours (which includes poor/broken sleep), has the same effect on decision making that being drunk has. Do we ever allow teachers to be drunk at work? No! So why do we allow fatigue to be overlooked?
When people are fatigued and/or drunk, their reaction time slows, their ability to solve complex problems is significantly inhibited and their ability to perform even the most-simple tasks becomes compromised. The only solution for fatigue, is sleep!
Good decision making is one of the best risk management strategies you can have. You see something that hasn’t gone to plan, doesn’t fit or doesn’t feel right. You assess the problem, adapt and respond accordingly. Good outdoor leaders will continually do this throughout any program. Most of the time, what they do isn’t even noticeable. Unfortunately, when we’re fatigued, that vitally important, broad problem-solving skill set stops working. We can only focus on single tasks and, even then, we might only be able to focus on a single part of a single task. Ultimately, diminished capacity invariably leads to bad outcomes.
Unfortunately, in outdoor ed incidents, we generally don’t have first hand recordings of events as they transpire. However, in many inquests, you can see how fatigue could have impaired judgment and contributed to repeated poor decisions and the downward spiral of events which ultimately resulted in the fatality.
Not all outdoor ed fatalities have fatigue as a contributing factor, but if we’re aware of the fact that it’s one of the most dangerous problems we can face even as experienced teachers, then we can put systems in place to manage and avoid fatigue and its related hazards. If we don’t want staff to be working ‘drunk’ from fatigue, we must ask. How long is an acceptable shift? What are the tasks that each staff member is doing during this time? What driving is involved? Can the load be shared? What if someone feels fatigued? What backup plans do you have in place?
For outdoor education, this is critical. Fatigue can’t be pushed through. It can’t be ignored. It can’t be put off for a ‘later’ discussion. The end result, like the fatal vehicle accident in New Zealand where the teacher fell asleep at the wheel, are self-evident that fatigue and good decision making don’t go hand in hand.
Do you have a fatigue management system in place?
If not, make it your number 1 priority, as it’s vital that our industry keep safe those for whom we’re responsible. It’s essential to have teachers with clear heads and great decision-making skills, so that every outdoor experience is a wonderful and rewarding one for all.
Can they go hand in hand?
Let’s talk about why combining online education and outdoor activities won’t lower your productivity!
I believe you know this feeling when you’re sitting half of your day in the school/university classes and thinking that you could invest this bunch of time into something more interesting. This idea comes to mind of every active student who loves physical activity and prefers to plan the time according to their needs.
Online education is partly a solution to this issue. No matter what you study, you can take online courses and eventually get a diploma like any other students who’ve been taking day studies. It’d be especially easy for those who opt for technical majors, such as computer science, data science, computer engineering, business intelligence, cybersecurity, information systems, etc. An online degree in one of these spheres is accessible and affordable in many leading universities.*
Remember I said that online education is partly a solution? I meant that some students manage to fail with their active daily routine even when they’re studying at home. They have no problems going to the sports training but delay their home tasks until it’s too late. The reason for this stems from human psychology. It’s easier for our brain to accomplish the tasks that already have clear deadlines. That is why educational institutions along with sports clubs use schedule which is a perfect way to discipline and organize people.
Time management is something which is hardly taught at school. This soft skill is not only crucial for your studying progress but also your sports achievements. My advice for those who gave up traditional studying for the sake of online programs is the following: “Spend at least 20 minutes in the morning to plan your daily activities”.
Time management techniques
No matter what kind of sports you do – it shouldn’t interfere with effective studies. If you’re a professional basketball player, you must have a 2-hour training at least three times a week. Let’s make some calculations. A week has 168 hours. You spend 56 hours sleeping if you have a regular healthy sleeping routine which lasts for 8 hours each day. Besides, you spend 6 hours on sport + 6 hours spent on the road. If you live closer, it’s even better. Also, you probably eat. According to a study conducted by the United States Department of Agriculture, at least 20 hours are usually spent on food. What do we have as a result? We have 80 hours left!
This time can be an effective investment in your studies. Planning your time and doing a lot every day appears to be easier when you know exactly how much time you spend on every activity. The data provided above can be inaccurate for you so.
I suggest you observe how much time you dedicate to sleeping, eating, doing sport, studying, and relaxing (never forget about a good rest).
Once you’ve done that, deal with your time. It is recommended by psychologists and personal growth couches to make a list of your activities for a day to have a clear vision of the volume of work you’re about to do. If you don’t like writing things on paper (the same story with me), just spend 10 or 15 minutes thinking about this list. I usually do it in the shower.
I want to share with you a cool method to improve your prioritization process. It happens that we wake up and have tons of works. In order not to get depressed or overwhelmed, use the ABCDE approach. I came across this technique when I was reading the book called “Building the Courage to Break of Your Comfort Zone” by Brian Tracy.
ABCDE are markers you put in front of every point in your to-do list. “A” stands for the most important and life-changing activities. These are the activities that contribute the most to your health, family, career, or personal growth. You put “B” in front of such activities which should be done but not as urgently as the activities from the “A” category. “C” tasks are advisable but not obligatory to do. A letter “D” means delegation which means that “D” activities are those things you can delegate to others. “E” stands for elimination. Basically, these are the tasks you can remove from your list. 20 minutes of effective planning in the morning saves you 2 hours during the day.
The Internet is swarming with time management techniques. You just need to apply them. If you know what, when, and how you’re going to do, you are likely to get things done. Combining active lifestyle and online studying is more than possible. It all boils down to priorities and planning.
Education Specialist (MIDS)
Discover the magic of Noosa and the Sunshine Coast outdoors, from the mountains to the sea
Two Noosa friends teamed up to inspire more people to get outdoors and experience the magic that comes from walking on our beautiful wilderness trails. Lisa Marshall, Trek Coach, and Greg Cartwright, a talented videographer who runs local business Greg Cartwright Media, explored Noosa National Park, Mt Cooroora, Buderim Falls and the Sunshine Coast Great Walk in Mapleton, to capture the magic and beauty available to us on our doorstep. They felt they wanted to share some of the beauty they discovered, so they combined their skills to produce a moving short film called, Immerse Yourself. The pair entered the film in to the recent Visioning the Outdoors Film & Photo Competition and won The People’s Choice Award for Best Film.
“We were so excited to receive the news of our film winning the People’s Choice Award, and to see the many positive comments and feedback from people who felt inspired to go out for a walk and discover more of what’s in their own backyard. I received the news whilst in a campervan travelling across Queensland to explore the 10 Great Walks of Queensland in 10 days, so it came at a crazy time in my life, but just felt right! I had only the day before been on the trails in Mapleton where we had captured our initial story” said Trek Coach Marshall.
“My journey across Queensland on the recent Q10 Expedition only fuelled my desire to encourage more people to get outdoors and go for a hike. We are blessed with such beautiful national parks, and the perfect winter climate to get out walking. I hope that Noosa locals and tourists alike, will watch Immerse Yourself and realise that they don’t need to venture far from Noosa to access world class hiking trails, that offer short day hikes and multi day hikes. Something for everyone.” Said Lisa.
“It was an amazing experience working with Greg to see how he pieced together the video footage to create a moving picture, giving us a feeling of being immersed in the natural environment and the peace it brings. I was amazed at the hours and hours he spent editing, overlaying music and the story and working his magic to create Immerse Yourself. I have a new found respect for how much goes in to making a short film and the many hours of work that go in to making it happen, after the filming has been done.”
You can also watch Immerse Yourself at www.trekcoach.com.au/2019/05/26/immerse-yourself
Lisa has gone on to create an online resource for keen hikers, called Get Trek Ready. She was inspired to capture the many lessons, tips and tricks she has gained over 15 years of hiking and training people to prepare for world class treks, in a simple to use e-Guidebook and an accompanying 16 Week Fitnesstrek Program.
“I want people to have fun when they set out on an adventure on foot. To do this, you need to have the basic gear and be prepared for the environment you are setting out in. The wilderness offers us opportunities to immerse ourselves in beauty and wonder, but you won’t experience this if you have blisters from the wrong shoes and are huffing so badly up the hill that you aren’t sure you will make it back! With just a little guidance and a few tips on what gear you need, how to choose it and what preparation you can put in place, you can open up so many opportunities to enjoy discovering natural places on foot.”
Find out more about Get Trek Ready HERE.
From the playmeo Blog
After working with groups all over the world for 30+ years now, I know that when they accept my invitation to enter into a space of play (or flow,) transformation or growth or development is possible.
You could describe the science of flow as taking fun more seriously. We’ve all experienced it, at some point in our lives, often frequently. It’s those moments when you are totally absorbed by what you are doing, and, as described by Hungarian-American psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, it holds the secret to happiness.
Flow is a highly-focused mental state conducive to productivity, and as such, is highly relevant to the development of individuals and groups.
If you’re responsible for the well-being and development of a group of people, I invite you to watch this fascinating TED Talk Mihaly presented in 2004.
For me, it deepens my understanding of how important it is to focus on creating the ideal environment in which your group can make appropriate decisions.
As I have grown in my role as a professional group facilitator, and trainer, I’ve slowly come to the conclusion that creating a space in which my group can make appropriate decisions (consistent with the goals of my program) is one of my primary responsibilities as a leader.
A bit like the notion of “if I build it, they will come,’ I truly believe that if I create the most conducive environment for my group, growth or learning or development will have the best chance of occurring.
And this is where the importance and impact of flow enter the picture. Growth, development and learning can be hard work, so the more I can immerse my group in moments of flow, the more likely they will be willing to engage in this hard work.
What do you think? Click to leave a comment for Mark COMMENT
From the Trek Coach Blog
If you have a yearning to head out in to the wilderness on a day hike, you have come to the right place. Being prepared for a big day walk, is the difference between being immersed in an adventure that you enjoy, versus hating every minute of it! Here are a few things to consider when planning your next adventure on foot:
- Train/hike in your gear in the weeks leading up to your big walk. Wear comfortable, well fitted trail shoes/trail runners or lightweight hiking boots or walking shoes with good, grippy Vibram sole. “good fit” means you have some space at the front of the big toe, even with a good pair of merino hiking socks on; your toes don’t hit the front of the shoes when you are on a steep incline/descent; your feet don’t slide in and out at the heel. Good quality socks (no cotton) that wick away moisture, coupled with a pair of hiking shoes that have been fitted for you, can make ALL the difference and prevent debilitating blisters.
- Research the climate/weather/trail difficulty and trail notes and maps before you go. Be prepared to change your plans if the weather conditions do not look favourable for being out there all day. Know where there are access points along the route in case you need to exit before the end point. Don’t just look at the number of kms but also the gradient of the trail and how many climbs there are. Kms become A LOT slower when you are climbing a steep ascent or having to slow don to get down a steep rocky/scree descent. Your speed/kms per hour are also affected by extreme weather conditions – like humidity, heat, rain or cold. The trail conditions will affect this too – so read up on the latest trail updates. All these need to be factored in to your timing. Rather start out earlier in the day and allow an extra couple of hours on top of your estimated time on trail. You can always spend some time at the end enjoying a rest if you finish earlier than expected.
- Your daypack should be around 30 litre capacity.
- You should have between 2-4 litres of water depending on the climate and your own needs – some people sweat alot and others drink more. Take some electrolytes to alternate between water and electrolytes especially if it is a hot day.
- Take enough food that you can snack on small bites every 45 minutes to an hour. A mixture of sweet and salty, fruit, and dried goods, but not foods that sit heavy in your stomach.
- First Aid kit, including stiff bandage, strapping, wound care, snake bandage, eye wash, eye drops, band aids, personal medications and asthma treatment if required.
- Head torch (even if you think you won’t be walking in the dark, many people have underestimated their walking time and been stuck out in the dark.)
- Pack layers of clothing, depending on climate but always expect in the mountains that the weather can swing between extremes.
- Always carry good quality rain gear, that you have pre-tested in the rain and cold. Carry a blister kit – special blister plasters, tape or foot fleece that you have tried in training. A small towel if you intend to swim on route.
- Tissues. Lip balm, suncream and sun hat and shirt.
- Bandana to protect your neck, also can wet and use to cool yourself when it is hot.
- Lightweight, sealable eco friendly bag to carry out rubbish, including vegetable matter.
- Tell someone where you are going: log your route plans at the National Park if required. Pay for the relevant National Park permits if required before you go.
- Know your own ability. Don’t overestimate how fit you are, or how agile. This is why training on trails in the lead up to your hike is so important. It helps you to gauge your fitness/agility so you are better prepared for the challenging terrain you may encounter. When estimating how long it might take to walk a trail, add in breaks. Read blogs and other trail notes and info on the planned walk to gauge time on trail.
- Never walk alone.
- Carry a Personal Locator Beacon if you will be out of mobile phone range.
- Use walking poles: practice with these in training. They can reduce the impact on your lower limbs significantly and also help with endurance – imagine your legs doing all the work, vs spreading some of the energy expenditure to your arms and upper body, especially when you need a push to get up a big incline.
- Immerse yourself in the wilderness and enjoy the freedom that comes with this: take photos on your phone, but the rest of the time, try to clear your mind of scattered thoughts and worries, Instead become curious about the surroundings, focus your attention on nature, breathe the fresh air, stretch during your breaks.
- Allocate one person in the group to be responsible for time keeping, and one to be on maps/route/navigation. Don’t be too proud to acknowledge if you aren’t making good time or you aren’t sure of the route. Make decisions to turn around and go back, or rework your plans for the day, before it’s too late.
Being prepared for a hike makes ALL the difference and also gives you the opportunity to be immersed in nature, rather than struggling through the day with ill-fitting gear, or feeling unfit and unable to enjoy the experience. Just like any goal, the journey to get there is just as important as the destination.
As always, leave no trace: take all your rubbish with you, be respectful of traditional land owners, historical sites and all flora and fauna. Step lightly and take nothing but photographs.
Find out more trek tips on how to Get Trek Ready HERE.
For more info, go to Bushwalking
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