Wayfarer (n.): A person who travels from place to place, especially on foot; a person who goes on a journey.
It has many applications, from a style of sunglasses to a chosen title for a vagabond. However, in the context of Wild Wayfarer's offerings, wayfaring is a practice that embodies the root of the word.
Etymologically, the breakdown is: Way (wei; meaning an opening, passageway, or direction) + Farer (Faer; meaning a journey, road, passage, or expedition).
At the core, a “wayfarer” is one who passes through a threshold to embark on a journey. Weekly wayfaring through natural landscapes holds great potential for fostering dialogue between you and the wild all around, as well as your own inner wildness. A key factor is that you are going out onto the land with intention, but without an agenda. It is a simple practice, but a powerful one.
This is an ancient practice, one that I cannot take credit for manifesting. In fact, one might even say that this activity was simply how people once lived. This particular iteration of what some would call a "medicine walk," "saunter," or "wander" is most similar to what my various teachers and mentors have taught me over the years, including guides with The Animas Valley Institute. If this is a practice that resonates with you, I highly recommend enrolling their programs, or at least reading Bill Ploktin's work.
Wild Wayfarer programs are designed to foster health and reconnection holistically, encompassing all four aspects of the Self: mind, body, spirit and soul. Think of wayfaring as a soul practice. It is your designated time to connect with the deepest aspect of yourself: the uniquely individual role that you play in the unfolding of the mystery of life. When we connect to these energies, we are connecting with Soul.
This is also your opportunity to cultivate a relationship with the wild, animate world around you, experientially. While there are many authors and poets who can tell you all about it and guide you through it—your authentic connection with the wild cannot be cultivated through books, screens, or words.
You must wander into the beast yourself.
● Bring enough supplies: sufficient water, sun protection (sunscreen, sunglasses, sunhat), layers (dependent on season and location—know your environment and dress accordingly), a small first aid kit, and comfortable clothing that you can move in and get dirty in. If you have ample outdoor experience and choose to wander in more remote areas, bring the necessary equipment to accommodate, such as a map, emergency flashlight, matches/lighter, and a whistle. Any items that you would take on a day-hike.
● Tell someone where you plan to go, and make sure they know where that is and when you plan to be back.
● Choose a location that you are familiar with, unless you have a strong sense of direction and can use a map and compass if needed. Familiarize yourself with the weather, potential hazards (wild animals, poisonous plants or insects, terrain hazards, etc), and the legal land designation (is it a park? Private land? Forest service land? Wilderness area?).
● Review and familiarize yourself with land ethic practices, such as Leave No Trace. The safety of the environment in which you are journeying is just as important as your own safety! Make sure you know how to act appropriately to preserve the landscape you choose.
Choosing a location
● Pick someplace near your home. Ideally, it is close enough that you can reasonably transport yourself there each week. If the place you have in mind is a few hours away, it may become a challenge to motivate or afford the weekly commute. Additionally, this experience will be more powerful if you are able to develop a strong relationship with your “local wild” with which you are developing a land ethic.
● Try to find someplace where you will stumble upon the fewest number of people. Part of this practice is focusing on the non-human world and your place in it all. Interactions with other homo sapiens not only distracts from your intention, but also compromises the safe container provided by Nature to allow you to dip into your wildness and authenticity. Of course, you do not have to flee humans at all costs, nor is the Wayfare ineffective if you see another person—just be aware that the experience will certainly be deepened by remaining in the space that you create (more on that later…) when you embark on the experience.
● Research the location before you go: familiarize yourself with trails and terrain, as well as the legality and accessibility (see “Staying Safe”).
● Go where you feel pulled. Pick an area that resonates with you in some way. Perhaps it is the laughing creekside that beckons you, or the high, chilly mountains. Perhaps you feel drawn to wander in your garden or a place that does not fit into the definition of “wild.” Or maybe you feel drawn to wander down the shoreline and commune with the sea. While getting into the deepest of wild places has its benefits, some of my most meaningful experiences with this practice has been close to roadsides or in my backyard. Do not limit yourself—or use distance from wilderness areas as an excuse to exclude yourself from the practice.
How to Wayfare
You have your safety gear, you know where you're going, you are full of excitement—now what?
First of all, open your bag. Grab your phone and put it on airplane mode, or turn it off. Leave all other technology and distractions, for that matter, behind. No music, no books or things that beep. If you think you will get lost, bring a map or go wayfaring in an area where you know you will not get lost (like a park).
That being said, if there is some circumstance that requires you to keep your phone on so you are reachable, by all means do so—but do your best to exercise discipline and not use it as a distraction.
Make sure you have a journal with you. I recommend keeping a Wayfaring specific journal. This item is your "net" that you can use to catch anything that comes out of the experience. You are, in a way, hunting for insight, connection, and glimpses of soul—and the journal is the trap of choice. Keep it handy as you stalk the experience to jot down any inspiration, emotional processing, or whatever the birds sing to you.
Once you arrive at your Wayfaring location, take a moment to create space for yourself, and to come up with a creative threshold or “passageway.” This can look different for each individual. Whatever you choose to do, let it be something that resonates with you.
What I mean by “create space” is to create psychological space for yourself. Obviously, the wide, open, and lovely space in nature is already awaiting your arrival… but are you ready for it?
Think of it like this: you're about to go on a date. With the most understanding, open, nurturing, supportive and absolutely wild person of your dreams. Like the fantastic romancer you are, you want to take some time to get ready—you know, set the mood. No, Nature does not give two poops about what you're wearing or how you look. Even if you show up a complete emotional mess, she is fine with that, too. What I am talking about is dumping the extra “not you” garbage at the doorway, so when you come into her house (which is, well, not exactly inside), you two can have a genuine conversation. You are marking a transition into this experience with the aim of authenticity—which can also be vulnerable. Nature can hold that, but you also have to be ready to open yourself to it.
The first line of business is to shake off anything, energetically or mentally speaking, that you do not want to take with you on this journey (or date). Some ways to do that include:
● Taking 5 deep, mindful breaths. Imagine that with each exhale, you are expelling the weight of the day, any distracting thoughts, and any excess baggage.
● Close your eyes for a few moments. Imagine that roots are growing from your feet or hips into the ground, planting you into the present moment and place.
● Use a smoke cleanse or smudge, if that is a part of your practice.
● Calling upon any other tools you have in your experience to open spaces. Think about how you like to open a yoga practice, initiate a ritual or ceremony, or make yourself available for a friend in need. Perhaps you can draw from these experiences to create a ritual of your own, to “set the mood.”
The second line of business is to fill that now empty vessel of yours with permission. Permission to step into wildness, to feel whatever emotions come up on your journey, and to open yourself to the experience. Let go of expectations (easier said than done!). Let go of all desires for accomplishing, gaining, achieving, or pursuing. For example, you may say out loud, or in your mind: “I open myself to the wildness within me, and to the lessons from nature.”
At this point, hopefully you are feeling present and grounded. Now is the time to introduce the intention, prompt, or question that you are bringing to the land. If you do not have a particular intention that you are wayfaring with, then simply journey with openness to observation and experience. It may be helpful to jot down your intention in your journal and/or say it out loud.
Other Ways to Prepare
It is also helpful to get out of your head and into your body before Wayfaring. Most times, it is a challenge to transition from day-to-day life into a Wayfare, and creating space in the ways mentioned above are oftentimes not enough to feel ready to go deep. To deepen the practice, make time beforehand to tap into wildness in whatever way feels right— Most if not all practices taught through Wild Wayfarer can be used here. If there is something that you know works for you, do that. If you feel lost, here are some suggestions:
● Do some sun salutations.
● Follow along with one of Wild Wayfarer’s yoga practices.
● Do a meditation or visualization exercise of choice (a body scan is a great place to start!).
● Dance, move, shake your body, stretch it. Play music if you want, and give it everything you've got!
● Participate in any outdoor activity or exercise that helps you clear your head, such as a short run.
● Write in your journal: spill out any thoughts that you can't seem to drop, or let your pen go wild for a few minutes. Let all the thoughts and logic trickle from your brain into your arms and out your hands via ink on paper. Just keep your hand moving until you feel like imagination is beginning to take hold, instead of linear thoughts.
● Engage in a creative activity of choice: painting, playing music, singing, cooking, throwing sticks for your dog (that’s creative, right?). There are endless possibilities here!
Phew! So, as mentioned before—these are all suggestions. You may feel like you will get the most out of this experience by engaging in an elaborate preparation, or you may have no interest in any of it. Whatever you choose, it is ok, and all optional. These are simply tools for your kit, available any time you need the support
Once you have created your space, it is now time to step through the passageway. Again, there are many ways you can do this—the key is to use your imagination to create a psychological threshold that allows you to, on a subconscious level, enter the realm of the wild, the imagination, and the natural rhythms and elements surrounding you. The only suggestion here is that you do something out of the ordinary to mark this transition. This may look like:
● Taking one intentionally big step, skipping a step, twirling around in a circle, making a subtle or exaggerated movement like a bow or a wink.
● Passing between two rocks/trees/bushes/etc that act as a “doorway.”
● Making a verbal indication of some sort: howl, growl, sing, bark, quack, squeal; say, yell or whisper human words or animal words.
Into the Wild
You made it! There is only 1 hard rule: be respectful of all human and non-human beings. Everything else is an invitation:
● Give yourself at least 1 hour, ideally more time if possible. The longer you go, the deeper the experience!
● Dive into your 5 senses.
● Interact with nature. Talk to nature. Talk to plants, animals, rocks, trees, and even the wind. Talk to the landscape, out loud or in your mind.
● Listen for a response. Listen for words, feelings, energies, or encounters. Imagine that you are seeing the landscape through a lens in which everything is a message.
● Don't try to make it overly spiritual.
● Don't try to make it overly scientific.
● Make observations. Take notes, even. Get lost in watching a slug eat a mushroom, or a bee pollinating a field of flowers.
● Avoid analyzing or overthinking. Wonder, listen, but if you cease to hear the wind over the sound of your own thoughts, bring it back.
● Ask yourself, “what is nature doing right now?” or “How does nature like to be, compared to how I like to be?”
● Erase the idea that you are separate from the plants, bugs and animals around you— and see what happens.
● Step into the role of a plant, bug or animal. Behave like that being. Mimic it. Let yourself shapeshift.
● Walk the edge of your comfort zone, and allow yourself to do things that are edgy, scary, unusual, and outside the rules and parameters of cultural norms (while keeping in mind the “safety” section).
● Shake off structure and get loose.
● Make noise. Sing. Growl. Howl. If you are self-conscious, I have found ocean waves, rivers and creeks to be excellent accompaniments to singing, screaming, and anything that you may want a harmony to—or anything that you want to be drowned out by the thunderous sound of water.
● Be playful.
● Move a lot, or be still. Do what feels best for your intention.
● Lean into emotions and let them rip through you. This is your time to feel them, uninterruptedly, and be supported by nature.
● Let yourself be surprised. Have no agenda or expectations. Be open to whatever comes.
● Do not be afraid of nature. Rather, sit with what brings up fear in you.
● Use your journal to jot down poetry, inspiration, and thoughts that are better released to paper to save for later—making room for more listening.
Returning from the “Real World” to the “Fake World” (otherwise known as the world that humans have created for ourselves that is more often than not destructive to us and most other species—but that is for another lesson…) involves 3 components:
● Expressing gratitude, in whatever form you like, for the land and time spent wayfaring.
● Stepping back through the passageway that you created at the start of your journey (another glorious opportunity to skip, hop, or yodel).
● Closing the space with a deep breath.
Remember: keep the practice simple. There are infinite possibilities and ways to deepen it, but do not allow the possibilities to overwhelm you. At the end of the day, you are simply carving out time to wander around in nature with a question in mind. If that looks like a short walk in the park with an open mind to what nature has to say, excellent. If that looks like a day dedicated to becoming, quite literally, a wild animal— complete with naked dancing and covering yourself with mud while howling at the full moon— excellent. Nature will show up for you, elegantly, to the depth and severity that you need most at any given time. The important aspect of wayfaring is that you do it. In whatever capacity you can, for however long you can. Make it a practice; just like any other practice, it is not about being “good” or “bad” at it. It is about showing up. Some days you will go deep, other days you wont. And that is perfect.