As a survivalist, I’m teaching how to turn ordeals into adventures during the pandemic

One positive to emerge from the health crisis is our desire to reconnect with nature. Through bushcraft, families can learn skills and engage with the outside world during lockdown

Ed Stafford
Sunday 10 January 2021 17:00 GMT
Ed Stafford and Steven Hanton host a free bushcraft series for families around the UK
Ed Stafford and Steven Hanton host a free bushcraft series for families around the UK (Ed Stafford)

I’m an explorer and TV survivalist who, like many readers, is sitting at home trying to make sense of what is unfolding in the world. I’m used to life-threatening situations. I’ve been bombed by the Taliban, held up at arrow-point by indigenous tribes, and even arrested for suspected murder in the depths of the Amazon (I didn’t do it by the way).

I haven’t filmed telly programs since December 2019. When the first lockdown happened I thought: “OK – we have a new set of parameters, some things aren’t possible anymore, but other opportunities must be about to present themselves.”

Like an ant whose nest has just been moved, I clicked straight into busying myself with the new landscape and trying to re-build my little world. 

Along with a million other people, I started a podcast (the world desperately needed another one I felt) and so I invested time into that and it felt positive and proactive. I also started filming online bushcraft lessons, outdoor learning for people who can’t get outdoors I suppose, and in doing so I could hear the distant rumblings of a shift in society and how people wanted to live. 

Fast forward almost a year and the madness continues. We’re now a week into the UK’s third lockdown and many of the normally highly motivated people I know are starting to show their cracks. They’re asking can I be bothered do this all again? Juggle working from home with homeschooling my kids again? Structure my day so that I’m organised and making use of my time again? Get fit with the lovely Joe Wicks – again?!

Its tough to dig deep for new depths of personal drive because we’ve been here before, we don’t know we won’t be here again, and we may not be completely satisfied with the way this is being managed at a national level (and we have zero control over it).  
My usually industrious ant feels like going on strike and cracking open a can of Special Brew and screaming: “What’s the f***ing point any more!”

But the rumblings have also continued. One genuinely positive thing to emerge from the pandemic our desire to reconnect to nature. There is something about a scare on a scale such as this that has made many of us reevaluate our lives and perhaps restructure things so that we spend more time doing what we love, with people that we love, in places that we love.  
This has manifested in a surge in property demand in the Cotswolds, and a spectacular (albeit short) glamping season, both of which have demonstrated just how much everyone wants to be outside doing natural things again.

This lockdown, having spent the summer filming bushcraft, my great friend Steven Hanton and I were in a unique position to offer some help to parents, teachers and families – many of whom are not sure how they are going to cope this time around. 

Starting on 11 January we’ll be offering live forest skills lessons every weekday at 10am on YouTube (after Joe’s got you sweaty) so families can learn skills that will allow them to engage more with nature.

We’ll be covering everything from fire-lighting to den-building, from wilderness cooking techniques to survival hacks, such as making a working compass out of a bucket of water using a sewing needle and a leaf! It should be loads of fun. Even though it won’t change the bigger picture, I hope it becomes one of the little positives that people hold onto in these weird times.

My ant is now sober again and super-psyched to be throwing himself into the next adventure. He reminded me that the difference between an ordeal and an adventure – was attitude. Clever little ant. 

Ed Stafford is a British explorer who holds the Guinness World Record for being the first person to walk the length of the Amazon River. His free live bushcraft sessions can be found on YouTube @OnlineBushcraft every weekday starting at 10am Monday 11 January

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