I'm reading
On hearing the call of the wild
Pass it on
Pass it on
I'm reading
On hearing the call of the wild
Pass it on
Pass it on
I'm reading
On hearing the call of the wild
Pass it on
Pass it on
Articles
2 June 2017

On hearing the call of the wild

Even as a child, Amandine felt drawn to the idea of deserted islands and lonely forest huts. It’s only recently that she’s started to understand why.

Written by Amandine Thomas

Behind extraordinary ideas, there are extraordinary people. Dumbo Feather is a magazine about these people.

I have always had romantic ideas about walking into the wild—born of an ever-present longing for vast and unspoilt wilderness and fed in later years by my admiration for Robyn Davidson and Cheryl Strayed. Where the longing came from, I can’t really tell. I was brought up and always have lived in tamed lands, where a village can be found at the end of every tree-lined road and across every stone bridge.

As a kid I would often imagine deserted islands or lonely forest huts, where I would live off the land with a few choice companions. The idea fuelled many a daydream for my young, fiercely independent mind. I remember drawing the same picture over and over again with great focus: four kids using hammers, wood and nails to build a small cabin by the edge of a great body of water.

For about 20 years, my fascination with the wilderness remained limited to the books I read and the movies I saw. Before moving to Australia, I had never even seen the Milky Way. I had never really been camping either, at least not outside of the well-organised, over-populated French camping grounds where large families drink the apéro while playing pétanque across the gravel footpath. A lovely picture, you might say, but far from the pristine landscapes I so often pictured myself wandering through as a child.

In the last few years though, as the call of the wild has grown stronger, I’ve slowly started to seek, shyly at first but with more conviction recently, the deserted islands and wooden huts of my childhood. I’ve found myself booking flights to Iceland in the dead of winter and to Patagonia as the Autumn slowly chilled the great, empty steppes. And of course there is Australia, and the months spent working in the outback, taking long walks with the cattle dogs and sitting in dried creeks to sketch the rust-red landscape.

With each of these trips came romantic expectations. I convinced myself that by stepping away from the city I would somehow be able to reflect on my life with greater clarity. Brilliant thoughts would suddenly manifest themselves to me, like great beams of light breaking through the clouds. Time spent in nature would remind me of my human condition. The precious nature of life.

In reality, even while trekking in the blissfully remote Torres Del Paine national park in Chile, the only thoughts I can recall are broken, discordant pieces of songs and the steady rhythm of my steps on the small, frozen path. I found myself counting—one, two, three, four, one, two, three, four—for hours at a time, holding on to the numbers like a bizarre mantra, drawing strength from the hypnotic motion of my feet. At the end of each day’s walk, all I could clearly remember were flashes of the breathtaking scenery and the same four or five scattered tunes.

I return from these encounters in the wild with my mind clearer, sharper, able at least to foster the greater thoughts that eluded me as I wandered through the land. Dilemmas are resolved. The future less uncertain. The sun finally breaking through the clouds. It is as if every trip to the great outdoors was an opportunity for a clean slate. A way to get rid of the clutter that mostly occupies my mind while I am caught up in the city.

I realise that, although I cannot expect my encounters to magically solve whatever crisis I might be experiencing, allowing my own thoughts to dissolve in every stream, gust of wind or gentle wave I come across actually creates space for something better. It creates opportunities for new thoughts to emerge. For progress and enrichment.

And maybe that is why, despite my quiet upbringing in a string of sleepy French villages, I have always craved vast, untamed lands. Maybe I knew, somehow, that focussing solely on the rhythm of my steps for a while would allow for a newer, better version of myself to return from every trip to the untidy edges of the world.

Amandine Thomas

Amandine is a French illustrator and graphic designer, who travelled her way to Australia a few years ago and somehow never made it back. When not strapped to a backpack, she is busy designing the next issue of Dumbo Feather. The rest of the time she writes and illustrates books for little human beings—and contributes to a number of European and Australian publications.

All photographs and illustrations by Amandine Thomas

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