When you have the chance to meet one of your heroes, if you’re me, you seize upon it.
I’m sure most people you run across in life can tell you a tale about meeting someone who them was special, whether it was a celebrity, a hero, someone famous or infamous for whatever reason. Almost all of us have heroes or people we respect and admire. Maybe they inspire us to do better things or be better people, maybe they entertain us, maybe they can stop and make us think about the world. Maybe they can give guidance or advice to us when our friends and family aren’t there to help.
Such is my case with Les Stroud, better known to most of you as Survivorman. Ever since I first discovered his show in 2011, his shows and music have been a source of yes, entertainment, but more importantly, education and inspiration to me.
Although I’ve never been in a “real” survival situation out in the wild, there are other forms of survival human beings have to go through. Les talks a lot about the “will to live,” which is something that can carry you through hardships of many kinds, not merely those where you’re lost or stranded in the wilderness. We sometimes are left to survive alone against things like depression, loneliness, despair, disillusionment and abandonment, to name a few. Among lessons I’ve learned from following Les, some of the most powerful have been about how to face adversity with a strong will, with perseverance, and a healthy sense of humor. His approach to embracing nature, that is, to understand that nature is not for us or against us, it is simply there, existing with us, this taught me how to let go of some of my more mundane concerns.
I’ve laughed at some of Les’s dry, self-deprecating humor, I’ve been in awe of the places in the world he’s shown us, I’ve taken to heart how to deal with my own struggles in life through Les’s survival ordeals.
When the opportunity, when the timing was too perfect to ignore for a chance to meet him, to be able to tell him face to face how much I appreciate what he has put out in the world, to say to him how his lessons and teachings helped guide me through some bleak, daunting times in my life, I could not pass it up. Consequences be damned. My journey to Seattle did wonders for me physically, mentally, and, if you will, spiritually, but the ultimate gratification was being able to say thank you to Les Stroud for being a mentor and a hero to me. There was no pretentiousness or arrogance around him, the kind that often accompanies celebrities. Rather, he was surrounded by a warmth, a vitality, an infectious creative energy that inspired and affected me. The music and stories he shared with the small audience at a bookstore in Seattle was among the most uplifting experiences of my life.
So, thanks Les, for simply doing what it is you love to do in life, and for taking us along for the ride. In a manner of speaking, Survivorman shows saved my life, the lessons contained in them helping to keep me from going all the way down a very dark path. I hope that in time I can do the same for others.