With the progression of our modern world, so many of us have strayed from our roots- our wildness. Jess Caldwell’s life work is adventurous and unique, combating this harmful trend, and proving that its impact on our lifestyles can be reversible. She’s dubbed herself a professional Rewilder, and the founder of Wildkind Academy- a place for education that offers mentorship and courses taught by herself and other outdoor leaders. Wildkind Academy teaches skills in lifestyle design, health optimization, wilderness awareness, and mindfulness training.
In 2020, Jess harnessed the term, “rewilding”- a holistic approach to rebalance, restore, and get back to our primal roots. She believes that as we are all unique ecosystems that are positively affected by our conscious actions, that we can reclaim all that is damaged through our modern lifestyle by rebalancing the effects of stress, poor diet, nature deficiency, and technology burn-out; things that we all undeniably experience just by being alive today.
Jess has a degree in health and wellness promotion, and held many jobs over the years, including being a yoga instructor, a sales and marketing director, and even a healing death doula, which helped her learn about the holistic life-cycle. After moving into the world of conservation, her snowball of experience came together during the pandemic, and Wildkind Academy was born.
She found more spirituality and understanding by digging her feet into the dirt than through years of going inward through meditation and prayer as a yoga instructor and accepting death in its beauty while working so close to it. Being wild was something familiar, something tangible, a physical connection that bridged her spiritual path with a physical one. She discovered the power of taking moments to actively rewild in her own life and made it her life mission to share this discovery with those who also felt the call of the wild.
“It’s the food I eat, the animals I observe, the rivers I take a plunge in, and the sunsets I watch that have been more of a profound awakening than I have had in a long time.”
(Re) learning to be okay with being uncomfortable
Jess notices that we are living in this interesting period of time where we can easily retract into a small world if we are not actively rewilding, a world bombarded with information, detached from our natural cycles, and instead, attached to our screens and the grind towards materialism. This eerie future sounds all too familiar already, but rewilding, although uncomfortable at first, is the only way to mend this lost relationship with nature.
Rewilding is getting into the uncomfortable to build more resilience, intuition, and primal nature that gives us strength, like wildflowers that grow out of sturdy rock. Similar to animals in a cage, every aspect of our life is closing in. We move from our beds to our desks like clockwork, our environment always controlled, our eating patterns pre-packaged, the timing almost exact. The temperatures in our homes are at a perfect 69 degrees, numbing the receptors in our skin and making the slightest chill paralyzing. Staying inside, watching TV, and using modern conveniences to tune out the harsh impacts of refusing to rewild, can be easier. Jess says this state is similar to being in a Matrix, where we are creating serotonin hits and happiness with technology and consumerism because we don’t feel fulfilled. When we have a moment to decompress and watch TV, or get in the car and blast music to feel something once again, it is often coming from a place of insatisfaction instead of true curiosity- a mouse on a wheel that never is truly satisfied.
We can rewild any area of our lives by reintroducing wild elements in simple ways; opening the windows and letting the air in, or stepping into the backyard and feeling the dewy grass under our feet. We can rewild our diets by eating wild greens or hunted game, food that holds powerful energy in the essence of how it lived and died. We can rewild our spirit by being brave and bold in every way we move through the world. Rewilding isn’t just an invitation for avid hikers or survivalists. It is the settled awareness of doing what we can to refuse unnatural stimulation, and instead, utilize lifestyle design to make room for the ways we can connect with our earth once again. “It is the new discipline, the new work,” said Jess.
Enduring hardship and showing ourselves what we are capable of takes back our power and helps develop self-confidence to navigate the prevailing world. A course in Cedar & Salmon Basket weaving may be a way to connect with other wildkind, but it could also be an unintentional tactic to believe you can do something you never thought possible. A women’s survival course that strengthens skills in things like shelter building, eating in the wild, and survival psychology may be a fun way to spend a weekend, but it could just be the rewilding that saves your life in the field.
Wildkind Academy challenges us to rewild our lives in small ways and has molded the way I see the world. I more intentionally plan my day around the sunrise and sunset, reach for the wild huckleberries along the trail instead of rushing by, and never turn down stripping naked and jumping into an alpine lake. I find that the small shifts in my being have completely adjusted my worldview, and truly know that anyone is invited to step into their own version of rewilding.
To learn more about the Wildkind Academy, visit wildkindacademy.com. For weekly rewilding inspiration and to learn more about upcoming events and courses, find Jess on Instagram at Jess_WildkindAcademy.